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Robotics

In nature, you're not likely to ever see a bird get a piggyback ride from a cockroach and then take off from its back. But in the world of bio-inspired robotics, such things can and do happen. Researchers from the UC Berkeley's Biomimetic Millisystems Lab have successfully demonstrated a cooperative launching system that puts a lightweight ornithopter on the back of its VelociRoACH robotic carpet crawler for a short run before the H2Bird takes to the air.

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We hear plenty of discussion about robots taking over our jobs, so it's a refreshing change to hear about a robot designed to create them instead. Its name is Nobot, and what makes this machine unique is that it's largely controlled remotely by a human being rather than by a set of software algorithms.

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DARPA has announced a new program designed to harness expertise from smaller sources of innovation, routinely overlooked by large agencies. Looking to small businesses and individuals, the agency hopes to undertake a series of cost-effective projects that will deliver new robotics capabilities to warfighters, helping to keep them ahead of the technological curve.

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Ants have a reputation as the hard workers of the animal kingdom, in part because they can lug around impressively heavy loads with respect to their size. But tiny new robots being developed at Stanford University are giving them a run for their money with the ability to pull up to 1,800 times their own weight.

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On June 5 and 6, the 2015 DARPA Robotic Challenge (DRC) Finals will take place at Fairplex in Pomona, California. Open to the public, it will see 25 international teams compete for US$3.5 million in prizes as part of an effort to develop robots for disaster relief. Here's what to expect.

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When surgeons are trying to operate on hard-to-reach organs, they'll often have to make multiple incisions to get at the area from different angles, or use tools such as retractors to pull other tissue out of the way. A team of researchers from Italy's Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, however, is developing an alternative – a flexible octopus arm-inspired tool that can squirm its way between organs, then hold them back while simultaneously operating.

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A team of MIT researchers has developed algorithms that allow robots to plan and execute underwater missions with minimal human input. The technology should free up valuable time for project engineers, and may even open the door to autonomous exploration of remote parts of the planet's oceans.

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Until now, rehabilitation exoskeletons have generally been one-armed, and haven't been of much help in providing the sort of two-arm training that many patients need to recover coordination for carrying out daily tasks. Researchers at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin have now developed Harmony, a two-armed, robotic exoskeleton that uses mechanical feedback and sensor data to provide therapy to patients with spinal and neurological injuries.

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As internet commerce matures, consumers are expecting more immediate delivery of goods, but a fleet of drones won't do any good unless the packing warehouses can keep up. The latest effort to help speed up this process comes from Fetch Robotics, which has unveiled Fetch and Freight – a robotic tag team that takes over the boring task of collecting and delivering stock. Read More
If robots are ever going to interact with us on a daily basis, then it's important that they know what sort of emotions we're expressing. While some already use computer vision systems to do so, Korean scientists have developed what they say is a simpler and more precise technology – users just have to be willing to stick something on their face. Read More
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