One truism of nuclear reactors is that you really don't want to be next to one. Unfortunately, reactor cores need to be inspected and maintained, which means teams of workers going inside the containment vessel. It's an operation that's not only hazardous, but expensive and time consuming. In an effort to make such inspections safer, cheaper, and faster, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy has developed the Stinger; a free-swimming, remote-controlled robot that replaces humans for cleaning and inspecting reactor vessels.
It's widely believed that we're in the middle of a robotics revolution, but at this stage robots are still largely confined to cages doing tasks that don't require a lot of intelligence or interaction with us humans. We spoke with John Lizzi, Manager of the Distributed Intelligent Systems Laboratory at GE Global Research, about General Electric's approach to the future of robotics – specifically the future of what the company calls "service robotics," where robot apprentices will work closely with humans and take over many of the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs of today.
The Future of Life Institute has presented an open letter signed by over 1,000 robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) researchers urging the United Nations to impose a ban on the development of weaponized AI with the capability to target and kill without meaningful human intervention. The letter was presented at the 2015 International Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI), and is backed with the endorsements of a number of prominent scientists and industry leaders, including Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, and Noam Chomsky.
A new hotel that is staffed with robots has opened in Japan. The Henn-na
Hotel (which translates as "Strange Hotel"), is part of the Huis Ten
Bosch theme park complex in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture. Guests can also
access their rooms via face-recognition, and are able to control room
amenities via tablets.
Some robots are hard and some are soft, but in nature soft and hard structures are commonly mixed. In an effort to emulate this, engineers from Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego, have used multimaterial 3D-printing to create a combustion-powered jumping robot that transitions from a rigid core to a soft exterior.
developed for ESA's next generation of ExoMars rover could soon be put
to work saving lives in a more terrestrial setting. GMV, an ESA
partner in rover development, is designing a robot to be used in the
gas and oil industry. It's a move which could mitigate some of the
human risk inherent with labor in the sector.
There's no shortage of robot-based toys out there which are claimed to be both fun, and teach your budding young roboticist the basics of programming. Following in the digital footsteps of Play-i, Kibo and Hackaball, is Vortex, a friendly Arduino-based bot that can connect to iOS and Android devices, play games, and be programmed by children as young as six-years-old.
We may still be some way from having lifelike humanoid robot helpers,
but there's no doubt robots are getting more helpful, friendly and
domesticated. Blue Frog Robotics' new Buddy robot is designed to be an
affordable family companion. It can help with communications, home
security, edutainment and even elder care.
"You have a giant robot, we have a giant robot – we have a duty to the science fiction lovers of this world to fight them to the death." America laid down the challenge; Japan has accepted. In one year's time, the two countries will face off on neutral soil for the world's first international giant robot dual. Two 15-foot-tall steel gundam suits with one or two pilots inside, facing each other in battle. There will be guns, there will be giant swinging steel fists, and the fight won't be over until one has pounded the other into scrap. Can you hear that sound? It's the gentle foaming of a million anime fans.
Besides simply being fascinating to watch, insect-inspired robots may
someday find use as scouts in search-and-rescue operations. In order
for them to function in such scenarios, however, they'll have to be able
to move through fields of debris. While some scientists have looked at
using sensors and algorithms that let the bots scan their surroundings
and then plot paths around obstacles, researchers at UC Berkley have
developed a much less complex but still effective approach – they've
outfitted a robotic cockroach with a streamlined shell, that lets it
just push its way through.