Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Robotics

The PLANTOID robot, with its 'trunk' and sensor/leaf-bearing branches

The animal kingdom contains many examples of efficient forms of locomotion, so it's no wonder that we've been seeing a lot of animal-inspired robots – recent examples have included a robotic cheetah, fish and snake. Plants, however, just sit there ... don't they? Actually, they do move, just not necessarily in a Point A to Point B manner. With that in mind, Europe's PLANTOID project consortium is now in the process of developing a tree-like robot. Its descendants might ultimately find use in the exploration of other planets.  Read More

The Michigan Tech robots are still at the proof-of-concept stage

Thanks to mobile phone technology, getting caught in a disaster means that help is only a call away – unless the disaster knocks out the electricity to the cell towers. To help bring the phones back on line to aid in recovery efforts, researchers at Michigan Technological University are developing a team of robots designed to restore power to towers and other communication sites.  Read More

The Murata Cheerleaders use infrared sensors and ultrasonics to keep position

The only thing better than state-of-the-art robotics is when it's combined with Force 9 cuteness. Japanese electronics company Murata Manufacturing has given us one example with the unveiling if its robotic Cheerleaders. The squad of ten ball-mounted robots uses advanced ultrasonics, infrared, and group control technology to perform synchronized dance routines with perfect stability.  Read More

MIT's prototype contraband-searching robot

Maritime smugglers will often hide contraband in false hulls or propeller shafts within their boats. While there are ways in which port authorities can search for such stashes, the smugglers often have time to ditch their illicit goods before those searches can be performed. However, what if there were stealthy, inexpensive, underwater hull-hugging robots that could check the boats out, without the crews even knowing they were there? That's just what a team at MIT is developing.  Read More

Georgia Tech's PR2 locates an RFID-labelled item

In order for household robots to be truly useful, it would be great if they could go and get items for you, without having to be shown where those things are. Thanks to research being carried out at Georgia Tech, that may someday be the case. A robot there is now able to search out hidden objects – as long as they've been labelled first.  Read More

Harvard University labs are offering a downloadable toolkit to design, create, and control...

Harvard University labs, working in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin, are offering a comprehensive online toolkit to help in the design, creation, and control of soft robots made from flexible materials. Aimed at skilled and novice researchers alike, the Soft Robotics Toolkit provides a veritable cornucopia of downloadable, open-source plans, step-by-step tutorial videos, and real world studies for users to apply to their own soft robot project.  Read More

Using a GelSight sensor on one of its pinchers, a Baxter robot is able to guide a USB plug...

Three years ago, we first heard about GelSight – an experimental new system for imaging microscopic objects. At the time, its suggested applications were in fields such as aerospace, forensics, dermatology and biometrics. Now, however, researchers at MIT and Northeastern University have found another use for it. They've incorporated it into an ultra-sensitive tactile sensor for robots.  Read More

Colias is a tiny, low-cost autonomous robot that replicates the behavior of swarming honey...

It may sound a touch like the plot of a horror movie, but tiny robotic swarms have been unleashed – albeit in the controlled environment of a scientific lab. The development comes courtesy of computer scientists at the University of Lincoln, who, with help from researchers at Tsinghua University in China, have created Colias, a low-cost autonomous micro-robot that in large numbers replicates the behavior of swarming honeybees.  Read More

MIT researchers have come up with a 3D printed, soft-shelled, disembodied tentacle robot t...

Once upon a time, robots were imagined as human-like machines with a distinct body complete with head, arms, hands, feet, and legs. More recently, designers have explored the benefits of emulating other creatures and their capabilities, with robots that can fly like birds, run like cheetahs, swim like a squids or, in this case, slither like snakes. Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) have come up with a single 3D printed, soft-shelled tentacle that is designed to navigate through all manner of pipes, channels, and burrows.  Read More

Researchers at MIT have created an untethered, electrically powered robotic cheetah

Researchers at MIT have announced the latest developments in their robotic cheetah project. The project aims to provide insights into how cheetahs can move so quickly. The cheetah is now "wireless" and is electrically powered.  Read More

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