If you were talking to someone and they blatantly shifted their attention to something else, chances are you'd have something to say about it. Most interactive robots, however, wouldn't even notice. That's why scientists at Japan's Toyohashi University of Technology have developed Talking-Ally, a robot that knows when it's being ignored.
Researchers from the University of Illinois are developing a computer system capable of communicating with humans through the medium of jazz, playing improvised pieces in real time. The project forms part of DARPA's Communicating with Computers (CwC) program, approaching the development of robot communication skills from a very different direction.
Usually, when you dunk a tiny flying robot in the water you end up with a tiny sinking robot. Engineers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) want to change that with the RoboBee, which has claimed the title of the first insect-insect sized robot that can swim as well as fly.
Despite what various spy movies may have us believe, sending people into buildings' ductwork isn't a good idea. That said, those ducts do need to be cleaned periodically, otherwise the human inhabitants of the buildings can develop serious respiratory problems. Robots have been designed to do the job, although they've generally been wheeled or tracked devices that can only move horizontally. Now, however, scientists at UC San Diego's Jacob's School of Engineering have created DucTT – a highly-efficient robot that can climb up ducts, and run for up to six hours on one charge of its battery pack.
Our sense of touch is made possible thanks to thousands of "mechanoreceptors," which are distributed throughout our skin. The more pressure that's applied to one of these sensors, the more electrical pulses it sends to the brain, thus increasing the tactile sensation that we experience. Led by Prof. Zhenan Bao, scientists at Stanford University have now created synthetic skin that contains electronic mechanoreceptors, which could give prosthetic limbs or robots a sense of touch.
Kamigami are tiny programmable robots designed to appeal to kids aged eight and up. They feature a tool-free DIY construction, simple iOS app control, and an array of sensors that let them work together or against one another. The little robots are currently seeking funding on Kickstarter.
A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed an algorithm that teaches robots how to fall, allowing them to trip up with a little more grace, and hopefully cause themselves less damage when they do.
Scientists at Florida Atlantic University have employed a novel thermal training technique to give robotic fingers a natural look and feel. With the ability to curve and straighten as it is heated and cooled, the researchers are hopeful their lifelike new creation will be put to use in underwater robotics and eventually, advanced prosthetic devices.
Aerial drones are widely utilized for mapping, with the maps that they create subsequently being used by us humans. In an experiment recently conducted at the ETH Zurich research institute, however, a drone mapped a room so that a quadrupedal robot could then make its way through. Such research could pave the way for completely robotic missions in real-world settings.
Minecraft has partly replaced Lego bricks as a creative platform for young tinkerers, but while it is a fantastic avenue for training computer and block-building skills, Mojang's hit videogame also does little to improve handcrafting. Robo Wunderkind, from the German "wonder child," is a modular toy that promises to marry the old with the new by letting even the youngest hands and minds (aged five and up) build and program their own robot creations.