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Robotics

FoamBot built this quadruped robot out of electromechanical modules and self-hardening foa...

Appealing though general-purpose humanoid robots like C-3PO may be to many of us, real-life robots are usually most effective when they're designed for one specific purpose. In some situations, however, that purpose might not be known until the robot is in the field - at a disaster site, for instance, an autonomous robot might discover that it needs to squirm through debris, even though it wasn't designed to do so. One attempted solution to this problem has involved creating modular robots, that can take themselves apart and then reconfigure themselves as needed. Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania's Modular Robotics Laboratory, however, are taking a slightly different approach. They've created a robot that can build other purpose-specific robots, using electromechanical modules and self-hardening foam.  Read More

Scientists at the UK's National Physical Laboratory have developed technology that can ide...

Now that we’re moving towards automated orange-sorting and autonomous tractors, what might be the next step in replacing human agricultural workers with machines? Well, how about robotic strawberry pickers? That’s what scientists from the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) say could be on the way, thanks to a system that is able to identify ripe strawberries in the field.  Read More

Scientists are using artificial vision technology to detect rotten oranges, and sort citru...

There’s a reason that the oranges you see in the store usually aren’t rotten – someone at a sorting facility has already looked over all the oranges coming in from the fields, and taken out the spoiled ones. This is typically done with the help of ultraviolet light, which illuminates the essential oils in the rinds of rotten oranges. Such an approach is subject to human error, however, plus workers can only remain in the vicinity of the harmful UV light for limited periods of time. Now, scientists from Spain’s Valencian Institute of Agrarian Research (IVIA) have created a machine that does the same job automatically. While they were at it, they also came up with one that sorts oranges according to aesthetic appeal, and one that sorts mandarin segments.  Read More

Romo is a miniature robot that uses apps on its user's existing smartphone as its 'brain'

When you think about it, smartphones are more than just fancy phones – they’re actually tiny portable computers. Given that so many people now own these tiny computers, why should they have to pay to buy another computer that’s built into an electronic device, when they could instead just use their existing smartphone as the “brain” of that device? That’s the approach that has been taken by products such as the Bubo camcorder rig, and now also by Romo-The Smartphone Robot.  Read More

A Soldier throws a Recon Robotics Recon Scout Throwbot XT robot

Robots are a perfect tool to provide soldiers in the field with “eyes” on a potentially hazardous situation without placing themselves in harm’s way. With soldiers often operating in difficult terrain or entering buildings, the easiest way to get such robots into place is to throw them. Currently, many units use a small tactical robot called the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle 320 that is equipped with video reconnaissance technology. However, this robot weighs 32 pounds (14.5 kg) so the call has been put out for a lighter robot that is more easily transportable by dismounted units on the move and is able to be thrown into forward locations such as buildings and caves. To this end, the U.S. military is set to put three different types of lightweight, “throwable” robots through a series of combat assessments in Afghanistan.  Read More

Panasonic's new HOSPI-Rimo communication assistance robot

With the aging of populations in many countries around the world, particularly Japan, there are ever increasing numbers of elderly to care for, but relatively fewer younger people to do the job. Robots have long been seen as a means of filling the gap and Panasonic is set to unveil its latest technology designed to do just that. The three robotic devices set to make their debut at the upcoming 38th International Home Care & Rehabilitation Exhibition (H.C.R.2011) in Tokyo include a communication assistance robot and new models of the company's Hair-Washing Robot and RoboticBed.  Read More

Scientists have nominated the iCub child-like humanoid robot to participate in the Olympic...

Research on artificial intelligence and robotics is growing at a rapid pace, but are we ready to see a robot bearing the Olympic torch in 2012? Scientists at Wales' Aberystwyth University are convinced that this should happen, and have nominated the iCub child-like humanoid robot to participate in the Olympic Torch Relay for London's 2012 Summer Olympics. It's intended to be a tribute to computing pioneer Alan Turing, as 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.  Read More

Time lapse image of the robot using the new MIT algorithm that results in more efficient a...

The act of picking up a coffee cup from a table, despite being relatively simple for a human being, actually involves extremely complex calculations as we spontaneously plan a trajectory around obstacles in free space to reach the cup. This complexity means such tasks can be incredibly difficult for an autonomous robot and results in most motion-planning algorithms settling for any path – no matter how inefficient – that will allow the robot to achieve its goal. Now researchers have developed a new motion-planning system that lets robots save time and energy by moving more efficiently, which also makes their movements more predictable - an important consideration if they are to interact with humans.  Read More

Panasonic's EVOLTA swimming, cycling and running robots will be attempting to complete the...

While the Energizer Bunny may get all the fame, Panasonic's "Mr. Evolta" robot actually gets out and does things. In 2008, powered by two of the company's AA EVOLTA alkaline batteries, the 17 centimeter (6.69 inch)-tall robot climbed up a 1,640 foot (500 meter) rope suspended in the Grand Canyon. The following year, pedaling a miniature tricycle, he completed the "24 Hours of Le Mans" endurance challenge. Last year, he took a leisurely 500-kilometer (311-mile) stroll along the highway from Tokyo to Kyoto. This year's challenge is a little different - there will be three EVOLTA robots, and they will be teaming up to complete the 230-kilometer (143-mile) Ironman Triathlon circuit in Hawaii.  Read More

A Cornell robot successfully identifies a keyboard within a cluttered room

If we're ever going to have robot butlers, then they're going to have to learn how to figure things out for themselves. After all, if you have to reprogram the robot for every slight variation on a task, you might as well do it yourself. Scientists at Cornell University's Personal Robotics Laboratory are tackling the formidable challenges posed by "machine learning" by programing robots to observe new situations and proceed accordingly, based on what they already know from the past.  Read More

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