Computational creativity and the future of AI

Robotics

Three of the Raven II surgical robots (Photo: UW)

A couple of years ago, the Willow Garage robotics company gave ten of its PR2 robots away to deserving research groups. The idea behind the project was that these groups would use the PR2s for robotics research, then share their discoveries with each other, thus advancing the field farther than would be possible if they each had to build their own unique robots from scratch. Now, a similar but unrelated project is underway, and this time the robots are designed specifically to perform surgery.  Read More

An African Agama lizard, and Tailbot

For some time now, scientists have assumed that dinosaurs’ tails didn’t simply drag on the group behind them, but were instead held out to serve as a counterweight for the giant reptiles’ heavy front ends when running. More recently, however, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have discovered that modern-day lizards also use their tails to control the orientation of their bodies when leaping through the air. It’s a discovery that could be applied to devices such as search-and-rescue robots, and in fact already has been. Based on their observations, the UC Berkeley team created a small, tailed robot known as Tailbot.  Read More

The teleoperation system created by Taylor Veltrop lets him remotely groom his cat

The Kinectimals video game lets players pet a virtual pet on their TV screen, but Tokyo-based software engineer Taylor Veltrop has gone one step further. By pairing a Kinect sensor, a Wiimote, a treadmill and a Nao humanoid robot together, Veltrop has cobbled together a teleoperation system that allows him to groom his real life feline friend remotely.  Read More

The six limbs, symmetrically spaced at 60-degree intervals around its body, give the Aster...

Fans of the sci-fi film Minority Report will no doubt recall the autonomous insect-like searcher robots deployed to find Tom Cruise's character mid-way through the flick. While not as elegant (or sinister) as its film counterparts, the Asterisk robot being developed by the Arai Robotics Lab at Osaka University in Japan does an excellent job of resembling a big, mechanical bug with some interesting skills. After over six years of development, this unusual "limb-mechanism" robot now boasts an impressive array of functions that may soon find it performing vital tasks in numerous areas of society, including search and rescue.  Read More

Oculus is an inexpensive telepresence robot that incorporates a user-supplied netbook comp...

When you think about it, telepresence robots are quite a neat idea. Not only do they allow you to see and converse with people in another location through video conferencing, but you can also move them about within that location – almost as if you were there in person, walking down the halls. Such devices typically don’t come cheap, however. As with other robots, part of what you’re paying for are their computerized “brains,” along with all of their input/output peripherals. The Oculus Telepresence Robot, however, takes a different approach. It utilizes a user-supplied netbook to serve as its brains, eyes, ears and vocal cords. This results in a lower price, potentially opening up telepresence technology to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.  Read More

Brainlink is a module that can be added to existing household robots, allowing for the add...

While “toy” robots such as WowWee’s Robosapien already have some pretty impressive capabilities, they can now do even more ... if they have a Brainlink module installed. Brainlink is made by BirdBrain Technologies, which is a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off company. When attached to an existing infrared remote-controlled household robot, it will add a built-in light sensor and accelerometer to that device’s quiver, along with the possibility of various other user-supplied sensors that can be plugged into its input ports. The Bluetooth-equipped Brainlink also allows robots to be controlled via the user’s laptop or Android smartphone, which opens up all sorts of possibilities.  Read More

NAO Next Gen by Aldebaran Robotics

Remember NAO, the robot that stole the show at the recent Robotville event? Well, NAO's already impressive set of abilities have just been extended with Aldebaran Robotics releasing a new version of its cute little humanoid robot. Around two thousand NAOs are used for research and education purposes all around the world but now that the NAO Next Gen is ready, the founder and chairman of Aldebaran Robotics, Bruno Maisonnier, hopes to see it become useful to humans in a more direct sense. It's new abilities are to make it even more versatile and, among other things, prepare it for working with autistic children and the elderly.  Read More

The ROBOCAST Project is developing a robotic system for assisting with keyhole neurosurger...

In keyhole neurosurgery, a small “burr hole” is drilled in the patient’s skull, and their brain is then accessed through that hole. The procedure is much less invasive than many other types of brain surgery, and can be used for things such as exploratory endoscopy, biopsies, blood and fluid sampling, cryogenic and electrolytic ablation (tissue removal), and deep brain stimulation. It is used to treat conditions including tumors, hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain), Parkinson's disease, Tourette syndrome, and epilepsy. For a neurosurgeon, however, it can sometimes be extremely exacting work – a slip of even a fraction of a millimeter can cause permanent brain damage. That’s why the European Union’s ROBOCAST (ROBOt and sensors integration for Computer Assisted Surgery and Therapy) Project is developing a robotic system to help out.  Read More

Nao, Aldebaran Robotics' versatile fool (Photo: Gizmag)

There's an infestation of robots at London's Science Museum this weekend. Robotville has set up camp in a darkened room on the second floor, where visitors to the museum can drop by to say hello to their mechanized counterparts. There are 23 robots all told, from toy dinosaurs to pressure-sensing fish and all-terrain robot cockroaches (though, being purely remote controlled, the latter isn't a robot in the strict sense). Most captivating, though, were the nine androids that struck Gizmag as being, in one way or another, the most human. Say hello to the robots that might help shape our future.  Read More

The multigait robot squeezes its way underneath a glass barrier

More and more, it’s looking like many of the robots in the not-too-distant future won’t be hard, humanoid C-3PO-like affairs, but will instead be squishy, soft-bodied devices. Not only would such robots be better able to withstand mechanical shock, vibration and compression, but they would also be able to do things like squeezing through small spaces – an ability which come in very handy in settings like disaster sites or battlefields. Previous experiments with soft-bodied robots have included Tufts University’s GoQBot, which was clearly inspired by caterpillars. More recently, scientists from Harvard University demonstrated a squishy creation of their own, which could probably best be likened to a robotic starfish ... although it was apparently also inspired by squids.  Read More

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