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Robotics

The physical robot constructed from Lego Mindstorm kits

Everyone knows that, unless you’re extraordinarily gifted, you need to crawl before you can walk. Turns out the same principle could also apply to robots. In a first-of-its-kind experiment conducted by University of Vermont (UVM) roboticist Josh Bongard created both simulated and physical robots that, like tadpoles becoming frogs, change their body forms while learning how to walk. He found that these evolving robots were able to learn more rapidly than ones with fixed body forms and that, in their final form, the changing robots had developed a more robust gait.  Read More

Researchers have created an underwater robot that swims in any direction using just one fi...

Ask anyone who keeps freshwater tropical fish to name the top five most exotic, bizarre fish available to hobbyists, and chances are the black ghost knife fish will be in there. Besides looking incredibly cool, these Amazon basin creatures have two rather unusual characteristics: they can sense all around themselves by generating a weak electrical field, and they can move in any direction, thanks to an undulating ribbon-like fin that runs along the length of their underside. In an effort to replicate that form of maneuverability for use in man-made submersibles, a team led by Northwestern University mechanical and biomedical engineer Dr. Malcolm MacIver has created the GhostBot – an underwater robot that moves via a knife fish-like fin.  Read More

The pi4-workerbot can be adapted to a wide range of tasks (Image: pi4_robotics GmbH)

Industrial robots are generally programmed to carry out one task and one task only. While they are extremely quick and efficient at performing their assigned task, adapting them to other tasks can be a time consuming and expensive endeavor. In an effort to introduce robots with greater flexibility into industrial inspection and assembly systems, the EU-funded PISA research project has developed the pi4-workerbot. The multi-tasking robot is similar in size to a human being and features two arms, three cameras, fingertip sensitivity and can even produce a variety of facial expressions.  Read More

The ReWalk robotic exoskeleton is designed to get paraplegics out of their wheelchairs

The wheel may be one of mankind’s greatest inventions, but it’s an unfortunate fact of life for the wheelchair-bound that much of the modern world is built for the upright – from deli counter-tops and store shelves to stairs and escalators. When Israeli entrepreneur Amit Goffer was left paralyzed after a car accident in 1997 he set about creating “robotic trousers” to replace a wheelchair. The fruits of his labor are now set to help others with his ReWalk robotic exoskelton set to go on sale from the start of 2011.  Read More

BEAR is an all-terrain, search-and-rescue humanoid robot that can lift and carry up to 500...

The U.S. Army is currently testing a robot designed to locate, lift and carry wounded soldiers out of harm’s way without risking additional lives. With feedback from its onboard sensors and cameras, the Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (BEAR) can be remotely controlled through the use of a special M-4 rifle grip controller or by hand gestures using an AnthroTronix iGlove motion glove. This equipment would allow a soldier to direct BEAR to a wounded soldier and transport them to safety where they can be assessed by a combat medic.  Read More

The prototype of the next-generation AUV (Photo: Fraunhofer)

Engineers from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics are working on an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that would be inexpensive enough to use for industrial applications such as hull and dam inspection, yet independent enough that it wouldn’t require any kind of human control. Typically, more cumbersome but less costly remote operated vehicles (ROVs) are used for grunt work – they are connected to a ship on the surface by a tether, where a human operator controls them. The more technologically-advanced AUVs tend to be used more for well-funded research, but according to the engineers, one of the keys to creating “blue collar” AUVs is to overhaul the ways that they see, hear and think.  Read More

Bionic Handling Assistant is inspired by the elephants trunk (Image: Festo)

Festo, the automation company that designed the bionic penguin and its robotic stablemates – AirRay, AquaRay, AirJelly and AquaJelly – has found another natural model in its latest application of biomimicry – the elephant's trunk.  Read More

Vladimir Kramnik squaring off against the Chess Terminator

For almost as long as we've had computers, humans have been trying to make ones that play chess. The most famous chess-playing computer of course is IBM's Deep Blue, which in 1997 defeated the then World Champion Garry Kasparov. But as powerful as Deep Blue was, it didn't actually move the chess pieces on its own. Perhaps that's a trivial task in comparison to beating the best chess player of all-time, but still I was pleased to discover this recent video of a chess robot that more closely fits the true definition of a chess automaton.  Read More

The robot Cody placed alongside the test subject's bed

While many movies and TV shows would have us believe that hospital sponge baths are only carried out by nurses at either end of the attractiveness spectrum, the reality is no doubt generally somewhere in between. In fact, I’m sure a lot of patients and even more nurses would prefer such tasks were handled by a robot. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology seem to have reached the same conclusion and have developed a robot that can autonomously perform bed baths to keep bedridden patients clean.  Read More

Hammacher Schlemmer's Emotive Robotic Avatar

Mail order retailer Hammacher Schlemmer is hoping that someone out there will be willing to plunk down the price of a luxury automobile on its Emotive Robotic Avatar. The US$65,000 device is essentially a stationary remote-control robot, through which its user can carry on conversations, make gestures, and convey five different emotions. On one hand it's a taste of the future, on the other... that's a very expensive puppet.  Read More

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