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Robotics

Kilobots are tiny autonomous swarming robots, that cost about $14 a piece to build (Photo:...

Autonomous robotic devices are certainly capable of some impressive feats, but as is the case with people, sometimes large groups can accomplish what an individual or a small group can’t. Research projects such as BAE Systems’ MAST program recognize this potential, and are investigating ways in which entire swarms of small robots could work together. The problem is, given how much time and money goes into the creation of a typical autonomous robot, it’s difficult to find a swarm of them to experiment upon – researchers often have to use computer simulations, or do their tests with a small group of robots, then scale up the results. That’s where Harvard University’s Kilobot project comes into play. It incorporates tiny swarming robots that take just five minutes to build, and that are worth about US$14 each.  Read More

MIT computer scientists Tomas Lozano-Perez and Leslie Kaelbling with the Willow Garage PR2...

Although robots have started to creep into many homes in the form of robotic vacuum cleaners like the Roomba, many of us were hoping humanoid robots would be doing everything from preparing meals to doing the laundry by now. Unfortunately, it turns out that even tasks that we consider relatively simple can prove difficult for robots to replicate. Instead of attempting to program robots to devise a complete detailed plan before tacking a task, MIT scientists are programming them to apply the old adage of “one step at a time” so the robots break tasks down into smaller, easier to handle chunks.  Read More

Computing and robotics expert Henrik Christensen, with one of the MAST robots (Photo: Geor...

Imagine you're a firefighter arriving at a burning building, but you have no idea what the interior layout of that building is. Do you just enter, then risk your life by randomly walking up and down smokey hallways looking around? What would work better would be if someone or something could quickly map out the building first, then you could take that information and concentrate on getting directly where you need to go. That's the idea behind the U.S. Army's Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) Collaborative Technology Alliance Program, which would see swarms of small rolling, hopping, crawling or flying robots working together on reconnaissance missions in civilian or military applications.  Read More

Fraunhofer researchers have developed a robot input device that uses inertial sensors to d...

Having two arms doesn't make you a juggler. The same principle applies in robotics where even the most dextrous of bots must be programmed to move according to a particular task. Input systems based on laser tracking are used in industrial robotics to achieve this, but Fraunhofer researchers are looking to streamline the process significantly with a device that uses inertial sensors to detect movements in free space. In other words, you can teach a robot new tricks just by showing it the required action.  Read More

Cornell University's Ranger robot has beaten its own endurance record, by walking 40.5 mil...

On July 6th of last year, Cornell University’s Ranger robot set a world record for untethered legged robots – it walked 14.3 miles (23.01 km) in about 11 hours on a single charge, with no hands-on assistance. The record had previously been held by Boston Dynamics’ BigDog, when it walked 12.8 miles (20.6 km). Both of those achievements were eclipsed last Monday (May 2nd), however, when Ranger beat its own record by walking a whopping 40.5 miles (65.18 km) on a single charge.  Read More

Luna is a new personal robot that should reportedly sell for around US$1,000

Ah, the personal robot. While flying cars and jetpacks are now here – for some people – we still don't have robots that help us out around the house. However, maybe we soon could. This week, California's RoboDynamics introduced its Luna personal robot to the world. While the company currently isn't providing too much other information, her(?) makers are calling Luna "a breakthrough in robot design."  Read More

Inspired by the sandfish lizard, a new snake-like robot is being designed to burrow throug...

When the sandfish lizard wishes to escape predators, it can actually dive beneath the surface of the sand, and then swim through it. Inspired by the sandfish, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created an undulating robot that can likewise swim through a granular medium. While that medium has so far consisted of quarter-inch plastic balls in a lab setting, the team hopes that their robot – or one of its descendants – could someday be used to tunnel through debris to rescue earthquake victims.  Read More

A student at Tokyo's University of Electro-Communications has invented a robotic tongue de...

Services such as Skype have certainly made things a little easier for geographically-separated romantic partners, but when the tele-chat is over and it's time to say good night, sometimes a little air kiss blown towards a webcam just isn't enough. While there are products that cater for the long-distance physical needs of couples, those might be a bit much for everyday situations. There's also the KissPhone, which attempts to simulate the sensation of one partner's lips against the other's. Sitting between those two extremes, however, is the "Kiss Transmission Device" – a prototype gizmo designed to allow its users to virtually lock tongues.  Read More

Caterpillars have inspired a soft-bodied robot that can move fast as well as wriggle into ...

The millions of years of natural selection that lies behind the immense biodiversity found on our planet is fertile ground for keeping robotics research rolling ... in this case, literally. Some caterpillars in the Crambidae family have the amazing ability to spring into a wheel shape and roll away when it's time to get out of Dodge fast, and it is this talent that has inspired the creation of GoQBot – a 3-inch cm long soft-bodied robot that could provide a blueprint for versatile search and rescue robots of the future.  Read More

A robotic intubation system that inserts endotracheal tubes in patients is being tested on...

Pretty much any time a patient is placed under a general anesthetic, a plastic endotracheal tube is inserted down their throat, in order to keep their airway open. The procedure is known as intubation, and has so far always been performed by hand. In this age of robotic surgery, however, it’s perhaps not surprising to hear that surgeons at Montreal’s McGill University Health Centre are now trying out a remote-control intubation system on human subjects.  Read More

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