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Robotics

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

Lockeed Martin is testing an updated, ruggedized version of the HULC robotic exoskeleton

Lockheed Martin is putting an updated, ruggedized version to its HULC Robotic Exoskeleton through lab evaluation tests. The hydraulic "power-suit" now boasts better protection from the elements, improved fitting and easier adjustment, increased run-time and new control software.  Read More

The universal gripper writing with a pen (Image: John Amend, Cornell University)

While creating robotic grippers to pick up objects that are all the same shape and consistency is relatively easy, difficulties arise when trying to create one versatile enough to handle a wider variety of objects. The flexibility of the human hand has led many robotics researchers to borrow the familiar four finger and opposable thumb template that has served us so well, but getting the robotic hand to exert enough force to grip a variety of objects without breaking the more fragile ones is still a difficult task. For this reason a team of researchers has bypassed the traditional human hand and fingers design to create a versatile gripper using everyday coffee grounds and a latex party balloon.  Read More

The Sofie force-feedback surgical robot  (Photo: Bart van Overbeeke)

Robot-assisted surgery has a number of advantages over traditional surgery – it’s steadier, more precise, less invasive, plus the surgeon doesn’t even have to be in the same room (or continent) as the patient. One of its drawbacks, however, is the fact that surgeons can’t feel any of the resistance put up by the patients’ tissues – essentially, the controls provide no sense of touch. To address this problem, Linda van den Bedem from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) has created a prototype surgical robot that does provide tactile feedback, and its name is Sofie... or Surgeon’s Operating Force-feedback Interface Eindhoven.  Read More

Berkeley Bionics' eLEGS exoskeleton

At a press conference held this morning in San Francisco, California’s Berkeley Bionics unveiled its eLEGS exoskeleton. The computer-controlled device is designed to be worn by paraplegics, providing the power and support to get them out of their wheelchairs, into a standing posture, and walking – albeit with the aid of crutches. The two formerly wheelchair-bound “test pilots” in attendance did indeed use eLEGS to walk across the stage, in a slow-but-steady gait similar to that of full-time crutch-users.  Read More

AQUA and a diver with the AQUATablet

Several years ago, a joint team from Canada’s York, McGill and Dalhousie universities created AQUA, an underwater swimming robot. AQUA has six flippers, three on each side, and uses them to paddle through the water – it’s somewhat reminiscent of a platypus, albeit a six-legged one. Using a different set of appendages, it can even swim underwater, then proceed to sort of slap its way onto and across dry land. All of this is very cool in and of itself, but the little robot now has a new ability: it can receive commands visually underwater, thus freeing it from cumbersome umbilical cords.  Read More

The Kid's Walker: 1.6 metre bi-pedal exoskeleton for children

Six years back we covered the amazing 3.4 meter bi-pedal exoskeleton from Japan known as the Landwalker. Imagine our surprise when we found that its producer, machinery and robotics manufacturer Sakakibara-Kikai, has developed a smaller exoskeleton called the Kid's Walker. It didn't get that name because of its diminutive size either – the Kid's Walker is a functioning bi-pedal exoskeleton designed to be piloted by children!  Read More

The SMAVNET robot

Swarms of flying robots might sound a bit ominous to those of us anxiously awaiting the inevitable robot uprising that will see humanity drop a notch on the scale of planetary dominance. But swarms of flying robots are just what a project at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland is working to create. However, instead of keeping an eye on prisoners in a robot-run internment camp, the Swarming Micro Air Vehicle Network (SMAVNET) Project aims to develop robot swarms that can be deployed in disaster areas to rapidly create communication networks for rescuers.  Read More

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