We may still be some way from having lifelike humanoid robot helpers,
but there's no doubt robots are getting more helpful, friendly and
domesticated. Blue Frog Robotics' new Buddy robot is designed to be an
affordable family companion. It can help with communications, home
security, edutainment and even elder care.
"You have a giant robot, we have a giant robot – we have a duty to the science fiction lovers of this world to fight them to the death." America laid down the challenge; Japan has accepted. In one year's time, the two countries will face off on neutral soil for the world's first international giant robot dual. Two 15-foot-tall steel gundam suits with one or two pilots inside, facing each other in battle. There will be guns, there will be giant swinging steel fists, and the fight won't be over until one has pounded the other into scrap. Can you hear that sound? It's the gentle foaming of a million anime fans.
Besides simply being fascinating to watch, insect-inspired robots may
someday find use as scouts in search-and-rescue operations. In order
for them to function in such scenarios, however, they'll have to be able
to move through fields of debris. While some scientists have looked at
using sensors and algorithms that let the bots scan their surroundings
and then plot paths around obstacles, researchers at UC Berkley have
developed a much less complex but still effective approach – they've
outfitted a robotic cockroach with a streamlined shell, that lets it
just push its way through.
As robots get smarter, cheaper and more versatile, they're taking on a growing number of challenges – and bricklaying can now be added to the list. Engineers in Perth, Australia, have created a fully working house-building machine that can create the brick framework of a property in just two days, working about 20 times faster than a human bricklayer.
A telepresence robot developed at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) that can be controlled by thought may give people with severe motor disabilities a greater level of independence. Successfully put through its paces by 19 people scattered around Central Europe – nine of whom are quadriplegic and all of whom were hooked up to a brain-machine interface – the robot handled obstacle detection and avoidance on its own while the person controlling it gave general navigation instructions.
The development of powered exoskeletons has so far been largely restricted to the laboratory, the military, and areas such as rehabilitation therapy. This kind of technology also has obvious potential in industry, where constant heavy lifting is still very much a part of many working lives. Recently in Stuttgart, the Robo-Mate project unveiled an exoskeleton designed specifically for industrial use that can make 10 kilos feel like 1.
Japanese tech firm SoftBank has announced that its emotion-sensing robot, Pepper, will go on sale in Japan from June 20. The company says that Pepper is the world’s first personal robot that can read a person's emotions. In addition, it has been designed to portray emotions of its own.
We've looked closely at the on track action at the recent 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge, but there's a lot more to the story. Gizmag went behind the scenes to explore the "garage" where the teams tended their sophisticated charges in order to learn more about what makes the world's most advanced robots tick.
One of the 24 teams competing at the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge – and the only team fielded by a large private company – was Lockheed Martin's Team Trooper and its robot Leo. To find out more about what goes into programming a humanoid robot and the future of robotics, we talked to the team leader, Todd Danko.