Highlights from Interbike 2014

Robotics

The next generation of robotic pets may detect a person's emotions and respond accordingly...

Sony’s Aibo may be discontinued, but robotic pets of all shapes and sizes continue to stake a claim in the hearts of people around the world. Despite the apparent intelligence of some of these robot pets, their behavior and actions are usually nothing more than pre-programmed responses to stimuli – being patted in a particular location or responding to a voice command, for example. Real flesh and blood pets are much more complex in this regard, even discerning and responding to a person’s emotional state. Robotic pets could be headed in that direction, with researchers in Taiwan turning to neural networks to help them break the cycle of repetitive behavior in robot toys and endow them with almost emotional responses to interactions.  Read More

Prof. Ronald Arkin (left) and research engineer Alan Wagner with their hide-and-seek-playi...

Robots can perform an ever-increasing number of human-like actions, but until recently, lying wasn’t one of them. Now, thanks to researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, they can. More accurately, the Deep South robots have been taught “deceptive behavior.” This might sound like the recipe for a Philip K. Dick-esque disaster, but it could have practical uses. Robots on the battlefield, for instance, could use deception to elude captors. In a search and rescue scenario, a robot might have to be deceptive to handle a panicking human. For now, however, the robots are using their new skill to play a mean game of hide-and-seek.  Read More

PR2 robot

Earlier this year we reported how Californian robotics company Willow Garage was giving away a number of its PR2 robots to various institutions as part of its PR2 Beta program. Lucky PR2 recipients were asked to use the robot to pursue their research and development goals and share their progress with the open source robotics community so that the community as a whole can build on each other’s results. Now anyone can get in the act with Willow Garage officially announcing commercial availability of the robot. And if you’ve got a proven track record in the open source community you could be eligible for a hefty discount.  Read More

Harvard's PARITy differential for MAVs

Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) are in development at various research institutes and aerospace firms worldwide, with an eye toward someday being used in applications such as search and rescue operations, environmental monitoring, or exploration of hazardous environments... or spying, as seems to be the case with all things micro. Like insects, many of these MAVs fly by flapping a set of wings, so they need to be designed to cope with crosswinds or potential wing damage. Engineers at Harvard University have created a tiny automobile-style differential, to keep the two wings generating the same amount of torque. The device is literally one one-millionth the size of what you’d find in your car.  Read More

Paul Day and Alan Asbeck worked on adhesives for the feet of the gecko-like Stickybot (Ima...

The biology of a gecko’s foot that gives the lizard its remarkable climbing ability has been used by engineers at Stanford University to create a robot that can climb smooth surfaces including a wall of slick glass. With feet modeled on the intricate design of gecko toes, the Stickybot could lead to the development of robots that can scale vertical surfaces to access dangerous or hard to reach places.  Read More

Dr Canamero with a sad robot

In November 2008, we reported on the FEELIX GROWING (Feel, Interact, eXpress: a Global approach to development with Interdisciplinary Grounding) project’s aim of developing robots that are capable of identifying different emotions based on facial expressions. Now, that same project has announced the completion of its first prototype robots that are not only capable of developing their own emotions as they interact with their human caregivers, but they can also express those emotions.  Read More

Telenoid R1 mirrors the movements of a remote user

It’s been suggested that one of the main reasons video calling hasn’t taken off is because a lot of the time people want to be heard and not seen. A new robot would allow callers to remain unseen, while creating a physical presence of the caller for the receiver of the call. Developed at Osaka University in collaboration with the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR), – the creators of Robovie II – Telenoid R1 is a portable robot that is designed to relay a remote user’s presence during long distance communications by mirroring their movements.  Read More

Scientists hope to emulate the honeybee's aerial navigational skills through human technol...

Day after day, honeybees are able to travel back and forth between a food source and their hive, even in a constantly-changing environment. Given that the insects have relatively small brains, scientists have determined that they rely chiefly on vision and hard-wired visual processing abilities to achieve such a feat. To better understand that process, scientists from the Cognitive Interaction Technology Center of Excellence at Bielefeld University, Germany, have created an artificial honeybee’s eye. Using the device, they hope to unlock the secrets of the insects’ sensing, processing and navigational skills, and apply them to human technology such as micro air vehicles (MAVs).  Read More

Studded with magnets and electronic muscles known as actuators, a prototype robot develope...

If they were real, the Transformers harking from Cybertron would be considered pretty remarkable pieces of machinery. But their transforming abilities are limited to just two forms. By combining origami and electrical engineering, researchers at MIT and Harvard are working to develop the ultimate reconfigurable robot – one that can turn into absolutely anything. To test out their theories, the researchers built a prototype that can automatically assume the shape of either an origami boat or a paper airplane when it receives different electrical signals.  Read More

ROCR features a tail that swings like a grandfather clock’s pendulum (Image: William Pro...

Engineers have used a variety of techniques to create robots that can scale walls – “the Climber” uses a rolling seal, while the insect-like robots from SRI have caterpillar tracks with electro-adhesive properties. While such robots generally focus on speed, adhering to the wall and deciding how and when to move, the creators of a small robot named ROCR say it is the first wall-climbing robot to focus on climbing efficiently. And it does so by using the momentum of a tail that swings like a grandfather clock’s pendulum.  Read More

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