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Robotics

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

Raytheon XOS 2: second generation exoskeleton

The widespread usage of exoskeletal robotics to augment human beings moved a step closer this week when Raytheon demonstrated its second generation Exoskeleton, the XOS 2. The new robotic suit (think of it as wearable robot guided by a human brain) is lighter, faster and stronger than the original proof-of-concept XOS 1, yet uses half the power. While Raytheon's development is primarily focused on military usage, exoskeletons for the mobility-impaired are already at market and industrial exoskeletons from Japan, Korea and Isreal are not far behind. One day in the not too distant future, one of these suits will enable us all to have superhuman strength, speed and endurance.  Read More

Test subject Bob Melia tries out the UCF robotic arm

Researchers have created a computer-controlled robotic arm designed to help wheelchair-bound people perform actions such as grasping and lifting objects. It has both an automatic mode, in which the computer identifies objects and figures out how to grasp them, and an option for full manual control. When physically-challenged people were selected to try the device out, the researchers were surprised to discover that most of them preferred going manual. It’s all about something called Flow.  Read More

Panasonic to show integrated wheelchair/bed and hair-washing robot

Though nearly every country in the world is ageing fast, Japan is at the front of the pack and in the next few decades will see its ratio of workers to retirees change from 7-1 to 2-1 – a scary prospect, particularly in a country that has always revered and respected the elderly. Robotic assistants offer a solution to this dilemma and Panasonic has just announced the development of two special-care robots; a robotic bed that also transforms into a wheelchair and a robotic hair washing assistant. Both are specifically designed to aid and give independence to the elderly and people with limited mobility.  Read More

The dancing swan has 19 different joints (Photo: Kerstin Gauffin)

A team at Mälardalen University, Sweden, has created a one meter-tall robotic swan that “performs” to the music of Swan Lake. The aim of the project is to explore the potential of robots to move people emotionally and mimic human expressions. So could this binary Baryshnikov represent the future of ballet?  Read More

Windoro stays vertical using neodymium magnets

Vacuum cleaning robots like the Roomba, LG Roboking, Electrolux Trilobyte and Neato XV-11 are already on dust patrol in countless homes around the world, saving people from untold hours of drudgery and aching backs. Now researchers at the Pohang Institute of Intelligent Robotics (PIRO) in South Korea have developed a robot that can handle the equally tedious – and often dangerous depending on which floor you live on – task of cleaning windows. Called Windoro, the robot consists of two separate modules that clean the window by spraying detergent and scrubbing away with a series of spinning pads.  Read More

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

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