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Robotics

QBotix system uses mobile robots to optimize solar panel orientation

Although solar trackers can significantly increase the energy output of solar cells by keeping them optimally aligned to the sun, installing them on all the panels at an installation can add significant expense and provides multiple points of failure. A new tracking system from QBotix avoids these problems by getting a robot to do the rounds of the solar installation throughout the day and adjust the panels at 40-minute intervals to ensure they are optimally facing the sun.Read More

Cheetah robot outpaces Usain Bolt in setting new robotic land speed record

Usain Bolt might have taken home the 100 meters gold medal from the recent London 2012 Olympics, but things could have been different had DARPA’s Cheetah robot been allowed in the field. Living up to DARPA's original goal of developing a robot that could outrun any human, the quadruped robot has set a new robotic land speed record of 28.3 mph (45.5 km/h) for a 20-meter (65.6 ft) split, bettering Bolt’s human speed record by 0.52 mph (0.8 km/h).Read More

Light-activated skeletal muscle “blurs the boundary between nature and machines”

In Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s 1972 novel Rendezvous with Rama, the explorers of a seemingly deserted alien spaceship passing through our Solar System encounter a strange three-legged creature that turns out to be an organic robot. In the ‘70s, this seemed so incredible that it could only be the product of an alien civilization thousands of years ahead of us. In 2012, scientists at MIT and the University of Pennsylvania are proving otherwise by starting work on organic robots here on Earth. Using genetically engineered muscle tissue that responds to light, they are blurring the line between animal and machine at the cellular level.Read More

Underwater robots being developed to save damaged coral reefs

Scotland may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of coral reefs, but the deep waters west of the nation are indeed home to reefs not unlike those found in the tropics. Unfortunately, a commercial fishing technique known as bottom trawling regularly damages that coral, putting the reefs at risk. Now, scientists are working on a possible solution to the problem – swarms of small, autonomous coral-fixing robots.Read More

Japanese model enthusiast builds paper robot powered by elastic bands

A Japanese paper-modelling enthusiast has constructed a bipedal “robot” dubbed the “Paper Robot III” (or PR-III). Judging from the intricate nature of the design which is visible in the photos, the PR-III appears to be a labor of love, and has been painstakingly constructed almost entirely from paper, with the addition of a few wooden shafts serving to increase overall and drive the “engine” – a series of paper cogs and elastic bands which are wound up to set the PR-III walking. Read More

The Double turns you into a video-calling, iPad-faced robot

Video calling and chat services like Skype have revolutionized the way people communicate over distances. It's now possible to have face-to-face conversations with people that are halfway around the globe - something that was pure science fiction just a few decades ago. The next step appears to be enabling more natural face-to-face communications complete with movement and body language. While we wait for a practical holographic or 3D telepod system system, Double Robotics, a start-up founded last year, offers a sort of robot surrogate based around the iPad.Read More

Device takes pipe bombs apart, and preserves the evidence

While improvised explosive devices are certainly not designed to be “safe,” pipe bombs are particularly notorious for being unstable. When police forces respond to calls regarding such bombs, they usually utilize a remote-control bomb disposal robot to disable or detonate them. Unfortunately, this process often results in a loss of forensic evidence, that could be used to track down the bomb-maker. That’s where the Department of Homeland Security’s new Semi Autonomous Pipe Bomb End-cap Remover (SAPBER) comes into play. It’s a device that dismantles pipe bombs, leaving all of their components intact.Read More

Sandia modular robot hand brings a delicate touch to bomb disposal

Robots have been used routinely in bomb disposal for over forty years. Unfortunately, the standard way that robots deal with bombs is to blow them up. This removes the threat, but it also destroys valuable evidence that could lead to catching the bomb makers. Sandia National Laboratories has developed a new robot hand that is not only delicate enough to disarm a bomb rather than detonating it, but is relatively inexpensive and can even mend itself.Read More

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