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With the aging of populations in many countries around the world, particularly Japan, there are ever increasing numbers of elderly to care for, but relatively fewer younger people to do the job. Robots have long been seen as a means of filling the gap and Panasonic is set to unveil its latest technology designed to do just that. The three robotic devices set to make their debut at the upcoming 38th International Home Care & Rehabilitation Exhibition (H.C.R.2011) in Tokyo include a communication assistance robot and new models of the company's Hair-Washing Robot and RoboticBed. Read More
Research on artificial intelligence and robotics is growing at a rapid pace, but are we ready to see a robot bearing the Olympic torch in 2012? Scientists at Wales' Aberystwyth University are convinced that this should happen, and have nominated the iCub child-like humanoid robot to participate in the Olympic Torch Relay for London's 2012 Summer Olympics. It's intended to be a tribute to computing pioneer Alan Turing, as 2012 will mark the 100th anniversary of his birth. Read More
The act of picking up a coffee cup from a table, despite being relatively simple for a human being, actually involves extremely complex calculations as we spontaneously plan a trajectory around obstacles in free space to reach the cup. This complexity means such tasks can be incredibly difficult for an autonomous robot and results in most motion-planning algorithms settling for any path – no matter how inefficient – that will allow the robot to achieve its goal. Now researchers have developed a new motion-planning system that lets robots save time and energy by moving more efficiently, which also makes their movements more predictable - an important consideration if they are to interact with humans. Read More
While the Energizer Bunny may get all the fame, Panasonic's "Mr. Evolta" robot actually gets out and does things. In 2008, powered by two of the company's AA EVOLTA alkaline batteries, the 17 centimeter (6.69 inch)-tall robot climbed up a 1,640 foot (500 meter) rope suspended in the Grand Canyon. The following year, pedaling a miniature tricycle, he completed the "24 Hours of Le Mans" endurance challenge. Last year, he took a leisurely 500-kilometer (311-mile) stroll along the highway from Tokyo to Kyoto. This year's challenge is a little different - there will be three EVOLTA robots, and they will be teaming up to complete the 230-kilometer (143-mile) Ironman Triathlon circuit in Hawaii. Read More
If we're ever going to have robot butlers, then they're going to have to learn how to figure things out for themselves. After all, if you have to reprogram the robot for every slight variation on a task, you might as well do it yourself. Scientists at Cornell University's Personal Robotics Laboratory are tackling the formidable challenges posed by "machine learning" by programing robots to observe new situations and proceed accordingly, based on what they already know from the past. Read More
Given that there are currently robots that can find trapped miners, swim through rubble and see through walls, it’s only natural that some of us humans might feel a little ... inferior, perhaps. Should you be one of those people, it will almost certainly make you feel better if you go to Budapest, and take in the Bacarobo Stupid Robot Championship. The three main rules: robots must operate automatically, they must be funny, and they must be useless. Read More
QinetiQ North America has unveiled its latest Micro Unmanned Ground Vehicle (MUGV) based on its Dragon Runner platform. The new Dragon Runner 10 (DR10) is built around the basic Dragon Runner design and is intended for military and first responder duties. At just 15 inches (38 cm) long, 13.5 inches (34 cm) wide and 5.8 inches (15 cm) tall, and weighing just under 10 pounds (4.5 kg), the DR10 is small and light enough to be carried in a standard-issue pack and be thrown into buildings and hostile environments for reconnaissance and surveillance missions. Read More
Although Honda’s ASIMO has been running around at speeds of up to 6 km/h (3.7 mph) since 2004, his style is more of a fast sneak than a true running action. Getting bipedal robot like ASIMO to run like a human is no easy feat - as C-3PO is sure to attest – but researchers in a University of Michigan (U-M) lab have done just that with a bipedal robot called MABEL. The researchers believe that MABEL, which can reach a peak pace of 10.9 km/h (6.8 mph), is the world’s fastest bipedal robot with knees. Read More
The Chilean and Pike River Mine disasters in 2010 highlighted the dangers of sub-surface mining and the difficulties faced in extracting those trapped beneath the Earth. Collapsed mines pose countless dangers, not just for those trapped but also those attempting to free them, such as poisonous gases, flooded tunnels, explosive vapors and unstable walls and roofs. Dealing with such potentially deadly conditions and unknown obstacles significantly slows the efforts of rescuers. To help speed rescue efforts, robotics engineers at Sandia Labs have designed a robot to provide that most valuable of commodities for first responders - information. Read More
Swarms of small, intercommunicating robots are now being eyed up for all sorts of potential uses, including the creation of communications networks for disaster relief, mapping out hazardous environments, or even perhaps helping with the colonization of Mars. Since 2007, a group of European research groups have been collaborating on the now-completed Swarmanoid project, in which a variety of purpose-specific mini robots where programmed to cooperate in order to accomplish a task. Although the bots have been perfecting their book-stealing routine since 2009, a video depicting the task won the Best Video award at last week's 2011 Artificial Intelligence Conference in San Francisco, and was many peoples' introduction to Swarmanoid. Read More