When you think about it, smartphones are more than just fancy phones – they’re actually tiny portable computers. Given that so many people now own these tiny computers, why should they have to pay to buy another
computer that’s built into an electronic device, when they could instead just use their existing smartphone as the “brain” of that device? That’s the approach that has been taken by products such as the Bubo
camcorder rig, and now also by Romo-The Smartphone Robot.
Robots are a perfect tool to provide soldiers in the field with “eyes” on a potentially hazardous situation without placing themselves in harm’s way. With soldiers often operating in difficult terrain or entering buildings, the easiest way to get such robots into place is to throw them. Currently, many units use a small tactical robot called the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle 320 that is equipped with video reconnaissance technology. However, this robot weighs 32 pounds (14.5 kg) so the call has been put out for a lighter robot that is more easily transportable by dismounted units on the move and is able to be thrown into forward locations such as buildings and caves. To this end, the U.S. military is set to put three different types of lightweight, “throwable” robots through a series of combat assessments in Afghanistan.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.