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Robotics

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

Harvard scientists develop soft robots that can camouflage themselves

If you’re worried about the coming robot apocalypse, then worry some more because soft, squishy robots just got camouflage. Scientists at Harvard University working under a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract have developed a way of turning soft robots into “chameleons” capable of blending in with their backgrounds and even hiding from infrared sensors. That’s pretty impressive (or scary) for robots that can be made for less than US$100 apiece. Read More

Disney develops "face cloning" technique for animatronics

The “uncanny valley” is one of the frustrating paradoxes of robotics. Every year, roboticists make humanoid robots that more accurately imitate human beings, but it turns out that the better the imitation, the creepier the end result. It’s that strange, hair-raising sensation one gets when visiting the Hall of Presidents at Disneyland. True, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln look very lifelike, but there’s always something wrong that you can’t quite describe. In the hope of bridging this valley, a Disney Research team in Zurich, Switzerland, has invented a new robot-making technique dubbed “face cloning.” This technique combines 3D digital scanning and advanced silicone skins to give animatronic robots more realistic facial expressions.Read More

Tiny robots could be the micro-builders of the future

How small can a robot get? According to a team of researchers at Georgia Tech, really, really small. Described in the July 23 issue of the journal Soft Matter, the Georgia Tech team has been running complex computational models of swimming robots on the micron (0.001 mm or about 0.000039 inches) scale. At this microscopic level, water takes on very different properties from those of the human scale, but despite these challenges the team believes that such robots could have fascinating practical applications.Read More

Soft, autonomous Meshworm robot moves like an earthworm

In an effort to create robots with soft, pliable exteriors that would be suited to exploring hard to reach places and traversing bumpy terrain, a team of researchers from MIT, Harvard University and Seoul National University has developed a robotic earthworm called Meshworm. Moving in the same manner as an earthworm, it looks disturbingly like an earthworm as it crawls across the floor. However, unlike an earthworm and despite its soft exterior, it is remarkably tough and can survive hammer blows and even being trodden.Read More

Stompy: 18 foot wide, 6-legged, rideable robot in the works

Project Hexapod is aiming to make the construction of large scale robots cheaper and easier for hobbyists with Stompy - an 18 ft wide, 4,000 pound, 6-legged hydraulic robot that you can ride. The Massachusetts-based team behind the project has already made significant progress with the giant robot and are looking to raise funds to complete the ambitious build before making it "open hardware" by releasing all of the plans, diagrams and the list of materials used in the construction to anyone brave enough to build one of their own. Read More

Hanson Robotics unveils latest version of its Zeno humanoid robot

Back in 2007, we did a report on Zeno, a humanoid robot with a remarkable range of movement and impressive artificial intelligence that was aimed at the children’s toy market. Built by Hanson Robotics, the 17-inch (43 cm) tall robot could stand, make eye contact and had artificial intelligence software with voice recognition to enable it to engage in conversations. Projected retail price was US$300. Five years later, Hanson has released a YouTube video announcing that the latest version of Zeno is going into production, though it’s a bit taller and a lot more expensive.Read More

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