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Robotics

Earlier in the year, Kuka Robotics made a big fuss about its ping-pong playing robot facing up against professional player Timo Boll. Sadly, the promised match turned out to be just an advert and the robot wasn't as capable as had been made out. While Japanese firm Omron has been quick to point out that its new robot ping-pong-player is by no means capable of taking on and beating even a semi-skilled human opponent, it is capable of entering into long rallies with human players. Read More
If a robot is looking for victims at a disaster site, or even exploring another planet, then it certainly better not get stuck in the sand. That may now be a little less likely to happen, as scientists recently studied one of the best sand-travelers in the animal kingdom – the sidewinder rattlesnake. After they analyzed its movement patterns and applied them to an existing snake-inspired robot, that robot was better able climb up sandy inclines. Read More
Following in the footsteps of Hiroshi Ishiguro's eerily lifelike creations, Toshiba introduced its very own take on the human-looking droid at Japan's CEATEC electronics trade show this week. The communication android has been built to communicate in Japanese sign language, requiring fluid and precise movement of its arms and hands. Read More
The animal kingdom contains many examples of efficient forms of locomotion, so it's no wonder that we've been seeing a lot of animal-inspired robots – recent examples have included a robotic cheetah, fish and snake. Plants, however, just sit there ... don't they? Actually, they do move, just not necessarily in a Point A to Point B manner. With that in mind, Europe's PLANTOID project consortium is now in the process of developing a tree-like robot. Its descendants might ultimately find use in the exploration of other planets. Read More
Thanks to mobile phone technology, getting caught in a disaster means that help is only a call away – unless the disaster knocks out the electricity to the cell towers. To help bring the phones back on line to aid in recovery efforts, researchers at Michigan Technological University are developing a team of robots designed to restore power to towers and other communication sites. Read More
The only thing better than state-of-the-art robotics is when it's combined with Force 9 cuteness. Japanese electronics company Murata Manufacturing has given us one example with the unveiling if its robotic Cheerleaders. The squad of ten ball-mounted robots uses advanced ultrasonics, infrared, and group control technology to perform synchronized dance routines with perfect stability. Read More
Maritime smugglers will often hide contraband in false hulls or propeller shafts within their boats. While there are ways in which port authorities can search for such stashes, the smugglers often have time to ditch their illicit goods before those searches can be performed. However, what if there were stealthy, inexpensive, underwater hull-hugging robots that could check the boats out, without the crews even knowing they were there? That's just what a team at MIT is developing. Read More
In order for household robots to be truly useful, it would be great if they could go and get items for you, without having to be shown where those things are. Thanks to research being carried out at Georgia Tech, that may someday be the case. A robot there is now able to search out hidden objects – as long as they've been labelled first. Read More
Harvard University labs, working in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin, are offering a comprehensive online toolkit to help in the design, creation, and control of soft robots made from flexible materials. Aimed at skilled and novice researchers alike, the Soft Robotics Toolkit provides a veritable cornucopia of downloadable, open-source plans, step-by-step tutorial videos, and real world studies for users to apply to their own soft robot project. Read More
Three years ago, we first heard about GelSight – an experimental new system for imaging microscopic objects. At the time, its suggested applications were in fields such as aerospace, forensics, dermatology and biometrics. Now, however, researchers at MIT and Northeastern University have found another use for it. They've incorporated it into an ultra-sensitive tactile sensor for robots. Read More
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