— Aircraft

Japanese researchers create artificial butterfly

Last year, we brought you the story of tech company AeroVironment’s life-size artificial hummingbird, that flies solely by flapping its wings. Now, a group of Japanese researchers has successfully built and flown a flapping-wing-powered swallowtail butterfly. Besides looking incredibly cool, the life-size “ornithopter” has also proven a principle that could have big implications in the field of aerodynamics. Read More
— Health & Wellbeing

Virtual auto worker will provide data on real-world physical strain

He may look like he stepped straight out of Second Life, but he isn’t here to kid around. Santos is a computer-generated auto worker who will perform various tasks on a virtual Ford assembly line, showing real-world researchers how those tasks affect his body. The avatar was originally developed for the US Department of Defense at the University of Iowa as part of the Virtual Soldier Research program where he was used to determine the physical strain that soldiers would experience in a variety of situations. Hmm... auto worker, soldier, university education, muscular, exotic name... perhaps he did just step out of Second Life. Read More
— Science

Scientists look to sharks for advancements in human technology

If there’s one thing that most of us know about sharks, besides the fact that they occasionally bite people, it’s that they have a fantastic sense of smell - some sharks can smell a single drop of blood within a million drops of water. How do they do it? That’s what British scientists are trying to find out... and their discoveries could be applied to human technology. Read More
— Robotics

Robo-Bat: mini spy-plane of the future?

Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) undoubtedly have the potential to revolutionize both military and civilian surveillance operations, and the quest to find the most efficient design for these airborne spies of the future is leading to all kinds of radical platforms being investigated. Several are derived from nature, where evolution has produced designs that out-strip the performance and efficiency of humanity's aerial achievements on a proportional scale. Even extinct examples like the pterodactyl are not immune from this scrutiny, but in this case, the inspiration comes from the only mammal naturally capable of flight - the bat. Read More
— Robotics

Miniature robot leaps 27 times its body size

Researchers at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at EPFL have developed a jumping robot inspired by the grasshopper. The 5cm model uses a 0.6-gram pager motor and a cam to charge two torsion springs, which trigger a jump from the robot’s 1.3mm carbon rod feet. The 7-gram robot can jump 4.6 feet (1.4 m), more than 27 times its body size, and ten times the distance of any existing jumping robot. Read More
— Robotics

Rodent-like robots - BIOTACT attempts to mechanically replicate the impressive whiskers of the rat

Robotics researchers are taking design tips from one of nature’s less majestic creatures: the rat. The EU funded €5.4 million BIOTACT project, which was launched at the beginning of this year, is seeking to replicate the rat’s highly efficient whisker system, which can accurately determine the shape of objects and help capture prey. Read More
— Games

Future Combat System Live-Fire testing begins

Feb 6, 2007 While we’re not big fans of the “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” edict (break it – there’s always a better way), there’s also no point in reinventing the wheel just so a system can be different - if you can focus on the key parts and use off-the-shelf parts for the other bits, then so be it. Given that the XBOX 360 controller is extremely hardy, we’re not surprised to see it being trailed by the military as part of the Army’s Future Combat System - after all, it's a highly evolved bit of kit ergonomically-designed for eight-hour-a-day usage. The Army completed the first live-fire exercise, Experiment 1.1, involving Future Combat Systems technologies and equipment at the Oro Grande Range at Fort Bliss, Texas, last week. The exercise is the first step in accelerating the delivery of key FCS capabilities to current-force Soldiers, and part of the most comprehensive Army modernization effort in more than half a century. The iRobot derivative RedOwl which the soldier is using is an ongoing rapid development program led by The Photonics Center at Boston University with iRobot, Insight Technology, and BioMimetic Systems. The RedOwl is a remote, deployable sensor suite designed to provide early warning information, gunshot detection, intelligence, surveillance and targeting capabilities to military forces and government agencies. The RedOwl robot also employs a suite of advanced optics including a thermal camera, 300X zoom daylight/infrared camera, infrared laser illuminators, a rangefinder, high intensity white driving light, and voice communication microphones and speakers, all in a package that weighs less than five pounds. Read More
— Spy Gear

SENTRI surveillance

December 14, 2004 A microphone surveillance system based on brain cell research is being used to combat shootings on the streets of Chicago and Los Angeles. The SENTRI system developed by Theodore Berger, director of the University Southern California's (USC) Center for Neural Engineering, has been trained to instantly recognise the sound of a gunshot within a two-block radius with high accuracy. SENTRI can then tag where the shot was fired, zoom in and photograph the shooter with it's built in camera and even make a 911 call to the police station. Police can then remotely control the camera to track the offender and dispatch officers to the scene in an integrated human-computer crime response. Read More
— Wearables

New 'Smart-fabric' inspired by pine cones

November 26, 2004 A new smart-fabric derived from the properties of pinecones has been developed by the UK based Centre for Biomimetic and Natural Technologies. The fabric adapts to changing temperatures by opening up when warm and shutting tight when cold just like a pinecone's scales do in nature, and is just one of the emerging developments in the burgeoning field of "biomimetics". The "breathing" fabric is designed to stop the wearer getting hot or cold by adjusting itself to both internal and external temperatures. The textile is made up of a layer of thin spikes of wool, or another water-absorbent material, that opens up when it's made wet by the wearer's sweat. When the layer dries out, the spikes automatically close up again. A second layer underneath protects the wearer from the rain. Read More