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Biomimetic

Science

Bone formation achieved in laboratory

Scientists have successfully mimicked the process of bone formation in the laboratory. A cryoTitan electron microscope was used to capture the process in great visual detail and the results, which contradicted previous assumptions, could be applied to areas other than medicine.Read More

Robotics

Man-made bee's eye could mean big things for flying robots

Day after day, honeybees are able to travel back and forth between a food source and their hive, even in a constantly-changing environment. Given that the insects have relatively small brains, scientists have determined that they rely chiefly on vision and hard-wired visual processing abilities to achieve such a feat. To better understand that process, scientists from the Cognitive Interaction Technology Center of Excellence at Bielefeld University, Germany, have created an artificial honeybee’s eye. Using the device, they hope to unlock the secrets of the insects’ sensing, processing and navigational skills, and apply them to human technology such as micro air vehicles (MAVs).Read More

Robotics

Fast thinking flies to help build better robots

As anyone who has ever tried to swat a fly will know, the little beasties have almost impossibly-fast reflexes. It turns out, in fact, that they have a response time faster than that of any computer. If only we knew what their secret was, perhaps we could develop robots that could react just as quickly. Well, scientists at Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology are working on it. Since 1956, a mathematical model has existed that accurately predicts how a fly’s brain will recognize and process visual movements. What hasn’t been understood is how the individual nerve cells interact, to make that recognition and processing possible. Given that a fly’s tiny brain contains over 100,000 nerve cells per cubic millimeter, it would seem impossible to observe the reactions of any one of those cells. That, however, is just what the German scientists have done.Read More

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

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

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