Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Biomimicry

Robots with artificial muscles would have superhuman strength (Image: Shutterstock)

It's a classic science fiction scene: an android is injured and its human-like exterior is laid bare to reveal the metallic gears and cables of its true mechanical nature. The future is, unsurprisingly, not likely to match this scenario as our ability to mimic biology with innovations like artificial muscles improves. The latest breakthrough in this field comes from the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Engineering where researchers have developed a “robotic” muscle that extends like real muscle tissue to five times its original length, has the potential to lift 80 times its own weight and holds out the promise of smaller, stronger robots capable of more refined movements.  Read More

Cactus needles draw moisture to the plant, just like the new material draws in oil droplet...

When an oil spill occurs at sea, there are already a number of possible options for gathering the oil that floats in a layer on the water’s surface. Some of the oil also forms into tiny suspended droplets, however, which have proven much more difficult to gather. Now, Chinese scientists have developed what could be a solution – and it owes a debt to the humble cactus needle.  Read More

Does water hold the key to more efficient windows? (Photo: Nathan Larkin)

Researchers at the University of Toronto say they can improve the energy of efficiency buildings by fitting window panes with tiny channels of water. The scientists says that these channels, inspired by vascular systems in nature such as the network of blood vessels in the human body, can provide 7º to 9º C of cooling in the summer, and reduce heat loss during winter.  Read More

Students at UC Berkeley have developed the STAR, a 3D-printed robot that flattens its legs...

Nature has been the source of inspiration for a variety of different forms of robotic locomotion. Yet another example is the STAR, a 3D-printed robot modeled after an insect's ability to squeeze into even the tiniest spaces. Developed by students at UC Berkeley's Biomimetic Millisystems Lab the STAR, which stands for Sprawl Tuned Autonomous Robot, is able to flatten its legs down to slip under a small gap and then raise them up again to climb over larger obstacles.  Read More

This robotic leaf fish may not look scary to you, but then you're not a zebrafish

With some help from a robotic fish, scientists have discovered that zebrafish are much like humans in at least one way – they get reckless when they get drunk. OK, “drunk” might not be technically accurate, but when exposed to alcohol, the fish show no fear of a robotic version of one of their natural predators, the Indian leaf fish. When they’re “sober,” they avoid the thing like crazy. The researchers believe that the experiments indicate a promising future for robots in behavioral studies.  Read More

The tick rover drags an insecticide-laced cloth behind it (Photo: VMI Photos by John Rober...

It's summertime in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means the bugs are out – specifically, ticks. In light of the ensuing infestation, otherwise known as the annual repopulation, three professors at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) have crossed the business of pest control with the world of robotics by last month testing their robotic "tick rover" to determine its efficiency at removing the blood suckers from the yard.  Read More

John Dabiri has hypothesized and tested counter-rotating arrays of vertical axis wind turb...

Since we first looked at John Dabiri's hypothesis that vertical axis wind turbines should be arrayed like a school of fish to reduce the land area required for wind farm installations, the MacArthur Genius Grant recipient has continued to work on the idea. Following the latest round of coverage, Gizmag takes a deeper look at his concept, and wonders whether the idea of packing turbines into as tight a space as possible might overlook some wind energy fundamentals.  Read More

Students are encouraged to design their own robot fish with the naro-nanin edutainment pro...

A new breed of robot fish that is both relatively inexpensive and highly customizable is teaching students between the ages of 10 and 18 about technology and biology. It's the latest in a line of biologically-inspired underwater robots developed within the naro (nautical robots) project at ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), which has previously developed robots based on tuna fish and sea turtles.  Read More

Japanese startup Spiber is working on mass-producing artificial spider silk, an extremely ...

Spider silk is a truly remarkable material: it's tougher than Kevlar, strong as steel, lighter than carbon fiber, and can be stretched 40 percent beyond its original length without breaking. Now, Japanese startup Spiber says it has found a way to produce it synthetically and, over the next two years, will step up mass production to create anything from surgical materials to auto parts and bulletproof vests.  Read More

Carnegie Mellon University's Biorobotics Lab developed this modular snake robot to perform...

Several snake-like robots have been developed around the world, and while we keep hearing about their potential applications few have managed to slither outside of their research labs. Earlier this year Carnegie Mellon University's Biorobotics Lab put its modular snake robot's practicality to the test in an abandoned nuclear power plant, where it provided clear, well-lit images from the inside of pipes.  Read More

Looking for something? Search our 29,534 articles