Highlights from the 2015 Geneva Motor Show


SeeMe would provide eyes in the sky quickly to troops on the ground (Image: DARPA)

DARPA, the United States' defense technology research agency that's created such notable projects as the Internet you're using right this moment, is now looking for help in creating a swarm of "disposable" eyes in the sky. It is seeking technical assistance from a wide range of fields - from auto racing to optics - to create the means to provide on-demand satellite imagery for troops on the front lines.  Read More

DARPA's quadruped CHEETAH robot has broken the land speed record for legged robots by reac...

It's been a very little over a year since Boston Dynamics was awarded a contract to develop a high-speed robotic quadruped by DARPA, but already the defense tech research agency's investment is bearing fruit, having announced that its CHEETAH galloping quadruped robot has broken the land speed record for robots with legs.  Read More

The robotic universal jamming gripper can now throw objects using a blast of high-pressure...

Last year we looked at a universal robotic gripper, which was made by filling an elastic membrane with coffee grounds. The versatile gripper, which is attached to a robotic arm, was able to pick up a wide variety of objects, including a coin or raw egg, which are notoriously difficult for robotic grippers modeled after the human hand to deal with. Now the universal jamming gripper's developers have given it the ability to "shoot" objects some distance, which could enable it to sort objects into different bins, dispose of trash, or maybe even try out for the NBA.  Read More

A team has claimed the complete prize purse in DARPA's Shredder Challenge, two days before...

At the end of October, DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) launched its Shredder Challenge contest. The objective: create a system for reconstructing shredded papers, then demonstrate it by piecing together five documents, the shredded remains of which were posted on the contest’s website. Although the contest had a December 4th deadline, the “All Your Shreds Are Belong to U.S.” team correctly reassembled all five documents with two days to spare.  Read More

Ant-Roach is a six-legged 'pneubot,' designed to showcase the capabilities of inflatable r...

What weighs a little under 70 pounds, has six legs, and is full of air? No, it's not conjoined monkey triplets with gas - as you've doubtless already gathered from the picture, it's a walking inflatable robot known as Ant-Roach. Earning its name by looking like a cross between an anteater and a cockroach, the wonderfully-kooky beast is the creation of San Francisco-based engineering/design group Otherlab. Besides providing amusement, the device was built to showcase the high strength-to-weight ratios and carrying capacities that are possible with inflatable robots.  Read More

Toyota finally appears ready to play its hand in the autonomous vehicle revolution

Toyota is to show an autonomous (self-driving) Prius at Tokyo Motor Show. Dubbed the Toyota AVOS (Automatic Vehicle Operation System), the car will be available for members of the public to take "back seat" rides at the show, demonstrating first hand how the Prius can avoid obstacles, be summoned from a parking garage and park itself. There will also be a demonstration of communications-linked electric cars, scooters and electric-assisted bicycles including what is expected to be Yamaha's first production electric scooter.  Read More

A rendering of the FastRunner bipedal sprinting robot (Image: IHMC)

Fast as the FastRunner may become, it will never be able to escape the comparison to an ostrich. One day, thanks to a joint effort by MIT and the Florida Institute of Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), this bipedal sprinting robot is going to assume its rightful place in the DARPA-funded robotic zoo, right next to the robotic cheetah and the mule-like BigDog. Thanks to an innovative, self-stabilizing leg design, the movements of this flightless robotic bird are going to be not only very efficient, but also extremely fast. The legs are already capable of hitting 27 mph (43.4 km/h), matching the fastest of humans. The researchers hope to see FastRunner reach speeds of up to 50 mph (80.4 km/h). That, plus the ability to negotiate fairly rough, uneven terrain, potentially makes it a force to be reckoned with, on the battlefield and elsewhere.  Read More

In order to develop methods for reading shredded documents, DARPA is running a contest in ...

Do you like puzzles? If you’re good enough at solving them, it could win you up to US$50,000. That's the maximum prize that DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is offering in its Shredder Challenge. The agency is trying to develop methods of reconstructing shredded documents that U.S. soldiers could use when gathering intelligence in war zones – it also wants to identify shredded-document-reading strategies that could be used against the U.S., so that it can take preemptive measures against them. What better way to do it than by crowd-sourcing?  Read More

A rendering of DARPA's proposed tender satellite, in the process of removing the antenna f...

Satellites are very expensive to put into orbit. This is because the parts that they're built from are costly to make, but also because it requires so much energy to lift their considerable weight off the Earth's surface. It would then follow that satellites would cost less if they could use salvaged parts, and if they were lighter when lifting off from the launch pad. That's where DARPA's proposed Phoenix program comes into play. It would see a purpose-built spacecraft removing usable parts from the plethora of "dead" satellites currently in orbit, then leaving those parts for attachment to newly-arriving satellites.  Read More

DARPA researchers have ruggedized a compact solid oxide fuel cell fueled by propane and in...

Small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have become an increasingly important intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tool for the military and their use will only continue to expand. While vehicles that are small enough to be carried provide soldiers in the field with capabilities such as over-the-next-hill imagery or the short-term monitoring of convoys, much research is going into finding ways to extend mission duration through better battery systems. DARPA researchers say they have overcome this limitation with the development of a compact solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) fueled by propane that quadruples the endurance of small unmanned aircraft systems .  Read More

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