Photokina 2014 highlights

DARPA

DARPA's ARM program hand is flexible enough to pick up a basketball...

Back when DARPA first announced its Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM) program in 2010, the average cost of a military-grade robot hand was around US$50,000. That's expensive even by the US military's standards – especially for something that is bound to be in close contact with explosives – which is why the hardware team of the ARM program tasked participants with developing a reliable low-cost hand. Now, thanks to work by iRobot (yes, the company that makes the Roomba robotic vacuum) and researchers at Harvard and Yale, the ARM program has a surprisingly effective new hand to play with that costs just $3,000 (in batches of 1,000 or more).  Read More

NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn conducts the SPHERES-VERTIGO investigation aboard the Interna...

Take the little floating ball that gave Luke Skywalker so much trouble during lightsaber practice, slap a pair of huge welder’s goggles on it and you start to get a picture of NASA’s latest foray into flying robots. Currently being tested aboard the International Space Station (ISS), MIT Space Systems Laboratory’s SPHERES-VERTIGO system is a free-flying robot with stereoscopic vision that is part of a program to develop ways for small satellites to autonomously create 3D maps of objects such as asteroids or disabled satellites.  Read More

Artist's concept of the Ground Systems FANG vehicle

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced on Monday the winner of the first challenges in its competition to design the Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Vehicle (FANG). The US$1 million prize went to “Ground Systems” – a three-person group with members in Ohio, Texas and California. The first of three challenges, the purpose of the competition is to bring crowdsourcing to the problem of creating armored vehicles, with the hope of reducing the design costs by a factor of five.  Read More

The five-micron LWIR camera being developed by DARPA to provide individual soldiers with t...

With their ability to pick out humans by their heat signatures, long-wave infrared (LWIR) thermal imaging cameras are a valuable asset for soldiers – and alien predators. Unfortunately, non-alien built ones are expensive and so large that they need to be mounted on vehicles. In an effort to make a LWIR camera cheap and small enough for an individual soldier to carry, DARPA is working on a five-micron camera that offers a reduced size without sacrificing performance.  Read More

DARPA's “timing & inertial measurement unit” (TIMU) is a chip-based self-sufficient naviga...

The Global Positioning System (GPS) has proved a boon for those with a bad sense of direction, but the satellite-based system isn’t without its shortcomings. Something as simple as going indoors or entering a tunnel can render the system useless. That might be inconvenient for civilians, but it's potentially disastrous for military users for whom the system was originally built. DARPA is addressing such concerns with the development of a self-sufficient navigation system that can aid navigation when GPS is temporarily unavailable.  Read More

Harvard's spleen-on-a-chip blood filtration device

The spleen’s job is to filter our blood. When people are critically ill or have received traumatic injuries, however, the spleen alone is sometimes not able to remove enough of the pathogens on its own – potentially-fatal sepsis is the result. In order to help avert such an outcome in those situations, scientists from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University are developing a device known as the spleen-on-a-chip.  Read More

DARPA is developing an autonomous robotic arm that requires only simple commands to perfor...

In the past, we've seen a variety of robotic arms that can do a variety of things, from chucking cinder blocks across a room to being controlled by thought. But behind the majority of these mechanical feats was a human guiding the robot's every move, step-by-step. That might be fine inside a laboratory, but what about somewhere a little less convenient, like a war zone, for instance? That's why DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has begun development on autonomous robotic arms that require only simple commands to performs complex tasks, like searching a bag or defusing explosive devices.  Read More

The faint red star in the center of the red circle is Proxima Centauri, the nearest star b...

It's been about 10 months since DARPA announced it had awarded seed funding to form an independent, non-governmental organization with the goal of pursuing human interstellar space flight within the next 100 years. Leaders from this "100 Year Starship" effort took to the stage recently at the South By Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas to talk a bit more about what it means to pursue such a "grand challenge."  Read More

Carnegie Mellon University's CHIMP robot has arms and legs, but moves on rubberized tank-l...

Robots either have legs, or they run on something like treads or wheels ... right? Well, not in the case of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)’s new CHIMP robot. The humanoid ‘bot does have arms and legs, allowing it to stand and carry out tasks on a human scale. When it’s time to move, however, it can hunker down on all fours and roll along on rubberized treads built into its feet and forearms – not unlike a slower, all-terrain form of buggy rollin'.  Read More

Self-healing chips recover from complete laser-inflicted transistor destruction (Photo: Je...

Although you are fairly unlikely to start zapping your gadgets with high-power lasers any time soon, scientists are already hard at work trying to make electronics immune to such cruelty. In another in a series of self-healing electronics breakthroughs, a team of scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) demonstrated chips capable of dealing not only with laser-inflicted physical damage but also with far more common ailments such as aging, power fluctuations, changes in temperature or load mismatch.  Read More

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