Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Robotic

Quadriplegic Jan Scheuermann prepares to take a bite out of a chocolate bar she is guiding...

Earlier this year, a 58 year-old woman who had lost the use of her limbs was successfully able to drink a cup of coffee by herself using a robotic arm controlled by her thoughts via a brain computer interface (BCI). Now, in a separate study, another woman with longstanding quadriplegia has been able to feed herself a chocolate bar using a mind-controlled, human-like robot arm offering what researchers claim is a level of agility and control approaching that of a human limb  Read More

The MIT milli-motein

An MIT team is developing a robot that has the potential to become possibly the most versatile machine ever. Referred to by the team as the "robotic equivalent of a Swiss Army knife,” the milli-motein robot is made up of a chain of tiny modules each containing a new type of motor that can be used to form the chain into various shapes. This shape-changing capability could lead to the creation of robots that dynamically change their form to suit the task at hand.  Read More

Autom's software can be upgraded and kept up to date through a monthly subscription

While earning his PhD at the MIT Media Lab, Cory Kidd wanted to build a social robot that could have a place and function in the home. One of the potential applications was a lifestyle coach – a robot that you would interact with daily as you try to lose weight. Kidd built a prototype, recruited people for a study, and found that participants using the robot stuck to the weight loss program twice as long as those who used an identical program on a laptop – and that most felt that the robot was more credible than an animated character on the screen.  Read More

A robot sea turtle built to explore fin-based propulsion takes its first dip in the pool

In early October we took a look at the naro - tartaruga, a biomimetic robot based on sea turtles being built by researchers at ETH Zurich (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). It's a research platform that tests the concept of fin propulsion, and now we have a video of its first swim, which is surprisingly life-like.  Read More

iRobot tests the durability of its new robot hand by smashing it with a baseball bat

Not even a baseball bat can damage the fingers of a new robotic hand developed by iRobot for the DARPA Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM) program. The four-year program, which began in 2010, seeks to build and program a robot capable of handling all kinds of things on the battlefield with minimal human input. Most robot hands have rigid components which tend to be quite fragile, but this hand has rubbery fingers, which are better able to absorb impacts.  Read More

Mouse grip pattern

Nigel Ackland could be mistaken for a cyborg. He has a high-tech robotic hand that looks like it started life as a Formula 1 car and its movements are alarmingly lifelike. It’s called the “bebonic3” and is the latest version of bebonic series of artificial hands produced by RSLSteeper of Leeds, UK. The myoelectric hand has been under development for a couple of years now, but the bebonic3 is moving prosthetic limbs from Captain Hook to Luke Skywalker territory.  Read More

The Chiba Institute of Technology robotic wheelchair in action

Making a wheelchair that can deal with steps and other obstacles has puzzled engineers for decades, with everything from tank treads to spokes tried and found not quite practical. Now a team of engineers from the Chiba Institute of Technology, led by associate professor Shuro Nakajima, have applied a bit of lateral thinking. They have developed a robotic wheelchair that isn't sure what it is. Normally, it operates on wheels like a conventional wheelchair, but when it meets an obstacle, the wheels turn into legs.  Read More

The X1 Robotic Exoskeleton (Image: NASA)

What do astronauts on a mission to Mars and earthbound paraplegics have in common? Quite a bit, including the news that NASA is developing a robotic exoskeleton for both of them. Called the X1 Robotic Exoskeleton, it’s derived in part from NASA’s Robonaut 2 humanoid robot now undergoing trials aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The X1 uses robotic technology for a dual-use exoskeleton that has applications for both astronauts on long space missions and the walking impaired on Earth.  Read More

How the Macgyver robot will use found objects

In the television series Macgyver, the eponymous title character was notorious of being able to take a paperclip and some pocket lint and make an aircraft carrier out them. Now researchers at Georgia Tech want to give robots that same ingenuity. A team led by Professor Mike Stilman plans to create a “Macgyver bot” that can go into a disaster area and use whatever is lying around as tools to complete its mission.  Read More

The Polaris lunar water prospecting robot prototyple

Astrobotic Technology Inc., a spin-off company of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), has debuted its full-size flight prototype of its Polaris lunar water-prospecting robot. Polaris is specially designed to work in the permanently shadowed craters at the Moon’s poles. Scheduled to be sent to the Moon using a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle, the solar-powered rover is a contender in the US$20 million Google Lunar X Prize and is tasked with seeking ice deposits that could be used by future colonists.  Read More

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