Robots may be the wave of the future, but it will be a pretty chaotic future if they don't learn to work together. This cooperative approach is known as swarm robotics and in a first in the field, a team of engineers has demonstrated a swarm of intelligent aquatic surface robots that can operate together in a real-world environment. Using "Darwinian" learning, the robots are designed to teach themselves how to cooperate in carrying out a task.
Building machines that replicate the delicate touch of a human hand is a complex undertaking that has seen the development of all kinds of soft robotic grippers, from squishy green blobs to boa constrictor-inspired claws. Scientists are now claiming an important advance in this area, demonstrating a robotic device that can better grasp fragile objects through the help of electroadhesion, the very same phenomenon that sees balloons cling to ceilings after being rubbed on your hair.
The blistering advance of technology we are experiencing in the 21st century is nothing short of mind-boggling, and the rate of change being exponential, 2015 was by definition the busiest year yet. So before the Gregorian calendar keels over into 2016, let's take a wander through some of the year's most significant, salutary and attention-grabbing examples of scientific achievement, technological innovation and human endeavor.
Advancements in connected security systems have provided people with affordable, user-friendly ways to keep an eye on things when no one is home. The latest product from Amderstam-based Amaryllo incorporates robotics and smart features for enhanced vigilance. The iCamPro Deluxe camera is designed to talk, hear, detect faces, and track intruders with 360-degree movement.
In 2007, International Climbing Machines (ICM) unveiled its Climber robot, which can scale walls and rounded surfaces using a patented seal system. Now, it's trying to interest the US Navy in using robots to take over the nasty job of stripping away the rubber anti-sonar cladding from the nuclear submarine fleet using a method that is both cheaper and safer than current procedures.
The biennial International Robot Exhibition is billed as the largest robot trade show in the world. Gizmag went along to this month's 21st edition in Tokyo, which attracted more companies and 20 percent more visitors than iREX 2013, to check out the latest developments in the world of robotics.
Home security devices like the Canary, Sentri and Angee provide useful two-way audio and video links to a room in your home. That's great unless the elephant is in another room. The SensorSphere has similar functionality, but can roll around your home and be controlled remotely.
Roaming around a driving range retrieving the endless scattering of golf balls is a pretty tall order for staff, especially when you consider the bays full of weekend hackers taking aim at their caged buggies. But one company is looking to give golfers a smaller moving target to aim at. The Ball Picker robot autonomously scoots around sucking up golf balls and returns them to a ball dispenser to be teed up once again.
If one thing has been learned in the last half century, it's that sending astronauts into the harsh, unforgiving environment of space is both dangerous and expensive. To find a way to minimize risk and cost, NASA is sending a pair of prototype humanoid robots back to school. The space agency is giving two R5 "Valkyrie" robots to university groups at MIT and Northeastern University for advanced research and development of robotic astronauts that could act as vanguards for manned missions or as assistants for humans traveling to Mars.
Inspired by the water boatman bug, a team at the University of Bristol has created the Row-bot, a robot prototype that is designed to punt itself across the top of the water in dirty ponds or lakes, and "eat" the microbes it scoops up. It then breaks these down in its artificial stomach to create energy to power itself. In this way, it generates enough power to continuously impel itself about to seek out more bacteria to feed upon.