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.
Committing US$1 billion over the next five years, Toyota Motor Corporation has announced the establishment of the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), a research and development center initially focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. The company is tasked with developing technologies to increase driving safety and improve mobility and quality of life, particularly for the elderly..
In 2013, Ford revealed a robotic test driving technology designed to spare human drivers the ordeal of on- and off-road vehicle durability testing. This autonomous system wasn't intended for inclusion in production vehicles, but for closed proving grounds where manufacturers subject their vehicles to high stress to simulate years of tough use in the real world. Ford has partnered with Autonomous Solutions, Inc. (ASI) to continue development of the technology, which it is now licensing to other automakers.
Being a surgeon is a pretty high-stress job, and relies heavily on surgical assistants for things like setting clamps and holding tools. Researchers from Germany's Fraunhofer Institute are looking to lighten the load a little, by developing a metal hand that lets surgeons more directly control what's happening on the operating table.
Usually, when you dunk a tiny flying robot in the water you end up with a tiny sinking robot. Engineers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) want to change that with the RoboBee, which has claimed the title of the first insect-insect sized robot that can swim as well as fly.
think of robots, we all too often anthropomorphize them by giving them eyes in
their heads, fingers on their hands, and toes on their feet. But just because
this is the way humans evolved doesn’t make it ideal. Robots with eyes where
they need them most, for example, could be much more efficient than just having
them restricted to one place. In this vein, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University
(CMU) recently developed a tri-fingered robotic hand with numerous inbuilt optical detectors to act as adjunct sensors. At the same time, they also fashioned
a new type of stretchable optical sensor to accompany such devices.
As we learned earlier this year, researchers at ETH Zürich's institute for Dynamic Systems and Control are looking at ways in which flying construction robots can be programmed to autonomously build tensile structures. Now it appears they've taken a significant step forward. Literally. The team has demonstrated a rope bridge built by drones that can support the weight of an adult human as they walk across it.
Anyone who's had to take on job responsibilities from someone who left the company months ago will appreciate this robotic system designed with the International Space Station (ISS) in mind. With the design challenge of retaining important experiential information between rotating crews of astronauts, French researchers used the popular Nao robot to form an "autobiographical memory" of human interactions and pass on the know-how to new crew members.
Working outside in space is a tall order. The environment is hostile, even the smallest job takes hours instead of minutes, and everything has to be done in either bulky suits or through robotic arms. It's a challenge that will become even more difficult when future astronauts are controlling robotic rovers from orbit, so ESA is getting in a bit of practice. Next month Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen will take control of a rover in the Netherlands while orbiting the Earth aboard the International Space Station.