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Robotics

Robot Zoë in the Atacama Desert where it will test technologies and techniques to search f...

Scientists looking for life on Mars are studying the driest desert on Earth. This month, Carnegie Mellon University's Zoë robot will traverse Chile’s near-uninhabitable Atacama Desert as part of an astrobiology experiment aimed at testing technologies and techniques for NASA’s next rover to search for life on Mars at the end of the decade.  Read More

Boston Dynamics' humanoid robot ATLAS attempts to put a power drill into a bin in simulati...

Teams vying for a spot in the historic DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) must first prove themselves in the Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC) later this month. The VRC digitally simulates the physical challenges slated to take place at the tail end of the year, where real robots will get down and dirty for the first time. A total of 26 teams qualified to take part in the VRC, but only eight of them will earn the privilege of working with their very own ATLAS humanoid. Others will participate with their own unique robots.  Read More

The Charlotte hexapod robot

There are robots that walk around like spiders, there are robots that avoid objects, and there are robots that talk, but what about a robot spider that talks while avoiding objects? Hobbyist Kevin Ochs’ creation, Charlotte, is just that. Charlotte is a hexapod robot with a talking head that lets it narrate its progress as it avoids collisions.  Read More

A finger on the hydrogel hand bends in response to near-infrared laser light

For many people, the word “robot” is likely to conjure up images of metal, mechanical men not unlike Cygan. But instead of creating robots in our own image, the relatively new field of “soft robotics” takes inspiration from creatures such as octopuses, squids, starfish and caterpillars for soft, flexible robots that could squeeze through small spaces. Such robots could benefit from a new hydrogel developed at the University of California, Berkeley that flexes in response to light.  Read More

The anticipatory robot pouring beer

What’s better than as robot bartender that can pour you a beer? How about a robot waiter that can see you need a refill and comes over to pour you another one. Hema S. Koppula, a Cornell graduate student in computer science, and Ashutosh Saxena, an assistant professor of computer science are working at Cornell’s Personal Robotics Lab on just such a robot. Using a PR-2 robot, they've programmed it to not only carry out everyday tasks, but to anticipate human behavior and adjust its actions.  Read More

UPenn's XRL robot jumping and grabbing the edge of a cliff five times its own height (Phot...

Most land-dwelling animals with skeletons (exo or endo) have the ability to jump. It is of particular importance to survival, as running primarily consists of a long series of jumps. Without the ability to jump, a robot's freedom to move around is limited, something that is particularly true of smaller robots for which even relatively narrow trenches or low walls can prove too much of an obstacle. A robotics group at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) has taught a six-legged crawling robot to jump, giving it remarkable acrobatic capabilities.  Read More

Hyundai Heavy Industries tests out its new miniature robotic welding arm

Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), which lays claim to being the largest shipbuilding company in the world, says it has developed a miniature welding robot that can be easily transported by a worker and affixed to a ship using magnets. The small, portable robot is expected to increase worker productivity two to threefold.  Read More

Home-Exploring Robot Butler (HERB) being trained to identify household objects

One of the major anticipated applications for robots is in care for the elderly and helping them with daily tasks. This means that robots have got to adapt to human lifestyles, not the other way around, because granny can’t be expected to program the robot or rearrange her house to suit the machine’s limitations. The Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute’s Lifelong Robotic Object Discovery (LROD) project aims to address this by developing ways to use visual and non-visual data to help robots to identify and pick up objects so they can work in a normal human environment without supervision.  Read More

Seahorse tails are prehensile, like a monkey's (Photo: shellac)

The meaning of the word biomimicry is being devalued and inflated, to the point that any technology or design with the vaguest resemblance to something in the natural world tends to have the word unthinkingly applied to it. PR people in the automotive and architectural fields are now particularly fond of the word. So it's refreshing to be able to report on some research that has taken a detailed look at a natural phenomenon, the armor of a seahorse, and thought about how it might be applied in the field of robotics. The researchers think a similar structure of sliding plates could be used to improve robot arms used for underwater exploration and bomb disposal.  Read More

The SmartMow development platform

RobotLabs has launched a KickStarter campaign to develop a robot lawnmower. Though that may not sound particularly new, the company claims other automated lawnmowers aren't true robots because they don't adhere to Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. In other words, they're not safe enough, RobotLabs claims. RobotLabs claims its SmartMow is different, shutting down almost instantaneously when people or animals get close.  Read More

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