Photokina 2014 highlights

Robotics

Honda's robotics technology tested in a mock home at the Miraiken (National Museum of Emer...

With one in five Japanese citizens now aged 65 or older, various robotics technologies are being developed to prolong independent living and improve quality of life at home. The main alternative to nursing homes and hospitals would be smart homes designed around the needs of the elderly. Earlier this week, Honda announced that it will test some of its life support robots in a mock household environment at the Future Life Showroom, in Sekisui House's brand new SUMUFUMU Lab.  Read More

Italian researchers have developed a robot that can be taught to build an IKEA table (Phot...

Teaching a robot how to deal with real-world problems is a challenging task. There has been much progress in building robots that can precisely repeat individual tasks with a level of speed and accuracy impossible for human craftspeople. But there are many more tasks that could be done if robots could be supplied with even a limited amount of judgement. A robotics group led by Professor Sylvain Calinon at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) is making progress in solving this problem.  Read More

The Kidswalker NT is a new and improved version of Sakakibara-Kikai's gasoline-powered rob...

Kids these days have it made. Case in point: Sakakibara-Kikai's latest creation, the Kidswalker NT, a miniature gasoline-powered exoskeleton that wouldn't look out of place in a Saturday morning cartoon. The original Kidswalker, unveiled in 2010, was designed to placate youngsters who demanded a ride in the company's much larger (and potentially more dangerous) Landwalker. As cool as it was, the Kidswalker has now been upgraded with additional features.  Read More

COMAN stays on its feet despite being pushed around by its human masters

We've seen robots optimized for stability before, but where, for example, Dr. Guero's modified Kondo KHR-3HV could withstand the odd gentle prod with a finger, the Italian Institute of Technology's COMAN is apparently made of sterner stuff, remaining vertical in the face of rather more determined jostling thanks to its sensor-equipped motorized joints.  Read More

Boston Dynamics' PETMAN stretches realistically to test the chemical protection suit

Back in late 2009 Boston Dynamics revealed it was working on a humanoid robot that would test protective clothing for the military. Having already amazed the world three years earlier with the lifelike balancing capabilities of its quadruped BigDog, this would be the company's first bipedal robot. It was an ambitious project, but it appears the work has paid off. The robot's eerily realistic body movements are made all the more convincing now that its mechanical nature is hidden by a chemical protection suit.  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

Dr. Guero's hobby robot kit balances on nail-like stilts on a park bench

When it comes to the diminutive robot kits you find at hobby stores, most have what can only be described as a primitive sense of balance. If, however, you happen to be an expert roboticist like Dr. Guero (aka Masahiko Yamaguchi), then it's surprising how much can be squeezed out of these pet projects with the right programming. His latest trick is to have his robot balance on a pair of nail-like stilts, which you can see it do after the break.  Read More

The Salamandra robotica II is the latest model of an amphibious robot that can walk, crawl...

Scientists have often taken inspiration from the animal world in robotic designs, with bots modeled after fish, sandfish lizards, and even sea turtles. Such biomimicry makes sense – if you want a robot to move a certain way, why not look to creatures that already can? With the Salamandra robotica II, researchers have tried to replicate the movement of a salamander in designing a robot that can walk or crawl on land as easily as it swims in the water.  Read More

Researchers at UPenn's GRASP Lab have replicated how a bird of prey grasps objects mid-fli...

Here's something you don't see everyday: a Micro Unmanned Aerial vehicle (MAV) that can grab objects on the fly with all the elegance of an eagle snatching a fish from the water's surface. Although MAVs and UAVs are increasingly being equipped to pick up, transport, and drop off payloads, we've never seen this incredibly precise form of grasping on the fly replicated – until now.  Read More

Harvard's soft-bodied robot jumps up to 30 times its own height using internal gas explosi...

Most robots are built out of rigid materials, but a DARPA initiative to build soft-bodied robots that can squeeze into hard-to-reach places has led to the development of new types of the mechanical marvels. Harvard's Whitesides Research Group is working on a soft-bodied solution and has produced a squishy three-legged bot that can jump 30 times its height using the power of internal explosions.  Read More

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