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University of Pennsylvania

— Robotics

RHex robot shows off Parkour moves

Parkour is all about hurling yourself quickly and efficiently past whatever obstacles are in your path while maintaining as much momentum as possible. It's a challenge for humans, so how would robots fare? In an effort to push the boundaries of robotic agility, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania decided to find out by teaching their RHex robot some Parkour moves. Read More
— Robotics

Acrobatic XRL robot takes cliffs and valleys in its stride

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
— Drones

Clawed micro-drone swoops up prey mid-flight

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
— Inventors & Remarkable People

Revealed: World Technology Network's innovators of 2012

The World Technology Network summoned leading thinkers to New York's TIME Conference Center on Monday and Tuesday to announce the winners of its 2012 World Technology Summit & Awards. The awards showcase the work of innovators across a diverse array of industry sectors and scientific fields. Gizmag reveals the list of winners, which includes no shortage of familiar faces. Read More
— Robotics

Light-activated skeletal muscle “blurs the boundary between nature and machines”

In Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s 1972 novel Rendezvous with Rama, the explorers of a seemingly deserted alien spaceship passing through our Solar System encounter a strange three-legged creature that turns out to be an organic robot. In the ‘70s, this seemed so incredible that it could only be the product of an alien civilization thousands of years ahead of us. In 2012, scientists at MIT and the University of Pennsylvania are proving otherwise by starting work on organic robots here on Earth. Using genetically engineered muscle tissue that responds to light, they are blurring the line between animal and machine at the cellular level. Read More
— 3D Printing

Scientists create artificial vascular networks using sugar

For a great number of people, the idea of being able to use a patient’s own cells to create lab-grown replacement organs is very appealing. Already, researchers have had success growing urethras (which are essentially hollow tubes), and miniature human livers. Before large, solid, three-dimensional organs can be grown, however, scientists must figure out a reliable way of incorporating blood vessels into them – if the lab-grown organs simply take the form of a block of cells, the cells on the inside won’t be able to receive any nutrients, and will die. Now, a team from the University of Pennsylvania and MIT has devised a way of building such vessels, using sugar. Read More
— Robotics

SAFFiR robot could be putting out fires on Navy ships

If there's one thing that you don't want happening on board a ship, it's a fire. People on board burning ships can't simply run out onto the streets, as they hopefully could in the case of a structural fire, plus many people caught belowdecks don't have windows nearby to climb out of. Then, there's also the fact that crew members fighting such fires have to work in narrow, claustrophobic passageways, instead of wide-open roads. Given that fires are particularly possible on military ships, due to attacks by enemy forces, America's Naval Research Laboratory is now developing a special something to help fight fires at sea - it's called SAFFiR, the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot. Read More
— Robotics

Quadrotors perform James Bond theme

When we last heard from the University of Pennsylvania's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab, researchers there had provided video of a swarm of quadrotor robots, which they had programmed to perform some pretty impressive precision flying. Well, now the GRASP quadrotors are back, performing a feat that’s certainly much more ... entertaining. In a video that was presented yesterday at the TED2012 conference in California, a group of the little guys are shown performing the James Bond theme on musical instruments. Read More
— Architecture

Student scheme to protect Future-Manhattan from rising sea levels

A pair of students at the University of Pennsylvania have an audacious suggestion should rising sea levels make their presence felt in Manhattan, New York. Their scheme would see the installation of waterproof canopies to the lower stories of skyscrapers. Tingwei Xu and Xie Zhang say their idea has an "irreducible integrity," thanks to the canopies' various functions which, the students say, are each of equal importance. So in addition to keeping water out, these canopies provide additional structural support against lateral forces, provide green or agricultural space, and, judging by the visualizations, provide living and working areas in their own right. Read More
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