Pour a robot a glass of water, and you quench its thirst for a day. But teach a robot to pour a cup of water and you are somewhere on par with researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Hasegawa Group. Roboticists and software engineers there have implemented a kind of self-replicating neural technology into their robot that enables it not only to perform tasks but also to learn as it goes, integrating prior knowledge into new tasks and environments.
We’ve seen plenty of quadcopters and plenty of follow-the-leader ‘bots, but this might be our first brush with follow-the-leader ‘bots that work together to build a mobile landing pad for a quadcopter while it’s in flight. But that’s not even the coolest part about this robotic system from the Georgia Robotics and Intelligent Systems Lab.
Scientists in the UK and in California may have found a holy grail of brain-like computing--a material that can both simulate the behavior of neurons and run on very low power--in an abundant and familiar medium. The very same phase-changing material that allows us to record on DVDs could be used to build a low-power brain-like processor capable of learning and adapting without the need for extensive pre-programming.
The quadcopters at the University of Pennsylvania's Grasp Lab have been a particular source of joy for us ever since the lab began posting videos of their flying 'bots' antics. We've seen them maneuvering through tight windows, lifting payloads as a team, and autonomously working together to build towers. What we haven't seen them do is crash.
You can’t buy love, but can you engineer it? A project at the National University of Singapore with all kinds of somewhat unsettling implications is trying to create the means for human-robot love by giving robots all the emotional and biological tools that human have.
These tiny Kilobots are not named for their heft. The ‘bots are roughly the size of a quarter and move about on tiny vibrating toothpick legs. Individually, they aren’t much to look at. But Kilobots aren’t supposed to be taken in individually--they’re designed to swarm in the thousands, and at $14 a pop they very well may be doing so soon.
Dextre, the Canadian robot living idly on the exterior of the International Space Station, will freeload no more. Dextre's first major job as the ISS's man on the outside will demonstrate key technologies that will hopefully lead to future robotic systems that can refuel satellites in orbit, creating a new breed of legacy satellites that don't have to be scrapped simply because their fuel supplies have dwindled.
Someday, our cars will all be connected to each other, sharing traffic information, connecting us into "road trains," and swapping position info so that collisions become a thing of the un-wired past. But even if new cars came equipped with such networking tools tomorrow--and they won't--it would be decades before every car on the road was wired into the system.
Robots are cool because they’re robots. But a robot is ice cold when it’s also a beer. Ron Tajima has created exactly this: a robot surreptitiously disguised as a beer. The only thing we can see wrong with this clever design is that there isn’t actually any beer inside.