We love robots here at PopSci, especially the kind that have practical uses beyond making crowds of onlookers say "wow." But today FastCo reports on a shape-shifting 'bot that is both "wow"-worthy and completely useful: a robotic mannequin that can conform to your specific body measurements to show you how an online clothing vendor's wares will wear on your unique frame.
Hitachi's "Intelligent Carry" isn't humanoid, doesn't build moon bases, and has, as far as we know, limited cooking skills. Rather, it's something so many robots are not: surprisingly practical. The boxy 'bot autonomously moves around a space without human help, carrying and delivering whatever to wherever.
In America, the animalistic automatons at Chuck E. Cheese entertain (and sometimes terrify) children with their inelegant, slack-jawed singing, spastic motions, and soulless, lifeless eyes. It’s a stark contrast with Sweden, where a robot swan is literally moving people to tears with a four-minute, professionally choreographed routine, dramatically executed to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”
Believe it or not, your robots may soon be lying to you. But you don’t have to take our word for it; Georgia Tech researchers, with funding from the Office of Naval Research, have been toying with algorithms that allow a robot to determine whether or not it wishes to deceive another robot or human, and then to carry out a deceptive strategy to that end.
Researchers at Yale's Grab Lab aren't about to let the nuances of rotary-wing flight restrict what unmanned aerial vehicles can do. A team there has developed a hand-like modular grasping and manipulation platform that can be fitted to the bellies of UAVs to provide them with extra functionality without overly taxing their flight capabilities.
Researchers at the University of Tokyo are using frog eggs to enhance what might seem like an unlikely element of robotics: olfactory sensing. By injecting the eggs with the DNA from various insects known for expressing keen senses of smell, the team was able to create a robotic nose that can detect molecules at levels as low as a few parts per billion.
The guys over at Willow Garage have already proved their PR2 to be a worthy weekend companion, teaching it to play billiards, fetch beer, and even to clean up after a party. A team of UC Berkeley researchers more interested in domestic applications for robotics has also shown that PR2 can be a handy household companion during the slower parts of the week, namely laundry day. Now, they've shown that if you give PR2 a sock it can employ its keen ability for repetitive hand motions to that other regularly recurring chore: pairing socks! (wait, what did you think we were talking about?).
Snake-like robots are nothing new -- for instance, Virginia Tech has developed some pretty amazing pole-climbing snakebots, and the Israeli military has a weaponized recon 'bot in the works -- but the U.S. Army Research Lab is taking military snakebots to a new level. Its Robotic Tentacle Manipulator is using snakebot tech to develop a scalable system in which several robots work in unison to manipulate objects.
It may not look like much, but NASA's next candidate to touch down on Mars has taken its first steps toward its larger ambition of exploring the Martian landscape in 2012.
Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory had a big week last week, mounting the Remote Sensing Mast and an array of navigation and sensing cameras on their latest Mars rover. Then on Friday Curiosity took its first drive, traveling about three feet back and forth on its brand new 20-inch aluminum wheels.