The world's most sophisticated robots don't assemble trucks or cruise around Mars. They're designed to support our surging population of elderly and disabled citizens. Meet 10 of the most promising senior-friendly 'bots.
Slow and steady really does win the race. A diminutive robot perched atop stork-like legs has slowly strode beyond BigDog’s world record for robotic walking, making a continuous 11-hour trek around an indoor running track at Cornell University that covered 14.3 miles.
In order to create truly autonomous robots that can sustain themselves without human intervention, it's necessary to first create a way for them to fuel themselves. While engineering our 'bots to plug themselves into the wall is one solution, robotics researchers envision the androids of the future consuming waste and biomass to generate power to operate. To that end, researchers at Bristol Robotics Lab in the UK have created the first synthetic gut for use in self-sustaining robots.
We've seen robotic exoskeletons before -- there's Lockheed's HULC that's designed to augment soldier performance, and then there's Raytheon's XOS that's more like an actual Iron Man suit -- but this one is different. REX, the Robotic Exoskeleton, is designed to help those usually bound to wheelchairs stand up and walk, and it should be commercially available later this year.
Add gumshoe detective to NASA's resume. Last year, scientists from the space agency working with the US Geological Survey and the Menlo Park District Attorney's office solved an 18-year-old murder case using technology developed for autonomous Earth science missions, NASA has announced.
Not that soldiers on the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone can read this tale of Western decadence, but if they could they would do well to take note: South Korea has deployed two $334,000 robotic sentries armed with automatic weapons and 40-millimeter grenade launchers along the tense border region bisecting the Korean peninsula.
UPenn's quadcopters are learning new tricks. We were impressed last month when video emerged of the autonomous 'copters ducking through very tight spaces with startling agility. Now, the GRASP Lab's tiny aircraft have learned to work in teams to lift heavy payloads with surprising grace.
University of Washington and Stanford researchers have created what could become a model for future microbots: a one-inch microchip sporting 512 thermal-powered "feet" that can carry more than seven times its own weight while moving in any direction.
A swarm of buzzing dragonfly bots passes overhead. Suddenly, they make a kamakaze dive toward a nearby tree--but wait a minute, instead of crashing and careening to the ground, they're sticking to the tree. Resting, recharging, waiting for orders. All thanks to Mirko Kovac's new system allowing swarming robots to perch on nearly any surface, then take off again.
Ever since we taught them how to play, the machines have been trying to beat us at chess -- and succeeding. But where it took a closet-sized computer running a complicated computer program to beat Garry Kasparov and claim chess dominance for the machines, child's toys are now aligning to make you wish you hadn't ever moved your queen's bishop. "Monster Chess" was built from 100,000 Lego pieces and plays an autonomous game of chess on a 156-square-foot board, with each massive robotic piece gliding around the board autonomously.