If you fear the robot apocalypse, perhaps your day would be much improved if you just moved on. Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN robot, developed for DARPA, is getting more humanoid-like by the day it seems, and here we see it--legs, torso, arms, and all--negotiating staircases, running on a treadmill, and even hitting the floor for some pushups. All this strength training appears to be doing PETMAN some good.
Over at BBC, mathematician Marcus du Sautoy has examined what he’s calling the world’s first anthropomimetic robot--a robot that mimics in extremely high anatomical detail the movements and construction of the human body. The robot, named ECCEROBOT, possesses artificial analogs of human bones, muscles, and tendons that endow it with human-like motions and--perhaps someday--will imbue it with human-like intelligence.
The robots I've personally used are just vacuum cleaners and toys, but even so, these creations took their designers years and countless sums of money to build. But a new project aims to let anyone design and create a custom automaton from the comfort of home.
Printable Programmable Machines is a scheme to democratize robot manufacturing. You wouldn’t need to be a CAD expert, a tinkerer or a programmer — you could just fiddle with a computer a little bit, maybe sketch something out, and automated software would design your concept and prepare it for creation.
A couple of weeks back we first heard about Octavia, the Naval Research Lab’s (NRL) and Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) new firefighting robot designed to perform “shoulder-to-shoulder” firefighting operations with humans aboard Navy vessels. Today we get to see Octavia in action, fighting a simulated fire in a demonstration video that is somewhat less-than-confidence-inspiring.
It sounds like something out of a fantasy film: a vat of sand into which you plunge a small object only to watch the sand bind together to form larger copies of the same object. Such “smart sand” isn’t exactly a reality just yet, but a team at MIT’s Distributed Robotics Laboratory (DRL) has a vision for tiny granules--“smart pebbles”--imbued with a small amount of computing power and covered in magnets on the outside.
Tiny microelectromechanical machines running Magic Schoolbus-style through our bodies are the pursuit of nano labs across the globe, but a team of researchers jointly backed by the American National Science Foundation and the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council wants something more: a tiny biomimicking robot that functions like a living creature loaded with sensors derived from animal cells.
It’s the kind of tech startup that we could really get excited about if we weren’t fairly certain it’s some kind of hoax. A Web site has popped up at TacoCopter.com that offers a unique service: tacos airlifted directly to your doorstep via unmanned quadcopter drone. The rise of the machines never sounded so scrumptious.
If you’ve been following the Twitter account of our favorite robot (and the only humanoid) in space, then you know Robonaut 2 is out of the box and getting to work aboard the International Space Station (this morning it is using a tool to take air velocity measurements). But R2’s technological contributions extend further than the ISS.
Researchers at Cambridge University are building artificial bone in the lab, and they’re doing so with what might be considered an unorthodox partner: Lego. The tedious process of building up a sample of artificial bone requires a lot of repetitive dipping of samples into various substances, rinsing, and repeating. So to automate sample creation, the researchers built a couple of inexpensive laboratory robots using Lego Mindstorms.
A creepy new pulsating robot can ooze across a surface and pick its own path autonomously, using feedback from its ooze controls without requiring a smart command center. It’s modeled after slime mold, which can also make decisions without any sort of neural network.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.