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.
Is there anything you and I can do that Willow Garage’s PR2 can’t do more adorably? PR2 is now learning how to bake chocolate chip cookies from scratch courtesy of MIT. Swathed in a smock to keep it from getting itself messy--the table was not so lucky--PR2 demonstrates an ability to properly combine ingredients and mix them up in the video below.
By Joshua Saul
Posted 05.20.2011 at 11:03 am 7 Comments
In 2006, Darpa, the Department of Defense’s R&D arm, commissioned AeroVironment, a company specializing in remote aircraft, to create an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) small enough to fly through an open window. AeroVironment had already built the 4.5-foot-wingspan Raven, which first saw combat over Afghanistan in 2003, but making a UAV so much smaller took five years and 300 different wing designs.
A swarm of intelligent, autonomous robots from Georgia Tech may soon be leading the charge into dangerous and uncertain situations, providing valuable mapping intel to first responders, military, or police behind them. A team of researchers there have developed a team of small, rolling robots that can autonomously communicate with one another to quickly build a detailed floor plan map of an entire structure and beam it to nearby humans.
Having a computer for a brain has its perks, but it has its drawbacks as well. Language is a tough concept for robots, as words can convey the abstract as well as the concrete and robots have trouble knowing the difference (and grasping the abstract). That makes human-machine interaction less than intuitive for humans and confusing to ‘bots.
A Serb living in Austria has elected to have his hand amputated so that he can be fitted with a working bionic limb. The 26-year-old Milo’s biological hand was intact but useless, as a nerve injury stemming from a motorcycle accident ten years ago robbed him of feeling and movement in that extremity. Now, an Austrian doctor--not without controversy--has amputated Milo’s hand and is replacing it with a robotic version that responds to nerve signals in his forearm.
Researchers in Japan are trying to get a new kind of high speed train technology off the ground, and to prove they’re serious they’ve built a ground-effect robot that floats on a cushion of air. If their demo project works satisfactorily, it could set in motion a plan to build commuter trains that essentially fly inches from the ground, cutting friction and increasing overall efficiency.
Cornell’s Ranger Robot, world record holder for the longest walk by a robot on a single charge, has smashed its own personal best by logging 40.5 miles without stopping, recharging, or even being touched. Over the course of almost 31 hours, Ranger ambled along at a not-so-blazing 1.3 miles per hour for 397.75 laps around a running track, but managed to make the whole trek using just a nickel’s worth of electricity.
A few weeks back, we wrote about a tiny, tossable recon robot small and sturdy enough to be thrown to and from rooftops, over walls, through windows, and pretty much anywhere a military, police, or first responders might need an extra set of remote-controlled eyes. Now Recon Robotics, makers of the Throwbot, have developed a similar beer can-sized robot that can be fired from a cannon, stick magnetically to the side of a ship, and scale the hull to get up to the deck.
As industrial robots go, Chris Shepherd’s Quad Delta Robot System is decidedly awesome. It’s not so much that it produces something particularly amazing--it doesn’t. All it does is sort colored blocks as they trundle by on a conveyor belt. No, the cool thing about this particular factory ‘bot is that it is made entirely of Legos.
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.