Merging art and industry, a performance art piece recently on display in London has at its center an unlikely star: an industrial robot whose former career was in automotive assembly. Conceived and directed by Aurelien Bory, the show is a meeting between man and machine, exploring the sometimes-blurry lines between the two as two human actors/acrobats interact with the powerful, massive robot arm.
America’s fleet of flying military robots possess a variety of mission-critical capabilities—their speed and range allow them to quickly cover a lot of ground, and their sensor arrays can pick out ground targets in daylight or darkness—but they can’t do much to locate potential targets hiding indoors. But just try hiding from the Cougar20-H. The highly-sensitive ground-based ‘bot can hear you breathing—through a wall.
Well, we’ve seen this movie before (literally speaking). A group of robotics engineers at the University of Technology in Eindhoven are developing an Internet for robots; a kind of online database from which robots can download instructions and to which they can upload “experience.” According to its creators, their RoboEarth system will allow robots to share information and learn from each other, allowing the benefits of machine cognition and learning to proliferate through a network of bots. Cue the SkyNet comparisons.
We’ve awarded “Robot of the Week” to all kinds of smart machinery for all sorts of reasons, but never for wreaking havoc on one’s fair city. In a first for evil robots everywhere, Chitti has smashed through that barrier (and an entire division of Indian assault officers) to secure this week’s honors. Frankly, we’re afraid to award them to anyone/anything else.
Taking cues from the awesomely named black ghost knifefish, researchers at Northwestern University have created a robotic fish that can swim both forward and backward while also maneuvering vertically using a novel ribbon-like fin. Such agility and range of motion is unheard of in most underwater robots, and the development could lead to far more nimble robots for submerged operations (like capping undersea oil wells).
Whenever a new video emerges from UPenn’s GRASP lab (that’s General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception), it’s usually awesome, and this one is no exception. A team there has been developing innovative quadcopter tech that not only maneuvers impressively well, but also works autonomously and in teams of multiple quadcopters. Coupled with a gripper designed to pick things up, the quadcopters have in past videos exhibited the ability to work in concert to pick up heavy objects, so it was only a matter of time before the quadcopter crews started building things autonomously.
Robot Japan, a new competition aimed at small humanoid robots (though it seems some contestants played fast and loose with the “human” in “humanoid”) just held its first competition, known as Robot Japan Zero. There were two different weight classes for one-on-one robot fighting, and while that may sound awesome we were way more intrigued with the two-minute dance routine competition.
Japanese researcher Ryuma Niiyama’s robot is quite literally making strides in the field of robotics. His running robot, named Athlete, can only make three to five steps before falling down, but the bipedal robot’s gait is remarkably un-robotic, stemming from a musculoskeletal design that mimics human biology. With some further refinement, Niiyama may just create a robot sprinter that moves with agility and explosive speed of a human runner.
British engineers say they are just 18 months away from a remotely controlled highly dextrous hand that could lead to huge breakthroughs in telepresence tasks ranging from hazardous materials disposal to bomb disassembly. Controlled by 20 motors mounted below the wrist, UK-based Shadow Robot Company’s C6M2 hand mimics the movements of a hand wearing a special glove, allowing anyone to control the robotic hands without specialized training.
Modern warfare relies increasingly on robotics for intelligence gathering and increasingly for strike capabilities, but the decision-making capacity still rests solely in the hands of human commanders. But British defense company BAE systems is testing a way to turn over battlefield decisions over to robot troops as well.
In sci-fi lore, one of the great qualifying events leading up to the eventual war with and enslavement by our machines is the moment when robots begin replicating – that is, they begin manufacturing themselves without help from humans. If that’s the case, then the latest news out of the Fraunhofer Institute should be particularly discomforting. Researchers there have created so-called genetic robots that are created fully automatically from a genetic software algorithm and a 3-D printer, no human intervention necessary.
Germany’s Festo is no stranger to robots that mimic animal biology, but its new elephant trunk-inspired robot arm is more concerned with the fragility of human physiology than the strength of the elephant. The arm – known as the Bionic Handling Assistant – is certainly strong and flexible like the appendage it’s modeled after, but it’s also safe for humans to work with, employing a battery of resistance sensors that make human-machine interaction less of a safety hazard.
Since early man fashioned that first stone tool, technology has been a cumulative process – we had to have stone tools to get to metals to get to spaceships to get to Facebook. Or something like that. The point is, every field of technological inquiry has its waypoints and milestones, and robotics – a field that notches mind-blowing advances with increased regularity – has just hit upon another monumental breakthrough: teat detection.
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.