Parrot's AR.Drone--what we suppose we should now call the AR.Drone 1.0 (spoiler alert)--won a 2010 Best of What's New award, so we were definitely excited to see the new version here in Las Vegas, cheerfully performing flips in a crowded convention hall (video below, of course). So what's new in version 2.0?
Our enthusiasm here for cyborg insects keeps us firmly plugged in to the cyborg-insect-sphere such that we’ve been able to bring you up-to-date coverage of such innovations as the nuclear powered cyborg insect and the cyborg insect powered by harnessing the kinetic energy generated by the insect’s own wings.
You have to hand it to the Japanese; Last March’s Tohoku earthquake and associated tsunami wasn’t the first natural (or unnatural, for that matter) disaster to befall the island nation, but as just as before the country isn’t simply rebuilding. Instead, it’s rethinking and improving upon what was there before. The latest example: Japan’s agriculture ministry is building a fully robotic experimental farm on a swath of farmland inundated by the tsunami.
Here at PopSci we don’t like to spread rumors. And that’s how I generally like to start off a post wherein I intend to propagate some kind of hearsay rooted mostly in speculation. Hearsay like this: America’s X-37B spaceplane, the shuttle-like unmanned robotic orbiter that the Air Force put into orbit for the second time back in March, is probably (possibly) spying on China’s Tiangong-1 space station.
Holographic video is sort of the holy grail of video display technology right now. Stereoscopic 3-D is fine and everything, but it basically works by tricking the brain into seeing that 3-D depth via two offset 2-D images--hence the occasional headaches associated with current commercial 3-D displays. Holographic video, by contrast, creates images that are really three-dimensional, no glasses or headaches required.
Even when it starts out in a nosedive, a leaping lizard uses its tail to right itself, flinging the appendage to alter its own angular momentum and ensure it lands safely on its feet. Robots can do this, too, using controlled robotails that will guarantee a safe landing, a new study says.
Telepresence is cool, but it’s currently not very versatile and--at least if you’re going the commercial telepresence robot route--pretty expensive. For a princely sum, you can remotely putter around a faraway office or home and communicate with people there via a computer terminal. Outside of that, the technology has yet to break down any serious walls. That is, until software engineer Taylor Veltrop devised a way to brush his cat remotely via a robotic avatar, spearheading what could be the biggest revolution in cat-grooming technology since that kitty brush that you wear like a glove.
For animals and animal-inspired machines, launching into flight takes lots of energy. Some animals have evolved to achieve air not by accelerating and lifting off, but by jumping and then using their wings or flaps of skin to glide — like sugar gliders, for instance, or grasshoppers. Now a new Swiss robot can do this, too.
When you can make a humanoid robot that plays soccer and dances, why limit him to below-average or even average human stature? He should definitely be a giant robot instead, because there is nothing terrifying or awkward about that, not at all. Don’t worry, a Japanese robotics company is planning just that — a 13-foot-tall iron giant.
When American and coalition troops rolled into Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, they quickly began doing exactly what any military playbook said they should do, leveraging their superior firepower and aerial superiority into a string of quick victories. In both engagements, coalition forces quickly hammered conventional military threats into submission and settled into a long role of occupation and rebuilding. That’s when the bombs started going off.
Farming has always been about man, says David Dorhout, but man is now the limiting factor in agriculture. The future of farming is not about getting more efficiency out of each farmer--the human farmer has already been pretty well optimized by technology. Rather, the future is about getting more production out of each tract of farmland. The future, in other words, is Prospero, Dourhout’s swarming, game-theory-crunching fleet of autonomous robo-farmers.
By Andrew Rosenblum
Posted 12.16.2011 at 4:30 pm 24 Comments
The prospect of great wealth will be one of the main draws of space exploration in the coming decades. A 650-foot-diameter asteroid (about average) can contain $1 billion or more worth of platinum-group metals and untold amounts of ice or water—which are perhaps even more valuable in space because they can be converted to fuel in situ. But extracting those resources will present some unique challenges. For example, the combination of asteroids’ near-zero gravity (because of their small mass) and quick spin (up to one rotation every couple of minutes) means that asteroid-nauts must attach everything, including themselves, to the rock, or risk floating off into space.
Children’s Hospital Boston is sending some bedside manner home with its discharged patients via a pilot program that integrates telepresence robots into its regular post-op care regimen. Using five robots made by Vgo Communications Inc., doctors and nurses are opening a direct line of communication and observation between themselves and patients even as they recover at home.
This transformer ‘bot is one of the more interesting and sort-of-creepy robots we have seen in a while — it can curl up in a ball and await a command, or unfold its servo-driven limbs and pick its way, crab-like, across a surface. It cannot roll yet, but we are actually OK with this, because there is something much more unsettling about a rolling robot that unfolds and starts to walk.
When a satellite becomes unresponsive in orbit, there’s not much to be done — engineers can try in vain to hail the spacecraft and send it instructions, or perhaps blow it up in a show of bravado. But fixing it is pretty much out of the question, especially now that the space shuttle is retired.
But what if a remotely operated robot could do the job? Engineers at Johns Hopkins University have been working with a da Vinci surgical robot in a test of long-distance mechanical repair — call it satellite surgery.
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.