The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are (ostensibly) winding down and military budgets are facing the axe on the home front, but that’s not stopping contractors from building bigger and badder combat-ready robots. Today in badass autonomous military hardware: Mesa Robotics’ Acer, a 4,500-pound mine-clearing, bulldozing, drone-launching, ordnance disposing, pack-muling mini-tank.
Last night, Google introduced the newest version of Android, to be called Ice Cream Sandwich. It's easily the biggest update to Android in years, combining elements of the tablet-only Honeycomb with a whole bunch of new ideas, and a firm focus on cohesion--a major complaint about Android. Google also showed off the new Samsung-made Nexus flagship phone, and it is a monster: a 4.65-inch screen in full 720p resolution, and no buttons at all.
Today in things that are just plain neat: a mashup of 3-D printing and augmented reality that is helping molecular researchers test potential drug molecules in the lab. At the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., teams are making physical models of biological viruses and then testing them using an added layer of AR wizardry.
NASA and its partners at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) have released an improved and updated version of the most complete topographical map of Earth ever compiled. Produced from data beamed down from NASA’s Terra spacecraft, the map data represents the most complete and highest-resolution topographical data available today, covering 99 percent of Earth’s landmass.
For those paralyzed from the neck down, controlling a wheelchair even with a joystick is impossible. Researchers at Japan's Miyazaki University have created a wheelchair that solves that problem with electrodes affixed to the face. Certain motions will cause the wheelchair to move, stop, and turn--and it can all be done above the neck.
San Francisco-based Meka Robotics wants to make robots that are human-safe and human-scale, but their new S2 humanoid head is more anime than animal. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Mechanically, it’s a marvel: seven degrees of freedom, zero-backlash gearing in the neck, high-res cameras in each eye, and eyelids that move with the fluidity of the real thing.
We have been enjoying plenty of BigDog/AlphaDog videos of late, showing off the Marines’ sure-footed four-legged robot. Well apparently the U.S. isn’t the only country planning to build a pack of quadruped bots. Check out this small South Korean robot dog, prancing quietly around a trade show.
Despite all the huge advances in medical technology in the past couple centuries, petri dishes, one of the most crucial pieces of equipment, haven’t changed much at all. Now a grad student at Caltech has finally brought these flat-bottomed bowls into the 21st century.
In a short blog post today, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced a total reversal of the recent plans that so mildly inconvenienced and irked us. Instead of spinning off the physical media side--DVDs, Blu-ray, and now video games--into a whole new website to be called Qwikster, Netflix will now keep all that stuff under the Netflix umbrella. In other words: please calm down, customers. Nothing is changing.
The holy grail of prosthetics research is and has been a kind of “Luke Skywalker hand” interface--prosthetics that respond to stimulus from the brain and function just as the original appendage it is replacing. But ideally the prosthetic wouldn’t just respond to stimulus from the brain--it would also provide sensory stimulus to the brain. It would have a sense of touch. And in a paper published today in Nature, we see the groundwork for just such a breed of prostheses.
We just can’t resist, so here’s one more video from the maker of the military’s robotic pack animals. Check out Boston Dynamics’ new AlphaDog — which was previously nicknamed BullDog — in a newly released, DARPA-sanctioned video.
It runs along a guide rail, keeps its balance after two guys try to tip it over, and rights itself after lying on its side, not unlike your pet getting up from its nap.
The only mammals that can fly are also the only mammals with a larynx that flexes at ludicrous speed, a new study shows. As bats flip and whirl toward their prey, they chirp at an accelerating rate, increasing their echolocating calls to 160-190 chirps per second. This is possible because their laryngeal muscles can contract up to 200 times per second, researchers say.
We all know takeout food sometimes requires special utensils to be eaten properly. The same is true for fish. (The food they’re eating, not takeout fish.) Below, behold the first video of a reef fish using a tool — and traveling a great distance to find it.
The orange-dotted tuskfish, a species of wrasse, is the second type of wrasse documented using tools in the past few months. A blackspot tuskfish was caught on camera earlier this year; now the first video has been published.
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.