Not since RoboCop has being a cyborg seemed so very cool. University of Chicago geoscientists are developing an artificial intelligence system that future Mars explorers could incorporate into their spacesuits to help them recognize signs of life on Mars' barren surface.
While it lacks the subtle charm of Alberto Tomba, this robot is just as much at ease flying down a slalom course. Designed by Bojan Nemec of the the Jozef Stefan Institute in Slovenia, the robot utilizes two computers to stay upright and pointed downhill.
The rescue robot with a teddy head has gone through nine different prototypes on its way to becoming a rugged battlefield medic for the U.S. military. Now new prototypes of BEAR can lift a quarter of a ton, while balancing gracefully on their treads.
Vecna Robotics hopes that BEAR (Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot) can eventually find and rescue humans in any number of hazardous situations, ranging from bullet-torn battlefields to chemical accident sites and earthquake-damaged buildings.
It takes a village to raise a robot. At least, that's the belief of the creators of iCub, a humanoid robot the size of a 3-1/2-year-old child, who are making its development entirely open-domain.
The iCub is the brainchild of a group of European universities led by the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genoa, who have been charged by the European Commission to develop a functioning humanoid child. They developed a 2-1/2-foot-tall, 70-pound robot child with 53 mechanical joints that allow it to move its head, neck, arms, fingers, eyes and legs. It can also feel with its fingertips, grip with its hands, and listen.
Encountering a swarm of genuine sewer-dwelling rats would send the average human screaming and jumping up onto the nearest chair, but there's nothing to fear -- and everything to admire -- about the latest plague of ratbots being developed in robotics labs around the world.
Combining two of Japan's greatest strengths, a noodle-shop-owning electronics wizard has invented a robot that can make the perfect bowl of ramen.
It took the 60-year-old shop owner Yoshihira Uchida about 20 million yen and five years to develop the ramenbot. Now customers of his shop, Momozono Robot Ramen, in Minami-Alps, a town 90 miles from Tokyo, can customize their broth, adjusting everything from the levels of soy sauce and salt to the richness of the soup. There are reputedly 40 million different possible flavor permutations.
There's something magnificently creepy about this tiny bot, just one millimeter wide, developed at Israel's Technion University. Maybe it's the resemblance to a twitching tick or flea, or the fact that it's so small there could be insectile bots all around you right now and you'd hardly notice. (The robot, called Virob, has no internal power source--it derives its power from external magnetic fields.
Or maybe it's that the bug is designed to infiltrate human veins, autonomously crawling around our circulatory systems, taking pictures and poking its feelers where no 'bot has gone before.
If there's one thing the world doesn't need more of, it's rats. But try telling that to the researchers at France's Institute for Intelligent Systems and Robotics (ISIR) who have thrown themselves into designing a realistic ratbot capable of scuttling around on tiny wheels, seeking food, avoiding dangers and presumably scaring the bejeezus out of innocent humans.
Instead of envisioning robots as either mindless slaves or potential overlords, couldn't we just figure out how to all work together? Cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists are teaming up with roboticists to do just that -- developing teamworkbots that know how to read their partner's actions and intentions and to predict what he or she will do next as they complete tasks together.
Your mother told you never to speak to strangers, but what if the stranger was a robot on wheels, who was lost and needed your help? Thirty-eight people in this very predicament chose to speak to the waylaid robot, whose task was to cross a busy city without a map or GPS. All it could do was ask directions.
Ever suspect that someone is poking into your stuff when you're not at home? Or that instead of taking care of the kids the babysitter is doing you-know-what? Or that Spot only pretends she can't stand on her hind legs and talk when you're around? Then you might want invest in one of the new spybots on the market. (That, or get your head checked.)
No hooch-addled human in a bar likes to hear that he or she is being cut off. But what if the news came from a bowtie-wearing panda bear robot? Fewer fights, more peace in the world? That's the concept behind SOBEaR, the panda bear bartender who lets you (even wants you to!) breathe in its face, and then pours you the drink you should have -- rather than the one you want.
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.