Walyou » Robots http://walyou.com Cool Gadgets, New Gadgets, Tech News and Geek Design Wed, 22 Oct 2014 18:01:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Malleable Robots to Lead the Way in Space Exploration http://walyou.com/malleable-robots-space-exploration/ http://walyou.com/malleable-robots-space-exploration/#comments Sun, 12 Oct 2014 20:17:29 +0000 http://walyou.com/?p=180035

Long before mankind sets foot on anything but the Moon, it will have already sent plenty of robots into space to explore the great unknown. Flexible tentacle robots seem to be ahead of the other mechanical device of their kind, though.

Sure, Curiosity, Opportunity and the other rovers are not only good-looking, but also highly-functional. And still, researchers have found a way of making planet exploring robots even better: equip them with tentacle-like arms. Bioinspired robotics is definitely not something new, but it’s the first time it will be applied on NASA’s rovers. More precisely, the arms of this new generation of robots look a lot like elephant trunks, octopus arms and giraffe tongues.

Grasping things and inspecting Mars crevices in a similar way a space-octopus would do weren’t exactly on NASA rovers’ to-do list. In fact, “those are all things that would be difficult for a conventional robot to do,” claimed roboticist Ian Walker of Clemson University in April at a presentation for NASA’s Future In-Space Operations group.

Until now, conventional robots have been designed to function much like humans, and their arms resembled ours, with joints and everything else. In space, that design might not be as useful, though. “What we want to do is something rather different than that,” stated Walker. Their ultimate purpose is to create “something that can adapt its shape more completely down its structure, and to be able to adapt to environments you haven’t seen before. So it’s the non-factory scenario, in many ways.”

Walker has explained that the design of the flexible NASA robots goes beyond elephant trunks and octopus tentacles: “You could reach it out into the environment and grab things, and basically use it as a tunable hook for stability. In some ways, this is inspired by various monkeys.”

An alternative to making their arms highly flexible would be to equip them with different tools with similar functionality: “They would basically have a robot lasso, or a robot rope, that would be part of their toolkit that they could deploy in situations that called for it.”

“Mechanically, these things are cheap and very versatile in what they can do,” added Walker. However, the challenge is “to extract that performance from it. So there are questions of, How much do you need to model it? How much does it need to know?”

The community of tentacle robot researchers have gone a long way in the past few years, and there will be even more progress in this field in the years to come: “The learning curve has been significantly attacked, and I would say that we know an incredible amount more now than we did five years ago. At the progress we’re making right now, I would be surprised if there aren’t things that look intelligent and [are] intelligent in, say, a decade.”

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Little Moe Uses Ultraviolet Pulses to Fight the Ebola Virus http://walyou.com/little-moe-ebola-killing-robot/ http://walyou.com/little-moe-ebola-killing-robot/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 20:52:38 +0000 http://walyou.com/?p=179859

Recent infections with Ebola have caused a lot of distress all over the world, especially since the virus isn’t confined in a single area, but on all major continents. As scary as it may be, the Ebola virus is quite easy to destroy, and the Little Moe robot seems to be a trusty ally in preventing infections.

Light can kill viruses. That’s not exactly news, but a few more details wouldn’t hurt. Ultraviolet light is able to destroy bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms, but that only happens at certain wavelengths. UV mutagenic irradiation has been in practice for more than a century, as the first attempts to disinfect water with it took place in 1910 in Marseille. However, in hospitals and anywhere else it may be installed, Xenex’s Little Moe Ebola fighting robot will do more than just disinfect water.

This medical robot cannot automatically from one room to another, the way Roomba robots vacuum through an entire home. Instead, they need to be setup. After entering the room type and number, Little Moe starts shooting UV rays all over the room in order to disinfect all the surfaces. Mark Stibich, Ph.D, provided a very simple explanation on how the germ-zapping robot works: “What’s inside here is a xenon bulb.”

Little Moe is said to be extremely efficient. Two such robots can rid an entire hospital of dangerous microorganisms in 5 minutes, and can destroy the Ebola virus on any surface in just around 2 minutes. Its function may not sound like much, but Little Moe only has one job, which means that it was built to do this task as efficiently as possible.

The University Health System in San Antonio and the Dallas hospital represent only two of the 250 locations from across the US that are equipped with a Little Moe robot. At Dallas hospital doctors are currently treating the first patient infected with Ebola in America, and while Little Moe can’t do anything about that, it’s good to know that it will prevent the virus from spreading (even though it’s not an airborne virus and it can only be transmitted through exchange of bodily fluids).

I get it how the manufacturer’s name refers to the Xenon bulbs these robots are equipped with, but it sounds uncomfortably close to Xanax. Other than that, it’s good to see that medical robots are getting popular, especially since they can help humanity in such difficult situations.

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Robotic Octopus Gets a Speed Boost http://walyou.com/robot-octopus-forth/ http://walyou.com/robot-octopus-forth/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 20:55:54 +0000 http://walyou.com/?p=179738

Earlier last year, researchers from FORTH (Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas) played with the idea of a robotic octopus that could do more than just swim. The crawling robot octopus has just received an update, and the new version is much faster than its predecessor.

The Multi-arm Robotic Swimming With Octopus-Inspired Compliant Web was showcased last week by FORTH’s Michael Sfakiotakis, Asimina Kazakidi, Avgousta Chatzidaki, Theodoros Evdaimon, and Dimitris P. Tsakiris at the IEEE IROS (International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems) 2014 in Chicago. While not the first robot inspired from the animal world, nor the first to draw inspiration from aquatic life, this cold-metal octopus is a great example of what sort of things might populate our seas and oceans if we keep throwing garbage and spilling oil in them.

The new version sports a feature that biological octopi base their propulsion upon. The researchers concluded that adding a web between the tentacles could boost not only the speed, but also the efficiency of the robotic octopus. The newly added soft and squishy silicone web was so effective that it almost doubled the speed of the robot.

More precisely, the robot octopus went from 100mm a second when using just its flexible arms to 180mm a second with the silicone web. The web also improved the efficiency of the robot, which means that it now requires less energy than before to travel the same distance. More precisely, the CoT (cost of transport) went from 0.85 to 0.62.

Scientists are hard to satisfy, and FORTH’s researchers are firm proof of that. The silicone web and the speed boost were obviously not enough for them, so they proceeded to adapting the roboctopus to various environments and conditions. More precisely, it can now crawl and carry objects (well, not heavy ones, obviously), and the researchers were even kind enough to let it swim in the Aegean Sea, under supervision.

In the above video you can even see the robotic octopus as it is being followed by fish while swimming in the sea. This suggests that the robot could be equipped with cameras to record the aquatic life without disturbing it. That’s pretty neat, but I hope there will be some ocean life left to observe in the future, if we don’t destroy it altogether.

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TROBO Plush Toy Robot Teaches Kids Math and Science Through Stories http://walyou.com/trobo-plush-toy-robot/ http://walyou.com/trobo-plush-toy-robot/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 19:33:06 +0000 http://walyou.com/?p=179582

Sooner or later, we have to get used with robots controlling our lives, so it’s probably better to start at an early age. TROBO is an educational robot that makes use of stories, games and quizzes to pass on knowledge in a way that’s very pleasant for the children.

Educational robots are definitely not a new thing, but putting one inside a plush toy in order to make it more huggable is a great take on that. Developed by Jeremy Scheinberg, a University of Pennsylvania engineering grad, and Chris Harden, a former Development Director with EA Sports, the TROBO plush toy robot is meant to modernize the way kids learn basic things about STEM topics (science, technology, engineering and math). Best of all, the topics are adapted so that they include modern things such as the Internet, 3D printing, rocket engineering and more.

As Harden explained, he and his collaborator had the idea of creating this robot after having kids themselves: “Witnessing his daughter Sophia spend hours learning to be a princess, led Jeremy to want something more foundational for her future. He wanted to share his love of learning technology and engineering with his daughter. I had a similar experience with Asher, who spends a significant amount of time with Hot Wheels cars and mindlessly watching cars on YouTube.”

TROBO comes with a companion app that’s currently only available for iPads. Hopefully an Android version of the app will be provided soon so that more people can use this plush robot. “We agreed that tablets had to be central to the concept, and that a physical experience with emotional companionship was critical to engaging the children,” added Harden.

The plush robot is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. Harden and Scheinberg are looking to raise the $60K necessary for TROBO to enter mass production. At press time, backers pledged more than $26K, and since there are 17 more days to go, it’s almost a certainty that the campaign will be successful. In that event, anyone who pledged $50 or more should expect to receive the robot in November 2015. That’s quite a lot to wait, but it should be worth it, especially since the retail price will most likely be much higher than that.

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MIT Takes the Leash Off Its Robotic Cheetah http://walyou.com/mit-robotic-cheetah/ http://walyou.com/mit-robotic-cheetah/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 20:53:59 +0000 http://walyou.com/?p=179469

Just when the whole world thought that it’s all about bipedal robots, MIT brings its robotic cheetah under the spotlight again, this time to show some important upgrades.

Since humankind has been pretty successful at helping a lot of species go extinct, we might soon have robotic beasts in our savannas and jungles. MIT’s robotic cheetah resembles the real deal more in its movement pattern than in its speed. Cheetahs are the fastest land animals, capable of running at 120 kmph (mind you, for a very short period of time), while MIT’s project is not exactly the fastest robot around. DARPA-funded Boston Dynamics’ cheetah broke the record two years ago, and still is the champion en titre.

Associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT Sangbae Kim pointed out that the goal of his team is to replicate animal movement in four legged robots: “We try to understand how they efficiently run in the field and nature so that we can take that inspiration and then use it in our engineering world. So, for example, we can create prosthetic legs from that technology or we can even make new transportation replacing cars so that you don’t need the road in our world.”

Compared to Boston Dynamics’ cheetah robot, which can run at up to 29 kmph, MIT’s version is only capable of developing speeds of up to 16 kmph. However, this one seems to have a small advantage over its competitor. MIT’s robot can jump over obstacles that are 33 cm high. The speed is not exactly an improvement, as the previous version ran at up to 22 kmph, but it should be noted that the new one is powered wirelessly via an electric motor.

Kim also noted that the internal combustion engines with hydraulic transmission that power most leg-standing robots are not only noisy, but also very inefficient: “People believe that internal combustion engines and hydraulics are the only way to make a legged robot run and support itself. People believe that electric motors are not powerful enough. This is the first time we show that an electrically powered robot can run and jump over foot-high obstacles.”

Check out the following video to see MIT’s robotic cheetah in action:

We can only hope that robots will get harder, better, faster, stronger, while also being merciful enough not to help us go extinct.

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Makr Shakr Robot Bartender Goes on a Cruise http://walyou.com/makr-shakr-robot-bartender-quantum-of-the-seas-cruise/ http://walyou.com/makr-shakr-robot-bartender-quantum-of-the-seas-cruise/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 20:57:35 +0000 http://walyou.com/?p=179331

People rich enough to go on a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship should expect to be treated like royals, and as of late, the Makr Shakr robot bartender is part of the treatment.

Bartender robots that can be controlled with a smartphone app are not exactly a novelty, even though you don’t get to see them everyday, either. However, not many of these helpful robots get to go on a cruise. This sets MIT Senseable City Lab’s Makr Shakr robot bartender apart from the rest of the crowd. Last year, it was showcased at the Google I/O conference, and this November, it will set sail aboard the Quantum of the Seas.

Mind you, the Makr Shakr bartending robot is only one of the geeky things found on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. One of the things this Norwegian cruise line brand prides in having is more Internet bandwidth than all the rest of the cruise ships in the world combined. Other crazy details include virtual balconies in each cabin, a virtual concierge, and RFID for everything.

Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab, pointed out that “Makr Shakr is a great example of how digital technologies are changing the interaction between people and products—a topic that our laboratory has been exploring in great depth.” The makers of the robot emphasized that the robot won’t replace humans entirely, and that it’s more of a social experiment.

The fact that Makr Shakr can be controlled with a smartphone or tablet from (I assume) anywhere on the ship will mean that the robot won’t get any rest. Roberto Bolle, principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater, along with Italian director and choreographer Marco Pelle were involved in the development of this bartender robot, as its moves are programmed from the filmed moves of these artists.

Dutch artist and architect Constant Nieuwenhuys gets quoted in the promotional video for the Makr Shakr robot: “In the worldwide city of the future…a society of total automation, the need to work is replaced by a nomadic life of creative play, a modern return to Eden. The ‘homo ludens’, whom man will become once freed from labor will not have to make art, for he can be creative in the practice of his daily life.”

Here’s a crazy thing, though: a couple of innocent typos could turn this robot bartender into Mark Shark, which is something no one would ever want to see while on a cruise in the Caribbean.

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Harvard’s Wearable Robot Gets $2.9M in Funding from DARPA http://walyou.com/harvard-wearable-robot-darpa-funding/ http://walyou.com/harvard-wearable-robot-darpa-funding/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 20:21:05 +0000 http://walyou.com/?p=179327

Harvard University and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Design announced today that they received $2.9M in a funding shot from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

There is still a lot to work on the soft, wearable exoskeleton, but with such important backers, the success is almost guaranteed. New Balance, a Boston-based startup specialized in 3D printed shoes, announced that it will collaborate with Harvard’s Wyss Institute on the wearable robot.

The term “wearable robot” was coined by Conor Walsh, head of the Harvard Biodesign Lab, and lead researcher designing the suit. Walsh described the exoskeleton as such as it can be easily worn under other clothes, and resembles a web that covers the limbs.

ReWalk or Ekso Bionics are two commercially-available exoskeletons, and one could easily think that the Soft Exosuit developed by Harvard competes directly against those. However, this one is entirely flexible, and this feature sets it apart.

Since the wearable robot includes some specially designed footwear (pictured above), one of the first benefits that derives from wearing the Soft Exosuit is the ability to walk longer distances. An increase in strength can also be noticed when being equipped with the exoskeleton. The suit is said to follow the natural movement of the body, and only presents the aforementioned advantages when needed. As Welsh explained, “When the suit is active, the underlying muscles at the ankle and at the hip are doing less work.”

The elastic and non-stretchable materials, along with the cabling that covers the limbs, mimic the way our muscles and tendons work. The device is powered by motors that are attached to the hips of the wearer.

I would very much like to see a football (or soccer, for my American audience) game played with these, but considering DARPA’s interest, it’s almost a certainty that Harvard’s wearable exoskeleton won’t be used for sports. Instead, it will enable soldiers to cover greater distances while consuming less energy.

Welsh stated that a commercially-available version should be available in the next two to five years. This version could help hikers walk more, but it could also prove useful for people with impairments. The project is overall very interesting, and along with the Arizona State University-developed DARPA-commissioned jetpack for faster running, is proof that the military is interested in making soldiers move faster.

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Robot Couch will transport you anywhere http://walyou.com/robot-couch/ http://walyou.com/robot-couch/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 12:00:16 +0000 http://walyou.com/?p=179200

What started out as a joke became a reality: this is literally couch surfing, a moving couch that can take you around the city.

UNSW (Univeristy of South New Wales) students in Australia came up with quite a concept: a robotic couch that can become your mean of transportation by moving on its own, while being controller by an Xbox 360 gamepad. The project came from the minds of Steph McArthur and Will Andrew, both engineering students who came up with the project as a joke. The project has received several successful test runs, and has since then been set to be an attraction at UNSW’s Open Day.

The couch uses electric scooter motors to drive the wheels, which are connected to a central controller to regulate the speed, also, if the video above serves as reference, it can be quite fast, too. Are we ready to replace our cars yet? Apparently, the students were so inspired by this idea that now they want to create a robotic fridge. Well, they need to make that happen, the kitchen is way too far away from our living rooms and bedrooms anyways.

Via Technabob & UNSW Newsroom

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NASA’s Swarmie Robots to Mine Asteroids Like Ants http://walyou.com/nasa-swarmie-robots-asteroid-mining/ http://walyou.com/nasa-swarmie-robots-asteroid-mining/#comments Sun, 07 Sep 2014 20:50:09 +0000 http://walyou.com/?p=179185

There’s a lot of money in asteroid mining, and James Cameron is not the only one who knows that. NASA developed Swarmie robots, which are meant to forage asteroids in a manner that makes them similar to ants.

There are two main benefits to mining asteroids. First of all, some of them contain several times the amount of metals or water found on our beloved Terra. Secondly, it would be terribly counter-productive to get water and metals from Earth and transport them to our outposts in space. Google’s Eric Schmidt and film maker James Cameron are two of the key partners of Planetary Resources, a company that intends to identify and mine the commercially viable asteroids. NASA, on the other hand, is also confident that asteroid mining could take Earth’s economy to new heights, and proceeded to developing Swarmies, robots that resemble ants in the way they’re foraging.

Kurt Leucht, one of the engineers who developed NASA’s Swarmie robots, pointed out that “For a while people were interested in putting as much smarts and capability as they could on their one robot. Now people are realizing you can have much smaller, much simpler robots that can work together and achieve a task. One of them can roll over and die and it’s not the end of the mission because the others can still accomplish the task.”

Project lead Cheryle Mako noted that “This would give you something smaller and cheaper that could always be running up and down the length of the pipeline so you would always know the health of your pipelines. If we had small swarming robots that had a couple sensors and knew what they were looking for, you could send them out to a leak site and find which area was at greatest risk.”

Small at the moment, the Swarmie robots will need some rescaling in order to prove viable on asteroids. They’re packed with nothing more than a Wi-Fi antenna, a GPS system, and a webcam, so they’re not that impressive from that point of view. Still, it’s their “group mind” that sets them apart from other robots, and their capability of interacting with one another. In other words, the perfect recipe for the rise of the machines. We might have to say “Goodbye, Earth!” in a way we didn’t mean to.

As a bonus, here are a few infographics you should check if you want to learn about the potential of asteroid mining.

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Da Gou Is China’s Version of the Big Dog Robot http://walyou.com/da-gou-china-big-dog-robot/ http://walyou.com/da-gou-china-big-dog-robot/#comments Sat, 06 Sep 2014 20:30:08 +0000 http://walyou.com/?p=179167

Chinese companies are often accused for drawing too much inspiration (trying to avoid the word “copying” here), and the Da Gou robot, which is extremely similar to Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog, might reignite such accusations.

Da Gou, the quadruped robot developed by NORINCO, was first shown to the world in August, at an exhibition. It should be noted that Big Dog, Boston Dynamics’ robot that served as an inspiration for Da Gou, ended up as U.S. Army’s Legged Squad Support System (LS3) tech demonstrator, so the development of a similar robot makes you wonder what plans China has for this moving pile of metal. Ironically enough, the official name of the Chinese quadruped robot is Mountainous Bionic Quadruped Robot, but the attendants to the exhibition preferred to call it Da Gou, which is Mandarin for Big Dog.

If you’re into numbers, then the following pieces of data are for you. Da Gou weighs 130 kg and can carry a payload of up to 30 kg. This thing alone makes it adequate for military missions, where such a robot would relieve the soldiers from carrying heavy loads. The maximum speed of the Chinese Big Dog is of 6 miles per hour (approximately 10 kmph), and the quadruped is said to be able to climb hills with a slope of up to 30 degrees.

In other news, China’s robot sector has recently witnessed an ever increasing demand, and while this country doesn’t exhibit their mechanical creations as often as Japan, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot of potential there. The Mountainous Bionic Quadruped Robot will definitely have a military application, and supposing that the rest of the robots developed in this country share the same fate, the entire world should be terrified of going at war against China. That’s as if the fact that this country has the largest army in the world wasn’t enough.

For the time being, most Chinese robots are working in industry, where they are replacing human workforce at task that could prove dangerous. Zhou Chaosen, deputy secretary of Guangzhou Federation Of Robotics, pointed out that “It’s very hard to recruit workers in a hard working environment such as the chemical and steel industries, so there’s a lot of space for industrial robots.” In this context, I agree that humans should be replaced by robots, but in other fields this might constitute a problem.

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