A group of experts who come from Sydney University, have created a robot that is being used to test troops who may run into terrorists. Sent to a Marine base in Virginia's Quantico, The Marathon Targets are trained to "think" and because they are autonomous, flee as fast as a human if one of their group is shot. They even have enough smarts to seek shelter. The company received a $57 million contract with the USMC after showing its lifelike armored-plated T2 prototype. They also have another Terrorbot with four wheels for use in rough terrain.
Take a look at NSK's robotic guide dog. It has wheels for flat areas that, should it need to take some steps, can become utile legs. Its graspable handle is used to maintain stability and it has a sensor to identify steps by converting it to shape, position and attitude info into 3D space. Because it takes about 10 years to raise a real guide dog, this is an excellent addition to a service area that could use, um, a leg up.
NASA's Curiosity rover is well on its way to Mars after a successful launch and separation from the Atlas V rocket last Saturday. It will take almost nine months to reach the planet after it travels 354 million miles. As we mentioned last week, the car-sized rover plans to explore the planet for about 2 years. It will land inside a crater where scientists believe ice was traced to look for other signs. You just never know what form of life they might find.
Looking for stocking stuffers for the robot fans in your life? We have found some for everyone that are inexpensive enough that you can buy several. The retro bronze Music Bot comes on a golden necklace while a pair of Mood Robot Necklaces are great for two BFFs.
The rosary style Robot Bracelet is imported and displays 12 images in a 12" wide band and there is even a stainless steel Belly Ring with a robot dangle.
If you are of a fan of "The Day the Earth Stood Still", Gort is a 1 5/8" metal pin with enamel finish. And who couldn't be pleased to see this 1.8 x 0.1 x 3.8" die-cut photographic Robot Magnet on their fridge?
NASA's most advanced space rover will lift off this Saturday and be on its way to Mars. Developed at the Jet Propulsion Lab, the $2.5 billion Curiosity will do more than look for water. Over a 2 year period of time it will be analyzing the planet's geology and atmosphere to see if there are any elements and/or chemical compound that can be found in life. Godspeed, Cur!
Shades of Silent Running! In a time when farmers and landscapers could use some extra help in a struggling economy, Harvest Automation is in the process of beta testing a small mobile robot that, as part of a team, can assist. Each grips a pot, has a deck for carrying, sensors to know where it is and spaces each plant. It can work 24/7 in all weather and when harvest time comes, can retrieve the finished product. The Massachusetts based wheeled farmbot is field testing now and should be available for consumers next year.
In 2007, Vancouver's eatArt Lab first unveiled their Mondo Spider, a human run robotic arachnid that weighs 1,700 lbs. Now some of their members have created the 50 ft. long Titanoboa, a robot snake. They put them inside a warehouse next to their studio to see how the two got along. While nothing really happened (even if you thought it was going to,) project leader Charlie Brinson says they are going for art, not killing machines.
That may change when they next release Prothesis, a walking exoskeleton also controlled by a human. It may be too much for the feeble controllers who feel the need to challenge each other in a minor metal duel.
Last week, four ocean-going robots took off from San Francisco to journey to Hawaii. From there, they head to Australia and Japan. The wave and solar powered bots will take about 300 days to cross 33,000 miles and retrieve millions of real-time ocean data points. Funded by Richard Branson's Virgin Oceanic and Google Earth, it will set a world record for the longest autonomous ocean journey if successful.
If you want to follow their journey, you can sign up to receive updates via the Liquid Robotics link or participate in the PacX competition to propose how the information can be best used.
We are thinking that maybe Innovation First took us seriously when we suggested teaming up Hexbugs with XiaXias last week. Lo and behold, we found a Hive for them to play in. There are 35 pieces you can use to construct various mazes for your nanos so that they can run around and bounce up to the second level. When finished for the day, it can fold up. The set comes with two hexbugs and more parts can be added to your creation, like the Hexbug Bridge Battle Set.
By the way, hexbugs now come in larval form, just in case you want to grow your own nano horde.
UCSD's Coordinated Robotics Lab is working on their latest generation of the iFling, an R/C robot they call a "self-righting Segway-like vehicle." It picks up a ping pong ball, rolling over it and wedging it between body and wheel, then tosses. Its makers are hoping to get several to play catch and make them different sizes for larger balls. Look for the iFling in a toy store near you sometime in the future next to their other creations iHop and iceCube.
Looking for a handy R/C vehicle for holiday gift giving? How about this Boeing AH-61A Apache helicopter that you can control with your Adroid or iOS device? The IR dongle goes into your 3.5 mm jack and the app lets you control its movement. Gyros help it stay level as you control its movements and special tricks like pitching and rolling. Both vehicle and remote can be charged via USB and copter carries a $39.90 price.
Mask-bot just may be the next generation of robotic faces. Inspired by Disney's projecting faces onto busts in the Disneyland Haunted Mansion, Gordon Cheng and his team of the ICS at Munich has a prototype that works behind a mask to produce a 3D image that can be viewed at various angles. One can reproduce content that comes via keyboard or text to speech, in both male and female, and the hope is that they can be developed for telepresence systems or video conferences. Walt would be proud.
The Chiba Institute Of Technology has introduced a vehicle that moves like a slug that is flexible, waterproof and dust-free. Planned for search and rescue missions, the Slug Crawler Vehicle has a retractable exterior skin, camera to monitor surroundings and internal pulleys to steer and manipulate its motion. The next step is to build a larger SCV with better cameras and more range for the planet's next big disaster.
The holidays have snuck in upon us when we weren't looking so we have decided to scout around for some Gift Picks and here is our first suggestion:
If your ZhuZhu Pets are getting dusty or hanging out in the closet these days, there is a new group in town hoping to become as popular. XiaXia (pronounced 'sha-sha') are 4 small hermit crabs that toddle around when their claws are pressed. And with habitats and removable shells, we expect these plastic crustaceans to make quite an impact this year. Choose between
If they are the big hit that the company expects, there will not only be more of them in the future, there will probably be more accessories to go with them. We wonder what would happen if they started hanging out with hexbugs?
Remember the Ecobot, the one that can run on insects, sewage or garbage? Now there are two prototypes of Venus Fly Traps that may be able to feed it without human intervention. The University of Maine in Orono has artificial muscles coated with electrodes with a current that bends it. When an insect lands, voltage from sensors triggers a greater power source to apply opposite charges to the leaves and they are attracted to each other and close up. SNU in South Korea uses a clamshell-shaped piece of carbon fiber as a leaf and a metal spring that closes in when something lands on it. A current reopens the spring.
Boston Dynamics BigDog now has a sidekick. PETMAN is a two-legged 6 ft. tall bot that can walk, perform squats and do pushups should the need arise. Probably available next year, it has been going through tests of chemical warfare agents, maneuvers in a suit, generates heat and sweats like a human. We are just grateful that they haven't taken the next step and added an evil Terminator head to its robotic body.
Japan's Ministry of Defense Research Department has developed a flying robot that works similarly to a helicopter. But it can also go forward at high speed or roll on the ground. And if it hits another object it just keeps moving along since it has gyro sensors. It weighs about 350 g, is 42cm in diameter and because it can be made from already available parts, only costs about $1,400 to build. Future plans for the Spherical Flying Machine are to use for reconnaissance and rescue situations. We may not shop in the same stores but we suspect other robotic experts to soon build their own version of the clever flybot.
Panasonic's Evolta Mini-Bot finally completed his 230k Ironman Triathalon October 30 that it began in September. It took 3 different versions of the little guy to complete the task powered by 3 rechargeable batteries. He needed 166 hours to swim 3.8km, bicycle 180.2km and run 42.2km to the finish line.
Their commercial may talk down to the average human, but it seems that
UNO has almost become high tech with its Roboto Game. Each player's name is recorded and players can include customized "house rules." The bot picks a name to begin. As soon as you think you are getting somewhere, the bot calls out a random rule or comment and changes your play. A deck of 108 cards and 3 AAA batteries are also included.
A team of researchers at the National Physical Laboratory have devised a new system to train robots to pick ripe strawberries. Originally designed in 2009 for measuring cauliflower ripeness, it uses a combination of microwaves, radio frequencies, terahertz and infrared to select the fruit by amount of ripeness. After measuring crops in both fields and labs, algorithms determine the proper picking time. The NPL hopes to use it on other crops and industrial recycling centers (how do you determine when plastic is ripe?)
The Nagoya Institute of Technology's Sano Lab in Japan has developed a pair of robotic legs that are actually propelled by their own weight. The gait is more normal than most and no external control or motors are needed. Made of aluminum, they were adjusted to the same thigh and leg lengths as a human and the same weight. They work in the same manner of "falling" in that they just need a small push and downwards slope.
When tested last year, the legs went non-stop for 13 hours. Their hope is to create a commercial version in a year or two for testing sports equipment or assisting those who have trouble walking but we still want to know, what happens when it needs to go uphill?
"For Those Who Do" is a recent commercial from Lenovo that not only claims they are "for the inspired thinkers who roll up their sleeves and make things happen," but gives examples of how it does just that. Think of this as your mini quiz of the day and see how many robotic devices you recognize.