Google continues to map where no mapper has mapped before. This time it is the Grand Canyon. A 360º view of the Bright Angel Trail to the Colorado River means a ten mile hike that ranges in elevation from 6,900 feet in elevation to 2,400 feet, courtesy of Luc Vincent, Google engineering director, his team and handy trekker on his backpack. They then hiked back up from the Phantom Ranch through the South Kaibab Trail. Other trails were shot as well.
The automatic trekker captures images every 2.5 seconds with 15 5 mp cameras. Because the GPS data is limited, sensors record temperature, vibrations and orientation before turning them into images. Google wants to continue mapping in national forests, Mount Everest and even ancient edifices.
We haven't heard from Jim Quinlan for a couple of years but it seems he is back at work and recently created Roger, a battle droid garden art sculpture. His body is in a fixed sitting positing but his elbows, wrists, head and shoulders are movable. You can adopt him for $5,500.00, trumpet and butterfly included.
Dr. Guero's Primer-V2 has already learned to ride a bike and walk on stilts, so it's really no surprise that the robotocist taught programmed him to walk a tightrope. His feet have a slit in them for the cord and keeping his balance was a special challenge. The humanoid was built out of a Kondo KHR-3HV hobby kit and while the clever bot may not make it across Niagara Falls, it's still fun to watch him maneuver on that 4mm wire suspended a meter above the floor.
"Prometheus", a movie that involves a group of humans in space trying to discover the extraterrestrial roots of the planet, was recently released on Blu-ray. Directed by Ridley Scott, it is a sort of prequel to the 1979 "Alien". David, played by Michael Fassbender, is an android with a aberrant personality that works for Weyland Industries.
While we have not yet seen the epic sci-fi thriller, we did recently re-view Stephen Spielberg's 2001 "A.I." with android Haley Joel Osment wanting to become a real boy. It is worth checking out if only to appreciate the melding of the minds of Spielberg and Stanley Kramer, who originally planned to make the film.
Accrea Engineering, working with Technische Universität München, ETH Zürich, and the University of Salzburg, has done a 360 with the social Iuro (Interactive Urban Robot) that is sent outside with absolutely no knowledge of its surroundings or any form of GPS. So instead of being a guide, he asks humans to help him navigate around the area.
The bot has a large body with shock-absorbing wheels that work on almost any type of surface. His head is packed with 21 actuators to control face movements while stereo cameras and a Kinect sensor helps him interact with those he meets. Introduced at the IROS Expo in Portugal earlier this month, he is currently practicing on unassuming humans. Let's hope that as the project continues, Iuro becomes a little less disturbing in his facial expressions.
The Chiba Institute of Technology has been working on a robotic wheelchair with 4-wheel drive that can be lifted off the ground and "walk" up stairs while remaining steady with onboard stabilizers. It has the ability to turn 360º, can be controlled by a joystick and has sensors imbedded for dealing with obstacles. The chair is still a prototype at this stage and will undergo trials before meeting the public.
German solar company PV Kraftworker has put robotic arms to work to mount solar panels in the field. The arm has suction cups on the end and can therefore lift and position the panels with the aid of video cameras. Because it is mounted on a track vehicle it can work on any terrain.
Kraftwerkes says that the work that was done by 35 workers can now be done with only 3 workers in an eighth of the time for about half the cost. Future plans involve using robots to make electrical connections to panels that are glued to frames rather than screwed in.
Another German based company, Gehrlicher, also uses robots for the task as the video demonstrates. The obvious advantage here is that they can work in any kind of weather.
Can't get enough Gangnam? Then take a look at Virginia Tech's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory's (RoMeLa) CHARLI-2 that has the audacity of simulating the basic steps in its Autonomous Shipboard Humanoid. The bot is usually found at RoboCup soccer matches but we guess that the 4 1/2 ft. tall ASH just needed to take a break from the sport and kick up its heels dance.
Still recovering from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the Japanese government has been working with the Hybrid Assistive Limb exoskeleton. Developed by the University of Tsukuba's Cyberdyne, HAL has sensors that monitor signals coming from the user's brain. This takes the weight off the wearer's muscles and a computer monitors heart rate and breathing. The device is already being used for medical rehabilitation.
Because it has the additional feature of blocking radiation on the outside while the inside circulates air, HAL should be suited for work in the disabled power plant. Unfortunately, it may take decades to decommission it. The video shows the suit being demonstrated last year.
The Georgia Institute of Technology recently received a $900,000 endowment from the Office of Naval Research to develop a problem-solving robot. They plan to create a MacGyver-like bot that can solve problems and work with available materials in the area, i.e. using boxes to climb. Team leader Professor Mike Stilman says that they are attempting to understand "basic cognitive processes that allow humans to take advantage of arbitrary objects in their environments as tools."
Algorithms will be used to help develop the software that will be placed in Stillman's Golem Krang humanoid robot that will eventually be used in disaster areas or other dangerous places humans should not go.
NASA, some engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston and the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition of Pensacola have teamed to develop a robotic exoskeleton as an extension of the Robonaut project. The 57 lb. X1 can be worn to inhibit or assist a human's leg movements. The device has 10º of freedom, four motorized joints and six passive one that when used together can achieve turning, side-stepping, flexing, etc. While the X1 will be able to assist astronauts walking in reduced gravity on planets far, far away, it could be used on our planet as an assistive walking device.
Currently in the developmental stage, we expect that if we wait long enough, Robonaut will get a couple of them, a torso with arms and become a real boy humanoid.
Instead of wearing your heart on your sleeve or investing in a mood ring, you can display your true emotions with Necomimi, a headband with cat ears that become animated when flex your brain waves. Designed by Tomonori Kagava, the appendages droop when you are relaxed and perk up when you concentrate or feel excited. We were a bit skeptical of the $99.95 ears until Jimmy Kimmel made Guillermo test them out. The headband works for 4 hours when supplied with 4x AAA batteries (not included.)
A declassified document was recently found in the National Archives that featured a VTOK aircraft that was being built for the Canadian government in 1952 by Avro Aircraft until they found it too expensive. In 1955, the U.S. Army and Air Force decided to pick up the tab on the vehicle that had a wing span of 18 ft., a height of 4 ft. 10-inches and a weight of 4,620 lbs.. The ultimate goal was to build a hovercraft capable of reaching a speed of Mach 4 (2,880 mph) and a height of 100,000 feet (19 miles.)
Needless to say, the project was scrapped in 1961 when a model of the VZ-9AV Avrocar with turbojet engines uncontrollably rolled when tested above 3 feet and only hit a speed of 35 mph. The vehicle is now in the USAF's National Museum where all can lament its demise or appreciate it as a fine example of military intelligence during the Cold War.
It's almost boo time again so maybe it is time to start thinking about costumes for the special event. The Artsy Heartsy Retro Robot Costume has a polyester jumpsuit and headpiece, and a foam overlay. It will fit sizes 2T - 6X. There is also an adult-sized Retro Robot Costume with a red polyester shirt and pants with elastic waistband, silver, blue and yellow accents, and a white square opening in the front allows the human to peer out.
With the assistance of NVIDIA GPUs, the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex in the UK are trying to create the first autonomous honeybee. The $1.6 million Green Brain project is attempting to make up for the decline of the honey makers. The team is trying to build models of brain systems that govern the insect's vision and sense of smell. And because it is small, the bee brain can be place in small flying vehicles. If successful it will be able to identify certain flowers or be used in mechanical pollination.
If you have ever hung out with cows, then you know that they are brighter than they look. They like to keep to their schedules, get milked when they are full, go home at the end of the day and be fed on time. So it is a good thing that Lely's Astronaut A4 is there for them. Each cow wears a collar and the Milkobot determines which one steps in to feed, her schedule and proceeds to milk her, all without the assistance of a human. The A4 releases one if it is too soon to milk and alerts the farmer if one has not shown up in a while.
About 180 cows can be serviced daily. The Dutch company's service bot has a 3D camera to keep an eye on the bovine being serviced, can analyze both the cow's condition and the milk, and will sing her a tune when she finishes her meal. Okay, maybe not that last part. But we say this $210,000 milker seems pretty cool and if a farmer pipes in some soothing tunes that will make for some very happy cows.
If Jeremy Robbins had his way, telepresence robots would be operated by disabled military and police veterans. Using bots designed for military applications, the U.S. Navy Reserve commander gave Florida International University $20,000 of his own money two IHMC custom bots to develop them with audio, video and sensory capability.
Patrolbot will be designed for high-density public spaces and as surveillance in hot spots like nuclear facilities. The eventual goal here is to make them affordable and put those back into the workforce who would not necessarily have that chance. All we can say is that the idea sounds fine, but they had better be built solidly or they risk getting knocked over in the first riot they come across.
Tal Avitzur hangs out in Southern California scrap and salvage yards, happily recycling items he finds there into amazingly detailed artwork. These are not your basic robotic sculptures. For example Primo stands over a foot tall, is made with a sliding door mechanism, drill guide, refrigerator door handles and a blinking red LED to alert you to any impending takeover.
Check out his web page and if you like what you see, you can adopt one of his botty creations for a price between $650 and $1,800.
Take a fun bath with the Alex Mix and Squirt Robots. The three can be mixed and matched, then easily snapped together. Safe for ages as young as toddlers, we can think of some adults who would like them as well.
For older kids, the Edushape Magic Creations Playset comes with 20 foam pieces that stick to any smooth surface when wet.The kidlets may actually stay in there long enough to get clean.
Robosavvy is a company that is attempting to make HRIs more social. Their
SavvyBot is a software platform that, used in conjunction with a NAO, interacts with humans via search and social networking. The receptionbot addresses passers by and will friend the human via Facebook. It then offers a picture opportunity, analyzes Likes and makes comments about them, and perhaps dances to a fave tune. The software is available to those who are looking replace a human in such areas as reception and information.
Have an extra $16,000 sitting around? Then you can be the proud owner of Suitable Technogies' Beam Remote Presence Robot. The telepresence bot comes with software and a docking station for an 8-hour recharge. The included software allows full audio and video control from two cameras and is available on both PC and Mac. At a height of five feet and weighing 95 lbs, the 17" screen can perform all those videoconferencing business chores while you hang at home. We were thinking that the Woz could finally replace his Segway.
The Kickstart Kinetic Orthosis was is intended for use in those who have walking issues or spinal chord injuries. Consisting of a hip belt, upright supports and custom molded insoles, the device stores kinetic energy from the legs and uses it to propel the foot. Lightweight, no batteries or other attachments are needed. After a physician must recommends one, the patient gets a custom fit through Cadence Biomedical.
The Human Support Robot is part of Toyota's plan to provide more home assistance to the planet. The HSR fetches, cleans up items from the floor or counter and can even handle curtains. The telescoping bot has a range of 2.7 - 4.3 feet and a single arm with a range of 2.7. Still in the prototype stage, the company says that Japanese public health insurance should cover 90% of its cost.