Marco Pavone is leading a team at the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford that are developing robotic hedgehogs to study the Martian moon Phobos. The half meter wide rolling bots will autonomously hop and tumble in 10 meter moves on the surface. Working with NASA and MIT, the 3 year mission includes a Phobos Surveyor that will act as mother ship for up to 6 of the hedge bots while orbiting around Mars and collect data from them that can be sent back to Earth. There is no official ok for the project but the participants are hoping it will occur in the next 20 years.
We are not sure what possessed the Health and Safety Laboratory in Derbyshire, UK to build Vomiting Larry but we suppose someone had to do it. The humanoid simulated vomiting system will help researchers to study the norovirus, one of the worst strains of its kind. And the faithful bot will help the Health Protection Angency determine how it is spread. They have already found that it literally has a reach of up to three meters.
More than a million people have been affected by the virus this season in the UK while the United States say it reaches 21 million annually. We pity the team member who had to clean up the mess when it comes to listing that on their resume.
MIT keeps cranking out those robots. This time they have one that can actually fold itself into almost any shape. The Milli-motein is the planet's smallest chain robot that operates under the assumption that a 3D shape can be formed by folding a long chain from subunits. The team does not yet have a perfect set of steps for the bot to follow, but because the experiment has so far proven that they can make an autonomously folding universal device, that certainly gives it merit.
Think of it as a kind of Swiss Army robot. Team member Ara Knaian is much better at describing this than we are.
Under the leadership of Ron Arkin, Georgia Tech has been borrowing from the habits of squirrels who seem to be masters at stashing food and keeping other ones from finding their caches. They taught deception to a robot that will give false clues to another one so that it will be unsuccessful when it goes hunting for the first. Future application may be in the military for storage of weapons or in health care with a bot having a calming effect in the face of disaster.
Last November, Liquid Robotics launched 4 Wave Gliders from San Francisco, CA. After a 9,000 mile trek, two arrived in Japan and two in Australia. One of them, Papa Mua, broke a Guinness World Record for the longest distance traveled by a robot. The project was designed to show how these water bots can gather data and travel at the same time.
A second purpose for the trek is to draw attention to a $50,000 research grant for the roboticist that can come up with the best way to utilize that knowledge. Head over to their site to see what the five finalists have to offer.
A team from the Australian National University is studying the courtship of fiddler crabs and found that a female will select her mate by the movement of the male's enlarged claw. So they set up a series Roboclaws attached to motors of differing sizes and movement speed to study the female crustacean. Because the crabs have very poor eyesight, the claws fooled the females.
The end result? Not only does size matter to the female, she also prefers the claws that move the fastest. Their experiments also give superlative insight into other aspects of the fiddler crabs' life, such as why a larger home makes for a happy bride and why larger crabs will often protect their smaller neighbors.
Germany based ETH Zurich is currently working on its second generations naro-tartaruga, a robotic sea turtle. They have chosen to use this as a model because its rigidity is simpler than a fish. The largeness of the body houses sensors and batteries used to make it autonomous. Its fin actuators work independently of each other and of course the turtle is waterproof. We don't know much about the science but we do know this robotic creature can certainly swim in a very kewl way.
Want to know what Tomotaka Takahashi has been up to for the past year? He has designed a humanoid bot that will be sent to the Kibo Experiment Module in the International Space Station this summer. He stands 13.4" tall and weighs about 2.2 lbs., and comes equipped with a camera and software. While hanging around with human astronauts, he will send back images and deliver Twitter and voice messages to Earth to astronaut Koichi Wakata.
Still awaiting a clever nickname (not to mention something more than a sketch,) the astrobot is also meant to relieve stress and combat the isolation that the those in space sometimes feel. A second model will be kept on our planet for demonstartion purposes.
The Ishikawa Oku Lab at the University of Tokyo has created the BFS-Auto book scanner. The bot is so fast that it can digitize 250 pages/minute by combining page flipping, 3D recognition of those already flipped with the usage of three cameras and high-accuracy restoration. Book Flipping Scanning can be used by libraries to preserve old tomes as well as saving those that have been damaged.
Disney was one of the first to use automatons, including Country Bears and Presidents of the United States. So, it is not surprising that they are becoming more advanced in their technology. One of their latest is a humanoid bot that can play catch, juggle and look disappointed when there is no one to play with. What started as a project with a Kinect morphed into the robot with an Asus Xtion Pro Live camera for tracking. They took it as far as getting him to turn his head when participating with a human. They also programmed the catchbot to react at a dropped ball. Future plans include supplying one to each Disney park location.
From the ISS, NASA Commander Sunita Williams tested a Lego robot located on Earth, specifically at the European Space Operations Center in Germany. She used a laptop with NASA's Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocol to manage the bot. They are hoping to develop this further as presently control on other planets, like the rover on Mars, must be in one particular part of the planet to be able to communicate and, of course, there is a time delay.
JAMES (Joint Action for Multimodal Embodied Social Systems) is a robotic bartender that not only serves drinks, he serves up jokes. At about a meter tall, he only has one working arm and is programmed to serve customers in order. We dug up his first demo that was done in November 2011 by his creators Manuel Giuliani and the Munich Research and Transfer Institute for Software-Intensive Systems.
This second video was made in May 2012. He seems to have improved but only in skills. (He still looks and sounds similar.) We are not sure if he can yet distinguish between the bottles he picks up or just grabs them in order. Either way, he is clearly a service bot in progress.
Check out PBS' Nova Science Now November 14, 10:00 pm ET to see "What Will the Future Be Like?", a study of robots, 3D machines, thought controlled video games and more. David Pogue hosts the encore video event and you will undoubtedly find both familiar and unfamiliar ideas created by scientists and engineers.
It seems that one of the unsung heroes of Sandy was Mercury, a wave glider from Liquid Robotic that was in the Atlantic, about a hundred miles east of Toms River, New Jersey. While the Frankenstorm did its worst, the intrepid service bot not only kept floating, it reported a 54.3 millabar drop in pressure. It continued to report the barometric pressure every ten minutes and is out there still.