January 17, 2011

NASA Prepares for Final Discovery Voyage

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NASA has finally diagnosed the cause of Discovery's cracks and they are now being patched and reinforced. Program manager John Shannon claims that poor materials and faulty assembly were the cause, not a good thing when heading to the final frontier. The space shuttle and its botty cargo, Robonaut 2, may leave the planet Feb. 24 if all goes well.

Because Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' husband, Commander Mark Kelly, is scheduled for that flight, an alternative is being readied as a substitute. By the way, if you would like to leave a message for Kelly or brother Scott Kelly, who is now on the ISS, do so here.

Via NASA

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December 24, 2010

Pogo Jumping Bots on the Moon?

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Atsuo Takanishi of Waseda University in Tokyo and team have created a software simulation of their WABIAN-2R bipedal robot to study how it would fare should it go to the moon. The results of study that had the JAXA bot "pogo jumping" found that while it could leap as high as 1.5 meters, the stress on the astrobot's legs would make it fall over. So it's back to the drawing board to find a better compromise between speed and stability.

Via CBS

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December 23, 2010

OTD Eases Physical Therapy

Our bud Jamie Price of BaR2D2 fame has come up with a new device for encouraging physical therapy. His Occupational Therapy Device is a tabletop application that is meant to improve dexterity, hand/eye coordination and left/right brain interaction. A sort of advanced Simon, the user has special gloves and must touch whatever button is lit. Check out his project and instructions for making one.

(Thanks, Jamie)

Via Instructables

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December 22, 2010

RC Sub to Study Ross Ice Shelf

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Northern Illinois University and DOER Marine today plans to send its 28 ft. long submarine under the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica, a place too treacherous for humans. It was designed to check out conditions below where the ice is eroding because of warm water. The cigar-shaped sub flattens and expands once in the water and can shoot images as well and take measurements of the ice, water and sediment.

Because it runs on power from a generator, it could stay down there indefinitely but a fail-safe was built in so that it could be hauled up by cable, just in case. Their first test drive will occur in Lake Tahoe March 11.

Via NIU

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December 20, 2010

Curiosity Rover to Carry RAD to Screen for Life

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When NASA finally gets around to heading towards Mars in 2012, the Curiosity rover will have a Radiation Assessment Detector equipped to check out the atmosphere to see if it is safe for humans and other living things. It consists of a charged particle telescope with 3 detectors and a cesium iodide calorimeter. The RAD will also be able to better determine if there is any life on the planet.

Via NASA

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HAL Assists the Infirm


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ReWalk will soon be on the market and other companies seems to have the same idea. Japan's Cyberdyne has produced an exoskeleton device called the Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL, natch.) It anticipates the user's movements with sensors in a similar manner as ReWalk. HAL can be used to assist health and construction workers and firefighters, and is available for a rental fee of ~$1,600-1,800 per month.

Via AFP

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December 14, 2010

ReWalk Debuts on Glee

ReWalk is UC Berkeley's motorized robotic device that is controlled by motion sensors that feel the user's movements and translates them to motorized joints.The device goes outside clothing and consists of a harness, crutches and leg braces powered by a rechargeable battery.

Argo Medical Tech, who built the ReWalk and has been testing it for the last several years, will soon be offering it to the public for ~$100,000. We think that a recent cameo appearance on 'Glee' certainly made for great advertising. (Since when does a high school football coach make that kind of money?)

Via Argo Medical Technologies

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December 9, 2010

Discovery Launch Delay Until Feb. 2011

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Don't send a robotic Bon Voyage message just yet. Robonaut 2 has to wait to make his trip to the final frontier. NASA is delaying the 39th and last flight so that engineers can study and run tests on the cracks in Discovery's external tank. Because they did not make the December window, they are waiting for the next one to open in February.

Via NASA

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December 3, 2010

Rats Overcome Fear With Reasoning

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When University of Washington researcher Jeansok Kim wanted to determine how animals dealt with fear when seeking food, he trained rats to retrieve pellets. Once they had mastered that, Kim added a LEGO Mindstorms Robogator that would snap at the rat when he left his shelter. To make a long story study short, the rats eventually learned that they could retrieve pellets 30" from the bot and avoided ones that were only 10" away because that would put them in danger. Click here to see videos of the experiments, including one from the Robogator's perspective.

Via University of Washington

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November 30, 2010

BHA Mimics Elephant Trunk

The German company Festo took the design of an elephant's trunk and 3D printing to come up with an arm that is graceful and flexible. Intended for industrial bots, the Bionic Handling Assistant contains resistant sensors that can be held back before destroying any human close to it. The end of the arm has a 3-fingered gripper that wraps around an object, then collapses and traps it. Festo believes that this reduces the risk of injury that can occur in current service bot arms.

Via New Scientist

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