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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tokyo University's entrance exam has the reputation as being one of the most difficult around and Fujitsu has taken on the task of creating a bot hat can pass it. The company teamed up last year with Japan's National Institute of Informatics with plans to complete a Todai exam-taking AI by 2021. The researchers will have to translate human math problems in a way that robots can process. History, social studies, science and foreign language will also need to be mastered.
Fujitsu says it can now do about 60% of the math problems so it still has a ways to go. We think that maybe it should take on Watson when it starts feeling its oats.
Software developed by Roke Manor Research in the UK is patterned after the human amygdala, a part of the brain that processes memory and emotional reactions. Installed in a vehicle, STARTLE detects threats, such as potholes, and responds by avoiding them.
The technology is also being tested in robot health monitoring and reacts to temperature or battery power changes. While still in the early stages, this is surely one step closer to making robots more human-like.
You can be part of a new robot project created by Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology if you own a Kinect. Alper Ayedemir and team are using them to create 3D models that will help teach robots knowledge of their surroundings. Kinect@Home utilizes the WebGL plug in to make recordings and add to the data base. Think of it as less playing with your Xbox and more of a contribution to the eventual robot takeover.
We never like to think that a doctor would freak before an operation, especially during childbirth. But for those practicing ob-gyn docs in the UK who have not yet performed caesarean sections comes Desperate Debra. This pregnancy simulator puts one in that very situation so that when the emergency comes, practice will make perfect. Pretty freaky...
Last year, Harvard researchers developed silicone-based robots inspired by sea creatures like squid and octopi. Now, there's a new twist. It seems that they can now either disguise themselves or glow in the dark. Created with 3D printers, colors can be injected into them. Needless to say, the first application can be quite handy for military use, while the second can be used as a visual marker. Fortunately, they are still in experimental stage so we will not get too paranoid. The team is hoping to eventually make them autonomous.