September 4, 2009

RIBA Bear, Nursing Assistant

RIBA (Robot for Interactive Body Assistance) was created by Japan's RIKEN and Tokai Rubber as a nursing assistant. Weighing about 400 lbs., he can pick up patients who weigh as much as 135 lbs. and has a soft skin made of urethane foam for comfort. An upgraded version of RI-MAN that could only pick up 40 lbs., the robobear can process data 15 times faster than its predecessor. Look for one in the next five years in a hospital near you.

Via RIKEN (Japanese)

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August 31, 2009

MIT Creates Robo-Fish

MIT engineers Kamal Youcef-Toumi and Pablo Valdivia Y Alvarado have created robotic fish to be used for monitoring pollution, pipelines and sunken ships. Each is less than 12", are autonomous and made with less then 10 parts. The polymer casing is flexible and makes them water resistant and low cost. The fish move with the help of a motor that starts a wave-like motion to push them forward. MIT has plans to create robotics manta rays and salamanders in the future, undoubtedly to keep their robofish company.


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August 28, 2009

Robots Assist Autistic Children


When Nilanjan Sarkar's nephew was diagnosed with autism, he took what he had learned about robotics and physiological measurement (skin response, temperature, muscle response) and decided to apply it to kids with ASD. Teaming with Wendy Stone, they developed a robot that was not only sensitive to the kids' emotional state, but could be responsive to their needs. Working from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, they found that they became more positive when the computer was responsive. We call that one small step and a huge leap.

Via Vanderbilt University

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August 27, 2009

Robots Learn to Lie


We are not exactly sure why scientists want future robots to be more human, but every time we turn around we find someone who is doing just that. Engineers Sara Mitri and Dario Floreano, along with evolutionary biologist Laurent Keller programmed robots to find a "food source" ring located at one end of an arena. The other side had a ring that was "poisoned." Not only were the robots awarded points based on how much time they spent near either ring, they were taught to communicate with each other and lie to them about the position of the "good" food, because there was only so much room for them to feed.

This is quite an extensive study, and definitely worth a read if you are into the study of foraging and natural selection, but hey, robots don't eat, shouldn't lie, and should perhaps spend more time being buddies than adversaries.

Via Science Blogs

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UWE Professor Walking With Robot Fellowship


We often comment on how robots will take over the world when they become too powerful, but we make them in jest. We know that robots are machines run like computers on GIGO (garbage in, garbage out.) So we found it more than amusing when we heard that Alan Winfield of the University of the West of England was given a fellowship to further his research on his Walking with Robots project that teaches kids not to be afraid of them by building their own.

Stay with us here. Professor Winfield claims,

"Some fictional views of the future paint a very bleak picture of what could happen with intelligent robots, but equally robots could change the world for the better. The point is that we have a choice. The future is too important to be allowed to just happen - instead we and our children must own it."

How about we start out by giving our kids credit to know that a fairy tale is just that?

Via Walking With Robots

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August 13, 2009

Cornell's Nova Wins AUVSI Competition


Cornell has won this year's AUVSI Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition. Nova went through the entire course autonomously by going through the validation gate, following pipes, hitting a buoy, going under a wire, firing torpedoes, and surfacing with a carried briefcase in the recovery zone. We are exhausted just listening to the description. The 12th annual competition winners are already envisioning their entry for 2010.


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July 28, 2009

Robots to Be Intrumental On Mars


Peter Wordon, NASA Ames Research Center Director, said in a recent article of H+ magazine that that robots will play a key factor on Mars in the future. They will be necessary for both converting carbon dioxide to oxygen and surveying underground life forms.

"If we really want to settle Mars, and we don't want to have to carry millions of tons of equipment with us to duplicate the way we live on Earth, these technologies will be key."

We think Director Worden has some lofty plans and since water and carbon have already been discovered there, perhaps there really would be a Martian or two waiting to greet us by the time humans get there.

Via H+ Magazine

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July 27, 2009

Robots Invade the Great American Pastime


Professor Masatoshi Ishikawa, from the University of Tokyo, has managed to come up with a couple of robotic baseball players. The Pitcher is a 3-fingered hand that can throw a foam ball 90% of the time in the strike zone at 25 mph. (We guess the other 10% is to keep things interesting.) The Batter has a sensor to detect strikes and balls, lets the balls go by, and hits 100% when it does swing.

The professor is working on getting the batter to hit in all parts of the field and increasing the pitching speed to 93 mph. While this is an interesting idea in the ability to make robots perform particular actions, we think the only ones who would watch a game with an entire robot team would be ASIMO and Wakamaru.


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July 22, 2009

Can Material Beliefs Bots Coexist With Humans?


The folks at Material Beliefs have a whole 'nother way of looking at domestic robots. Instead of looking like us, they resemble furniture and household accessories with the end result of co-existing with humans, albeit a bit sadistically. The team has come up with a mousetrap coffee table robot, a UV fly killer parasite, a fly paper robotic clock, a fly stealing robot and a Lampshade Robot.

When flying insects become attracted to the light, they fly into the holes, eventually croak and fall into the lower fuel cell. They then generate power for the LEDs which are activated when the house lights get turned off.

Via Material Beliefs

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July 14, 2009

WatCleaner Rids Water of Garbage, Oil


The IDC, Japan's International Design Competition, has bestowed an excellence award on the WatCleaner, a device that detects impurities in the water then disposes of them. The prototype will have enough sense to avoid living things and simply concentrate on oil or other forms of garbage. Made of plastic and aluminum, each will only be about 500 x 300 x 200 mm, and although no mention is made of how the cleaning bot will be powered, maybe it can run on the waste it absorbs.


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