Planetary Resources has great plans to mine asteroids for both precious metals and water and we are not surprised that filmmaker James Cameron is getting involved. The group of celestial miners include engineers, former NASA astronauts and other techies. They plan to send unmanned spacecrafts with telescopes to start. Smaller ones can be dragged closer to earth and robot miners will be dispatched to the larger ones.
While this will undoubtedly be a pricey project, Planetary plans to make some of that telescope observation time accessible to the little people. Another plus is helping to save Earth's environment and if we go in search of asteroids, there should be a lot less odds of them damaging us. The first phase involves sending an Arkyd Series 100 Leo space telescope up within the next two years for observation. Mining may be reachable within the next decade.
There is almost nothing scarier than having someone come up to you and you have to literally talk to his/her hand. Japan's Keio University created this robotic ring that try to imitate eye and mouth movements. Electromagnetic motors control them and the team wants them to eventually work autonomously. Señor Wences would be proud.
MIT researchers have created a robotic duplication system that works with "smart sand." These robot pebbles have simple processors and can communicate with others. After determining the original shape they can then replicate it in different sizes. Think of it as self-aware Legos and hope that their communication is limited to only building, not a robotic takeover.
Tek RMD has developed a device for those who cannot walk on their own. The Tek carries an individual around upright or in a sitting position. It can be called via remote and the user can strap him/herself in. A joystick is then used for navigation. It will go for about 3 days before needing a charge. Yusuf Akturkoglu, who was paralyzed after a fall 5 years ago, uses the Tek and it made him mobile again. Available in 5 sizes, the Turkish company custom makes them at a cost of ~$15,000.
NASA's Mars Rover is en route to the planet and since it hasn't much to do, it has taken up Tweeting. Beginning last November, Curiosity has been sending out a mixture of silliness and relevant facts about itself and the program. Visit its Twitter page if you would like to ask any questions or simply hang out with it as 352 million miles means a lot of spare time.
We previously told you about Cornell's
self-replicating robot and now a team headed by Hod Lipson created one that becomes self-aware and teaches itself to move forward. At one point it becomes agitated enough to unplug itself. We cannot begin to fathom all the technology that has gone into this process but if that self-awareness continues, we should all be very, very afraid...
Stefano Marras and Maurizio Porfiri of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University created a robotic fish to study the dynamics of fish schooling. Although the robofish was twice the size of a real Golden shiner, it nonetheless mimicked its movements.
Their work was published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface Feb. 22. They found that the advantages to a new leader were making it easier to access mates while avoiding predators. They also found that the technology could increase competition for mates and food, and perhaps spread disease more often.
With inspiration from actual pop-up storybooks, some Harvard scientists can almost literally build a hive of robotic bees. The Mobees (Monolithic Bees) can be mass produced from sheets of carbon fiber, plastic film, titanium brass and ceramic and laser cut into a sheet of 18 layers with flexible hinges. They can then be "popped up" into 3D, 2.4mm tall bots. Just like their living counterparts, they are autonomous and can interact as a colony. Because they can be mass produced quickly, do not be surprised if someday you find them in a neighborhood or war near you.
Avatar has finally arrived realtime. Japanese researchers came up with a combination visor/gloves that puts the user into a robot. Telesar V relays audio and video via sensors and the glove delivers heat or texture through semiconductors. Its body has 7º of freedom, the head 8º and the arms 7º of movement. Professor Susumu Tachi and team from Keio University plan to use the system for post-disaster purposes.
A team from Boston University have been working on flexible origami robots, made of paper and silicone rubber. Powered by air, they can turn, bend, grab and lift things 100 times their weight. The video shows an early application and they are moving forward with others. As is often the case when a new robotic form appears, Darpa has its hand in things and would love to develop it for weaponry or spying. The team is thinking that they could also work on miniaturizing their creations, which could be beneficial in science and medicine.