The Nagoya Institute of Technology's Sano Lab in Japan has developed a pair of robotic legs that are actually propelled by their own weight. The gait is more normal than most and no external control or motors are needed. Made of aluminum, they were adjusted to the same thigh and leg lengths as a human and the same weight. They work in the same manner of "falling" in that they just need a small push and downwards slope.
When tested last year, the legs went non-stop for 13 hours. Their hope is to create a commercial version in a year or two for testing sports equipment or assisting those who have trouble walking but we still want to know, what happens when it needs to go uphill?
Canada's Carleton University is working on Kapvik, a remote controlled micro-rover that can assist the more expensive Spirit Rover. So the next time one gets mired down in Mars' mud, the 6-wheeler can come to the rescue and act as a scout the rest of the time. The demo video is a nice touch to see the 30kg prototype in action on this planet, even with the controller's tacky sandals in the picture.
Now even water robots are self-sufficient. Liquid Robotics' Wave Glider uses the ocean's wave energy to move along so it needs no batteries and or waste the planet's natural resources. Former astronaut and Google employee Ed Lu, chief of innovative applications, says that onboard sensors monitor salinity, plankton activity, pollution or water-based catastrophes like oil spills. It moves at only one and a half knots but can also run on solar power and theoretically can go for years without a break, unless an evil sea creature wants it for dinner.
The IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems takes place in San Francisco from September 25th - 30th. Tickets are still being sold for the 50th anniversary event that will feature robots from all over the planet and includes workshops, tours, and forums. Look for exhibits from Willow Garage, DARPA, iCub and many other robotics companies. Registration for the IROS includes almost everything, from the conference attendance to receptions to the special events.
Robonaut 2 has joined the list of those who are really into Twitter. His first tweet from the ISS, "Those electrons feel GOOD! One small step for man, one giant leap for tinman kind."
He has been answering questions and sending birthday well wishes to his followers. Unfortunately, he is still restricted to his torso although NASA plans to add either a leg or rover in case they wish to expand his chores on Mars or the Moon. You can keep up with R2's comments on his account (@astrorobonaut) that already has about 40,000 followers.
Cornell teamed up two Chatbots to talk to each other, just to see what they would come up with. In an effort to with this year's Loebner Prize Competition in Artificial Intelligence (and $100,000.00,) the conversation was fairly inane and mentioned God, being a robot and/or a unicorn. Yeah, we just had to share the often biting but hilarious discussion.
Want to save a cool $115,000 on a great robot? Willow Garage is offering one-armed PR2 SEs for a mere $285,000.00 if you promise to contribute to their ROS community. A Microsoft Kinect motion sensor is included in the deal. Rather than thinking of the bot as half capable, think of 50% as being halfway there. Besides, you can buy another arm later, even if your one armed bandit bot can manage just the way it is.
After the devastating catastrophe in Japan, Daiwa House donated two of its Paros to a previously abandoned retirement home in Suisyoen. Because real animal therapy is not always possible, residents can hold these substitutes and somehow find them comforting. While the sealbots would normally cost about $155 a month to lease, the generous company left Love and Peace for a 2 year stint. Our kudos to Daiwa!
See the Khepera quadropods. See them and their pod leader form on their own to make a landing pad for a quadrotor. They do this after being programmed with algorithms from Ted Macdonald and a team from Georgia Robotics and Intelligent Systems Lab. You know that the military is going to want a piece of that to build their own robot army.
The Harbin Institute of Technology and the Natural Science Foundation of China have developed a new and improved microbot that mirrors water striders. This one is faster, cheaper and more agile than previous generations and may someday be used for spying or inspections. About the size of a quarter, the diminutive bot has ten water-walking superhydrophobic wire legs and two movable, oval legs that are powered by two tiny DC motors. It can walk, turn and stand motionless on surfaces.