A Swiss research team is attempting to prove Hamilton's rule that concerns the evolution of altruism. Each Alice bot has 2 wheels and 33 "genes" for an artificial nervous system. They were assigned a value for each of the genes and then survival of the fittest was demonstrated. The bots that couldn't gather food also could not pass on genes to the next generation.
They then gave the robots the ability to collaborate with others by sharing their food and those became altruistic and did so more often than hoarding. After testing 25 different combinations of the values, it seems that the transition kicked in as predicted by the rule. The study is still going on, although the findings are not definitive.
We first told you about the NSF GOVARS ("Glider Observations of Variability in the Ross Sea") study that sent out two Seagliders late last year and seems to have been successful. Gathered data about current, temperature and other info is slow to be analyzed because of the chilly conditions in the Ross Sea but considering this is the first time it has been documented, it seems worth the time and effort.
To better demonstrate the skills of the Swedish Medical Center's da Vinci robot, surgeon Jim Porter made a video of it making and flying a paper airplane. It was part of an effort from the Swedish Orthopedic Institute to promote the advanced technology that they use and included a knee replacement surgery with a live chat on the Net.
Graham Ryland and Professor Harry Cheng teamed up at UC Davis and came up with iMobot, a robot that has 4 degrees of freedom, 2 joints and 2 wheels. The module can run on its wheels, creep like an inchworm or lift its body and pan as a camera platform. Backed by a grant from the National Science Foundation, the pair formed the company Barobo and hopes to distribute its bot to those who are studying robotics but don't yet have hardware. The end of 2011 is the target date for marketing.
There is a new orthodontist in town and he is a robot. The SureSmile robot creates a 3D model of a patient's mouth via software and adjust braces according to a desired outcome. It uses heated Copper Ni-Ti metal and bends the wires and the body heat of the patient does the rest. The result is a great smile in 34% less time than normal braces.
Festo's new Smart Bird could practically pass for a seagull. Made of light material like carbon fiber and sensitive control electronics, the mass is about 0.4 kilograms (a third less weight than an iPad.) The wings move up and down and also twist at angles like real ones. The bird sends data back to its operator so that they can adjust for optimum flight.
A team from Purdue has turned a 59 lb. Fanuc arm into a robotic scrub nurse. The team has spent the past 5 years creating code and teaching it to use natural language and gestures so that it can assist doctors. So far, the bot can handle scalpels, retractors, scissors, hemostats and forceps by using a series of hand gestures. The robonurse should be available to hospitals in another five years.
He's out! The ISS crew finally released Robonaut 2 from his packing crate last week and attached him to a pedestal in the Destiny research module. They even let him tweet, "It feels great to be out of my SLEEPR (crate,) even if I can't stretch out just yet. I can't wait until I get to start doing some work!"
R2 will commence with some maintenance chores and the hope is that eventually he can do a bit of spacewalking, er, hovering.
In a step up from Popchilla, Kaspar (Kinetics Synchronization in Personal Assistance Robot) is used with kids in the UK that have autism. He talks, laughs when touched and cries "Ouch" when someone slaps at him. Parents report that their kids are more affectionate with humans after playing with the bot.
After a teasing call from President Obama, the team from the Space Shuttle plan to put Robonaut 2 work earlier than planned.
"I understand that you have a new crew member, this R2 robot. So I don't know whether you guys are putting R2 to work, but you've got a lot of attention. That helps inspire some young people when it comes to science and technology. Are you making him do chores up there? Washing the dishes or something or does he have more exciting jobs?"
After the pres is told that he is still in packing foam, he tells the crew that it's a shame and unpack the guy to help him stretch his legs (oops.) Commander Lindsey replies that he has been in there for about four months and every once in a while they hear some scratching noises. Truly, there seems to be a bit of the geek in Mr. Obama and the sense of humor in the ISS is a welcome relief to the state of the real world.