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.
The Georgia Institute of Technology recently received a $900,000 endowment from the Office of Naval Research to develop a problem-solving robot. They plan to create a MacGyver-like bot that can solve problems and work with available materials in the area, i.e. using boxes to climb. Team leader Professor Mike Stilman says that they are attempting to understand "basic cognitive processes that allow humans to take advantage of arbitrary objects in their environments as tools."
Algorithms will be used to help develop the software that will be placed in Stillman's Golem Krang humanoid robot that will eventually be used in disaster areas or other dangerous places humans should not go.
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.
A declassified document was recently found in the National Archives that featured a VTOK aircraft that was being built for the Canadian government in 1952 by Avro Aircraft until they found it too expensive. In 1955, the U.S. Army and Air Force decided to pick up the tab on the vehicle that had a wing span of 18 ft., a height of 4 ft. 10-inches and a weight of 4,620 lbs.. The ultimate goal was to build a hovercraft capable of reaching a speed of Mach 4 (2,880 mph) and a height of 100,000 feet (19 miles.)
Needless to say, the project was scrapped in 1961 when a model of the VZ-9AV Avrocar with turbojet engines uncontrollably rolled when tested above 3 feet and only hit a speed of 35 mph. The vehicle is now in the USAF's National Museum where all can lament its demise or appreciate it as a fine example of military intelligence during the Cold War.
If you have ever hung out with cows, then you know that they are brighter than they look. They like to keep to their schedules, get milked when they are full, go home at the end of the day and be fed on time. So it is a good thing that Lely's Astronaut A4 is there for them. Each cow wears a collar and the Milkobot determines which one steps in to feed, her schedule and proceeds to milk her, all without the assistance of a human. The A4 releases one if it is too soon to milk and alerts the farmer if one has not shown up in a while.
About 180 cows can be serviced daily. The Dutch company's service bot has a 3D camera to keep an eye on the bovine being serviced, can analyze both the cow's condition and the milk, and will sing her a tune when she finishes her meal. Okay, maybe not that last part. But we say this $210,000 milker seems pretty cool and if a farmer pipes in some soothing tunes that will make for some very happy cows.
Robosavvy is a company that is attempting to make HRIs more social. Their
SavvyBot is a software platform that, used in conjunction with a NAO, interacts with humans via search and social networking. The receptionbot addresses passers by and will friend the human via Facebook. It then offers a picture opportunity, analyzes Likes and makes comments about them, and perhaps dances to a fave tune. The software is available to those who are looking replace a human in such areas as reception and information.
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.
The Human Support Robot is part of Toyota's plan to provide more home assistance to the planet. The HSR fetches, cleans up items from the floor or counter and can even handle curtains. The telescoping bot has a range of 2.7 - 4.3 feet and a single arm with a range of 2.7. Still in the prototype stage, the company says that Japanese public health insurance should cover 90% of its cost.
Holiday commercials get earlier every year. Just last week we saw Elmo popping up on TV ads. This year they are re-introducing "Let's Rock! Elmo", the version that sings six different songs and comes with drums, tambourine and microphone. We suppose that toddlers continue to fall for the red Muppet, unlike parents who are probably sick of hearing him giggle endlessly.
We gave up eating tuna decades ago because dolphins were also getting caught in the nets. The Department of Home Security came up with their own fish that you cannot eat and should be smart enough to avoid getting trapped. The BIOSwimmer can be used to inspect interiors of ships and exteriors of harbors. Check out the first few seconds of the video to catch the tunabot in action. This was made a couple of years ago so it must be really impressive by now.