A team of Stanford researchers working with Liquid Robotics have developed a fleet of buoys and wave gliding bots off the coast of San Francisco that when combined become a WiFi network for tagged fish and other aquatic creatures. The Wave Glider is not only a fine idea for studying them, but its free Shark Net app for iPad/iPhone can help track northern California white sharks.
When a tagged fish comes within 1,000 feet of a receiver, the signal is recorded with a timestamp and GPS location. While the buoys are placed in spots where the sharks are likely to hang out, the gliders try to cover any other gaps in the system. Professor Barbara Block wants to expand the idea to the entire west coast to include tracking of other fish and whales, but in the mean time, get your app here.
Little by little, robotic chefs are taking over China and one of the latest is Chef Cui who specializes in noodle cutting. Designed by Cui Runquan, the chefbot is being mass produced with a reasonable price tag of $1,500. We call that a bargain since hiring a chef could cost $4,700 yearly. Runquan says that the upcoming generation aren't really into that task so with about 3,000 already sold, we expect that the robotic counterparts will pick up the slack. At least until those menacing yellow eyes turn red and they really start slicing.
Sandia National Laboratories has produced a robotic hand to assist in bomb disposal. Funded by DARPA, the Sandia Hand is remote-controlled. The hand can grip, move like its human counterpart and repair itself. Because it is modular, different types of fingers can easily be attached, yet it can continue to function without one of its fingers. The robohand has 12º of freedom and comes at a price of $10,000, well worth it when you think of the humans it can protect.
Brothers Geoffrey and Michael Howe build robots for the military and decided that there was a need for one that fights fires. The Thermite weighs 1,400 pounds, stands about 4 feet tall and moves on a track for now. Running on diesel, it has video and infrared cameras so it can be remotely operated.
Geoffrey calls it the "Swiss Army knife of robotic responses" since it can operate with various attachments, like a hydraulic arm for saving humans. After spending a couple of years testing the firebot, the twins have already sold a couple of them and we hope more adoptions will take place in the future.
Last Week CBS News put the spotlight on our beloved Willow Garage,\ with a story about Jake, one of their PR2s that they donates as a personal service bot. Henry Evans became a quadriplegic after suffering a stroke at the age of 40.
The report makes an obvious point that the disabled want to do things for themselves as opposed to having a human do it for them. Henry can program Jake to help him shave, scratch and perform other chores.
AndyVision is the pet project of Priva Narasimhan and a team from Carnegie Mellon University that may change the way retail business operates. Currently, humans do most of the stocking of shelves and often customers cannot find what they really want because of misplacement. The hoody-clad robot solves this dilemma by traveling down aisles, and combines video camera imaging with algorithms to find items. The data is then sent to a large planogram for customer usage.
AndyVision is still at the prototype stage but is part of Intel Science and Technology Center's Retail 2020 project that is partnered with the CMU Bookstore. Perhaps someday he and other robots can assist shoppers and do many of the mundane tasks like folding clothing and assisting with owners' manuals. And if you have ever had to work an overnighter in retail pre-holiday, you know this is a very good idea that could be made so much better.
We have seen plenty of eateries run by robotic cooks, waiters and other personnel, but this recently built $127 million one probably gets the distinction of either being the glitziest or the most disturbed. Robot Restaurant, located in Shinjuku, Tokyo, serves only basic lunch boxes but for $38.00 you get food, drink and a psychedelic hour-long show that includes fembots, real fems, a marching band and automated tanks, all surrounded by neon. Humans also run the entertainment from behind the scenes but we bet most of its patrons simply enjoy the festivities.
Last Friday, a robot was sent in to James Holmes' apartment by the bomb squad that placed a "water shot," a device that emits liquid and shock wave, near the main explosive device. When set off, this successfully deactivated it. FBI Lab experts determined that a trip wire would have been used to mix two liquids that would be set off when the door was open.
A robot with camera was used to check out the suspect's car and further study chemicals, aerial shells and other objects that could detonate or burn in the apartment before humans stepped in. More than 100 bomb technicians, chemists, ATF agents, local police and firefighters have been working on the case. Police retrieved personal items for some of the residents as they have not yet been allowed to return.
There seems to be a lot of highrise building in Toronto of late and sometimes panes of glass come loose and crash into the street. The Sobotka family devised a robot to handle inspections and go where only humans can tread for now, thus saving time and expense. SAM is a prototype at this point but can take photos on a motorized platform via an SLR camera. Control is with a WiFi connection and an iPad. Let's hope that their $200,000 seed money pays off and Canada recognizes SAM's value. If not, perhaps they can teach him to repair the glass.
Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have developed a two-armed droid that can work in service areas that may be too dangerous for humans, such as flu testing and biohazard handling. Mahoro's arms have 7 joints that gives it an edge when using tools and better fluidity of motions. It can be programmed with CAD software and easily adapts to many kinds of laboratory work. Displayed at the recent Interphex pharmaceutical trade show in Tokyo, AIST has put many to work in universities and drug companies.