German solar company PV Kraftworker has put robotic arms to work to mount solar panels in the field. The arm has suction cups on the end and can therefore lift and position the panels with the aid of video cameras. Because it is mounted on a track vehicle it can work on any terrain.
Kraftwerkes says that the work that was done by 35 workers can now be done with only 3 workers in an eighth of the time for about half the cost. Future plans involve using robots to make electrical connections to panels that are glued to frames rather than screwed in.
Another German based company, Gehrlicher, also uses robots for the task as the video demonstrates. The obvious advantage here is that they can work in any kind of weather.
Can't get enough Gangnam? Then take a look at Virginia Tech's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory's (RoMeLa) CHARLI-2 that has the audacity of simulating the basic steps in its Autonomous Shipboard Humanoid. The bot is usually found at RoboCup soccer matches but we guess that the 4 1/2 ft. tall ASH just needed to take a break from the sport and kick up its heels dance.
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.
Instead of wearing your heart on your sleeve or investing in a mood ring, you can display your true emotions with Necomimi, a headband with cat ears that become animated when flex your brain waves. Designed by Tomonori Kagava, the appendages droop when you are relaxed and perk up when you concentrate or feel excited. We were a bit skeptical of the $99.95 ears until Jimmy Kimmel made Guillermo test them out. The headband works for 4 hours when supplied with 4x AAA batteries (not included.)
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.
It's almost boo time again so maybe it is time to start thinking about costumes for the special event. The Artsy Heartsy Retro Robot Costume has a polyester jumpsuit and headpiece, and a foam overlay. It will fit sizes 2T - 6X. There is also an adult-sized Retro Robot Costume with a red polyester shirt and pants with elastic waistband, silver, blue and yellow accents, and a white square opening in the front allows the human to peer out.
With the assistance of NVIDIA GPUs, the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex in the UK are trying to create the first autonomous honeybee. The $1.6 million Green Brain project is attempting to make up for the decline of the honey makers. The team is trying to build models of brain systems that govern the insect's vision and sense of smell. And because it is small, the bee brain can be place in small flying vehicles. If successful it will be able to identify certain flowers or be used in mechanical pollination.