Why is it so hard to squash a cockroach? "Insects, whether they creep or fly, live in a world of hard knocks. Who has not stepped on a cockroach, then raised her shoe to watch the creature get up and scoot under a door? Bees and wasps, for their part, face a never-ending obstacle course of leaves, stems, and petals—bumblebees crash their wings into obstacles as often as once a second. Now, researchers are learning how these creatures bend but don’t break."
Tufts University's Human-Robot Interaction Lab are trying to figure out how to develop mechanisms for robots to reject orders that it receives from humans, as long as the robots have a good enough excuse for doing so.
While Boston Dynamics will probably continue making the Skynet/Hellspawn robots for the foreseeable future, Disney has recently unveiled a wheeled robot that can climb vertical surfaces.
David Mindell is Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT. He has a new book: Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy. He has a one hour interview with Erik Davis on Expanding Mind podcast where he talks about deep sea submarine robots, drone airplanes (remote piloted aircraft) and google cars. Short CNET article: Google's vision of self-driving cars is wrong, says MIT professor.
"I Am Fundi" is a short documentary depicting the education system in Uganda and the measures that the organization, Fundibots, is taking to create change. Victor, a Fundi teacher with a challenging past, is changing the future of Uganda by preparing and instilling excitement for science in young children so that when they grow, they will be confident, supported, and prepared for contemporary practices and technological advances.via
Uber would like to buy your robotics department Today’s early-stage inquiry — so-called basic research, the Level 1 work, where scientists are still puzzling over fundamental questions — is financed almost exclusively by the federal government. It’s too far out, too speculative, to attract much investment; it isn’t clear if anyone will make any money on it. This wasn’t always the case.
"The tension, the promise, and the peril of the exoskeleton: It is great for some, but in the gusto for technological solutions, for stories that “inspire” and for devices that pull people into the “normal” world, people can lose sight of a future that could be much better. " Rose Eveleth at The Atlantic writes about exoskeletons and other forms of assistive technology for people with disabilities, the life-changing things they can do, and the possibility that they are blinding us to other ways to look at disability, accessibility, and infrastructure. This is part of Remaking the Bodies, a series on how science and technology are re-engineering the human body.
This Terrifying Robot Cheetah Can Now Jump Over Things The jump is accomplished by using a three-part algorithm, which interprets data from the robot's onboard LIDAR system. [more inside]
DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, sponsor of self-driving car competitions (one of the winning teams now works on Google's self driving car project) is now sponsoring robotics competitions.
Here are this year's contestants. [more inside]
Here are this year's contestants. [more inside]
From Sailors To Robots: A Revolution In Clearing Mines How primitive can “modern” mine warfare get? At least as recently as the 1990s, US sailors hunting mines spent a lot of time shooting dead sheep. [more inside]
Colorado shoulder-level double-amputee Les Baugh successfully controls two robot arms by thought alone, allowing him to put cups on shelves and perhaps buy a soda from a machine. BusinessInsider has more details. [more inside]
The (Golden) Wheel spider is a huntsman spider native to the Namib Desert of Southern Africa. Like most other huntsman spiders, Wheel spiders don't spin webs, but build burrows in the sand that are reinforced by their silk, in an attempt to hide from their primary predators, the parasitic Pompilid or Spider Wasp. Enter the gymnastic abilities (and source of the name) for the Wheel spider, where the spider will curl up and roll down slope up to 1 meter per second to escape. But Wheel spider isn't the only huntsman to utilize a unique method to flee down hill. There's also the Moroccan flic-flac spider, named for the flic-flac motion of some gymnastic maneuvers (German video; turn on captions and translation for some assistance; description in English). The movement of this spider have inspired some robot designs (more information). And there are other "wheeling" insects, because it's faster to roll than run downhill. If the documentary footage of the Golden Wheel spider is all too serious, here are some clips of the Wheel spider set to music: let the good times roll, and this spider rollin' they hatin'.
The Ecce Robot is an attempt to create a robot that not only mimics human movement and form, but also musculature and body construction. There are more videos at the project's site. [more inside]
Though we're not (yet) to the point of actually implementing any strict laws of robotics, the limits for how much workplace robots can accidentally harm their human co-workers are now being discussed by standards-setting agencies. It's easy enough to say robots and humans cannot work in the same space, but once robots start collaborating with people (aka: COBOTS), large companies look to standards for safety measures and risk assessment. That's where the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (German: Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung, IFA) come in, with BG/BGIA risk assessment recommendations according to machinery directive (36 page PDF), based on real-world tests with robots on human subjects.
Sparked is a short film by Cirque Du Soleil about a solitary inventor. And his lampshades.
A robot with a broken leg learns to walk again.
21st Century Robot: Intel Corp. debuts "Jimmy" an open-source 3d printed home robot to launch later this year.
The two-day Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) graduate showcase at NYU was a madhouse, with some 100 projects on view, ranging from groundbreaking innovations to timely trinkets. But the most talked about project by far was Peiqi Su's "Penis Wall" - an array of 81 robotic phalli that rise and fall in response to the stock market. Official Vimeo account for the project - Thesis presentation - in depth How-it-was-made production blog. (Slightly NSFW if your work doesn't like white, plastic, abstract dicks.)
War robots are now so real that "87 countries sat down at a United Nations-convened conference from May 13th to the 15th to discuss banning the things." A country on the forefront of development is Russia. They have announced that armed roaming robots would be standing guard over 5 ballistic missile bases, and there are plans for a new military robot laboratory. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said "We have to conduct battles without any contact so that our boys do not die, and for that it is necessary to use war robots." Defense experts say within 10 years nearly every country will have robotic weapons, mass produced and exported by countries like the US, China and Russia.
Flying Robot Rockstars (SLYT)
Gofor is a Drones-as-a-service concept. "Drones are summoned much like taxis in other popular service apps. Your desired task is either noted at the outset using presets, or customized using voice commands." [more inside]
Two commercials came out this week from KUKA starring their robot and their new spokesman. Timo Boll vs the Agilus robot, and the obligatory The Making Of video to go with it. Player reaction ranged from FAKE!!! to possible-but-highly-staged. It's at least more real than the Bruce Lee/Nokia video. [more inside]
"Armed with Science," is a new science-focused TV show developed by two of the Department of Defense's in-house research laboratories and the Pentagon. They have always developed some crazy tech work, like perception tests on their robots. If Skynet is going to be real, I think these are the agencies that will put the terminators online.
What Jobs Will The Robots Take? Eight Ways Robots Stole Our Jobs In 2013. Who is next? Soldiers? Rescue teams? Managers? Astronauts? [more inside]
Auto Correct — Has the self-driving car at last arrived? From The New Yorker, November 25, 2013.
Double is the ultimate tool for telecommuting. From anywhere in the world, you have a physical presence in the office and can speak to co-workers at anytime. Double is a remotely controlled, mobile teleconferencing system, enabling conversations to happen anywhere and anytime.
Box. A choreographed performance incorporating a live human, two industrial robots, and projection mapping onto moving surfaces. You've seen projection mapping onto static surfaces, typically buildings. This takes it several steps beyond… and the result is stunning and beautiful.
Mexican artist Pedro Reyes newest project "Disarm" consists of robotic musical instruments made out of dismantled firearms which were confiscated by the authorities. It is a follow-up to his previous piece "Imagine". [via]
No. 16 makes the quadruple backflip look easy (YouTube), but robotic gymnastics don't always go so well (YT). [more inside]
Throwing and Catching an Inverted Pendulum with Quadrocopters. From Robohub, a website about all things robotic.
The Hammer is a light-up dildo that's muscle controlled. Or a test your strength game for your vagina or anus. Kristen Stubbs, Ph.D. is a roboticist who runs The Toymaker Project, "a place to think about technological empowerment with respect to sexuality, gender and pleasure." Likely NSFW.
Today I am sharing a video of a woman with quadriplegia who has trained her brain to use a robotic arm to feed herself chocolate. Merry Christmas!
Can autonomous vehicles navigate the law? This year has been full of big news about the progress of self-driving cars. They are currently street legal in three states and Google says that on a given day, they have a dozen autonomous cars on the road. This August, they passed 300,000 driver-hours. In Spain this summer, Volvo drove a convoy of three cars through 200 kilometers of desert highway with just one driver and a police escort. Cadillac's newest models park themselves. The writing, one might think, is on the wall. But objects in the media may be farther off than they appear.
Korean robot prepares salad... very slowly. It also is (apparently) capable of loading a dishwasher, although there's no video of that.
Terminator Arm Dad. Does what it says on the tin. Single Link Live Leak (SLLL)?
You may already be familiar with PhDComics (Previously) and the PhDMovie (Previously), but PhDComics.tv has now become a pretty fantastic resource for both researchers and laymen. [more inside]
In 2005, the Discovery Channel aired Alien Worlds, a fictional documentary based on Wayne Douglas Barlowe's graphic novel, Expedition: Being an Account in Words and Artwork of the 2358 A.D. Voyage to Darwin IV." Depicting mankind's first robotic mission to an extrasolar planet that could support life, the show drew from NASA's Origins Program, the NASA/JPL PlanetQuest Mission, and ESA's Darwin Project. It was primarily presented through CGI, but included interviews from a variety of NASA scientists and other experts, including Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, John Craig Venter and Jack Horner. Oh, and George Lucas, too. Official site. Previously on MeFi. [more inside]
The Bionimetric Millisystems Lab at UC Berkeley has made a new discovery in cockroach stealth behavior, or rapid inversion. The acrobatic jumping maneuver retains 75% of running energy and is being ported to a robotic prototype, the Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod (DASH). That is all.
MIT is leading an NSF-funded project with researchers from University of Pennsylvania and Harvard that aims to enable anyone to "design, customize and print a specialized robot in a matter of hours." Constructed from "cyber-physical primitives," the robots (some early examples here) would be able to be made in bulk on demand and could help change the entire workflow of device and robot creation, from engineering to warehousing to assembly.
From blimps to bugs, an explosion in aerial drones is transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars. Predator drones, the Cessna-sized workhorses that have dominated unmanned flight since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, are by now a brand name, known and feared around the world. But far less known is the sheer size, variety and audaciousness of a rapidly expanding drone universe, along with the dilemmas that come with it.(via) [more inside]
Boston Dynamics is getting close to mastering quadrupedal motion with Big Dog and Cheetah (previously). And are working on bipedal motion with Petman (previously), but how about a robot that is able to leap (up to the top of) tall buildings in a single bound? Sand Flea! [more inside]