Between the global economic downturn and stubborn unemployment, the last few years have not been kind to the workforce. Now a new menace looms. At just five feet tall and 86 pounds, the HRP-4 may be the office grunt of tomorrow. The humanoid robot, developed by Tokyo-based Kawada Industries and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Sciences and Technology, is programmed to deliver mail, pour coffee, and recognize its co-workers' faces. On Jan. 28, Kawada will begin selling it to research institutions and universities around the world for about $350,000...
Tag Archives | Robotics
Lost a limb, but dissatisfied with the normal prosthetic options? Recent University of Washington industrial design graduate Kaylene Kau built a functioning prosthetic tentacle. Powered by an internal motor with control buttons, it allows the disabled, or anyone fed up with being “too humanoid,” to live a more serpentine existence.
I always liked the Robot Wars organized by Mark Pauline’s Survival Research Laboratories in the ’80s and ’90s. I wasn’t the only one and eventually they graduated from cool underground happenings to a TV series (yes, I know the creators will claim that SRL was not the inspiration, but I ain’t buying it!). Now the United States military is gearing up for real life robot wars. The New York Times‘ tech expert John Markoff reports from Fort Benning, Georgia:
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War would be a lot safer, the Army says, if only more of it were fought by robots.
And while smart machines are already very much a part of modern warfare, the Army and its contractors are eager to add more. New robots — none of them particularly human-looking — are being designed to handle a broader range of tasks, from picking off snipers to serving as indefatigable night sentries.
The age of robots being used in everyday homes has come a step nearer with the development of a new humanoid. And once they've done the dishes, they can join you in bop round the living room. For the catchily named HRP-4C, dubbed Divabot, which has a realistic face and moveable features, can sing too. And yesterday she showed off her neatest dance steps at an exhibition in Tokyo.
There’s just not something right about this. Duncan Geere writes in Wired UK:
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Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology may have made a terrible, terrible mistake: They’ve taught robots how to deceive.
It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Military robots capable of deception could trick battlefield foes who aren’t expecting their adversaries to be as smart as a real soldier might be, for instance. But when machines rise up against humans and the robot apocalypse arrives, we’re all going to be wishing that Ronald Arkin and Alan Wagner had kept their ideas to themselves.
The pair detailed how they managed it in a paper published in the International Journal of Social Robotics. Two robots — one black and one red — were taught to play hide and seek. The black, hider, robot chose from three different hiding places, and the red, seeker, robot had to find him using clues left by knocked-over colored markers positioned along the paths to the hiding places.
Hard to believe that DARPA is feeling the pinch as Obama’s never-ending wars push our national debt to unimaginable levels, but apparently they need help. Report from Fast Company:
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Back in July the government identified robots as one of the R&D priorities for the 2012 budget (about a decade behind the rest of us). Now there’s a research funding round to aid small business robotic’s efforts, to build robot gear DARPA can’t manage.
The Office of Science and Technology Policy was behind July’s thinking that “Robotics is an important technology because of its potential to advance national needs such as homeland security, defense, medicine, healthcare, space exploration,” and a whole list of other purposes. The OSTP thinks it’s also a tech at “a tipping point in terms of its usefulness and versatility,” thanks to innovations in programming, hardware, and computer vision.
Now the White House has announced that five federal agencies have banded together to create a fund to spur “small business research.” Companies can apply for cash to aid work on “robot-assisted rehabilitation, robotics for drug discovery, and robots that can disarm explosive devices.” This last one is particularly revealing, given how much the U.S.
The robots of the future will have soft skin with as refined and sensitive a sense of touch as ours. Smell and taste are now the biggest hurtles in terms of replicating the human senses electronically — as of now, androids will be able to see, hear, and touch, and yet be unable to savor a juicy hamburger. Via Google, AFP reports:
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Biotech wizards have engineered electronic skin that can sense touch, in a major step towards next-generation robotics and prosthetic limbs.
The lab-tested material responds to almost the same pressures as human skin and with the same speed, they reported in the British journal Nature Materials.
The “e-skin” made by Javey’s team comprises a matrix of nanowires made of germanium and silicon rolled onto a sticky polyimide film.
The team then laid nano-scale transistors on top, followed by a flexible, pressure-sensitive rubber. The prototype, measuring 49 square centimetres (7.6 square inches), can detect pressure ranging from 0 to 15 kilopascals, comparable to the force used for such daily activities as typing on a keyboard or holding an object.
After a some rocky times with the red planet in the late 1990’s, NASA finally succeeded with the Mars Rover. This cute little fellow may be near the end of its life, but it has survived years past its original 90-day mission. Popsci reports:
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A stuck robotic rover may have overtaken NASA’s Viking probe as the longest-surviving mission on Mars — so long as it’s still alive. But its robotic twin Opportunity could also still grab the record next month if the Spirit rover has slipped into its final winter slumber.
The golf-cart-sized Mars Exploration Rovers have long since outlived their 90-day missions; they both celebrated their six-year anniversaries on the red planet in January. Rather than sigh over the voided warranties, NASA’s rover handlers have celebrated their hardware’s persistence on a rugged and alien world.
Time and tough conditions finally caught up to the rover twins more recently.
More than 100 university robotics labs around the world have created a giant robot expo online, including MIT, Cambridge, Carnegie-Mellon and Oxford.
It includes the University of Reading's robot, which uses a biological brain, and humanoid robots from Osaka University, which can interact with humans.
The University of Michigan contributed its OmniTread snake robots, which can crawl through small holes, and the University of Zurich's ECCEROBOT (funded by the EU) even has human-like cognition.
And the expo also features MIT's robotic flower gardens and robot technology embedded into lamps and clothing, plus Leonardo, a socially intelligent animatronic robot capable of near-human facial expression that learns from natural human interaction.