In an experiment that opens a new chapter in human-machine interaction, a French research team has demonstrated how a robot can control both its own arm and a person’s arm to manipulate objects in a collaborative manner.
The robot controls the human limb by sending small electrical currents to electrodes taped to the person's forearm and biceps, which allows it to command the elbow and hand to move. In the experiment, the person holds a ball, and the robot a hoop; the robot, a small humanoid, has to coordinate the movement of both arms to successfully drop the ball through the hoop.
I'll bet you didn't know that DARPA was even interested in a robotic ostrich, did you? I sure as heck didn't. But I suppose it shouldn't be that surprising, since DARPA seems to want robotic versions of just about anything that's capable of extreme levels of performance, and an ostrich apparently fits the, uh, bill.
The above image is a rendering of the eventual form of a robot called FastRunner, a project led by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), in Pensacola. MIT's Robot Locomotion Group is a partner in the project. FastRunner uses a novel* leg design that should allow it to efficiently sprint at speeds of over 30 kilometers per hour while stabilizing itself and only using one actuator per leg. It'll also be able to run over moderately rough terrain, albeit at 15 km/h, which is still probably going to give even a talented human a run for their money. To put the speed of this robot in perspective, a human can sprint at about 40 km/h over short, level distances, while an actual ostrich can hit almost 100 km/h, with sustained speeds in the 70s.
So far, FastRunner consists of legs and body in simulation, plus one full-scale test leg. When completed, the robot will weigh about 30 kilograms, stand 1.4 meters high, and offer fast, efficient, and very robust motion for whatever potentially sinister applications DARPA can dream up:
Generally, I approach robots (and everything else) with gratuitous "i"s appended to their names with no small amount of skepticism, but UCSD's robotics lab has somehow managed to create a whole lineage of "i" robots that can do some totally unique stuff. We've written about them before, but this latest version of iFling has some substantial quality of life improvements when it comes to doing what it does best: picking up ping-pong balls and chucking them at things:
The International Micro Aerial Vehicle Conference/Competition took place back in September, and unfortunately, we couldn't make it because we weren't sure how to pronounce the name of the place in which it was being held: 't Harde, in the Netherlands.
While IMAV had plenty of papers and talks and stuff, the most exciting bits were the indoor and outdoor MAV competitions. Inside, little autonomous flying robots had to identify and collect objects from within a structure, while outside, teams of MAVs had to cooperate to locate and observe groups of people, drop objects in specific locations, and even pop balloons. For both competitions, points were awarded for completing more difficult and complicated tasks and for increased autonomy.
You remember that crazy little hip-hoppin' robot that came out of a partnership between Boston Dynamics and Sandia National Labs? Sure you do! And if you don't, this video tells you pretty much all you need to know:
We post a lot about ROS (Robot Operating System) around here, and the reason that we do is because a lot of the cooleststuff that's happening in the robotics world right now has been made possible in one form or another by the open sourceitude of ROS. This year, ROS is celebrating its fourth anniversary, so there's gonna be a HUGE PARTY in May of 2012 right after the IEEE Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Oh, did I say party? I meant conference. Yeah, conference.
Anyway, ROSCon (see? conference!) will be a great place to learn from the best, and if you're one of those best, you've got until December 4th to submit a presentation proposal.
UPDATED: November 8, 2011, 9:15 a.m. Added video and more photos. November 10, 2011, 9:42 a.m. Updated video.
You're looking at Honda's brand new ASIMOrobot, which was just unveiled today in Japan. While the new ASIMO's appearance is similar to the version of ASIMO that we've come to know and love, there are some key differences inside that promise to make this generation more autonomous and capable than ever.
Below we give you all the details, with a bunch of new pics to match. But first, here's a video of ASIMO showing off some of its new skills:
It turns out that studying how to make robots grasp objects with their hands is helping researchers figure out how to make robots balance on their feet.
Christian Ott and his team at the German Aerospace Center's Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics have discovered a way to keep bipedal robots from falling over by using principles from robot grasping.
Rescue robots don't always have to be big and burly and complicated. Usually, if you put something big and burly and complicated in an environment with lots of water and dust, all the big and burly complicated bits get decidedly less complicated by virtue of ceasing to function. You can seal up individual parts (like wheels or tracks) as best you can, but sealing up the entire robot offers even more durability. The SCV (Slug Crawler Vehicle) from the Chiba Institute of Technology in Japan relies on a flexible, waterproof "skin" to protect it from the elements while still allowing it to get around pretty well:
Healthcare and elder care is a big concern in Japan, whose population is aging more rapidly than their current human-centric infrastructure is prepared to cope with. Companies like Toyota are hoping that robots will be able to pick up a little bit of the slack, and this week they've introduced four new robotic systems designed to help keep people healthy and independent as long as possible.
The first couple systems are designed to provide single-leg walking assistance to people who have balance issues, or even people suffering from complete paralysis in one leg. The robotic structure (it's a lot like Cyberdyne's exoskeleton) is capable of supporting the entirety of your weight on one leg, and it will swing your leg forward for you as you walk. If you can hold yourself up, the second system will provide you with visual feedback to help you get your balance back and start walking on your own.
If that's not exciting enough for you, the third system turns balance training into a game. You can play virtual games of tennis, football, or basketball, and you'll be challenged to maintain your balance while controlling your character on the screen:
The final system is more for caretakers than patients; it's a robot that helps someone transfer someone else from (say) a bed to (say) a toilet. And, well, there's a demo of that, too:
As you can see, all of these prototypes are currently operational, and Toyota is expecting commercialization to occur sometime in 2013.