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Video Friday: Robot Skiing, Cow Art by Drone, and 11 Years Roving on Mars

I don’t think I’m ever going to get tired of writing articles about how the Opportunity rover is still doing amazing and awesome science on the surface of Mars. Oppy has now been operational for 11 years, which works out to just under 4,000 Martian days. The rover’s warranty expired after 100. I could throw even more cool numbers at you, but it’d be better if I just shut up and let JPL do it.

That, and more, as Video Friday starts now.

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Care-O-bot 4 Is the Robot Servant We All Want but Probably Can't Afford

Mobile manipulators are the robots we want, because they’re the robots that have the most potential to do the things that we care about: working in our homes and businesses, making things better and faster and easier. Robots have a long way to go before better and faster and easier become a thing that consumers get to experience directly, but with each new and updated platform, we get a little closer. Today, that little bit closer is the new and improved Care-O-bot 4, from Fraunhofer IPA.

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Smaller Drones Aren't Major Threat to Aircraft: A Little Birdie Told Me So

Last December, a group of investors called the UAS America Fund petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to create a set of rules that would govern “micro unmanned aircraft.” The basic idea is that these microdrones—defined as being 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms) and under—pose much less of a hazard than many of the model aircraft now flying in the United States, which can weigh as much as 55 pounds (25 kilograms). So it makes no sense to regulate all “small unmanned aircraft systems,” as the FAA likes to call them, the same way, which might well be what the U.S. government has in store.

While the rules the investment group has drafted make for an interesting read, what I found particularly eye-opening was an attached report from Exponent, a failure-analysis consultancy. That report tries to quantify the threat such microdrones—a category that includes popular models like the DJI Phantom and 3DR Iriswould pose to full-scale aircraft using data the FAA has collected on collisions with birds.

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These Inflatable Pouch Motors Will Make Building Robots as Easy as Using Stickers

How easy is it to build a robot? Not very. How easy could it be to build a robot? Well, what if we try just sticking printable, inflatable actuators made of plastic onto origami (or anything else)? As Ryuma Niiyama and colleagues from the University of Tokyo and MIT have discovered, it really is that easy.

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Creadapt: How to Make a Robot That Cannot Be Stopped

It’s been a year and a half since we watched Jean-Baptiste Mouret’s hexapod teach it self how to walk again after losing a leg. Damage resilience is certainly critical to being able to remain mobile while exploring that scary and dangerous world outside of a laboratory, but adaptation can be taken even farther, and Mouret’s new robot is exploring exactly how far that is on six adaptable wheels.    

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Video Friday: Mars Helicopter, 100 Dancing Robots, and Putin's Combat Cyborg

In one of the wilder ideas we’ve heard for planetary exploration, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is proposing that we send a little robotic helicopter to Mars as an aerial scout for a rover on the ground. The copter would be completely self-contained, using a small solar panel to give it a few minutes of flight time every day, while simultaneously storing up enough energy to keep itself from freezing to death at night. This is more than just a concept, too: there’s video of the prototype flying in Martian atmospheric conditions which you can see after the break, because hey, it’s Video Friday.


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Flying, Walking Vampire Bat Robot Is Back

A few years ago, Ludovic Daler showed us a flying robot that he was working on that had the ability to “walk” by rotating its wings while on the ground. We love seeing designs like this that are completely, utterly out of the box, and Ludovic promised even more: 

We aim to make adaptive deployable wings... their shape could be adaptively modified to augment efficiency of forward flight, hover flight, and displacement on the ground.

With a little bit of inspiration from the common vampire bat (!), Ludovic has delivered with this updated robot that keeps its walking ability and now includes a foldable skeleton mechanism that lets it deploy and retract its wings.

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Robotbase's Personal Robot Promises Tons of Features, Impressive Hardware

As we expected, there were no major robot announcements at CES, because that’s not really what happens at CES. That’s not to say that there were no cool robots at CES, because there were. One of them was a personal robot Kickstarter project from New York City start-up Robotbase.

It caught our eye because it looks like it’s built from a TurtleBot foundation, which is a great way to start, but the rest of the robot looks really nice as well. Robotbase has ambitious plans for it, especially in terms of software. If it delivers on its promises, this could become a really compelling platform for consumers and developers—and we might even start believing that this whole personal robot thing is finally happening.

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ATLAS DRC Robot Is 75 Percent New, Completely Unplugged

We’ve always known that the ATLAS DRC humanoid robot was due for some serious upgrades before the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, because having a robot that’s tethered for power and safety is just not in the spirit of what the DRC is all about: moving towards robotic systems that can provide meaningful assistance during a real-world disaster scenario.

Back in November, we started hearing that DRC Track B teams were sending their ATLAS robots back to Google-owned Boston Dynamics for some tweaks, and today, DARPA has posted a video of the brand new ATLAS. And it really is almost entirely brand new.

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Video Friday: Humanoids Sing, Giant Eyeball Robot, and Kuka Ping Pong Revenge

CES 2015 has been over for a week, which means we’re only just starting to panic about the impending horror of CES 2016. We did see one or two cool robots at CES this year, although in our experience, it’s not a place where we’ve come to expect much in the way of groundbreaking robotics announcements. That said, we’re working up videos on the stuff that we did see, but for today, we’ve got a bunch of random CES robot videos to get you all caught up, plus the rest of the videos that we’ve been hanging onto while we’ve been up to our eyeballs in consumer electronics for the past few weeks.

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Automaton

IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
Contact us:  e.guizzo@ieee.org

Editor
Erico Guizzo
New York, N.Y.
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Berkeley, Calif.
 
Contributor
Jason Falconer
Canada
Contributor
Angelica Lim
Tokyo, Japan
 

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Robotics

A surgical robot goes underwater in Florida

UW_Surgical_Robot_Raven_Small.jpg Photo: David Clugston for IEEE Spectrum Last year, Blake Hannaford and Jacob Rosen of the University of Washingtonâ''s BioRobotics Lab wrote an article for Spectrum about their surgical robot, Raven, and a field test in the California rangelands, where a surgeon commanded the robot remotely. Early this year, Raven headed out to another extreme environment: the Aquarius underwater habitat off Key Largo, Florida. In the experiment, part of NASA's Extreme Environment Mission Operations (NEEMO) project, surgeons teleoperated the two-armed robot all the way from Seattle. Automaton spoke with Hannaford to get the details.

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