Automaton iconAutomaton

Flying Dragon Robot Transforms Itself to Squeeze Through Gaps

Flying Dragon Robot Transforms Itself to Squeeze Through Gaps

There’s been a lot of recent focus on applications for aerial robots, and one of the areas with the most potential is indoors. The thing about indoors is that by definition you have to go through doors to get there, and once you’re inside, there are all kinds of things that are horribly dangerous to aerial robots, like more doors, walls, windows, people, furniture, hanging plants, lampshades, and other aerial robots, inevitably followed by still more doors.

One solution is to make your robots super small, so that they can fit through small openings without running into something fragile and expensive, but then you’re stuck with small robots that can’t do a whole heck of a lot. Another solution is to put your robots in protective cages, but then you’re stuck with robots that can’t as easily interact with their environment, even if they want to. Ideally, you’d want a robot that doesn’t need that level of protection, that’s somehow large and powerful but also small and nimble at the same time.

At JSK Lab at the University of Tokyo, roboticists have developed a robot called DRAGON, which (obviously) stands for for “Dual-rotor embedded multilink Robot with the Ability of multi-deGree-of-freedom aerial transformatiON.” It’s a modular flying robot powered by ducted fans that can transform literally on the fly, from a square to a snake to anything in between, allowing it to stretch out to pass through small holes and then make whatever other shape you want once it’s on the other side.

Read More
Festo's BionicFinWave robot fish

Video Friday: Kuka's Home Robot, Nao Upgrade, and Bionic Cuttlefish

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

RoboCup 2018 – June 18-22, 2018 – Montreal, Canada
RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii
MARSS 2018 – July 4-8, 2018 – Nagoya, Japan
AIM 2018 – July 9-12, 2018 – Auckland, New Zealand
ICARM 2018 – July 18-20, 2018 – Singapore
ICMA 2018 – August 5-8, 2018 – Changchun, China
SSRR 2018 – August 6-8, 2018 – Philadelphia, Pa., USA
ISR 2018 – August 24-27, 2018 – Shenyang, China
BioRob 2018 – August 26-29, 2018 – University of Twente, Netherlands
RO-MAN 2018 – August 27-30, 2018 – Nanjing, China

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.


Read More
Safe and reliable swarming drone tech could be making its way into consumer drones

Verity Studios Raises $18M for Safe Swarming Drone Displays

Verity Studios, which took precision drone swarm technology from ETH Zurich and turned it into a spectacular live event display system, has announced a round of Series A funding totaling US $18 million from Fontinalis Partners, Airbus Ventures, Sony Innovation Fund, and Kitty Hawk. This is a lot of money for a company that most people may not know exists even if they view a Verity-powered  drone show firsthand, but that’s part of what makes Verity special: Everything they do is reliable, seamless, and safe, leading to experiences that have a truly mesmerizing effect.

Read More
Curiosity Mars rover

Video Friday: Curiosity Rover, Giant Crab Robot, and Drone Umbrella

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

RoboCup 2018 – June 18-22, 2018 – Montreal, Canada
RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii
MARSS 2018 – July 4-8, 2018 – Nagoya, Japan
AIM 2018 – July 9-12, 2018 – Auckland, New Zealand
ICARM 2018 – July 18-20, 2018 – Singapore
ICMA 2018 – August 5-8, 2018 – Changchun, China
SSRR 2018 – August 6-8, 2018 – Philadelphia, Pa., USA
ISR 2018 – August 24-27, 2018 – Shenyang, China
BioRob 2018 – August 26-29, 2018 – University of Twente, Netherlands
RO-MAN 2018 – August 27-30, 2018 – Nanjing, China

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.


Read More
A robot with the appearance of a Christian Catholic saint can pray together with users and cite parts of the Bible and stories of the life of saints.

Can a Robot Be Divine?

Robots appear to be in the middle of a gradual but persistent transition from automated tools that perform specific tasks to artificially intelligent entities that we interact with socially and emotionally. It’s not at all clear where this is going to end up—people toss around the idea of robot companionship and even robot love with some frequency, for example. What hasn’t been explored nearly as much is the idea of robots in a religious context. We’ve seen a few examples of robots assisting in religious tasks, but what if robots could take things a step farther, and become sacred objects, embodying divinity within a robot itself?

At the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human Robot Interaction (HRI) in March, Gabriele Trovato from Waseda University in Japan (with colleagues from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú) presented a paper taking a look at whether divine robots might be possible, and why it could be useful to develop such robots in the first place.

Read More
HuggieBot

The Importance of Teaching Robots to Hug

Hugs make us feel warm and safe and comforted and loved. They’re pretty great, if you’re into that sort of thing. If we need a hug and another human isn’t available, we can sometimes get a little bit of satisfaction from hugging inanimate objects like stuffed animals, but it seems like robots (that can hypothetically hug us back) might be able to be somewhat more fulfilling. While we’ve seen robots that are actively huggable before, and even a few that can hug you back, it’s not clear exactly how a robot hug compares to a human hug, and whether hugging a robot can confer any of the benefits that we get from hugging people.

At the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human Robot Interaction (HRI) earlier this year, Alexis E. Block and Katherine J. Kuchenbecker from the Haptic Intelligence Department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany, presented a paper on “Emotionally Supporting Humans Through Robot Hugs.” Their work explores how robots can be more effectively designed and taught to give the kinds of hugs that humans will love. If you hug robots every time you see them (like I do) and sometimes wish those robots could be just a little bit warmer and softer, this research is definitely for you.

Read More
Using steerable jets of water like rockets, this robot snake can fly into burning buildings to extinguish fires

Firefighting Robot Snake Flies on Jets of Water

Fires have an unfortunate habit of happening in places that aren’t necessarily easy to reach. Whether the source of the fire is somewhere deep within a building, or up more than a floor or two, or both, firefighters have few good options for tackling them. They can either pour water into windows (which doesn’t always work that well), or they can try and get into the building, which seems like it’s probably super dangerous.

At the International Conference on Robotics and Automation last month, researchers from Tohoku University and National Institute of Technology, Hachinohe College, in Japan, presented a new kind of snake-like robot with the body of a fire hose. Like other snake robots, this one has the potential to be able to wiggle its way into windows or other gaps in a structure, with the benefit of carrying and directing water as it goes. What’s so cool about this particular design, though, is how it powers itself: By firing high pressure jets of water downwards like rocket engines, it can lift itself off of the ground and fly.

Read More
Tokyo-based robotic startup Telexistence inc. unveils its first mass production prototype for Model H

Video Friday: Skydio's Car Follow, Telexistence, and Tick-Killing Robot

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

RoboCup 2018 – June 18-22, 2018 – Montreal, Canada
RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA
Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii
MARSS 2018 – July 4-8, 2018 – Nagoya, Japan
AIM 2018 – July 9-12, 2018 – Auckland, New Zealand
ICARM 2018 – July 18-20, 2018 – Singapore
ICMA 2018 – August 5-8, 2018 – Changchun, China
SSRR 2018 – August 6-8, 2018 – Philadelphia, Pa., USA
ISR 2018 – August 24-27, 2018 – Shenyang, China
BioRob 2018 – August 26-29, 2018 – University of Twente, Netherlands
RO-MAN 2018 – August 27-30, 2018 – Nanjing, China

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.


Read More
Modular robot completing tasks by deploying and crossing bridges and ramps made of building blocks

Simple Robots Perform Complex Tasks With Environmental Modifications

There’s an expectation in robotics that in order to be useful, robots have to be able to adapt to unstructured environments. Unstructured environments generally refer to places outside of a robotics lab or other controlled or semi-controlled situation, and could include anything from your living room to a tropical rainforest. An enormous amount of effort and creativity goes into designing robots that can reliably operate in places like these, with a focus on developing methods of sensing, locomotion, and manipulation that handle all kinds of different situations. It’s a very hard problem; even for humans, it’s hard, so we do a very human thing. We cheat.

Cheating, in this context, means instead of adapting to an environment, you instead adapt the environment itself, modifying it so you can complete different tasks. Humans do this all the time, by using stepping stools to reach high places, adding stairs and ramps to overcome obstacles, attaching handles to objects to make manipulation easier, and so on. A robot that could do similar sorts of things has the potential to be far more capable than a robot that is simply passively adaptable, and at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation last week, we saw some new research that’s making it happen.

Read More
Drone with safety rotor system

Quadrotor Safety System Stops Propellers Before You Lose a Finger

Quadrotors have a reputation for being both fun and expensive, but it’s not usually obvious how dangerous they can be. While it’s pretty clear from the get-go that it’s in everyone’s best interest to avoid the spinny bits whenever possible, quadrotor safety primarily involves doing little more than trying your level best not to run into people. Not running into people with your drone is generally good advice, but the problems tend to happen when for whatever reason the drone escapes from your control. Maybe it’s your fault, maybe it’s the drone’s fault, but either way, those spinny bits can cause serious damage.

Safety-conscious quadrotor pilots have few options for making their drones safer, and none of them are all that great, due either to mediocre effectiveness or significant cost and performance tradeoffs. Now researchers at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, have come up with a clever idea for a quadrotor-safety system that manages to be highly effective, reliable, lightweight, and cheap all at the same time. If that sounds too good to be true, we have video of some hot dogs not getting chopped into bits that might convince you otherwise.

Read More
Advertisement

Automaton

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

Editor
Erico Guizzo
New York City
Senior Writer
Evan Ackerman
Washington, D.C.
Contributor
Fan Shi
Tokyo
 

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Automaton newsletter and get biweekly updates about robotics, automation, and AI, all delivered directly to your inbox.

Advertisement
Load More