So, Where Are My Robot Servants?

Tomorrow’s robots will become true helpers and companions in people’s homes—and here’s what it will take to develop them

11 min read
Illustration: Ben Wiseman
Illustration: Ben Wiseman

Four years ago, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, uploaded a video to YouTube. It featured a demonstration they’d done using a powerful new robot called PR2, a dishwasher-size machine with two hefty arms and six camera eyes on its face. In the demo, PR2 stands before a disorderly pile of small towels. Then, slowly but surely, it stretches its arms, picks up a towel, and neatly folds it, even patting it gently to smooth out the wrinkles. The robot repeats the routine until no more towels are left in the heap.

The researchers were pleased with their work, but they didn’t quite expect what came next: Their video went viral. Within days, hundreds of thousands of people watched it as news of the robot spread through social media and the blogosphere. Reports popped up on newscasts and publications around the world. One Twitter user humorously summed up what the achievement might portend: “I, for one, welcome our towel-folding robot overlords.”

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Engineers Are Working on a Solar Microgrid to Outlast Lunar Nights

Future lunar bases will need power for mining and astronaut survival

4 min read
A rendering of a lunar base. In the foreground are rows of solar panels and behind them are two astronauts standing in front of a glass dome with plants inside.
P. Carril/ESA

The next time humans land on the moon, they intend to stay awhile. For the Artemis program, NASA and its collaborators want to build a sustained presence on the moon, which includes setting up a base where astronauts can live and work.

One of the crucial elements for a functioning lunar base is a power supply. Sandia National Laboratories, a research and development lab that specializes in building microgrids for military bases, is teaming up with NASA to design one that will work on the moon.

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Trilobite-Inspired Camera Boasts Huge Depth of Field

New camera relies on “metalenses” that could be fabricated using a standard CMOS foundry

3 min read
Black and white image showing different white box shapes in rows

Scanning electron microscope image of the titanium oxide nanopillars that make up the metalens. The scale is 500 nanometers (nm).

NIST

Inspired by the eyes of extinct trilobites, researchers have created a miniature camera with a record-setting depth of field—the distance over which a camera can produce sharp images in a single photo. Their new study reveals that with the aid of artificial intelligence, their device can simultaneously image objects as near as 3 centimeters and as far away as 1.7 kilometers.

Five hundred million years ago, the oceans teemed with horseshoe-crab-like trilobites. Among the most successful of all early animals, these armored invertebrates lived on Earth for roughly 270 million years before going extinct.

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Automating Road Maintenance With LiDAR Technology

Team from SICK’s TiM$10K Challenge creates system to automate road maintenance

4 min read

Developed by a team of students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute as part of SICK's TiM$10K Challenge, their ROADGNAR system uses LiDAR to collect detailed data on the surface of a roadway.

SICK

This is a sponsored article brought to you by SICK Inc..

From advanced manufacturing to automated vehicles, engineers are using LiDAR to change the world as we know it. For the second year, students from across the country submitted projects to SICK's annual TiM$10K Challenge.

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