Somehow, an Incredible Robotic Dragonfly is Now on Indiegogo

We might expect to see something like this from DARPA, but definitely not on Indiegogo

2 min read
Somehow, an Incredible Robotic Dragonfly is Now on Indiegogo

Well, if you didn't already spend all of your pocket money on one of those NanoQ quadrotors, here's something that you'll want to blow the rest of it on: a robotic dragonfly that manages to be nearly as impressive as just about every other bio-inspired micro flying robot that we've ever seen, except somehow, this one is up for pre-order on Indiegogo for just a couple hundred bucks.

First, you'll want to watch the video, which shows some prototypes of this thing actually flying around:

It's not exactly like the rendering, but it's close enough that we're ready to believe that these guys can deliver.

So, uh, yeah, who are these guys and where did this thing come from? Well, the company, TechJect, is a spinoff from Georgia Tech's Robotics & Intelligent Machines Lab, and their robotic dragonfly has already been funded, with a million dollars (!) from the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research. I dunno what sort of super secret laser canon totin' version of this robot the USAF is currently playing around with, but the specs of the robot Dragonflies that are being offered on Indiegogo are pretty damn impressive. Here are the basics:

 

TechJect will be offering several different versions of the robot, from a basic one that just ("just") flies around, to the super top of the line version that comes with more powerful motors, two cameras, Wifi, GPS, and more. And that's not the end of things, either:

"Our prototypes have gone through multiple design cycles. We'll be offering a number of Apps that the users can download from Google Play and App stores to perform pre-defined operations like: Indoor mapping, automated patrolling and more. If you're an entrepreneur, you can literally kickstart your own Next-Gen application market using our Software Development Kit (SDK). If you are a researcher or a hobbyist, skip to the next most versatile and compact platform to do your research. Create your own remarkable Apps on the coolest robot on the market!"

The cheapest "Alpha" version of the Dragonfly is already sold out, but while supplies last on Indiegogo, you can get an upgraded "Delta" Dragonfly for $180. The top of the line "Omega" is yours for $500, about $1,000 less than it'll eventually retail for. All of the Indiegogo rewards are limited, and the project is already half funded, so you'll have to jump on this fairly quickly if you want in. Delivery is estimated to be in mid to late 2013, which gives you plenty of time to think up of fun (and nefarious) ways in which to use a camera-toting robotic insect.

[ Indiegogo ] and [ TechJect ] via [ DIY Drones ]

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How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman
LightGreen

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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