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The Lead

Fingertip sensor gives robot dexterity

September 19, 2014 7:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Northeastern Univ. have equipped a robot with a novel tactile sensor that lets it grasp a USB cable draped freely over a hook and insert it into a USB port. The sensor is an adaptation of a technology called GelSight, which was developed at MIT, and first described in 2009.

Bound for robotic glory

September 16, 2014 7:56 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

The...

Robots unlikely to take big bites out of employment, expert says

September 2, 2014 11:59 am | by Steve Talley, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

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Controlling a NASA robot on the Web

August 27, 2014 12:10 pm | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

A group of computer scientists from Brown Univ. were at the Johnson Space Center in Houston for a marathon of intensive coding to build new software for the Robonaut 2. Chad Jenkins’ laboratory builds user interfaces that can control robots of all kinds with an off-the-shelf Web browser. The system can be adapted for even the most complex robots, and NASA wants the team to adapt the interface for the humanoid robot, Robonaut 2—“R2.”

C2D2 fighting corrosion

August 26, 2014 8:48 am | by Anna Maltsev, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Bridges become an infrastructure problem as they get older, as de-icing salt and carbon dioxide gradually destroy the reinforced concrete. A new robot called C2D2 (Climbing Corrosion Detecting Device) is now in use in Switzerland and can check the condition of these structures, even in places that people cannot reach.

Delivery by drone

August 21, 2014 9:16 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In the near future, the package that you ordered online may be deposited at your doorstep by a drone: Last December, online retailer Amazon announced plans to explore drone-based delivery, suggesting that fleets of flying robots might serve as autonomous messengers that shuttle packages to customers within 30 mins of an order.

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Research paves way for development of cyborg moth “biobots”

August 20, 2014 9:46 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

North Carolina State Univ. researchers have developed methods for electronically manipulating the flight muscles of moths and for monitoring the electrical signals moths use to control those muscles. The work opens the door to the development of remotely-controlled moths, or “biobots,” for use in emergency response.

Multiple UAVs perform autonomous formation flight

August 8, 2014 8:05 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | Videos | Comments

These days, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) typically fly alone with a team of ground operators controlling their activities through teleoperation or waypoint-based routing.  But one aircraft can only carry so many sensors, limiting its capabilities. That’s one reason why a fleet of autonomous aircraft can be better than one flying alone.

Scientists make cheap, fast self-assembling robots

August 7, 2014 3:51 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Borrowing from the ancient Japanese art of origami, children's toys and even a touch of the "Transformers" movies, scientists and engineers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created self-assembling, paper robots. These complex machines transform themselves from little more than a sheet of paper and plastic into walking automatons.

Getting a grip on robotic grasp

July 18, 2014 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Twisting a screwdriver, removing a bottle cap and peeling a banana are just a few simple tasks that are tricky to pull off single handedly. Now a new wrist-mounted robot can provide a helping hand—or rather, fingers. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a robot that enhances the grasping motion of the human hand.

Drones: Next big thing in aviation is small

July 15, 2014 2:21 pm | by Danica Kirka - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The next big thing in aviation may be really small. With some no bigger than a hummingbird, the hottest things at this week's Farnborough International Airshow are tiny compared with the titans of the sky, such as the Airbus 380 or the Boeing Dreamliner.

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Phase-changing material could allow robots to switch between hard and soft states

July 14, 2014 7:35 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | Videos | Comments

In the movie “Terminator 2,” the shape-shifting T-1000 robot morphs into a liquid state to squeeze through tight spaces or to repair itself when harmed. Now a phase-changing material built from wax and foam, and capable of switching between hard and soft states, could allow even low-cost robots to perform the same feat.

Drones could provide perfect lighting for photography

July 11, 2014 11:48 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT | News | Comments

Lighting is crucial to the art of photography, but they are cumbersome and difficult to use properly. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell Univ. aim to change that by providing photographers with squadrons of small, light-equipped autonomous robots that automatically assume the positions necessary to produce lighting effects specified through a simple, intuitive, camera-mounted interface.

New York police see risks with drones' popularity

July 10, 2014 9:43 am | by Tom Hays, Associated Press | News | Comments

Police in New York City are concerned that the increasing popularity of drones in such a tightly packed metropolis could carry major risks, even becoming a potential tool for terrorists to conduct surveillance or carry out attacks. Even though it's illegal to fly the devices just about anywhere in New York City without permission, recent incidents and breathtaking videos of Manhattan suggest that the restrictions are being widely flouted.

Heads up, World Cup teams: The robots are coming

July 10, 2014 8:33 am | by Kathy Matheson, Associated Press | News | Comments

When robots first started playing soccer, it was a challenge for them just to see the ball. And to stay upright. But the machines participating in this month's international RoboCup tournament are making passes and scoring points. Their ultimate goal? To beat the human World Cup champs within the next 35 years.

Study: Power consumption of robot joints could be 40% less

July 7, 2014 2:24 pm | News | Comments

Digital controllers are used to drive the motors of the joints in robots used in industrial processes. Programming and developing these controllers is not easy. Researchers in Spain have analyzed a way of propelling these systems or robots in a more energy-efficient way and has shown, on a laboratory level, that in some cases energy consumption can be cut by up to 40% without sacrificing precision.

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Muscle-powered bio-bots walk on command

July 2, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

Engineers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a class of walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical pulses, giving researchers unprecedented command over their function. The design is inspired by the muscle-tendon-bone complex found in nature. They have a backbone of 3-D printed hydrogel, strong enough to give the bio-bot structure but flexible enough to bend like a joint.

Collaborative learning for robots

June 25, 2014 7:54 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Machine learning, in which computers learn new skills by looking for patterns in training data, is the basis of most recent advances in artificial intelligence, from voice-recognition systems to self-parking cars. It’s also the technique that autonomous robots typically use to build models of their environments. That type of model-building gets complicated, however, in cases in which clusters of robots work as teams.

Woman or machine? New robots look creepily human

June 24, 2014 9:46 am | by Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer | News | Comments

New robot guides at a Tokyo museum look so eerily human and speak so smoothly they almost outdo people. The two life-size robots, which have silicon skin, artificial muscles, and can speak in a variety of voices, will be on display starting Wednesday, allowing the public to interact with them extensively.

Synthetic aperture sonar to help Navy hunt sea mines

June 19, 2014 8:37 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Since World War II, sea mines have damaged or sunk four times more U.S. Navy ships than all other means of attack combined. New sonar research being performed could improve the Navy’s ability to find sea mines deep under water. The underlying technology, known as synthetic aperture sonar, uses advanced computing and signal processing power to create fine-resolution images of the seafloor based on reflected sound waves.

A new way to detect leaks in pipes

June 19, 2014 8:09 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Explosions caused by leaking gas pipes have frequently made headlines in recent years. But while the problem of old and failing pipes has garnered much attention, methods for addressing such failing infrastructure have lagged far behind. Typically, leaks are found using aboveground acoustic sensors. But these systems are very slow, and can miss small leaks altogether. Now researchers have devised a robotic system that can detect leaks.

New manufacturing methods needed for “soft” machines, robots

June 19, 2014 7:52 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a technique that might be used to produce "soft machines" made of elastic materials and liquid metals for potential applications in robotics, medical devices and consumer electronics. Such an elastic technology could make possible robots that have sensory skin and stretchable garments that people might wear to interact with computers or for therapeutic purposes.

Octocopter named “HorseFly” takes flight

June 9, 2014 9:48 am | by Tom Robinette, Univ. of Cincinnati | News | Comments

HorseFly has eight rotors, a wirelessly recharging battery and a mission to deliver merchandise right to your doorstep. The new drone is the result of collaborative efforts by the Univ. of Cincinnati and AMP Electric Vehicles makers of the WorkHorse all-electric delivery truck. The newly designed, autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle was developed to work in tandem with AMP's delivery trucks to deliver packages in an efficient way.

Emotional robot set for sale in Japan next year

June 5, 2014 9:18 am | by Yuri Kageyama, AP Business Writer | News | Comments

A cooing, gesturing humanoid on wheels that can decipher emotions has been unveiled in Japan by billionaire Masayoshi Son, who says robots should be tender and make people smile. The machine, called “Pepper”, has no legs, but has gently gesticulating hands. It recently appeared on a stage in a Tokyo suburb along with announcement that it will go on sale in Japan next year for the equivalent of US$1,900.

Drones give farmers eyes in the sky to check on crop progress

June 5, 2014 8:03 am | by Sharita Forrest, News Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

This growing season, crop researchers at the Univ. of Illinois are experimenting with the use of drones—unmanned aerial vehicles—on the university’s South Farms. Dennis Bowman, a crop sciences educator with U. of I. Extension, is using two drones to take aerial pictures of crops growing in research plots on the farms.

Think fast, robot

May 30, 2014 9:01 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

One of the reasons we don’t yet have self-driving cars and miniature helicopters delivering online purchases is that autonomous vehicles tend not to perform well under pressure. A system that can flawlessly parallel park at 5 mph may have trouble avoiding obstacles at 35 mph. Part of the problem is the time it takes to produce and interpret camera data.

Bake your own robot

May 30, 2014 7:40 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

At this year’s IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, a research team introduced a new wrinkle on the idea of printable robots: bakable robots. In two new papers, the researchers demonstrate the promise of printable robotic components that, when heated, automatically fold into prescribed 3-D configurations.

Automated guided vehicles ripe for standardized performance tests

May 22, 2014 10:40 am | News | Comments

Automated guided vehicles—or AGVs—are robotic versions of draft animals, hauling heavy loads and navigating their way in factories, distribution centers, ports and other facilities. These modern beasts of burden are evolving so rapidly in capabilities and electronic intelligence that the need for the equivalent of standardized performance testing has become apriority for the fast-growing AGV industry and its customers.

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