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The Lead

Robotic vehicle provides in-depth look under Antarctica

April 6, 2015 7:52 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Tech | News | Comments

A first-of-its-kind robotic vehicle recently dove to depths never before visited under Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf and brought back video of life on the seafloor. A team of scientists and engineers from the Georgia Institute of Technology assembled the unmanned, underwater vehicle on Antarctica. They deployed (and retrieved) the vehicle through a 12-in diameter hole through 20 m of ice and another 500 m of water to the sea floor.

Soft, energy-efficient robotic wings

March 31, 2015 12:40 pm | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

Dielectric elastomers are novel materials for making actuators or motors with soft and...

Snake robots learn to turn by following real sidewinders’ lead

March 25, 2015 7:59 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon Univ. (CMU) who develop snake-like robots have picked up a few...

Artificial intelligence systems more apt to fail than destroy

March 23, 2015 1:52 pm | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

The most realistic risks about the dangers of artificial intelligence are basic mistakes,...

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New tool monitors effects of tidal, wave energy on marine habitat

February 6, 2015 12:07 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | Videos | Comments

Researchers building a new underwater robot they’ve dubbed the “Millennium Falcon” certainly have reason to believe it will live up to its name. The robot will deploy instruments to gather information in unprecedented detail about how marine life interacts with underwater equipment used to harvest wave and tidal energy.

Human insights inspire solutions for household robots

February 5, 2015 11:12 am | by Aaron Dubrow, NSF | News | Comments

People typically consider doing the laundry to be a boring chore. But laundry is far from boring for artificial intelligence (AI) researchers. To AI experts, programming a robot to do the laundry represents a challenging planning problem because current sensing and manipulation technology is not good enough to identify precisely the number of clothing pieces that are in a pile and the number that are picked up with each grasp.

Octopus robot makes waves with ultra-fast propulsion

February 5, 2015 10:47 am | by Glenn Harris, Univ. of Southampton | Videos | Comments

Scientists have developed an octopus-like robot, which can zoom through water with ultra-fast propulsion and acceleration never before seen in man-made underwater vehicles. Most fast aquatic animals are sleek and slender to help them move easily through the water but cephalopods, such as the octopus, are capable of high-speed escapes by filling their bodies with water and then quickly expelling it to dart away.

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Harnessing the power of drones to assess disaster damage

February 5, 2015 9:38 am | by Michael Price, San Diego State Univ. | News | Comments

When disaster strikes, it's important for responders and emergency officials to know what critical infrastructure has been damaged so they can direct supplies and resources accordingly. Doug Stow, a geography professor from San Diego State Univ., is developing a program that uses before-and-after aerial imagery to reveal infrastructure damage in a matter of minutes.

Tiny robotic hands could improve cancer diagnostics, drug delivery

February 4, 2015 10:08 am | by American Chemical Society | Videos | Comments

Many people imagine robots today as clunky, metal versions of humans, but scientists are forging new territory in the field of “soft robotics”. One of the latest advances is a flexible, microscopic hand-like gripper. The development could help doctors perform remotely guided surgical procedures or perform biopsies. The materials also could someday deliver therapeutic drugs to hard-to-reach places.

Tell us your 3D printing experiences

February 3, 2015 9:13 am | by R&D Magazine Editors | News | Comments

The editors of R&D Magazine are looking for speakers to participate in a webinar on “Using Multiple Materials in 3D Printing.” Candidates are asked to give a 15-min PowerPoint-based talk over the phone on their experiences in fabricating 3D printed products using multiple materials or developing the processes and/or technologies to accomplish this.

How the brain controls robotic grasping tools

February 3, 2015 8:01 am | by Jeff Sossamon, Univ. of Missouri-Columbia | News | Comments

Grasping an object involves a complex network of brain functions. First, visual cues are processed in specialized areas of the brain. Then, other areas of the brain use these signals to control the hands to reach for and manipulate the desired object. New findings suggest that the cerebellum may play a critical role. Findings could lead to advancements in assistive technologies benefiting the disabled.

Possible drone found on White House grounds

January 26, 2015 9:17 am | by Nedra Pickler, Associated Press | News | Comments

A device, possibly an unmanned aerial drone, was found on the White House grounds during the middle of the night while President Barack Obama and the first lady were in India, but his spokesman said today that it posed no threat. It was unclear whether their daughters, Sasha and Malia, were at home at the time of the incident with their grandmother, Marian Robinson, who also lives at the White House.

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System encourages creativity, makes robot design fun

January 20, 2015 8:01 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A new cardboard-robotic toolkit allows children to create custom robots they control wirelessly with hand gestures without formal education in programming or electronics. The system, called HandiMate, uses motorized "joint modules" equipped with wireless communicators and microcontrollers. Children create robots by using Velcro strips to attach the modules to any number of everyday materials and objects.

New movie highlights FIRST students’ famous underdog robotic victory

January 15, 2015 3:15 pm | by FIRST | News | Comments

The stars are aligning for science and engineering, as a new movie about a high school robotics team makes its debut in theaters nationwide. The movie, “Spare Parts,” is based on FIRST Robotics Competition Team 842 - Falcon Robotics, from Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix, Ariz., and their famous robotic underdog victory against MIT which was chronicled in the WIRED article “La Vida Robot” in 2005.

Vision system for household robots

January 12, 2015 7:36 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For household robots ever to be practical, they’ll need to be able to recognize the objects they’re supposed to manipulate. But while object recognition is a highly studied topic in artificial intelligence, even the best object detectors still fail much of the time. Researchers at MIT believe that household robots should take advantage of their mobility and their relatively static environments to make object recognition easier.

FAA OKs two commercial drone permits

January 7, 2015 9:35 am | by Associated Press, Joan Lowy | News | Comments

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued permits to use drones to monitor crops and photograph properties for sale, marking the first time permission has been granted to companies involved in agriculture and real estate. The exemptions to the current ban on commercial drone flights were granted to Advanced Aviation Solutions in Star, Idaho, for “crop scouting,” and to Douglas Trudeau of Tierra Antigua Realty in Tucson, Arizona.

Getting bot responders into shape

December 16, 2014 8:15 am | by Stephanie Holinka, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Sandia National Laboratories is tackling one of the biggest barriers to the use of robots in emergency response: energy efficiency. Through a project supported by DARPA, Sandia is developing technology that will dramatically improve the endurance of legged robots, helping them operate for long periods while performing the types of locomotion most relevant to disaster response scenarios.

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Engineer applies robot control theory to improve prosthetic legs

December 4, 2014 11:18 am | by LaKisha Ladson, UT Dallas | News | Comments

A Univ. of Texas at Dallas professor applied robot control theory to enable powered prosthetics to dynamically respond to the wearer’s environment and help amputees walk. In recently published research, wearers of the robotic leg could walk on a moving treadmill almost as fast as an able-bodied person.

Smaller lidars could allow UAVs to conduct underwater scans

December 4, 2014 8:06 am | by Rick Robinson, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Bathymetric lidars are used today primarily to map coastal waters. At nearly 600 lbs, the systems are large and heavy, and they require costly, piloted aircraft to carry them. A team at the Georgia Tech Research Institute has designed a new approach that could lead to bathymetric lidars that are much smaller and more efficient than the current full-size systems.

AUV provides first 3-D images of underside of Antarctic sea ice

November 26, 2014 8:03 am | by Peter West, NSF | News | Comments

A National Science Foundation-funded research team has successfully tested an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that can produce high-resolution, 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. SeaBED, as the vehicle is known, measured and mapped the underside of sea-ice floes in three areas off the Antarctic Peninsula that were previously inaccessible.

Researchers study impact of power prosthetic failures on amputees

November 24, 2014 8:43 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Powered lower limb prosthetics hold promise for improving the mobility of amputees, but errors in the technology may also cause some users to stumble or fall. New research examines exactly what happens when these technologies fail, with the goal of developing a new generation of more robust powered prostheses.

Robotics meet x-ray laser in cutting-edge biology studies

November 24, 2014 8:31 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Scientists at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory are combining the speed and precision of robots with one of the brightest x-ray lasers on the planet for pioneering studies of proteins important to biology and drug discovery. The new system uses robotics and other automated components to precisely maneuver delicate samples for study with the x-ray laser pulses at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source.

Robotic ocean gliders aid study of melting polar ice

November 12, 2014 8:18 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

The rapidly melting ice sheets on the coast of West Antarctica are a potential major contributor to rising ocean levels worldwide. Although warm water near the coast is thought to be the main factor causing the ice to melt, the process by which this water ends up near the cold continent is not well understood. Using robotic ocean gliders, Caltech researchers now have a better understanding of the cause.

Microbot muscles: Chains of particles assemble and flex

November 11, 2014 7:57 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

In a step toward robots smaller than a grain of sand, Univ. of Michigan researchers have shown how chains of self-assembling particles could serve as electrically activated muscles in the tiny machines. So-called microbots would be handy in many areas. But several challenges lie between current technologies and science fiction possibilities. Two of the big ones are building the bots and making them mobile.

Mysterious drones seen over French nuclear sites

November 4, 2014 10:09 am | by Associated Press, Jamey Keaten | News | Comments

French security officials are investigating a spate of mysterious and illegal flights by drone aircraft over more than a dozen nuclear power stations in France, raising security concerns in a country that largely lives off atomic energy. In what environmental activists call a worrisome development, authorities have tallied at least 15 overflights of nuclear sites since early October, culminating Friday with five at separate sites.

Running robots of future may learn from world’s best two-legged runners

November 3, 2014 10:49 am | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

With an eye toward making better running robots, researchers have made surprising new findings about some of nature’s most energy-efficient bipeds—running birds. Although birds are designed primarily for flight, scientists have learned that species that predominately live on land and scurry around on the ground are also some of the most sophisticated runners of any two-legged land animals.

Projecting a robot’s intentions

October 29, 2014 1:27 pm | by Jennifer Chu, MIT | Videos | Comments

Inside Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Building 41, a small, Roomba-like robot is trying to decided where to go. As the robot considers its options, its “thoughts” are projected on the ground in the form of different colored dots and lines. This new visualization system, called “measurable virtual reality”, combines projectors with motion-capture technology and animation software to project a robot’s intentions in real time.

Force-sensing microrobots to probe cells

October 14, 2014 7:56 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Inexpensive microrobots capable of probing and manipulating individual cells and tissue for biological research and medical applications are closer to reality with the design of a system that senses the minute forces exerted by a robot's tiny probe. Microrobots small enough to interact with cells already exist. However, there is no easy, inexpensive way to measure the small forces applied to cells by the robots, until now.

Snakes and snake-like robots show how sidewinders conquer sandy slopes

October 10, 2014 8:15 am | by John Toon, Georgia Tech and Byron Spice, Carnegie Mellon Univ. | Videos | Comments

The amazing ability of sidewinder snakes to quickly climb sandy slopes was once something biologists only vaguely understood and roboticists only dreamed of replicating. By studying the snakes in a unique bed of inclined sand and using a snake-like robot to test ideas spawned by observing the real animals, both biologists and roboticists have now gained long-sought insights, including how sidewinders effectively traverse sandy slopes.

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