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The Lead

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.

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...

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...

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...

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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.

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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.

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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.

Underwater robot for port security

September 26, 2014 7:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers unveiled an oval-shaped submersible robot, a little smaller than a football, with a flattened panel on one side that can slide along an underwater surface to perform ultrasound scans. Originally designed to look for cracks in nuclear reactors’ water tanks, the robot could also inspect ships for the false hulls and propeller shafts that smugglers frequently use to hide contraband.

Robotic fabric could bring “active clothing”, wearable robots

September 23, 2014 2:20 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are developing a robotic fabric that moves and contracts and is embedded with sensors, an approach that could lead to "active clothing" or a new class of "soft" robots. The robotic fabric, developed at Purdue Univ.,  is a cotton material containing sensors made of a flexible polymer and threadlike strands of a shape-memory alloy that return to a coiled shape when heated, causing the fabric to move.

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 fastest land animal on Earth, the cheetah, is able to accelerate to 60 mph in just a few seconds. As it ramps up to top speed, a cheetah pumps its legs in tandem, bounding until it reaches a full gallop. Now, researchers have developed an algorithm for bounding that they’ve successfully implemented in a fully functional robotic cheetah.

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Soft robot squirms over fire, ice, and withstands crushing force

September 9, 2014 7:54 am | Videos | Comments

Engineers have created a shape-changing "soft" robot that can tread over a variety of adverse environmental conditions including snow, puddles of water, flames, and the crushing force of being run over by an automobile. The pneumatically powered, fully untethered robot was enabled by the careful selection of materials and composites, including silicone elastomer.

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

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

Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics mean that machines will soon be able to do many of the tasks of today's workers. But David Hummels, a professor of economics at Purdue Univ., says humans still have a unique advantage that machines may never be able to emulate: our ability to respond to other humans.

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.

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.

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.

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