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The Lead

Engineers develop micro-tentacles for tiny robots

June 22, 2015 9:50 am | by Mike Krapfl, News Service, Iowa State Univ. | News | Comments

The tiny tube circled an ant's thorax, gently trapping the insect and demonstrating the utility of a microrobotic tentacle developed by Iowa State Univ. engineers. While most robots squeeze two fingers together to pick things up, these tentacles wrap around items gently.

Nanorobots swim through blood to deliver drugs

June 18, 2015 7:39 am | by American Chemical Society | Videos | Comments

Someday, treating patients with nanorobots could become standard practice to deliver medicine...

Centimeter-long origami robot

June 15, 2015 7:18 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

At the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Massachusetts Institute of...

Soft robotic glove puts control in the grasp of hand-impaired patients

June 5, 2015 9:19 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | Videos | Comments

Having achieved promising results in proof–of–concept prototyping and experimental testing, a...

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In spring 2015, MBARI researchers discovered a large, previously unknown field of hydrothermal vents in the Gulf of California, about 150 kilometers (100 miles) east of La Paz, Mexico. Lying more than 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) below the surface, the Pesc

Researchers discover deepest known high-temperature hydrothermal vents in Pacific

June 4, 2015 11:36 am | by Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute | News | Comments

Researchers discovered a large, previously unknown field of hydrothermal vents in the Gulf of California, about 100 miles east of La Paz, Mexico. Lying more than 12,500 feet below the surface, the Pescadero Basin vents are the deepest high-temperature hydrothermal vents ever observed in or around the Pacific Ocean. They are also the only vents known to emit superheated fluids rich in both carbonate minerals and hydrocarbons.

Helping robots handle uncertainty

June 3, 2015 7:30 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Decentralized partially observable Markov decision processes are a way to model autonomous robots’ behavior in circumstances where neither their communication with each other nor their judgments about the outside world are perfect. The problem with Dec-POMDPs is that they’re as complicated as their name. They provide the most rigorous mathematical models of multi-agent systems under uncertainty.

Using robots to assemble promising antimicrobial compounds

June 2, 2015 8:14 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

There’s an urgent demand for new antimicrobial compounds that are effective against constantly emerging drug-resistant bacteria. Two robotic chemical-synthesizing machines, named Symphony X and Overture, have joined the search. Their specialty is creating custom nanoscale structures that mimic nature’s proven designs. They’re also fast, able to assemble dozens of compounds at a time.

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Insect mating behavior has lessons for drones

June 1, 2015 7:36 am | by Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Male moths locate females by navigating along the latter's pheromone (odor) plume, often flying hundreds of meters to do so. Two strategies are involved to accomplish this: males must find the outer envelope of the pheromone plume, and then head upwind. Can understanding such insect behavior be useful for robotics research?

Cheetah robot lands the running jump

May 29, 2015 10:56 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

In a leap for robot development, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers who built a robotic cheetah have now trained it to see and jump over hurdles as it runs, making this the first four-legged robot to run and jump over obstacles autonomously. To get a running jump, the robot plans out its path, much like a human runner: As it detects an approaching obstacle, it estimates that object’s height and distance.

Researchers develop intelligent handheld robots

May 27, 2015 11:41 am | by Univ. of Bristol | News | Comments

What if handheld tools know what needs to be done and were even able to guide and help inexperienced users to complete jobs that require skill? Researchers at the Univ. of Bristol have developed and started studying a novel concept in robotics: intelligent handheld robots.

Helping robots put it all together

May 27, 2015 9:28 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Today’s industrial robots are remarkably efficient, as long as they’re in a controlled environment where everything is exactly where they expect it to be. But put them in an unfamiliar setting, where they have to think for themselves, and their efficiency plummets. And the difficulty of on-the-fly motion planning increases exponentially with the number of robots involved.

Robot masters new skills through trial-and-error

May 22, 2015 10:04 am | by Sarah Yang, Univ. of California, Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley researchers have developed algorithms that enable robots to learn motor tasks through trial and error using a process that more closely approximates the way humans learn, marking a major milestone in the field of artificial intelligence. They demonstrated their technique, a type of reinforcement learning, by having a robot complete various tasks without pre-programmed details about its surroundings.

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Controlling swarms of robots with a finger

May 13, 2015 8:05 am | by Jason Maderer, Georgia Institute of Technology | Videos | Comments

Using a smart tablet and a red beam of light, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have created a system that allows people to control a fleet of robots with the swipe of a finger. A person taps the tablet to control where the beam of light appears on a floor. The swarm robots then roll toward the illumination, constantly communicating with each other and deciding how to evenly cover the lit area.

Pet robotics has come a long way from the Tamagotchi craze of the mid-90s. In Japan, people are becoming so attached to their robot dogs that they hold funerals for them when the circuits die.

Robot pets to rise in an overpopulated, tech-crazed world

May 12, 2015 11:04 am | by University of Melbourne | News | Comments

Robotic dogs are likely to replace the real thing in households worldwide in as little as a decade, as our infatuation with technology grows and more people migrate to high-density city living. University of Melbourne animal welfare researcher Dr. Jean-Loup Rault says the prospect of robopets and virtual pets is not as far-fetched as we may think.

Revealing security flaws in teleoperated surgical robots

May 8, 2015 8:17 am | by Jennifer Langston, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

To make cars as safe as possible, we crash them into walls to pinpoint weaknesses and better protect people who use them. That’s the idea behind a series of experiments conducted by a Univ. of Washington engineering team who hacked a next-generation teleoperated surgical robot to test how easily a malicious attack could hijack remotely controlled operations in the future and to make those systems more secure.

Handing “cognitive” control to underwater robots

May 7, 2015 7:34 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For the last decade, scientists have deployed increasingly capable underwater robots to map and monitor pockets of the ocean to track the health of fisheries, and survey marine habitats and species. In general, such robots are effective at carrying out low-level tasks, specifically assigned to them by human engineers, a tedious and time-consuming process for the engineers.

Toward a squishier robot

May 5, 2015 11:37 am | by Univ. of Pittsburgh | News | Comments

For decades, robots have advanced the efficiency of human activity. Typically, however, robots are formed from bulky, stiff materials and require connections to external power sources; these features limit their dexterity and mobility. But what if a new material would allow for development of a "soft robot" that could reconfigure its own shape and move using its own internally generated power?

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Making robots more human

May 1, 2015 8:18 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Most people are naturally adept at reading facial expressions to tell what others are feeling. Now scientists have developed ultra-sensitive, wearable sensors that can do the same thing. Their technology, reported in the ACS Nano, could help robot developers make their machines more human.

Engineers at Oregon State University have successfully field tested their walking robot, ATRIAS. Courtesy of Oregon State University

Inspired by humans, a robot takes a walk in the grass

April 29, 2015 2:14 pm | by Oregon State University | News | Comments

In a rolling, outdoor field, full of lumps, bumps and uneven terrain, researchers at Oregon State University last week successfully field-tested for the first time the locomotion abilities of a two-legged robot with technology that they believe heralds the running robots of the future.

Daniel Wilson Ph.D. researcher with UAV and drogue

Sky-high refuelling for UAVs

April 24, 2015 11:13 am | by Univ. of Sydney | News | Comments

A Univ. of Sydney researcher has designed and successfully tested a method for autonomously docking drones for refueling or recharging, in mid-air. He used a combination of precise measurements from an infrared camera, with GPS and inertial sensors to allow the sky-high docking to occur.

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 lightweight properties that can undergo large active deformations with high-energy conversion efficiencies. This has made dielectric elastomers popular for creating devices such as robotic hands, soft robots, tunable lenses and pneumatic valves, and possibly flapping robotic wings.

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 tricks from real sidewinder rattlesnakes on how to make rapid and even sharp turns with their undulating, modular device. Working with colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Zoo Atlanta, they have analyzed the motions of sidewinders and tested their observations on CMU’s snake robots.

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, breakdowns and cyber attacks, an expert in the field says—more so than machines that become super powerful, run amok and try to destroy the human race.

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.

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.

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