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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.

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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.

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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.

Robots transform into furniture at EPFL

May 21, 2014 2:26 pm | Videos | Comments

Scientists from the Biorobotics Laboratory (BIOROB) at EPFL in Switzerland have developed small robotic modules that can change their shape to create reconfigurable furniture. Like Lego bricks, these robotic pieces, or Roombots, can be stacked upon each other to create various structures. Each piece has three motors that allow the module to pivot with three degrees of freedom, and each also has a battery and wireless connection.

Google buys drone maker Titan Aerospace

April 15, 2014 12:26 pm | by Barbara Ortutay, AP Technology Writer | News | Comments

Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-powered drones, has been purchased by Google, which says it could help bring Internet access to remote parts of the world. Titan's atmospheric satellites, which are still in development and not yet commercially available, can stay in the air for as long as five years. Titan's website has cited a wide range of uses for the drones.

Deep water search for jet could turn on robot subs

April 2, 2014 6:16 am | by Adam Geller, AP National Writer | News | Comments

If the wreckage of a missing Malaysian airliner rests somewhere in the Indian Ocean's depths, then investigators will likely need to entrust the hunt at least partly to robot submarines and the scientists who deploy them to scan remote swaths of the seafloor. Such unmanned subs played a critical role in locating the carcass of a lost Air France jet in 2011, two years after it crashed in the middle of the south Atlantic.

2018 mission: Mars rover prototype unveiled in U.K.

March 28, 2014 8:34 am | by Gregory Katz, Associated Press | News | Comments

The European Mars rover unveiled Thursday at a "Mars Yard" testing ground in Britain is designed to drill beneath the surface of the Red Planet searching for signs of life. It's been dubbed “Bryan” by its creators, and the plan is to send it to Mars in 2018 as part of the European Space Agency's ExoMars program, an ambitious plan that begins in 2016 with the launch of a Mars orbiter and demonstrator landing module.

Robotic arm probes chemistry of 3-D objects by mass spectrometry

March 27, 2014 11:49 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

When life on Earth was first getting started, simple molecules bonded together into the precursors of modern genetic material. A catalyst would’ve been needed, but enzymes had not yet evolved. One theory is that the catalytic minerals on a meteorite’s surface could have jump-started life’s first chemical reactions. But scientists need a way to directly analyze these rough, irregularly shaped surfaces.

Robot builds on insights into Atlantic razor clam dynamics

March 25, 2014 11:10 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

The Atlantic razor clam uses very little energy to burrow into undersea soil at high speed. Now a detailed insight into how the animal digs has led to the development of a robotic clam that can perform the same trick. The device, known as “RoboClam,” could be used to dig itself into the ground to bury anchors or destroy underwater mines.

Soft robotic fish moves like the real thing

March 13, 2014 8:05 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Soft robots have become a sufficiently popular research topic that they now have their own journal, Soft Robotics. In the first issue of that journal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers report the first self-contained autonomous soft robot capable of rapid body motion: a “fish” that can execute an escape maneuver, convulsing its body to change direction in just a fraction of a second, or almost as quickly as a real fish can.

Interactive simulator takes driver behavior into account

March 10, 2014 7:43 am | News | Comments

Driving behavior is a key factor that is often insufficiently accounted for in computational models that gauge the dynamic characteristics of vehicles. Researchers in Germany have developed a new driving simulator designed to make the “human factor“ more calculable for vehicle engineers.

NASA plots daring flight to Jupiter's watery moon

March 5, 2014 10:07 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The U.S. space agency is planning an ambitious robotic mission to Europa, a Jupiter moon where astronomers speculate there might be some form of life. The space agency set aside $15 million in its 2015 budget proposal to start planning some kind of mission to Europa. No details have been decided yet, but NASA chief financial officer Elizabeth Robinson said Tuesday that it would be launched in the mid-2020s.

Robotic construction crew needs no foreman

February 14, 2014 8:42 am | by Caroline Perry, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Inspired by the termites’ resilience and collective intelligence, a team of computer scientists and engineers at Harvard Univ. has created an autonomous robotic construction crew. The system needs no supervisor, no eye in the sky and no communication. Exhibiting a swarm-like intelligence, these robots, in any number, can cooperate simply by modifying their environment.

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