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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.