Autonomous, self-replicating robots—exobots—are the way to explore the universe, find and identify extraterrestrial life and perhaps clean up space debris in the process, according to a Penn State engineer, who notes that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence—SETI—is in its 50th year.
An electric eel can generate enough current to stun its prey, just like a Taser. Weakly electric fish can also generate electricity, but not enough to do any harm. However, researchers have found that the animal’s ability to use an electric field to communicate, navigate, and hunt offers inspiration for a variety of engineering projects.
Navy unmanned aircraft will be able to distinguish small pirate boats from other vessels when an Office of Naval Research-funded sensor starts airborne tests this summer. Called the Multi-Mode Sensor Seeker, the sensor is a mix of high-definition cameras, mid-wave infrared sensors, and laser-radar technology.
An ambitious new project to reinvent how robots are designed and produced is being funded by a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation. A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania aims to develop a desktop technology that would make it possible for the average person to design, customize, and print a specialized robot in a matter of hours.
Pouring juice into a plastic cup can be a great challenge to a robot, which must hold a glass bottle firmly, yet gently grasp the cup. Researchers at Saarland University in Germany together with associates in Bologna and Naples have developed a robotic hand that can accomplish both tasks with ease using a device scarcely larger than a human arm.
New algorithms developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers could enable heaps of 'smart sand' that can assume any shape, allowing spontaneous formation of new tools or duplication of broken mechanical parts.
A tiny prototype robot that functions like a living creature is being developed which one day could be safely used to pinpoint diseases within the human body. Called Cyberplasm, it will combine advanced microelectronics with the latest research in biomimicry.
Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas and Virginia Tech have created an undersea vehicle inspired by the common jellyfish that runs on renewable energy and could be used in ocean rescue and surveillance missions. The robotic jellyfish, dubbed Robojelly, feeds off hydrogen and oxygen gases found in water.
Naval Research Laboratory engineers successfully demonstrated the robotic fluids transfer from a stationary platform to an unmanned surface vehicle in wave heights greater than 3 ft. The Rapid Autonomous Fuel Transfer project exhibits the ability to track the motion of a Sea Fox naval vessel, safely emplace a magnetic refueling fitting to an on-board refueling receptacle, and successfully complete fluids transfer.
General Motors (GM) and NASA are jointly developing a robotic glove that automotive workers and astronauts can wear to help do their respective jobs better while potentially reducing the risk of repetitive stress injuries.
Sometimes the fastest pathway from point A to point B is not a straight line: For example, if you're underwater and contending with strong and shifting currents. But figuring out the best route in such settings is a monumentally complex problem, especially if you're trying to do it not just for one underwater vehicle, but for a swarm of them moving all at once toward separate destinations. However, new methods and software developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology can predict optimal paths for automated underwater vehicles.
It won’t keep up with the real thing, but a robotic cat build for DARPA has just set a speed record for legged robots by cruising at 18 miles per hour. Boston Dynamics, known for its Big Dog and Petman projects, built the robot and intends to demonstrate a free-running prototype later this year.
Robots could one day navigate through constantly changing surroundings with virtually no input from humans, thanks to a system developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that allows them to build and continuously update a 3D map of their environment using a low-cost camera such as Microsoft's Kinect.
A new technique inspired by elegant pop-up books and origami will soon allow clones of robotic insects to be mass-produced by the sheet. Devised by engineers at Harvard University, the layering and folding process enables the rapid fabrication of not just microrobots, but a broad range of electromechanical devices.
Providing high-bandwidth communications for troops in remote forward operating locations is not only critical but also challenging because a reliable infrastructure optimized for remote geographic areas does not exist. DARPA recently announced the Fixed Wireless at a Distance program seeks to tackle the problem of stationary infrastructure designed specifically to overcome the challenge inherent with cell communication in remote areas.
Not all artists are extroverts. A portraitist at the CeBIT show in Hanover, Germany, this week is cool, precise, and metallic. Other artists, in fact, helped it get started as a project to test image-evaluation technologies that equips the robot with a sense of “sight”.
Today's dismounted warfighter can be saddled with more than 100 lbs of gear, resulting in physical strain, fatigue, and degraded performance. To help alleviate physical weight on troops, DARPA is developing a highly mobile, semi-autonomous legged robot, the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), to integrate with a squad of marines or soldiers.
To improve the next generation of insect-size flying machines, Johns Hopkins engineers have been aiming high-speed video cameras at some of the prettiest bugs on the planet. By figuring out how butterflies flutter among flowers with amazing grace and agility, the researchers hope to help small airborne robots mimic these maneuvers.
Teams at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology who are engineering bird-like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have found as part of their development work a theoretical speed limit that a bird, or a drone, must observe, no matter how much information it has about its environment.
Designing an all-terrain robot for search-and-rescue missions is an arduous task for scientists. The machine must be flexible enough to move over uneven surfaces, yet not so big that it's restricted from tight spaces. Some existing robots have these features, but the majority require large amounts of energy and are prone to overheating. Georgia Tech researchers have designed a new machine by studying the locomotion of snakes.
Robotics experts at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the University of Washington have completed a set of seven advanced robotic surgery systems for use by major medical research laboratories throughout the United States.
Marines running low on ammo may one day use an app on their digital handhelds to summon a robotic helicopter to deliver supplies within minutes, enabled by technologies from a new Office of Naval Research program. The Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System is a five-year, $98 million effort to develop sensors and control technologies for robotic vertical take-off and landing aircraft.
An insect's internal chemicals can be converted to electricity, potentially providing power for sensors, recording devices, or to control the bug, a group of researchers at Case Western Reserve University report. The finding is yet another in a growing list from universities across the country that could bring the creation of insect cyborgs out of science fiction and into reality.
Leaping lizards have a message for robots: Get a tail. University of California, Berkeley, biologists and engineers studied how lizards manage to leap successfully even when they slip and stumble. They found that lizards swing their tails upward to prevent them from pitching head-over-heels into a rock.
The Harvard University laboratory of chemist George M. Whitesides, R&D Magazine ’s 2007 Scientist of the Year, has produced a new type of flexible robot that calls to mind the clay animation character Gumby. It can wiggle and squirm through tight spaces much like the squid and starfish that inspired researchers to design it.