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Navy unveils squadron of manned, unmanned craft

May 2, 2013 4:59 pm | by JULIE WATSON - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

The Navy on Thursday inaugurated its first squadron with both manned and unmanned aircraft. Military officials launched the effort by reactivating the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 35, known as the "Magicians" or HSL-35, which served for 19 years before being deactivated in 1992.

Robots able to reach through clutter with whole-arm tactile sensing

April 30, 2013 9:57 am | News | Comments

Whether reaching for a book out of a cluttered cabinet or pruning a bush in the backyard, a person’s arm frequently makes contact with objects during everyday tasks. Animals do it too, when foraging for food, for example. Much in the same way, robots are now able to intelligently maneuver within clutter, gently making contact with objects while accomplishing a task. This new control method has wide applications.

Unmanned aircraft system proposal takes flight

April 26, 2013 8:59 am | News | Comments

A consortium of Washington-based organizations will soon submit the final section of a proposal to site an unmanned aircraft system research and testing facility in central Washington. If successful, the proposal to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will result in the FAA naming the Pacific Northwest Unmanned Aerial Systems Flight Center as one of six U.S. testing facilities later this year.

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Robot to wash high-rise windows

April 23, 2013 8:03 am | News | Comments

As long as buildings have windows, engineers will fret about how best to keep them clean. Rice University engineering students are no exception and are working on better ways to keep skyscrapers shiny. The WashBOT team of seniors based at Rice’s Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen is part of a multiyear robotics project to automate the process of cleaning recessed windows in buildings.

Israeli official says drones could replace planes

April 21, 2013 1:57 pm | by DANIEL ESTRIN - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Israel's air force is on track to developing drones that within four to five decades would carry out nearly every battlefield operation executed today by piloted aircraft, a high-ranking Israeli officer told The Associated Press Sunday. The officer, who works in the field of unmanned aerial vehicle intelligence, said Israel is speeding up research and development of such unmanned technologies for air, ground, and naval forces.

Robot hands gain a gentler touch

April 18, 2013 12:10 pm | by Carolina Perry, Harvard University | News | Comments

What use is a hand without nerves, that can't tell what it's holding? What use is a hand that lifts a can of soda to your lips, but inadvertently tips or crushes it in the process? Researchers at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have developed a very inexpensive tactile sensor for robotic hands that is sensitive enough to turn a brute machine into a dextrous manipulator.

School’s “Drone Lab” reimagines possibilities for UAVs

April 17, 2013 9:17 am | News | Comments

Say the word “drone” and the image most often conjured is a flying object that is spying on an enemy, or delivering a weapon to a target. Students at University of California, Berkeley’s Drone Lab are developing open-source software that helps put drones to more socially beneficent use. Their efforts require little more than a consumer-grade drone, a smartphone, and a new JavaScript-based software platform.

Robot hot among surgeons but U.S. taking fresh look

April 9, 2013 6:10 pm | by Lindsey Tanner, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

The biggest thing in operating rooms these days is a million-dollar, multi-armed robot named da Vinci, used in nearly 400,000 surgeries in America last year. But now the high-tech helper is under scrutiny over reports of problems, including several deaths that may be linked with it, and the high cost of using the robotic system. Is it time to curb the robot enthusiasm?

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Robot hot among surgeons but US taking fresh look

April 9, 2013 2:02 pm | by LINDSEY TANNER - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The biggest thing in operating rooms these days is a million-dollar, multi-armed robot named da Vinci, used in nearly 400,000 surgeries in America last year—triple the number just four years earlier. But now the high-tech helper is under scrutiny over reports of problems, including several deaths that may be linked with it, and the high cost of using the robotic system.

Technique finds software bugs in surgical robots

April 9, 2013 5:08 am | News | Comments

Surgical robots could make some types of surgery safer and more effective, but proving that the software controlling these machines works as intended is problematic. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Johns Hopkins University have demonstrated that methods for reliably detecting software bugs and ultimately verifying software safety can be applied successfully to this breed of robot.

Swarming robots could be the servants of the future

April 3, 2013 10:56 am | News | Comments

Researchers in the U.K. have been working to program a group of 40 robots to carry out simple fetching and carrying tasks, by grouping around an object and working together to push it across a surface. Even after being scattered, the robots can group again and organize themselves by order of priority. The team says the ability to control robot swarms could prove hugely beneficial in a range of contexts, from military to medical.

Telerobotic system designed to treat bladder cancer

April 3, 2013 9:18 am | by David Salisbury, Vanderbilt University | News | Comments

Although bladder cancer is the sixth most common form of cancer in the U.S. and the most expensive to treat, the basic method that doctors use to treat it hasn’t changed much in more than 70 years. A research team may soon be changing that dramatically after having developed a prototype telerobotic platform designed to be inserted through natural orifices—in this case the urethra—that can provide surgeons with a much better view, making it easier to remove tumors.

Researchers unveil robotic jellyfish

April 1, 2013 8:05 am | News | Comments

Virginia Tech College of Engineering researchers have unveiled a life-like, autonomous robotic jellyfish the size and weight of a grown man, 5 foot 7 inches in length and weighing 170 pounds. The prototype robot, nicknamed Cyro, is a larger model of a robotic jellyfish the same team unveiled in 2012. The earlier robot, dubbed RoboJelly, is roughly the size of a man's hand, and typical of jellyfish found along beaches.

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Drone industry worries about privacy backlash

March 29, 2013 3:05 am | by JOAN LOWY - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

It's a good bet that in the not-so-distant future aerial drones will be part of Americans' everyday lives, performing countless useful functions. A far cry from the killing machines whose missiles incinerate terrorists, these generally small, unmanned aircraft will help farmers more precisely apply water and pesticides to crops, saving money and reducing environmental impacts. They'll help police departments find missing people, reconstruct traffic accidents and act as lookouts for SWAT teams.

Knowing the unknown

March 27, 2013 7:34 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

Robot butlers that tidy your house or cook you a meal have long been the dream of science-fiction writers and artificial intelligence researchers alike. But if robots are ever going to move effectively around our constantly changing homes or workspaces performing such complex tasks, they will need to be more aware of their own limitations, according to researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"Terradynamics" could help predict how robots move on granular media

March 22, 2013 8:18 am | News | Comments

Using a combination of theory and experiment, researchers have developed a new approach for understanding and predicting how small-legged robots move on and interact with complex granular materials such as sand. The research could help create and advance the field of "terradynamics"—a name the researchers have given to the science of legged animals and vehicles moving on granular and other complex surfaces.

Robot meets world

March 22, 2013 7:54 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

When a robot is moving one of its limbs through free space, its behavior is well described by a few simple equations. But as soon as it strikes something solid, those equations break down. Roboticists typically use ad hoc control strategies to negotiate collisions and then revert to their rigorous mathematical models when the robot begins to move again. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are hoping to change that, with a new mathematical framework that unifies the analysis of both collisions and movement through free space.

MIT “cheetah” robot rivals running animals in efficiency

March 11, 2013 10:28 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A 70-pound “cheetah” robot designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers may soon outpace its animal counterparts in running efficiency: In treadmill tests, the researchers have found that the robot, which is about the size and weight of an actual cheetah, wastes very little energy as it trots continuously for up to an hour and a half at 5 mph. The key to the robot’s streamlined stride can be found in the shoulders.

Researchers create an Internet for robots

March 11, 2013 9:57 am | News | Comments

Software engineers at five European universities have developed a cloud-computing platform for robots. The platform allows robots connected to the Internet to directly access the powerful computational, storage, and communications infrastructure of modern data centers—the giant server farms behind the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon—for robotics tasks and robot learning.

Yeti helps conquer “abominable” polar hazards

March 4, 2013 2:45 pm | News | Comments

A century after Western explorers first crossed the dangerous landscapes of the Arctic and Antarctic, researchers funded by the National Science Foundation have successfully deployed a self-guided robot that uses ground-penetrating radar to map deadly crevasses hidden in ice-covered terrains. Deployment of the robot—dubbed Yeti—could make Arctic and Antarctic explorations safer by revealing unseen fissures buried beneath ice and snow that could potentially claim human lives and expensive equipment.

Teaching robots lateral thinking

February 25, 2013 9:12 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Many commercial robotic arms perform what roboticists call "pick-and-place" tasks: The arm picks up an object in one location and places it in another. Usually, the objects are positioned so that the arm can easily grasp them; the appendage that does the grasping may even be tailored to the objects' shape. General-purpose household robots, however, would have to be able to manipulate objects of any shape, left in any location. And today, commercially available robots don't have anything like the dexterity of the human hand. Until now.

Lessons from cockroaches could inform robotics

February 22, 2013 1:12 pm | News | Comments

Running cockroaches start to recover from being shoved sideways before their dawdling nervous system kicks in to tell their legs what to do, researchers have found. These new insights on how biological systems stabilize could one day help engineers design steadier robots and improve doctors' understanding of human gait abnormalities.

Brown researchers build robotic bat wing

February 21, 2013 2:54 pm | News | Comments

The strong, flapping flight of bats offers great possibilities for the design of small aircraft, among other applications. By building a robotic bat wing, Brown University researchers have uncovered flight secrets of real bats: the function of ligaments, the elasticity of skin, the structural support of musculature, skeletal flexibility, upstroke, downstroke.

Researchers use combustible gases to power leaping machines

February 13, 2013 3:35 pm | by Peter Reuell, Harvard University | News | Comments

Engineers at Harvard University have already shown that their unusual “soft” robots can already stand, walk, wriggle under obstacles, and change colors. Now, using small explosions produced by a mix of methane and oxygen, these researchers have designed a soft robot that can leap as much as a foot in the air.

Insect drives robot to track down smells

February 6, 2013 10:31 am | News | Comments

A small, two-wheeled robot has been driven by a male silkmoth to track down the sex pheromone usually given off by a female mate. The robot has been used to characterize the silkmoth’s tracking behaviors and it is hoped that these can be applied to other autonomous robots so they can track down smells, and the subsequent sources, of environmental spills and leaks when fitted with highly sensitive sensors.

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