Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Robot That Navigates Like A Person

Image: Future vision: This robot navigates using input from two cameras that serve as "eyes" in a movable "head." Credit: Antonio Frisoli

From Technology Review:

A new robot navigates using humanlike visual processing and object detection.

European researchers have developed a robot capable of moving autonomously using humanlike visual processing. The robot is helping the researchers explore how the brain responds to its environment while the body is in motion. What they discover could lead to machines that are better able to navigate through cluttered environments.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

First Electronic Quantum Processor Created

The two-qubit processor is the first solid-state quantum processor that resembles a conventional computer chip and is able to run simple algorithms. (Credit: Blake Johnson/Yale University)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 29, 2009) — A team led by Yale University researchers has created the first rudimentary solid-state quantum processor, taking another step toward the ultimate dream of building a quantum computer.

They also used the two-qubit superconducting chip to successfully run elementary algorithms, such as a simple search, demonstrating quantum information processing with a solid-state device for the first time. Their findings will appear in Nature's advanced online publication June 28.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Robot Jellyfish Swims Just Like The Real Thing

Jellybot: Sung-Weon Yeom and Il-Kwon Oh

From Popsci.com:

Even though a jellyfish is 90 percent water, it moves at about 40 mph. Jellyfish use their bell -- the top portion, above the tentacles -- to create a jet that propels them through water. Now, scientists at the Chonnam National University in the Republic of Korea have built a robot that mimics the movement. The robot, using an electro-active polymer artificial muscle, retracts and expands its skirt, exerting a minimal voltage and propelling the jellybot faster than you can swim.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

The AI Report -- A Complete Report

From Forbes Magazine:

Can machines think? In 1950, Alan Turing, considered by some to be the father of modern computing, published a paper in which he proposed that, "If, during text-based conversation, a machine is indistinguishable from a human, then it could be said to be 'thinking' and, therefore, could be attributed with intelligence." He predicted that a computer would pass this "Turing Test" by the end of the century. That hasn't happened--yet. But the question continues to provoke and inspire. AI might be just around the corner, or it might be centuries away.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stealthy Robot "Ferret" Sniffs Out Contraband

From Popsci.com:

Calling a lithe, sniffing robot a "ferret" raises hopes that it'll be rather cuter than the mockup pictured, but the cargo-screening device in development has capabilities that outshadow its aesthetic shortcomings. Though still in its beginning stages -- working prototypes will be ready in about two years -- this robot will revolutionize airport and seaport security by serving as an all-in-one drug, weapon, explosive, and illegal-stowaway detection powerhouse.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Exotic Material Could Revolutionize Electronics

Surface electron band structure of bismuth telluride.
(Credit: Image courtesy of Yulin Chen and Z. X. Shen)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 16, 2009) — Move over, silicon—it may be time to give the Valley a new name. Physicists at the Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have confirmed the existence of a type of material that could one day provide dramatically faster, more efficient computer chips.

Recently-predicted and much-sought, the material allows electrons on its surface to travel with no loss of energy at room temperatures and can be fabricated using existing semiconductor technologies. Such material could provide a leap in microchip speeds, and even become the bedrock of an entirely new kind of computing industry based on spintronics, the next evolution of electronics.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

March Of The Killer Robots

Killing machine: one of America's unmanned Reaper hunter-killer aircraft

From The Telegraph:

The development of mechanical soldiers and remote-controlled tanks and planes is changing war for ever - but the moral consequences have often been overlooked.

It's the most realistic shoot-'em-up game ever. The player has a choice of two planes: a Predator with two Hellfire missiles, or a Reaper with 14. The action takes place in the Middle East, where you can attack villages and kill the inhabitants with impunity. But don't bother looking for it in the shops: to play this deadly game, you'll have to travel to Creech Air Force base in the Nevada desert. That's because the planes are real, and so are the casualties.

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My Comment: The important sentence in this story is the following:

On the ground are between 6,000 and 12,000 robots, up from a mere 150 in 2004.

Extrapolating from current growth, one can argue that in 5 more years we will probably have anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 plus warbots in stock and/or in a war zone.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Eeeek! Robot Mimics Rats

Psikharpax has two cameras for eyes, two microphone ears
and a set of tiny wheels for locomotion.

From Live Science:

Psikharpax the robot rat is the creation of a team of French roboticists. Rather than setting their sights on human-level intelligence, they're trying to figure out and replicate the behaviors of a simpler creature - the rat.

"The rat is the animal that scientists know best, and the structure of its brain is similar to that of humans," says doctoral student Steve Nguyen, showing off Psikharpax at a research and innovation fair in Paris last week. The robot's unlikely name derives from a story attributed to the ancient greek writer Homer about a clever "king of the rats".

Read more ....

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Future Warbot Powered by Xbox Controller

From The Danger Room:

The military has long been interested in unmanned ground vehicles that can haul soldier equipment or scout perimeters. Equally important, the vehicles must be simple and intuitive to operate.

Over at the Flash Blog, Lee Brimelow has an interesting scoop on how an XBox 360 interface was designed for the R-Gator, an unmanned vehicle prototype John Deere and iRobot first unveiled in 2004. Software firm T8DESIGN built the Adobe Integrated Runtime interface for the R-Gator; Brimelow has some images of how it looks on screen.

Read more ...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Word With The Inventor Of The Battlefield Snakebot And The Wall-Scaling Snailbot

From Popsci.com:

Israeli roboticist Amir Shapiro looks to the animal kingdom to design robots that can go where humans can't.

The Israel Defense Forces are preparing to deploy a camouflage-wearing, camera-toting robot snake. The spybot, which slithers through cracks and caves using principles of motion derived from those of actual snakes, is just one of roboticist Amir Shapiro's clever designs based on animal physiology. We visited Dr. Shapiro's lab at Ben Gurion University of the Negev to get a closer look.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Army Mechanic's Garage Tinkering Yields 18-Foot Mecha Exoskeleton

Inside Job: For the new prototype of his mechanical suit, Carlos Owens is planning to feature a chest plate that swings open so he doesn't have to climb in from underneath Jeff Schultz

From PopSci.com:

27 hydraulic cylinders bring the mechs to life, its movements matching those of the person inside it

Carlos Owens had handled all kinds of machines as an army mechanic, but he always dreamed of using those skills for one project: his own "mecha,” a giant metal robot that could mirror the movements of its human pilot.

Owens, 31, began building an 18-foot-tall, one-ton prototype at his home in Wasilla, Alaska, in 2004. Working without blueprints, he first built a full-scale model out of wood. Moving on to steel, he had to devise a hydraulics system that would provide precisely the right leverage and range of movement. He settled on a complex network of cables and hydraulic cylinders that can make the mecha raise its arms, bend its knees, and even do a sit-up.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Predictive Powers: A Robot That Reads Your Intention?

Joint toy-making activity between robot and man. (Credit: Copyright JAST)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 10, 2009) — European researchers in robotics, psychology and cognitive sciences have developed a robot that can predict the intentions of its human partner. This ability to anticipate (or question) actions could make human-robot interactions more natural.

The walking, talking, thinking robots of science fiction are far removed from the automated machines of today. Even today's most intelligent robots are little more than slaves – programmed to do our bidding.

Read more ....

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Robots At War: The New Battlefield

(Click Image to Enlarge)
MQ-9 Reaper. Image from 3D Allusions

From The Wilson Quarterly:

It sounds like science fic­tion, but it is fact: On the battlefields of Iraq and Afghan­istan, robots are killing America’s ene­mies and sav­ing Ameri­can lives. But today’s Pack­Bots, Preda­tors, and Ravens are rela­tively prim­itive machines. The coming generation of “war-bots” will be im­mensely more sophisti­cated, and their devel­op­ment raises troubling new questions about how and when we wage ­war.

There was little to warn of the danger ahead. The Iraqi insurgent had laid his ambush with great cunning. Hidden along the side of the road, the bomb looked like any other piece of trash. American soldiers call these ­jury-­rigged bombs IEDs, official shorthand for improvised explosive devices.

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My Comment: A long article that examines the past, present, and future role of robots in war. This is a must read article, and one that should be bookmarked for rereading in the future.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Electronic Memory Chips That Can Bend And Twist

Image: Electronic memory chips may soon gain the ability to bend and twist like this one. (Credit: NIST)

From Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (June 3, 2009) — Electronic memory chips may soon gain the ability to bend and twist as a result of work by engineers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). As reported in the July 2009 issue of IEEE Electron Device Letters, the engineers have found a way to build a flexible memory component out of inexpensive, readily available materials.

Though not yet ready for the marketplace, the new device is promising not only because of its potential applications in medicine and other fields, but because it also appears to possess the characteristics of a memristor, a fundamentally new component for electronic circuits that industry scientists developed in 2008. NIST has filed for a patent on the flexible memory device (application #12/341.059).

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Luke" Arm Begins Widespread Testing Among Veterans

Deka's Luke Arm: The most advanced prosthetic in the world courtesy DEKA

From Popsci.com:

Dean Kamen's ground-breaking prosthetic enters large-scale military trial

The foot-controlled "Luke" prosthetic arm may not win any lightsaber fights, but it could soon lend a helping hand to wounded warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. A three-year study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is slated to provide engineering feedback before widespread distribution to veterans, according to an announcement last week.

The prosthetic arm is the brainchild of Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway and founder of DEKA Research and Development. DEKA has fine-tuned a control system that acts like a foot-operated joystick -- users maneuver the arm by shifting pressure to different parts of a shoe embedded with an array of sensors. Future wireless versions may circumvent the wires that currently relay signals from shoe to arm.

Read more ....

Monday, June 1, 2009

Invention Awards: Robo-Legs

ReWalk: How It Works: The user plants the crutches out front and leans forward. A sensor registers the motion, and the computer instructs motors in the hip and knee of one leg to swing it forward Bland Designs

From Popsci.com:

An exoskeleton that enables paraplegics to walk

Today's featured Invention Award winner: ReWalk, the lightweight, affordable, powered smart exoskeleton.

After breaking his neck in a 1997 fall, Israeli engineer Amit Goffer learned that he would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He soon concluded that this mode of transportation was outdated and began work on the ReWalk, the only wearable exoskeleton that allows paraplegics to stand, amble, and even climb stairs. Soon, more than a dozen patients in the U.S. will strap in and start strolling.

Invention: ReWalk
Inventor: Amit Goffer
Cost: $2 million+
Time: 10 years
Is It Ready Yet? 1 2 3 4 5

Goffer, now 56, needed a design that would be not only safe but also energy-efficient enough to last for an entire day. "I was worried you would need a truckload of batteries," he recalls. To solve that problem, he made a design choice that meant he could never use it. Goffer is paralyzed from the chest down, but he realized that if wearers could use crutches, it would conserve energy and simplify balance, since the device wouldn't have to keep the person upright all on its own.

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Robots Rolling Towards Farm Revolution

A 3D laser ranging view of a Pennsylvania apple orchard can not only allow a mobile robot to pace its rows, but also captures detail of every tree, its foliage and fruit. This image was produced using techniques developed by Daniel Munoz, Martial Hebert and Nicolas Vandapel (Image: Nicolas Vandapel)

From The New Scientist:

From ploughs to seed drills to tractors, evolving technology has brought about radical changes to agriculture over the years. Now the sector is poised for another shift as robotic farmhands gear up to make agriculture greener and more efficient.

Three things now make mobile agricultural robots a real possibility in the near future, says Tony Stentz, an engineer at Carnegie Mellon University's robotics institute.

Firstly, mobile robots have now proved able to cope with complex outdoor environmentsMovie Camera; secondly, the price of production has fallen; and, finally, society should now see robot labourers as a benefit not a curse.

Read more ....