Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cockroaches Offer Inspiration For Running Robots

Researchers at Oregon State University are using studies of guinea hens and other animals such as cockroaches to learn more about the mechanics of their running ability, with the goal of developing robots that can run easily over rough terrain. (Credit: Image courtesy of Oregon State University)

From Science Daily:

Science Daily (Dec. 29, 2009) — The sight of a cockroach scurrying for cover may be nauseating, but the insect is also a biological and engineering marvel, and is providing researchers at Oregon State University with what they call "bioinspiration" in a quest to build the world's first legged robot that is capable of running effortlessly over rough terrain.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Robotic Knee Helps Perfectly Healthy Runners Run Even Better

The Cyborg Leg It helps perfectly healthy runners run 30 percent more efficiently.
Tsukuba University

From Popular Science:

Attention cyborg wonks and lazy people: Japanese scientists at Tsukuba University have created a motorized knee that you can attach to your leg to increase your muscle power and running speed. The 11-pound kit's weight is shared by an exoskeleton-like attachment for your leg and a power source that's carried in a small backpack. But here's the best part: the device is not designed with any kind of rehabilitation or handicap-assisting function in mind; it's simply to make it easier for regular folks to run faster!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Computers Offer A Faster Way To Cure Humanity's Ills

From The Guardian:

Scientific research and medical breakthroughs increasingly depend on huge computer power.

HOW DO YOU predict whether a given patient is likely to die from a heart attack? Conventional medical wisdom would base a risk assessment on factors such as the person's age, whether they were smokers and/or diabetic plus the results of cardiac ultrasound and various blood tests. It may be that a better predictor is a computer program that analyses the patient's electrocardiogram looking for subtle features within the data provided by the instrument.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rethinking Artificial Intelligence

From R&D:

The field of artificial-intelligence research (AI), founded more than 50 years ago, seems to many researchers to have spent much of that time wandering in the wilderness, swapping hugely ambitious goals for a relatively modest set of actual accomplishments. Now, some of the pioneers of the field, joined by later generations of thinkers, are gearing up for a massive “do-over” of the whole idea.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Davy Jones's Lock-Up

From The Economist:

Underwater robots can help study the world’s shipwrecks, a trove of information about the past, more easily and cheaply.

A SHIPWRECK is a catastrophe for those involved, but for historians and archaeologists of future generations it is an opportunity. Wrecks offer glimpses not only of the nautical technology of the past but also of its economy, trade, culture and, sometimes, its warfare. Until recently, though, most of the 3m ships estimated to be lying on the seabed have been out of reach. Underwater archaeology has mainly been the preserve of scuba divers. That has limited the endeavour to waters less than 50 metres deep, excluding 98% of the sea floor from inspection. Even allowing for the tendency of trading vessels to be coasters rather than ocean-going ships, that limits the number of wrecks available for discovery and examination.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New Underwater Explorers Go Where Scientists Can't

From Popular Mechanics:

Last week, an unmanned robot completed a 3300-mile trek across the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. The 134-pound robot, a glider named the Scarlet Knight, spent months at sea, gathering data on ocean temperature and salinity between the water's surface down to 600 feet below. The Scarlet Knight is just one of many new technologies scientists are turning to in order to research oceans, rivers and lakes—areas that are impractical, and in some cases impossible, for researchers to access themselves. By employing everything from robots to, yes, tadpoles, scientists hope to learn more about how climate change and pollution are affecting the earth's water. Here is some of the newest tech aiding scientists.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

I, Robot: Buy Your Own Android Double For Christmas

Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro developed his own robot doppelganger in 2007

From The Daily Mail:

Stuck for gift ideas this Christmas? How about an android moulded in the exact likeness of your loved one? Well that is exactly what's on offer at a chain of department stores in Japan.

The mechanical doppelgangers will be on offer at Sogo, Seibu, and Robinson retailers for the princely sum of 20.1million yen or £139,000.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Learning To Love To Hate Robots

Low expectations are easily surpassed (Image: Steve Olson/Getty)

From New Scientist:

ROBOTIC helpers are not yet in every home. But in recent years robots have steadily marched into the real world to perform tasks such as cleaning floors, delivering drugs or simply entertaining.

That has let anthropologists and roboticists give these mechanical workers their first report cards - and results are mixed. Despite evidence that we can find robots useful, even lovable colleagues, they can also trigger annoyance and violence. The results should help make future robots easier to work with.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Buy A Custom Robot That Looks Just Like You (PHOTO)

From The Huffington Post:

If you're wondering what to put on your wishlist for the holidays, here's a gift idea you might not have considered: your robot twin -- a robotic double that looks, and talks, just like you.

Japanese department store Sogo & Seibu has announced that they are selling two, customizable robots that can be tweaked to look exactly like you (or the person of the buyer's choosing).

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Science Goes Back To Basics On AI

From the BBC:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has begun a project to re-think artificial intelligence research.

The Mind Machine Project will return to the basics of AI research to re-examine what lies behind human intelligence.

Spanning five years and funded by a $5m (£3.1m) grant, it will bring together scientists who have had success in distinct fields of AI.

By uniting researchers, MIT hopes to produce robotic companions smart enough to aid those suffering from dementia.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

A New Step Forward For Robots

Jerry Pratt (l.) with research associates push M2V2 to test its balance at the Institute for Human Cognition in Pensacola, Fla. (Carmen K. Sisson/Special to The Christian Science Monitor)

From The Christian Science Monitor:

Engineers decode human balance to build walking robots.

For the past 30 years, scientists and technicians have grappled with making robots walk on two legs. Humans do it effortlessly, but the simple act has a lot of hidden complexity. And until recently, computers were very bad at it.

Now, several teams across the country are refining the first generation of robots that are close to walking like people. That includes the ability to recover from stumbles, resist shoves, and navigate rough terrain.

Read more ....

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Five Ways To Revolutionise Computer Memory

Digital memory is getting smaller and smaller (Image: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty)

From New Scientist:

Once upon a time, not so long ago, the idea that you might store your entire music collection on a single hand-held device would have been greeted with disbelief. Ditto backing up all your essential computer files using a memory stick key ring, or storing thousands of high-resolution holiday snaps in one pocket-sized camera.

What a difference a decade makes. The impossible has become possible thanks to the lightning rise of a memory technology with the snazzy name of "flash".

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

MIT Plans To Rebuild Artificial Intelligence From The Ground Up

Artificial Intelligence: It's not what we think.

From Popular Science:

After 50 years and countless dead ends, incremental progress, and modest breakthroughs, artificial intelligence researchers are asking for a do-over. The $5 million Mind Machine Project (MMP), a patchwork team of two dozen academics, students and researchers, intends to go back to the discipline's beginnings, rebuilding the field from the ground up. With 20/20 hindsight, a few generations worth of experience, and better, faster technology, this time researchers in AI -- an ambiguous field to begin with -- plan to get things right.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Optimism As Artificial Intelligence Pioneers Reunite

INTELLIGENCE John McCarthy, seated center, who ran the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, at a reunion last month with Bruce Buchanan to his left and Vic Scheinman on the right. Standing, from left, are Ralph Gorin, Whit Diffie, Dan Swinehart, Tony Hearn, Larry Tesler, Lynn Quam and Martin Frost. John Markoff

From The New York Times:

STANFORD, Calif. — The personal computer and the technologies that led to the Internet were largely invented in the 1960s and ’70s at three computer research laboratories next to the Stanford University campus.

One laboratory, Douglas Engelbart’s Augmentation Research Center, became known for the mouse; a second, Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, developed the Alto, the first modern personal computer. But the third, the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, or SAIL, run by the computer scientist John McCarthy, gained less recognition.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Robots Become Reality

Pingpong-playing robot 'Topio'. The bipedal humanoid robot is designed to play table tennis against a human being. Photograph: Kim Kyung-hoon/Reuters

200 robot companies and institutes exhibit their latest specimens at the International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo, Japan.

Check out the entire gallery here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Man Controls Robotic Hand With Thoughts

From U.S. News And World Report/AP:

ROME—An Italian who lost his left forearm in a car crash was successfully linked to a robotic hand, allowing him to feel sensations in the artificial limb and control it with his thoughts, scientists said Wednesday.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Robotic Exoskeletons: Suited For Superhuman Power

Photo: Software engineer Rex Jameson demonstrates the XOS suit designed to give Army soldiers a significant boost in strength and endurance. Raytheon Co.

From Christian Science Monitor:

Exoskeletons – or wearable robots – strengthen soldiers and mobilize the disabled.

The high-tech suits of “Iron Man” and “RoboCop” don’t seem so far off to Yoshiyuki Sankai. Since the third grade, this Japanese professor and inventor has been enchanted by Isaac Asimov’s story “I, Robot” and the idea that robots – or, in Mr. Sankai’s case, robotic suits – could help humans with everyday life.

In 2005, he unveiled several working prototypes of a mechanical, mind-controlled “exoskeleton” that could allow the disabled to walk. The suit – recently refined and now available for rent in Japan – resembles white soccer shinguards attached to each segment of the arms and legs and a fanny pack-like battery hooked around the waist.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Robotic Clam Could Detonate Underwater Mines

Inspired by the amazing ability of the small clam to dig and wedge itself far deeper and more securely than would be thought, they show the robo-clam. Credit: Donna Coveney

From Live Science:

Robot clams may one day help dig up and detonate buried underwater mines, researchers now reveal. They could also serve as smart anchors for robot subs or deep-sea oil drilling.

Mechanical engineers Anette "Peko" Hosoi and Amos Winter at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology designed robots after the Atlantic razor clam (Ensis directus) because it is one of nature's best diggers. Using its relatively simple anatomy, the razor clam — which the researchers dubbed the Ferrari of underwater diggers — can burrow into the bottom of its native mudflats at a remarkable rate of roughly a centimeter per second.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The World's Fastest Computers

5: Tianhe-1. 563 teraflops
A new entrant into the Top500 list, China's fastest computer proved capable of more than 500 trillion operations per second. Put another way, a simple calculator's power is typically about 10 flops. Tianhe, which means "river in the sky", is housed at the National Super Computer Center, Tianjin, and is more than four times faster than the previous top computer in the country. The computer combines 6144 Intel processors with 5120 graphics processing units made by AMD, normally found in computer graphics cards. (Image: Xinhua News Agency/eyevine)

From New Scientist:

Twice a year the operators of the world's fastest computers eagerly await their latest ranking compiled by the Top500 project. The chart is based on the maximum rate at which a computer can crunch numbers using what are called floating point operations. November's list has just been released: enjoy our gallery of the five fastest calculators on the planet.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Human Brains Emulated In The Computer World

From Alpha Galileo:

Researchers at Luleå University of Technology have created a computer-based architecture that mimics a pair of human brain functions. System that detects and compensates for their own shortcomings is a possible application, another is to reduce the impact of noise. The research takes a significant step forward because the research group has recently doubled.

We have developed a model of how the various sources of information that complement each other, can get a better idea of what is happening. Better to the extent that we may see more than what the different parts look, "says Tamas Jantvik researcher at Luleå University of Technology.

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