Robots 3D-printed with shock-absorber skins

MIT researchers developed a method to 3D print robots with soft, shock-absorbing materials that can be "programmed" to desired elasticity to protect bouncing bots, drones making hard landings, and eventually phones, shoes, helmets and other materials. From MIT News:

For example, after 3-D printing a cube robot that moves by bouncing, the researchers outfitted it with shock-absorbing “skins” that use only 1/250 the amount of energy it transfers to the ground.{? “That reduction makes all the difference for preventing a rotor from breaking off of a drone or a sensor from cracking when it hits the floor,” says (MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory director Daniela) Rus, who oversaw the project and co-wrote a related paper. “These materials allow us to 3-D print robots with visco-elastic properties that can be inputted by the user at print-time as part of the fabrication process...”

“It’s hard to customize soft objects using existing fabrication methods, since you need to do injection moulding or some other industrial process,” says Lipton. “3-D printing opens up more possibilities and lets us ask the question, ‘can we make things we couldn’t make before?”

Using a standard 3-D printer, the team used a solid, a liquid, and a flexible rubber-like material called TangoBlack+ to print both the cube and its skins. The PVM process is related to (CSAIL Director Daniela) Rus’ previous 3-D printed robotics work, with an inkjet depositing droplets of different material layer-by-layer and then using UV light to solidify the non-liquids.

The cube robot includes a rigid body, two motors, a microcontroller, battery, and inertial measurement unit sensors.

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Frisky robot opens door

Meet Ghost Robotics' adorable Minitaur quadruped robot.

Here's an excerpt from IEEE Spectrum's interview with Avik De and Gavin Kenneally, who are on the development team at Professor Dan Koditschek’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania:

How the heck did you manage to get Minitaur to open that door?

De: I don’t know if it’s clear from the video, but there’s a lot going on. The robot is jumping, it perceives that the door handle is there, retracts the leg, and manipulates the door handle.

Kenneally: Just to go over it in a little bit more detail: It jumps up on its front two legs, doing a handstand, and then jumps. The back left leg is waiting to feel the door handle, so it kind of sticks that leg out and waits until it senses contact. Again, all the sensing is through the motors, there’s no current sensors or force sensors. Once it perceives contact with the door knob, it retracts the leg, moves it over a little bit, and then extends it, and that actually all happens within 50 milliseconds, so it’s incredibly fast. And then once it’s done that, the other back leg, which is now also in the air, pushes against the door to crack it open a little bit, and it also helps push the robot so it pitches back down toward the ground, where it then retracts the leg back and catches itself before it falls. The door opening and stair/fence climbing were done with help from T.

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Andy Samberg asks Neil Degrasse Tyson three questions about ETs, time travel, and robot sex

Are we alone in the universe? Is time travel possible? If you have sex with a robot, does it count as cheating?

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Bull ants swarm a clockwork toy robot

Someone sent a wind-up robot tottering into a nest of Australian bull ants, a species "characterised by their extreme aggressiveness, ferocity, and painful stings." It's a delight to watch these formicidaen bullies spend themselves impotently on the unfeeling skin of a toy, thus proving the superiority of humans over jerky ants. (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

This robot's odd behavior is controlled by a neural network

Alter is a robot made by Takashi Ikegami (University of Tokyo) that moves in a eerily lifelike way. It's behavior doesn't seem very human, but it is more alive than the typical Disney animatronic android. From Engadget:

The theory behind the CPG is based on one of the simplest artificial models for neurons, the Izhikevich neuron, which reacts in a way that's called "spiking and burst behavior": Something builds up, and the robot's system creates a signal spike, which chains together with other neurons. Professor Ikeue from Tokyo University describes the central pattern generator as "coupled pendulums" -- one bumps into another into another and a movement in formed. While not an equal, balanced rhythm, this becomes Alter's own rhythm. The researchers didn't make the movement; the robot made it itself.

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See this odd "ouroboros" robot roll right along

Researchers from Germany's University of Bielefeld presented their OUROBOT, a "Self-Propelled Continuous-Track-Robot for Rugged Terrain," at the recent IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. From their technical paper:

Adapting the concept of continuous tracks that are propelled and guided by wheels, a self-propelled continuous-track-robot has been designed and built. The robot consists of actuated chain segments, thus enabling it to change its form, independent of guiding mechanisms. Using integrated sensors, the robot is able to adapt to the terrain and to overcome obstacles. This allows the robot to “roll” and climb in two dimensions. Possible extensions of the concept to three-dimensional navigation are presented as an outlook.

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Person walking dog encounters Boston Dynamics walking their robot

Lucky there are leash laws!

(via Reddit)

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Security robot runs over child in mall, keeps going

A 5-foot-tall, 300 pound security robot at a Palo Alto, CA shopping mall ran over a 16-month child last Thursday, hitting the toddler in the head. From KPTV:

"The robot hit my son's head and he fell down facing down on the floor, and the robot did not stop. And it just kept on moving forward," said Tiffany Teng.

Harwin's parents say the robot ran over his right foot, causing it to swell, but luckily caused no broken bones. Harwin also got a scrape on his leg from the incident.

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Meet your robot gardener

The FarmBot Genesis is an open-source robot gardener for home food production. You design your mini-farm with their app and then the Raspberry Pi-powered robot handles the rest, from planting to watering, weeding to harvesting. The FarmBot Genesis sounds like the evolutionary descendant of Ken Goldberg and Joseph Santarromana's groundbreaking 1994 telerobotic artwork, the TeleGarden:

FarmBot Genesis:

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Here's a soft robotic stingray made of light-controlled rat heart muscle

A bio-engineering team at Harvard made a tiny robotic stingray from "a pinch of rat cardiac cells, a pinch of breast implant, and a pinch of gold," says Kit Parker, who lead the project. "That pretty much sums it up, except for the genetic engineering."

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Robotic hamburger stand from 1964

Yesterday I posted about a robotic hamburger shack opening in San Francisco. Nicholas Perry watched it and tweeted this video of a robotic hamburger machine made by AMF in 1964.

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Make a no-3D-printer gripping, soft robot with hot glue and spreadable silicone

Harrison Young devised a miraculously cool "fiber-reinforced actuator" -- a gripping robot-hand that can get traction on irregularly shaped, heavy objects, without any 3D printed parts and without any power-supply! Read the rest

Snowden's flesh is trapped in Russia, but his mind roams the world in a robot body

The Snowbot -- a $14,000 Beampro telepresence robot that Edward Snowden pilots from Moscow -- is becoming a fixture at conferences, meetings, and in the halls of power in the USA, where Snowden is a frequent invited guest. Read the rest

Meet SpotMini, a wee dancing robot from Boston Dynamics that also does the dishes

It's described as "nightmare fuel" by Digital Trends but I think it's adorable. Read the rest

In the robot future, only cars will drive

Here's something to fear about self-driving cars! Once they're up and running and insurance companies and legislators realize they're much better at it than humans, you won't even be allowed to drive. Also, the infrastructure is decaying badly and there's no political will to face up to the costs of fixing it, so the roads themselves may end up getting effectively sold off.

Public-private partnerships for roads might begin the erosion of the public right of way. But it’s also possible that autonomous vehicles will all but require limited access to public roads to operate effectively.

Today’s self-driving cars have to be designed and programmed to interact with messy circumstances. Pedestrians, dogs, bicycles, human-driven vehicles, and other obstacles all pose challenges to robocars, and if autonomous vehicles are even modestly successful, avoiding collisions with fallible human drivers will prove a temporary problem. ... The more self-driving cars there are on the roads, the less complex and more predictable the overall behavior of traffic becomes.

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Boston Dynamics shows new quadruped robots, including one with a head

Creepy/cool robot shop Boston Dynamics introduced the new SpotMini, a 55 pound robot that seems perfect for indoor use. YouTube description:

SpotMini is a new smaller version of the Spot robot that weighs 55 lbs dripping wet (65 lbs if you include its arm.) SpotMini is all-electric (no hydraulics) and runs for about 90 minutes on a charge, depending on what it is doing. SpotMini is one of the quietest robots we have ever built. It has a variety of sensors, including depth cameras, a solid state gyro (IMU) and proprioception sensors in the limbs. These sensors help with navigation and mobile manipulation. SpotMini performs some tasks autonomously, but often uses a human for high-level guidance

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This Twitter bot is mercilessly trolling Trump fans

Scores of Trump supporters have been fighting with an automated Twitter robot that spouts nonsense, and was designed to piss them off and waste their time on the internet.

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