Robot opens door

The latest from Boston Dynamics is alarming in a wonderfully uncanny new way. I shan't spoil it for you, but I am looking forward to the latex sheathing options. Read the rest

MAD magazine exclusive: "The Future of Job Automation"

Writer Kenny Keil and award-winning artist John Martz have an all-new satirical comic timeline in the upcoming issue of MAD #550, titled "The Future of Job Automation." It takes a jab at robots' success in taking over human jobs in the future - even if they don't always get it right. The upcoming issue will be available on digital this Friday, 2/9 and on newsstands 2/20. Click here to embiggen the image. Read the rest

This tiny, magnetic robot could roll, walk, and swim through the terrain of the human body

This millimeter-scale robot designed by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems could enable "applications in microfactories such as the construction of tissue scaffolds by robotic assembly, in bioengineering such as single-cell manipulation and biosensing, and in healthcare such as targeted drug delivery and minimally invasive surgery" with bots inside the body controlled by magnets. From their scientific paper in Nature:

Here we demonstrate magneto-elastic soft millimetre-scale robots that can swim inside and on the surface of liquids, climb liquid menisci, roll and walk on solid surfaces, jump over obstacles, and crawl within narrow tunnels. These robots can transit reversibly between different liquid and solid terrains, as well as switch between locomotive modes. They can additionally execute pick-and-place and cargo-release tasks.

"Small-scale soft-bodied robot with multimodal locomotion" (Nature)

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Make a Lego cookie-icing robot/plotter

Jason Allemann of JK Brickworks (previously documents his latest creation: a poltter that squeezes precise patters of icing onto cookies, built out of Lego Mindstorms, and includes full, downloadable instructions. Read the rest

San Francisco put the kibosh on delivery robots for now

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted to restrict delivery robots to areas with very minimal foot traffic and only for research purposes. From Wired:

Unlike self-driving cars, or at least self-driving cars working properly, these bots roll on sidewalks, not streets. That gives them the advantage of not dealing with the high-speed chaos of roads, other than crossing intersections, but also means they have to deal with the cluttered chaos of sidewalks. Just think about how difficult it can be for you as a human to walk the city. Now imagine a very early technology trying to do it. (Requests for comment sent to three delivery robot companies—Dispatch, Marble, and Starship—were not immediately returned.)...

The legislation will require delivery robots to emit a warning noise for pedestrians and observe rights of way. They’ll also need headlights, and each permittee will need to furnish proof of insurance in the forms of general liability, automotive liability, and workers’ comp.

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Putting a super-advanced Lincolnbot through his paces

Dan from the Journal of Ride Theory sez, "This is great. Conducting an interview while this cartoonishly expressive, hyperrealistic Lincoln silently pulls cray-cray Jim Carrey faces is simultaneously one of the coolest, unintentionally funniest and creepiest things ever. Also, all his movements have that weird swoop-to-new-pose weirdness of bad CGI. Swoop-hold, swoop-hold, swoop-hold." Read the rest

Fighting robots, as fast as the eye can see

If the last you saw of fighting wheeled robots was Robot Wars, well, things have moved on in the last few years! Check out these single-minded sumobots, as fast as the eye can see and ruthlessly optimized to their purpose.

The video was shot/compiled by Robert McGregor. Here's more:

With the slower, more implicitly purposeful Boston Dynamics bots, there are usually two responses: firstly, "holy shit!", and secondly, "something something welcome our new robot overlords." Their resemblance to mammal forms is both appealing and unnerving.

But here there is only "holy shit!" These lightning-fast, plainly unlovable little fellas are a good reminder of what the reality will be: the same overlords as before, but wielding weapons so tiny and fast that you won't even see them coming.

[via] Read the rest

Doublehand: a robotic pair of hands you control with two fingers

Federico Ciccarese's €1800, 3D-printed Doublehand from Youbionic is a "wearable robotic device" that lets you control two hands using two fingers. (via Oh Gizmo) Read the rest

SpotMini, the latest robot dog from Boston Dynamics

This elegant pup from Boston Dynamics triggered in me, for just a moment, the uncanny recognition of computer graphics. But it isn't rendered: it's a real machine, meeting a new threshold of fluid movement that turns my skepticism in on itself. Instead of being almost fooled into thinking something fake is real, I'm almost fooled into thinking something real is fake. Read the rest

Tiny RoboBee flies, swims, and launches itself out of water back into the air

The millimeter-scale RoboBee can fly, dive into water, swim around, and then take off into the air again. At just 175 milligrams, it's 1,000 times lighter than any other aerial-to-aquatic robot. Designed at Harvard's microrobotics laboratory, the RoboBee is outfitted with four tiny "floaties" and a chamber that converts water into oxyhydrogen, fuel that combusts to propel the robot out of the water.

“The RoboBee represents a platform where forces are different than what we – at human scale – are used to experiencing,” says researcher Robert Wood. “While flying the robot feels as if it is treading water; while swimming it feels like it is surrounded by molasses. The force from surface tension feels like an impenetrable wall. These small robots give us the opportunity to explore these non-intuitive phenomena in a very rich way.”

From Harvard:

The gas increases the robot’s buoyancy, pushing the wings out of the water and the floaties stabilize the RoboBee on the water’s surface. From there, a tiny, novel sparker inside the chamber ignites the gas, propelling the RoboBee out of the water. The robot is designed to passively stabilize in air, so that it always lands on its feet.

“By modifying the vehicle design, we are now able to lift more than three times the payload of the previous RoboBee,” said (researcher Yufeng) Chen. “This additional payload capacity allowed us to carry the additional devices including the gas chamber, the electrolytic plates, sparker, and buoyant outriggers, bringing the total weight of the hybrid robot to 175 miligrams, about 90mg heavier than previous designs.

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Syndaver: A $95K animatronic cadaver that's replacing med-school corpses

The Syndaver is a super-realistic robotic human corpse simulator with replaceable viscera that med students can dissect again and again, freeing them to use the donated bodies of people who willed their remains to science for med school pranks, like sneaking them into the alumni dinner in a tuxedo. Read the rest

Skydiving robot to capture video of skydivers

The Freefall Camera (FFC) is a robot that can be tossed out of a plane to autonomously track and capture video of skydivers doing tricks. At a predetermined altitude, the robot pops its steerable parachute and lands near specified GPS coordinates. The University of Nottingham researchers who developed the Freefall Camera presented their work at last week's International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. From IEEE Spectrum:

Building a robot that can successfully control its position and terminal velocity relative to another falling object is not something that’s been done before. There are freefall cameras designed to work in microgravity, but that’s a much different challenge: this camera has to be able to maneuver in a 120 mph (190 km/h) stream of air, which is all about passive aerodynamics. To steer itself, the FFC uses four vertical ailerons to control yaw (and eventually horizontal position), along with a pair of retractable flaps that increase or decrease the robot’s drag to slow it down or speed it up. A GoPro does the recording while a CMUcam5 vision sensor tracks colored blobs to stay locked onto its subject...

The tests showed that the FCC could generally track a human within 0.25 meters vertically, and 12 degrees of the center of the camera’s field of view. Occasionally, the camera would get confused by backgrounds or bright lights, so the next incarnation of the system will use an infrared beacon for tracking instead.

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Three pro-human laws of robotics

From the Vienna Bienalle: 1. Intelligent robots must serve the common good of humanity and help us humans to lead an ecologically, socially, culturally and economically sustainable life. Read the rest

Replicant lady finds classic way out of unhappy relationship with owner in "Propagation"

Propagation is the latest from Com Truise (previously), with an excellent video to go with it by Will Joines & Karrie Crouse, shot by Zoë White and starring Trieste Kelly Dunn and Stephen O'Reilly. It has that ideal 2010s look: the technological landscape of the 1950s with the emotional atmosphere of the 1980s and a select reading of everything in between, and nothing before or after. Well-trodden ground, sure, but the footsteps are perfect. From the new LP, Iteration. Read the rest

Orchestra conductors watch out - here's a robot who can do the job

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli has performed with some of music’s greatest artists, but his latest collaboration requires a little more coding.

YuMi, a dual-armed robot, led Bocelli and the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra during an Italian robotics festival Tuesday, according the Associated Press.

The robot gracefully guided its baton for a group of subordinate humans to follow its instruction to Giuseppe Verdi's "La Donna e Mobile." The orchestra's human conductor praised the musically gifted bot, but said it is still not able to stop should the orchestra make a mistake.

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Japanese ice-cream robot is a marvel of overengineered whimsy

Redditor Pirate_Redbeard posted this video of an ice-cream robot vending machine in Japan: an anthropomorphic robot that plucks a cone, holds it under a soft-serve machine, pulls a perfect poop-emoji swirl, passes it through a one-way bank-teller window, and then does a dance of delight once you pluck it up. Read the rest

Researchers can take over domestic and industrial robots to spy and maim

This week at Singapore's Hack in the Box conference, researchers Lucas Apa and Cesar Cerrudo from the Argentinian security research company IOActive will present their findings on the defects in humanoid domestic robots from UBTech and Softbank and industrial robot arms from Universal Robots; they're building on research published in March in which they released incomplete findings in order to give vendors a chance to patch the vulnerabilities they discovered. Read the rest

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