SRI International and DARPA are making little tiny robots (some are way smaller than a penny) that can actually manufacture products.
They can move so fast! And that shot of dozens of them moving in a synchronized fashion! Perhaps Skynet will actually manifest itself not as human-sized killing machines but as swarms of trillions of microscopic nanobots, a la this episode of Star Trek:TNG. (via @themexican)
I don't want to stand in the way of all science, but I am completely on board with the banning of all research into the creation of a dancing dog robot that throws cinder blocks with ease. Oops, I am too late. And now this is happening.
This place isn't too far from me in Boston, so if anyone wants to meet up for a little Terminator 2 style future saving, let me know.
The Smart SPHERES, located in the Kibo laboratory module, were remotely operated from the International Space Station's Mission Control Center at Johnson to demonstrate how a free-flying robot can perform surveys for environmental monitoring, inspection and other routine housekeeping tasks.
In the future, small robots could regularly perform routine maintenance tasks allowing astronauts to spend more time working on science experiments. In the long run, free-flying robots like Smart SPHERES also could be used to inspect the exterior of the space station or future deep-space vehicles.
They are outfitting the Smart SPHERES with Android phones for data collection:
Each SPHERE Satellite is self-contained with power, propulsion, computing and navigation equipment. When Miller's team first designed the SPHERES, all of their potential uses couldn't be imagined up front. So, the team built an "expansion port" into each satellite where additional sensors and appendages, such as cameras and wireless power transfer systems, could be added. This is how the Nexus S handset -- the SPHERES' first smartphone upgrade -- is going to be attached.
"Because the SPHERES were originally designed for a different purpose, they need some upgrades to become remotely operated robots," said DW Wheeler, lead engineer in the Intelligent Robotics Group at Ames. "By connecting a smartphone, we can immediately make SPHERES more intelligent. With the smartphone, the SPHERES will have a built-in camera to take pictures and video, sensors to help conduct inspections, a powerful computing unit to make calculations, and a Wi-Fi connection that we will use to transfer data in real-time to the space station and mission control."
Well, this is something...an ex-jewel thief decides to unretire and rob people with help from his robot butler. I had to look this up on IMDB to make sure it wasn't something from Funny or Die or College Humor.
Best robotic sidekick since Mr. Spock. Now reboot Lethal Weapon with Donald Glover and a robot playing the Mel Gibson role. (Yes, I meant Donald. Danny is clearly too old for that shit.)
You're not going to believe me, but this mushroom processing machine is pretty fascinating. There's lots of deceptively simple engineering to mechanically manipulate the mushrooms...the auto-alignment and size-sorting bits are especially interesting.
Update: I did a quick calculation...if a 6-ft-tall human could jump as high as this robot relative to its height, they could jump 315 feet into the air, high enough to land on the roof of a 30-story building. (If you ignore the scaling issues, that is.)
Amazon announced recently that they bought a company named Kiva for $775 million. In cash. Kiva makes robots for fulfillment warehouses, of which Amazon has many. When I heard this news, I was all, robots are cool, but $775 million? But this short video on how the Kiva robots work made me a believer:
Flesh and blood cheetahs are the fastest land animals, capable of traveling at more than 70 mph for shorts periods of time. This robotic cheetah can only do 18 mph but could probably go forever and ever until everything on the Earth has been caught and consumed by its steely jaws.
For reference, Usain Bolt's average speed over 100 meters is ~23 mph, so at least he's safe...for a little while. (via ★interesting)
I think I've featured this robot on the site before (yep, here it is), but she seems to have acquired some new skills. Throwing the mobile phone into the air and catching it is flat-out unbelievable but I liked the quiet deftness of the hand's rice tweezing.
I am unclear on exactly how this works, but it does work amazingly well.
The gripper uses the same phenomenon that makes a vacuum -- packed bag of ground coffee so firm; in fact, ground coffee worked very well in the device. But the researchers found a new use for this everyday phenomenon: They placed the elastic bag against a surface and then removed the air from the bag, solidifying the ground coffee inside and forming a tight grip. When air is returned to the bag, the grip relaxes.
There is so much here. The "previously-unseen towel" part of the title, the slightly-femmy movements of the robot, the way the 50X speed-up makes it look like a Svankmajer film, the diligent care with which it smooths out each towel when it's done, and the palpable shock when it returns to the towel table and there aren't any left to fold.
The Big Picture collects a number of photos of robots...particularly robots interacting with humans. (The third one is particularly freaky/awesome.) I'm wondering how these photos will look 50/60/70 years from now when (presumably) robots are smart & capable enough that they are thought of a new sentient life form (rather than as machines) and are entitled to the rights that humans have.
There are now 1 million industrial robots toiling around the world, and Japan is where they're the thickest on the ground. It has 295 of these electromechanical marvels for every 10000 manufacturing workers -- a robot density almost 10 times the world average and nearly twice that of Singapore (169), South Korea (164), and Germany (163).
When the war with the machines starts, Africa will be humanity's last stronghold.
First, a fruit fly is tethered to a rod with a cylindrical LED display around it. The display shows geometric patterns that are known to make a fruit fly move left or right - a kind of virtual reality simulator for flies. Since the fly is tethered, it can't actually move, but it tries to anyway. "The fly's pretty dumb," says roboticist Brad Nelson, who created the "flyborg" with colleagues at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich.
The patterns on the display are triggered by images transmitted from a camera mounted on a miniature robotic car. If the car approaches an obstacle, the display shows the appropriate pattern and the fly reacts accordingly. As it does so, another camera detects minute changes in the movements of its wings. "We measure the lift force and kinematics in real time," says Nelson.
The goal is to figure out how the fly makes decisions about movement so that those decisions can be replicated by a computer.
Swiveling frenetically, they analyzed digital images of items scattered randomly on a swiftly moving conveyor belt and picked up the items using suction cups that blow air in and out at their tips. They then worked together to place line up the items in rows inside boxes.
Ken Graney's Roomba has broken the three laws of Roombotics. "The first law states that the device 'must not suck up jewelry or other valuables, or through inaction, allow valuables to be sucked up.' The second law prescribes that Roomba 'must obey vacuuming orders given to it by humans except when such orders would conflict with the first law.' The third and final law authorizes a Roomba to 'protect its own ability to suction dust and debris as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law.'"