Robotics

Who needs 100-foot scuba limits with this 1,000-foot exosuit?

As anyone who's ever been a recreational scuba diver knows, diving beyond a depth of 100 feet requires special training. So imagine being able to go down to 1,000 feet and stay there for hours.

That's the goal of the deep-diving "exosuit," a "next-generation atmospheric diving system" that will be on display at the American Museum of Natural History through March 5.

The 6.5-foot-tall, 530-pound, hard-metal suit is designed to let a diver reach depths of 1,000 feet, where water pressure is 30 times that of the surface, and to conduct … Read more

Robot construction crew works autonomously, is kind of adorable

Have you ever seen a termite mound? Those little bugs are amazing engineers, constructing giant (compared with their own size) structures, working relentlessly even though individual insects die.

It was this system of self-organization that inspired Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University scientists and engineers in building a team of autonomous construction-bots.… Read more

DARPA's hot for futuristic helicopter-like delivery drones

In hard-to-reach war zones, it can be near impossible to get supplies to ground soldiers or conduct rescue missions without coming under enemy fire or landing in minefields.

Spurred by these logistical issues, the US Department of Defense in its DARPA division is pushing to develop unmanned helicopter-like aircraft -- aka drones -- for supply runs, airborne reconnaissance missions, and casualty evacuations.

Not your ordinary drones, these futuristic machines will be designed to carry up to 3,000 pounds, have their own power system, fuel, digital flight controls, and remote command-and-control interfaces. As envisioned by DARPA, troops will be able … Read more

'RoboCop' not so sci-fi anymore

When the original "RoboCop" premiered in 1987, the idea of a resurrected man in a machine body battling autonomous killer droids was only slightly less outlandish than the replicants of "Blade Runner" or a sociopathic artificial intelligence in "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Flash forward nearly three decades to the "RoboCop" remake. Our protagonist, Alex Murphy, instead of being brought back from the dead, is only critically injured when robbed of his agency, which leads to this popcorn action-flick tackling a different breed of philosophical issues than its predecessor.

While the 1987 version … Read more

Google and Foxconn partner on robotics, report says

Google and Foxconn may have quietly become bedfellows.

Google's former Android chief and head of robotics, Andy Rubin, is working closely with Foxconn and its Chairman Terry Gou to help carry out the Web giant's "vision for robotics," sources familiar with matter told The Wall Street Journal. But the partnership isn't just for Google's benefit. The Taiwanese manufacturer is looking to speed up robot deployment at its factories, according to the report on Tuesday, and Gou was apparently won over by automation technologies demonstrated by Rubin at a recent meeting in Taipei.

Foxconn is … Read more

Drone deliveries get off the ground in Dubai

People's jaws dropped at the idea of Amazon using drones to deliver packages to customers in the US, but what about a government using a drone delivery service?

The United Arab Emirates announced Monday that it has begun testing its own unmanned delivery drones, which aim to quickly get official documents -- like drivers licenses, ID cards, and permits -- to the country's residents, according to Reuters.

"The UAE will try to deliver its government services through drones," Minister of Cabinet Affairs Mohammed al-Gergawi told Reuters. "This is the first project of its kind in … Read more

Panasonic working on actual 'Alien' Power Loader

The Powered Jacket MK3 may not have been real, but it was only a matter of time before someone fashioned an exosuit designed to give the human body a powerful boost. It looks like Panasonic's robotics research arm Activelink might be first out of the gate to bring the kind of thing we've only really seen in science fiction to the consumer market.

The company is reportedly working on a machine it calls the Power Loader (yes, named after the Caterpillar P-5000 Powered Work Loader from the "Alien" films), a robotic exosuit designed to give the wearer superhuman strength. … Read more

Driverless trucks get in shape for US Army convoy duty

Google may have the best-known driverless vehicles, but the US Army surely has the largest.

Defense industry heavyweight Lockheed Martin said Thursday that testing has wrapped up on a series of advanced tests in the Autonomous Mobility Appliqué System (AMAS) program for the US Army and US Marine Corps. The testing, Lockheed said, showed that fully autonomous convoys can operate in urban environments and with a mixture of vehicle types.

What challenges did these driverless vehicles face? The trucks had to navigate road intersections, oncoming traffic, stalled and passing vehicles, pedestrians, and traffic circles in test areas both rural … Read more

New ultrasound tech could improve cancer detection

Ultrasound as an imaging technique has several things going for it. For one, it's more affordable than CT and MRI scans, and it's portable, so it can easily travel to rural and low-infrastructure areas or patients who are house-bound. And unlike with CT scans and X-rays, there is no ionizing radiation exposure, hence its widespread use imaging fetuses in pregnant women.

Unfortunately, the high-frequency soundwave approach to viewing soft tissue doesn't provide great resolution, so despite all its perks, it's not the go-to imaging tech for cancer detection. Now, thanks to a new discovery out of … Read more

E-whiskers put sensitive catlike sensors on robots

Cats, rats, other mammals, and even some insects are well-known for using their hairlike tactile sensors -- whiskers -- to sense obstacles in their path and changes in the air. Now researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have created "electronic whiskers" that could help robots navigate with similar sensitivity.

Their research, detailed in a paper titled "Highly sensitive electronic whiskers based on patterned carbon nanotube and silver nanoparticle composite films," appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and explains how these e-whiskers can be made and used to map airflow in real time.

The e-whiskers respond to the slightest changes in pressure -- in fact, "in tests, these whiskers were 10 times more sensitive to pressure than all previously reported capacitive or resistive pressure sensors," lead researcher Ali Javey said in a statement.Read more