Robot Octopus Points the Way to Soft Robotics With Eight Wiggly Arms

Cecilia Laschi for IEEE Spectrum:  The sun was sparkling on the Mediterranean Sea on the afternoon when a graduate student from my lab tossed our prize robot into the water for the first time. I watched nervously as our electronic creation sank beneath the waves. But the bot didn’t falter: When we gave it the command to swim, it filled its expandable mantle with water, then jetted out the fluid to shoot forward. When we ordered it to crawl, it stiffened its eight floppy arms in sequence to push itself along the sandy bottom and over scattered rocks. And when we instructed it to explore a tight space beneath the dock, the robot inserted its soft body into the narrow gap without difficulty. As a professor at the BioRobotics Institute at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, in Pisa, Italy, I lead a team investigating soft robotics. This relatively new field of research has the potential to upend our ideas about what robots are capable of and where they can be useful. I chose to build robots that mimic the form of the octopus for two reasons. First, because they’re well suited to demonstrate the many advantages that come when a machine can flex and squish as needed. Also, it’s an excellent engineering challenge: An octopus with eight wiggly arms, which must work together in the face of complex hydrodynamic forces, is very difficult to design and control.   Cont'd...

NASA's new $1 million Space Robotics Challenge to prepare robots for Mars journey

Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum:  Last year at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, NASA announced a new challenge for humanoid robots: the Space Robotics Challenge (SRC), which will “prepare robots for the journey to Mars.” Just like the DRC, the first stage of the SRC will consist of a virtual challenge, run in the Gazebo simulator, followed up by a physical challenge using NASA’s R5 Valkyrie robots. As of yesterday, NASA has opened registration for the SRC, and we’ll take a look at the format of the competition, the challenges that teams will need to complete, and what they can take home for winning.   Cont'd...

The ABC of RPA, Part 8: Can robots and humans work in harmony?

Humans will always be required within an operation because they will need to process the one-off transactions that the robot has not been equipped to handle, and the robot will need to be programmed for any process changes.

Insect-Sized Drone Will Spy On Terrorists

Source - Sky News:  An insect-sized spy drone with four flapping wings and four legs is set to become Britain's latest weapon in the war on terror. The Dragonfly drone fits in the palm of a hand and has four flapping wings and four legs. It can fly through the air with great agility, allowing it to penetrate buildings through open windows, and perch on surfaces to eavesdrop. It can detect incoming objects and buildings, meaning it can avoid obstacles at high speeds. It is one of a number of pieces of kit being developed by the Ministry of Defence as part of an innovation drive.   Cont'd...

Is That Drone a Weapon?

Many police departments have purchased or plan to buy drones for search-and-rescue, arson, disaster relief, and accident investigations. Police officials say the devices can keep officers out of dangerous situations and cover more ground quickly, especially in the case of a missing child or an armed suspect on the run, especially in rural areas.

18 Questions to Ask Your AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) Vendor: Part 1

You need an AGV solution that will grow with your company, adapting to your changing industry and taking on the challenges you face as your business grows.

Upcoming Tradeshow, Conference & Exhibition Summary - September - December 2016

Here is a summary of what Tradeshows, Conferences & Exhibitions to look forward to in the coming months.

The ABC of RPA, Part 7: How will robotics and automation affect my employees?

In the long term, job roles will shift away from their traditional remits and evolve to meet the needs of the modern, automated workplace.

Stanford's 'Jackrabbot' paves way for social robotics

Caitlin Ju for The Stanford Daily:  Stanford researchers in the Computational Vision and Geometry Lab have designed an autonomously navigating robot prototype that they say understands implicit social conventions and human behavior. Named “Jackrabbot” after the swift but cautious jackrabbit, the visually intelligent and socially amicable robot is able to maneuver crowds and pedestrian spaces. A white ball on wheels, the Jackrabbot is built on a Segway system and contains a computing unit and multiple sensors that acquire a 3-D structure of the surrounding environment. 360-degree cameras and GPS also enhance the robot’s navigation and detection capabilities. To interact smoothly in public settings, the robot has to know how to avoid someone in a natural way, how to yield the right-of-way and how to leave personal space, among other skills.   Cont'd...

Siemens' World-record Electric Aircraft Motor Punches Above Its Weight

From Gizmag:   Researchers at Siemens have created a new prototype electric motor specifically designed for aircraft that weighs in at just 50 kg (110 lb) and is claimed to produce about 260 kW (348 hp) at just 2,500 RPM. With a quoted power five times greater than any comparable powerplant, the new motor promises enough grunt to get aircraft with take-off weights of up to 1,800 kg (2 ton) off the ground... ... As a result, the new aircraft electric drive system achieves a claimed weight-to-performance ratio of 5 kW per kilogram. This ratio is an exceptional figure – especially if compared to similarly powerful industrial electric motors used in heavy machinery that produce less than 1 kW per kilogram, or even to more efficient electric motors for vehicles that generate around 2 kW per kilogram... (full article)  

The ABC of RPA, Part 6: Are robotics and automation in conflict with my IT Department?

It's important that your IT staff understand the impact of automation - more importantly, that it is not a replacement for your IT team.

University of Surrey presents a roadmap of space robotics

ABIGAIL BEALL FOR MAILONLINE:  Many people spend their childhood peering up into the vast expanse of the sky, dreaming of growing up to become an astronaut.  But these dreams could be dashed as the idea of people venturing into space will one day become a distant memory, according to a report published today.  Robots will eventually have enough capabilities to replace humans and other animals on space missions, experts have said.  Many missions involving humans in space are dangerous and expensive.  But for years robots have been sent to places humans could not venture, like the rovers venturing to the edges of our solar system.  According to European Space Agency (Esa) Astronaut Roberto Vittori, who launched a paper on space robotics and autonomous systems, robots can help carry out these dangerous missions.   Cont'd...

The Third Offset Must Update Asimov's Laws of Robotics

JG Randall for The National Interest:  Things tend to happen in threes. An unlikely triumvirate on the surface, it would appear that Asimov’s laws on robotics and the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) will outflank the Third Offset—the nation’s search for its next silver bullet in war fighting is robotics—knowing that many nations will agree on moral grounds. These nations will reject Asimov based on semantics, and though the debate might be perceived as strictly academic, or even rhetorical, it is worth discussing for the sake of a good cautionary tale. Because, whether we like it or not, killer bots are coming to a theater of operation near you. Before we get deep in the weeds, let’s get some clarity. First, let’s outline Asimov’s robotic laws. The Three Laws of Robotics are a set of rules devised by the science fiction author Isaac Asimov. They were introduced in his 1942 short story “Runaround,” although they had been foreshadowed in earlier stories.   Cont'd...

The ABC of RPA, Part 5: What Is the Cost of Automation and How Do I Justify It to the Leadership Team?

We've put together a breakdown of the cost of automation, and how to justify it to the leadership team.

Robotics Gone Wild: 8 Animal-Inspired Machines

Thomas Claburn for InformationWeek:  Among programmers, there's a principle called DRY, which stands for "Don't repeat yourself." It's an attempt to avoid writing code that duplicates the function of other code. DRY embodies the same resistance to needless repetition as the more common idiom, "Don't reinvent the wheel." Among those making robots, a group that includes software and hardware engineers attempts to adhere to these principles, as can be seen in designs that borrow from nature, from the evolved forms of life on Earth. Biomimicry and bioinspired design provide a way to avoid reinventing the wheel. The biological systems of living things have been honed through eons of Darwinian user testing. Borrowing aspects of animal physiology isn't the only option or necessarily the best option for robot designers. For some purposes, something new may be necessary. For others, biomechanically systems can't be easily duplicated.   Cont'd...

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