Greg Nichols for ZDNet: Google-owned Boston Dynamics got some bad news in the final days of 2015. After years of development and intensive field trials, the Massachusetts-based robotics company learned that the U.S. Marines had decided to reject its four-legged robotic mule, Big Dog. The reason? The thing is too damn noisy for combat, where close quarters and the occasional need for stealth make excess machine noise a liability.
The setback reminded me of a story another group of robotics engineers told me about the development of their breakthrough machine, a robotic exoskeleton that enables paraplegics to walk and soldiers to hump heavy packs without wearing down. It also reminded me of a powerful approach to solving problems and dealing with setbacks that I've encountered again and again reporting on robotics.
Ekso Bionics, which went public in 2015, invented the first viable untethered exoskeleton, one that doesn't need to be plugged into an external power source. Their achievement rests on one engineering breakthrough in particular, and to arrive at it Ekso's engineers had to do something that's surprisingly difficult but incredibly instructive for non-engineers--they had to change the way they thought about their problem. Cont'd...
THE MOB MUSEUM INTRODUCES "MOE-BOT" TELEPRESENCE SYSTEM TO REACH BROADER AUDIENCES, ENHANCE EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH
By Charles Orlowek for The Hill: Good news? Boston Consulting Group foresees more large manufacturers boosting production for the American market by adding capacity in the U.S. itself, compared with any other country. It cites “decreasing costs and improved capabilities of advanced manufacturing technologies such as robotics." Under this optimistic scenario, how much value would American workers add? When robotics and other automation gets built for, and installed in American workplaces, where are jobs created?
Increasingly, these jobs are being created and sustained outside the United States, even for domestic factories.
The first industrial robots were developed and manufactured by Americans, and General Motors became the first user, in 1961. Over recent decades, however, the domestic robot industry has declined. A Commerce Department national security assessment from 1991 asserted that American robot manufacturers lost market share throughout the 1980s, with shipments of U.S.-manufactured robots falling by 33 percent between 1984 and 1989, despite robust domestic demand and a weak dollar. Cont'd...
By Adam Zewe for Harvard News: If you have a soft spot for robotics, this competition is right up your alley.
The 2016 Soft Robotics Competitions offer anyone with an interest in robotics the chance to design and build their own soft robot using the resources available in the open-source Soft Robotics Toolkit.
Now in its second year, the competition was developed by Conor Walsh, assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Dónal Holland, visiting lecturer in engineering sciences, as a way to encourage individuals to take advantage of the resources provided in the Soft Robotics Toolkit.
The toolkit, which incorporates contributions from researchers from Harvard and other institutions, provides a set of intellectual tools that one can use to design and construct a robot using soft, flexible materials. It includes resources such as step-by-step instructions on building actuators and sensors, lists of suggested materials, and how-to fabrication videos.
The ultimate goal of the competition is to encourage others to find innovative applications for soft robotics technology and continue expanding interest in this relatively new field. Cont'd...
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