Three-legged Robot Uses Exploding Body To Jump 30 Times Its Height

New Scientist:

George Whitesides from Harvard University and colleagues have created a three-legged robot lined with tubes filled with a mixture of methane and oxygen. When an electrical spark ignites the gases, the combustion reaction generates bursts of pressure that propel the robot aloft. "By actuating all three legs simultaneously, we caused the robot to jump more than 30 times its height," write the team. As the height of the jump was limited by the size of the experimental chamber, they think it could spring twice as high without the attached tubing.

Changes At Willow Garage

Yesterday IEEE Spectrum reported that Willow Garage might be closing its doors, with information coming from several current employees. Then late last night Steve Cousins, President and CEO, released an official statement on their website:

Willow Garage is changing

Willow Garage has decided to enter the world of commercial opportunities with an eye to becoming a self-sustaining company. This is an important change to our funding model.


The success of the PR2 personal robot and of ROS will continue. There are close to 50 PR2 robots in the world and Willow Garage support of the platform will not diminish. And of course, ROS, as an open source platform, will continue independent of our business model choices. In addition to Willow Garage, its supporters include the Open Source Robotics Foundation and all the other contributors in the ROS community (academic, industrial and individual) who have made it the platform of choice for Robotics.

The statement doesn't confirm IEEE Spectrum's story but it doesn't dismiss it either. The original Spectrum story can be found here.

RobotsLab Box

IEEE Spectrum article about RobotsLab new box of robots for making robots available in school systems:

Black Hornet Nano Unmanned Air Vehicle Being Used In Afghanistan

British troops in Afghanistan are the first to use state-of-the-art handheld nano surveillance helicopters.

The Black Hornet Nano Unmanned Air Vehicle measures around 4 inches by 1 inch (10cm x 2.5cm) and provides troops on the ground with vital situational awareness.

The Black Hornet is equipped with a tiny camera which gives troops reliable full-motion video and still images. Soldiers are using it to peer around corners or over walls and other obstacles to identify any hidden dangers and the images are displayed on a handheld terminal.

The Black Hornet weighs as little as 16 grams and has been developed by Prox Dynamics AS of Norway as part of a £20 million contract for 160 units with Marlborough Communications Ltd in Surrey.

North American Robotics Market Sets New Records in 2012

The North American robotics market has recorded its strongest year ever in 2012, according to new statistics from Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry's trade group.

A total of 22,598 robots valued at $1.48 billion were sold to companies in North America in 2012, beating the previous record of 19,337 robots sold in 2011. When sales by North American robot suppliers to companies outside North America are included, the totals are 25,557 robots valued at $1.66 billion.

Compared to 2011, North American orders were up 17% in units and 27% in dollars. "The Automotive industry has continued to be the strongest driver of the North American robotics market," said Alex Shikany, Director of Market Analysis for RIA. "Robots sold to automotive OEMs in North America jumped 47% over a then record-setting 2011, while robots sold to automotive component suppliers increased 21%," he noted.

Sales were also up in metalworking industries (+12%) and life sciences/pharmaceuticals (+3%). In terms of applications, increases were seen in assembly (+40%), spot welding (+37%), arc welding (+24%), coating & dispensing (+13%), and material handling (+3%).

The fourth quarter of 2012 was the strongest quarter ever recorded by RIA (the association began reporting data in 1984) in terms of units ordered, with 6,235 robots sold to North American companies. The fourth quarter was up nine percent in units and 21% in dollars over the same period in 2011.

How To Build A Bionic Man

On Febuary 7th Channel 4 in the UK will air the special "How To Build A Bionic Man".

From bionic arms and legs to artificial organs, science is beginning to catch up with science fiction in the race to replace body parts with man-made alternatives.

How to Build a Bionic Man follows psychologist Bertolt Meyer, who has a bionic hand himself, as he meets scientists working at the cutting edge of research to find out just how far this new technology can go.

Meanwhile, a team of roboticists create a complete 'bionic man' for the first time, using nearly $1 million-worth of state-of-the-art limbs and organs - the products of billions of dollars of research - borrowed from some of the world's leading laboratories and manufacturers.

Minuscule Reconfigurable Robot From MIT

The little device is called a milli-motein — a name melding its millimeter-sized components and a motorized design inspired by proteins, which naturally fold themselves into incredibly complex shapes. This minuscule robot may be a harbinger of future devices that could fold themselves up into almost any shape imaginable. The device was conceived by Neil Gershenfeld, head of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, visiting scientist Ara Knaian and graduate student Kenneth Cheung, and is described in a paper presented recently at the 2012 Intelligent Robots and Systems conference. Its key feature, Gershenfeld says: "It's effectively a one-dimensional robot that can be made in a continuous strip, without conventionally moving parts, and then folded into arbitrary shapes."

Fully Autonomous Hamburger Line

Momentum Machines is a Silicon Valley startup that is aims to build a fully automated gourmet quality burger production line. They plan to first open their own restaurant using the technology and then sell the hardware to others in the future. Here is their bullet points from the current alpha hardware:


  • Our alpha machine replaces all of the hamburger line cooks in a restaurant.It does everything employees can do except better:
  • It slices toppings like tomatoes and pickles only immediately before it places the slice onto your burger, giving you the freshest burger possible.
  • Our next revision will offer custom meat grinds for every single customer. Want a patty with 1/3 pork and 2/3 bison ground after you place your order? No problem.
  • Also, our next revision will use gourmet cooking techniques never before used in a fast food restaurant, giving the patty the perfect char but keeping in all the juices.
  • It’s more consistent, more sanitary, and can produce ~360 hamburgers per hour.

Watch PBS NOVA Episode "Rise Of The Drones"

If you live in US you can stream last nights episode of the science show NOVA from the PBS webpage here.


Program Description:
Drones. These unmanned flying robots–some as large as jumbo jets, others as small as birds–do things straight out of science fiction. Much of what it takes to get these robotic airplanes to fly, sense, and kill has remained secret. But now, with rare access to drone engineers and those who fly them for the U.S. military, NOVA reveals the amazing technologies that make drones so powerful as we see how a remotely-piloted drone strike looks and feels from inside the command center. From cameras that can capture every detail of an entire city at a glance to swarming robots that can make decisions on their own to giant air frames that can stay aloft for days on end, drones are changing our relationship to war, surveillance, and each other. And it's just the beginning. Discover the cutting edge technologies that are propelling us toward a new chapter in aviation history as NOVA gets ready for "Rise of the Drones."

Adept's New Material Automation Robot

The Adept Lynx is an Autonomous Indoor Vehicle (AIV) available to developers for custom applications and payloads. The Lynx includes Adept’s proprietary self-navigation software ideal for use in crowded environments, tight hallways, and applications where a small automated vehicle is advantageous. Adept OEM partners and payload developers enjoy access to a reliable drive system, an on-board power supply, automated self-charging, and I/O for integrating payload hardware onto the mobile platform. The Adept Lynx is capable of transporting up to 60kg with a runtime of up to 19 hours a day.


  • Simplifies payload integration with a small mobile platform
  • Self-navigation software safely avoids people and obstacles
  • Reliable drive system optimized for self-navigation
  • Structural support of payloads up to 60kg on level surfaces
  • Navigates through the use of a digital map
  • Easy to deploy, no facilities modifications required
  • Manages power and self charging operations

Filling A Room With Single-line Drawing

A project by Mattias Jones:

Towards the end of 2012, as part of The Festival of the Mind in Sheffield, myself and a small team of technicians, coders and mathematicians developed a drawing system and put it to work. The robots drew one line pattern solutions, the shortest line possible, derived from theories on how bees fly from flower to flower. It ended up covering three walls and the floor of a twenty foot cube in one unbroken line.

Swarm Of Pingpong-Ball-Sized Robots

CU-Boulder researchers are working to build a swarm of small robots that can work together to accomplish complex tasks. In the future, teams of intelligent robots could be deployed to tackle a number of challenging problems, from containing an oil spill to self-assembling into a piece of hardware after being launched into space. For now, the CU researchers, led by Assistant Professor Nikolaus Correll, have built a swarm of 20 robots, each about the size of a pingpong ball, in their lab.


Started last year on Kickstarter and now available through their website, as well as several other distributors, OpenBeam is a T-Slot aluminum framing systems that uses standard M3 nuts and bolts.


T-Slot extruded aluminum framing systems have been in use throughout the manufacturing and automation industries for machine building, prototyping and robotics applications for the past 30 years.  Unfortunately, all the vendors in this industry utilize a razor and blade business model; while the extrusions are priced low, they require the use of specialty nuts and plates, which can be priced as high as $3.00 per nut and $10.00 per joining plate.

Starter kits cost $80 and include:

  • 4 pieces of 150mm long extrusion
  • 4 pieces of 120mm long extrusion
  • 4 pieces of 90mm long extrusion
  • 4 pieces of 60mm long extrusion
  • 4 pieces of 30mm long extrusion
  • 8 pieces of T bracket
  • 16 pieces of L bracket
  • 100 pack of nuts, 100 pack of bolts and a 2mm hex key


New Lego Mindstorm EV3 With Linux-based OS

At CES Lego announced their new Mindstorm EV3 robotics platform. The big changes are the improved processor, USB 2.0 WiFi dongle, and the switch from a proprietary OS to an open-source Linux-based OS. Below is the promo video but for further in-depth info read the rundown at The NXT STEP Mindstorm Blog.

NASA Kicks Off 2013 First Robotics Season With Live Broadcast Jan. 5

NASA Television will broadcast the annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Kickoff event on Saturday, Jan. 5, starting at 10:30 a.m. EST from Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester. The event also will be streamed live on NASA’s website.

As in past years, NASA plays a significant role by providing public access to robotics programs to encourage young people to investigate careers in the sciences and engineering. Through the NASA Robotics Alliance Project, the agency provides grants for almost 250 teams and sponsors four regional student competitions, including a FIRST regional competition in Washington that will be held March 28-30.

Each year, FIRST presents a new robotics competition scenario where each team receives an identical kit of parts and has six weeks to design and build a robot based on the team’s interpretation of the game scenario. Other than dimension and weight restrictions, the look and function of the robots is up to each individual team. This year more than 2,500 teams from 49 states, and 12 countries will participate.

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