Ramses Martinez, Carina Fish, Xin Chen and George Whitesides have published a paper describing a soft pneumatic actuator constructed by combining paper with a silicone elastomer. On pneumatic inflation, these actuators move anisotropically, based on the motions accessible by their composite structures. They are inexpensive, simple to fabricate, light in weight, and easy to actuate. This class of structure is versatile: the same principles of design lead to actuators that respond to pressurization with a wide range of motions (bending, extension, contraction, twisting, and others). Paper, when used to introduce anisotropy into elastomers, can be readily folded into 3D structures following the principles of origami; these folded structures increase the stiffness and anisotropy of the elastomeric actuators, while being light in weight. These soft actuators can manipulate objects with moderate performance; for example, they can lift loads up to 120 times their weight. They can also be combined with other components, for example, electrical components, to increase their functionality.
Boston Dynamics' LS3 is a four legged military robot designed to go anywhere and carry up to 400 lbs of gear with enough fuel for missions covering 20 miles. The development of LS3 is being funded by DARPA and the US Marine Corps. The project has been in development for sometime and now DARPA released a new video of the prototype traversing hills and uneven ground as they test it outdoors.
University Of Illinois engineers have demonstrated a method of printing liquid silver onto flexible surfaces to create conductive trails. The advantage of silver is that the particles are much smaller than other conventional electronic ink making it easier to print using a inkjet nozzle. Hopefully in the future this silver ink will make printing circuit boards with a simple desktop printer a reality.
Companies seeking to enable the routine use of surveillance drones across Britain are planning a long-term public relations effort to counter the negative image of the controversial aircraft. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association (UAVSA), a trade group that represents the drone industry to the UK government, has recommended drones deployed in Britain should be shown to "benefit mankind in general", be decorated with humanitarian-related advertisements, and be painted bright colours to distance them from those used in warzones, details from a UAVSA presentation show. Plans are also under way to establish corridors of segregated airspace to fly drones – or UAVs – between restricted "danger zones" (airspace where test flights take place) in isolated parts of England and Wales. A series of presentations given by industry figures in recent months show public opposition is considered a major hurdle. UAVSA has discussed how it could use the media to disseminate favourable stories, creating a narrative that presents the introduction of drones in the UK as part of a "national mission".
A total of 19,337 robots valued at $1.17 billion were sold to companies in North America, beating the previous record of 18,228 robots sold in 2005. When sales by North American robot suppliers to companies outside North America are included, the totals are 22,126 robots valued at $1.35 billion. Robots sold to automotive component suppliers in North America jumped 77% over 2010, while robots sold to automotive OEMs increased 59%. Sales to non-automotive customers grew 27%, led by metalworking industries (+56%) and semiconductor/electronics/photonics (+24%).
The GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania have developed tiny versions of their quadrotor swarming robots. The swarm is able to align in complex formations and remain in formation while traveling through small areas like windows or doors.
The ASUS Xtion Pro Live is ASUS' Kinect alternative. I Heart Engineering now sells a Xtion Mounting Kit for the TurtleBot personal robot development platform . The mount is available for $39.95 here or can be purchased with a ASUS Xtion Pro Live for $249.95 here .
The Raspberry Pi is a ARM based single-board computer developed to run Linux for just $25 ($35 for model B with WiFi). The board contains an ARM1176JZFS, with floating point, running at 700Mhz, and a Videocore 4 GPU. The GPU is capable of BluRay quality playback, using H.264 at 40MBits/s. It has a fast 3D core accessed using the supplied OpenGL ES2.0 and OpenVG libraries. The board has an HDMI port, one USB 2.0 port, one micro USB port for power, an audio jack, RCA video out and a SD card slot. They aren't taking orders yet but you can track the status by joining their mailing list here .
OpenVSP (Vehicle Sketch Pad) is a parametric aircraft geometry tool. OpenVSP allows the user to create a 3D model of an aircraft defined by common engineering parameters. This model can be processed into formats suitable for engineering analysis. VSP allows even novices to quickly become proficient in defining three-dimensional, watertight aircraft geometry. The predecessors to OpenVSP have been developed by J.R. Gloudemans and others for NASA since the early 1990's. On January 10 2012, OpenVSP was released as an open source project under the NASA Open Source Agreement (NOSA) version 1.3. Windows, Mac or Linux versions are available here . A set of video tutorials can be viewed here .
DIY Drones is an excellent community site for amateur unmanned vehicle development. Using Arduino as a foundation they have created the ArduPilotMega universal autopilot autopilot hardware. It combines sophisticated IMU-based autopilot electronics with free Arduino-based autopilot software that can turn any RC vehicle into a fully-autonomous UAV. The software is open source and currently has three variations: Arduplane, for any fixed-wing aircraft, Arducopter, for any rotary-wing aircraft, and ArduRover, for any ground or water-based vehicle. The site has an active forum as well as a store where you can purchase all the ArduPilot Mega Controller, other Arduino hardware or complete Drone kits.
STMicroelectronics has unveiled a smart suit prototype with sewn-in new multi-sensor ST iNEMO® motion co-processor that recognize complex movements of the wearer’s body and translate them to a digital model with outstanding precision and speed. The current-generation prototype of ST’s body-motion reconstruction suit demonstrates the optimal performance of the miniaturized iNEMO multi-sensor nodes attached on each arm, forearm, thigh, calf, and two on the back; additional nodes can be mounted on hands, on shoes or on the head. Tests with realistic, complex human body motions have proven the outstanding precision and speed of ST’s body-motion reconstruction suit, with deviation in spatial accuracy below 0.5 degrees during movements and the time needed to process and apply the sensor data to the skeleton model less than 15 milliseconds.
At CES Texas Instruments was showing off its new open source platform MAVRK. MAVRK is an acronym for Modular and Versatile Reference Kit. The MAVRK platform contains a motherboard, several MAVRK modules, and firmware to communicate between the modules. MAVRK modules are reference designs around TI silicon that will connect to the motherboard with a common footprint. With several modules connected, a user can configure multiple combinations of RF, AD/DA, transceivers, signal conditioning, and driver circuits as a system-level design. In the video one motherboard hosts the TCA8418 keypad scanner to sense user input. The MSP430F5438A on this motherboard decodes the keypad input for motor spin speed and the joystick direction for spin direction. It then beams this information to a second motherboard connected to robotic treads, with an MSP430F5137 processing the signals, and an MSP430F2274 controlling the signals to the DRV88414 motor driver. The DRV8814 drives the two motors that turn the robot treads.
Earlier this week Microsoft announced that they would officially be bringing their Kinect hardware to the Windows platform. The hardware is the mostly the same but new firmware allows the depth camera to see objects as close as 50cm away without losing accuracy or precision. Microsoft also says Kinect for Windows is 20% faster than it was in the last release and the accuracy rate of skeletal tracking and joint recognition have been substantially improved. Microsoft has allowed the beta SDK to be used with Xbox Kinect and will continue to allow existing projects access to the SDK but they also state that all future projects will need to purchase the Kinect For Windows hardware in order to have access to upcoming SDK releases. Kinect For Windows and the SDK will cost $249 ($149 for an academic license).
The consumer electronics show CES is this week so we are probably going to see a couple new 3D printers announced. MakerBot has been teasing a new version of their Thing-O-Matic and today 3D@Home announced their Cube printer. The printer will cost $1,299 and print standard .STL files to print out ABS plastic models. 3D@Home also plans to offer a print on demand service for larger models.
Hyperspectral imaging, also called imaging spectroscopy, is a method of obtaining the spectral content of each pixel in a 2D image. The spectral data can be used into identify the chemical compounds or materials. Up till now hyperspectral imaging devices have been very expensive, starting at around $25,000 dollars. Engineers at the Vienna University of Technology and the University of Arizona have shown that they can perform CTIS spectral imaging using an unmodified consumer camera. The device they have developed can be used in a hyperspectral imaging mode that allows the spectral measurement of a whole image with up to 5-nm spectral resolution and 120 x 120-pixel spatial resolution and can be built for under $1000.
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MiR200 is a safe, cost-effective mobile robot that automates your internal transportation. The robot optimizes workflows, freeing staff resources so you can increase productivity and reduce costs. MiR200 safely maneuvers around people and obstacles, through doorways and in and out of lifts. You can download CAD files of the building directly to the robot, or program it with the simple, web-based interface that requires no prior programming experience. With its fast implementation, the robots offers a fast ROI, with payback in as little as a year.