September 29, 1997 |
If I remember the Popular Science and Mechanix Illustrated magazines of my youth correctly, by the end of the millennium we are supposed to relax in our easy chairs while robots mow our lawns, wash our windows and vacuum our rugs. Well, the year 2000 is nigh upon us, and around my house, humans are still the only robots doing those chores. But while I still have to mow my own lawn, there is a growing chance that if I ever need brain surgery, a robot will do the job.
October 17, 2011
Paro may be the most famous companion robot around today, but he's likely to have some competition before too long. Here are a few others currently in the works: The "emotion bear. " It laughs. It sneezes. It waves. It strikes up a conversation. And if nothing much is going on, it falls asleep. A concept currently being tested by Fujitsu in Japan, the "emotion bear" can sense when people are near and turn to face them. And when it gets to know people well enough, it can tell what mood they're in - and behave accordingly.
February 14, 2014 |
Imagine a team of workers that can tirelessly build and rebuild complicated structures even under daunting and dangerous conditions. They already exist - they're called termites. Now, inspired by these mound-building insects, Harvard University scientists have created a mini-swarm of surprisingly simpleminded robots that can work together to construct buildings much larger than themselves. The findings, described in the journal Science, present an important step toward designing robots that may one day be able to build research facilities in the deep ocean, buildings on Mars or even levees at a flood zone during an emergency - jobs that are far too hazardous or expensive for human workers to do. [Updated 11:28 a.m. Feb. 14: "It's a very impressive accomplishment," said Hod Lipson, a roboticist at Cornell University, who was not involved in the study.
January 2, 2014 |
Gecko's sticky feet seem to let the little climbing lizards crawl wherever they want. Now researchers have used the gecko feet's trade secrets to let robots use that climbing power in space. The idea, which received backing from the European Space Agency, mimics the pads of the gecko's feet to allow small robots to climb up the hulls of larger spacecraft to maintain and even repair them. Such repair bots could extend the lives of expensive spacecraft, save them from sudden and untimely deaths, and perhaps one day minimize risky spacewalks for future astronauts.
October 4, 2013 |
These brightly colored blocks may look like child's toys, but watch out: These adorable cubes are actually spinning robots that can connect to build modular machines. There's no assembly required: The blocks, built at MIT, will do it themselves. The acrobatic boxes, called M-blocks, have no external parts. And yet they can spin, somersault and snap together to create all kinds of shapes, depending on the job at hand. “It's simple on the outside, but the insides are very unique,” MIT robotics professor Daniela Rus said in an interview.
October 17, 2011 |
Robots aren't known for their soft side. They build cars and defuse bombs; they don't, as a rule, make friends or deal with feelings. But a few groups of researchers around the world are working to build robots for an unusual purpose: Making emotional connections with autistic children who often struggle to interact with humans. There's something about machines that really seems to resonate with many kids with autism, says Maja Mataric, co-director of the Robotics Research Lab at USC. These children often have trouble reading human emotions and social cues - complexities they don't have to worry about when they're around a mechanical being.