When we last saw Boston Dynamics’ AlphaDog (aka LS3), it was strutting through outdoor trials with the subtlety of a nuclear missile: for all that noise, it might as well have been holding a “shoot here please” sign broadcasting American soldiers’ positions to everyone in the forest. Several months later, the company is showing both DARPA and the Marine Corps a refined version of its load-carrying robot that has clearly been through a few rounds of obedience school. While we still wouldn’t call the four-legged hauler stealthy, it’s quiet enough to avoid the role of bullet magnet and lets nearby troops chat at reasonable volumes. And yes, there’s new tricks as well. AlphaDog can speed up its travel over difficult surfaces and move at up to a 5MPH jog, all while it’s following a human squad. DARPA and the Marines recently began testing and improving the robot over a two-year period that should culminate in an Advanced Warfighting Experiment with the Marines to test viability under stress. If AlphaDog passes that bar, there’s a good chance many on-foot soldiers will have a mechanical companion — and quite a weight lifted off of their shoulders.
Terminator fans who aren’t too scared of a inviting a T800 into their homes are in for quite a treat. Nephalim XFX has created a replica of the T800’s metallic skeleton structure seen in Terminator 2. The kicker about this movie prop? It isn’t just a prop—it is a fully animatronic hand designed to articulate just like a human hand.
Robert Haiduga is the designer responsible for such an awesome creation of iconic movie history, allowing movements to be stored on an SD card and programmed on a PC to create movements for the hand. There are 12 different servos that give it the full movement expected of a human hand, wrist, and forearm. Read more…
The nanobot war is escalating. Not content to let Penn State’s nanospiders win the day, Georgia Tech has answered back with a noticeably less creepy blood-swimming robot model of its own, whose look is more that of a fish than any arachnid this time around. It still uses material changes to exert movement — here exposing hydrogels to electricity, heat, light or magnetism — but Georgia Tech’s method steers the 10-micron trooper to its destination through far more innocuous-sounding flaps. Researchers’ goals are still as benign as ever, with the goal either to deliver drugs or to build minuscule structures piece-by-piece. The catch is that rather important mention of a “model” from earlier: Georgia Tech only has a scientifically viable design to work from and needs someone to build it. Should someone step up, there’s a world of potential from schools of tiny swimmers targeting exactly what ails us.
Suidobashi Heavy Industries has put the finishing touches to its latest project, the 4.4-ton Kuratas. Mobile suit obsessives around the world can thank artist Kogoro Kurata and robotics expert Wataru Yoshizaki for the robot frame, which has space to house a pilot inside. The mech’s touchscreen UI even includes a Kinect-based movement interface and the shudder-inducing “smile-activated” twin BB gatling guns. You can customize your own diesel-powered beast in the dystopian gang colors of your choosing, but be advised: the $1.35 million price tag doesn’t include further customization options like a faux leather interior, cup holder or phone cubby. The Kuratas does, however, come with the ability to make phone calls direct from the cockpit, so you can tell your enemies that you’re coming for them.
As an alternative to receiving brain implants for robotic arm dominance assistance, check out this surprisingly cheap eye-tracking solution developed by six electrical engineering students at Northeastern University. Labeled iCRAFT, for eye Controlled Robotic Arm Feeding Technology, the award-winning senior project drew its inspiration from one team member’s difficulty syncing spoonfuls with the eating pace of elderly and disabled patients. Simply gaze at the on-screen box that corresponds to your food or beverage choice and the robotic arm will swing your way with grub in its grip. Ambitious DIY-ers can chase down the open-sourced software behind iCRAFT, and construct a contraption of their own for about $900 — considerably less than self-feeding rigs living in the neighborhood of $3,500. You can catch a video of the robot arm serving up some fine Wendy’s cuisine after the break.
Robotics controlled by thought could pave the way to a new era of freedom for those with an injury that means the loss of limbs or those who suffer from paralysis. A stunning achievement has been reported by Brown University, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and Massachusetts General Hospital in the May 17 issue of the scientific journal Nature, in which a paralyzed woman was able to drink via her own control power.
A microchip implanted in the brain of the 58-year old patient decoded brain signals and translated them into movement commands of a robotic arm. Using thought, she was able to direct the arm to a bottle, grab the bottle, and bring it close enough to her mouth so she could reach the straw. The small 4mm by 4mm chip was implanted in the cerebral cortex, a layer of neurons on the exterior of the brain that delivers motor commands, back in 2007, while trials of the project called “BrainGate” began in 2005. Since then, the scientists were able to develop software that converts neural signals into signals capable of moving the robotic arm provided by the German space agency DLR. In 2010 they had first evidence that the project may result in patients being able to control the arm via signals in their brain.
What makes the current example so special is the fact that the patient was paralyzed 15 years ago from head to toe because of a brain stem stroke. She has not been able to move her limbs and has not been able to talk since then. The researchers said that their project has shown that even people who have been paralyzed for years have neural signals that are powerful enough to control robotics which could replace limbs at some point in the future. They now plan on to progress their research and help people with disabilities carry out “daily activities” using their technology.
It seems that ever since humankind grew legs and climbed out of the ocean, we’ve been trying to figure out ways to avoid using said appendages. While many of these efforts have been wildly successful – think Roman chariots, Pony Express, and the Ford Model T – the recent spate of personal mobility devices hasn’t quite taken off.
The poster child for this failure is, of course, the Segway. Though completely awesome, its greatest success has come in comedic appearances on television (Arrested Development) and in the movies (Paul Blart: Mall Cop). But manufacturers have forged ahead, undaunted in their desire to bring human-like mobility to humans. The latest: The Honda Uni-Cub.
Michael Bay’s Transformers were true enough (for a Bay production, at least) to the original articles in their car and robot states, but their transforming sequences were epilepsy-inducing explosions of cranks and gears that made no sense at all. Admittedly, it didn’t stop us from enjoying the first movie.
But the work of a Japanese modeler is what we’ve been looking for: his Transformer takes us all the way back to the original eightes series when Bumblebee was a Volkswagen Beetle. This is version eight, fitted with 22 servo motors – it even throws punches and does a jig – and we’re told that version nine is on the way. We’d like to humbly request that all research on flying cars stops, and every resource be poured into a production version of this right now. Scroll down to check out the video. Read more…
Your nitro-fueled R/C racer may look all badass and be really fast, but it’s got its limitations. Namely, walls. The Sand Flea robot shown above, developed by Boston Dynamics, won’t win any races or beauty contests, but it laughs at walls. More precisely, it just leaps over them.
The little bot, which scoots around like a regular all-terrain R/C car, is equipped with a CO2-powered piston that gives it the ability to leap 30 feet in the air. When presented with a challenge, the Sand Flea stops, tilts, and launches up and over the obstacle in front of it. The video showing it in action, posted after the jump, is simultaneously astonishing and hilarious (especially when you mentally add this sound effect to each leap). On a full charge, the Flea can make 25 jumps. A gyroscope keeps it stabilized while airborne, and its wheels act as the cushion upon landing.
If you thought a robot fighting championship just sounds like the plot for a Hugh Jackman vehicle, you’d be partly right. We’ll tell you who does have the real steel though, the plucky fellas you see above. They’re competing for this year’s ROBO-ONE championship, an annual competition where humanoid robots slug it out to the death (or power failure at least) held this weekend in Kawasaki, Japan. This is no toy fair either, with contestants bagging a $12,000 pot if their android-avatar wins the crown. This year, that title goes to GAROO, winning for the second time in a row by defeating Gargoyle Mini for the spoils. Rumors of LED gauging were unfounded, as you’ll see in the video after the break. Read more…