A Robot Elk is a Tempting Target

Poachers beware.  A robo-Elk is out there to tempt you into taking a shot.  This robotic elk joins robotic deer and a literal menagerie of robotic wildlife in the battle to stop illegal hunting of game.  There are robotic wolves and even robotic turkeys.  Operated by the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, the Robotic Decoy Program strives to stop poachers.  These robotic game animals are actually remote-controlled taxidermic specimens, so they are very realistic.  This story adds to the many robotic animal stories here on RobotNext, even though this may not be considered to be a true robot or even a very advanced robot.  It is performing a valuable role as a mechanical stand-in for the real thing.  After all, this elk or deer can take a bullet and remain standing.  It is definitely saving many wild animals from an illegal hunter’s weapon.  You can watch a video of the robotic deer taking fire from some road hunters in this clip from You Tube.

Robotic Elk 

Photo Credit:  Oregon State Police

The decoy donated by the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust will help fish and wildlife agents target nighttime or closed-season poachers.

Elk robot to help Ore. officials catch poachers
(author unknown)
Tue, 27 Oct 2009 14:52:15 GMT

Crabs Could Influence the Next Robot Designs

A research team led by Dr Jan Hemmi of the Visual Sciences Group has achieved a first time achievement by working out how fiddler crabs perceive their world and respond to it. Their research, which is carried out in the Research School of Biology at The Vision Centre and Australian National University, is also expected to assist in the design of better machine vision for robots.  

Fiddler crabs are relatively simple creatures that must process visual signals and respond rapidly.  (As all organisms must do.)  Their eyes are the secret to their ability to do this.  In a fiddler crab, the eyes do not move.  Instead, they have have 9,000 eye facets and see in all directions including above.  However, the eyes only collect the information that is absolutely needed for the crab to survive in its environment.  So, some eye facets see detail, while others see a general view of the landscape .  Crabs also see in ultraviolet as well as other colors of light.

The researchers built a crab treadmill to test out how a crab sees and responds to what it sees.  The complete research in published in a paper, The topography of vision in the fiddler crab Uca vomeris.  Which was published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, 2009; 212: pp 3522-3532.   You can click on the links below to see the rest of the articles on this post.  Also, see the media release, Crabs in a Colourful and Threatening World for more on this topic.

Image: The Vision Centre and ScienceAlert

Crabs could influence robot design
ABC Online
"The lesson really is that you need to work out what information your robot needs to do whatever job it is meant to do," he said.
Scientists map crabs' vision ScienceAlert
all 2 news articles »

Crabs could influence robot design – ABC Online
(author unknown)
Mon, 26 Oct 2009 07:17:25 GMT

Robots Could Get a Sense of Touch

According to a story from the BBC News, “Robots of the future could have fingertips as sensitive as those of people, new research suggests.  Researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Sheffield have been examining the way our brains interpret our senses.  They connected artificial mouse whiskers to a robotic brain to see how the brain processes information relayed by sense of touch.”  

The connection between robots and biology is one that I find fascinating, so this article just had to be a post on RobotNext.  Robots that have a human capability of touch could revolutionize many areas of automation.  Next generation robots will likely have this advanced touch sense.  With this ability, robotic surgery may find new uses as the surgeons might be able to actually feel what the robot feels.  Another use is in the area of prosthetics.  Imagine Dean Kamen’s “Luke Arm” with this sense of touch.   The nature connection here is that this idea came from the study of mouse whiskers.  When objects brush against the whiskers on a mouse, nerve impulses are sent to the brain and interpreted there.  Sensory information can be processed by the brain to determine the direction of movement of the object.  In this case, artificial whiskers were used and the brain just happens to be that of a robot.  The robot was able to learn to interpret the movements.  Read the complete article at the links below.

Credit:  BBC News

'Whiskers' may help robots touch
BBC News
The scientists found that when objects were brushed against the whiskers, the robot brain learned how to interpret the whisker movement according to its
and more »

'Whiskers' may help robots touch – BBC News
(author unknown)
Mon, 26 Oct 2009 01:14:40 GMT

Robot Inspired by Roach

This is quite an amazing little robot.  Nature has provided a very adaptable example to follow in this case.  Inspired by the lowly cockroach, it is as tough to destroy as its real-life model.  It can survive a fall of 90 feet and scurry off like it has seen a can of Raid.  Built so that it uses only one motor, this roachbot turns by flexing and slightly deforming its frame.  You have to see the video on You Tube to see the robo roach in action.  It has always been said that if there is ever a nuclear war, only the roaches would survive.  Now, it may be that the robotic roaches will be there too!  Check out the story at IEEE by clicking on the link below or read the article at ZDNet by following the link in the quote below.

motorcrawler roachbot

Credit:  Biomimetic Millisystems Lab and UC Berkeley

IEEE Spectrum writes of a small resilient robot created by Paul Birkmeyer and Prof. Ronald Fearing at the Biomimetic Millisystems Lab at UC Berkeley.

Aptly called DASH (Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod), the six-legged insect-inspired robot can reach speeds of 1.5 meters per second and is flexible/strong enough to be dropped from a height of 28 meters without breaking. A single DC motor powers the legs and a small servomotor to slightly deform the robot’s body, allowing it to make turns.
Emerging Technology Trends – http://blogs.zdnet.com/emergingtech/

Resilient cockroach-inspired robot survives large falls, dashes
Chris Jablonski
Wed, 14 Oct 2009 15:01:48 GMT

Robots That Model the Movements of Schooling Fish

Here is a robot modeled on the movements of fish that travel in schools.  In a story by writer Carrie Melago from the New York Daily News, these robots based on fish are detailed.  What is interesting is that these robots are not really fishbots that swim in the water – they maneuver on dry land.  It is thought that this fish schooling behavior can be modeled by robots in a project to develop safer automobiles.  After all, if you have ever watched schools of fish swimming along, how often to the fish ever have a collision with other fish in the school?  So, this idea may have some merit and a very practical application.  Treat cars traveling on roads like schools of fish to prevent accidents.  And, as you can see from the photo below, these little guys really do resemble the Eve robot from the movie “WALL-E”.  Read the complete story from nydailynews.com  or click on the link below.


Credit:  Tsuno/Getty

Nissan engineers unveil their 'Eporo' robots in a convoy at a press preview in Yokohama Thursday.

Cool! All-new fish robot
(author unknown)
Thu, 01 Oct 2009 16:47:50 GMT

Animal Kingdom Inspires Robot Design

Robots modeled on nature are fascinating.  Many of the next important design breakthroughs in robotics will probably come from research labs that are working in the area of biomimetics.  This article from the MIT News relates two robot innovations from Sangbae Kim of the Biomimetic Robot Lab of MIT.  First, is a robot called Stickybot that can climb very smooth walls.  Stickybot’s feet are based on the Gecko and use an unusual property called directional adhesion. In other words, the feet are sticky in only one direction.  This means that the feet can detach as easily as they adhere.  You can click on the link under the thumbnail to see a larger version of the photo.  The second project will be to develop a robot that will use the design of a cheetah’s backbone to reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.  Read about these incredible robot designs at the links below.

MIT News

From nature, robots
MIT News
To a robot designer like Sangbae Kim, the animal kingdom is full of inspiration.
"I always look at animals and ask why they are the way they are," says Kim, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT.

From nature, robots – MIT News
Fri, 25 Sep 2009 05:09:13 GMT

A New Swimming Robot Based on an Amazonian Fish

Anyone who reads RobotNext knows that one of my favorite topics is robots based on nature.  I believe that the field of bionics (or biomimetics) is where many of the next cutting-edge robot designs will originate.  So many current robots have animals as their models.  Many of these have been written about here.  You can find them in the nature section of the archives.  There are snakebots, fishbots, and ratbots, to name a few.  

This particular robot is based on the Amazonian Knifefish.  Dubbed the Gymnobot, this fishbot is designed to propel itself through the water using a fin.  With this robot, the researchers hope to prove the advantages of using a fin instead of a propellor for moving through the water.  Check out this story at the link to Computerworld below.

Fish Robot Gymnobot

Credit:  University of Bath via PhysOrg.com

Swimming robot mimics Amazonian fish

Last year, the Sintef Group, a research company based in Trondheim, Norway, announced that it was working on a robot based on snakes. The robots, which are
and more »

Swimming robot mimics Amazonian fish – Computerworld
Tue, 22 Sep 2009 05:00:33 GMT

Snake Robots to Become More Intelligent

If researchers in Norway are successful, a more intelligent snakebot could be crawling its way up a pipe near you.  Scientists at SINTEF in Norway are working to make snake robots as smart as a teenager.  These robotic snakes have many possible applications besides inspecting pipes.  One possibility is that of acting as a robotic fire hose.  The snakebot could use the high pressure water in the hose as its power source and as the fire extinguisher.  Of course, these types of robots are also being explored as possible search and rescue devices since they could reach areas inaccessible to other more conventional machines.  See one of the previous posts here at RobotNext on snakebots.  Read the complete article at PhysOrg.com.  Follow the links below. 

Image source: PhysOrg.com

The robot children
The brains of the snake robots are still no more advanced than that of a one-year-old, but scientists at SINTEF (Norway) want to bring them up to the level

The robot children – PhysOrg.com
Tue, 15 Sep 2009 18:07:30 GMT

Robotic Fish Developed in Korea

A group of Korean scientists, led by Dr. Ryuh Young-sun, have developed a robotic fish. The team, located at the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology, debuted the fishbot in an aquarium at BEXCO. The researchers teleoperated the robotic fish.  Named "Ichthys," the Greek word for fish, the robot can swim for four hours on one charge of its power supply.  It is able to go to depths of 100 meters.  Furthermore, the robofish has an onboard GPS device which allows it to find locations for recharging its batteries.  It seems as if robotic fish are being developed everywhere.  RobotNext had an earlier story on the MIT robot fish.  It is beginning to look like fishbots are as popular as snakebots.  Check out the links to the original story below.

A robotic fish developed by Korean scientists

Credit: The Chosun IIbo

A robotic fish developed by Korean scientists

After the pollution sniffing fish , MIT did a school of robotic fish to let the mechanical geniuses take to the aquatic world.

Robotic fish from Korea, brilliance for shallow waters
Thu, 03 Sep 2009 18:07:02 GMT

Robots Get Magneto-Vision From Lobsters

Researchers at the University of OULU are building robots that see like lobsters.  Spiny lobsters have become the unlikely inspiration for a new type of vision system for robots.  The lobsters are endowed with a unique sense of direction–they use an internal map of local variations in the Earth's magnetic field to find their way around their surrounding.  This is a method that could give domestic robots low-cost navigational capabilities.  In the photo below, you can see how the robot would see in magneto-vision.  Building produce a unique pattern of magnetic variations that can be mapped by the robot and then stored onboard in memory.  This pattern can be used to navigate indoors.  This method is very inexpensive compared to an indoor GPS and so could become a way for robots to know where they are in a building.  Read the article below if you want the complete story.

lobster vision robot 

Image: Jnne Haverinen/University of OULU

Metal in buildings distorts the Earth's magnetic field in ways that could give indoor robots a low-cost map.

Lobsters teach robots magnetic mapping trick
Tue, 01 Sep 2009 16:22:00 GMT