Robot Rats Could Be Next

Rats are the next model for robots.  Imagine a very large mechanical rodent scurrying around the room and you get the idea.  Not for the faint of heart if you hate rats.  Probably won't be the design for the next generation of robotic vacuum cleaners, but the behavior may be just what is needed to bring some intelligence to robots.  The intelligence of a rat. 

Researchers have gone to nature yet again to find inspiration for robot development.  On robotNext there have been posts on snake bots, insect bots, beaver-tailed bots, and dinosaur bots.   Robots have been modeled on spiders, water striders, and even humans.  Why not rats?

Actually, why rats?  Rats have brain structures similar to humans, so rats make sense as a model.  Roboticists in this article from believe that robots modeled on rats may be able to accomplish some basic, but useful behaviors, such as navigating around objects or searching for food.  If robots could learn to do this, they would become more than a programmed machine to do repetitive tasks.

Check out the article at the links below.


The future of robots is rat-shaped

Agnes Guillot dreams of one day seeing a giant 50-centimetre (20-inch) -long white rat called Psikharpax scuttling fearlessly around her lab.

… the smarts to figure out dangers and opportunities, a robot is helpless without human intervention. "The autonomy of robots today is similar to that of an insect," snorts Guillot, a researcher at France's Institute for Intelligent Systems and …

The future of robots is rat-shaped
Sun, 07 Jun 2009 15:10:50 GMT

Robots Used to Study Evolution

Robots that imitate cockroaches or lizards.  These have been developed in a university laboratory that is researching evolution.  In previous posts here at RobotNext, I have detailed stories on robots that imitate nature.  Here is just one more example of what is next in robots.  Check out the story at the link below.

Long is among a small group of researchers worldwide studying biology and evolution with the help of robots that can do things like shimmy through water or slither up shores. Long's robots, for instance, test theories on the development
TH Online RSS Feed –

TH – National/World Article
(author unknown)
Sat, 30 May 2009 20:04:17 GMT

Antibiotic Bot

(Well, not really, but read on …)

The next thing in robots may not be a big deal at all, in fact, it will be very, very small.  This bot is not actually antibiotic.  It is more like a monoclonal antibody.  If you remember the old science fiction movie Fantastic Voyage, then this story is going to sound familiar.  Okay, so the robot is not shrunk down in a miniaturization machine – it is built that way to start with, but it will be injected into the body and have the ability to travel through the blood stream and treat cancer tumors. 

This is the holy grail of oncology:  targeted treatment of the cancer so that healthy tissue is not harmed.  I can tell you from personal experience that anything that can reduce or eliminate the side effects of cancer treatment would be welcomed by patients dealing with malignancies.  Click on the photo or the link below to read the whole story.


Image: Courtesy of Ruder Finn Israel

The Tiny Robot that Can Crawl Through Your Veins—And Treat Your Tumors
Discover Magazine, NY
Researchers at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have developed a miniature crawling robot, called ViRob, that can crawl through your lungs, find a tumor, and zap it with drugs. The bot, which is one millimeter long and four millimeters from

The Tiny Robot that Can Crawl Through Your Veins—And Treat Your Tumors – Discover Magazine
Tue, 26 May 2009 17:52:03 GMT

Making Robots More Like Humans

Researchers are working to develop robots that are capable of more human-like behavior.  In this report by Dan Simmons of the BBC, he explores what scientists are doing to give robots more human-like abilities.  This is a follow-up to the post from yesterday on robots that show human emotions.

Some robots have been developed from models in nature.  Some of those robots actually perform functions in a way that are superior to what humans can do.  For example, robots can accomplish repetitive tasks with precision and without tiring.  Robots can go places that humans cannot easily go or maybe not reach at all.

Now the challenge is to make robots that can interact with humans in a way that puts the humans at ease and allows a more personal interaction.  See the article below for the report on how this is being done right now.

Simple tasks such as walking and picking up objects are part of everyday life for people, but such mundane tasks still present major challenges for today's robots.

Researchers are using sensors, cameras and recognition to teach the machines to interact in a way that people will be comfortable with.

Man machine (BBC News)
Sun, 24 May 2009 16:27:49 GMT

Flying Insect-sized Robots Get Eyes

So I guess this fits with the theme of recent posts on RobotNext.  Only this one combines the themes of military robots and nature inspired machines.  This article on spying roboflies is about tiny cameras that can be integrated with flying robots that are no larger than an insect.  Of course, there are many other possible applications for this miniature camera.  One of the uses could be for robotic spacecraft where size and weight are critical.  Another area where these devices could make an impact is in small observatories for use in border security.  It is thought that the robots or machines with these cameras would be cheap enough to be dropped by aircraft over a large area.  See the complete article by clicking on the title below.

It is light enough to be carried by these tiny surveillance drones and also uses very little power.

Spying roboflies to get minicam eyes
Fri, 22 May 2009 20:59:44 GMT

F-35 Assembly by Robots

Aircraft manufacturers are moving ahead with the use of robotics in the construction of the newest armed forces jets.  This article from Robotics & Automation details how the new F-35 will use robotics to speed-up the manufacturing process for aircraft.  What follows is some selected quotes from the article.  I think what is especially important is the possibility of drastically reducing the manufacturing times on the aircraft and the movement of these technologies to the commercial aviation field.   Follow the links above or at the bottom of this post to see the entire article and all the photos.

“The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL, Dayton, OH) has been spearheading an effort to use commercial six-axis robots in the F-35 production process.”

Northrop Grumman “…made significant investments in using robotics to speed the flow of center fuselage assembly. Installation of robotic drilling machines during low-rate initial production is expected to reduce drilling times on key assemblies by up to 70 percent.”

“By using articulated robots, we’ll go from a 50-hour manual process to a 15-hour automated process,” says Scott Gillette, a manufacturing technology development engineer who’s working on the project.

“Many observers believe the F-35 applications will eventually trickle down to the commercial aviation sector and spur widespread use of robots. Robotic drilling is a growing area that has major benefits for the entire aerospace industry.”

F-35 Assembly by Robots
Youngester (
Sat, 16 May 2009 13:50:00 GMT

Inspired by Soldier Son, Father Develops Military Robots

A robot is a machine.  It can be programmed to accomplish many tasks.  These tasks can be for good or evil.  Several previous posts here have detailed military-tasked robots.  Now, you can think what you want about these robots, but they do have one major purpose—to save human lives. 

Here is an inspirational story of someone who is motivated to do something to save soldiers on the battlefield.


Inspired by Soldier Son, Father Develops Military Robots
TOM BEARDEN: Black-I Robotics, with just two employees besides Hart, are building robots that can defuse IEDs. They can also use TV cameras and other sensors to act as sentries, warning troops of imminent danger. Military weapons designer Pierre Sprey

Inspired by Soldier Son, Father Develops Military Robots – NewsHour
Fri, 15 May 2009 15:11:15 GMT