Archives for June 2009

Thoughts Can Control Wheelchair

Someday you may sit down behind the wheel of your new Toyota vehicle, secure your seatbelt and shoulder restraint, and put on your thinking cap.  This automobile will be controlled by your thoughts.  Far-fetched you say?  Well, Toyota is showing off a new wheelchair that is controlled by the brainwaves of the user.  Wearing a cap that measures the brain’s waves, a rider can order the machine to move or turn, just by thinking.  Of course, this has the potential of providing the physically disabled the means of mobility either in a car or a wheelchair.  It could also provide the means of controlling any appliance in the home.  Read the stories below by following the links.  What other uses for this technology might exist?  I welcome your comments.

thought controlled wheelchair

Photo Credit: AFP

A researcher wearing a cap that can read brain signals rides on a wheelchair that can be steered by detecting brain waves at Riken Brain Science Institute in Wako near Tokyo, Japan.

Wheelchair 'steered by thought' unveiled
Tue, 30 Jun 2009 07:42:56 GMT

BRILLIANT: Researcher Choi Kyuwan displays a prototype electric wheelchair developed by Riken and Japan's Toyota Motor which is controlled by the user's brain waves.

Thought-steered wheelchair – cars next?
Tue, 30 Jun 2009 08:22:33 GMT

Chewing Robot Tests False Teeth

Now, the next robot that is inspired from biology:  The Dental Mastication Robot.   According to News-Medical.Net, “Researchers at the University of Bristol's Department of Mechanical Engineering in collaboration with the Department of Oral and Dental Science have developed the Chewing Robot to study dental wear formation on human teeth.”  Besides the novelty of a chewing robot, this bot has a definite benefit.  It will provide a platform for testing dental materials that could save money and improve these products for human use.  The end result may be better false teeth.  Check out the story below at the link provided.

Chewing Robot Photo Credit:  Department of Mechanical Engineering,
University of Bristol

Dental elements, such as crowns and bridges, are made from well-known metals, polymers and ceramics but their dental wear properties are often poorly understood.  Clinical trials examining the wear of human teeth are expensive and time-consuming …

Chewing robot helps study dental wear formation on teeth – News-Medical.Net
Mon, 29 Jun 2009 22:50:00 GMT

Weekend RobotNext Newswrap

Several interesting stories about robots crossed my news feed today, and since I could not decide which one to write on – I am starting something new at RobotNext.  This feature will be called the Weekend RobotNext Newswrap.  On Sundays, I will pick several robot stories that I have seen that are interesting, newsworthy, or just plain strange.  Of course, this will be in my opinion only, and I will not indicate which are the strange ones.  I will leave that up to you.

So, here’s what I found for today.  First, a story on making robot costumes out of gift bags.  Just what you need for Halloween, which is only a few months away.  Plan now, it will be here before you know it.  The small humanoid robot interacting with a cat is too cute to pass up and the article is interesting to boot.  A more serious note is struck by the posting on search and rescue robots.  This is a real life-saver for the rescuer and the rescued.  RoboCar is an intriguing little car that is being developed in a Japanese lab to test features of autonomous vehicles.  And finally, check out the Israeli RoboCup team entry.  The three member robot team is looking to help put Israel on the map in robotics.

I hope you will check out all the stories.  Let me know if you like the roundup and which story is your favorite.

Gift Bag Robot Costumes

Make Gift Bag Robot Costumes – Parents of toddlers and preschoolers know that you have to have a LOT of fun activities in your arsenal to keep those little bodies occupied. Here's a project I love …
CraftBlips – Top Other News,… –

Make Gift Bag Robot Costumes – Craft
(author unknown)
Sun, 28 Jun 2009 18:44:06 GMT

Advanced, But Small, Humanoid Robot

Times of Malta

Ġiġ the robot shows off
Times of Malta
Ġiġ is an advanced humanoid robot built by University students in the Faculty of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)'s special project lab as
and more »

Ġiġ the robot shows off – Times of Malta
Sun, 28 Jun 2009 08:26:59 GMT

Search and Rescue Robots

Flight and rescue robots demonstrate the advantages of search and
TU Graz (Pressemitteilung)
Modern robotics can help where it is too dangerous for humans to venture. Search and rescue robots (S&R robots) have meanwhile become so sophisticated that
and more »

Flight and rescue robots demonstrate the advantages of search and … – TU Graz (Pressemitteilung)
Sun, 28 Jun 2009 08:12:23 GMT


If by some unexplained cosmic phenomena (let us say – ZMP) mystically managed to cross an open sourced Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT) from Knight Rider with a crash test dummy, then RoboCar will be the product. This cute little intelligent Linux based bugger is designed and made by ZMP – a renowned robotics company […]

RoboCar – Autobots Roll Out!
Sun, 28 Jun 2009 16:00:50 GMT

Israeli RoboCup Team

In this tournament, the 25 teams have only three players, the players are all autonomous robots and the ultimate goal is to promote research and development in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence. RoboCup and its accompanying …

Israeli robot soccer players put best foot forward – Jerusalem Post
Sun, 28 Jun 2009 21:40:00 GMT

Robot Furniture Can Rid Home of Vermin (and Eat Them!)

Imagine a lamp that is a robot, and then imagine that this robot lamp just happens to also trap and eat flies.  The next stage in domestic robots could be robotic furniture that doubles as a mousetrap or a flytrap.  Not only do these robots fit in a room as furniture and eat pests-they can use the pests as fuel to power themselves.

RobotNext had an early post that covered an insect digesting robot called the Ecobot.  These furniture robots are based on the same research carried out at the University of Bristol. 

James Auger, at the Royal College of Art, London and his collaborator and fellow designer Jimmy Loizeau have constructed domestic robots in the form of furniture pieces that can sense their surrounding and learn from them.  These bots can also perform basic tasks for people, such as telling the time or lighting a room.

There are two references to this post listed below.  The first is from ZDNet and the second is from New Scientist.  Click on the links below for more of the story.

Photo Credit:  ZDNet Blogs

Robo-furniture eats household pests
ZDNet Blogs
The idea of using vermin as fuel was inspired by researchers at the Bristol Robotics Lab, UK. They already developed a fly-powered robot in '04 and have
and more »

Robo-furniture eats household pests – ZDNet Blogs
Sat, 27 Jun 2009 17:59:47 GMT


Image: Auger-Loizeau

Futuristic-looking robots like Honda's sleek humanoid Asimo don't cut it for designer James Auger, at the Royal College of Art, London. Believing that they need to fit unobtrusively into the home, he has built robotic furniture. And, believing they need to be useful and entertaining, he has given the furniture an appetite for vermin, like mice and flies.

Gallery: Domestic robots with a taste for flesh-New Scientist
Thu, 25 Jun 2009 13:19:00 GMT

Robot Imitates Swimming Motion of Living Jellyfish

Nature continues to supply models for robots.  RobotNext found this article on robot jellyfish.  Many robot builders are modeling every type of motion nature provides.  Jellyfish use a unique swimming motion to achieve their flowing, pulsing motion. 

So now to the basic story.  Two Korean researchers have developed a robot that swims like a jellyfish.  Engineers Sung-Weon Yeom and Il-Kwon Oh from Chonnam National University in the Republic of Korea explain in an article at that "Jellyfish are one of the most awesome marine animals, doing a spectacular and psychedelic dance in water."  A special type of polymer that imitates muscle movement was used in the design of this jellyfish robot.  The article goes on to state that “advances in electro-active polymers (EAP) enabled them to achieve this biomimetic swimming behavior in a robot.”


Image Credit: Yeom and Oh. (

(Left) A living jellyfish and (right) a jellyfish robot made of electro-active polymer artificial muscle. Both jellyfish move by contracting the bell to generate a pulsating motion.  — "Jellyfish are one of the most …

Sung-Weon Yeom and Il-Kwon Oh. “A biomimetic jellyfish robot based on ionic polymer metal composite actuators.” Smart Mater. Struct. 18 (2009) 085002 (10pp).

Jellyfish Robot Swims Like its Biological Counterpart – PhysOrg
Fri, 26 Jun 2009 15:30:00 GMT

Robot Surgeon Finds Tiny Shrapnel Pieces

This robot could change the way some surgeries are done.  Biopsies could be done almost anywhere and cost only a few dollars.  I see these robots being used by the military to treat combat wounds.  Robotic surgeries are becoming more common for even very complicated procedures.  Check out the articles at the links below.  Look at the link on the photo and see what you think about this machine.

Robot Surgeon

Photo Credit:  Duke University |

June 25, 2009 — A robotic surgeon at Duke University has successfully found and guided a needle to a sliver of steel shrapnel, completely without human help. The technology could reduce the cost and time necessary to complete a biopsy and other …

Robot Surgeon Finds Tiny Shrapnel – Discovery News
Thu, 25 Jun 2009 19:41:00 GMT

Transformer-like Superbot

With the sequel to the Transformers movie in the theaters this summer, I suppose that people would be interested in knowing that a transformer-like robot is already in existence here on Earth.  It is not able to transform into a slick-looking sports car, but it is able to change its shape in a basic, but amazing way.  As you can see in the photo links below, the superbot can assume a snake-like appearance or a more humanoid shape.  NASA has been interested in this robot as the next potential explorer of a planetary surface.  The superbot could land in pieces and then assemble itself into a rover.  Click on the link below to see the entire article on


Photo Credit: Shen/USC

Researchers hope that modular robots might one day decide when and where to transform.


Photo Credit: Shen/USC

Superbot: The Real Transformer
Tue, 23 Jun 2009 19:00:11 GMT

Robots That Learn Like Babies

Intelligence is the thing missing from robots today.  Researchers are working to develop ways for robots to develop human-like intelligence.  In humans, intelligence is developed during the growth process, so if robots are ever to become intelligent, they will have to acquire the ability to learn over many years.  Now, robot research is designing machines that can mimic how babies grow and develop.  Einstein, as the robot is called, has 27 motors in its face that give it dozens of expressions.  The point of this is to give a robot the ability to relate to humans.  Read the article below at Smithsonian for more details.


Building a robot that humans can love is pretty ambitious.  But Javier Movellan (in his San Diego lab with RUBI) says he would like to develop a robot that loves humans.

Photo Credit:  Timothy Archibald

Einstein the robot has enchanting eyes, the color of honey in sunlight. They are fringed with drugstore-variety false eyelashes and framed by matted gray brows made from real human hair.

Robot Babies
Smithsonian – USA
Sat, 20 Jun 2009 20:53:19 GMT

Bio-Inspired Robotics Laboratory

Robots that are modeled on nature have intrigued me for several months.  This seems like the next major area for breakthroughs in robotics.  Now, I spotted this job placement request on my newsfeed.  Starting in August of 2009, a new laboratory will open at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland.  Fumiya Iida, Dr. sc. nat., will be the director.   His research interest includes biologically inspired robotics, embodied artificial intelligence, and biomechanics.  His research includes robots modeled on cats, dogs, monkeys, and many other nature models.  Look on his website for some great photos of robots that he has built and worked with in his research.

Bio-Inspired Robotics Laboratory
(Director: Fumiya Iida)
Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
(ETH Zurich) Switzerland

Photo Credit:  Fumiya IIDA Dr. sc. nat.

Posdoc/PhD Positions at ETH Zurich, Bio-Inspired Robotics Laboratory
Youngester (
Fri, 19 Jun 2009 22:45:00 GMT

Robot Animals Help Study Nature

Robots are being dressed up like animals in order to blend in with wildlife and help research their real-life counterparts in nature.  There are robotic birds, bees, and lizards.  RobotNext has many articles on robots that are modeled on nature.  This is a slightly different take in that the robots are imitating nature in order to study the animals. 


Credit:  Popular Science, Illustrations by Bradley R. Hughes

Robots That Dress Like Animals for Science
Popular Mechanics, NY
To better understand animal behavior, scientists are dressing up data-gathering robots in animal garb. By fitting in with their wild, unsuspecting friends, robot bees, turkeys and lizards are recording intimate details of habitats that were never

Robots That Dress Like Animals for Science – Popular Mechanics
Thu, 18 Jun 2009 13:45:53 GMT

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