Archives for July 2009

Robotic Insect “Flies” Off Vibrations

Flying robot insects are the subject of some intense research into exactly how they are able to accomplish their aerial feats.  A researcher at Arizona State University, Michele Milano, is investigating how a robofly flies.  Check out this video of his “flying brick”.  (You need Microsoft Media Player to see this.)  Also, look at this robot fly from the Harvard Microrobotics Lab to see what started this line of research.

The goal of developing a flying robo-insect is to build the ultimate surveillance tool.  A tiny robot that looks and flies like a real insect could enter a building and take a look around without raising an alarm.  How does the robofly take to the air?  Now, this new research seems to cast doubt on whether its the robots wings or the vibrations in the strings that guide it.  Or maybe its both.  So, the point of this story is that, even now, after over 100 years of powered flight, it is not always clear what the mechanics of flying involve or even why something can fly.

CREATING a free-flying robotic insect is the dearest wish of many an engineer because such a machine would have great potential in surveillance and in seeking out trapped people in search-and-rescue situations. But a curious effect might upset their plans.

Due to vibrations similar to those generated in a plucked guitar string, a robotic insect can defy gravity and "fly" up wire tethers.

Robotic insect 'flight' may be just good vibrations
Wed, 29 Jul 2009 08:00:00 GMT

Flying surveillance robots from Aeryon

Security forces and local police may soon have a new tool to use in their work.  This two pound robot is packaged as a kit that fits in a suitcase-sized container.  It can be assembled and operating in a short time.  Using a simple interface that works with a Google maps application, the operator merely points at the target on the map and the flying robot is directed to that location.  It has the ability to stay aloft for 20 minutes and can fly at an altitude of 500 feet.  The robot is equipped with a camera to take stills or stream video back to the controller.  With a $50,000 price tag, it won’t be sold to individuals.  Right now, the only place the robot can fly is Canada.  It may take another six months or so for the FAA to approve its use in the USA.

Credit: CNET News

Flying surveillance robots from Aeryon coming in 6 months, give or
At the Always On Stanford Summit, Aeryon Labs president Dave Kroetsch gave a compelling pitch on his company, which makes a two-pound robot helicopter that


The Aeryon Scout and its tablet-based control computer.

(Credit: Aeryon)

Flying surveillance robots from Aeryon coming in 6 months, give or … – CNET News
Thu, 30 Jul 2009 00:04:20 GMT

Firefighting Robot Team

Here is the mechanical fantastic four of fire fighting showcased in a story by BBC.  They even have names that would be fitting of any superhero.  You have Talon, Bison, Black Max, and Brokk.  Each robot is a specialist, but they work as a team to handle special fire situations involving gas cylinders.  Talon is a small, maneuverable tracked robot like the bomb disposal machines in Iraq. It can climb stairs, and is outfitted with video and thermal imaging cameras.  Next is Bison, a slightly bigger and more dexterous robot that uses grippers and cutting tools to access vehicles or storage areas.  Then, there is Black Max to take care of the traditional fire-fighting task. It is four-wheeled, remote-controlled vehicle that sits low to the ground and carries a fire hose.  Brokk is the final team member.  It is a modified piece of industrial digging equipment that is remotely controlled and fitted with a giant claw to remove dangerous objects.  Read the story of these mechanical fire fighters at the links below.

Credit:  Channel 4 News

Robotic firefighting team debuts
BBC News
The robots range from a nimble, stair-climbing reconnaissance unit to a diesel-powered robot with a large claw. The two-year project is funded by Network
Firefighting robot team unveiledUberGizmo
Robots join the London Fire BrigadeNewsLite
Rise of the Machines?Channel 4 News
all 10 news articles »

Robotic firefighting team debuts – BBC News
Tue, 28 Jul 2009 14:02:00 GMT

Iowa State Robot is Master of Ceremonies

This ribbon-cutting robot from Iowa State was the master of ceremonies at the opening of its own new home.  Showing off a large pair of scissors, the robot cut the ribbon without hesitation or problem to officially christen the new Electrical and Computer Engineering building.  Built to research procedural learning in the Developmental Robotics Lab of Alexander Stoytchev, the bot “has two Barrett Whole Arm Manipulators for appendages, and a custom-designed head with stereo vision capable of simple emotional expression.  Its three-fingered hands are flexible enough to perform a variety of grasping motions, using fingers 1 and 3 as opposable thumbs when necessary” as is demonstrated in the ribbon cutting.

Plastic Pals’ website sums it up this way:  “The philosophy behind the research is to teach the robot the properties of its surroundings similar to the way a child or animal learns during early development, through direct experience.  The robot has already learned to identify objects from the sounds they make when being touched, pushed, held, and shaken.”

So, this robot is so much more than a mere MC for ribbon cuttings—it has been developed to do serious research into robot intelligence.  In many ways, this robot has more potential for interaction with humans.  Just take a look at the animation of the expressions it will be able to make.

Expressive Robot

Image Credit:  Developmental Robotics Laboratory at Iowa State University

Jul 27, 2009 Robots can travel in time, ride (stationary) motorcycles, and teach your children to disrespect you — but rarely do they have any sense of

Iowa State robot available for ribbon cuttings, birthday parties
(author unknown)
Mon, 27 Jul 2009 07:49:54 GMT

Weekly Newswrap: Leftover Stuff

This week’s Newwrap is best described as leftovers.  These stories are like the food remaining after a big dinner:  I didn't want to throw them out because they could still make a good meal.  

Again, the subjects range all over the place.  A robot in a wedding dress walks down the runway at a fashion show in Japan is today’s entry.  There are also underwater robots, surgical robots, and robots to help humans.  Finally, from the beginning of the week, there are the robots that may advertise on the Moon.  Quite an eclectic group of stories to look at for this week.  I hope you enjoy them.

Robot Hits Runway at Osaka Fashion Show

Tokyo, Jul 26 (PTI) Japanese scientists have made a robot in an elaborate wedding dress walk down the runway at an Osaka fashion show, a development seen as
See all stories on this topic

Robot hits runway at Osaka fashion show
Press Trust of India – New Delhi,India
Sun, 26 Jul 2009 13:16:19 GMT

Robby the Robot goes underwater (St. Tammany News)

Robotics, especially underwater robotics is still a new profession. Used by oil and gas companies to repair underwater pipelines and drilling platforms, underwater robots have replaced human divers in dangerous depths that can crush a human diver.

Robby the Robot goes underwater (St. Tammany News)
Thu, 23 Jul 2009 15:27:29 GMT

High-tech robot allows doctors to treat soldiers remotely

Dr. Kevin Chung appears on the screen of the robot that helps him treat soldiers from afar. A revolutionary robot mounted with a high-tech camera is helping
See all stories on this topic

High-tech robot allows doctors to treat soldiers remotely
CNN International – USA
Thu, 23 Jul 2009 13:44:26 GMT

Archie robot wants to helps humans despite creepy appearance – DVICE

Archie robot wants to helps humans despite creepy appearance
Though it may look crude on its surface, the fact is that the Archie robot is the result of a lot of hard work by researchers at the Vienna University of

Archie robot wants to helps humans despite creepy appearance – DVICE
Wed, 22 Jul 2009 08:28:28 GMT

Robots to Advertise on the Moon

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah, July 20 /PRNewswire/ — It's one giant leap for robot-kind. New Shadow Shaping technology creates images on the Moon that can be
See all stories on this topic

Robots to Advertise on the Moon
PR Newswire (press release) – New York,NY,USA
Mon, 20 Jul 2009 11:19:26 GMT

More Snakebots

Okay.  I know that I am obsessed with snake robots.  This article from and Science Fiction in the News just grabbed me like a python and wouldn’t let go.  You have to see all the moves this snake has.  Look at Carnegie Mellon’s Biorobotics Laboratory site and watch the videos.  Besides swimming and wrapping around a horizontal pipe, this baby can climb a pole.  See the thumbnail below and follow the link for the larger photos on the website.


Credit:  Biorobotics Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University

This Modular Snake Robot from Carnegie Mellon University has some amazing moves.

Modular Snake Robot's Unique Gaits
Fri, 24 Jul 2009 05:09:02 GMT

Israel’s New Robots Modeled on Animals’ Movements

Returning to one of my favorite subjects, here is a post I found on robots designed from biological models.   The robot pictured below is a snakebot.  Israeli robot builders seem to love serpents as a model for robots.  Click on the serpents link above to see an earlier post on RobotNext about an Israeli Defense Forces robot that is to be used for recon missions.

NY1's Technology performer Adam Balkin filed the report this story is taken from.  The innovative robots were developed by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. Their creator, Amir Shapiro, finds inspiration in nature.  Specifically, he studies how animals move.  "We actually look at nature and try to copy but we cannot copy exactly because we have different materials and actuators," says Shapiro. "So we try to mimic nature — it's called biomimetics."

He has created two robotic snakes for search and rescue missions.  One of his creations can climb nearly vertical surfaces such a metal ship hull by using magnets to attach to the surface.  In the story, Shapiro shows other robots that he is working with that are based on LEGO NXT kits.  He makes the point that robots can be developed and build using very inexpensive materials.  Computing power is readily available, so very innovative robots can be build by anyone with the necessary knowledge and skill.

His point is well taken.  Robots have a use where the environment is too dangerous for humans, but robots also have a role to play in recreation.  To see one of the robot snakes in action, click on the video credit link below.

Video Credit:  NY1

New Israeli Robots Move Like Animals
A robot builder from Israel says he often draws inspiration from actual animals when designing metal ones. NY1's Technology performer Adam Balkin filed the

New Israeli Robots Move Like Animals – NY1 

by Adam Balkin
Thu, 23 Jul 2009 15:45:03 GMT

Astrobotic Technology Lunar Robot Update

Here’s another take on the Astrobotic Technology robot that is slated to voyage to the Moon in 2011.  These two stories cover the power angle of this future lunar explorer.  This robot will use solar power as its energy source and it is being designed to survive the heat of lunar noon.  Check out both stories linked to below.

Mike writes "Carnegie Mellon roboticist Dr. William Whittaker has teamed up with Astrobiotic Technology to develop a solar powered moon rover that will explore the Apollo landing site in 2011.

Solar-Powered Moon Rover To Explore Apollo Landing
Thu, 23 Jul 2009 05:25:39 GMT

Solar-Powered Moon Rover to Explore Apollo Landing Site

Wed, 22 July 2009

Skiing Robot Developed to Study Techniques for the Snow

More often than not, robots can be found doing any activity that humans are involved in. The purpose may be research based for now, but eventually robots may have a more direct involvement with humans. Can you see a robot ski instructor on the slopes?

In a recent issue of Sports Engineering, a team of researchers has published a study of a robot experimantal system.  This group, working out of Kanazawa University in Japan, has taken the first steps toward developing a method to investigate the motions in leg joints that occur during ski turns. It is hoped that this data will ultimately serve as a model to help skiers improve their own movements. Several blogs have posted on this skiing robot.  On there are links to some You Tube videos to give you an idea of what some skiing robots look like.  Although there are no videos of this particular bot as yet, these movies are informative.

More often than not, robots can be found doing any activity that humans are involved in.  The purpose may be research based for now, but eventually robots may have a more direct involvement with humans.  Can you see a robot ski instructor on the slopes?  The robot could demonstrate perfect and repeatable motions to teach someone how to have great skiing technique.  No problems with patience either.  A robot would, perhaps, be the best teacher in cases like this.  Of course, robots must learn how to relate to humans.  That is another research area altogether.  Check out the stories below for more information on the skiing robot.


Photo Credit: T. Yoneyama, et al. via

Skiing is a very hectic sport, don't believe me, then go and ask the robot who's just started.

A rookie Robot that can ski and provide experimental results
Wed, 22 Jul 2009 16:11:29 GMT

T. Yoneyama, H. Kagawa, M. Unemoto, T. Iizuka, N.W. Scott. “A ski robot system for qualitative modeling of the carved turn.” Sports Engineering (2009) 11:131-141.

Ski Robot Could Decipher the Art of Skiing

Mon, 20 Jul 2009

See Robot Run

This is one impressive robot.  Watch it in action on this video at You Tube.  Sure, it can not run uphill or withstand a push greater than a human’s, but it is hard to not consider this a quantum leap (no pun intended) in bipedal robots.  Toyota is known for building quality automobiles and not so much for robots.  However, they have now demonstrated that their robotics technology is also at the cutting edge.  Read more in the article from Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.

Video Credit:  Toyota

Toyota’s most recent humanoid robot prototype (one of many partner robots the automotive giant is developing) stands 130cm tall and weighs 50Kgr. Its legs have 7 degrees of freedom and it can run at an average speed of 7 km/h. In contrast, ASIMO’s maximum speed is 6km/h. The Toyota researchers had to develop new real-time methods for balance control. These methods make it possible for the robot to remain balanced when an external force such as a push from a human is applied when in motion.
The below video from Toyota demonstrates the running capabilities of the new humanoid robot. The robot takes a step every 340ms and has no contact with the ground for 100ms of that. Notice in the video how the robot remains balanced even after pushed by the human.

Toyota’s running humanoid robot
Awesom-o (
Mon, 20 Jul 2009 09:52:00 GMT

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