Archives for August 2009

Plasmobot: The First Organic Robot

The aim of these researchers is to create the first amorphous non-silicon biological robot, plasmobot, using plasmodium, the vegetative stage of the slime mold Physarum polycephalum, a commonly occurring mold.  Plasmodium respond to a variety of stimuli to move or grow in a certain direction.  The type of food that is supplied can also control the output of the mold.  For example, feeding the mold oat flakes cause them to grow tube-like structures.  Read the story at the PhysOrg link below.


Photo Credit: and University of the West of England

… span them in the shortest and best way possible, and transport tiny objects along pre-programmed directions. The robots will have parallel inputs and outputs, a network of sensors and the number crunching power of super computers. The plasmobot will …

Scientists design first robot using mould
Sun, 30 Aug 2009 22:40:16 GMT

Weekly Newswrap: The Leftovers

Here are this week’s leftovers in no particular order.  There are seven stories that made the newswrap this week and they cover an interesting range of topics.  If there is any theme in the stories of this past seven days, it is the relationship of robots to human life. 

Starting on Monday, there is the report that showed-up in many sites all over the web.  This is the one about the robot hand that is quicker than seems robotically or humanly possible.  Go to the original Ishikawa Komuro Laboratory article and see the video for yourself.  It is amazing to watch.    Another medical robot is featured in Tuesday’s entry.  Rather than blazing speed, this robot features a gentle touch that can find cancerous tumors in patients.  And, rounding out the leftovers from the first three days of the week are the kissing robots from Wednesday.  (Okay, this may not be related to human life, except for the fact they are featured in a show that people watch.)

Thursday, there was the story on two robots designed to be nurses for the elderly or provide childcare for the young.  You can see the video at this website. Then, there is the story about the robotic nurse that looks like a giant teddy bear from Friday.  A robot designed to take care of plants on Mars (or maybe here on Earth) is the choice from the entries on Saturday.  Finally, from today, there is the high-tech wheel chair for patients that looks like something from a science fiction movie.

Take a look at all the posts from this week at the links below.

Japan robotics experts unveil sci-fi … – Vancouver Sun

Japan robotics experts unveil sci-fi wheelchair
Vancouver Sun
Robotics and medical experts in Japan on Wednesday unveiled the prototype of a new hi-tech electric wheelchair that resembles a scooter and promises greater
and more »

Japan robotics experts unveil sci-fi … – Vancouver Sun
Sun, 30 Aug 2009 12:56:39 GMT

Le Petit Prince; robot to add plant life on Mars | OnlyGizmos

Le Petit Prince (or the 'little prince') is a robot concept designed to make plants from Earth sustainable on the planet Mars. The robot carries a plant.
OnlyGizmos –

'Le Petit Prince' robot to add plant life on Mars | OnlyGizmos
Sat, 29 Aug 2009 15:10:28 GMT

Japanese create teddy bear robot nurse


by Tim Hornyak Japanese researchers have created a robot nurse that can lift elderly patients from wheelchairs and beds. Naturally, it looks like a giant
See all stories on this topic

Japanese create teddy bear robot nurse
Fri, 28 Aug 2009 23:49:31 GMT

Caring robots learn to relate (Herald Sun)

THEY may look more like vacuum cleaners with eyes, but Matilda and Jackson are the next generation of nurses and "emotionally intelligent" babysitters.

Caring robots learn to relate (Herald Sun)
Thu, 27 Aug 2009 13:45:26 GMT

The world’s first kissing robots (Crikey)

Cute AND creepy: robots Thomas and Janet are the stars of a Taiwanese robot production of Phantom of the Opera developed by the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology.

The world’s first kissing robots (Crikey)
Wed, 26 Aug 2009 04:56:57 GMT

Touchy Feely Robot Promises to be Gentle (and Check for Cancer) [Robots] (Gizmodo)

This won't hurt a bit! Researchers have developed a prototype robot that, through key-hole surgery, can detect cancer tumors in half the time, with less tissue damage, and with 40 percent more…

Touchy Feely Robot Promises to be Gentle (and Check for Cancer) [Robots] (Gizmodo)
Tue, 25 Aug 2009 09:57:31 GMT

The Robot Hand Faster and Better Than a Human’s: The Gadget Blog …

So the braniacs at Ishikawa Komuro Lab have developed a high-speed robot hand that can do things very quickly. Now we have at least one robot that can run decently, and at least one robot hand that can do detailed manipulation tasks
The Gadget Blog –

The Robot Hand Faster and Better Than a Human's : The Gadget Blog
Rico Mossesgeld
Mon, 24 Aug 2009 15:24:12 GMT

Phasma the Insect Robot

Here is a story about an insect-modeled robot that runs like a real bug.  It is a bot that mimics the gait of an insect, if not the appearance.  When you look at the motion of this machine on a video, you will be amazed at the realism of the movements.  Phasma is based on iSprawl developed at BDML, Stanford University, USA.  The two machines have very similar insectoid motions.  If you click on the link for iSprawl, you can see it in action.  If you want to read more, then go to the Takram link in the next sentence. The following from the Takram Design Engineering website explains the background of this robot’s development in a very succinct way:  “Phasma is a hexapedal running robot that can run dynamically like a living organism. It is an attempt to depict life purely through its motion rather than its shape, by extracting the physics of running from living things and implementing that to the artifact. Phasma uses compliant components such as stainless steel springs and rubber joints to reproduce smooth and efficient locomotion seen in animals. Another interesting biomimicry applied in Phasma is the alternating tripod gait as seen in insects that provides excellent stability.”  Visit the link below or click on the photograph for more details.


Photo credit:  Takashi Mochizuki

… insectile robot reminds me of the running motion made by the CGI-based spider surveillance assistant robots from Stephen Spielberg's 2002 movie Minority Report : ( Minority Report spider robot swarm ) Fans of Michael Crichton's 1985 movie Runaway …

Phasma Insect Robot Runs Like A Bug
Thu, 27 Aug 2009 13:20:39 GMT

Robot Grasshopper Now Has Wings

RobotNext posted a story on this microbot in October of 2008 as an example of robots that are modeled on biology.  This is a follow-up to that article.  Apparently, the original group developing this little grasshopper bot has now put wings on the mechanical grasshopper to give it the ability to glide after it jumps in the air.  The objective of this research is to develop a small robot that can leap into the air and then glide to a target.  I still find it amazing to watch the video of the robotic grasshopper jumping into the air.   Go to the post from October 2008 to find links to the French site that details the work being done on this.

Grasshopper Microbot with Wings

Credit: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Last May, we wrote about a 7 gram robot grasshopper that is capable of jumping a distance of 1.4 meters, which is pretty huge for such a small robot.

Robot Grasshopper Grows Wings
Wed, 26 Aug 2009 14:04:22 GMT

Robot With Bones is Modeled on Humans

The Eccerobot has been developed by a team of European researchers that are scattered across five centers.  Owen Holland at the University of Sussex, UK, is leading the project.  Joining the Sussex group on the project are researchers from the Technical University of Munich, Germany; University of Zurich, Switzerland; University of Belgrade, Serbia; and French firm The Robot Studio.  The robot has been designed to model exactly the way human bones, muscles and tendons work together. Tendons and muscles are replaced by kite line and elastic cord.  The objective of the project is to develop a robot that is better able to interact with its environment.

robot bones

Image Credit:  The Robot Studio via

YOU may have more in common with this robot than any other – it was designed using your anatomy as a blueprint.

Robot with bones moves like you do
Tue, 25 Aug 2009 01:17:43 GMT

Fishbots: Robots Mimic Swimming Motions of Schools of Fish

Robotic fish that swim like a bass or trout are the latest crossover from biology to robotics.  Mechanical engineers Kamal Youcef-Toumi and Pablo Valdivia Y Alvarado of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)  have designed the elegant fishbots to maneuver deftly into areas where more conventional underwater remotely operated or autonomous vehicles are unable to reach. “Schools” of the new robot fish could be utilized to carry-out inspections of underwater structures such as oil and gas pipes; ship’s hulls; and perhaps help detect environmental hazards.  They could also find uses in patrolling ports, rivers, and lakes.  Unlike earlier robotic fish, these robots are much simpler in design and are much more like their natural models.  Read more about these amazing machines in the stories linked below.

Credit:  CNET News

New robots mimic fish's swimming
As part of his doctoral thesis, Valdivia Y Alvarado created a model to calculate the optimal material properties distributions along the robot's body to
Schools of Mini Robofish Swim Where Humans Can'tWired News
MIT dives into robo-fish poolCNET News
MIT researchers create robotic fish for underwater explorationVentureBeat
all 9 news articles »

New robots mimic fish's swimming –
Mon, 24 Aug 2009 22:12:25 GMT

Pitsco Designing Robots for Education

LEGO Mindstorms has long been the robotics kit of choice for education.  Now, TETRIX, which uses metal parts in its kits, has joined with LEGO Education to produce kits at Pitsco that join metal and plastic together to make robots.  One of the first applications of this system has been the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC).  FTC is run by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), which was co-founded by Dean Kamen.  The kit was used in the 2008 – 2009 season.  With a unique construction system, these robots are the basis for a coming revolution in educational robotics.  Check out the article link below.

Pitsco robots 

Credit:  Gatehouse Media, Inc

Forget about the clunky metal monsters from those science fiction movies. The latest robots are learning tools that can inspire students around the world to create and achieve. And they’re coming out of Pittsburg — from Pitsco, to be exact.

Pitsco robots designed to take over education (The Morning Sun)
Wed, 19 Aug 2009 05:53:03 GMT

* As a postscript to this article, I wished to explain why there is no Weekly Newswrap this week.  For three days this week, I have been on the road and spending my days (and some nights) in meetings.  Simply stated, I did not have the time to make as many posts as usual.  Furthermore, I did not have the opportunity to research enough stories to build up a backlog of potential stories for the newswrap.  Next week will bring a more normal schedule.  Thanks for reading RobotNext.

Robot Cats Pet Companions for Elderly

Research has shown that pets are healthy.  Older people who have pets as companions have less stress, lower blood pressure, and a better quality of life overall.  So now, robot pets are possibly headed for homes.  This article from Live Science goes into detail on a robot cat by Sega Toys that could be the companion that older folks need.  The story is in several web posts including crunchgear.   Make sure and check out these stories.  At least you wouldn’t have to clean the litter box.


Photo Credit: Sega Toys via Crunchgear via Livescience

A robotic feline may soon be a popular companion for seniors.

Robot Cats Purrrrfect for Elderly
Fri, 21 Aug 2009 18:50:39 GMT

Weekly Newswrap

This week’s wrap brings five stories.  Three of the stories are about robots and the military.  One of these robots can literally hover outside a window and peer inside.  Another can actually navigate inside your home.  What does this mean for privacy?  For the military, these robots can help in many situations of urban warfare, but for the private citizen it could be a big loss of rights.  Then, there is the story of the robot that can rescue a person by basically swallowing them into the bowels of the machine.  Finally, there is a story of a robotics store in Chicago that is aiming to have workshops to allow anyone in the area to learn about and build robots.  Check out these stories from this week. 

Robo-copter can navigate inside your home – CNET News 

This quadrocopter can find its way around interiors. (Credit: Ascending Technologies) Just when you were getting used to the idea of unmanned aerial vehicles patrolling the skies over your city, they're beginning to enter buildings. This flying robot …

Robo-copter can navigate inside your home – CNET News
Fri, 14 Aug 2009 20:15:00 GMT

Nano Air Vehicle takes flight

The Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) is a small bird-sized aircraft that uses flapping wings to fly and hover. It was developed by UAV-pioneers Aeronvironment with funding from (you guessed it) the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA). Aeronvionment is now working to improve the robot so it can fly in outside winds. From New Scientist:

Aeronvironment's flapper appears to achieve propulsion, stabilisation and control all at once using its paired wings. Details of the technology are confidential, however, under the US ITAR arms control export restrictions…
DARPA has said it wants a 10-gram aircraft with a 7.5-centimetre wingspanMovie Camera that can explore caves and other hiding places, relaying GPS data and images to base. It will need to fly at 10 metres per second and withstand 2.5-metre-per-second gusts of wind.
That goal is a long way off, but DARPA programme manager Todd Hylton says Aeronvironment is on the right track. "Progress to date puts us on the path to such a vehicle," he says.

"Hover no bother for flapping 'nano' aircraft"


Nano Air Vehicle takes flight
David Pescovitz
Thu, 13 Aug 2009 18:59:34 GMT

Japanese rescue robots save people by swallowing them

On one hand, you can be saved from certain death in a disaster situation, on the other, a robot must swallow you in order to get you to safety.
See all stories on this topic

Japanese rescue robots save people by swallowing them
Slippery Brick
Wed, 12 Aug 2009 22:29:53 GMT

US military embraces robot 'revolution' – Space Daily

Robots in the sky and on the ground are transforming warfare, and the US military is rushing to recruit the new warriors that never sleep and never bleed. The latest robotics were on display at an industry show this week at a naval airfield in …

US military embraces robot 'revolution' – Space Daily
Tue, 11 Aug 2009 23:54:00 GMT

RobotCity Workshop Allows Everyone To Build Robot In Chicago Area – PR Inside

With RobotCity Workshop at they are a unique shop located in the Lakeview neighborhood just north of Belmont on Sheffield. They sell all kinds of robot kits, toys, parts, books, magazines, and novelties. They also offer …

RobotCity Workshop Allows Everyone To Build Robot In Chicago Area – PR Inside
Mon, 10 Aug 2009 18:11:00 GMT

Remotely Operated Vehicle Test in Lake

Today, I tested a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) in a local lake.  So this post is going to be something different for RobotNext.  I recommend this project for anyone who wants to try out an underwater robot. Technically speaking, this is not a robot as such.  It is a remotely operated vehicle controlled by a tether to a control box and power on the surface.  This vehicle was constructed in less than two days in a total of about twelve hours.  Using the ROV in a Box from !nventivity, our teachers’ group at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio, Texas built three of these machines.  All I can say is that it was a blast.  

In the video taken from my phone, you can see the robot powering around and then diving under the water.  There will be more testing of these ROVs in weeks to come.  Also, look at the photos of my ROV on the edge of the water.  Not bad for a two day effort. 

Video Credit:  Mike Henry

Here is a photo of the ROV on the edge of the lake.  Note the blue pool noodles used as flotation devices to keep the robot at neutral buoyancy.

Mike's Phone 169

Photo Credit:  Mike Henry

Note the black cylinder object at the back of the ROV.  That is a color camera and below it is a 10 led light to illuminate features in the water.  Images can be seen on a television screen.  The three motors have propellers and give power and control in 3 directions.

Mike's Phone 170

Photo Credit:  Mike Henry

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