Archives for September 2009

Weekly Newswrap

For this week’s newswrap, there are four stories.  First, from Saturday, is the article about the chemical-detecting robot built by a high school student as a science fair project.  Read the article to find out how it was done.  And yes, it was made from LEGOs!  Second, there is a story on a biologically inspired robot. This one is built by the US Navy to clean barnacles from the bottom of ship’s hulls.  The BUG or Bio-inspired Underwater Grooming robot works by using suction to attach to the hull of a ship.  Third is a post on snakebots.  (I couldn’t let the week go by without a snakebot!)  Of course, it is from Carnegie Mellon and the story has great details on the snakebots developed there.  Finally, there are the Tai Chi robots from Beijing.  Watch the video to see the robots in action.

High School Student Develops Chemical-Detecting Robot – Ethiopian Review

High School Student Develops Chemical-Detecting Robot
Ethiopian Review
You made THAT with Legos!,” exclaimed the children who crowded around my robot on Public Day at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair this

High School Student Develops Chemical-Detecting Robot – Ethiopian Review
(author unknown)
Sat, 26 Sep 2009 23:51:18 GMT

US Navy's Bio-inspired Underwater Grooming Robot

The US Navy is trying to save some money by making their ships more fuel efficient. Keeping a ship's hull free of barnacles, oysters, algae, and other marine life can decrease fuel consumption by up to 40 percent and increase speed by 10 percent. To do the job of cleaning, or "grooming", a vessel's hull, the Office of Naval Research has developed the Bio-inspired Underwater Grooming (BUG) robot (PDF format). The BUG is an autonomous robot that uses negative pressure vortex regenerative fluid movement (which civilians refer to as "suction") to stick to the hull of a ship. Four wheels drive it forward while sensors including biofilm detectors and flourometers allow it to avoid obstacles and plan paths that will take it toward fouled surfaces. The Navy hopes BUGs will be online by 2015, saving up $500 million in maintenance costs per ship while reducing the Navy's carbon footprint. The robot could also be used on non-military ships and yachts. For more info, see the ONR news release.

US Navy's Bio-inspired Underwater Grooming Robot
Wed, 23 Sep 2009 16:42:46 GMT

Robotic Snakes The Future of Things


Carnegie Mellon's Robotic Snake 
(Source: Carnegie Mellon University) via TFOT

Robotic Snakes
The Future of Things
TFOT has previously covered the Snake-Inspired Military Robot, developed by IDF, and Serpentine Climbing Robots, developed by RoMeLa of the College of

Robotic Snakes – The Future of Things
Tue, 22 Sep 2009 22:26:37 GMT

T'ai Chi robots to rule the world? – CNET News

T'ai Chi robots to rule the world?
Humanoid robots developed at the Beijing Institute of Technology can do more than perform T'ai Chi maneuvers and answer simple questions

T'ai Chi robots to rule the world? – CNET News
Tue, 22 Sep 2009 07:36:49 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

Robot Floor Tiles Could Have Applications

Can you say Holodeck?  I always wondered how the human actors in a virtual reality world would move around in the pretend environment.  Now, I have a good idea.  

These tiles could provide the answer to contructing a realistic simulation experience.  If you watch the video of these tiles in action on You Tube, you will notice they move too slowly in their current state of development to make this idea work.  But, if they can be made to perform at a faster rate, and in a manner so that the walking human does not have wait for the tiles, then these could be an incredible development. 

Using a conductive fabric, the robotic tiles work by sensing the foot pressure and placement.  Ultrasonic sensors transmit the signals to a central processing unit that controls the tiles movements.  It seems to me that these tiles could have a practical use in addition to the possible virtual reality applications.  I could see a future moving sidewalk in an airport made of these tiles instead of the continuous belts used now.  

You can read the article at by following the link below.  Make sure to check out the video on You Tube.

Robot Floor Tiles Move Beneath Your Feet
The Robot Tiles provide an infinite walkway that might have applications in virtual reality. Credit: Hiroo Iwata. ( — In a stroke of odd
and more »

Robot Floor Tiles Move Beneath Your Feet –
Tue, 22 Sep 2009 23:33:12 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

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

Weekly Newswrap

This week’s RobotNext Newswrap brings you five stories with a robot-animal theme.  In the case of the Bloodbot from Thursday, it was not built to mimic a vampire bat, the story only makes that connection to express what might be a common fear about this machine.  And, the pet care robot does not recreate an animal, it is designed to take care of your animal.  The other three stories are all about biomimetics.  There are Panda robots, a robot arm modeled after an octopus arm, and a robotic guide dog concept.  Check out the stories at the links below.

Taiwan lab develops panda robot

… of scientists hopes to add new dimensions to the island's reputation as a high-tech power. The Centre for Intelligent Robots Research aims to develop pandas that are friendlier and more artistically endowed than their endangered real-life …

Taiwan lab develops panda robot
Sat, 19 Sep 2009 04:15:51 GMT

Bloodbot combines your worst vampire and robot fears » Coolest Gadgets

Bloodbot combines your worst vampire and robot fears on Coolest Gadgets.
Coolest Gadgets –

Bloodbot combines your worst vampire and robot fears » Coolest Gadgets
Mark R
Thu, 17 Sep 2009 00:41:16 GMT

Acrobatic Octopus Arm Could Be Model for Flexible Robots – Wired News  

Acrobatic Octopus Arm Could Be Model for Flexible Robots
Wired News
“This is very important for robotics. If you build a robot with many degrees of freedom, it becomes very difficult to control.” said Laschi, who was not

Acrobatic Octopus Arm Could Be Model for Flexible Robots – Wired News
Thu, 17 Sep 2009 22:47:55 GMT

Michigan Students to Develop RFID-enabled Robotic Guide Dog

After developing an RFID-enabled cane, Central Michigan University students hope to use what they've learned to create a robot that can read EPC Gen 2 tags to guide the blind.

Michigan Students to Develop RFID-enabled Robotic Guide Dog
Tue, 15 Sep 2009 15:48:05 GMT

PetCare Robot Concept is Quite Worthy


But, if you have one of these robots at home, you don't have to worry about your pet at all – the robot acts as a spare guardian of your pet.
See all stories on this topic

PetCare Robot Concept is Quite Worthy
Mon, 14 Sep 2009 12:59:05 GMT

Robot Swarms for Defense and Emergency Missions

A relative newcomer to the world of robotics is developing a system of robots that can work together to carry-out tasks for military or emergency situations. This University of New Mexico invention will be made up of four-wheeled surface robots and aerial robotic craft that work together to scope out danger in military or emergency situations.  The university’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department invested about $500,000 to outfit the lab for these robots in 2007, said Associate Professor Rafael Fierro, a systems and control engineer who coordinates the research program.  There are several different types of robots, both air and ground, that work together in this project.  As a team, the robots can sense or detect radiation, chemicals, or other dangers, and then alert their human handlers or deal with the situation themselves.  You can click on the photo below to see a larger version of one of the robotic vehicles developed in this lab.

TXT-1 Robot 

Photo Credit:  MARHES Lab and University of New Mexico

UNM develops robot teams for defense, emergency tasks
New Mexico Business Weekly

“We’re creating multi-vehicle systems with applications in defense and emergency situations,” Fierro said. “The robots can detect things, such as radiation, dangerous chemicals and other hazardous materials. They can also provide emergency wireless communications in disaster areas to find victims and to provide real-time information to search-and-rescue teams.”

UNM develops robot teams for defense, emergency tasks – New Mexico Business Weekly
Sun, 20 Sep 2009 00:40:10 GMT

Robot That Hops Over Obstacles is in the News

There have been many posts on this hopping robot all over the blogosphere this week.  I finally decided to put the story on RobotNext in order to add my comments to the discussion.   So far, most of what I have seen on this bot has been about its military applications.  However, it really seems well suited to search and rescue operations.  With its ability to jump over objects and onto balconies or roofs of buildings, it could be a boost to first responders to an emergency.  This robot could hop onto the second story balcony of a burning building and provide up close surveillance of the situation.  Perhaps, it could even carry a fire hose with it to put water on a fire that firefighters could not reach.  Check out the story at the link below.



During normal travel, an electric motor powers the wheels. But when needed, the robot can engage a hopping mechanism and leap over 25 feet in the air to clear an obstacle (as the video posted by Sharon demonstrated earlier this week) . It may look strange, but its unique capability might give the Hopper an important role in urban warfare.

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have been working on hopping robots which, much like grasshoppers or fleas, can leap over obstacles several times taller than themselves.

Precision Hopper = New Urban Commando
David Hambling
Fri, 18 Sep 2009 16:00:44 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  Follow the links below. 

Image source:

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 –
Tue, 15 Sep 2009 18:07:30 GMT

Robotics Teams Featured on PBS Special

This public television special showed in our area last week, but it is scheduled to show at various times at other locations throughout the United States during the month of September.  You can see the promo at You Tube by clicking on the image below.  If you get a chance, watch the entire program.  It is well worth it to see how students do the seemingly impossible task they are given during a FIRST competition.  The following excerpt from the Gearing Up website says it all:

“Gearing Up, a one-hour documentary produced by KETC St. Louis and STORY HOUSE PRODUCTIONS chronicles behind-the-scenes drama and excitement leading up to the 2008 FIRST Robotics National Competition.Teams receive identical robot kits with no instructions and have just six weeks to build a robot capable of performing specific tasks. We follow four teams in their regional competitions: Miss Daisy, a seasoned team from Ambler, Pennsylvania; RoboDoves, a small, all-girl rookie team from Baltimore, Maryland; Rambotics, a team of teenaged felons incarcerated at the Ridge View Academy correctional facility for boys in Watkins, Colorado; and Ratchet Rockers, a group of suburban kids from Wentzville, Missouri.”

Gearing up 2


Six weeks. Identical kits. No instructions. All assembly required.

Will they succeed? Will they fail? Gearing Up details the triumphs and disasters high school students encounter while sharing ideas and solving technical challenges.

Weekly Newswrap

Here’s this week’s newswrap from RobotNext.  While there is no theme to tie this report together, the robots from the posts of the last seven days are interesting and varied.  From Friday, the Japanese are at it again.  They have released a robot to help the elderly exercise.  Lately, there seems to be a new health care robot coming out of that island nation every day.  Then, there is the clothes folding robot from Thursday’s story.  Actually, this laundry bot has been mentioned in several blogs and I just happened to pick this one.  Wednesday had yet another robot that mimics nature.  Now, it is robot bees.  Built to demonstrate communal behavior, these robo-bees join the robo-ants, robo-flies, and other robo-insects crossing the line from nature to mechanical.  Tuesday’s robot is the machine every couch potato craves.  The kegerator is a beer-pouring robot.  Maybe this would be perfect for the sports fanatic who doesn’t want to miss a moment of the game.  Finally, in RoboBath, NASA has developed a way to clean and sterilize a robot of bacteria and other living organisms, so that future robotic landers going to planets or moons won’t contaminate the surface with Earth lifeforms.  Check out the stories at the links below.  Let me know what you think.  Leave a comment.

Video: Sporty robot Taizou wants the elderly to exercise

Another week, another healthcare robot coming put of Japan (and this is generally a good thing). This new model, named Taizou [JP], is …
CrunchGear –

Video: Sporty robot Taizou wants the elderly to exercise
Serkan Toto
Friday, 11 Sep 2009 11:02:22 GMT

FOLD-E! Clothes-folding robot demonstrated at SIGGRAPH

Who wouldn't want one? Scatter your undies on the ground (if they're not there already), give FOLD-E the go-ahead, and scant minutes later, …
CrunchGear –

FOLD-E! Clothes-folding robot demoed at SIGGRAPH
Devin Coldewey
Thursday, 10 Sep 2009 11:43:24 GMT

Robot bees mimic communal feeding – The Engineer

Robot bees mimic communal feeding
The Engineer
A Northeastern University neurobiologist is to bring his expertise in animal robotics to a five-year, $10m (£6.1m) National Science Foundation (NSF)

Robot bees mimic communal feeding – The Engineer
Wed, 09 Sep 2009 18:01:53 GMT

The kegerator evolves into a beer robot

But we were scooped on a beer robot. The Asahi robot was part of a promotion for the Japanese brewer in 2006. The R2-D2-shaped bot would pour a tall cold
See all stories on this topic

The kegerator evolves into a beer robot
Pitch Weekly
Tue, 08 Sep 2009 19:45:51 GMT

RoboBath: NASA Studies The Cleanest Robot in the World – Popular Mechanics

RoboBath: NASA Studies The Cleanest Robot in the World
Popular Mechanics
Two other robots are tethered to the machine to let it access terrain as steep as 85 degrees. + Bot Specs: The rover is the size of a toy wagon,

RoboBath: NASA Studies The Cleanest Robot in the World – Popular Mechanics
Mon, 07 Sep 2009 13:57:37 GMT

Verified by MonsterInsights