Archives for September 2009

Robot Crawls the Seafloor to Explore Life

From New Scientist comes this story about a deep sea rover, called Benthic Rover, that is exploring the ocean’s depths.  Hard to believe that we know less about the ocean floor than is known about the surface of Mars.  This automobile-sized robot, developed by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), is attempting to change that by traveling across the abyssal seafloor. In order to achieve this feat, engineers had to overcome several challenges.  Obviously, the biggest barrier to this type of exploration is the extreme pressure at depth.  To protect the sensitive electronics systems, custom titanium spheres were built to contain them.  In order to keep from sinking in the muddy seafloor, special flotation devices allow the rover to crawl across the marine sediment.  To prevent the tank-like threads on the robot from stirring up clouds of fine particles, a pair of off-the-shelf broom heads keep the threads clean. 

You can read all about this robot at the link below and at the New Scientist and at the MBARI website.

Benthic rover during test dive

Image: © 2007 MBARI

The Benthic Rover makes its way across the deep seafloor during a trial run in 2007. The "brains" of the vehicle are protected by a spherical titanium pressure housing. The orange and yellow objects are made of incompressible foam, whose buoyancy makes the Rover light enough underwater so that it won't sink into the soft deep-sea mud. 

Source: Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Like the robotic rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which wheeled tirelessly across the dusty surface of Mars, a new robot spent most of July traveling across the muddy ocean bottom, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) off the California coast. This robot, the Benthic Rover, has been providing scientists with an entirely new view of life on the deep seafloor. It will also give scientists a way to document the effects of climate change on the deep sea.

New Robot Travels Across The Seafloor To Monitor The Impact Of Climate Change On Deep-sea Ecosystems
Thu, 10 Sep 2009 18:00:00 GMT

iRobot Lights Up SPARK for Robotics Education

I have thought for some time now that iRobot could really make an impact in robotics education.  The Robot Stock News blog has this article about the new program sponsored by iRobot that may finally be the thing that promotes robotics education for the company.  After all, they are pioneers in robotics, and as such, it is to their advantage to promote the learning side of robotics.  The iRobot Create has long been touted as an education tool, but I far as I know, it has never lived up to its billing.  Too bad, since I personally like the Create as an education platform.  Lots of potential for development in that system.  So, this is a worthy effort and one deserving of wide-spread support.  One thing for sure is that there cannot be enough robotics education programs.  Students love robots and robots will be the hook to get kids into science, math, engineering, and technology fields.

The photo thumbnail below links to the CNET article from January 7, 2007 on robots built using the Create base platform.  If you look there, you will see a robot that can hand you a canned beverage, a hamster-steered robot, and an robot that serves up advertisements.


Photo Credit:  iRobot

Here's some real exciting news — iRobot is getting ready to debut a major new effort to kickstart robotics education. It's called SPARK, and iRobot is testing a new website to go along with the effort, with what looks like a dozen major partner. The website is at this link.

iRobot Launching "SPARK" Program to Ramp Up Robotics Education
thorn_stevens (
Tue, 08 Sep 2009 01:26:00 GMT

Weekly Newswrap: Military Robots

This week featured a number of stories on the “Robotics Rodeo” held at Fort Hood, Texas this week.  Here at RobotNext, I decided to feature some of these posts since they were not covered here during the week.  At the robot rodeo, the point was to see what machines have been developed with the research funds the military has provided to companies over the years.  So, about 30 exhibitors showed up to display their bots.  Read the stories below to see the wide range of robots that the armed forces are looking at for future service.  Also, the one story listed below that is not about the “Rodeo” is the one from iRobot on the new contract it has received to produce more robots for the military.  It is the featured story from Tuesday.

Robots gear up for duty in 'rodeo' at Fort Hood – Fort Worth Star Telegram

News 8 Austin

Robots gear up for duty in 'rodeo' at Fort Hood
Fort Worth Star Telegram
"If a robot gets blown up, all we have to do is get another one," he said. Thousands of robots are already working in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention
Fort Hood shows off its robot armyTemple Daily Telegram
Photos: Robots on the road to safer convoysCNET News
Robot Gunslinger: Steady there, cowboy Mark Rutherford/CNETPopular Science
Killeen Daily HeraldArmyTimes.comCNET News
all 10 news articles »

Robots gear up for duty in 'rodeo' at Fort Hood – Fort Worth Star Telegram
Sun, 06 Sep 2009 18:55:23 GMT

Fort Hood shows off its robot army – – Temple Daily …

Kairos Autonomi demonstrates a double bot system at the Fort Hood Robot Rodeo on Thursday. The pickup has an autonomous navigation system so it can go driverless to an area where IED activity is suspected. The tank-like robot on the
Temple Daily Telegram News Feed –

Fort Hood shows off its robot army – – Temple Daily
(author unknown)
Sun, 06 Sep 2009 11:29:57 GMT

Hood hosts ‘Robotics Rodeo’ – Army Times

Fort Hood, Texas, hosted a Robotics Rodeo to see what’s hot in the world of unmanned automation. The focus of the Sept. 1-4 event was to give more than 30 different exhibitors a chance to display the latest in autonomous robotics, a capability that …

Hood hosts ‘Robotics Rodeo’ – Army Times
Sat, 05 Sep 2009 12:25:00 GMT

Companies showcase robots at Fort Hood Posted On: Friday, Sep. 4 …

By Matt Goodman FORT HOOD – They may cost millions to make, but when a robot deployed on the battlefield returns in pieces, it's hard for Lt. Col.
See all stories on this topic

Companies showcase robots at Fort Hood Posted On: Friday, Sep. 4
Killeen Daily Herald
Fri, 04 Sep 2009 10:17:27 GMT

Robots strut their stuff in military roundup


Despite the hundreds of military robots that show up in concept or as prototypes on company Web sites and corporate reports, humans still do the fighting on
See all stories on this topic

Robots strut their stuff in military roundup
Thu, 03 Sep 2009 13:48:19 GMT

John Deere goes olive-drab at Robotics Rodeo – CNET News


John Deere's R-Gator autonomous utility vehicle in the back country at Fort Hood, Texas. (Credit: Mark Rutherford/CNET) FORT HOOD, Texas– John Deere , a household name in the Lone Star state, is hoping the brand will carry over into the market for …

John Deere goes olive-drab at Robotics Rodeo – CNET News
Wed, 02 Sep 2009 16:39:00 GMT

 iRobot Receives Order from the US Army for $35.3 Million

One of the robot’s strengths is its adaptability. It is well-suited for use by combat engineers, route clearance companies and infantry brigades.
See all stories on this topic

iRobot Receives Order from the US Army for $35.3 Million
Tue, 01 Sep 2009 13:18:21 GMT

Robots invading Fort Hood (Killeen Daily Herald)

FORT HOOD – The first-ever "Robotics Rodeo," which aims to encourage the development of autonomous systems in support of the nation's warfighters, is drawing the world's leading robotic designers and builders to the Texas-based event this week.

Robots invading Fort Hood (Killeen Daily Herald)
Mon, 31 Aug 2009 13:44:01 GMT

Drumming Robot Named Haile Follows the Beat

This Geogia Tech product can follow along with a human drummer and come up with its own rhythms.  From Neatorama, this story features the robot playing drums with a human musician and it is quite inventive in its musicality.  My wife found the drumming “irritating” and wanted it stopped, however, I found it sort of pleasant, if not exactly Buddy Rich.  An interesting display of a robot that is able to process information quickly and make creative decisions.  I know some will find the use of the word creative here somewhat inappropriate, but the robot’s programming is acting in a creative fashion to make rhythms that are following the general patterns laid-down by the human participant.  Listen to the drumming example on the You Tube link below.  You decide.

Gil Weinberg and Scott Driscoll of Georgia Tech developed a robot that can improvise rhythms as it hears music: Haile is a robotic percussionist that can listen to live players, analyze their music in real-time, and use the product of
Neatorama –

Haile the Drumming Robot – Neatorama
Fri, 04 Sep 2009 13:48:34 GMT

Robotic Fish Developed in Korea

A group of Korean scientists, led by Dr. Ryuh Young-sun, have developed a robotic fish. The team, located at the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology, debuted the fishbot in an aquarium at BEXCO. The researchers teleoperated the robotic fish.  Named "Ichthys," the Greek word for fish, the robot can swim for four hours on one charge of its power supply.  It is able to go to depths of 100 meters.  Furthermore, the robofish has an onboard GPS device which allows it to find locations for recharging its batteries.  It seems as if robotic fish are being developed everywhere.  RobotNext had an earlier story on the MIT robot fish.  It is beginning to look like fishbots are as popular as snakebots.  Check out the links to the original story below.

A robotic fish developed by Korean scientists

Credit: The Chosun IIbo

A robotic fish developed by Korean scientists

After the pollution sniffing fish , MIT did a school of robotic fish to let the mechanical geniuses take to the aquatic world.

Robotic fish from Korea, brilliance for shallow waters
Thu, 03 Sep 2009 18:07:02 GMT

Robots Get Magneto-Vision From Lobsters

Researchers at the University of OULU are building robots that see like lobsters.  Spiny lobsters have become the unlikely inspiration for a new type of vision system for robots.  The lobsters are endowed with a unique sense of direction–they use an internal map of local variations in the Earth's magnetic field to find their way around their surrounding.  This is a method that could give domestic robots low-cost navigational capabilities.  In the photo below, you can see how the robot would see in magneto-vision.  Building produce a unique pattern of magnetic variations that can be mapped by the robot and then stored onboard in memory.  This pattern can be used to navigate indoors.  This method is very inexpensive compared to an indoor GPS and so could become a way for robots to know where they are in a building.  Read the article below if you want the complete story.

lobster vision robot 

Image: Jnne Haverinen/University of OULU

Metal in buildings distorts the Earth's magnetic field in ways that could give indoor robots a low-cost map.

Lobsters teach robots magnetic mapping trick
Tue, 01 Sep 2009 16:22:00 GMT