Archives for November 2009

Robotic Rat Follow-up

Spotted this follow-up article on the Scratchbot covered here several months ago.  In this update, the robot is showing off its abilities to search-out objects by touch.  No vision system is used.  This is a very novel approach and could have many search and rescue applications where the lack of light is an issue.  Check out the link below and also look at the video at the Electronics Weekly website.


Credit:  Bristol Robotics Laboratory and University of Sheffield via

… to damage and injury than whiskers. Rats have the ability to operate with damaged whiskers, and broken whiskers on robots could be easily replaced, without affecting the whole robot and its expensive engineering. This award is a welcome recognition …

Robotic 'rat' could become a lifesaver
(author unknown)
Mon, 30 Nov 2009 11:40:44 GMT

Another Robotic Turkey

For your Thanksgiving weekend, here is another robotic turkey.  This one is intended to stop poachers looking for a free bird.  These robotic turkeys can be remotely controlled or even programmed to move on their own.  Of course, there are other robotic animals to entice the illegal hunters.  In addition to turkeys, there are robotic deer, elk, wolves, and others. See the previous post on robotic elk for details.

Robot turkey Photo Credit:  Custom Robotic Wildlife, Inc.

"Custom Robotic Wildlife, Inc. sells robot turkeys designed to entice would-be poachers. The $1,100 dollar robot turkeys can fan their tails and bob their heads and keep doing that even after catching a shotgun blast, although after it's hit you probably want to put on a new turkey skin and wait for it. Dressing sold separately."

Information from; was used in this post.


Robotic Turkeys Not Afraid of Thanksgiving

Robotic turkeys need not worry about ending up on someone's Thanksgiving table.  There is not much meat on those legs and the bird is just a bit tough to chew.  I found this old article on a robotic turkey when I did a search for a Thanksgiving topic for RobotNext.  So, in keeping with my on-going fascination about robots based on biology, this seemed like the perfect post.  The robot is called the Spring Turkey and it was the first walking robot developed at the MIT Leg Lab.  Check out the excerpt from the article from MIT.  Then follow the link for more information.

Spring-turkey (1) 

Photo Credit:  MIT Leg Laboratory

"Researchers at MIT's Leg Laboratory have built a series of legged robots… The first walking robot was Spring Turkey, which could only walk in circles attached to the end of a mechanical boom… Spring Turkey is a planar bipedal walking robot, designed and built by Peter Dilworth and Jerry Pratt. The robot was developed as an experimental platform for implementing force control actuation techniques, motion description and control techniques, and various walking algorithms."

For more information on Spring Turk go to the MIT Leg Lab.


The Festo Penguin

This is a cool project by the people at Festo. They actually built a robotic penguin that uses a type of 3D sonar to help orient itself in the water. The penguins are built and programmed so well that they can communicate between themselves to avoid collisions. The most interesting thing about it is that from far away they look like real penguins. Check out the video, see if you can tell the difference.


 Photo Credit:  Festo

"Like its natural archetype, the AquaPenguin from Festo has a hydrodynamic body contour. Its elegant wing propulsion and its head and tail sections, which can be moved in all directions, allow the robotic penguins to manoeuvre in cramped spatial conditions to turn on the spot when necessary and – unlike their biological counterparts – even to swim backwards." 

Robots of the Future: Smart as a Bee?

"The bee, whose brain is a tiny as a sesame seed, already has better navigation abilities than even our best robots.”  So says University of Queensland School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering head, Professor Janet Wiles.  The scientists at this university are working to make robots able to navigate their surroundings by learning the environment around them.  Of course, animals and insects do this all the time.  The goal of the research is to develop a robot that can be a helper for humans in many areas.  No more programming the vacuum or setting out a virtual fence to help the robot get around the house.  It would do it by itself right out of the box. 


Photo Credit:

University of Queensland scientists are working on algorithms to help robots rapidly 'learn' about their environment. Scientists in Brisbane are blurring the line between biology and technology and creating a new generation of robot "helpers" more in …

2009 space odyssey: Brisbane maps robotic future – Sydney Morning Herald
(author unknown)
Wed, 18 Nov 2009 06:18:00 GMT

Build a Robot Utilizing an Arduino

Arduino is a  open source hobbyist micro-controller used to make just about any device you can think of.

    "It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating          interactive objects or environments." – Arduino 


     Photo Credit:  Arduino   

So, I did some looking around and found interesting projects by people who used the arduino to build a robot.

From instructables:
Arduino Controlled Servo Robot (SERB) - oomlout
Ard-e: The robot with an Arduino as a brain – imadami

There are tons of projects out there that don't involve robots but are still very interesting to look at.

Robots Play Pac-Man, Clean Floors

Here’s an interesting application for those old Roombas:  Adapt them to play a life-sized version of an old video game.  Some college students have done just that at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  They say this was intended to showoff some software the students had developed for another application.  I think it was just for fun.  Check out the stories at the links below.


Playing giant Pac-Man with robot vacuum cleaners
Jack Elston, Cory Dixon, and Maciej Stachura used Roombas – the circular robot vacuum-cleaners which have revolutionised the world of robotic
CU-Boulder students create vacuum Pac-Man game Colorado Daily
CU students create Pac-Man game with robotic vacuums Fox 31
all 15 news articles »

Playing giant Pac-Man with robot vaccuum cleaners – Metro
(author unknown)
Wed, 11 Nov 2009 09:06:15 GMT

Robot Swarms Could Track Oil Spills in the Oceans

From Tech Fragments comes this story about autonomous underwater explorers (AUEs). These robots will be developed to deploy as a swarm and would be coordinated so they can follow the flow of the ocean currents.  Scientists hope to use the ball-shaped robots to measure ocean currents and from these measurements track such things as pollution from an oil spill.  "The information that each robot in the underwater flock has is pretty limited…and this information is very local. From this, we want to induce some sort of global behavior so the whole group moves in one direction—to follows the spill, for example. This is part of the algorithm design. Out of very local information, we need to induce global behavior of the flock of underwater robots," said professor Jorge Cortes, of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

Follow the links below to see the several of the posts and stories on these little bots.

Credit: Tech Fragments and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

Tiny Robot Swarms Will Study Tiniest Sea Life
Giant robots are best suited for Terminator-scale tasks. To measure the sea's tiniest inhabitants, oceanographers will need to build a new type of robot.
Swarm of Autonomous Robots to Patrol Oceans U.S. News & World Report
Scientists to release swarms of robots into the oceans
Sea Faring Robots to Monitor Oil Spills Tech Fragments
KPBSGenetic Engineering News (press release)
all 13 news articles »

Tiny Robot Swarms Will Study Tiniest Sea Life – FOXNews
(author unknown)
Tue, 10 Nov 2009 19:50:45 GMT

Seattle Team Robot Wins Space Elevator Challenge

Arthur C. Clarke brought this idea to the forefront in his 1979 novel "The Fountains of Paradise", but the idea dates back to 1895 when Konstantin Tsiolkovsky proposed “a free-standing tower reaching from the surface of Earth to geostationary orbit.”  Over the years, the idea has gone from impossible to a competition to build a robotic climber to demonstrate the feasibility of this concept.  Here are two stories on the prize winners from this contest.  Also, check out the 2009 Space Elevator Games website.  Go to You Tube to see video of this amazing robot in action.

LaserMotive Wins

(NASA photo / Tom Tschida)

Andy Petro of NASA's Centennial Challenges program congratulates Tom Nugent and Jordan Kare of the LaserMotive team that won the Space Elevator Power-Beaming Challenge Games at NASA Dryden Nov. 6, as Ben Shelef of the sponsoring Spaceward Foundation looks on. LaserMotive won the second-tier award of $900,000 by propelling their laser-powered robotic climber up a 900-meter cable suspended from a hovering helicopter in 3 minutes and 48 seconds.

Dryden Flight Research Center

Powered by a ground-based laser pointed up at the robot's photo voltaic cells that converted the light into electricity, the LaserMotive machine completed one of its climbs in about three minutes and 48 seconds, good for second-place money.

Seattle team wins $900,000 in Space Elevator Games – KTTC
(author unknown)
Sun, 08 Nov 2009 09:15:00 GMT

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