All posts by Evan Ackerman

CaseCrawler Adds Tiny Robotic Legs to Your Phone

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/casecrawler-adds-tiny-robotic-legs-to-your-phone

Most of us have a fairly rational expectation that if we put our cellphone down somewhere, it will stay in that place until we pick it up again. Normally, this is exactly what you’d want, but there are exceptions, like when you put your phone down in not quite the right spot on a wireless charging pad without noticing, or when you’re lying on the couch and your phone is juuust out of reach no matter how much you stretch.

Roboticists from the Biorobotics Laboratory at Seoul National University in South Korea have solved both of these problems, and many more besides, by developing a cellphone case with little robotic legs, endowing your phone with the ability to skitter around autonomously. And unlike most of the phone-robot hybrids we’ve seen in the past, this one actually does look like a legit case for your phone.

Video Friday: Japan’s Giant Gundam Robot Is Nearly Complete

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/video-friday-japan-giant-gundam-robot

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

AWS Cloud Robotics Summit – August 18-19, 2020 – [Online Conference]
CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece
ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan
AUVSI EXPONENTIAL 2020 – October 5-8, 2020 – [Online Conference]
IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nev., USA
ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Co., USA

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.


Little Wheeled Robot Puts on New Shoes to Go Offroad

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/little-wheeled-robot-puts-on-new-shoes-to-go-offroad

When designing a mobility system for a robot, the goal is usually to come up with one single system that allows your robot to do everything that you might conceivably need it to do, whether that’s walking, running, rolling, swimming, or some combination of those things. This is not at all how humans do it, though: If humans followed the robot model, we’d be walking around wearing some sort of horrific combination of sneakers, hiking boots, roller skates, skis, and flippers on our feet. Instead, we do the sensible thing, and optimize our mobility system for different situations by putting on different pairs of shoes. 

At ICRA, researchers from Georgia Tech demonstrated how this shoe swapping could be applied to robots. They haven’t just come up with a robot that can use “swappable propulsors”—as they call the robot’s shoes—but crucially, they’ve managed to get it to the swapping all by itself with a cute little robot arm.

High Performance Ornithopter Drone Is Quiet, Efficient, and Safe

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/high-performance-ornithopter-drone

The vast majority of drones are rotary-wing systems (like quadrotors), and for good reason: They’re cheap, they’re easy, they scale up and down well, and we’re getting quite good at controlling them, even in very challenging environments. For most applications, though, drones lose out to birds and their flapping wings in almost every way—flapping wings are very efficient, enable astonishing agility, and are much safer, able to make compliant contact with surfaces rather than shredding them like a rotor system does. But flapping wing have their challenges too: Making flapping-wing robots is so much more difficult than just duct taping spinning motors to a frame that, with a few exceptions, we haven’t seen nearly as much improvement as we have in more conventional drones.

In Science Robotics last week, a group of roboticists from Singapore, Australia, China, and Taiwan described a new design for a flapping-wing robot that offers enough thrust and control authority to make stable transitions between aggressive flight modes—like flipping and diving—while also being able to efficiently glide and gently land. While still more complex than a quadrotor in both hardware and software, this ornithopter’s advantages might make it worthwhile.

Video Friday: NASA Launches Its Most Advanced Mars Rover Yet

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/video-friday-nasa-mars-perseverance-rover

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

AWS Cloud Robotics Summit – August 18-19, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece
ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan
AUVSI EXPONENTIAL 2020 – October 5-8, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nevada
ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colorado

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.


iRobot’s New Education Robot Makes Learning to Code a Little More Affordable

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/home-robots/irobot-new-education-robot-root

iRobot has been on a major push into education robots recently. They acquired Root Robotics in 2019, and earlier this year, launched an online simulator and associated curriculum designed to work in tandem with physical Root robots. The original Root was intended to be a classroom robot, with one of its key features being the ability to stick to (and operate on) magnetic virtual surfaces, like whiteboards. And as a classroom robot, at $200, it’s relatively affordable, if you can buy one or two and have groups of kids share them.

For kids who are more focused on learning at home, though, $200 is a lot for a robot that doesn’t even keep your floors clean. And as nice as it is to have a free simulator, any kid will tell you that it’s way cooler to have a real robot to mess around with. Today, iRobot is announcing a new version of Root that’s been redesigned for home use, with a $129 price that makes it significantly more accessible to folks outside of the classroom.

Remotely Operated Robot Takes Straight Razor to Face of Brave Roboticist

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/remotely-operated-robot-takes-straight-razor-to-face-of-brave-roboticist

Roboticists love hard problems. Challenges like the DRC and SubT have helped (and are still helping) to catalyze major advances in robotics, but not all hard problems require a massive amount of DARPA funding—sometimes, a hard problem can just be something very specific that’s really hard for a robot to do, especially relative to the ease with which a moderately trained human might be able to do it. Catching a ball. Putting a peg in a hole. Or using a straight razor to shave someone’s face without Sweeney Todd-izing them.

Video Friday: Massive Robot Joins Swedish Acrobats on Stage

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/video-friday-robot-acrobats-on-stage

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

AWS Cloud Robotics Summit – August 18-19, 2020 – [Online Conference]
CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece
ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan
IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nevada
ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colorado

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.


Video Friday: This Terrifying Robot Will Cut Your Hair With Scissors

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/video-friday-haircut-robot

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece
ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan
IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nevada
ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colorado

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.


The Segway Is Dead, but Its Technology and Vision Lives On

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/consumer-electronics/gadgets/the-segway-is-dead-but-its-technology-and-vision-lives-on

It’s been nearly 20 years since Dean Kamen introduced the Segway live on “Good Morning America,” in December of 2001, after months of rampant hype and speculation. Since then, the personal mobility device has not turned into what Kamen or many others had envisioned (Jeff Bezos, who called it “one of the most famous and anticipated product introductions of all time,” was one of Segway’s biggest promoters). In 2009, Kamen sold Segway to a British millionaire, and in 2015, it was acquired by Ninebot, a Chinese company that is still making all kinds of Segway-inspired, Segway-like things. Just not, as of now, the Segway itself.

A Bug-Sized Camera for Bug-Sized Robots and Bug-Sized Bugs

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/uw-micro-camera

As if it’s not hard enough to make very small mobile robots, once you’ve gotten the power and autonomy all figured out (good luck with that), your robot isn’t going to be all that useful unless it can carry some payload. And the payload that everybody wants robots to carry is a camera, which is of course a relatively big, heavy, power hungry payload. Great, just great.

This whole thing is frustrating because tiny, lightweight, power efficient vision systems are all around us. Literally, all around us right this second, stuffed into the heads of insects. We can’t make anything quite that brilliant (yet), but roboticists from the University of Washington, in Seattle, have gotten us a bit closer, with the smallest wireless, steerable video camera we’ve ever seen—small enough to fit on the back of a microbot, or even a live bug.

Ex-Googler’s Startup Comes Out of Stealth With Beautifully Simple, Clever Robot Design

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/home-robots/hello-robots-stretch-mobile-manipulator

Over the last 10 years, the PR2 has helped roboticists make an enormous amount of progress in mobile manipulation over a relatively short time. I mean, it’s been a decade already, but still—robots are hard, and giving a bunch of smart people access to a capable platform where they didn’t have to worry about hardware and could instead focus on doing interesting and useful things helped to establish a precedent for robotics research going forward.

Unfortunately, not everyone can afford an enormous US $400,000 robot, and even if they could, PR2s are getting very close to the end of their lives. There are other mobile manipulators out there taking the place of the PR2, but so far, size and cost have largely restricted them to research labs. Lots of good research is being done, but it’s getting to the point where folks want to take the next step: making mobile manipulators real-world useful.

Today, a company called Hello Robot is announcing a new mobile manipulator called the Stretch RE1. Hello Robot is led by Aaron Edsinger and Charlie Kemp, and by combining decades of experience in industry and academia they’ve managed to come up with a robot that’s small, lightweight, capable, and affordable, all at the same time. For now, it’s a research platform, but eventually, its creators hope that it will be able to come into our homes and take care of us when we need it to.

Video Friday: Robotic Glove Features Telescopic Extra Thumb

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/video-friday-soft-exoskeleton-glove-extra-thumb

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

RSS 2020 – July 12-16, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece
ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan
IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nevada
ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colorado

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.


Malleable Structure Makes Robot Arm More Versatile

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/malleable-structure-robot

Journal Watch report logo, link to report landing page

The majority of robot arms are built out of some combination of long straight tubes and actuated joints. This isn’t surprising, since our limbs are built the same way, which was a clever and efficient bit of design. By adding more tubes and joints (or degrees of freedom), you can increase the versatility of your robot arm, but the tradeoff is that complexity, weight, and cost will increase, too.

At ICRA, researchers from Imperial College London’s REDS Lab, headed by Nicolas Rojas, introduced a design for a robot that’s built around a malleable structure rather than a rigid one, allowing you to improve how versatile the arm is without having to add extra degrees of freedom. The idea is that you’re no longer constrained to static tubes and joints but can instead reconfigure your robot to set it up exactly the way you want and easily change it whenever you feel like.

Video Friday: Quadruped Robot HyQ Learning the Ninja Walk

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/video-friday-hyq-robot-ninja-walk

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

RSS 2020 – July 12-16, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece
ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan
IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nevada
ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colorado

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.


Festo’s New Bio-Inspired Robots Include a Feathery Bionic Bird

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/festo-bioinspired-robots-bionicswift

I’ve completely lost track of time over the past couple of months (it’s been months, right?), but somehow, the folks over at Festo have held it together well enough to continue working on their Bionic Learning Network robots. Every year or two, Festo shows off some really quite spectacular bio-inspired creations, including robotic ants and butterflieshopping kangaroosrolling spiderbots, flying penguins and flying jellyfishand much more. This year, Festo is demonstrating two new robots: BionicMobileAssistant (a “mobile robot system with pneumatic gripping hand”), and BionicSwift, a swarm of beautiful aerial birds.

Why We Need Robot Sloths

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/why-we-need-robot-sloths

An inherent characteristic of a robot (I would argue) is embodied motion. We tend to focus on motion rather a lot with robots, and the most dynamic robots get the most attention. This isn’t to say that highly dynamic robots don’t deserve our attention, but there are other robotic philosophies that, while perhaps less visually exciting, are equally valuable under the right circumstances. Magnus Egerstedt, a robotics professor at Georgia Tech, was inspired by some sloths he met in Costa Rica to explore the idea of “slowness as a design paradigm” through an arboreal robot called SlothBot.

Cuddling Robot Baby Seal Paro Proven to Make Life Less Painful

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/medical-robots/cuddling-robot-baby-seal-paro

Everybody loves Paro. Seriously, what’s not to love about Paro, the robotic baby harp seal designed as a therapeutic tool for use in hospitals and nursing homes? It’s cute, it’s cuddly, it wiggles and makes pleasing noises, and it’s been carefully designed to be the least uncanny valley robot you’ve ever met, because none of us are lucky enough to have real live baby harp seal experience to compare it to. Over the years, a bunch of studies have shown that Paro (which was designed from the beginning to be a medical device) is able to reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood, particularly in older adults with dementia. What hasn’t been explored is Paro’s effect on physical pain—if something hurts, can Paro help you feel better?

Nirit Geva, Florina Uzefovsky, and Shelly Levy-Tzedek at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Israel, have just published a new study in Scientific Reports measuring exactly how much Paro can help you when you’re being subjected to pain. And how did they do that? By subjecting people to pain, and then handing them a Paro to snuggle.

Video Friday: Skydio 2 Drone Is Back on Sale, Gets Major Software Update

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/drones/video-friday-skydio-2-back-on-sale

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):

RSS 2020 – July 12-16, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Virtual Conference]
ICUAS 2020 – September 1-4, 2020 – Athens, Greece
ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan
IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nevada
ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colorado

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.


VR System Hacks Your Nose to Turn Smells Into Temperatures

Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/consumer-electronics/gaming/vr-system-hacks-your-nose-to-turn-smells-into-temperature

Virtual reality has gotten really good over the last few years, but with a few exceptions, the “reality” part ends up getting restricted to sight and sound. You put on the headset, plug in the headphones, and that’s your experience. The rest of our senses usually get left out, most often for totally reasonable technical reasons. Like, yeah, you can totally feel touch and temperature sensations in VR as long as you’re willing to stick your hand in a giant mystery box and leave it there or (more recently) wear some expensive gloves attached to an even more expensive pair of robotic arms.

For bespoke, practical VR, that’s probably fine, but for the kind of really immersive VR that you’d want for gaming, it’s important to not feel constrained by the hardware that would be required—anything that’s going to add an extra sensory dimension ends up that much more stuff that has to be powered and is hanging off of you somewhere. 

In order to replicate temperature sensations in VR, for example, the go-to hardware has been Peltier elements, which can do thermoelectric heating and cooling of whatever they’re attached to. They work well enough, but they’re power-hungry, making them impractical for long-term use while reliant on batteries. And other VR temperature solutions, like heat lamps, are even worse.

Researchers from the University of Chicago have come up with a much more power efficient way of generating different temperature sensations in VR, and they’ve done it by hacking into your face. By using very specific chemicals to access the trigeminal nerve in your nose, they can make you feel hot and cold through smells without realizing you’re smelling anything at all.