Archive for the ‘Robotics Industry News’ Category

New wave of robots will save human lives

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
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As robot manufacturers continue to attract increased attention and funding in the coming years, some suggest that the resources should be allocated to more practical pursuits. The robotics industry has a history of delighting tech-savvy consumers with fun, new gadgets and boosting business efficiency through operational automation. But some doubt the relevance of robotics for the general populace. These skeptics will soon have their questions answered. Robotics developers are currently hard at work producing a new wave of devices that could start saving human lives within the next few years.

Industry experts have recently begun developing robots to navigate dangerous terrain that humans cannot. These developments may have significant implications for first responders executing rescue operations in dangerous environments. Military officials are also looking to the technology to assume battlefield duties that could keep troops out of harm's way.

The Gemini-Scout robot, produced by Sandia Labs, is expected to be particularly useful in rescue operations following mine collapses. According to GizMag, the compact robot will be nimble enough to operating in tight quarters. It can also navigate through more than a foot of water, survive explosions and detect the presence of humans with thermal cameras. The Gemini-Scout would be a crucial mode of transportation for carrying food and medical supplies to trapped miners.

University of Michigan researchers have also developed MABEL, the world's fastest two-legged robot. The early prototype can already match the typical human jogging speed, according to ExtremeTech. The robot is constructed with a series of cables and joints that give it impressive agility. And if properly harnessed, MABEL could become a valuable first responder capable of locating humans during building fires or navigating mine fields.

Military researchers have also shown interest in using robotics to power unmanned vehicles and replace soldiers in combat zones. As reported by InventorsSpot, China recently developed its first flying drone robot. The U.S. Army is also testing a completely autonomous robotic truck that could be in service by the end of the year. The new vehicle could tag along on missions to quickly resupply troops or drive ahead of soldiers to scout potential danger.

From collapsed mines to burning buildings to battlefields, robots will soon be placed in harm's way. Their noble missions could extend the reach of rescue operations or take the place of humans in deadly environments. And as they do, robotics industry skeptics should take note of the impressive potential these robots hold.

Robot teaches kids about recycling

Monday, August 22nd, 2011
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Researchers from Florida Robotics have come up with a new way to make recycling education more approachable. The team's latest invention, nicknamed Dr. R.E. Cycler, eats aluminum cans and crushes them in its transparent belly.

According to Fast Company, the device was first constructed in May in response to a local recycling company's calls for something "new and different" in scientific education. The solar-powered robot has been making its way into several elementary school classrooms to keep kids excited and informed about recycling. By introducing the concept early, developers hope to inspire an admiration of science that students will carry with them throughout their lives.

This relatively simple idea has already had a significant impact on robotics education, and additional success may help promote environmental stewardship to an even wider audience.

With Dr. R.E. Cycler gaining popularity, Florida Robotics researchers have applied for a Refresh Project grant in the hopes of building an enhanced prototype that handles plastic refuse as well. The Pepsi-sponsored charity initiative allows fans to vote online for innovative ideas that can change the world for the better, and the beverage company also provides funding for leading concepts to ensure they come to fruition.

New robot designed for miner rescues

Thursday, August 18th, 2011
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Robotics engineers from the Sandia National Laboratories are developing a new device to facilitate rescue efforts in the event of mining accidents. The versatile robot is capable of navigating boulders, crawling through more than a foot of water and scouting potentially dangerous environments.

At approximately four feet long and two feet tall, the device is capable of transporting food, air packs and critical medicine to miners trapped underground. Developers have also ensured intuitive operation by integrating controls with an Xbox 360 controller.

"We have designed this robot to go in ahead of its handlers to assess the situation and potential hazards and allow operations to move more quickly," project manager, Jon Salton, told TG Daily.

To ensure the robot is able to survive harsh conditions, engineers have encased critical electronics, allowing the device to withstand explosions and other disasters. But despite the strength and durability of the gadget, it had to maintain lightweight qualities for improved navigation.

Developers anticipate broad adoption from police, firemen and other first responders when the robot is ready for production. This impressive breakthrough in robotics may soon be a crucial tool for ensuring the safety of all parties involved in mine collapses and other natural disasters.

University of Michigan unveils running robot

Thursday, August 18th, 2011
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Researchers from the University of Michigan recently revealed MABEL, the team's latest innovation and the world's fastest, two-legged robotic device.

According to ExtremeTech, the agile new creation is propelled by four motors that operate via cable transmissions. Springs in the legs help balance loads and absorb shock while a series of sensors monitor the angle of hip and knee joints. The result is one remarkably life-like robot.

MABEL is currently capable of running nearly seven miles per hour at top speed. By comparison, the typical human jogging pace is approximately six miles per hour.

"The robotics community has been trying to come up with machines that can go places where humans can go, so a human morphology is important," professor Jessy Grizzle told the Daily Mail.

Developers are already envisioning a variety of useful applications for the technology. Prosthetic robotic limbs could enable wheelchair-bound people to walk again or provide rescuers with super-human abilities. Robots could also be used in place of humans to operate in dangerous environments ranging from combat zones to blazing structures.

Defending the use of robotics in surgery

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011
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In recent years, doctors have discovered and refined a number of innovative uses for robotics in the medical profession. However, critics are wondering if the techniques are being used too frequently as simpler and more affordable options are sometimes overlooked. Dr. David Samadi, renowned prostate cancer specialist and robotics advocate, recently defended the merits of the advanced technology.

Samadi readily admitted that patient-level marketing surrounding robotic surgery is at an all-time high. However, this is a necessary function for recouping the significant overhead costs associated with implementing the technology in medical practices. According to the Corpus Christi Caller, some devices can cost as much as $2 million to deploy. But when used properly, the benefits are undeniable.

Using the technology, Samadi has transformed prostate cancer into a highly treatable disease. After completing more than 3,500 robotic prostatectomy procedures, the doctor has attained a cancer-curing rate of approximately 97 percent. The minimally-invasive robotic procedure limits blood loss, improves a surgeon's visibility and reduces patient rehabilitation times.

There can be an overwhelming amount of information available, but in the end Samadi acknowledged that medical decisions should rest solely with patients and their families. After thoroughly investigating all options, they should ultimately settle upon a procedure and practitioner they are comfortable with.

Robotics continue strong presence in manufacturing

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011
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A new survey conducted by Packaging World revealed a recent surge in robotics purchasing that may extend well into the future.

According to the Robotics in Packaging survey, just half of all respondents are using robotics in their current packaging operations. However, 46.7 percent of those companies currently operating without robotics suggested that they plan on purchasing the technology within the next five years.

Cost savings, efficiency, adaptability and product quality were each list as significant factors in purchasing decisions. And among companies that had previously purchased the technology, approximately 82 percent plan to make additional robotics purchases within the next five years.

These statistics may underlie a more significant global trend, according to Matthew Curtin of the Wall Street Journal. In developing countries such as China, large-scale deployment of robotics is replacing low-cost labor for the first time.

One Chinese technology manufacturer is planning to install nearly 1 million robots in its factories by 2013 to satisfy iPhone and iPad production demands. For technologically complex tasks such as this, robots may be the only solution for reliable, fast-paced assembly.

Robotics help accelerate stroke rehabilitation

Friday, August 12th, 2011
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A new research report featured in the latest edition of Clinical Rehabilitation suggests that robot-assisted therapy may significantly improve limb strength and mobility for recovering stroke victims.

Researchers from Chang Gung University and National Taiwan University tracked the rehabilitation process of 20 stroke patients. Half of the patients used traditional treatments, and the other half incorporated robotics into their recovery protocols. Researchers tracked progress by means of an accelerometer which measured dynamic arm movements.

"We found significantly greater benefits of robot-assisted therapy for the amount and quality of functional arm activity," noted report author Keh-chung Lin.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the robotic device could be precisely calibrated to foster increased engagement of a patient's weaker arm. The technology's inherent endurance and consistency allowed patients to complete more frequent repetitions of challenging dynamic movements.

Patients undergoing robot-assisted therapies ultimately gained stronger motor functioning and demonstrated more congruent bi-manual mobility.

The medical community has demonstrated a consistent interest in robotics, and for good reason. Robots have successfully lent their support to everything from complex, intravenous surgeries to providing emotional companionship for recovering patients.

Robots begin thinking for themselves

Thursday, August 11th, 2011
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Researchers from the Hasegawa Group at the Tokyo Institute of Technology are currently hard at work developing prototypes for a robot capable of completing tasks it has never tried before. The highly-adaptable robots will reference previously learned experiences and decide for themselves what the best course of action is when faced with novel challenges.

According to Geek.com, a robotics revolution known as the Self-Organizing Incremental Neural Network provides the framework for the next-generation devices. SOINN technology allows robots to build on their current knowledge base by gathering information from the internet and other robots. Together, these sources help the device make intelligent decisions when handling new situations.

A demonstration video released to the Daily Mail shows the robot preparing mock drinks for one of the researchers. When interrupted and asked to serve the beverage cold, the robot realizes that its "hands" are full and places one cup down before searching for ice cubes.

This simple activity demonstrates a significant leap forward for the robotics technology, according to Bob Yirka of Physorg.com. The cognitive capabilities displayed by these new robots mean that the devices can grow smarter over time without any additional programming.

Miniature robots assemble themselves

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
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Researchers from the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois are experimenting with a new line of tiny robots that run on a unique source of energy. According to Wired Magazine, the robots are able to assemble themselves and interact with other particles when exposed to certain magnetic fields.

"There is nothing fancy about magnetic particles. You can just buy them," physicist Igor Aranson explained to the news source. "But if you pour them on the surface of a liquid, you can form robots which can do something useful."

Metal particles floating between a layer of oil and water spontaneously form into larger structures when exposed to alternating magnetic fields. These self-assembling robots swim, latch on to other particles and later dissolve when the magnetic field is turned off.

According to ExtremeTech, the micro-robots are currently just one half millimeter in diameter. However, they already have the capability to move particles more than five times their size.

Aranson believes this breakthrough could have a significant impact throughout the robotics industry. The technology could be harnessed to clean surfaces, manipulate chemical reactions or even one day deliver intravenous medical treatment.

Latest robots satisfy cookie cravings

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
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Researchers at the Distributed Robotics Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing a new robot capable of baking cookies. According to MSNBC, this latest breakthrough is the result of new coding methods that are allowing robots to make their own decisions and accomplish chosen tasks.

The Bakebot is able to recognize bowlfuls of ingredients, mix them together properly and place them in an oven. Eventually, developers intend to create a robot capable of completing a culinary request from start to finish.

"It would try to understand (the command), find a recipe, try to understand what the recipe is telling it to do and then use actions it knows how to do to accomplish it," MIT graduate student Mario Bollini told the news source.

The robot combines cameras and laser scanners to generate a three-dimensional map of the ingredients on the table, according to New Scientist. It may lack a bit of human finesse when mixing the ingredients, but it produces the same delicious end product.

Outside of the kitchen, Bollini believes his dynamic robots will be able to complete other useful tasks including more versatile assembly line operations and even catering to the needs of retirement home residents in countries with rapidly aging populations.