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Call for debate on killer robots

Artificial intelligence meets science fiction

An international debate is needed on the use of autonomous military robots, a leading British academic has said.  Noel Sharkey of the University of Sheffield said that a push toward more robotic technology used in warfare would put civilian life at grave risk.  Technology capable of distinguishing friend from foe reliably was at least 50 years away, he added.  "The problem is that this is all based on artificial intelligence, and the military have a strange view of artificial intelligence based on science fiction."  Professor Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence and robotics, has long drawn attention to the psychological distance from the horrors of war that is maintained by operators who pilot unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), often from thousands of miles away.  "These guys who are driving them sit there all day...they go home and eat dinner with their families at night," he said.  "It's kind of a very odd way of fighting a war - it's changing the character of war dramatically. FULL STORY_BBC_8/3/09

Robot sub reaches deepest ocean

A new era for exploration

A robotic sub called Nereus has reached the deepest-known part of the ocean.  The dive to 10,902m (6.8 miles) took place on 31 May, at the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench, located in the western Pacific Ocean.  This makes Nereus the deepest-diving vehicle currently in service and the first vehicle to explore the Marianas Trench since 1998.  The unmanned vehicle is remotely operated by pilots aboard a surface ship via a lightweight tether.  "With a robot like Nereus, we can now explore virtually anywhere in the ocean," said Andy Bowen, project manager and principal developer of the sub at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).  The sub sampled sediment from the Marianas Trench.  "The trenches are virtually unexplored, and I am absolutely certain Nereus will enable new discoveries. I believe it marks the start of a new era in ocean exploration."  FULL STORY_BBC NEWS_6/4/09

Saya, the robot, teaches first class in Tokyo school

The female humanoid robot, taught a science and technology lesson to a class of 10-year-old pupils at Kudan Elementary School in Tokyo. While Saya's creator Professor Hiroshi Kobayashi of the Tokyo University of Science said the robot's main purpose was to highlight the joys of technology to children, he also said it would benefit schools suffering from a shortage of human teachers.   Full Story   Daily Telegraph_ 5/12/09

Robots act as scientists without assistants
Two teams of human scientists Thursday unveiled their work with robots that not only perform experiments, but also come up with new ones. The prototypes tackled physics and biology problems that require simple, repetitive experiments, proceeding by trial and error to uncover knowledge, according to studies published in the journal Science. 

FULL STORY_USA Today_4/3/09

In an age of robots, one to clean the house? Still but a dream

That today’s experimental robots bear little physical resemblance to our fantasy androids reflects a larger truth in the field of robotics, the attempt to build thinking machines that can perceive the world around them and then act on that awareness. Researchers are far, far from being able to design a Rosie Jetson or a Data, or even a Diaper Data. You can ask a human toddler to bring you the red ball from behind the sofa, and the toddler will comply. Ask a machine to perform the same seemingly ho-hum task? “We’re not even close,” said Seth Teller of M.I.T. The word comes from the Czech “robota,” meaning slave, and, yes, we have our robot slaves. Factory robots encapsulate our drugs, sequence our genes, fabricate our chips, monitor our radiation, spot weld and spray paint our cars, load bricks, rivet bolts, run nuts, make glass, die cast, sand blast. Remotely operated vehicles rove the surface of Mars and plumb the maritime depths.    Full Story   New York Times_ 11/24/08

Disney robots to spy for British troops in war against terror

British soldiers are to get spies in the form of Disney Robots WALL.E., as they battle terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Saturn robot spy is a dead ringer for the children's movie favourite as it navigates, sees and works on its own. Army bosses were looking for gizmos, which could identify threats encountered by UK troops on current operations, until WALL.E. look-alike robots built by Team Stellar came up.   Full Story   ANI/NewKerala_ 9/1/08

Robot takes bomb disposal to another level

Orlando-based defense contractor Cubic Simulation Systems has rolled out its latest product -- a tactical robot that can disarm bombs, conduct video surveillance and perform other functions for military and law enforcement agencies, the company said Tuesday. The local subsidiary of San Diego-based Cubic Corp. developed the "unmanned ground system" as one of its first major product lines not related to military training simulator technology, officials said. Though robots are nothing new to police and military personnel, Cubic says its system advances the technology to a new level of effectiveness. Known as COUGAR, for Combined Operations Unmanned Ground Assessment Robot, the Cubic system packs a bundle of advanced audio, video and anti-explosive electronics into a compact ruggedized frame, officials said. Among its defining traits, Cubic said the six-wheeled system is less than two feet long, two feet wide and a half-foot tall; can be hand carried and fits under or inside a vehicle and other confined spaces. It uses a pivoting infrared camera that provides clear video images from a range of up to 500 feet and is armed with anti-detonation charges that can disarm explosives.   Full Story    Orlando Sentinel_ 7/16/08

Monkey think, monkey do: with robotic arm

Using only its brainpower, a monkey can direct a robotic arm to pluck a marshmallow from a skewer and stuff it into its mouth, researchers said on Wednesday. Andrew Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, whose study will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Nature said the technology behind this feat may lead to brain-powered prosthetic limbs for people with spinal cord injuries or disabling diseases that make such simple tasks impossible. Until now, such brain-machine interfaces have been used to control cursor movements on a computer screen. Schwartz and colleagues wanted to apply the technology to real-world tasks. The monkey guides the robot arm the same way it does its natural limbs, through brain signals.  Full Story  Reuters_ 5/28/08

At last, a robot for the real world

The El-E robot looks like something you'd see in a Hollywood sci-fi flick: It's got two lenses spaced together just like eyes and a slender 5 1/2-foot-tall body. It spurts out wacky catch phrases when it accomplishes its goals. But unlike android movie stars, the El-E isn't designed to behave like a human. Rather, its focus is interacting with us. It simply grabs stuff you point at with a laser. "The entire world becomes a point and click interface. Objects become buttons. And if you point at one, the robot comes to grab it," said Charlie Kemp, the director of Georgia Tech's Center for Healthcare Robotics and the robot's designer. "It creates a clickable world." The robot, which was unveiled Wednesday at an Amsterdam conference, will be tested this summer in a real-world setting involving patients with a degenerative disease. Its creators — from Georgia Tech and Emory universities — won't disclose the robot's cost, but there's hope it could be cheaper than service animals such as dogs or monkeys.  Full Story  AP/ABC News_ 3/12/08

I heart Robot - Valentine

Wondering what to get your robot for Valentine's Day this year? While the idea seems strange now, human-robot marriage will be legal by the year 2050 according to a new book called "Love and Sex with Robots" by David Levy. Levy is an internationally renowned expert on artificial intelligence. Levy argued that robots would be physically and mentally indistinguishable from humans within 40 years. He wrote that a person could be standing within two feet of a robot and not know it.  Full Story  The Weber State University Signpost_ 2/13/08

Moth-brained robot may lead to 'hybrid' computers

A scientist who successfully connected a moth’s brain to a robot predicts that “hybrid” computers running a combination of technology and living organic tissue will be available in 10 to 15 years. The move to use the moth came after Charles Higgins, an associate professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, estimated the cost of building a computer chip that could process visual images like a brain can. Each chip, he said, would likely cost $60,000 to build. “At that price, I thought I was getting lower quality than if I was just accessing the brain of an insect, which costs, well, considerably less,” he added. Higgins noted that he has no plans to “hook up primate brains to a robot. There’s the possibility,” he added, “when you start to tap into brains, for all sorts of evil applications."   Full Story   Computerworld_ 12/10/07

Led by robots, roaches abandon instincts
Many a mother has said, with a sigh, “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?  The answer, for cockroaches at least, may well be yes. Researchers using robotic roaches were able to persuade real cockroaches to do things that their instincts told them were not the best idea.  This experiment in bug peer pressure combined entomology, robotics and the study of ways that complex and even intelligent patterns can arise from simple behavior. Animal behavior research shows that swarms working together can prosper where individuals might fail, and robotics researchers have been experimenting with simple robots that, together, act a little like a swarm.  They set up a cockroach arena one yard in diameter. Two six-inch-wide plastic discs were suspended over it, providing the dark shelters that cockroaches prefer to congregate in. But one disc was darker and a more likely cockroach hangout.  When 16 cockroaches were placed in the arena, they naturally gravitated toward the darker disc, following what the researchers believe is an internal calculation of the amount of light and the number of other roaches, finding comfort in company.  Dr. Halloy then replaced four of the cockroaches with four robots equipped with sensors to measure light and the proximity of other robots. When the robots emulated the real roaches, the group continued to seek the dark and crowded place.  When the four robotic roaches were reprogrammed to prefer the lighter disc, however, the real roaches followed them about 60 percent of the time, in essence deferring their own judgment as the preference grew more popular. (The other 40 percent of the time, the robotic roaches succumbed to peer pressure and headed for the darkest place.)  “It’s a cascade of imitation, so a small effect can become quite large,” said Stephen Pratt, a professor of life sciences at Arizona State University. “This one is a real step forward. They’ve developed these theories about what kinds of individual behavior rules would have to follow to generate a collective intelligence. I thought it was very gratifying they could get the roaches to do what they normally would not do.”  FULL STORY_New York Times 11/16/07


Carnegie Mellon team wins DARPA robot race in California desert

Members of a Carnegie Mellon University-based team of engineers and their tricked-out, driverless Chevy Tahoe known as “Boss” won $2 million for their victory in a Pentagon-sponsored robot race in the Southern California desert, race officials announced Sunday. Tartan Racing's “Boss” turned in the top performance Saturday as it navigated itself through an urban-style obstacle course at a former Air Force base set up by race organizers from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. Guided by cameras, lasers and a sophisticated on-board computer, the team's sport utility vehicle merged with moving cars – some piloted by stunt drivers – navigated traffic circles and avoided obstacles at an average speed of 14 mph, DARPA Urban Challenge program manager Norman Whitaker said. A team from Stanford University won the $1 million second-place prize by designing a robotic vehicle that completed the course at a 13 mph average, while engineers from Virginia Tech received $500,000 for finishing third with a souped-up SUV that finished the course at 12 mph, Whitaker said. The robot rumble was held at the old George Air Force Base east of Los Angeles that was converted into a 60-mile obstacle course. The urban road race was the third robotic competition bankrolled by DARPA, which faces a congressional deadline to have one-third of its military ground combat vehicles unmanned by 2015.  Full Story AP/San Diego Union-Tribune_ 11/4/07

Florida robot to search for trapped Utah miners

It's an engineering challenge officials have spent weeks on: how to squeeze a robot into a Utah mine where six coal miners have been trapped. The requirements: fit down a dinner-plate-size hole more than 1,500 long, capture images and not be stopped by water and muck in the hole. Officials say their best bet is an 8-inch wide, approximately 70-pound robot from Florida. The device has two cameras and the ability to maneuver 1,000 feet into the mine. It's one of a number of robots that have been proposed in the last three weeks since the Aug. 6 collapse. Officials called the Florida effort a long shot with a less than 50 percent chance of success, but there have been fewer and fewer options to try to find the men.  FULL STORY  AP/Daily American_ 8/27/07

Donald Michie, 83, theorist of artificial intelligence and ex-wife biologist Anne McLaren, die in auto accident

Donald Michie, a versatile British scientist and early theorist of artificial intelligence who helped develop a “smart” industrial robot and then applied the technology to diverse fields, died on July 7 in Britain. He was 83. Dr. Michie (pronounced MICK-ee) died in a car accident near London along with his former wife, Anne McLaren, a biologist and pioneering researcher in the field of reproduction. In the early 1970s, in work that received international attention and helped make Britain a force in advancing artificial intelligence, Dr. Michie led a team that produced “Freddy,” a computer-directed robotic arm that could choose and assemble parts from a jumbled and potentially confusing array. To demonstrate Freddy’s capabilities, Dr. Michie programmed the machine to put together the parts of a toy truck. Dr. Michie’s earliest scientific endeavors took place at Bletchley Park, the secret British intelligence center, where he was a cryptographer from 1942 to 1945. There he worked on “Colossus,” the high-speed computer, in helping to more rapidly break Germany’s wartime codes.  Full Story New York Times_ 7/23/07 (logon required)

Nine-inch robot walks like a man, climbs hills too

Researchers at the University of Göttingen in Germany are reporting progress in developing a robot that can adapt to different terrain, adjusting its gait and posture after a few learning experiences. The 9-inch-high machine, called RunBot, has already been shown to be able walk at a good clip (about 3.5 leg lengths per second, compared with a sprinter’s 4 to 5 per second). But in a paper in the open-access online journal PLoS Computational Biology, Florentin Wörgötter and colleagues describe its adaptive capabilities. Compared with a human, the typical two-legged walking robot can make only baby steps. That’s because people have a better biomechanical system (legs, hips, etc.) and more complex neuronal control over it. A bipedal robot may be able to walk on a smooth, level surface, but throw in a few bumps or hills and it is likely to fall flat on its silicon posterior. The RunBot can do things like adapt to terrain with bumps and depressions, and adjust its gait and posture to walk up an 8-degree slope. When walking uphill it’s not immune to falling on its backside, but unlike other robots it learns after a couple of falls.  Full Story New York Times_ 7/17/07 (logon required)

iRobot develops tiny robot cop

IRobot Corp. plans next week to debut a prototype remote controlled robot armed with a Taser electroshock weapon that it said can help the military on the battlefield or law enforcement agencies in dangerous situations. The small hybrid machine is based on Burlington, Mas.-based iRobot's Pentium-based PackBot Explorer robot. The hybrid, which adds a Taser X26 stun gun, stun gun to the robot, was developed jointly by iRobot and Taser International Inc. The companies hope the diminutive robot - which measures eight inches high and 16-inches wide -- will be deployed and remotely used to do things such as stun or control dangerous persons while keeping army personnel or police and bystanders safe and secure.  Full Story  Computerworld_ 7/7/07

Japanese scientists develop robot that acts like a toddler to better understand child development

The Child-Robot with Biomimetic Body, or CB2, was developed by a team of researchers at Osaka University in western Japan and is designed to move just like a real child between 1 and 3 years old. Minoru Asada, a professor at Osaka University who leads the project for the Japan Science and Technology Agency said "our goal is to study human recognition development such as how the child learns a language, recognizes objects and learns to communicate with his father and mother."  Full Story  AP/USA Today_6/8/07

April, 2007

Now you can build your own robot

If you always wanted to build a robot, but didn’t know how to do it, then the Carnegie Mellon University researchers may have just the perfect solution for you. They developed a new series of robots that are simple enough for almost anyone to build with off-the-shelf parts.  And the good news is that the robots are sophisticated machines that wirelessly connect to the Internet.  According to the researchers, the robots can take many forms, from a three-wheeled model with a mounted camera to a flower loaded with infrared sensors. They can be easily customized and their ability to wirelessly link to the Internet allows users to control and monitor their robots’ actions from any Internet-connected computer in the world.  The new tools that make this possible are a single piece of hardware and a set of "recipes" that people follow to build their ’bots. Both are part of the Telepresence Robot Kit (TeRK) developed by Associate Professor of Robotics Illah Nourbakhsh and members of his Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) Lab. Their goal is to make highly capable robots accessible and affordable for college and pre-college students, as well as anyone interested in robots. FULL STORY_ Playfuls.com 4/26/07

Robo-salamander's evolution clues
A robot is being used by a Franco-Swiss team to investigate how the first land animals on Earth might have walked.  The bot looks a lot like a salamander; and the scientists can change the way it swims, slithers and crawls with commands sent wirelessly from a PC.  The group says it provides new insight into the nervous system changes aquatic lifeforms would have had to acquire to move to a terrestrial existence.  The researchers report their study in the latest edition of Science magazine.  By mimicking the nervous system and the movements of the salamander, the team hoped "to decode perhaps some of what happened during evolution", Auke Jan Ijspeert, of Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, told BBC News. FULL STORY_ BBC 3/8/07

Walking robot steps up the pace

A humanoid robot is teaching itself to walk and eventually run around a California research lab. Dexter's designers say their robot differs from commercially available predecessors because it can learn from its mistakes. It is the culmination of six years' work by Anybots, an independent research group of three engineers. Dexter may be used for jobs people usually carry out in protective clothing. The aim is to design a robot that can adapt to several environments and roles, like a human does, rather than requiring specific programming.   Full Story   BBC News_ 3/2/07

Middleburg, Pennsylvania man turns golf cart and used parts into a snow-plowing robot

Using the converted golf cart with video cameras and a plow attachment, Bill Lauver has been keeping his driveway free of snow for the last three years from the comfort of his living room. "I geared it down to go slower than a normal golf cart, of course," he added. Mr. Lauver said the plow can handle about 6 to 8 inches of snow, depending on its wetness. He put the plow together throughout a year and used many new and used parts. He estimated he spent around $600 to $700.   Full Story  Daily Item_ 2/15/07

Just in time for Valentine's Day: UC Davis researcher creates robot bird to study grouse mating rituals

The male sage-grouse, a chicken-like game bird, isn’t too picky about mates. Researchers have observed the bird trying to woo unusual objects — even cow patties in the field. So perhaps it’s no surprise that these males are duped by University of California, Davis researcher Gail Patricelli’s bird robot, which is fairly convincing despite the wheels instead of legs. Patricelli is using the feathered fembot to learn about mating rituals of the greater sage-grouse. She tested a prototype in Wyoming last year and will return this spring to put the cyber chick to the test. Patricelli, an assistant professor in UCD’s section of evolution and ecology, was interviewed for an episode of television show “NATURE” slated to air on PBS in spring 2008.   Full Story   Davis Enterprise_ 2/11/07

December, 2006

Robot heading for Antarctic dive
The mysteries of the Antarctic deep will be probed by a new vessel capable of plunging 6.5km (four miles) down.  Isis, the UK's first deep-diving remotely operated vehicle (ROV), will be combing the sea-bed in the region in its inaugural science mission.  Researchers hope to uncover more about the effects of glaciers on the ocean floor, and also find out about the animals that inhabit these waters.  The mission begins in mid-January and will last for about three weeks. FULL STORY_BBC 12/28/06

Future robots could demand same citizen rights as humans says British government study

If granted, countries would be obliged to provide social benefits including housing and even "robo-healthcare", the report says. The predictions are contained in nearly 250 papers that look ahead at developments over the next 50 years. Other papers, or "scans", examine the future of manned space flight and methods to dramatically lengthen life spans. The research was commissioned by the UK Office of Science and Innovation's Horizon Scanning Centre. The 246 summary papers, called the Sigma and Delta scans, were complied by futures researchers, Outsights-Ipsos Mori partnership and the US-based Institute for the Future (IFTF). The papers look forward at emerging trends in science, health and technology.  Full Story  BBCNews_ 12/21/06

Robot controlled by power of brain waves may one day aid the disabled

Wearing a special cap dotted with 32 scalp electrodes, an individual can "order" the robot to move about and pick up objects merely by generating brain waves that reflect the instructions. Rajesh Rao, of the University of Washington, demonstrated the robot at the Current Trends in BrainComputer Interfacing meeting in Whistler, British Columbia. For the demonstration, the robot was in a different room from its human master. The electrodes pick up signals using a technique called electroencephalography. The robot can be told to move forward, choose one of two objects and bring it to one of two locations. The Washington team plans to extend the research to use more complex objects and equip the robot with skills such as avoiding obstacles.  Full Story  Telegraph_ 12/18/06

Arizona State University, alma mater of Barry Bonds and Reggie Jackson, produces Robot Fielder

Catch-Bot is a rolling, ball-snaring robot. At one foot tall, Catch-Bot is not going out for varsity. Catch-Bot is, however, the latest solution to the baseball problem. You probably didn’t know that there was a baseball problem, but perceptual psychologists are obsessed with it. Back in 1968, a paper in The American Journal of Physics called “Catching a Baseball” questioned how an outfielder effortlessly tracks down a fly ball. What perceptual principles guide human navigation toward a moving target? Nearly three decades later, Michael McBeath, a psychology professor at Arizona State, and his colleague, Thomas Sugar, a robotics engineer, created Catch-Bot and wrote an algorithm that gives Catch-Bot about a .750 fielding percentage. Of course, “catch” is something of a misnomer: the ball bounces off its bumper.  Full Story  New York Times_ 12/10/06 (logon required)

Robot learns how to adapt to damage
Experiments could lead to self-repairing, even ‘conscious’ machines

A newly designed robot can sense and recover from unexpected damage, an ability that is sure to prove handy in dangerous terrain, researchers announced Thursday.  Referred to as Starfish, the new four-legged robot creates a model of itself and revises that model to respond and adapt to injury by synthesizing new behaviors.  Starfish first walks around on a flat surface in order to observe its own motions using sensors. With the information it gathers, it’s able to create a virtual version of itself in an internal computer model.  FULL STORY_ MSNBC 11/16/06

Microsoft ready to do the robot
Maybe it's the robotic dog resting in the corner or the R2-D2 "Star Wars" droid on the floor, but Tandy Trower's office is not a typical workstation found on the Microsoft Corp. campus.  Trower heads the Microsoft Robotics Group, a nine-person operation with the modest trappings of a start-up company but grand ambitions befitting a $44 billion software giant.  Microsoft aims to bring robotics technology to the masses with programming software to ease the development of new applications, replicating an approach it adopted in the early days of the personal computer industry. FULL STORY_ Reuters 7/22/06

Brainy robots start stepping into daily life

A half-century after the term artificial intelligence was coined, both scientists and engineers say they are making rapid progress in simulating the human brain, and their work is finding its way into a new wave of real-world products. At Stanford University, for instance, computer scientists are developing a robot that can use a hammer and a screwdriver to assemble an Ikea bookcase (a project beyond the reach of many humans) as well as tidy up after a party, load a dishwasher or take out the trash. Though most of the truly futuristic projects are probably years from the commercial market, scientists say that after a lull, artificial intelligence has rapidly grown far more sophisticated. Today some scientists are beginning to use the term cognitive computing, to distinguish their research from an earlier generation of artificial intelligence work. What sets the new researchers apart is a wealth of new biological data on how the human brain functions.  Full Story  New York Times_ 7/18/06 logon required

June, 2006

Robot soccer World Cup kicks off.
Robots compete in 11 different leagues

A football tournament played by teams of robots has kicked off in Germany.  The 10th annual RoboCup, being held in Bremen, will see more than 400 teams of robots dribbling, tackling and shooting in an effort to become world champions.  Machines compete in 11 leagues including those designed for humanoid and four-legged robots.  The organisers of the tournament hope that in 2050 the winners of the RoboCup will be able to beat the human World Cup champions.  "RoboCup 2006 is the first step towards a vision," said Minoru Asada, president of the RoboCup Federation.  "This vision includes the development of a humanoid robot team of eleven players, which can win against a human soccer world champion team." 


Europe leads the next robot mission to Mars

Scientists this week unveiled a robot vehicle that will, in five years, lead the most advanced attempt to find life on the seemingly barren red planet. The vehicle, the size of a snooker table, is a prototype lander for the European ExoMars project, and will be able to move across the Martian surface, acting as a surrogate for scientists on Earth. Using sophisticated digital cameras, it will detect targets of scientific interest and explore them in greater detail - without the need for constant supervision. European politicians are so taken by the project they are falling over themselves to fund it. In a pleasant surprise for the normally cash-strapped space science community, pledges of money from European governments have exceeded the required EUR600 million (US$755 million) for the project, prompting scientists to consider adding new instruments and experiments to the project.  Full Story Sydney Morning Herald_ 6/13/06

Robot device mimics human touch; Particles in the device emit light to show changes in texture
A device which may pave the way for robotic hands that can replicate the human sense of touch has been unveiled.  US scientists have created a sensor that can "feel" the texture of objects to the same degree of sensitivity as a human fingertip.  The team says the tactile sensor could, in the future, aid minimally invasive surgical techniques by giving surgeons a "touch-sensation".  The research is reported in the journal Science.  "If you look at the current status of these tactile sensors, the frustration has been that the resolution of all these devices is in the range of millimetres," explained Professor Ravi Saraf, an engineer from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, US, and a co-author of the paper.  "Whereas the resolution of a human fingertip is about 40 microns, about half the diameter of a human hair, and this has affected the performance of these devices."  But Professor Saraf and colleague Dr Vivek Maheshwari, also from the University of Nebraska, were able to attain this high level of sensitivity by creating a very thin film made up of layers of metal and semiconducting nanoparticles flanked at the top and bottom by electrodes.  When the film touches a surface any pressure or stress squeezes the layers of particles together. This causes the current in the film to change and light is emitted from the particles, an effect known as "electroluminescence". The visible light is then detected by a camera.   


U.S. soldiers in Iraq bond with iRobot's bomb-defusing machines

U.S. soldiers in Iraq are giving nicknames and forming emotional bonds with bomb-defusing robots they have come to regard as teammates, according to Chief Executive Colin Angle, the founder of IRobot Inc., the company that invented the machines. The company, which is best known for "Roomba," the robotic vacuum cleaner, and "Scooba," the floor-mopping robot, envisions a machine that would instill similar feelings in civilians. Someday, Angle believes, these robots -- which he calls "physical avatars" -- will help care for children and the elderly, giving parents and caregivers greater peace of mind and relief from mundane tasks. But iRobot got its start as a military contractor, and its future also looks firmly wedded to the armed services. Full Story  Reuters_ 5/23/06

Singapore robot with fins swims like a fish--and that's good for the environment

A robot with fins attached to its motors has been developed at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. The biomimetic robot mimics organisms, according to the researchers. Low Kin Huat, Associate Professor, NTU's Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, said: “We believe that by knowing and understanding the nature of the fish's swimming mode, we would be able to come up with a smart swimming vehicle.... In this robot fish design, actually we use a natural undulating fin motion. You can see that it's quite quiet and actually it's good for the environment, talking about pollution issues, talking about noise issues." Three prototypes were produced over two years. The first and third have been modeled on the stingray, with fins along the sides of the plastic-encased body.  Full Story AHN_ 5/15/06

April, 2006

Childbirth lessons from a robot

Noelle's given birth in Afghanistan, California and dozens of points in between. She's a lifelike, pregnant robot used in increasing numbers of medical schools and hospital maternity wards. It's better to make a mistake on a $20,000 robot than a live patient. The Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates that as many as 98,000 U.S. patients die annually from preventable medical errors. Noelle, from Miami-based Gaumard Scientific, is used in most of Kaiser's 30 hospitals nationwide, and other hospitals are putting in orders. Northwest Physicians Insurance is sponsoring similar training programs in 22 hospitals in Oregon and Idaho, rolling out Noelle initially at five of them.  Full Story AP/San Jose Mercury News_ 4/17/06

HAL-the-robot-suit to help quadriplegic scale Swiss alp

Seiji Uchida, 43, a Japanese quadriplegic, plans to climb to the peak of a Swiss mountain by riding piggyback on a mountaineer who will get some extra muscle from a robot suit named HAL. HAL, which stands for hybrid assistive limb, is a type of wearable robot or motorised exoskeleton. Tsukuba University engineering professor Yoshiyuki Sankai developed HAL to help its operator perform tasks a normal human would not be strong enough to perform otherwise, according to the web page of Sankai's venture company Cyberdyne. The wearer operates HAL with normal movements and actions.  Full Story   AP/The Age_ 4/4/06

March, 2006

Hitachi develops security robot on wheels

Hitachi is working on an R2D2-like security robot on wheels that can map out its surroundings using infrared sensors and a camera to detect missing items, suspicious packages and intruders. The 22-inch-tall robot, which looks like a trash can and is reminiscent of the small, beeping robot in "Star Wars," has a swiveling camera that protrudes like a periscope, enabling it to watch for suspicious changes in the landscape and send photos to a guard.  Hitachi has no commercial product plans so far but believes the roving robot, which can figure out the best route to a spot on its own, is better than the stationary cameras now common for security, researcher Toshio Moriya said.  FULL STORY_Associated Press 3/16/06

What happened to the Robot Age?

Sony's decision to ditch its Aibo robotic dog, along with its entire robot development team, is a reminder that we are still a long way from the age of automated domestic servants. Architects of the Robot Age have been busy rethinking the future. The Japanese electronics firm announced that, after six years and sales of 150,000 units, it is putting Aibo to sleep as part of a belt-tightening exercise that sees the closure of Sony's entire robotics unit. It might seem as though the robot revolution we were promised 20 years ago has hit an almighty malfunction. No one thought to equip the mobile lumps of metal with the fundamental social skills that humans take for granted in each other. These days, the watchword in robotics is "multi-disciplinary" - bringing together people from sociology and psychology backgrounds, as well as the technical folk. Scientists have been studying issues such as personal space, how people expect a robot to approach them, or even get their attention. For example while most people are happy enough for a robot to pad around the house rather as a human would, a substantial minority are uncomfortable with it lingering in close proximity. While the technical challenges to perfecting servile domestic robots are still vast, history shows that what humans expect of them are every bit as important.  Full Story  BBC News_ 1/27/06

December, 2005

Robotic vessels against pirates
Passengers aboard the Seabourn Spirit, a luxury liner sailing off the coast of Somalia, came face to face last month with the growing problem of piracy, especially planned assaults and ocean hijackings using fast boats and sophisticated weapons.  As the pirates go hi-tech, so ships must use more advanced technology in their defence, according to the latest report from the International Maritime Bureau.  Full Story_ BBC News 12/14/05

Robot jockeys: Qatar and the United Arab Emirates turn to robots under pressure to stop using children from poor areas of South Asia and Africa as jockeys in camel races

After years of pressure from human rights groups and Western governments, gulf sheiks agreed to enforce bans on child jockeys this year. So this year's races look more like scenes from "Futurama" than "Lawrence of Arabia," with thoroughbred camels guided by child-size robot jockeys racing along desert tracks at speeds of 25 miles an hour. What happened to the Emirates 3,000 child camel jockeys? Ansar Burney, a Pakistani human rights advocate who led the campaign to rescue the child jockeys, is concerned that these officially sanctioned daytime races may merely be providing cover for illicit late-night races with boys as young as 4 strapped to the camels' backs.  Full Story  New York Times Magazine_ 12/11/05 (logon required)

November, 2005

Humanoid robot opens EU science conference: Scientists urged to better communicate

An EU conference entitled “Communicating European Research”, was opened by ASIMO, Honda’s advanced humanoid robot, which the company believes will help humans and be of practical use in society. Science needs a wider audience, and communication is a must for science, said Janez Potocnik, EU Commissioner for Science and Research at the conference held in Brussels last week. According to the latest Eurobarometer carried out earlier this year, 88 per cent of EU citizens think that scientists have a positive impact on society. However, the overwhelming majority of EU citizens believe scientists put too little effort informing the public about their work. Science is encroaching on issues of human value and is increasing the tension between it and society, said Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Society. Stem cell research and cloning are among these issues, as is

the present debate in America whether the concept of ‘intelligent design’ should be taught with evolution in classes. Most of the pressure is exerted by parents, not by teachers, to have this debate. The key is not education – as most people think it is. People do know what scientists are talking about but they will not accept it if it goes against their ideals, said Mr Leshner. Scientists have to change their monologue to a dialogue. People have to feel involved in what scientists are doing. “Whining, the traditional approach of the misunderstood researcher, is not an option,” he said. “We must stop trying to bring the public to us and go to it instead.”  Full Story  Malta Independent_ 11/20/05

October, 2005

Small Alabama firm makes it big in military robots

At just 10 employees, Mesa Robotics Inc. is considered a small business by anyone's standards. But it is leaving its mark in some of the most volatile places in the world. Several models of Mesa's inaugural robot, Matilda, are rolling around the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, searching for land mines in fields and terrorists in caves. Some are being used for subway security in Japan. Acer, a diesel-powered robot slightly larger than a forklift, is about to be shipped to Israel, where it will search for and detonate land mines. The robots are designed to help combat engineers and counter-explosive operations, said Don Jones, vice president of Mesa Robotics. The company is a spin-off of Mesa Associates, a Madison-based engineering services firm. Ranjana Savant is president and owner of both companies.  Full Story  Huntsville Times/AL.com_ 10/21/05 (logon required)

Robots and TV to be big in 2006
Specialised robots, devices for DIY content creation and new TV displays are among the trends to watch in 2006. That is according to the American-based Consumer Electronic Association which has published its view of technologies set to influence in next 12 months. Domestic robots that can control home networks, sort laundry and scrub the kitchen floor are not far off and are likely to be sold in much the same way as other household appliances are.  Full Story  BBC News_ 10/19/05

Robot vehicles gather to race in U.S. desert again; Will anyone manage to get close to the finish line this time?

Twenty robotic vehicles including modified SUVs, dune buggies and one motorcycle return to the Nevada desert this weekend to try to win a $2 million prize from the Pentagon for crossing 150 miles of hills, valleys, rocks, tumbleweeds and man-made obstacles.  Last year, in the inaugural race sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, no machine made it beyond sight of the starting line in the challenge designed to promote the development of driverless vehicles that one day could carry supplies for the U.S. military in war zones. "We can now see a future where these vehicles will take the place of soldiers in harm's way," said Ron Kurjanowicz, program manager of the DARPA Grand Challenge race.  FULL STORY_ Reuters 10/5/05

Robot racing gets under way

$2 million prize at stake

It's the ultimate robot reality show: 43 contestants battling for a spot in a government-sponsored desert race intended to speed development of unmanned military combat vehicles. The reward? A $2 million cash prize. The autonomous robotic vehicles began competing Wednesday in the first of a series of qualifying rounds at the California Speedway. Half will advance to the October 8 starting line of the so-called Grand Challenge. The grueling, weeklong semifinals are designed to test the vehicles' ability to cover a roughly 2-mile stretch of the track without a human driver or remote control. Participants ranging from souped-up SUVs to military behemoths will be graded on how well they can self-drive on rough road, make sharp turns and avoid obstacles -- hay bales, trash cans, wrecked cars -- while relying on GPS navigation and sensors, radar, lasers and cameras that feed information to computers.  Full Story_CNN 9/29/05

Battle robots could replace dogs on South Korea's border

Armed, six-legged robots may one day work alongside man's best friend on the southern side of the Korean DMZ. South Korea will spend 33.4 billion won over the next five years to develop the robots for the heavily fortified demilitarised zone that divides the peninsula, the Communications Ministry said in a statement Friday. South Korea envisages the robots performing roles on the battlefield now done by dogs, such as sniffing for explosives and catching intruders, the ministry said. The robots will stand knee-high to the average adult, mounted on wheels for road missions or on as many as eight legs to get them over uneven terrain, it said. Equipped with firearms, they will be able to carry out combat missions via remote control.  Full Story  Reuters_ 9/23/05

August, 2005

Human-like skin gives robots sense of touch -study
A flexible, electronic skin could provide robots, car seats and even carpets the ability to sense pressure and heat, Japanese researchers reported on Monday.  They described a new "skin" that not only senses both heat and pressure, but that is flexible, cheap and easy to make.  Full Story_Reuters 8/15/05

British robot frees trapped Russian mini-sub
A British remote-controlled vehicle on Sunday cut away the cables that had snarled a Russian mini-submarine and its seven-man crew deep under the Pacific Ocean, and rescuers were preparing for the sub to surface, a naval spokesman said.  Capt. Igor Dygalo told The Associated Press that the Super Scorpio had freed the mini-sub from the military antenna that had tangled it some 625 feet below the surface.  Full Story_MSNBC 8/6/05

Mini robot mimics cockroaches
Scientists in Lausanne, Switzerland, have successfully infiltrated a colony of roaches with a micro robot that has enough intricacies to interact with the world's most resilient insect, according to a report published in the June issue of IEEE Robotics & Automation.  Called InsBot, for "insect-like robot," the mechanical bug mimics the insects' smell and movements to the point that the roaches have accepted it as their own. That feat helps scientists study mixed societies of animals and robots.  Full Story_CNET News 7/23/05

Japanese develop 'female' android
Japanese scientists have unveiled the most human-looking robot yet devised - a "female" android called Repliee Q1.  She has flexible silicone for skin rather than hard plastic, and a number of sensors and motors to allow her to turn and react in a human-like manner.  Repliee Q1 is not like any robot you will have seen before, at least outside of science-fiction movies.  Full Story_BBC 7/28/05

In pictures: Japanese prototype robots

Photos of robots on show at the Prototype Robot Exhibition at the 2005 World Exposition in Nagakute, Japan.  Full Story BBC News_ 6/9/05

May, 2005

Medical robots start work at London hospital
Science-fiction moved a step closer to reality this week when robots nicknamed "Sister Mary" and "Doctor Robbie" started work at a London hospital.  The robot pair allow doctors to visually examine and communicate with patients, whether they are in another part of the hospital or even another part of the world.  The 5-foot (1.5 meter) high robots are controlled remotely by a doctor via a joystick.  Full Story_5/18/05

US robot builds copies of itself
Experiment shows reproduction is not unique to biology

US researchers have devised a simple robot that can make copies of itself from spare parts. Writing in Nature, the robot's creators say their experiment shows the ability to reproduce is not unique to biology. Their long-term plan is to design robots made from hundreds or thousands of identical basic modules. These could repair themselves if parts fail, reconfigure themselves to better perform the task they have been set, or even to make extra helpers.  Full Story _ BBC 5/11/05

Basque technology centre develops portable robot for aircraft assembly work

The robot is also fitted with an artificial vision system that enables it to orient itself in the work zone and modify its work programme in real time thanks to a numeric control support system. Part of a European research project, the robot was designed and built at the Basque technology centre Fatronik in response to the growing need to automate aircraft production systems. Fatronik will shortly be making a larger drilling robot for a major European aircraft maker. A second project, for the US army, involves fitting the robot with a laser head for stripping aircraft paint coatings.  Full Story  EITB24_ 4/18/05

Robot jockeys to ride Gulf camels in place of young children
The United Arab Emirates says it will use robots as jockeys for camel races from next season. The move comes after widespread international criticism of the use of young children to ride camels during the long and often hazardous races. Officials say a prototype of the robot was successfully tested on Saturday. Aid workers say there are up to 40,000 child jockeys working across the Gulf. Many are said to be have been kidnapped and trafficked from South Asia.  Full Story  BBC News_ 4/10/05

March, 2005

Smarter robots of tomorrow: NASA Ames scientists are advancing the technology of remote exploration

Buoyed by the success of two robotic rovers exploring the surface of Mars, NASA scientists are building smarter and more- agile robots that can rappel down cliffs, slither between cracks and even have the sense to detect trouble. At NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, an eight-legged robot called Scorpion can climb steep hills and plunge into rough terrain where its wheeled counterparts can't go. Full Story  San Francisco Chronicle_ 3/7/05

February, 2005

Robots hit stride with human walk
The latest robots that walk like humans - that familiar staple of science fiction films - have been demonstrated by scientists from the US and Holland. The batteries are in the arms. Making machines walk like us has proven notoriously difficult to achieve. The new designs were shown off at the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) annual meeting held this year in Washington DC.  Full Story  BBC News_ 2/21/05

Brain-controlled 'robo-arm' offers hope
Scientists in the US have created a robotic arm that can be controlled by thought alone. Developed at the University of Pittsburgh, it has a fully mobile shoulder and elbow and a gripper that works like a hand. In early tests, monkeys had tiny probes inserted into their brains and had their limbs restrained - but were then able to manipulate the robotic arm. The inventors believe it could help people who have lost limb function. The mechanical arm research was described at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Full Story  BBC News_ 2/18/05

December, 2004

Roboshark to hunt tourists

The star of last year's BBC documentary, Smart Sharks, will retire to a watery heaven - complete with robotic tuna to feast on. Roboshark's inventor, Andrew Sneath, has designed a giant aquarium, which will house an impressive panoply of robotic fish in a seven metre deep tank. Visitors will be invited to explore the aquatic world of robots from the safety of little submarine pods. In its original role, Roboshark swam with wild sharks while carrying a movie camera on its head, so it could film them behaving in a natural way.  Full Story  BBC News_ 12/31/04

Japanese car-maker Honda's humanoid robot Asimo now can run

Honda is a leader in developing two-legged robots and the new, improved Asimo (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) can also find his way around obstacles as well as interact with people. Eventually Asimo could find employment helping people in homes and offices. Honda claims Asimo's 3 km per hour running time is almost four times as fast as Sony's Qrio, which became the first robot to run last year. The criteria for running robots is defined by engineers as having both feet off the ground between strides.  Full Story  BBC News_ 12/16/04

November, 2004

Oceangoing robot, Spray, crosses the Gulf Stream for the first time - under water

The six-foot-long autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) named Spray made the 600-mile journey at a less-than-blazing clip of 12 miles per day, or a half-mile per hour, gathering ocean data on circulation patterns and major currents all the way. Another AUV glider now on another journey is the Slocum in the Mediterranean. Its progress east of Sicily can be tracked in real time via the Web site. Spray is a joint project of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  Full Story  Discovery News_ 11/11/04

October, 2004

Robots learn 'robotiquette' rules
Robots are learning lessons on how to behave socially so they can mix better with humans. By playing games, like pass-the-parcel, a University of Hertfordshire team is finding out how future robot companions should react in social situations. The work is part of the European Cogniron robotics project, and was on show at London's Science Museum. "I want robots to treat humans as human beings, and not like other robots,"said Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn, project leader at the University of Hertfordshire.  Full Story  BBC News_ 10/31/04

Unusual pair of John Deere and iRobot team up on battle-ready robot
Burlington-based iRobot Corp. will adapt the artificial intelligence technology used in its Roomba vacuums and portable PackBot military robots for a two-seat John Deere utility vehicle similar to ones the Pentagon already uses. The 9-foot-long semi-autonomous Military Robotic Gator, or R-Gator, will be the first of its kind to use off-the-shelf technology, making it easier and less expensive to produce than existing, custom-made vehicles, the companies said. R-Gator's developers hope to eventually draw interest for use in everything from responding to chemical spills to patrolling borders.   Full Story  AP/MSNBC_ 10/25/04

September, 2004

Engineer builds prototype of water-walking robot

With inspiration from nature and some help from research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a team led by Carnegie Mellon engineering professor Metin Sitti built a tiny robot that can walk on water, much like the insects known as water skimmers or Jesus bugs. With a chemical sensor, it could monitor water supplies for toxins; with a camera it could be a spy or an explorer; with a net or a boom, it could skim contaminants off the top of water. And materials for the prototype only cost $10.  Full Story AP/San Francisco Chronicle_ 9/10/04

Smelly robot eats flies to generate its own power

The idea is to produce electricity by catching flies and digesting them in special fuel cells that will break down sugar in the insects' skeletons and release electrons that will drive an electric current. Called EcoBot II, the robot is part of a drive to make "release and forget" robots that can be sent into dangerous or inhospitable areas to carry our remote industrial or military monitoring of, say, temperature or toxic gas concentrations," New Scientist magazine said. The downside of the fully autonomous robot: it will have to use sewage or excrement to attract the flies and is bound to smell appalling.  Full Story  Reuters_ 9/8/04

August, 2004

Two-armed Canadian robot top candidate for saving Hubble

NASA is moving ahead with plans to send a robot to the rescue of the aging Hubble Space Telescope and the leading candidate is a clunky contraption named Dextre that bears little resemblance to movie-inspired visions of a robot. A final decision won't be made until next summer on whether to launch the two-armed Dextre -- short for dexterous -- or any other robot to Hubble's rescue in 3 1/2 years.  Full Story  AP/CNN_ 8/10/04

July, 2004

Australian researchers build world's smallest submarine: a 40cm-long, self-controlling submersible called Serafina

The tiny submarine, no bigger than a toy, can dive to around 5,000 metres (16,500 feet), turn, somersault and perform a range of scientific tasks. Its designers say the Serafina could be used in shipwreck recovery, in search and rescue and may have military uses. The price is small too, starting at about A$1,000 (US$700) each. The only possible problem is that it's so small, it could possibly be eaten by an aquatic creature. Full Story  BBC News_ 7/30/04

Car that pulls faces lets motorists express themselves

The vehicle, patented in the United States, would glow red and narrow headlight ’eyes’ when upset. It would raise its eyebrows if surprised by another motorist’s antics, shed a tear when sad or wink when happy. It even wags an antenna, like a tail, to denote excitement. The eccentric idea is that of four inventors working for Toyota in Japan who want drivers to have more than just a car horn to express themselves.  Full Story PA News/The Scotsman_ 7/26/04

Medical training turns to the virtual human being
Today, many doctors in training are making their first diagnoses -- and their first mistakes -- on plastic, wires and computer circuits rather than flesh and blood. These virtual patients come in different shapes and sizes, much like the real ones. The most sophisticated can be programmed to simulate every imaginable medical crisis and then respond as a doctor works on the "patient." The top systems are pricey but so realistic that experts predict they'll become standard for training new doctors and for testing experienced ones who soon will face tougher recertification.  Full Story  AP/CNN_ 7/18/04

The coming robot revolution; They could fight wars, drive cars and patrol data centers
Computerworld interviews Chuck Thorpe, director of Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute; Jeanne Dietsch, CEO of MobileRobots.com in Nashua, N.H.; and Vijay Kumar, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at the University of Pennsylvania. Here's the future they see for robots. Full Story  Computerworld_ 7/12/04

Smarter spacecraft: Science-hunting software for robotic explorers
A team of NASA and Arizona researchers are giving their space robot the power to conduct its own scientific investigations using software that automatically scans for interesting targets. NASA's Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment (ASE) can cut lengthy time lags inherent to taking an observation, transmitting it to the ground for study, and later decisions by scientists to direct the satellite to take further measurements.  Full Story  Space.com_ 7/6/04

In push to lower costs and free workers for more critical tasks, hospitals turn to robots

With names like TUG, RoboCart and HelpMate, it's unclear how many automated courier robots are being used in the nation's hospitals. There may be six dozen to about 120, according to experts and a small number of private U.S. companies making the robots. Full Story  AP/CNN_ 7/6/04

June, 2004
Fear of rejection keeps scientists wary of human-looking robots
Even if they could build a machine that closely resembled a human, many roboticists would balk. Why? Because they don’t want to stumble into the “Uncanny Valley." That’s a theory developed by a Japanese roboticist in the 1970s that deals with the psychological reactions humans might have to lifelike machines. If a robot looks like a human but doesn’t quite act like one, the theory goes, people will reject it. Simply put, in the Uncanny Valley, robots get creepy.  Full Story  Hartford Courant/Fort Wayne Journal Gazette_ 6/26/04

Air Force tests robot guard vehicles
The robots cost from $200,000 to $500,000. One is a Jeep-size, four-wheeled vehicle that has been equipped with radar, television cameras and an infrared scan to detect people, vehicles and other objects. It carries a breadbox-sized mini-robot that can be launched to search under vehicles, inside buildings and other small places. Another is fashioned from an off-the-shelf, four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle, giving it added versatility because a human also can ride it like a normal ATV. Both vehicles can be remotely operated from laptop computers and can be equipped with remotely fired weapons, like an M-16 rifle or pepper spray.  Full Story  AP/CNN_ 6/23/04

Five mechanical marvels inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame
The tin-filled hall of fame at Carnegie Mellon University will be graced with Honda's Asimo bot, Shakey the Robot, Astroboy, C3PO and Robby the Robot. They were hand-picked by a panel of robot-lovers, including sci-fi legend Arthur C Clarke, for their contribution to robot history. Last year, the Mars explorer Sojourner, the assembly line Unimate, Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey and R2-D2 from Star Wars were inducted.  Full Story  BBC News_ 6/20/04

NASA taps MD Robotics of Canada to work on a potential spaceflight mission to robotically service the Hubble Space Telescope

The firm has a long history with space robotics, perhaps best known for supplying the Canadarm, or Space Shuttle Remote Manipulator. MD Robotics is a wholly owned subsidiary of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) of Richmond, British Columbia. The company was formed in May 1999 following the acquisition of the robotics business from Spar Aerospace Limited. It is located in Brampton, Ontario Canada.  Full Story  Space.com_ 6/15/04

It's official: NASA seeks robots to fix Hubble telescope

NASA chief Sean O'Keefe called for proposals for a robotic repair mission to the orbiting telescope, about six months after deciding that no future shuttle astronaut missions will be sent to Hubble. Such a repair mission should be made no later than 2007, he said. Without such a mission, Hubble's capabilities are expected to erode in the next two or three years as its stability gyroscopes fail and its batteries fade, making targeted observation all but impossible. Full Story Reuters_ 6/1/04

May, 2004

Robots to the rescue. Um, make that MADMEN.
Team of engineers looks at a swarm of nuclear-powered robots to defend Earth from dangerous asteroids. The robots would drill into an asteroid and hurl chunks of it into space with enough force to gradually push it into a non-Earth impacting course. Researchers at Atlanta-based SpaceWorks Engineering, Inc. have completed a preliminary study into the robots, called Modular Asteroid Deflection Mission Ejector Node (MADMEN) spacecraft, under a grant awarded by the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) to come up with new techniques to defend the planet against pesky near-Earth objects (NEOs).  Full Story  Space.com_ 5/19/04

Underwater robots could be answer to terrorist threat to nation's water supplies

Technology pioneered at the University of Minnesota could cut the time it takes to test water samples, instead using robots to beam up a near-real-time environmental profile of lakes, reservoirs and rivers.  Full Story  AP/WALB.com_ 5/12/04

NASA weighs robotic mission to aid Hubble
Early this year NASA had all but written off the Hubble Space Telescope, but today a robotic mission to replace worn-out batteries and gyros, and even to install new instruments, suddenly seems so doable that the agency is likely to ask for proposals to do the job in early June.  Full Story  Washington Post 5/10/04

Microscopic walking robot made from DNA
The tiny walker is only 10 nanometres long and has been described as a major step forward in nanotechnology. A New York University team created the robot using DNA legs that move along a footpath, which is also based on DNA. The research has been published in the journal Nano Letters.  Full Story  BBC News_ 5/6/04

April, 2004

Robotic Traffic Cones Hit the Road
A University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor has developed robotic cones and barrels that can move out of the way, or into place, from computer commands made miles away.The robotic cones could help reduce hazardous jobs on the highway.  Full Story  MSNBC_4/30/04

Robotic X-45 aircraft built by Boeing makes successful unmanned bombing run
The robotic plane deliberately dropped a 250-pound Small Smart Bomb within inches of a truck at Edwards Air Force Base, marking another step forward for technology the U.S. military hopes will one day replace human pilots on dangerous combat missions.
  Full Story  AP/CNN_ 4/19/04

A 'perfect storm' brewing in robotics
Robotics experts see a “perfect storm” heading their way: cheaper parts and increased funding, thanks in no small part to the human ravages of war. The military desperately wants to reduce the number of soldiers killed by roadside bombs or surface-to-air missiles.  Full Story  AP/MSNBC_ 4/12/04

iRobot Corp. cheers loss of its military robot in Iraq combat
iRobot Corporation learned last week from the Pentagon that one of its units, called a PackBot, was "destroyed in action" for the first time. Its destruction meant the life of a U.S. soldier may well have been saved, the company said.  Full Story  Reuters_ 4/12/04

Saving Hubble: Robots to the rescue?
NASA is reviewing over two dozen proposals to extend the useful scientific life of the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as safely dispose of the Earth orbiting observatory at the end of its life in space. There is growing support for robotic servicing of the Hubble -- but whether or not augmenting the telescope with new astronomical gear utilizing robot hardware is possible remains debatable.  Full Story  Space.com_ 4/5/04

Japan sees high-tech toilets, robots in future home
Japanese corporations, from toilet maker Toto to electronics makers like Matsushita, are pouring millions into developing products for this home of the future where every appliance is connected to a network, accessible from anywhere at anytime.  Full Story  Reuters_  4/5/04

Brain could power artifical limbs
Tests on humans show a link between a pattern of brain signals and certain limb movements, a team at Duke University, North Carolina found. Patients would be able to control the movement of a robot arm or leg by thinking about it.  Full Story  BBC News_ 4/5/04

Robolympics draw thousands of entries

Home page 3/20/04

Robot clash reveals cultural divide
The competitions seemed to break down along cultural lines. The Japanese robots reigned supreme when it came to sumo-wrestling, while the European teams showed off their skills on the football pitch. As for the American machines, they specialised in demolishing the living hell out of each other in one-on-one robot combat.  Full story  BBC News  3/25/04

RobOlympics featured robot soccer, sumo wrestling, walking, talking and running
More than 400 robots built by engineers from 11 different countries participated. About 20 percent of the competitors are professional engineers.  Full story  AP/San Jose Mercury News 3/21/04

Robolympics: Thousands of intelligent, powerful robots battle to be the best
Events include robot combat, robot soccer, Japanese-style sumo wrestling, and a two-legged robot race. Full story BBC News 3/20/04

Disembodied robotic arm clambers round home
A prototype disembodied robotic arm designed to clamber around the home was unveiled in the UK on Thursday. The metre long arm, called Flexibot, is capable of docking to a wheelchair or a wall and can help disabled people feed themselves, brush their teeth or shave, and even help with putting on make-up, says its designer Mike Topping, of Staffordshire University's Centre for Rehabilitation Robotics. The 2.3 million Euro project is backed by the European Commission.  Full story   New Scientist.com 3/11/04

Robotic legs could produce an army of super troopers
Move over Bionic Man and make room for BLEEX -- the Berkeley Lower Extremities Exoskeleton, with strap-on robotic legs designed to turn an ordinary human into a super strider. More than 40 sensors and hydraulic mechanisms function like a human nervous system, constantly calculating how to distribute the weight being borne and create a minimal load for the wearer.  Full story  AP/San Francisco Chronicle 3/10/04

Toyota joins Japan's robot technology race
Japan's top carmaker Toyota unveiled a trumpet-playing robot — its first humanoid machine — in a bid to catch up with robot technology frontrunners such as Honda and Sony. The robot development race is highly competitive in Japan, the world's leader in the technology. In 2000, its rival Honda Motor Co. Ltd. unveiled ASIMO, the world's first two-legged walking robot, and Sony Corp. revealed its QRIO, the world's first jogging robot, in December.  Full story  AFP/Business Day


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