Tag Archive: Robot


Bio-scaffolds go electric <i>(Image: Charles M. Lieber and Daniel S. Kohane)</i>

They beat like real heart cells, but the rat cardiomyocytes in a dish at Harvard University are different in one crucial way. Snaking through them are wires and transistors that spy on each cell’s electrical impulses. In future, the wires might control their behaviour too.

Versions of this souped-up, “cyborg” tissue have been created for neurons, muscle and blood vessels. They could be used to test drugs or as the basis for biological versions of existing implants such as pacemakers. If signals can also be sent to the cells, cyborg tissue could be used in prosthetics or to create tiny robots.

“It allows one to effectively blur the boundary between electronic, inorganic systems and organic, biological ones,” says Charles Lieber, who leads the team behind the cyborg tissue.

Artificial tissue can already be grown on three-dimensional scaffolds made of biological materials that are not electrically active. And electrical components have been added to cultured tissue before, but not integrated into its structure, so they were only able to glean information from the surface.

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Nico looking in a mirror

A robot named Nico could soon pass a landmark test – recognising itself in a mirror.

Such self-awareness would represent a step towards the ultimate goal of thinking robots.

Nico, developed by computer scientists at Yale University, will take the test in the coming months.

The ultimate aim is for Nico to use a mirror to interpret objects around it, in the same way as humans use a rear-view mirror to look for cars.

“It is a spatial reasoning task for the robot to understand that its arm is on it not on the other side of the mirror,” Justin Hart, the PhD student leading the research told BBC News.

So far the robot has been programmed to recognise a reflection of its arm, but ultimately Mr Hart wants it to pass the “full mirror test”.

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University of Florida researchers have moved a step closer to treating diseases on a cellular level by creating a tiny particle that can be programmed to shut down the genetic production line that cranks out disease-related proteins. In laboratory tests, these newly created “nanorobots” all but eradicated hepatitis C virus infection. The programmable nature of the particle makes it potentially useful against diseases such as cancer and other viral infections. The research effort, led by Y. Charles Cao, a UF associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. Chen Liu, a professor of pathology and endowed chair in gastrointestinal and liver research in the UF College of Medicine, is described online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “This is a novel technology that may have broad application because it can target essentially any gene we want,” Liu said. “This opens the door to new fields so we can test many other things. We’re excited about it.”

During the past five decades, nanoparticles — particles so small that tens of thousands of them can fit on the head of a pin — have emerged as a viable foundation for new ways to diagnose, monitor and treat disease. Nanoparticle-based technologies are already in use in medical settings, such as in genetic testing and for pinpointing genetic markers of disease. And several related therapies are at varying stages of clinical trial. The Holy Grail of nanotherapy is an agent so exquisitely selective that it enters only diseased cells, targets only the specified disease process within those cells and leaves healthy cells unharmed.

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The art of humorous storytelling in Japan, known as rakugo, isn’t as popular as it once was. But now an android has joined the ranks of comics who kneel on cushions while spinning out jokes. The narrative droid is a copy of Beicho Katsura III, an 86-year-old rakugo comic recognized by the government as a Living National Treasure. The Beicho Android, as it’s known, is the work of Osaka University professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, creator of the Geminoid series of lifelike androids, and makeup artist Shinya Endo. Powered by air servos, the droid has all the idiosyncratic moves of Beicho performing rakugo, an art in which performers wear kimono and use only a kerchief and hand fan as props.

As seen in the vid below, it waves its arms, bows its head, and speaks in a gravelly voice like the master while narrating tales. Its mouth isn’t all that expressive but from far away, it’s hard to notice. The robot cracked up a few journalists at a press conference. It took two months to build and cost some $1 million, according to Sankei News. It was unveiled as part of an exhibition that combines a retrospective on Beicho’s career with exhibits on cutting edge tech in Osaka. It’s on from August 1 to 9 at Sankei Hall Breeze, where the droid is slated to do hourly impersonations of the elderly artist.

Hot Glue Gun Bot The Hot Melt Adhesive robot can do more than climb walls, as seen here — it can fashion its own tools, too. ETH Zurich

Most robots are designed to do a couple specific things, which is one reason why the adaptability requirements in DARPA’s robotics challenge will be so interesting. But not everyone has the funds or know-how to build a robot that can do anything. Instead, the robotics whiz teams at ETH Zurich are giving robots the ability to build any new tool for itself, whenever the need might arise. It just comes with a hot glue gun, which the robot uses like a low-tech 3-D printer.

Other robots have used hot glue guns before, primarily to climb up walls — Israeli researchersand the ETH researchers themselves are among those who’ve built such surface-scaling bots. But if you’ve ever played with a hot glue gun, you know the tool can be used to do much more than form an adhesive — you could make any shape you want and simply let it cool, hardening into an milky-looking object of your design. That’s what this new robot does.

It uses hot glue to form a base and sides of a cup one layer at a time, much like a 3-D printer would sinter materials one layer at a time. The robot also builds a handle and attaches it to the cup so it can tote the water vessel between two separate containers. It takes about an hour. All the tasks were performed autonomously, reports IEEE Spectrum, which spotted the bot at the ICRA conference over the weekend. But the cup design was pre-programmed.

Ideally, future versions of this robot would be able to figure out exactly what type of tool is needed for a given task, and be able to design and build said tool. It certainly works more slowly than a 3-D printer, but it’s much simpler, too. Watch in the video below.

Will this be the future of luxury bachelor and bachelorette parties? Maybe it’s something you could get your grandkids. By 2050, bordellos will offer for-hire sex robots for disease- and guilt-free pleasure, according to a new scientific paper.

The research, published in the May issue of the journal Futures, sits incongruously among more staid titles about new spatial planning methods and urban sprawl. The paper is meant to be a “futuristic scenario” that “pushes plausibility to the limit,” write its authors, Michelle Mars and tourism professor Ian Yeoman, both of the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

Nevertheless, they said, “It is feasible. Society has had relationships with machines and we continue to have increasingly intimate relationships with more and more sophisticated technologies.” And for the sex tourism industry, it’s something to look forward to, they said. Commercial sex robots would be free of disease and would reduce the trafficking of real people for sex work, they write.

To explore their ideas, Yeoman and Mars envisioned Amsterdam’s sex tourism industry in 2050. They imagined “Yub-Yum,” a sex club for business travelers, which would sell “all-inclusive service” — including massages, lap dances and intercourse — for 10,000 Euros, or about $13,000.

Rises in human trafficking and in drug-resistant strains of HIV, which Yeoman and Mars predict will occur in the 2040s, motivated Amsterdam officials to license robotic bordellos. In spite of serious problems with human brothels, city tourism council members didn’t want to shut down brothels altogether because they worried such a crackdown might drive away tourists. Robots were the answer.

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Imagine robots that can do everything you can do — and probably do it even better.

Brace yourself, because that era might be here sooner than you think: The Pentagon agency behind some of the most important robotics research will soon challenge experts worldwide to come up with humanoid robots that can navigate their environment and handle tools with near-Homo sapiens skill.

Within the next few weeks, Darpa, the Pentagon’s far-out research arm, is expected to launch its contest, which will likely ask roboteers to build a bipedal robot that can do things like drive cars, open doors, traverse rough terrain and show off its fine motor skills, perhaps by repairing busted pipes.

Word of Darpa’s plans was initially leaked to Hizook.com, a website that covers robotics. The site later confirmed details of the agency’s endeavor with Kent Massey, the director of advanced programs at HDT Robotics. Massey attended a recent speech by Darpa program director Dr. Gill Pratt, who outlined the new challenge. Danger Room confirmed Massey’s account with other attendees.

“The goal of this Grand Challenge is to create a humanoid robot that can operate in an environment built for people and use tools made for people,” Massey told Hizook.com in an e-mail. “The specific challenge is built around an industrial disaster response.”

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Fortune Telling is a cultural phenomenon at all levels in the Indian society. Various types of fortune telling are popular with the urban and even the highly educated, and over the years it has taken a number of different forms – horoscopes, palm reading, parrots, tarot cards and recently robots.

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fortune-telling-robots-1

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Robot recognizes self in mirror

A robot that looks like a little green Martian in a snowsuit has learned to recognize itself in the mirror — and is pleased with what it sees.

Mirror-self recognition is a hallmark of intelligence in animals, something found in primates, dolphins and elephants, for example, but not dogs.

On the robot’s blog, the Thecorpora engineers said they wondered what would happen if Qbo sees itself in the mirror, noting that the robot is programmed with face and object recognition capabilities.

As seen in the video, Qbo is trained to recognize itself and, when it does, give the programmed response: “Oh, this is me. Nice.”

“This quite simple experiment touches interesting psychological aspects of self-consciousness,” the blog reads.

The researchers are working on programming the robot so it can recognize itself autonomously when found in front of the mirror, one step closer to true self awareness.

Interestingly, the robot wasn’t made to scare anyone, or even to go into battle. It was designed to mimic the way human soldiers move so as to test army clothes for use in hazardous environments, i.e. chemical warfare. In addition tomoving like a human being, it also simulates breathing and sweats when made to do a lot of work, like running and doing pushups. Because of its purpose, the engineers at Boston Dynamics haven’t yet completed a neck and head, which means PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin) has nothing on his shoulders but a blinking red light. And speaking of lights. He, or it, also has an eerie blue glow going on behind his chest plate. Not sure why, but it absolutely adds to the scariness of the big guy.

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We’re used to tapping away at flat, glass-covered touchscreen devices like smartphones and tablets. A group of Stanford researchers have taken that capacitive touch concept and applied it to a completely new form factor, which could have wide-ranging applications in consumer technology, robotics and beyond.

The team created a transparent, super-stretchy sensor that can be used repeatedly without getting deformed, snapping back into shape after each use. The team hopes that their sensor could be used in medical applications like pressure-sensitive bandages, or even as an outer, skin-like layer to create touch-sensitive limbs or robots. Of course, it could also be used on touchscreen devices and computers.

Through spraying carbon nanotubes onto a layer of silicon and then stretching out the substance a few times, the nanotubes are essentially organized into “springs.” The “springs” can stretch in any direction, and be used to measure the force exerted upon itself over and over again without getting stretched out of shape.

The capacitive touch sensor works like this: There are two conductive parallel plates. When one or both are pressed, the distance between them gets smaller, increasing the capacitance of the sensor. That increase can be quantified and measured. In this case, the two conductive parallel plates facing one another are composed of nanotube coated-silicon, with a middle layer of silicon that stores charge.

The stretchy sensor can detect a wide array of touches, according to Darren Lipomi, a postdoctoral researcher on the team. That means from something as light as a “firm pinch between your thumb and forefinger” to double the pressure of a stamp of an elephant’s meaty foot.

So far the sensor isn’t as sensitive as previous projects the Stanford team has worked on (one of which was so responsive that the pressure exerted from a 20 milligram bluebottle fly carcass was well above what it could detect). However, the researchers can eventually use those previous techniques to calibrate this stretchy capacitive sensor. “We just need to make some modifications to the surface of the electrode so that we can have that same sensitivity,” said Zhenan Bao, associate professor of chemical engineering at Stanford.

Check out the video below to see researchers manipulating, testing and talking about their stretchy, skin-like capacitive sensor.

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