July 31, 2019

Surprisingly Speedy Soft Robot Survives Being Stepped On

It’s small, it’s quick, and it’s more robust than a cockroach Soft robots are getting more and more popular for some very good reasons. Their relative simplicity is one. Their relative low cost is another. And for their simplicity and low cost, they’re generally able to perform very impressively, leveraging the unique features inherent to their design and construction to move themselves and interact with their environment. The other significant reason why soft robots are so appealing is that they’re […]
July 25, 2019

Meet Aquanaut, the Underwater Transformer

Houston Mechatronics built a robot sub that transforms into a skilled humanoid   Photo: Ken Kiefer Into the Blue: The robot Aquanaut floats underwater during a test at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. Just a short distance away from me, two astronauts are practicing for a spacewalk. I’m drifting weightlessly, in a silence broken only by my own breathing and the occasional update from Mission Control in my headset. But this isn’t the dark void of space. I’m in Houston, scuba […]
July 17, 2019

Swarm Robots Mimic Ant Jaws to Flip and Jump

Trap-jaw ants inspired these small, autonomous swarm robots Small robots are appealing because they’re simple, cheap, and it’s easy to make a lot of them. Unfortunately, being simple and cheap means that each robot individually can’t do a whole lot. To make up for this, you can do what insects do—leverage that simplicity and low-cost to just make a huge swarm of simple robots, and together, they can cooperate to carry out relatively complex tasks. Using insects as an example does […]
July 15, 2019

Intel’s Neuromorphic System Hits 8 Million Neurons, 100 Million Coming by 2020

Researchers can use the 64-chip Pohoiki Beach system to make systems that learn and see the world more like humans At the DARPA Electronics Resurgence Initiative Summit today in Detroit, Intel plans to unveil an 8-million-neuron neuromorphic system comprising 64 Loihi research chips—codenamed Pohoiki Beach. Loihi chips are built with an architecture that more closely matches the way the brain works than do chips designed to do deep learning or other forms of AI. For the set of problems that such […]
July 9, 2019

Robots Have a Hard Time Grasping These "Adversarial Objects"

To make robot grasping more robust, researchers are designing objects that are as difficult as possible for robots to manipulate There’s been a bunch of research recently into adversarial images, which are images of things that have been modified to be particularly difficult for computer vision algorithms to accurately identify. The idea is that these kinds of images can be used to help design more robust computer vision algorithms, because their “adversarial” nature is sort of a deliberate worst-case scenario—if […]
July 9, 2019

Squeezing Rocket Fuel From Moon Rocks

Here’s how lunar explorers will mine the regolith to make rocket fuel @media screen and (max-width:767px){ .carousel-inner{ height:464px !important; } } Illustration: John MacNeill The most valuable natural resource on the moon may be water. In addition to sustaining lunar colonists, it could also be broken down into its constituent elements—hydrogen and oxygen—and used to make rocket propellant. Although the ancients called the dark areas on the moon maria (Latin for “seas”), it has long been clear that liquid water […]
July 3, 2019

Combating the Opioid Crisis, One Flush at a Time

Startup Biobot Analytics monitors wastewater to identify at-risk neighborhoods .entry-content .tisubhead { color: #999999; font-family: verdana; font-size: 14px; font-weight: bold; letter-spacing: 1px; margin-bottom: -5px !important; text-transform: uppercase; } .tiopener { color: #0f4994; font-family: theinhardt; letter-spacing: 1px; margin-right: 15px; font-weight: bold; text-transform: uppercase; } Photo: Biobot Analytics A Biobot employee works with city workers to inspect a manhole prior to deployment. THE INSTITUTEMost people don’t spend time thinking about what’s in the waste they flush down the toilet. But health officials […]
July 3, 2019

This Is the Most Powerful Robot Arm Ever Installed on a Mars Rover

How NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory designed the robot arm for the Mars 2020 rover Last month, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrapped up the installation of the Mars 2020 rover’s 2.1-meter-long robot arm. This is the most powerful arm ever installed on a Mars rover. Even though the Mars 2020 rover shares much of its design with Curiosity, the new arm was redesigned to be able to do much more complex science, drilling into rocks to collect samples that […]
June 27, 2019

Robot Squid and Robot Scallop Showcase Bio-inspired Underwater Propulsion

Animals have lots of creative ways of moving through the water, and robots are stealing them Most underwater robots use one of two ways of getting around. Way one is with propellers, and way two is with fins. But animals have shown us that there are many more kinds of underwater locomotion, potentially offering unique benefits to robots. We’ll take a look at two papers from ICRA this year that showed bioinspired underwater robots moving in creative new ways: A […]
June 27, 2019

DARPA’S $1.5-Billion Remake of U.S. Electronics: Progress Report

Agency is adding security and AI design to a mix meant to boost U.S. industry About a year ago, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency pulled back the covers on its five-year, $1.5-billion scheme to remake the U.S. electronics industry. The Electronics Resurgence Initiative included efforts in “aggressive specialization” for chip architectures, systems that are smart enough to reconfigure themselves for whatever data you throw at them, open-source hardware, 24-hour push-button system design, and carbon-nanotube-enabled 3D chip manufacturing, among other […]