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Robot and robotics news and information - keep up with the latest engineering innovations.
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Robot and robotics news and information – keep up with the latest engineering breakthroughs

NASA to Launch GM Co-Developed Robot to International Space Station

photo of humanoid GM NASA roblot

NASA will launch the first human-like robot to space later this year to become a permanent resident of the International Space Station. Robonaut 2, or R2, was developed jointly by NASA and General Motors under a cooperative agreement to develop a robotic assistant that can work alongside humans, whether they be astronauts in space or workers at GM manufacturing plants on Earth.

The 300-pound R2 consists of a head and a torso with two arms and two hands and will launch on space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission planned for September. Once aboard the station, engineers will monitor how the robot operates in weightlessness. R2 joins another station robot, known as Dextre. That robot, built by the Canadian Space Agency, consists of two, long arms to perform tasks that normally require spacewalking astronauts to complete.

While Dextre is located on the station’s exterior, R2 will be confined to operations in the station’s Destiny laboratory. However, future enhancements could allow it to move more freely around the station’s interior, and it could one day be modified to operate outside the complex.

“The use of R2 on the space station is just the beginning of a quickening pace between human and robotic exploration of space,” said John Olson, director of NASA’s Exploration Systems Integration Office. “The partnership of humans and robots will be critical to opening up the solar system and will allow us to go farther and achieve more than we can probably even imagine today.”

The dexterous humanoid robot not only looks like a human, it is designed to work like one. With human-like hands and arms, R2 is able to use the same tools that station crew members use. In the future, the greatest benefit of humanoid robots in space may be as an assistant or stand-in for astronauts during spacewalks or for tasks too difficult or dangerous for humans. For now, R2 is still a prototype and lacks adequate protection needed to exist outside the space station in the extreme temperatures of space.

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Robot Built Largely From Old TV Parts

Unfortunately I can’t find any additional information – other than what is in the webcast. Sam Todo,
a student in Lome, Togo, Africa, built this robot almost entirely from old TV parts.

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Autonomous Underwater Robot Decides on Experiment Options

Ocean robot plans experiments

the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) used a piece of software called “T rex”, which operates in a similar way to the software used to control Nasa’s Mars Exploration Rovers – helping them to avoid obstacles on the surface of the Red Planet.

One main difference between the two pieces of software is that for the Mars rovers, the software ran in the control centre on Earth. With this marine vehicle, it runs onboard the robotic vehicle.

“We tell it, ‘here’s the range of tasks that we want you to perform’, and it goes off and assesses what is happening in the ocean, making decisions about how much of the range it will cover to get back the data we want.”

Researchers at MBARI used the Gulper AUV to monitor potentially harmful algal blooms.

Kim Fulton-Bennett from MBARI explained: “We used to send out a ship for a full day every few weeks to manually take these measurements. Now we just take the AUV outside the harbour and send it on its way.

“About 24 hours later, it comes back, we hoist it on board, and download the data.”

Related: Underwater robots work together without human inputUnmanned Water VehiclesUS Navy Sponsored Technology Summer Camp

Robot Playing Table Tennis

This video shows the robot has a ways to go to become a decent ping pong opponent. But progress is being made. How soon before I can have fun competing with some robot basketball players?

TOPIO can play table tennis with human beings. It has a head, two hands and six legs. It can hit the ball, calculate scores and express feelings upon losing or winning a game. Four high-speed cameras help TOPIO identify the trajectory of the ball and accurately return shots. TOPIO knows how to hit an incoming ping pong ball when it has traveled only 20 cm from the opponents paddle.

The made-in-Vietnam robot TOPIO captured special attention at the International Robot Exhibition (IREX) held in Tokyo in late 2007.

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President Obama Speaks on Getting Students Excited About Science and Engineering

The President announces the “Educate to Innovate” initiative, a campaign to get students excited about pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Quotes from President Obama from his speech – (see webcast above):

“As President, I believe that robotics can inspire young people to pursue science and engineering.”

“Now the hard truth is that for decades we’ve been losing ground. One assessment shows American 15-year-olds now rank 21st in science and 25th in math when compared to their peers around the world.”

“And today, I’m announcing that we’re going to have an annual science fair at the White House with the winners of national competitions in science and technology. If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you’re a young person and you’ve produced the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too. Scientists and engineers ought to stand side by side with athletes and entertainers as role models, and here at the White House we’re going to lead by example. We’re going to show young people how cool science can be.”

“improving education in math and science is about producing engineers and researchers and scientists and innovators who are going to help transform our economy and our lives for the better.”

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Soft Morphing Robot Future

This webcast shows iRobot’s (Romba maker) prototypes for soft flexible robots. The robot uses “jamming” to morph the body which allows animal like locomotion and the ability to reshape the body to squeeze through small and difficult to navigate locations.

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Lego Mindstorms Robots Solving: Sudoku and Rubik’s Cube

LEGO Mindstorms Rubik’s Cube Solver

Tilted Twister solves Rubik’s cube fully automatically.
Just place the scrambled cube on Tilted Twister’s turntable. An ultrasonic sensor detects its presence and starts to read the colors of the cube faces using a light sensor. The robot turns and tilts the cube in order to read all the faces. It then calculates a solution and executes the moves by turning, tilting and twisting the cube.

The challenge was to build the robot using only the Lego Mindstorms NXT Retail-kit. And to make it completely independent, without need of being connected to a PC.
The Lego Mindstorms NXT Retail-kit contains three servo motors and four sensors (touch, light, ultrasonic and sound). How should I build the robot using only these items?
After a lot of experimenting I came up with a solution – If I tilted the whole robot, it would be possible for it to tilt the cube using only one motor, leaving the other two motors for turning the cube and for positioning the light sensor. Thus Tilted Twister.

Scanning the cube: 1 minute
Calculating a solution: 20 – 40 seconds
Executing the moves: 1 – 5 minutes. Average 4.5 minutes (60 faceturns)
Average total time: 6 minutes

Very cool. Related book: Building Robots With Lego Mindstorms

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Young Engineers Take LEGO ‘Bots For a Swim

Young Engineers Take LEGO ‘Bots For a Swim

The Stevens Institute of Technology hosts this competition annually on its campus here, gathering students earlier this month from more than 40 middle and high schools to pit their designs against one another in kiddie pools on the banks of the Hudson River. In dozens of such competitions around the world, young people build, program and drive vehicles made of Legos and other more rugged materials. These events are a bid to interest a new generation in careers in engineering and robotics, and they are becoming more sophisticated.

Upping the ante this year, Build IT introduced Lego’s NXT programmable control box. At least one student on each team learned to program the NXT. The programmer determined which of the vehicle’s propellers would spin and in which direction when the driver moved the levers.

Holding up the device, Abigail Symons from Lincoln Park Middle School demonstrated her work. “Those are the controls and those are the touch sensors and this is a rotation sensor,” she said. She had never used such technology before she joined the team.

“I thought I was going to be bad at it because I wasn’t sure if the right motor would go with the right propeller, but in the end I got it so, it was good,” she said.

The Build IT program is funded by a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation with further funding by the Motorola Foundation. It is one facet in the NSF’s scheme to entice students into future careers in engineering and other sciences.

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Moth Controlled Robot

photo of moth controlled robotPhoto of moth controlled robot from Ryohei Kanzaki’s bio-machine page. The moth is on top of the ping pong ball in the middle of the robot.

Japanese scientists to build robot insects

Ryohei Kanzaki, a professor at Tokyo University’s Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology, has studied insect brains for three decades and become a pioneer in the field of insect-machine hybrids.

His original and ultimate goal is to understand human brains and restore connections damaged by diseases and accidents – but to get there he has taken a very close look at insect “micro-brains”.

Insects’ tiny brains can control complex aerobatics such as catching another bug while flying, proof that they are “an excellent bundle of software” finely honed by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, Prof Kanzaki said.

In an example of ‘rewriting’ insect brain circuits, Prof Kanzaki’s team has succeeded in genetically modifying a male silkmoth so that it reacts to light instead of smell, or to the odour of a different kind of moth.

Such modifications could pave the way to creating a robo-bug which could in future sense illegal drugs several kilometres away, as well as landmines, people buried under rubble, or toxic gas, the professor said.

It is nice to be reminded of the cool research being done by professors all over the globe.

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Botball 2009 Finals

Webcast of the double elimination rounds of the Botball 2009 competition of the winning Alcott Middle School Botball team. Norman teens win robotics contest:

The challenge of building the robot and seeing it do what it’s programmed to do is very exciting, said Goree, 14. “I like figuring out what’s wrong with the robots, fixing them and then seeing them work after you fix them,” he said.

The team was shocked, excited and proud of their first-place finish, they said. “Almost all the teams we played against were high school teams, so that was pretty exciting for us, beating high schoolers,” Goree said.

Related: Robo-One Grand Championship in TokyoFIRST Robotics in MinnesotaRoboCup: Robot Football (Soccer)

Robert Brooks on Robots

Rodney Brooks on advancing the use of robots in the world (speech from the Makir Fair).

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