Why Boston Dynamics Is Putting Legged Robots in Hospitals

For the past eight months, Boston Dynamics has been trying to find ways in which their friendly yellow quadruped, Spot, can provide some kind of useful response to COVID-19. The company has been working with researchers from MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Massachusetts to use Spot as a telepresence-based extension for healthcare workers in suitable contexts, with the goal of minimizing exposure and preserving supplies of PPE. For triaging sick patients, it’s necessary to collect a variety of vital data, including body temperature, respiration rate, pulse rate, and oxygen saturation. Boston Dynamics has helped to develop “a set of contactless  monitoring systems for measuring vital signs and a tablet computer to enable face-to-face medical interviewing,” all of which fits neatly on Spot’s back. This system was recently tested in a medical tent for COVID-19 triage, which appeared to be a well constrained and very flat environment that left us Continue reading Why Boston Dynamics Is Putting Legged Robots in Hospitals

Can AI and Automation Deliver a COVID-19 Antiviral While It Still Matters?

Illustration: Marysia Machulska Within moments of meeting each other at a conference last year, Nathan Collins and Yann Gaston-Mathé began devising a plan to work together. Gaston-Mathé runs a startup that applies automated software to the design of new drug candidates. Collins leads a team that uses an automated chemistry platform to synthesize new drug candidates. “There was an obvious synergy between their technology and ours,” recalls Gaston-Mathé, CEO and cofounder of Paris-based Iktos. In late 2019, the pair launched a project to create a brand-new antiviral drug that would block a specific protein exploited by influenza viruses. Then the COVID-19 pandemic erupted across the world stage, and Gaston-Mathé and Collins learned that the viral culprit, SARS-CoV-2, relied on a protein that was 97 percent similar to their influenza protein. The partners pivoted. Their companies are just two of hundreds of biotech firms eager to overhaul the drug-discovery process, often Continue reading Can AI and Automation Deliver a COVID-19 Antiviral While It Still Matters?

iRobot Remembers That Robots Are Expensive, Gives Us a Break With More Affordable Roomba i3

iRobot has released several new robots over the last few years, including the i7 and s9 vacuums. Both of these models are very fancy and very capable, packed with innovative and useful features that we’ve been impressed by. They’re both also quite expensive—with dirt docks included, you’re looking at US $800 for the i7+, and a whopping $1,100 for the s9+. You can knock a couple hundred bucks off of those prices if you don’t want the docks, but still, these vacuums are absolutely luxury items. If you just want something that’ll do some vacuuming so that you don’t have to, iRobot has recently announced a new Roomba option. The Roomba i3 is iRobot’s new low to midrange vacuum, starting at $400. It’s not nearly as smart as the i7 or the s9, but it can navigate (sort of) and make maps (sort of) and do some basic smart home integration. Continue reading iRobot Remembers That Robots Are Expensive, Gives Us a Break With More Affordable Roomba i3

A computer predicts your thoughts, creating images based on them

Researchers have developed a technique in which a computer models visual perception by monitoring human brain signals. In a way, it is as if the computer tries to imagine what a human is thinking about. As a result of this imagining, the computer is able to produce entirely new information, such as fictional images that were never before seen. The technique is based on a novel brain-computer interface. More details

Video Friday: Bittle Is a Palm-Sized Robot Dog Now on Kickstarter

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!): ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan AUVSI EXPONENTIAL 2020 – October 5-8, 2020 – [Online] IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – [Online] CYBATHLON 2020 – November 13-14, 2020 – [Online] ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colo., USA Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos. Rongzhong Li, who is responsible for the adorable robotic cat Nybble, has an updated and even more adorable quadruped that’s more robust and agile but only costs around US $200 in kit form on Kickstarter. Looks like the early bird options are sold out, but a full kit is a $225 pledge, for delivery in December. [ Kickstarter ] Thanks Rz! Continue reading Video Friday: Bittle Is a Palm-Sized Robot Dog Now on Kickstarter

Helping robots avoid collisions

George Konidaris still remembers his disheartening introduction to robotics. “When you’re a young student and you want to program a robot, the first thing that hits you is this immense disappointment at how much you can’t do with that robot,” he says. Most new roboticists want to program their robots to solve interesting, complex tasks — but it turns out that just moving them through space without colliding with objects is more difficult than it sounds. Fortunately, Konidaris is hopeful that future roboticists will have a more exciting start in the field. That’s because roughly four years ago, he co-founded Realtime Robotics, a startup that’s solving the “motion planning problem” for robots. The company has invented a solution that gives robots the ability to quickly adjust their path to avoid objects as they move to a target. The Realtime controller is a box that can be connected to a variety Continue reading Helping robots avoid collisions