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

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

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

GITAI Sending Autonomous Robot to Space Station

We’ve been keeping a close watch on GITAI since early last year—what caught our interest initially is the history of the company, which includes a bunch of folks who started in the JSK Lab at the University of Tokyo, won the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials as SCHAFT, got swallowed by Google, narrowly avoided being swallowed by SoftBank, and are now designing robots that can work in space. The GITAI YouTube channel has kept us more to less up to date on their progress so far, and GITAI has recently announced the next step in this effort: The deployment of one of their robots on board the International Space Station in 2021.

Zipline Partners With Walmart on Commercial Drone Delivery

Today, Walmart and Zipline are announcing preliminary plans “to bring first-of-its kind drone delivery service to the United States.” What makes this drone-delivery service the first of its kind is that Zipline uses fixed-wing drones rather than rotorcraft, giving them a relatively large payload capacity and very long range at the cost of a significantly more complicated launch, landing, and delivery process. Zipline has made this work very well in Rwanda, and more recently in North Carolina. But expanding into commercial delivery to individual households is a much different challenge.  Along with a press release that doesn’t say much, Walmart and Zipline have released a short video of how they see the delivery operation happening, and it’s a little bit more, uh, optimistic than we’re entirely comfortable with.

Video Friday: Drone Helps Explore World’s Deepest Ice Caves

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 Conference] IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nev., USA CYBATHLON 2020 – November 13-14, 2020 – [Online Event] ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colo., USA Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

Video Friday: Even Robots Know That You Need a Mask

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!): CLAWAR 2020 – August 24-26, 2020 – [Online Conference] Other Than Human – September 3-10, 2020 – Stockholm, Sweden ICRES 2020 – September 28-29, 2020 – Taipei, Taiwan AUVSI EXPONENTIAL 2020 – October 5-8, 2020 – [Online Conference] IROS 2020 – October 25-29, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nev., USA CYBATHLON 2020 – November 13-14, 2020 – [Online Event] ICSR 2020 – November 14-16, 2020 – Golden, Colo., USA Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

These Underwater Drones Use Water Temperature Differences To Recharge

Yi Chao likes to describe himself as an “armchair oceanographer” because he got incredibly seasick the one time he spent a week aboard a ship. So it’s maybe not surprising that the former NASA scientist has a vision for promoting remote study of the ocean on a grand scale by enabling underwater drones to recharge on the go using his company’s energy-harvesting technology. Many of the robotic gliders and floating sensor stations currently monitoring the world’s oceans are effectively treated as disposable devices because the research community has a limited number of both ships and funding to retrieve drones after they’ve accomplished their mission of beaming data back home. That’s not only a waste of money, but may also contribute to a growing assortment of abandoned lithium-ion batteries polluting the ocean with their leaking toxic materials—a decidedly unsustainable approach to studying the secrets of the underwater world. “Our goal is to deploy our energy harvesting system to use renewable energy Continue reading These Underwater Drones Use Water Temperature Differences To Recharge

Amaran the Tree-Climbing Robot Can Safely Harvest Coconuts

Coconuts may be delicious and useful for producing a wide range of products, but harvesting them is no easy task. Specially trained harvesters must risk their lives by climbing trees roughly 15 meters high to hack off just one bunch of coconuts. A group of researchers in India has designed a robot, named Amaran, that could reduce the need for human harvesters to take such a risk. But is the robot up to the task? The researchers describe the tree-climbing robot in a paper published in the latest issue of IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics. Along with lab tests, they compared Amaran’s ability to harvest coconuts to that of a 50-year-old veteran harvester. Whereas the man bested the robot in terms of overall speed, the robot excelled in endurance. To climb, Amaran relies on a ring-shaped body that clasps around trees of varying diameter. The robot carries a control module, motor drivers, a power management unit, and a Continue reading Amaran the Tree-Climbing Robot Can Safely Harvest Coconuts

Autonomous Robots Could Mine the Deep Seafloor

A battle is brewing over the fate of the deep ocean. Huge swaths of seafloor are rich in metals—nickel, copper, cobalt, zinc—that are key to making electric vehicle batteries, solar panels, and smartphones. Mining companies have proposed scraping and vacuuming the dark expanse to provide supplies for metal-intensive technologies. Marine scientists and environmentalists oppose such plans, warning of huge and potentially permanent damage to fragile ecosystems. Pietro Filardo is among the technology developers who are working to find common ground. Image: Pliant Energy Systems His company, Pliant Energy Systems, has built what looks like a black mechanical stingray. Its soft, rippling fins use hyperbolic geometry to move in a traveling wave pattern, propelling the skateboard-sized device through water. From an airy waterfront lab in Brooklyn, New York, Filardo’s team is developing tools and algorithms to transform the robot into an autonomous device equipped with grippers. Their goal is to pluck polymetallic nodules—potato-sized Continue reading Autonomous Robots Could Mine the Deep Seafloor