Quadrotor Safety System Stops Propellers Before You Lose a Finger

With spinning hoops to detect obstacles combined with electromagnetic braking, this quadrotor safety system is both effective and cheap Photo: Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum Quadrotors have a reputation for being both fun and expensive, but it’s not usually obvious how dangerous they can be. While it’s pretty clear from the get-go that it’s in everyone’s best interest to avoid the spinny bits whenever possible, quadrotor safety primarily involves doing little more than trying your level best not to run into people. Not running into people with your drone is generally good advice, but the problems tend to happen when for whatever reason the drone escapes from your control. Maybe it’s your fault, maybe it’s the drone’s fault, but either way, those spinny bits can cause serious damage. Safety-conscious quadrotor pilots have few options for making their drones safer, and none of them are all that great, due either to mediocre effectiveness Continue reading Quadrotor Safety System Stops Propellers Before You Lose a Finger

Stickman Explores the Physics of Flying Through the Air

Disney Research is teaching this skinny robot how to perform a variety of somersaulting stunts Image: Disney Research This is a guest post. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles has a signature move that is named after her because she is the only woman on earth capable of performing it. The move starts as a layout double flip, but more than halfway through suddenly develops a twist that rotates her body through an extra 180 degrees to land face first. The only visible source of this sudden change in rotation is a small motion of one hand as her arm goes from straight to bent. It’s a beautiful example of how the seemingly simple physics of ballistic motion, completely governed by a relatively simple conservation of angular momentum, can produce amazing Continue reading Stickman Explores the Physics of Flying Through the Air

Why a Robot Can’t Yet Outjump a Flea

When it comes to things that are ultrafast and lightweight, robots can’t hold a candle to the fastest-jumping insects and other small-but-powerful creatures. A tiny robot designed by Associate Professor Sarah Bergbreiter of the A. James Clark School of Engineering. When it comes to things that are ultrafast and lightweight, robots can’t hold a candle to the fastest-jumping insects and other small-but-powerful creatures. New research published in the journal Science could help explain why nature still beats robots—and describes how machines might take the lead. The multi-institutional team of authors includes Associate Professor Sarah Bergbreiter, who studies microrobotics at the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. Take the smashing mantis shrimp, a small crustacean not much bigger than a thumb. Its hammer-like mouthparts can repeatedly deliver 69-mile-per-hour wallops more than 100 times faster than the blink of an eye to break open hard snail shells. Or the Continue reading Why a Robot Can’t Yet Outjump a Flea

Video Friday: Andy Rubin on Robotics, Dynamic Exoskeleton, and Two Robot Heads

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos Image: Flash Robotics via YouTube 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!): ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia Dynamic Walking Conference – May 21-24, 2018 – Pensacola, Fla., USA RoboCup 2018 – June 18-22, 2018 – Montreal, Canada RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii MARSS 2018 – July 4-8, 2018 – Nagoya, Japan AIM 2018 – July 9-12, 2018 – Auckland, New Zealand ICARM 2018 – July 18-20, 2018 – Singapore ICMA 2018 – August 5-8, 2018 – Changchun, China SSRR 2018 – August 6-8, 2018 – Philadelphia, Pa., USA Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos. Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert returns to TechCrunch Sessions Robotics and Continue reading Video Friday: Andy Rubin on Robotics, Dynamic Exoskeleton, and Two Robot Heads

Feel What This Robot Feels Through Tactile Expressions

Inflatable spikes and goosebumps help this robot communicate Photo: Cornell We humans think we’re pretty clever with all of the different ways that we have of communicating with each other. We vocalize, we have expressive faces, we gesture. It seems like plenty of modes of communication, but we’re missing out on a few that are routine for animals, including texture: Animals can express emotional states through skin changes, like when cats cause their hair to stand up, or when a blowfish inflates itself and gets all pokey. We can’t make textural expressions like these (although it does sometimes happen to us involuntarily), but we can often do a reasonable job of interpreting them when we see them: Anything that grows spikes, for example, probably prefers not to be touched. Guy Hoffman’s Human-Robot Collaboration & Companionship (HRC2) Lab at Cornell University is working on a new robot that’s designed to investigate this Continue reading Feel What This Robot Feels Through Tactile Expressions

Laser-Powered Robot Insect Achieves Lift Off

Everything is better with lasers, especially tiny robot insects Photo: University of Washington For robots of all sizes, power is a fundamental problem. Any robot that moves is constrained in one way or another by power supply, whether it’s relying on carrying around heavy batteries, combustion engines, fuel cells, or anything else. It’s particularly tricky to manage power as your robot gets smaller, since it’s much more straightforward to scale these things up rather than down—and for really tiny robots (with masses in the hundreds of milligrams range), especially those that demand a lot of power, there really isn’t a good solution. In practice, this means that on the scale of small insects robots often depend on tethers for power, which isn’t ideal for making them practical in the long term. At the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Brisbane, Australia, next week, roboticists from the University of Washington, in Seattle, Continue reading Laser-Powered Robot Insect Achieves Lift Off

Video Friday: Atlas Jogging, Drive.ai Launch, and Robotic Warehouse

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos Image: Boston Dynamics via YouTube 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!): NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 14-18, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia Dynamic Walking Conference – May 21-24, 2018 – Pensacola, Fla., USA RoboCup 2018 – June 18-22, 2018 – Montreal, Canada RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii MARSS 2018 – July 4-8, 2018 – Nagoya, Japan AIM 2018 – July 9-12, 2018 – Auckland, New Zealand ICARM 2018 – July 18-20, 2018 – Singapore ICMA 2018 – August 5-8, 2018 – Changchun, China SSRR 2018 – August 6-8, 2018 – Philadelphia, Pa., USA Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, Continue reading Video Friday: Atlas Jogging, Drive.ai Launch, and Robotic Warehouse

Intel Starts R&D Effort in Probabilistic Computing for AI

Seeks ways to help self-driving cars and autonomous robots deal with the uncertainty of the real world Photo: iStockphoto Intel announced today that it is forming a strategic research alliance to take artificial intelligence to the next level. Autonomous systems don’t have good enough ways to respond to the uncertainties of the real world, and they don’t have a good enough way to understand how the uncertainties of their sensors should factor into the decisions they need to make. According to Intel CTO Mike Mayberry the answer is “probabilistic computing”, which he says could be AI’s next wave. IEEE Spectrum: What motivated this new research thrust? Mike Mayberry: We’re trying to figure out what the next wave of AI is. The original wave of AI is based on logic and it’s based on writing down rules; it’s closest to what you’d call classical reasoning. The current wave of AI is Continue reading Intel Starts R&D Effort in Probabilistic Computing for AI

DARPA’s Semi-Disposable Gremlin Drones Will Fly by 2019

Dynetics gets funding from DARPA to launch and recover multiple reusable drones from a C-130 Image: DyneticsThis artist’s rendering shows how Dynetics plans to release and catch a swarm of Gremlin drones. We first reported on Gremlins back in 2015, as one of those “DARPA wants” projects that seems like it might be a bit far-fetched—in this case, DARPA wanted swarms of nearly disposable UAVs that could launch and be retrieved from flying aircraft carrier motherships in mid-air. Over the last few years, we’ve seen some progress towards disposable drones, but the tricky part was always going to be the mid-air retrieval. We speculated a bit in our original post about how it might be done, but we didn’t get it quite right, which we know because DARPA has given a company called Dynetics a US $38.6 million contract to make Gremlins real. The picture at the top of this Continue reading DARPA’s Semi-Disposable Gremlin Drones Will Fly by 2019

Video Friday: Security Robot as a Service, Robotic Mining, and Saved by a Drone

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos Photo: Mike Collett/Promus Ventures 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!): Applied Collegiate Exoskeleton Competition – May 05, 2018 – University of Michigan, USA NASA Robotic Mining Competition – May 14-18, 2018 – Kennedy Space Center, Fla., USA ICRA 2018 – May 21-25, 2018 – Brisbane, Australia Dynamic Walking Conference – May 21-24, 2018 – Pensacola, Fl., USA RoboCup 2018 – June 18-22, 2018 – Montreal, Canada RSS 2018 – June 26-30, 2018 – Pittsburgh, Pa., USA Ubiquitous Robots 2018 – June 27-30, 2018 – Honolulu, Hawaii MARSS 2018 – July 4-8, 2018 – Nagoya, Japan AIM 2018 – July 9-12, 2018 – Auckland, New Zealand ICARM 2018 – July 18-20, 2018 – Singapore Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos. Nothing Continue reading Video Friday: Security Robot as a Service, Robotic Mining, and Saved by a Drone