Startup Says Direct-Drive Motors Are the Future of Robot Actuators

Genesis Robotics is developing a stronger, faster direct-drive motor for robots Illustration: Blood Bros. While robots are becoming more diverse and capable, there’s one component that hasn’t changed much in the past half century: their actuators. A vast majority of robots use an electric motor coupled to a gearbox to move each of their wheels and joints. The motor spins rapidly, as it’s optimized to do, while the gearbox reduces the rotation speed of the output shaft, increasing the torque in the process. This type of actuator powers robots as varied as industrial arms, walking humanoids, and Mars rovers. But it’s far from perfect: Gear motors are often bulky and sluggish. They can’t handle impacts and are maintenance heavy. And if you need a lot of torque, be prepared to pay a steep price. Roboticists have long hoped to find better alternatives. Now a Canadian startup says there’s indeed a better Continue reading Startup Says Direct-Drive Motors Are the Future of Robot Actuators

Video Friday: H-Muscle Hydraulic Robot Actuator, and More

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos 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!): Robotic Arena – January 12, 2019 – Wrocław, Poland RoboDEX – January 16-18, 2019 – Tokyo, Japan Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

Video Friday: Happy Robot Holidays!

Your weekly selection of awesome (holiday themed) robot videos 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!): Robotic Arena – January 12, 2019 – Wrocław, Poland RoboDEX – January 16-18, 2019 – Tokyo, Japan Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

Video Friday: Agile Amphibious Robot, and More

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos 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!): Robotic Arena – January 12, 2019 – Wrocław, Poland RoboDEX – January 16-18, 2019 – Tokyo, Japan Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

MiniRHex Makes Wiggly-Legged Unstoppability Tiny and Affordable

For about $200, you can build a surprisingly capable six-whegged robot with googly eyes RHex (pronounced “rex”) is a unique hexapedal robot that uses hybrid wheel-legs (whegs) to get around. It’s surprisingly adaptable, able to adjust its gait to conquer a variety of obstacles and terrains, and it can even do some impressive parkour. RHex has been around for nearly two decades, which is practically forever in robot years, but because of how versatile it is you still see it doing cool new stuff from time to time. Carnegie Mellon University’s Robomechanics Lab uses a fancy US $20,000 version of RHex called X-RHex Lite “to explore the connection between dynamic locomotion and perception,” but they’ve only got one robot since it’s wicked expensive, which limits the amount of research and outreach they can do. To fix this, they’ve designed a much smaller version of RHex called MiniRHex that you can Continue reading MiniRHex Makes Wiggly-Legged Unstoppability Tiny and Affordable

Video Friday: Space Station’s New Robot Helper, and More

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos 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!): Robotic Arena – January 12, 2019 – Wrocław, Poland RoboDEX – January 16-18, 2019 – Tokyo, Japan Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

New Class of Metamaterials Changes Physical Properties in Seconds

Mechanical metamaterials can have their rigidity tuned, offering a new approach to soft robotics Metamaterials seem like a technology out of science fiction. Because of the way these materials affect electromagnetic phenomena and physical attributes of materials, they can render objects invisible, leaving the observer in disbelief. While invisibility cloaks are a gee-whiz application, metamaterials now offer real-world commercial applications such as new antenna technologies for mobile phones. To get to the point where metamaterials are not just a curiosity, but also a viable commercial technology, they have had to evolve a new set of tricks . One example is the work of a team of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the University of California San Diego (UCSD).  They have used so-called mechanical metamaterials—which exhibit unique mechanical properties that do not exist in nature—to create a novel material that can change from rigid to flexible in response to a magnetic Continue reading New Class of Metamaterials Changes Physical Properties in Seconds

This Plant Is Driving Its Own Robot

A robot that can detect a plant’s electrochemical signals goes where the plant wants it to go Cybernetics usually refers to humans enhancing themselves with robotic parts. Sometimes, we heard about animal-robot cyborgs, or insect-robot cyborgs. It’s not all that often that we hear about plant-robot cyborgs, because what’s a plant going to do with a robot, right? But you could argue that plants have the most to gain from robotic enhancements, because otherwise (with a few totally cool exceptions) plants aren’t capable of mobility or manipulation at all. It’s straightforward to see how mobility and manipulation could be useful for plants, but the real question is, How do you get a plant to tell its robotic parts what to do? At the MIT Media Lab, Harpreet Sareen is trying to figure this out, and Elowan the mobile cybernetic plant is just the first in “a series of plant-electronic hybrid Continue reading This Plant Is Driving Its Own Robot

Video Friday: InSight Mars Lander, and More

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos 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!): Robotic Arena – January 12, 2019 – Wrocław, Poland RoboDEX – January 16-18, 2019 – Tokyo, Japan Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.

Occipital Announces Availability of Structure Core 3D Sensor

Depth sensing and 6-DoF spatial awareness for $400 When Microsoft’s Kinect came out, it’s probably fair to say that it revolutionized robotics. As soon as folks figured out that they could get halfway decent 3D vision for cheap, Kinects started to get kludged on to every robot that moved (or didn’t), even if that robot already had a much fancier and more expensive 3D vision system on it (I’m looking at you, PR2). But Kinect was a gaming sensor—not only was it not optimized for robotics even a little bit, Microsoft seemed to be not all that interested in supporting the robotics industry, and as the Kinect got older, people were forced to lurch painfully over to whatever else happened to be available, like PrimeSense (acquired by Apple) or Asus Xtion sensors. Or, they just stuck with the Kinect, which you still see robots using today. There’s clearly a need for high Continue reading Occipital Announces Availability of Structure Core 3D Sensor