How small can a robot get? According to a team of researchers at Georgia Tech, really, really small. Described in the July 23 issue of the journal Soft Matter, the Georgia Tech team has been running complex computational models of swimming robots on the micron (0.001 mm or about 0.000039 inches) scale. At this microscopic level, water takes on very different properties from those of the human scale, but despite these challenges the team believes that such robots could have fascinating practical applications.

Designed by team leader Alexander Alexeev, assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, Hassan Masoud and Benjamin Bingham, the simulated microorganism-sized robots faced unusual challenges. Swimming on so tiny a scale isn’t like paddling about in a pool. At that size, water is as thick as honey and a micro-robot hasn’t any inertia to move it forward, so it isn’t so much swimming as crawling through glue. That means more was involved than just modelling a tiny robot and sticking a propellor on. It had to be designed from scratch.
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The basis for the micro-robots was hydrogels. A hydrogel is a sort of super sponge. It’s a network of polymer chains that trap water much in the way that proteins in cooked egg whites do. In fact, hydrogels trap water so well that a blob of saturated hydrogel is over 99 percent water, and looks alarmingly like a blob from outer space. Hydrogels have a wide variety of applications from bioengineering to keeping lawns moist between watering and it’s even used in disposable diapers.

By making a robot out of hydrogel, the Georgia Tech thinks that it could use expanding and contracting the hydrogel as a “chemical engine” to move tiny flaps that would propel the swimmer.

The micro-robot currently used in the models is about ten microns long and has a flap on either side of its body. A third flap projects forward. This is a steering flap that responds to light, heat, chemicals or other stimuli. The oscillating volume that the robot uses for propulsion is set off by changes in its environment, such as temperature shifts, chemical reactions or oscillating electrical fields. Meanwhile, the front flap acts as a sort of rudder. The robot can swim, though not very fast. Top speed is estimated to be only a few micrometers per second.

“The combination of these flaps and the oscillating body creates a very nice motion that we believe can be used to propel the swimmer,” said Alexeev. “To build a device that is autonomous and self-propelling at the micron-scale, we cannot build a tiny submarine. We have to keep it simple.”
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Modelling is very important because there are so many variables involved. Different flaps and bodies needed to be studied, for example, and it’s only in a computer that these can be handled practically.

“We have captured the solid mechanics of the periodically-oscillating body, the fluid dynamics of moving through the viscous liquid and the coupling between the two,” says Alexeev. “From a computational fluid dynamics standpoint, it’s not an easy problem to model at this scale.”

The hope is that eventually the team’s modelling work will be of benefit to engineers building the first micro-robot prototypes. The feedback between the simulations and practical testing would make development much faster and easier.

The team also hopes that the micro-bots will find practical applications. They are particularly keen to see them used to move cargo through microfluidic chips, operating lab-on-a-chip devices and maybe acting as swarms of tiny construction robots building components on a tiny scale impossible with today’s techniques.

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Source: Georgia Tech

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Adult-sized, His and Hers home robots

By Mike Hanlon

Wednesday October 8, 2003Looking for some entertaining, hassle free housemates whose personality you can program yourself? These interactive, remote controlled, multifunctional robots were designed and built by International Robotics and feature on-board computers that can be fully programmed for communication or automated “performance” sequences. The adult-sized pair are part of the 2003 Christmas Book from Dallas based specialty retailer Neiman Marcus. The “His” Robot is designed to respond empathetically to humans and features programmable technology that will help him evolve his personality to suit your preferences and input. The “Her” Robot has a multicolour moving message display that can be re-programmed from a laptop. These state of the art home Robots cost US$400,000 a pair. The 2003 Neiman Marcus Christmas Book is full of fantastic wares, many of which rate as serious gizmos –

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Cougar 20-H surveillance robot

that sees through walls

and detects breathing up to 300 foot

By Darren Quick

21:59 February 6, 2011

The Cougar20-H is a remote-controlled surveillance robot that is so sensitive it can not only detect motion through walls but, to ensure no one goes unnoticed, it can also detect the breathing of a stationary person. Packing a fine beam ultra-wideband (UWB), multi-Gigahertz radio frequency (RF) sensor array as well as multiple integrated cameras for day and night time visibility, the Cougar20-H was designed by surveillance imaging specialist TiaLinx to provide improved situational awareness to soldiers while keeping them out of harm’s way.

The lightweight and agile robot travels on caterpillar tracks and is remotely controlled via a laptop that can be located more than 300 feet (91 m) away. An RF scanner mounted on the robot’s lightweight arm transmits highly directional wideband signals that are able to penetrate reinforced concrete walls at an extended range. Reflections from the targets are captured by a signal detector circuit in the receiver and amplitude and delay information is then processed in an integrated signal processor to track the targets in real time.

“Cougar20-H has the capability to sense-through-the-wall (STTW) at farther distances than Cougar10-L that was launched last month,” said Dr. Fred Mohamadi, Founder and CEO of TiaLinx. “Cougar20-H can also be remotely programmed at multiple way points to scan the desired premise in a multi-story building and provide its layout. In contrast only Cougar10-L is capable of scanning a premise horizontally for unexploded ordnance (UXO) as well as vertically to STTW.”

TiaLinx developed the Cougar20-H’s real-time UWB RF Imaging technology with funding from the U.S. Army. In addition to military applications, the robot, which ships next month, could also allow law enforcement agencies to detect potential targets within buildings or allow firefighters to locate people inside burning buildings.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


A new meaning to keeping your eye on the ball


Entrepreneur’s Edge: Orbotix (1:58)

Reuters Small Business presents expansion pitches from upstarts across the country. Robotic gaming startup Orbotix has developed technology that lets people control a ball with their smartphone. Here’s the pitch:


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Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot to ferry wounded to safety

The U.S. Army is currently testing a robot designed to locate, lift and carry wounded soldiers out of harm’s way without risking additional lives. With feedback from its onboard sensors and cameras, the Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (BEAR) can be remotely controlled through the use of a special M-4 rifle grip controller or by hand gestures using an AnthroTronix iGlove motion glove. This equipment would allow a soldier to direct BEAR to a wounded soldier and transport them to safety where they can be assessed by a combat medic. Read More

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Video on mind controlled prosthethic arm

Robot Walks on Water

Mimicking Insects to Avoid Sinking

Using Surface Tension

July 1, 2006 — A new robot made of ultralight carbon-fiber can stand or slowly walk on water. The principle it uses is borrowed from insects — surface tension tends to prevent the water’s surface from breaking, and the robot’s legs from sinking in.

PITTSBURGH — Nature inspires many things, from fashion to perfume to furniture. Now, technology gets a little inspiration.

After watching tiny bugs like these walk on water, Carnegie Mellon University mechanical engineer Metin Sitti wanted one of his own.

“We tried to make a robot to simulate the insect,” he tells DBIS. He tried and succeeded. This new tiny, lightweight, spindly legged creature is a robot that can propel itself across water in all directions. It can turn even sharp corners like the insect does, so it’s very agile.

The robot’s body is made of a super-light carbon fiber material. Its steel legs are coated with non-stick Teflon to repel water. A tiny battery gives it power.

“Right now we move by five centimeters per second, and the real insect can go up to one meter per second. So we are like around 20-times less speed,” Sitti says.

It might be slower, but just like insects, the robot doesn’t float. It stands on top of water thanks to the physics of surface tension. The surface is so strong that the robot’s feet only dent the water without breaking the surface while supporting the weight of the robot without sinking.

“When they put their legs on the surface of the water surface, they repel each other,” Sitti says. “And that repulsion can lift the body because it’s so light bodyweight.”

In the near future, Sitti says his creation could carry sensors to detect toxins in water supplies. “We can make many of them, like tens or hundreds of them, and cover a wide range and give you constant, continuous, water quality report,” he says.

Researchers have already received interest in the robot as an educational toy, to educate students and the public about water surface effects, and to provide entertainment.

BACKGROUND: Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have built a tiny robot that can walk on water, much like insects known as water skimmers, water skaters, pond skaters or Jesus bugs. Although it is still a prototype, its creators believe it could one day be equipped with biochemical sensors that monitor water quality. It could be used with cameras for spying, search and rescue operations, or for exploration. The robot might also be outfitted with bacteria to help break down pollutants in the environment.

THE JESUS LIZARD: In 2004, Harvard researchers discovered how basilisk lizards (sometimes called “Jesus lizards” because they appear to walk on water) manage to run across the surface of water on their two hind legs, with front arms outstretched. They move at speeds faster than 1.5 meters per second, comparable to a human running 65 MPH. The lizard first slaps the water with its web-like foot, strokes downward with an elliptical motion to create an air pocket, and then pulls its foot out of the water by curling its toes inward. By repeating this sequence up to 10 times a second, it generates sufficient forward thrust and lift to run on water without tipping over or sinking.

WHAT IS BIOMIMICRY: Biomimicry is a field in which scientists, engineers, and even architects study models and concepts found in nature, and try to use them to design new technologies. It as a design principle that seeks sustainable solutions to human problems by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. Nature fits form to function, rewards cooperation, and banks on diversity. For instance, the Eastgate Building in Harare, Zimbabwe, is the country’s largest commercial and shopping complex, and yet it uses less than 10 percent of the energy consumed by a conventional building of its size, because there is no central air conditioning and only a minimal heating system. The design follows the cooling and heating principles used in the region’s termite mounds.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

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Hop, Jump and Stick;

Robots Designed With Insect Instincts

Science (June 28, 2010) — A swarm of flying robots soars into a blazing forest fire. With insect-like precision and agility, the machines land on tree trunks and bound over rough terrain before deploying crucial sensors and tools to track the inferno and its effects. This is a scenario that Mirko Kovac, from EPFL’s Laboratory of Intelligent Systems, thinks may not be so far off.

Swarm robotics is offering innovative solutions to real-world problems by creating a new form of artificial intelligence based on insect-like instincts. Mirko Kovac, from EPFL’s Laboratory of Intelligent Systems, is a young robotics engineer who has already made leaps forward in the field with his grasshopper-inspired jumping robot. He and his collaborators have created an innovative perching mechanism where the robot flies head first into the object, a tree for example — without being destroyed — and attaches to almost any type of surface using sharp prongs. It then detaches on command. The goal is to create robots that can travel in swarms over rough terrain to come to the aide of catastrophe victims.

“We are not blindly imitating nature, but using the same principles to possibly improve on it,” explains Kovac, who recently finished his doctoral studies as EPFL. “Simple behavioral laws such as jumping, flying and perching lead to complex control over movement without the need for high computational power.”

Jumping, gliding and perching allow for mobility over rocky territory or destroyed urban areas. This new form of AI takes its inspiration from the insect world, but is more as an abstract reflection on their instincts and design principles than merely imitating their morphology. This simplicity allows for greater mobility since the robots are not bogged down with heavy batteries. Kovac imagines swarms of his robots equipped with different sensors and small cameras that could be deployed over devastated areas to transmit essential information back to rescue command centers.

The labs most recent innovation, perching a robot, saves valuable energy by allowing the robot to rest like insects or birds do. Many previous perching mechanisms include a complicated swooping maneuver to decrease momentum and land on legs, often without the ability of detaching. The mechanism developed by Dr Kovac and Jürg Markus Germann, recently published in the Journal of Micro-Nano Mechatronics, avoids this problem by using two spring-loaded arms fitted with pins that dig into the surface, whether it is wood or concrete. The snapping of the arms creates a forward momentum, allowing for a soft deceleration of the glider and avoiding mechanical damage. A remotely controlled mini-motor then detracts the pins and allows the robot to continue on its way.

“I am fascinated by the creative process,” says Kovac, “and how it is possible to use the sophistication found in nature to create something completely new.” The perching mechanism can be easily adapted to other robots. His previous robot, a quarter-gram jumping robot that can achieve heights of up to four and a half feet, could now be fitted with the new perching mechanism as well as wings, thus creating a hybrid creature that gets around much like a flying grasshopper.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

May 27, 2010 7:41 AM PDT

Eric Berger, left, and Keenan Wyrobek of robotics specialist Willow Garage hosted an open house Wednesday evening to introduce the first round of PR2 robots being made available to researcher and developers.

With a mission to accelerate the advancement of open-source robotics software and development, Scott Hassan founded Willow Garage in late 2006. The Menlo Park, Calif., company has now awarded 11 institutions a chance to see what they can do with the PR2 robots.

Photo by James Martin/CNET

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 7th June 2010