Meet Baxter – the $22,000 Robot

Baxter

Realistic views of robots are usually centered on grappling arms hidden behind safety cages, but Rethink Robotics is working to change that. The Massachusetts-based company produces the Baxter line of robots shown above. These machines are designed to adapt to their local environment so that even unskilled labor can train them to do work. Perhaps equally important, they’re affordable and designed with simplicity in mind. Read More →

Show Some Love for the Data Glove

cyberglove2

Data Gloves (or wired gloves or cybergloves), as the name implies, are computer input devices that are worn on the hand like a glove. They utilize motion trackers to translate finger manipulations into electrical signals. In the near future, this technology might revolutionize the way that disabled people are able to access computer resources. Read More →

Why Robots Scare Their Masters

One of the most talked about subjects in robotics today is the uncanny valley hypothesis. So many works of speculative fiction feature robots in relationships with humans that it’s become a cliche, but this idea states that there’s a dip in the graph of human comfort levels when they approach machines that look too much like people. Devices that are disturbingly close to organic life forms often repulse human observers. However, the emotional response becomes far more positive as the machine becomes even closer to humanity. Read More →

The Physics of Space in Robotics Research

Precision honed to within +/-0.0018 inches tolerance across its surface, the Gravity Offset Table (shown right) will allow scientists to emulate the inertia of space in the laboratory using full-size spacecraft and robotic arms like the Front-End Robotic Enabling Near-Term Demonstration arm (pictured center).

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Spacecraft Engineering Department’s space robotics research facility recently took possession of a one-of-a-kind 75,000 pound Gravity Offset Table (GOT) made from a single slab of solid granite. Read More →

Artificial Cerebellum in Robotics Developed

University of Granada researchers have developed an artificial cerebellum (a biologically-inspired adaptive microcircuit) that controls a robotic arm with human-like precision. The cerebellum is the part of the human brain that controls the locomotor system and coordinates body movements. Read More →

Robotics & Mechanical Limbs

The BrainGate implantable microelectrode array

As people continue to struggle with problems involving organ donation, a few robotic engineers continue to push the boundaries between humanity and machinery. A recent report in Nature (cited below) showed that two patients were able to overcome some aspects of their paralysis by way of an implant. Reaching and grabbing motions were possible by way of a carefully designed robotic arm. One individual involved in the study was able to enjoy a drink by herself. She didn’t seem to require assistance outside of the prosthetic limb. Read More →

Robot Reveals the Inner Workings of Brain Cells

Gaining access to the inner workings of a neuron in the living brain offers a wealth of useful information: its patterns of electrical activity, its shape, even a profile of which genes are turned on at a given moment. However, achieving this entry is such a painstaking task that it is considered an art form; it is so difficult to learn that only a small number of labs in the world practice it. Read More →

Robots in Prisons [Video]

Most people interested in futurism have already heard that Korean prisons have been experimenting with robotic prison guards. Robots have largely replaced humans in extremely repetitive jobs throughout the world. Even people that lack a general interest in robotics have seen the mechanical arms used in automobile factories. While prison detail is rather repetitive, it isn’t the sort of thing that usually gets associated with automation. Read More →

Humanity 2.0 – Cybernetic Individuals Today

Future humans might very well be a certain variety of organic machine hybrid. But what about right now? Are we witnessing the emergence of cyborg life within our society today? Consider that artificial hearts and prosthetic limbs are probably the best-known types of machinery intended to be grafted onto or within human flesh. Such artificial designs are supposed to fulfill a medical need. They are used when human organs or tissue have failed or has been amputated. Is this not a form of cybernetic integration? One would not usually receive a prosthetic for any recreational reason today however, I can see a future where perhaps this may be commonplace (or even trendy) in instances where prosthetic devices or artificial organs might enhance human performance and/or prolong life. Given that we’re headed into the weekend, I thought this might be a good topic to wrap up the week.  Read More →

Robotic Companions of the Future

Many articles that focus on the increasing similarities between organic life and machines focus purely on the ways that humans are becoming increasingly mechanized. It can be assumed that people will become even more like machines as the collective human consciousness moves towards a single technological singularity. However, what might be more startling is the way in which machines are often beginning to resemble other animals aside from humans. Read More →