In recent years, the number of robots and other kinds of self propelling machines has increased significantly. This new breed of machines resemble everything from humans, dogs and donkeys, to birds or insects. Perhaps I will have a robo butler in my lifetime after all!
Petman (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin)
Boston Dynamics is a spinoff company from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was spun off in 1992. They are famous for having created a number of different robots between the size of a donkey to a small dog. Not much has been heard from the company since it was acquired by Google in December 2013. I can only go on to assume they are building something mind blowing.
Magnetically Actuated Micro-Robots
This is a completely different piece of technology, but just as impressive. Imagine what you could do with control over swarm of ants at your fingertips. Developed by SRI with funds from DARPA, these antlike robots are controlled by magnetic fields. SRI calls this technique Diamagnetic Micro Manipulation (DM3). The intended application is that they should be used within the manufacturing industries with such tasks as surface mounting of electronic components.
This robot spider is more of a gadget then the high tech creations above but it is still pretty cool. Who wouldn’t like to have a robo-spider!
Developed by Harvard University, this robot looks more like an insect then a thing made by man. It uses piezoelectric actuators to propel the wings. Piezoelectric actuators are strips of ceramic that expand and contract when an electric current is applied. Possible applications would be:
- autonomously pollinating a field of crops
- search and rescue (e.g., in the aftermath of a natural disaster)
- hazardous environment exploration
- military surveillance
- high resolution weather and climate mapping
- traffic monitoring
The Robot Dragonfly
The Robot Dragonfly from TechJect was successfully crowd funded via IndieGogo, the campaign ended December 31 2012. Judging from the updates on the IndeGoGo page, TechJect seem to struggle a lot with quality problems and has not yet delivered any products to their backers. If the Robot Dragonfly will be commercially available remains to be seen, but it is still one of the most beautiful flying robots I have seen.
This biped robot from the MSC (Mechatronics, Systems and Control) Lab at the South Korean university KAIST is a fast one, it can run at an impressive speed of 45 km/h (28 mph). This speed is achieved with the help of active tail stabilization. The active tail stabilization also makes it able to run right over obstacles up to 100 mm high. Just imagine a pack of these hunting you, not a very compelling thought?
With its very original design and with speeds reaching 72 km/h (45 mph) on thread mill and 40 km/h (25 mph) when running out doors, it is a real speedster. The makers of Out Runner, Robotics Unlimited, are currently running a Kickstarter campaign, but with only a few days to go and 90k USD short of their goal of 150k USD, I don’t think they will go into production very soon.
Nano Quad Rotor Swarms
This video was shot at GRASP Lab, University of Pennsylvania. The first time I saw it, I was struck by the feeling that I was watching a swarm of insects behaving in a very unsettling way. Next came the feeling of wow! The quad rotors are developed by KMel robotics, consisting of Alex Kushleyev and Daniel Mellinger who, not surprisingly, are graduates of the University of Pennsylvania.
This robot from MITs Biomimetic Robotics Lab was built to show the efficiency of a new type of motor.
Another robot from Boston Dynamics, this time it’s a cute little fellow called RHex. To me, it looks like he is WALL·Es lovable cousin from the country.