I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords

I’ve got several news items for those interested in robotics and related technology.

I. Remember the powered exoskeleton for farmers being developed by the Japanese? Well, now Nagayo University’s Departments of Micro-Nano Engineering, Mechanical Science and Engineering of the Graduate School of Engineering have teamed up to develop a wearable robotic device for carpenters. It is designed primarily to reduce arm fatigue in the difficult task of fitting ceiling boards in place. In the words of Gizmodo, this suit makes the “most powerful carpenters since Jesus.

II. You might have heard of the robotic medical dummies used to train medical students at The University of Portsmouth. Well, now trainee dentists in Japan may have something similar: Simroid. With a mouth loaded with sensors, she responds to mistakes by the trainee that would be painful to a real patient, including saying ouch and grimacing. It also exibits a gag reflex when instruments are inserted too deeply. It also contains sensors in the breasts to record any inappropriate touching by the trainee (here). A video of Simroid in action can be seen here.

III. According to this post, iRobot Corporation is exploring a sensor system that combines 2D camera sensor methods with laser range finding to create a “3D scanner” sensor for their next generation military robot.

IV. Crusher, Carnegie Mellon University’s 6.5 ton Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle (UGCV), is completing two weeks of testing at Fort Bliss, Texas. Video of the rough off-road terrain field tests can be seen here.

V. Atlanta bar owner Rufus Terrill devised a unique solution to the vandals, drug dealers, and petty thieves he claims have been roaming the streets outside his bar. Combining an old meat smoker, a three-wheel scooter, a spotlight, an infrared camera, a water cannon, a loudspeaker, and impact resistant rubber, he created a remote-control security robot. Reactions to this are mixed.

VI. The Transterpreter Group have created a cross-platform IDE for creating and running robot code in the occam-π language.

VII. The Newman Lab for Biomechanics and Human Rehabilitation at MIT has developed robots for rehabilitation therapy for those suffering motor imapirment due to stroke, spinal cord damage, or other nervous system injury. These machines represent a first step in contact robotics [pdf], where robots can safely interact physically with humans.

VIII. Also at MIT, the Aerospace Controls Laboratory of the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department has been testing autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) indoors with the Real-time indoor Autonomous Vehicle test Environment, or RAVEN. This has allowed them to bypass many of the difficulties found in the usual outdoor tests. Some of their accomplishments include a giving a single-propeller fixed-wing UAV the capacity to hover tail down, transition to and from level flight, and land on a vertical landing platform, as described in this paper [pdf].

IX. Then, of course, there’s the recently publicized comments by University of Sheffield professor Noel Sharkey that the falling costs of robotic technology may make it possible for militant groups to build killer robots in the near future. He estimates that a GPS-equipped flying drone with an autopilot could be built for about £250.

Of course, if people get worried about robot attacks, you may soon see products like this [Requires QuickTime].


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