Robotics

  • First response robotsRobots to the rescue in disaster situations

    Real-life disaster scenarios have awakened the robotics community to the limitations of existing emergency-response robots. EU-funded researchers are redoubling efforts to ensure that disaster response robots can better support rescue workers in future emergencies. Research in the lab and on-site simulations have helped in improving the capabilities of emergency-response robots in recent years. When real disaster strikes unexpected, however, complications lay bare the limitations of test scenarios. In light of the lessons learned following the Fukushima nuclear accident, researchers are following a range of different pathways to advance emergency-response robotics.

  • Virtual shooterDHS S&T completes Virtua Shooter robotic device, delivers it to ICE

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) the other day announced the successful completion of a robotic device that tests multiple types of handguns and ammunition. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will use the device to supplement manual testing of the weapons by laboratory staff.

  • RoboticsNon-traditional roboticists to help bolster national security

    The past ten years have seen an explosion of robotics advances from small businesses and individuals, thanks in part to lower manufacturing costs and the global rise of community workshops such as makerspaces and hackerspaces, which serve as incubators for rapid, low-cost collaboration and innovation. Unfortunately, the small-scale robotics community has tended to fly under the radar of traditional federal agencies and commercial technology providers, which generally rely on multi-year, multi-million-dollar contracts for technology development. DARPA’s Robotics Fast Track foresees cost-effective development of new capabilities by engaging cutting-edge groups and individuals who traditionally have not worked with the federal government.

  • CybersecurityResearchers hack a teleoperated surgical robot, revealing security flaws

    Real-world teleoperated robots, which are controlled by a human who may be in another physical location, are expected to become more commonplace as the technology evolves. They are ideal for situations which are dangerous for people: fighting fires in chemical plants, diffusing explosive devices or extricating earthquake victims from collapsed buildings. Researchers conducted a series of experiments in which they hacked a next generation teleoperated surgical robot — one used only for research purposes — to test how easily a malicious attack could hijack remotely controlled operations in the future and to make those systems more secure.

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  • RoboticsBomb squads compete at Sandia Labs’ Robot Rodeo

    Robots are life-saving tools for the nation’s hazardous device teams, providing a buffer between danger and first responders. Beginning this past Monday, Sandia Lab hosted its ninth annual Western National Robot Rodeo and Capability Exercise at Sandia National Laboratories. The five-day event – 11-15 May — offers a challenging platform for civilian and military bomb squad teams to practice defusing dangerous situations with robots’ help. 

  • Killer robotsGrowing worries about proliferation of “killer robots”

    Fully autonomous weapons have not yet been developed, but technology is moving toward increasing autonomy. Such weapons would select and engage targets without further intervention by a human. Governments are increasingly recognizing the potential dangers posed by these fully autonomous weapons, and during a meeting last week, numerous governments expressed support for the need to ensure meaningful human control over targeting and attack decisions in warfare.

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  • FirefightingA first: Engineering students design firefighting humanoid robot

    In fall 2014 in Mobile Bay, Alabama, Virginia Tech engineering students made history during a five-minute demo that placed an adult-sized humanoid robot with a hose in front of a live fire aboard a U.S. Navy ship. The robot located the fire and sprayed water from the hose. Water blasted the flames. The demo, four years in the making, is part of a new effort by the U.S. Navy better to assist sailors in fighting fires, controlling damage, and carrying out inspections aboard ships via user-controlled unmanned craft or humanoid robots.

  • RoboticsSix-legged Snake Monster is first of new breed of reconfigurable modular robots

    Carnegie Mellon University’s latest robot is called Snake Monster, but with six legs, it looks more like an insect than a snake. It really does not matter, however, what you call it, says its inventor, Howie Choset — the whole point of the project is to make modular robots that can easily be reconfigured to meet a user’s needs.

  • First responseHelping first-response robots operate for longer periods

    Through a project supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Sandia Lab is developing technology which will dramatically improve the endurance of legged robots, helping them operate for long periods while performing the types of locomotion most relevant to disaster response scenarios. One of Sandia’s new robots which showcases this technology will be demonstrated at an exposition to be held in conjunction with the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals next June.

  • AviationCockpit automation causes pilots to lose critical thinking skills

    In the wake of recent airline crashes, major news networks have aired concerns about pilots’ ability to accurately fly “by hand” when the airplane’s cockpit automation systems fail. Although many of these concerns have centered on manual skills such as operating the airplane’s controls, new human factors/ergonomics research suggests that pilots’ thinking skills, such as navigating, remaining aware of the status of the flight, and diagnosing troublesome situations, are most vulnerable in today’s automated cockpits. 

  • Killer robotsAutonomous weapons which select, destroy targets without human intervention proliferate

    More scientists are expressing concern over autonomous weapons which are able to select and destroy targets without human control or oversight. Armed drones can be operated by remote pilots, but weapons of the future will rely more on artificial intelligence to decide what to target and whom to kill.

  • STEM educationStudents point to future of ocean robotics in new global game

    College students from around the world demonstrated they could have a hand in shaping the future of ocean robotics as they competed in the first Maritime RobotX Challenge, which was held 24-26 October in Singapore. “Developing autonomy for surface vessels is still in its early stages, and these students have the opportunity to come up with solutions that could set new standards in this field,” said Assistant Chief of Naval Research Capt. Rob Palisin, who helped judge the competition. “In turn, the Navy gets the chance to observe the best young engineers in action and learn from their approaches.”

  • RoboticsSnake-inspired robots show how sidewinders conquer sandy slopes

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    The amazing ability of sidewinder snakes to quickly climb sandy slopes was once something biologists only vaguely understood and roboticists only dreamed of replicating. By studying the snakes in a unique bed of inclined sand and using a snake-like robot to test ideas spawned by observing the real animals, both biologists and roboticists have now gained long-sought insights.

  • In the trenchesU.S. Navy unveils autonomous swarmboats to “swarm” hostile vessels

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    As autonomy and unmanned systems grow in importance for naval operations, officials at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) announced the other day a technological breakthrough that will allow any unmanned surface vehicle (USV) to not only protect Navy ships, but also, for the first time, autonomously “swarm” offensively on hostile vessels. The first-of-its-kind technology — successfully demonstrated over two weeks in August on the James River in Virginia — allows unmanned Navy vessels to overwhelm an adversary.

  • RoboticsFlying robots will go where humans cannot

    There are many situations in which it is impossible, complicated, or too time-consuming for humans to enter and carry out operations. Think of contaminated areas following a nuclear accident, or the need to erect structures such as antennae on mountain tops. These are examples of where flying robots could be used.