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Email, the internet and a host of other advancements in office technology have finally made the dream of working from home a reality. But sometimes you just need to be in the office. Thanks to a collaboration between iRobot and Cisco, you still don’t need to change out of your pajamas to get chewed out by your boss.
We’ve seen a lot of frivolous applications for robotic arms: Artisanal cocktail making. Slow pit stops. Whatever’s going on here. Meanwhile, in Finland, a precociously named company called ZenRobotics has figured out how use them to solve one of the biggest problems with recycling: automatic sorting.
Firefighters are brave. But they’re humans, and they get hurt. So scientists at the University of California at San Diego have created a Segway-like robot that uses thermal imaging to help people fight fires better.
There’s something inherently creepy about tiny, skittering robots, and if you need to add a new terrifying bullet point to the robot apocalypse list, you might as well start here. This 6.5cm guy can move at 30 body-lengths per second. If it were a full-size car, that amounts to about 640km/h.
UC Berkeley might be able to claim the title of ‘world’s fastest turning robot’, and it’s all thanks to an innovation that Mother Nature came up even well before the dinosaurs: a wagging tail.
Of the 25,000 Explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) missions conducted by the US military in Iraq, only 30 have resulted in fatalities according to Army Col. K. Reinhard, commander of the joint EOD teams operating in the theatre. That’s still 30 too many. And that’s why DARPA’s developed the most advanced EOD surrogate ever, a veritable Jaeger of bomb disposal: the Bimanual Dexterous Robotic Platform (BDRP).
To ensure the cooling and ventilation systems in the company’s data centres are running at peak efficiency, IBM now employs autonomous temperature-monitoring robots built on the iRobot Create platform to hunt down problematic areas. Fitted with a 2m tall pole laden with temperature and other sensors, the robots wander collect data on temperature and humidity that can later be mapped in 3D to determine cold spots where cooling is being wasted, or hot spots where ventilation needs to be improved.
As impressive as Honda’s Asimo robot is, it still walks like a small child perpetually taking its first careful steps. To ensure that one day robots will be able to fight our wars, clean our homes and dominate us at sports, researchers at the Humanoid Robotics Institute at Waseda University have redesigned their robot’s lower legs to function more naturally like a human’s.
There’s a branch of robotics research that doesn’t necessarily believe that future automatons have to be filled with pistons, gears and motors. Working to closely emulate Mother Nature’s more squishy creations, these robots would be made entirely from soft materials, like UC Berkeley’s new hydrogel that reacts and moves when blasted with a laser.