In the classic 1966 American science fiction film Fantastic Voyage, a submarine crew was miniaturised and injected into a body to fix a blood clot in the brain. That obviously isn't how future medical science is going to work, but the notion of creating microscopic machines to perform complex tasks is certainly on point. A recent advance, in which robots made from DNA were programmed to sort and deliver molecules to a specified location, now represents an important step in this futuristic direction.
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There's nothing unique about loving Lego. Millions of people wax nostalgic when they see those colourful bricks. Millions more never stopped building. I've always been a bit in between. I like zoning out by putting stuff together so, every couple of years, I'll buy a Lego set and build it. But then what? Put it on my shelf? Thanks to the new Lego Boost Creative Toolbox, there's another possibility. Turning Lego creations into programmable robots makes them fun (and functional) in an amazing new way.
Like millions of other kids around the world, after seeing the original trilogy, R2-D2 instantly became my favourite Star Wars character. He seemed like the perfect sidekick, but the real Artoo was from a galaxy far, far away from mine, and the toy versions of the little droid were always lifeless clones of the character I adored. Thirty years later there's still part of me that wants an R2-D2 to call my own, and I think I've finally found him.
Long gone are the days when robot vacuums would simply bump their way around your home while they randomly cleaned. But even with upgraded smarts and better sensors, modern robovacs can still wander into places you don't want them, so Neato is introducing a potentially brilliant new feature letting you limit the travels of its newest robovac by drawing virtual boundary lines in an app.
By today's standards the original Teddy Ruxpin, essentially a stuffed toy bear wrapped around a cassette player, borders on archaic, but in 1985 few toys incorporated any kind of technology, and the bear felt as futuristic to a seven-year-old version of me as the original iPhone did a decade ago. It was one of the first toys that helped spark my lifelong obsession with gadgets, which is why I'm disappointed that the new Teddy Ruxpin, which mostly just mirrors the original's capabilities, doesn't feel revolutionary in any way.
Video: Boston Dynamics' founder, Marc Raibert, recently gave a TED Talk where he trotted out some of the company's recent innovations. The talk mostly features robot tricks we've seen before, except for a brilliant outtake of ATLAS trying to help out in a cafeteria that probably serves as the most accurate look at what life with humanoid robots will be like for the next few decades.
Welcome back to Toy Aisle, our weekly recap of the most delightful toys we've seen on the web. This week, a Grand Moff Tarkin figure that could give the Rogue One recreation a run for its money, some very cool (and very weird) robot monkeys, and even more Bat-mania with a slick new ride for the Dark Knight.
The phones in our pockets might be getting more and more complicated, but many researchers advancing the field of robotics are actually engineering simpler bots designed to reliably perform very basic tasks. So instead of one day facing a terrifying future filled with terminators, these squishy rolling doughnuts might be our biggest threat.
A little over a year after len_d69's custom Lego Voltron set was submitted to the Lego Ideas platform, the toymaker has officially decided to put it into production after the fantastic model of the five transforming robots from the original animated series successfully received 10,000 votes of support from fans.
Inspired by the traditional Japanese art of origami, self-folding robots can go places and do things traditional robots cannot. A major drawback to these devices, however, has been the need to equip them with batteries or wires. Researchers from Harvard have found a new way to overcome this problem, by designing folding robots that can be controlled using a wireless magnetic field.
Designing simpler spacecraft is what helped us finally put rovers on Mars and start exploring the Red Planet. Embracing simplicity might also give us simple, inexpensive robots that thrive doing very specific tasks, instead of multi-million dollar humanoids that have trouble just staying on their feet.
A new Australian team will take on the world's best at the biggest robot competition in Japan later this month.
"UTS Unleashed!" is the only Australian team to qualify for the 2017 RoboCup @ Home Social Robot League - a competition that requires teams to design robot behaviours that allow for interaction and collaboration with people in realistic home situations.