New NASA Plan for Mars Is Moderately-Terrifying-Sounding, Also, Completely-Awesome: Robotic. Bees.

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Mars: It’s far. Costs money to explore. And right now, we’ve got a rover just sitting there doing nothing. So NASA’s got a new plan for mapping out Mars: Robotic bees. 

Exploring potential habitats that are tens of millions of kilometers away with the use of a 3,893 kg (8,583 lb) rover is slow, unwieldy, and pricy — NASA’s estimates exhausted its funding reserves with the nearly $ 2.5 billion rover. But a team of researchers at the University of Huntsville, Alabama recently came up with an alternative that, on paper, sounds like the way we all die at the hands of SkyNet: “Marsbees.”

It’s actually not-at-all terrifying, and kind of incredible. See here:

Image Credit: C. Kang

You get the idea: Marsbees would be a swarm of “bumblebee size” flapping robots that could cover a far greater distance (with a lot less effort) than a rover could. But that doesn’t mean a rover would be left out: a rover would serve as a recharge station and main communications hub for the bees.

One of the Marsbees primary objectives would be to take air samples for the detection of methane emissions (since the Martian atmosphere is mostly made of carbon dioxide, detecting other gases like methane or carbon monoxide is potentially a sign of life, and thus, incredibly exciting). The Curiosity rover previously found extremely low levels of methane on the surface of Mars, but their presence was mostly chalked up to seasonal patterns, not biological processes.

The idea was one of 25 shortlisted proposals submitted to NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. Other proposals on the shortlist include shapeshifting robots that can roll up into a ball and roll on the surface of Titan, and balloon platforms navigating extreme terrains.

“Our preliminary numerical results suggest that a bumblebee with a cicada wing can generate sufficient lift to hover in the Martian atmosphere,” writes Chang-kwon Kang, Assistant Professor at the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering of The University of Alabama in Huntsville in a NASA blog post. Since the Mars environment is so thin (only one hundredth to one thousandth that of sea level atmospheric pressure on Earth), there’s not much air for wings to push a flapping robot along. But luckily, gravitational pull is only a third on Mars. NASA scientists are hoping to take advantage of this, and are planning to recoup wasted energy with a sophisticated energy harvesting mechanism.

The advantages of having a rover like Curiosity be swarmed by robo-bees are plenty: a swarm of mobile flapping robots would be far more flexible, and resilient — a single bee getting swept up in a dust storm, in other words, wouldn’t be a big deal. Navigating the rocky, and mountainous surface would also be easier exploring the planet by air. Multiple bees could also form a network of sensors, improving the accuracy of their findings.

The Huntsville team is proposing to link up with a Japanese team of researchers to make the Marsbee a reality, and given the fact that the Japanese team has already developed a hummingbird Micro-Air Vehicle that’s “one of only a few robotic flappers in the world that can fly on Earth,” the swarm might be a reality sooner than you think.

Which means more Mars, potentially, for us. Or at least information about it. Elsewhere, sorry, melissophobiacs: Your apocolypse is more inevitable than ever before. Enjoy that.

The post New NASA Plan for Mars Is Moderately-Terrifying-Sounding, Also, Completely-Awesome: Robotic. Bees. appeared first on Futurism.


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Exoskeleton for skiers gives your knees robotic boost

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Skiing and snowboarding aren't gentle on your body, especially if you're taking on a challenging run or plan on a long day. Now, however, technology might ease your burden. Roam Robotics has unveiled an exoskeleton built expressly to reduce the bur…
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Great deal: $150 Mooka Smart Robotic Vacuum [sponsored]

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In the market for a robotic vacuum cleaner? Check out this one from Mooka. It has a remote control, anti-bump and drop sensors, it’s allergy and pet-friendly, and for a limited time, it’s on sale for just $ 150…. Read the rest of this post here

Great deal: $ 150 Mooka Smart Robotic Vacuum [sponsored]” is an article by
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So, here’s a robotic cat you can 3D print

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“Above all, I love cats. I admire their elegant body structures and agile movements,” Rongzhong Li tells me via email when asked why he chose a cat instead of something easier to recreate as a robot. Li is an assistant professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, and creator of open source robotic cat OpenCat. After his robot was featured on IEEE Spectrum’s fantastic weekly roundup of robot videos, he tells me his email has been flooded with possibilities for the future development of his “sophisticated personal artwork,” as he labels it. OpenCat didn’t start out as a cat, Li writes.…

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A Robotic Virtual Assistant Is Heading to the ISS

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In recent years many of us have begun to relying on Alexa, Siri, and other virtual assistants to play our music, set our alarms, and schedule our appointments. Now, the Airbus company is designing a similar mission assistant to help astronauts complete everyday tasks on the International Space Station.

Airbus is developing the Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN (nicknamed CIMON) in collaboration with Space Administration at the German Aerospace Center. It’s set to be the first time that artificial intelligence (AI) has been used on the ISS in this manner.

CIMON takes the form of a spherical, free-flying robot that can move independently around the station It’s about the size of a medicine ball, and weighs roughly 11 pounds.

The technology is set to take its test-run aboard the ISS in June 2018; it will assist astronaut Alexander Gerst during the European Space Agency’s Horizons Mission until October 2018. CIMON uses a modified version of IBM’s Watson AI, and has been taught to recognize Gerst’s voice and his appearance.

CIMON’s capabilities include displaying visual instructions for a particular procedure on screen, offering solutions to problems, and giving early warnings for technical issues.

While CIMON is designed to assist Gerst, the robot is an experiment in and of itself too. Gerst is set to collaborate with CIMON on three projects to test the assistant’s capabilities — in one experiment CIMON will serve as a flying camera during a complex medical task, and then astronaut and AI will solve a Rubik’s Cube together.

Airbus wants to use CIMON to investigate how the presence of an AI assistant affects social dynamics in a small group, according to a report by the MIT Technology Review. While CIMON could play an important role in future space travel or missions to Mars, Airbus hopes the assistant could serve a purpose on Earth too, working in hospitals and providing social care as a sophisticated Alexa alternative.

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MIT’s robotic carpenters take the hassle out of custom furniture

If you want to build custom furniture, you usually need to know your way around a saw and devote days to both designing it and cutting every last piece. MIT's CSAIL might have a better solution: let computers and robots do the hard work. Its research…
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Turing Robotic Industries files for bankruptcy

Turing Phone front back official

Remember the Turing Phone? This Android phone was first announced in 2015 as a super secure, metal-clad Android phone with high-end specs. The phone was originally slated to begin shipping in December 2015, but that didn’t happen, and it still hasn’t to this day. Now Turing, the new company behind the phone, is facing a hurdle in finally bringing it’s device to market.

Turing Robotic Industries has filed for bankruptcy. Reports from Finland, where TRI rented a warehouse, say that creditors filed a claim with TRI in 2017 and that all of the company’s movable property has been seized.

In a recent Facebook post, TRI CEO Steve Chao commented on the news of TRI’s bankruptcy, saying that the filing was made “to temporarily suspend our manufacturing intentions” but that it “doesn’t mean that TRI is bankrupt”. Chao promises to share more news in the coming weeks.

More news on TRI came out yesterday, with Finnish publication Salon Seudun Sanomat saying that Chao claims that he has no debt. Chao also says that he’s starting a new company called Turing Robotic Industries Kepler Oy with his old partners and that all of the work on this new company will be finished in March.

We’ll have to wait and see how this whole situation plays out, but at this point if you were holding your breath waiting for a Turing phone to come out, you may want to exhale. We’re now a few years out from the original debut of the Turing Phone without any kind of significant public release, and these latest developments don’t paint an encouraging picture. – Latest videos, reviews, articles, news and posts

Florida Man Becomes First Person to Live With Advanced Mind-Controlled Robotic Arm

Mind-Controlled Robotic Arm

Prosthetics have advanced drastically in recent years. The technology’s potential has even inspired many, like Elon Musk, to ask whether we may be living as “cyborgs” in the not-too-far future. For Johnny Matheny of Port Richey, Florida, that future is now. Matheny, who lost his arm to cancer in 2005, has recently become the first person to live with an advanced mind-controlled robotic arm. He received the arm in December and will be spending the next year testing it out.

The arm was developed by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab as part of their program Revolutionizing Prosthetics. The aim of the program, which is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is to create prosthetics that are controlled by neural activity in the brain to restore motor function to where it feels entirely natural. The program is specifically working on prosthetics for upper-arm amputee patients. While this particular arm has been demoed before, Matheny will be the first person to actually live with the prosthesis. The program does hope to have more patients take the tech for a longterm test run, though.

While the prosthetic device is impressive, it’s not a limitless, all-powerful robot arm. Matheney won’t be able to get the arm wet and is not allowed to drive while wearing it. Keeping a few rules in mind, Matheney will otherwise be free to push the tech to the edge of its capabilities, truly exploring what it can do.

Revolutionizing Prosthetics

The word cyborg might elicit images of cartoon supervillains, but the integration of advanced robotics into medical prosthetics has been largely positive, even life-changing, for many patients. In some cases, the devices have been able to restore their motor and sensory abilities. The introduction of “mind-controlled” robotic prosthetics will allow patients with amputations, traumatic injuries, or who were born without a limb to utilize a complete and full range of motion. What’s most impressive is that the prosthetics will allow them to do this in a way that feels “natural.”

The two major components of the current prosthetic “test” will be to determine how technically capable the arm is and how well it’s controlled by Matheny’s brain. If these robotic limbs controlled solely by thought can be designed and successfully used, it would revolutionize prosthetics. Artificial limbs could then become much more organic; working with an individual patient’s movements, intentions, and body.

If the year of testing proves successful, what could it mean for the future of prosthetics? Or for the prospect of cyborgs? Aside from the many ways in which it benefits patients using prosthetic limbs, the technology might also prove to be useful in some unexpected places — like a journey to Mars.

Elon Musk has said that if humans are to keep up with machines, to explore the far reaches of our Solar System, to venture beyond what already know to be possible, we will likely need to merge with machines. Biologically, human beings have clear and strict limitations. But, if we were assisted or augmented by mind-controlled mechanical attachments, humans of the future could redefine those limits.

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Robotic Arms, VR football and movie magic: Sony is heading to SXSW 2018

We’re heading back to Austin for SXSW 2018. Last year Xperia Touch was the star of the show, this time we’re packing an Xperia XZ1, 3D Creator and a robotic arm in our suitcases.

From Saturday 10th until Tuesday 13th March, Sony will host the ‘WOW Studio” inviting visitors to try out some of our most exciting prototypes and previously unseen tech, along with our popular 3D Creator feature.

Our 3D Creator showcase will bring the joy of 3D creation to each visitor as a robotic arm wielding an Xperia XZ1 will scan and create 3D renders of guests heads, who will each receive a video to view on their smartphones and share their experience.

State of the art VR technology will be on display as visitors have the chance to face off in a penalty shoot out against a world-class goalie. Festival-goers will even be able to star in their own movie as Sony’s Free-Viewpoint Visual Technology works to create 3D avatars for users to star as the lead in their very own short film.

Click here to find out more about Sony’s WOW Studio and our other exhibits.

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The FDA Just Approved a Robotic Exoskeleton That Augments Your Strength

HAL for Medical Use

Japanese robotics company Cyberdyne has officially received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make its lower-body exoskeleton, known as Hybrid Assisted Limb or HAL, available to U.S. patients. The exoskeleton, which would be available through licensed medical facilities only, uses sensors to detect bioelectric signals sent from your brain to your muscles, which it pairs with your movement (or intended movement) in order to increase strength and stability.

The approved version of HAL is known as HAL for Medical Use and was designed primarily for people with lower limb disabilities, and can help restore mobility and independence.

What sets HAL apart from other exoskeleton technologies that are currently available is that instead of using physical walking motions, it uses both voluntary movement and autonomous functionality. In other words, the exoskeleton works with the bioelectric signals of the wearer’s nervous system to “know” when and how to move.

US Debut

HAL has been shown to be especially helpful for people with lower-limb disabilities, as many of these conditions involve a disconnect between the person’s intentions to move (the signals the brain sends) and the actual muscle movement that follows — or, more often, doesn’t follow. The exoskeleton also supports itself while being worn, meaning there’s no added weight or stress on the wearer’s body while they’re operating it.

In the next few months, HAL’s U.S. debut will be at a cybernetic treatment center set to open in Jacksonville, Florida. For now, only the medical version of HAL will be officially available to patients. If the non-medical version is approved in the United States, however, the exoskeleton (and the added strength it provides) could become available to anyone.

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