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Txch This Week: Dynamic Chairs And Compact Fusion Reactors

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by Jared Kershner

This week on Txchnologist, we watched researchers make strides in robotic technology by mimicking sidewinder rattlesnakes’ movements. Carnegie Mellon’s modular snake robots have already demonstrated proficiency at climbing trees and are now on their way to traversing difficult terrain like soft sand. With the sidewinder’s unique J-shaped form of locomotion, robots capable of these movements could have an advantage over others in exploring extraterrestrial worlds or tight spaces like those found in the aftermath of a mine collapse.

NASA researchers will be testing out a robotic aircraft for the coming year to see if it can aid in catching forest and brush fires before they grow out of control. The drones are equipped with a camera to track rising smoke plumes as well as an infrared camera to scan for hidden hot spots. The program will proceed once the Federal Aviation Administration approves UAV overflights, and could mean cost and time reductions for detecting nascent wildlands fires.

Researchers have developed a new technology that tracks the positions of nanoparticles as they move within the body or a single cell. The nanoparticles can also be manipulated by applying a magnetic field to pull them along and control where they move. This discovery means scientists can better probe biological functions within cells and improve our understanding and treatment of cancer.

Now we’re bringing you the news and trends we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.

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Txch This Week: Bridge-Building Robots And Brain-To-Brain Instant Messaging

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by Jared Kershner

This week on Txchnologist, we watched Purdue University engineers work on “robotic fabric” – a material that blends cotton with flexible polymer sensors and actuators made of shape-memory alloy that bends and contracts when electric current is applied. Because of its ability to change shape, the material could be used to create customizable soft robots as well as wearable performance-enhancing garments.

Rebecca Erikson, an applied physicist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, has created a microscope capable of magnifying objects up to 1,000 times by taking a glass bead and embedding it in a housing she built on a 3-D printer. This system can fit over a smartphone’s camera and costs less than a dollar in materials to produce, can magnify objects up to 1,000 times, giving the power of microscopic sight to emergency responders needing to identify biological specimens in the field, teachers, students and anyone with access to a 3-D printer.

NASA research scientist Walter Meier has reported that the Arctic Ocean is losing around 13 percent of its sea ice per decade – the ice that covers the Arctic region reached its likely minimum extent for the year last week. However, the Antarctic’s ice coverage has now surpassed its largest maximum extent since 2013.

Now we’re bringing you the news and trends we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.

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Wearable Robot Skin Could See Missions In Space Or On People

Purdue University engineers are working on what they call robotic fabrics that can change shape to perform different functions. 

The material is a cotton fabric with flexible polymer sensors and actuators made of shape-memory alloy that bends and contracts when electric current is applied. The system can constrict around an object if the actuators are aligned in one direction or bend the object if aligned another way.

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Cruise Ship Robot Bartenders Provoke Questions About Work And Play

by Michael Keller

A thirsty vacationer on Royal Caribbean’s next cruise ship, the Quantum of the Seas, will belly up to a bar staffed by robots. The company announced this month that it is installing the Makr Shakr bartending system on the ship, which is expected to set sail starting in late October.

Guests will be able to choose drinks from a tablet at the bar and customize them as they see fit. Once the order is submitted, the Bionic Bar’s robot arms will spring to action, producing a precise and consistent drink.

“We were determined to take the best advances in modern technology, turn them into shipboard WOWs, and take the frustration out of the vacation,” said Royal Caribbean chairman and CEO Richard Fain in a statement.

The Makr Shakr project was conceived and designed at MIT’s Senseable City Lab. According to the artists and engineers behind it, the robot is more than just a bartending automaton. Instead, it is meant to open a discussion and explore the role of advanced manufacturing, consumption and leisure—three things that are set to change with increasing deployment of automated systems.

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