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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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Making Legs For Future Robotic Animal Assistants

University of South Florida computer engineer Luther Palmer is working on one of the big problems in robotics—creating legs that can move over all different types of terrain that a machine would find out in the real world. His team at the Biomorphic Robotics Lab is doing intensive computer modeling and taking tips from horses and humans on agile locomotion.

The team’s vision, like many other roboticists, is to imbue the best movement ideas developed through evolution into their machines. Palmer writes on his lab’s website that in the future, “robotic canines will gallop up stairs and over collapsed beams in burning buildings, locating occupants for rescue personnel.”

He also sees a time of robotic horses to carry heavy loads, cockroaches to conduct surreptitious surveillance and gophers to prepare alien worlds for human habitation. 

See the National Science Foundation video  and one for Palmer’s RecoRoach below.

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Sewing Machine Makes Cheap Stretchy Component Needed For Wearable Tech And Soft Robots

Purdue University engineers have come up with a new and simpler way to make stretchy connections for electronics. Such power- and information-transporting materials are needed for soft robotics, next-generation implants and wearable technologies to advance.

The group used a regular sewing machine to sew a wire in a zigzag pattern on a sheet of the plastic PET with water-soluble thread. A stretchy, rubbery polymer was poured over the wire and water was then used to dissolve the thread. The PET was pulled away after the thread dissolved and released it from the wire, which was now embedded in the rubbery polymer. 

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Here Comes the Transforming Room

by Michael Keller

Swiss roboticists are at work making modules that will put brains into your furniture. The autonomous building blocks are being designed to make furnishings and room layouts reconfigurable based on a user’s needs.

These so-called Roombots, the brainchild of Auke Ijspeert at EPFL’s Biorobotics Lab, The project is aiming to make stools, chairs, sofas and tables that change from one type to another over time. When not in use, the units could store themselves in a box or self-assemble into a wall.

Ijspeert’s team says the Roombots will be useful as assistive furniture for the elderly or for those who have motor disabilities. They could also make programmable conference rooms or adaptable modules for satellite or space station components.

See videos and photos below for more on how the Roombots could be used.

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