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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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Txch This Week: Tiny Discoveries and Robot Fish


by Norman Rozenberg

This week on Txchnologist we looked at big innovation in miniature. First, a research team has developed a small, inexpensive device capable of analyzing 170,000 different molecules in a blood sample, meaning a complete medical checkup might be at hand—literally. 

Next, a Stanford bioengineer has developed a microscope that can magnify objects 2,000 times. No big deal, you say? The kicker is that the microscope is flat, rugged, made of paper and costs just 50 cents.

Bioengineers looking for better alternative fuels are finding new sources by altering sorghum and sugarcane. Their work is making the crops produce more oil and be more tolerant of colder climates.

Cornell engineers have developed a smartphone- and solar-powered test for Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer that affects a disproportionate number of people in Africa. Columbia University researchers, meanwhile, have discovered that wetting dehydrated spores of certain bacteria can be used to produce electricity or power robot muscles. 

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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