The builders of UC Berkeley’s cockroach-inspired STAR robot have strapped a camera onto the little machine to see the world from its angle.
Engineers at the university’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab have designed the little transformer robot to “adapt its stiffness, height, and leg-to-surface contact angle.” At full speed, it can run at 5.2 meters or 43 body lengths per second. They say it’s the world’s fastest untethered crawling bot.
The buzzing sound coming from one Harvard lab isn’t a fly infestation but rather a tiny, insect-like robot. The approximately penny-sized robot dubbed RoboBee mimics the aerial prowess of houseflies, one of the most agile fliers on Earth. And like a fly, RoboBee features two independently flapping wings that allow it to hover or perform basic controlled flight maneuvers.
“This is the world’s first demonstration of a fully unconstrained flapping wing insect-scale robot,” says Kevin Ma, a doctoral student at the Harvard University Microrobotics Laboratory and lead author of a paper published this week in Science describing the machine. While small helicopters and hummingbird-size flapping robots exist, Ma says, those creations are around ten times the size of the RoboBee.
“We’re very impressed by the maneuverability and agility that [insects] like bees and flies share,” he continues. “One day, a robot like this could afford us that same agility and maneuverability.”
The Flaming Lips sing about a robot named Unit 3000-21 that is able to duplicate emotion and seems to be “something more than a machine” to the people it comes into contact with. As it warms, blinks and hums, it begins inspiring a “synthetic kind of love” in its human keepers.
As it turns out, The Flaming Lips’ lyrics may someday apply to reality. For now, at least, humans can feel empathetic emotion for robots, according to research presented this week at the 63rd annual International Communication Association conference in London. While previous studies relied upon participant anecdotes to measure emotional connection to robots, this new research objectively confirmed it through physiological measurements.
Robot torture, disturbingly enough, helped reveal this finding. “It happened by chance that we got into this study,” explains Astrid Rosenthal-von der Putten, a social psychologist at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany and lead investigator of the new study. “We saw a video of this robot being punished by some guy online.”
When children don’t feel like talking with others, using humanoid robots as go-betweens might help, researchers say.
Increasingly, scientists are devising what are called “social robots,” machines such as robotic pets that are designed to interact with people. One such robot invented by researchers in England is the humanoid KASPAR, which stands for Kinesics and Synchronization in Personal Assistant Robotics.
First built in 2005, KASPAR has a child-friendly size, posture and clothing to help it work with kids, including autistic children. Motors in KASPAR’s face, neck and arms create facial expressions and gestures and move its limbs and body like a human. Tactile sensors in the hands, feet, chest, arms and face enable the robot to respond to touch — for instance, giggling when tickled and looking sad when hit.