Good news dental students: soon you will no longer have to approach your first victim patient with shaky, unsure hands. Researchers at Showa University in Japan have unveiled a new dental dummy, a realistic robot for dental students to practice on before taking the drill to real, human mouths.
A team at Georgia Tech is looking to replace your sponge bath nurse with this sexy beast to the right. No, not the girl. The sponge bath robot next to her, named Cody. He’s the one that wants to wipe you down with his delicate towel hands.
The robot was developed by researcher Charles Kemp’s team at the Healthcare Robotics Lab, and was described in a presentation and accompanying paper (pdf) at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.
The robot uses cameras and lasers to evaluate the human’s body, identifying dirty spots, then gently wipes with its towel hands, making sure not to apply too much or too little pressure. It has flexible arm joints with low levels of stiffness to make sure that it doesn’t push too hard.
Study coauthor Chih-Hung (Aaron) King put himself in the tester’s spot for the robot’s first rubs. He relived the experience for Hizook:
“As the sole subject in this initial experiment, I’d like to share my impressions of the interaction. In the beginning I felt a bit tense, but never scared. As the experiment progressed, my trust in the robot grew and my tension waned. Throughout the experiment, I suffered little-to-no discomfort.”
Hit the jump for a video of the bot rubbing on King:
While this contraption looks similar to a doggy wheelchair or a pair of prosthetic legs for your favorite pet, it’s actually much more sophisticated. This rat is hooked up to a prototype of a thought-guided robot wheelchair.
The robot-rat setup, known as Ratcar, is guided by transmissions from the rat through mini-electrodes implanted in its brain.
“We wanted to develop a brain-machine interface system aiming for future wheelchairs that paralyzed patients can control only with thought,” says Osamu Fukayama of the university’s Medical Engineering and Life Science Laboratory. “RatCar is a simplified prototype to develop better electrodes, devices, and algorithms for those systems.”
This little 6th generation iPod nano just wants to dance. Because that’s what its human programmed it to do. Kazu Terasaki, also known as YouTube user PachimonDotCom, is a Japanese software engineer from Silicon Valley, CA who is addicted to making apple products walk around.
Add one more job to the list–along with vacuuming floors and assisting in surgeries, now robots can try on clothes for you. The company Fits.me is developing a robotic torso for online shoppers that can morph to match shoppers’ body dimensions, creating virtual fitting rooms on clothing websites.
Men can try a demo version of the product on the company’s site. After entering measurements such as neck and waste size, and selecting from three torso types, the site displays what you might look like in a particular shirt. The torso doesn’t morph in real time; instead, the site pulls from a database of pictures–2,000 body size combinations, the company reports, systematically showing users if pinstripes in small, medium, or large will make them look fat. Shirt sellers Hawes and Curtis is already testing a version of the system on their site.
As reported by the BBC, the company next hopes to develop a version of the torso for women. Maarja Kruusma a professor of biorobotics at the University of Tallinn who helped the company develop the system, told the BBC that it’s a difficult task. Women’s clothing comes in more intricate styles, and their torsos are more complicated to model, she says:
“You can’t just take a male mannequin and put breasts on it. That doesn’t work.”
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Introducing the maple-seed-inspired Ulrich flyer, the world’s first controllable robotic monocopter. The monocopter’s inventors studied the way a maple seed whirls and twirls as it falls to the ground, and designed their flyer based on that biological blueprint. In this video, watch the little aircraft rise through the air with its single blade spinning furiously–accompanied by an epic soundtrack that ranges from techno to symphonic grandeur.
Invented at the University of Maryland’s Aerospace Engineering Autonomous Vehicle Laboratory and Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center, the small and capable craft meets most of the challenges set forth by DARPA’s nano-air-vehicle program. The program asks engineers to invent ultra-lightweight vehicles that could come in handy for urban military missions.
Read more about the copter over at Physorg.com.
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Video: YouTube / RoboSeed
Instead of spending time and money planning a manned mission to Mars, why not send an army of robots into space to do all the work? A fleet of robots could be deployed to explore far-away planets, according to researchers at Caltech’s Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory.
From the Telegraph:
Robotic airships and satellites will fly above the surface of the distant world, commanding squadrons of wheeled rovers and floating robot boats…The systems will transform planetary exploration, says [Wolfgang] Fink, who envisages the cybernetic adventurers mapping the land and seascapes of Saturn’s moon, Titan—believed to have lakes of standing liquid—as well as closer planetary neighbors like Mars.
Researchers say the robots could command themselves and other robots with little input from ground control. All of which seems like a great idea, since the human space flight program isn’t likely to take off anytime soon.
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• Hit the red-light district on the cheap: Berlin brothels are offering discounts to “green” customers that arrive on bike.
• New robotic prosthetic hand lets users regain their sense of touch.
• Do space flights make people crazy? The European Space Agency is looking for a few volunteers to spend 520 days in total isolation to study space travel’s psychological effects.
• Going green? Not if you own a pet. A new book argues that owning a dog has the same carbon footprint as driving 6,000 miles a year in a Land Rover.
• Mix & match brains: Scientists try to create a bird chimera to study the evolution of birdsong.
The palm-sized amorphous Chembot is the latest disarmingly cute military robot from iRobot. This little ball of cutting-edge technology—funded with $3.3 million from DARPA—debuted this week, and man, this is one bizarre robot.
From Popular Science:
The bot, which was shown off at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems this week, has a silicone skin, and moves by selectively inflating and deflating parts of its spherical body. But the locomotion system entails more than simple puffing and rolling: The video [see below] explains the “particle jamming” system of locomotion, “a mechanism by which material can transition from a liquid-like to a solid-like state.”
(According to IEEE, the video below is a little dated, but it’s still a good primer on “jamming.” The cool stuff starts at around 1:50.)
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Video: YouTube / spectrummag
We never eat 27 percent of the food that exists on the shelves in grocery stores or that is served in restaurants and kitchens. There is one way to save the fate of wasted food ending up in landfills. You’ve all heard of it, but probably never tried it: composting.
People who do compost know that it smells terrible and requires a host of bacteria, earthworms, and fruit flies to turn into soil—which is why apartment and city dwellers typically avoid the practice. But now those problems may be eliminated. The San Francisco-based company NatureMill is selling a composting “robot” to make composting hassle-free, and the machine might soon become an American household mainstay.
All you have to do is plug it in, and the robot does all the work. The machine can chomp on up to 5 pounds of food a day— turning dinner leftovers into soil in less than two weeks.