Scientists at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory in Adelphi, Maryland, are preparing robots that can talk with soldiers, navigate in a “socially compliant” manner and learn from demonstration. The effort to enable robots to take verbal instruction, complete a series of complex tasks and maneuver in the same environments as soldiers is all part of the Army’s long-term endeavor to create fully skilled battlefield operators that work with warfighters, say Ethan Stump and John Rogers, roboticists at the Army Research Lab (ARL).
Years of experimentation by Army scientists and academic laboratories have led to a new generation of robots that feature advanced capabilities bordering on human reasoning. These mechanisms are able to autonomously perform complex tasks in part by learning how to ape human behavior. Scientists have generated algorithms that teach robots both to perform complex functions and also learn from humans as they evolve digitally.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is experimenting with underground robotic capabilities through its three-year contest—the Subterranean Challenge, also called SubT. This competition aims to spur tactical communications, mapping and search-related robotic technologies for use in subterranean environments.
Advances in sensor mechanics and the advent of artificial intelligence have cleared the way for robots to play an increasingly greater role in military operations. Their growing versatility allows them to serve multiple functions in the military, from basic assistance to assumption of full combat roles. They can inter alia, lighten a warfighter’s load, provide search and rescue capabilities, perform surveillance missions, engage in casual evacuation, provide resupply and conduct hazardous route reconnaissance. Within 10 years, we may see them driving supply vehicles in convoys.
Researchers from Warwick Business School, University of Plymouth, Donders Centre for Cognition at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and the Bristol Robotics Lab at the University of the West of England, found humans could recognize excitement, sadness and aggression from the way people moved, even if they could not see their facial expressions or hear their voice.
Researchers have taken a new approach to developing robots—using smaller robots known as “smarticles” to unlock the principles of a potentially new locomotion technique. The 3D-printed smarticles—short for smart active particles—can only do one thing: flap their two arms. But when five of these smarticles are narrowed in a circle, they begin to push one another, forming a robophysical system known as a “supersmarticle” that can move by itself. Adding a light or sound sensor allows the supersmarticle to move in response to the stimulus.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a new type of tiny 3D-printed robot that moves by harnessing the vibration from piezoelectric actuators, ultrasound sources or even tiny speakers.
The size of the world’s smallest ant, these “micro-bristle-bots” could sense changes in the environment and swarm together to move materials—or perhaps one day repair injuries inside the human body.
Nearly everyone has heard a parent or grandparent refer to the good ol’ days. Tales usually begin either with, “When I was your age…” or “In my day, we didn’t have….”
While it seems appropriate that octogenarians and nonagenarians tell such stories, today they’re not the only generations sharing memories that begin with, “When I was young….” People in their 20s and 30s reflect on their youth wistfully because members of the younger generation—who, by the way, are only five or 10 years younger than they are—can communicate, play, buy and sell, and share life moments in ways that surprise even 20-somethings.
The DragonflEye, a cyborg insect intended for a variety of missions, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, has liftoff.
The system was created by researchers at Charles Stark Draper Laboratories Inc. and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus. The dragonfly wears a tiny backpack fitted with electronics, sensors and a solar cell. A light source charges the solar cell, which powers the backpack.
The DragonflEye recently completed its first test flight for data gathering purposes.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has created a robotic arm that is being used to measure the properties of antennas rapidly and accurately. The robot, formally named the Configurable Robotic Millimeter-Wave Antenna facility, may be the ultimate innovation, extending measurements to higher frequencies while characterizing antennas faster and more easily than previous NIST facilities.
QinetiQ North America has announced that its TALON military robots will provide explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) mission support to Pakistan’s military forces. The latest $7.8 million order was facilitated by the U.S. Navy and follows previous orders from Pakistan for EOD robots.
QinetiQ North America Incorporated, Waltham, Massachusetts, is being awarded a $6,802,527 firm-fixed-price contract for Talon Generation IV robot vehicles, spares and accessories, depot level repair parts, shipping and training. Work will be performed in Waltham and Poland and is expected to complete by March 2013. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Division, Indian Head, Maryland, is the contracting activity.
U.S. Army researchers have enhanced the Talon robot with an array of technologies to make the system more autonomous. Upgrades include inertial navigation and Global Positioning System technologies, a 306-degree camera system and laser radar, upgraded power distribution boards, an e-stop system, Ethernet radios, control computers and software for running the system. The combination of enhancements allow improved obstacle detection and 3-dimensional mapping.
Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have developed a method to control microrobots by placing them in liquid and using magnetic forces. The researchers confined the robots-which are only half a millimeter wide-between two liquids. The application of alternating magnetic fields caused them to assemble into spiky shapes dubbed asters. By applying a second small magnetic field parallel to the surface, the scientists can make the robots pick up, transport and put down nonmagnetic particles. Already, four asters positioned together collected free-floating particles, and another one picked up a glass bead that weighed four times as much as itself.