science + technology news

Robots get sensitive

July 1, 2004

An electronic skin as sensitive to touch as our own is being developed for robots by scientists in Japan.

It consists of a sheet of rubbery polymer, impregnated with flakes of electrically conducting graphite. The electrical resistance of the sheet changes when it is squeezed, and this change is detected by an array of transistors beneath the rubber.

The skin could also find applications in sport, security and… read more

Robots get smarter by asking for help

September 18, 2009

Willow Garage researchers are training a robot to ask humans to identify objects it doesn’t recognize, working with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an online marketplace that pairs up workers with employers that have simple tasks they need completing.

A cleaning robot, for example, could spend its first week in a new building taking pictures and having people label them, helping it to build up a model of the space and… read more

Robots go Where Scientists Fear to Tread

May 27, 2008

Georgia Institute of Technology and Pennsylvania State University researchers have build autonomously collaborating robots called SnoMotes to collect data from dangerous ice-shelf environments.

On-site measurements of ice-shelves can be more accurate than satellite or static weather station data, but they are difficult and dangerous for scientists to collect.

The two-foot by one-foot SnoMotes are based on a snowmobile kit, with sensors, AI algorithms, and cameras added. The robots… read more

Robots hunt neurons to record brain activity

August 29, 2012


Automated assistance may soon be available to neuroscientists tackling the brain’s complex circuitry, according to research presented last week at the Aspen Brain Forum in Colorado.

Robots that can find and simultaneously record the activity of dozens of neurons in live animals could help researchers to reveal how connected cells interpret signals from one another and transmit information across brain areas — a task that would be… read more

Robots improve patient care in the ICU: physicians

July 11, 2012


Physicians who employ remote presence “robots” (actually, teleoperated devices) to supplement day-to-day patient care strongly support the positive clinical and social impact of using robots, according to a report published in Telemedicine and e-Health, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

The article is available free on the Telemedicine and e-Health website.

“The technology used is a semi-autonomous, Internet-enabled, real-time, two-way audiovisual… read more

Robots learn to cut through clutter

Exploit creative "superhuman" capabilities
May 20, 2016

New software developed by Carnegie Mellon University helps mobile robots deal efficiently with clutter, whether it is in the back of a refrigerator or on the surface of the moon. (credit: Carnegie Mellon University Personal Robotics Lab)

Carnegie Mellon University roboticists have developed an algorithm that helps robots cope with a cluttered world.

Robots are adept at picking up an object in a specified place (such as in a factory assembly line) and putting it down at another specified place (known as “pick-and-place,” or P&P, processes). But homes and other planets, for example, are a special challenge for robots.

When a person reaches… read more

Robots learn to handle objects, understand new places

September 6, 2011

Robot Manipulation

Cornell’s Personal Robotics Laboratory computer scientists are teaching robots to manipulate objects and find their way around in new environments. They reported two examples of their work at the 2011 Robotics: Science and Systems Conference June 27 at the University of Southern California.

A common thread running through the research is “machine learning” — programming a computer to observe events and… read more

Robots learn to move themselves

August 12, 2008
Simulated human learned to do back flips

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences have demonstrated software for robots that allows them to “learn” to move through trial and error, using an artificial neural network.

Robots learning from experience

August 25, 2010


Software that enables robots to move objects around a room, building up knowledge about their environment, is being developed by robotics researchers at the EU-funded Xpero project.

Robots master skills with ‘deep learning’ technique

UC Berkeley researchers' new algorithms enable robots to learn motor tasks by trial and error
May 22, 2015

Robot learns to put a cap on a bottle by trial and error (credit: UC Berkeley)

UC Berkeley researchers have developed new algorithms that enable robots to learn motor tasks by trial and error, using a process that more closely approximates the way humans learn.

They demonstrated their technique, a type of reinforcement learning, by having a robot complete various tasks — putting a clothes hanger on a rack, assembling a toy plane, screwing a cap on a water bottle, and more — without pre-programmed… read more

Robots Need a Sensitive Touch

January 11, 2008

Robots could mean real business when they get arms and hands that mimic the dexterity and sensitivity of humans, said Tandy Trower, general manager of Microsoft’s robotics group.

The hardware needed for that may be available in five years, but the real challenge will be in programming the robot, Trower said. Software that allows robots to figure out surface textures and identify objects will require many lines of complex… read more

Robots of the Future

December 22, 2006

DARPA’s Urban Challenge, safety issues, artificial muscles, a multifunctional home robot, and Microsoft involvement will be the five key developments in robots in 2007.

Robots offer devotion, no strings attached

April 23, 2004

Robots may be the answer to caring for the aged in Japan and other nations where the young are destined to be overwhelmed by a surging elderly population.

Robots serving not just as helpers — carrying out simple chores and reminding patients to take their medication — but also as companions, even if the machines can conduct merely a semblance of real dialogue.

Proponents of robot therapy say… read more

Robots on TV: Five glimpses of future machines

September 21, 2010


Robots used by divers exploring shipwrecks and underwater caves, speech-recognition for search and rescue robots, domestic bots, a shape-shifting robot that compensates for damaged limbs, and a bot modeled on the behavior of a child are five latest robot developments described in a special video section.

Robots on TV: Rescue bot knows, um, what you mean

September 27, 2010

Matthias Scheutz, a computer scientist from Indiana University in Bloomington, and colleagues have developed a robot that can cope with ungrammatical speech patterns. Their design filters out disfluencies and helps the robot translate natural speech into clear instructions. The robot has been tested in a mock search and rescue scenario.

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