October 5, 2013
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have created a small robot cubes that have no external moving parts called M-Blocks robots (MBR).
These “liquid-metal androids” are compared to robots from the Terminator series that can reshape themselves by using a fluid form of metal.
These blocks can “spin, jump, click together, and fly off each other.”
Using algorithms, the MBR can self-assemble; as well as roll across the floor, jump on top of each other and climb metallic surfaces independently, or within the group.
The robots use small cylindrical magnets at the edges of the cube. These magnets spin on a tiny axle which causes an opposite pole effect when the cubes come into contact with one another.
John Romanishin, lead researcher, explained that he intends to use this technology to build an “army” of blocks.
Romanishin said: “We want hundreds of cubes, scattered randomly across the floor, to be able to identify each other, coalesce, and autonomously transform into a chair, or a ladder, or a desk, on demand.”
Researchers are focusing on developing the MBR to be autonomous robots that can make their own decisions and turn into shapes they chose to, rather than doing what they are told remotely.
Boston Dynamics has revealed their Wildcat – all-terrain robot that can gallop and run at speeds of 16 miles per hour (MPH).
Wildcat is not connected through wires which makes it a free-running robot that can make sharp turns and recover its balance with ease.
According to the video: “WildCat is a four-legged robot being developed to run fast on all types of terrain. So far WildCat has run at about 16 mph on flat terrain using bounding and galloping gaits. The video shows WildCat’s best performance so far. WildCat is being developed by Boston Dynamics with funding from DARPA’s M3 program.”
Wildcat resembles the Boston Dynamics LS3, a robots designed to follow Marines along any type of terrain and able to carry 400 pounds of gear over a 20 mile radius for a duration of 24 hours.
As part of the Robotics Challenge sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) the RoboSimian, which is still under construction, is being touted as the winner of the competition because of its design.
RoboSimian will be able to walk on its four hands, command precise actions and function as anchors if needed.
JPL and Stanford combined forces to “build a simian-inspired limbed robot” that has the ability to use “deliberate and stable operations to complete challenging tasks under supervised tele-operation while in a degraded human environment.”
DARPA has also unveiled Atlas, a humanoid robot that stands over 6 feet tall and weighs 290 pounds, being called “one of the most advanced humanoid robots ever built.”
Atlas was created by Boston Dynamics, INC, (BD) with funding from DARPA.
DARPA awarded Boston Dynamics, Inc. a $10.9 million contract to manufacture humanoid robots that are bi-pedal, built like humans and have a sensor head with on-board computing capabilities. Completion of the project is expected for August of 2014.
This robot “is a high mobility, humanoid robot designed to negotiate outdoor, rough terrain. Atlas can walk as a bipedal leaving the upper limbs free to lift, carry, and manipulate the environment. In extremely challenging terrain, Atlas is strong and coordinated enough to climb using hands and feet, to pick its way through congested spaces.”
Built like a human, Atlas has “sensate hands will enable Atlas to use tools designed for human use. Atlas includes 28 hydraulically-actuated degrees of freedom, two hands, arms, legs, feet and a torso. An articulated sensor head includes stereo cameras and a laser range finder. Atlas is powered from an off-board, electric power supply via a flexible tether.”