Stunning Robotic Animals as Fascinating as the Real Thing

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Fascinating and horrifying at the same time, robots inspire powerful emotions in people. This is especially true the more real to life they are. The following six robots are equally amazing and sometimes cringe-worthy.

Cheetah/Wildcat

With its long legs and articulated back, the Cheetah robot is as long, lean, and dangerous looking as its biological counterpart. Also like the fastest land animal, its robotic variant is the fastest legged robot in the world. Reaching speeds of more than 29 mph, it has set a new land speed record for robots. As amazing as this is, the Cheetah is confined to the lab; it can only operate on a treadmill, tethered to a support beam for balance and to its power-source, an external hydraulic pump.

The next generation of this robot is called the Wildcat. While its current maximum speed is only 16 mph, it’s able to run free. The scientists at Boston Dynamics, the developers of these machines, expect the Wildcat to eventually reach speeds of 50 mph over all types of terrain. Read more about the cheetah and other robotic wonders here.

Robot Spider

As odious as some people find them, no one can deny that spiders are master acrobats. As agile creatures, they’re able to move quickly across all types of surfaces and some are even able to jump. Their hydraulic limbs have inspired researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing, Engineering, and Automation to design limbs for their own spider robot.

The robotic spider not only mimics the legendary speed and agility of its namesake creature, it’s also able to jump. Researchers anticipate that the mechanical arachnid will be able to aid scientists in mapping inaccessible and hard-to-reach places as well as aid in finding trapped survivors of natural disasters.

Robotic Snake

For something without legs, the snake is remarkably fast. Its elongated body is also able to squeeze into places legged animals would have a hard time fitting into. Two scientific teams across the world from each other have created two robotic snakes that move just like living snakes.

The ACM-R5H, developed by Hbot of Japan, is a modular expandable serpentine robot that can crawl and swim. The Biorobotics Lab of Carnegie Mellon University has developed its own robo-snake, a flexible wonder that can crawl, swim, and climb. Both labs are developing these robots to aid rescue workers in finding people trapped in inaccessible places.

Robot Fish

There’s probably nothing in nature that’s able to change direction as quickly as the fish. The reason fishes can change direction so quickly is the flexible structure of their bodies, especially their tail. Fishes sweep their tails from side to side to power their bodies through the water. When a fish wants to change direction, it turns its tail sharply and almost instantly is swimming the opposite way.

Scientists at MIT have developed a soft-bodied robotic fish that’s capable of the rapid motion escape manoeuver of real fish. Powered by carbon dioxide flowing through elastic channels, the robotic fish’s tail is able to bend just like the real thing.

From the racing Wildcat to fast fish, scientists are getting closer to making the robots of science-fiction movies and novels a reality. Is that a good thing? Only time will tell. Until then, find out more about animal robotics here.

5 Places to Find Nanotechnology in the Near Future

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The field of nanotechnology is exciting and innovative, and you’re about to become much more intimately acquainted with it, even if you don’t yet realize it. From the food you eat to the medical procedures performed on you, nanotechnology is quickly becoming both more available and more widely used. Where will you find it?

In the Food You Buy

Image via Flickr by Anthony Albright

Nanotechnology has so many potential uses that defining all of them is well-nigh impossible. One of the most exciting possibilities you’ll see in the future, however, involves finding nanotechnology in the food you buy at the grocery store. In addition to creating packaging designed to cut down on carbon emissions, this technology will save you money and keep you healthy.

You know those sell-by and best-used-by dates. Often, if you don’t use food before one or both of those days, you throw the product away—even if you think it’s still good. New technologies will soon use sensors and phages—or bacteriophages—that can specifically target any unhealthy bacteria in your food. That means that even if it’s a few days over its sell-by date, you can check that steak or those eggs and see if the food is still safe to eat.

In the Computers You Use

Image via Flickr by James Byrum

Nanotechnology will entirely change the way people use computers. It will even change what computers are able to do. With faster processor speeds, smaller designs, and incredible innovations, computer engineering will change more than you’ve ever imagined. From the use of ferroelectric crystals to the creation of NVRAM, or nonvolatile random access memory, you’ll soon see lighter, smaller computers that bring the world one step closer to Jetsons-inspired gadgets.

In Your Medical Care

Nanomedicine will have a lifesaving impact on so many people. It is already helping the world of health and medicine, but even better things are on the horizon. It promises to help cancer research, care, cures, and even prevention. However, treating diseases may get easier all the way around, in part by cutting the need for drugs and medication. Nanotechnology promises to reduce side effects and increase efficacy.

In Your Beauty Products

Image via Flickr by Kanko

Don’t think nanotechnology can improve your beauty routine? Think again. Nanoscale cosmetic materials will soon find their way into your makeup and beauty products. Some of the benefits associated with this type of everyday nanotechnology are:

 

  • Better coverage;
  • Deeper cleansing;
  • Improved absorption;
  • More personalization;
  • Increased antioxidant and antimicrobial properties;
  • Better sunscreens, lotions, creams, hair care, skin care, and complexion products; and
  • Specialized makeup.

 

In the Activities You Enjoy

The everyday applications of nanotechnology get even more practical. They’ll start showing up as nanoscale additives in the polymer materials used to make baseball bats, helmets, luggage, power tools, tennis rackets, and many other household and sporting items. They’ll also appear in clothing fabrics, to prevent wrinkling and the growth of bacteria. Thin, barely there films will improve your glasses, your computer screen, and even the display on your camera.

Consider all the possibilities here, and think about how much nanotechnology will help you. Aren’t you excited about the potential?

Four Innovative Robots That Wowed Crowds at CeBit

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At first blush, a business technology tradeshow doesn’t exactly sound like the Mardi Gras of good times, but four very special robotic guests livened things up at CeBit, the biggest international computer expo in the world. From stripper skills to analogue muscles and tendons, the talents and features of these humanoid robots ended up stealing the show.

The Pole-Dancing Prowess of Lexy and Tess

Image via Flickr by abulhussain

Drawing some of the biggest crowds of the 2014 expo, the Tobit Software booth continued its tradition of displaying pole-dancing robots. Costing about $40,000 to make, the two mechanical strippers are controlled from a PC, have LED lights in lieu of faces, and are powered by the 12V motors that control the windshield wipers of cars.

Tobit, a mobile app maker, gave the two gal gadgets some upgrades this year. Lexy and Tess now have more colors and larger breasts. Additionally, the company can now operate the girls from an Android smartphone, highlighting the endless potential and versatility of cellular technology.

The Diplomacy of RoboThespian

The unofficial robotic host of CeBit this year, RoboThespian offered the eloquent welcome address to attendees and then schmoozed political figures like British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. David Cameron shook hands with RoboThespian, who apparently took a selfie of the moment and then tweeted the pic just moments later.

At six feet tall, RoboThespian has cameras, can recognize facial expressions, and possesses depth perception. The Cornish company Engineered Arts created RoboThespian as an alternative to human exhibition guides who would have to recite the same tour every day. Currently, however, RoboThespian serves primarily educational purposes and also makes occasional appearances in plays and other live shows.

The Bright Future of One-Year-Old Roboy

Meet Roboy Junior, the inaugural prototype of the Roboy project, whose goal is to construct a robot that moves just like a human. Roboy has tendons, bones, and muscles fashioned after those of humans, which allow him to make complex movements. The purpose of anthropomimetic robots like Roboy is to better understand how the human body works and then apply those lessons to industrial production, such as the manufacturing of prosthetics. Roboy’s ability to simulate diseases might also help reduce the cost of training physicians. Roboy can do much more than just play sick–he can make appropriate facial expressions for many emotions, including turning red when he is “angry.”

Although robots that gyrate on poles might not exactly be a boon to the future of the human race, the technology powering their robotic peers holds tremendous promise in education, medicine, and more. RoboThespian can save human resources by handling speaking and presentation tasks, even offering a human-like touch by responding appropriately to verbal feedback from audience members. Likewise, Roboy could do wonders for prosthetics and medicine in general by helping doctors fine tune their understanding of human mechanics. Needless to say, it’s obvious why these four humanoids wowed at CeBit this year.

4 Implant Technologies Waiting on the Horizon

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If you’re a technophile who enjoys joking about your desire to have cybernetic implants installed in your skull, you might be upset to know that you’re a little late to the party. Implantable technologies have been on the rise over the past several years and are making some incredible advances thanks to breakthrough research in the field of neurology. Here are just a few of the incredible new devices poised to dramatically change our world in the near future.

Spinal Implants

Injuries to the spinal cord are perhaps some of the most heartbreaking to hear about. But thanks to recent developments in biotechnology, implants are already helping patients stand. A groundbreaking study led by the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center developed an implantable device that delivered an electrical stimulation to the patient’s spinal column. According to Dr. Roderic Pettigrew, all four of their test patients regained “some level of voluntary function,” lending hope to the idea that implants may soon provide quadriplegics with a complete cure for their paralysis.

Retinal Implants

While we’re still a far way off from creating eyes that let us zoom in on sporting events, retinal implants to assist the blind are already here. The Argus II retinal prosthesis system is on the market in the U.S. as the first FDA-approved retinal implant for people suffering certain types of blindness. While patients showed improvement in their ability to recognize various shapes, these types of implants are still primitive in function and only allow patients to recognize blurry images. However, groups like the Boston Retinal Implant Project are continuing on with their years of experience in a quest to build a true bionic eye for the blind.

Memory Implants

Although current technology doesn’t allow us to target individual neurons in the brain, it does allow us to locate which areas of it are active and when. Selective targeting of these active sections is helping researchers at the Pentagon agency, DARPA, to work on brain implants that improve memory. This could turn a soldier’s brain into a biological black box to help bring back intel from a war zone, and perhaps later be adapted into helping people recover memories after a stroke or accident.

Sensory Implants

Who needs a GPS when you could have your very own biological compass that points north? Brian McEvoy, an electrical engineer and biohacker, has developed the first internal compass known as the Southpaw. This compass has a small whisker that brushes the underside of the skin once the wearer faces north. Other researchers like Rich Lee have found ways to embed magnets in their ears that allow them to sense magnetic fields and Wi-Fi signals, granting users an entirely new level of sensory perception to their world.

While it’ll be some time before implants really start to take off, the advances thus far have set the stage for a very interesting future. Although current implants are primarily centered on helping the disabled, it won’t be long before we seek out ways for them to improve ourselves in more ways than we could ever imagine.

The Future of Bitcoin and Gambling

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Bitcoin is no longer some secret wonder, understood only by the chosen few. It has become blatantly clear that crypto-currency is here to stay (regardless of which currency takes the top spot).

Thanks to the fundamental properties of Bitcoin, this currency is ideal for online gaming, and has been used to make millions of wagers to date.