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Human Brain Connections Surprise Researchers

Posted 20 Nov 2010 at 02:47 UTC by Rog-a-matic

Cnet is reporting about imaging developments made at Stanford School of Medicine revealing that the human brain is more complex than anything previously imagined. Come to find out, a single brain contains more switches than all of the electronic switches on Earth. The cerebral cortex alone contains more synapses than the stars in 1,500 Milky Way galaxies. Researchers are also learning that each synapse is not merely a binary switch, but a complex cell capable of computation and data storage. These new findings may shed light on why silicon-based machines have as yet been unable to duplicate computing abilities found in biological systems. Publication at Neuron.

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Open Lidar Project

Posted 16 Nov 2010 at 17:34 UTC by steve

We're big fans of promoting the adoption of free software for robotics use so we couldn't pass this story up. William Cox of RobotBox is offering a bounty to free software developers and robot hackers who are willing to reverse engineer the laser rangefinder on Neato Robotics's XV-11.

Inspired by Ladyada's Kinect bounty, I thought, "hey, why can't I do that?" So, I'm offering a $200 bounty to the first person that successfully hacks Neato Robotics's XV-11 floor vacuuming robot's laser rangefinder and releases open source documentation/drivers for using it on a robot. This type of sensor would be a great asset to small (and large) mobile robots and it's a steal for the $399 it costs to buy the Neato robot. I want to kickstart the process of documenting how to use it.

Maybe a kickstarter campaign should be set up because Willaim's $200 bounty has already been upped to $300. RobotNV on the Trossen Robotics forums is contributing another $100 towards the bounty. Anyone else out there want to chip in a few bucks to help promote software freedom and help reverse engineer some pretty cool hardware for robots?

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This Design will KILL you

Posted 14 Nov 2010 at 17:10 UTC (updated 14 Nov 2010 at 17:13 UTC) by Rog-a-matic

Yanko Design is featuring a Chris Rogers concept called the "Mega Hurtz Tactical Robot". The remote-controlled robot works in conjunction with a virtual reality headset and sports a turrent-mounted non-lethal automatic weapon. The 280 pound machine can tow a Hummer, smash through a concrete wall, and run over your foot with ease. Mega Hurtz is suitable for SWAT teams, First Responders, and Search and Rescue operations. Gun-toting model and batteries not included.

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Random Robot Roundup

Posted 11 Nov 2010 at 17:16 UTC by steve

By popular demand, another robot news roundup is here. First up is news from our friend William Cox. You probably know William as the guy who spent the last decade maintaining the GoRobotics blog, which was recently acquired by Roboshop. His new project is RobotBox a community site for showing off robots you've built. Some other robot building friends of ours over at Willow Garage are celebrating the 3rd anniversary of ROS, one of the leading robot operating systems software packages (no doubt because it's released as open source to preserve the user's software freedoms). Lisa Devaney writes to tell us about a cool new educational program in UK schools that "aims to teach youth about the future workplace in 10-15 years time, demonstrating how robotics will influence career choices". It's called Robots and Avatars. And of course, The Swirling Brain swirls on, this week swirling up a Register story on CMU's flying robot jeep, a cnet story on Japan's new flying surveillance robot, a cake decorating robot, and an update on military exoskeletons. Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report? Send 'em our way please. And don't forget to follow us on twitter.

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Space Robotics

Mars Rover Sensor is RAD

Posted 10 Nov 2010 at 15:18 UTC by Rog-a-matic

Future human missions to Mars will be accompanied by the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD). RAD will be one of 10 instruments used on the Mars Curiosity rover set for touchdown on the red planet in 2012. Its goal is to monitor naturally occurring radiation that can be unhealthful if absorbed by living organisms. Unlike Mars, Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere provide shielding against the deadly effects of cosmic rays and solar particles. RAD will help scientist assess whether Curiosity's landing region on Mars has had conditions favorable for life and for preserving evidence about life.

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Robotic Milker Offers Cow Freedom

Posted 8 Nov 2010 at 15:44 UTC by Rog-a-matic

The new A4 robotic cow milker by Lely offers the cow a simple walk-through design reducing unnecessary stress and maximizing output. Size and motion of the cow and its vital parts are monitored by a 3D camera system which provides precise data to control the robot arm and cleaning devices. Various sensors and specialized software monitor the milk flow and provide real-time data about the fluid content so optimum milk quality and cow health are maintained. The modular system can serve both family farms and larger producers. Video, Brochure PDF.

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Can Robots Inspire Humans to Vote?

Posted 2 Nov 2010 at 14:31 UTC by Rog-a-matic

Tuesday is election day in the US where many House and Senate seats are up for grabs. Democrats currently control these bodies along with the President's office. So, some voting-inspiring robot stories are in order: Robots love Obama, except little children apparently! Get your Robot Nixon hoodie now! Some day, Optimus Prime could be President. Reboot Hope. Many think Bush had a hidden agenda. Robot President Seal. Clipart curiosity of ClipArtOf.

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Medical Robotics

Robotic Sternum Separator Draws Curves

Posted 1 Nov 2010 at 15:58 UTC by Rog-a-matic

The sternum stands between the surgeon and the vital organs within the chest. Typically it is simply sawed through then fixated afterwards with hardware. This fixation is imperfect and movement between the pieces can cause pain and even life-threatening issues. A new system by novoSurge uses x-rays and ultrasound under robotic control to precisely cut a path. The interesting part is that the path is not straight but sinusoidal so that the pieces fit back together better than a straight cut - sort of like a puzzle. This can lead to quicker healing for the patient and fewer complications. Hat tip to the fine folks at medGadget

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Coffee Ground Filled Balloon Gripper Holds Promise

Posted 28 Oct 2010 at 13:47 UTC by Rog-a-matic

The age-old problem of creating a robotic gripper capable of grasping unusually shaped objects has advanced one more step with this interesting development from researchers at Cornell, the University of Chicago and iRobot Corp. The Universal Gripper as they call it consists of a balloon filled with a jam-able particulate. When the balloon comes in contact with an object it conforms easily, then when a vacuum is applied, the particulates interlock providing the grasping action. Early material included rice and ground-up tires, but coffee seems to work really well. Video

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Bee Solves Travelling Salesman Problem

Posted 25 Oct 2010 at 15:54 UTC by Rog-a-matic

Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London and Royal Holloway have discovered that bees learn to fly the shortest possible route between flowers even if they discover the flowers in a different order. This 'Travelling Salesman Problem' often takes supercomputers days to solve, but Bees are now the first animals proven to do it. Computer-controlled artificial flowers were used to track the bee's path and found they quickly learned the shortest route. Since a bee's brain is only the size of a pinhead, researchers are hoping to identify the neural circuitry required and use that understanding to construct their own systems that rival the computational power of existing machines.

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