Older Articles

Robots

2012 Top 10 Robot Christmas Gift Ideas

Posted 12 Dec 2012 at 03:09 UTC by steve

It just wouldn't be Christmas without our annual top 10 list of the best Christmas gifts in the world for your favorite robot geek. Our three founding editors, steve, Rog-a-Matic, and The Swirling Brain spend most of the year on their in-depth analysis of robot gifting trends; processing mountains of statistical data and comparing thousands of robot components, all to present you with the most complete and accurate list of the best possible robot-related gifts. Or at least that's what they'd like you to think. Actually the selection process involves some late night Googling and a cup of really hot tea (the brownian motion used to prime the robot gift improbability generator). Anyway, our regular readers know how it works by now. A list of the ten best robot gifts we can think of for 2012, in ascending order of predicted roboticist desirability. Read on to see the list!

Read more... (0 replies)
Robots

Best Robot Photos of the Week

Posted 10 Dec 2012 at 17:20 UTC by steve

Every week we post a collection of the best robot photos submitted by our readers to our robots.net flickr group. Why? Because everyone likes to see cool new robots! This week's collection includes a fleet of quadcopters at Max Plank Institute, MIT's now retired Kismet robot, some art bots, movie bots, and a vintage robot or two. Want to see your robot here? Post it to flickr and add it to the robots.net flickr group. It's easy! If you're not already a flickr member, it's free and easy to sign up. Read on to see the best robot photos of the week!

Read more... (0 replies)
Science

Collision-based Unorganized Machines

Posted 8 Dec 2012 at 16:51 UTC by steve

Alan Turing, who probably got there first no matter how exotic your approach to artificial intelligence, once had the idea of "unorganized machines". He was thinking of possible ways that the initial neural networks might form a newborn baby's brain. One of his ideas was a collection of initially random logic gates that cold self-organize or be trained for particular tasks over time. He saw this as a possible approach to realize intelligent machines. We could implement such an idea today in hardware or software but what about using chemistry? This is exactly what researchers at the Unconventional Computing Group at the University of the West of England are doing. As described in their recent paper, "Toward Turing's A-Type Unorganized Machines in an Unconventional Substrate: A Dynamic Representation in Compartmentalised Excitable Chemical Media" (PFD format):

Collision-based computing exploits the interaction of moving elements and their mutual effects upon each other’s movement wherein the presence or absence of elements at a given point in space and time can be interpreted as computation. Collision-based computing is here envisaged within recurrent networks of BZ vesicles, i.e., based upon the movement and interaction of waves of excitation within and across vesicle membranes ... A-type unorganised machines can therefore be envisaged within networks of BZ vesicles using the three-vesicle construct for the NAND gate nodes, together with chains of vesicles to form the connections between them.

The BZ (Belousov Zhabotinsky) medium is a chemical concoction of sulphuric acid, sodium bromated, cyclohexadione, and a few other chemicals, the result is pictured above. Think of it as a collection of bubbles that form something like neural networks where the signals are waves passing through the points where the bubbles touch, forming logic gates and other types of circuits. Researchers have described lots of common logic components including AND, NAND, NOR XOR, inverters, adders, and more. They've formed memory circuits and other more complex circuits. An interesting overview of the logic gates can be found in a set of slides from the talk, Neural Isomorphisms of Adaptive Belousov Zhabotinsky Encapsulated Vesicles (PFD format). So who knows, instead of robots with positronic brains, we may end up with robots who have chemicals sloshing around in their heads! (and does BZ remind anyone else of the Mathmos from Barbarella?)

Read more... (0 replies)
Robots

Random Robot Roundup

Posted 7 Dec 2012 at 17:12 UTC by steve

Time for our weekly roundup of robots stories you've sent us. Tim Smith reminded us that ROS, the open source robot operating system, celebrated a five year anniversary last month. Robotics Business Review posted an update on Kevin Warwick, the well-known professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading. CMU's Robotics Institute has launched a new robot news website called Robot Radar which will feature experts putting mainstream media robot news into perspective. Mainstream media like The New Yorker, who asked in a recent article whether your driversless car should drive off the road and kill you to save a busload of children. A recent MIT study discovered the unsurprising fact that flying a teleoperated drone mostly consists of long periods of boredom. The The Swirling Brain told us about a new SyFy show which will feature humanoid boxing "robots" (well, robot-looking kinetic sculptures or something anyway). He also pointed out an interest new Honda robot called Hearbo that is designed to interpret ambient sound much like humans, listening for voices or other recognizable sounds and pinpointing them in space. Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report? Send 'em our way please. Don't forget to follow us on twitter and Facebook. And now you can add us to your Google+ circles too.

Read more... (0 replies)
Science

Spaun: The First Working Brain Simulation

Posted 6 Dec 2012 at 18:55 UTC (updated 6 Dec 2012 at 19:00 UTC) by steve

We've reported on a lot of large-scale brain simulations in the past including a partial mouse brain, a rat neocortex and (maybe) a cat brain. None of those simulation actually did anything. Their goal was to simulate the neural network but nothing more. SPAUN is something different. The name stands for Semantic Pointer Architecture: Unified Network. The SPAUN simulation is described in the recently published paper, SPAUN: A Perception-Cognition-Action Model Using Spiking Neurons (PDF format). One of the authors, Chris Eliasmith, has a book coming out soon that details the Semantic Pointer Architecture (SPA) in more detail and describes its basis in the Neural Engineering Framework (NEF). From the paper:

We present a large-scale cognitive neural model called Spaun (Semantic Pointer Architecture: Unified Network), and show simulation results on 6 tasks (digit recognition, tracing from memory, serial working memory, question answering, addition by counting, and symbolic pattern completion). The model consists of 2.3 million spiking neurons whose neural properties, organization, and connectivity match that of the mammalian brain. Input consists of images of handwritten and typed numbers and symbols, and output is the motion of a 2 degree-of-freedom arm that writes the model’s responses. Tasks can be presented in any order, with no “rewiring” of the brain for each task. Instead, the model is capable of internal cognitive control (via the basal ganglia), selectively routing information throughout the brain and recruiting different cortical components as needed for each task.

As with any model, it's not as cool as the real thing. In SPAUN's case, the model doesn't learn synaptic connection wegiths, those were derived by the researchers. The SPAUN simulation has only a single fixed "eye" and a single two-jointed arm. Further, SPAUN can only perform tasks related to series or lists of numbers. Still SPAUN is an entire working neural system that includes visual perception, cognition, and motor action, which represents a useful advance in the field of brain simulation. Continued work on this type of model will undoubtedly shed more light on human cognition as well as robotics and AI. And you knew we couldn't stop with just a description of something this cool, so read on to see some videos of SPAUN actually doing its thing.

Read more... (0 replies)
Interviews

Robots Podcast #118: The Wambots Team

Posted 5 Dec 2012 at 17:58 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

photo of Thomas Bräunl

Thomas Bräunl is Professor at the University of Western Australia and leader of the Robotics & Automation Lab. He tells us about the first MAGIC Challenge (Multi Autonomous Ground-Robotics International Challenge) that took place in 2010 in Adelaide, South Australia.

Read On | Tune In

Read more... (0 replies)
Science

Robots Help Scientists Study Evolution

Posted 5 Dec 2012 at 17:41 UTC (updated 5 Dec 2012 at 17:41 UTC) by steve

A National Science Foundation news release profiles research being done at BEACON, an NSF center for the study of evolution in action. The "in action" part is the key to their work, as noted in the news release:

Evolution is not just something from the past. It also happens in real time. Bacteria mutate and resist antibiotics. Viruses reinvent themselves and elude new medications. Animals adapt their behavior in response to a changing planet. "It's not that what we're doing won't shed light on evolution over millions of years, but we also are able to study things we can actually observe with our eyes," says Erik Goodman. "We are looking at evolution in the real world."

Robots and AI software that use evolutionary algorithms play a key role in helping researchers to understand and duplicate what they see happening in nature. As they learn about evolution and computational biology, the researchers are also making some interesting advances in robot software itself, as in the work they've done in evolving robot behavior and evolution of cooperation in artficial systems. Their website is full of articles that will be of interest to roboticists and AI developers and includes plenty of introductory level topics like Evolution 101: Neuroevolution. Part of the NFS funding also goes to working with high school students and university students. Read on to see a video interview in which BEACON's principle researcher talks about his long term artificial evolution project. While not directly related to the robotics aspect, this work led to his interest in digital organisms and computation biology at BEACON.

Read more... (0 replies)
Science

Milli-Moteins and Wobble Motors

Posted 4 Dec 2012 at 20:11 UTC by steve

It's been a few years since we posted an update on the DARPA Programmable Matter program. They've been funding a project at the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms. The result is the Milli-Motein, a self-folding chain of one centimeter robotic modules based on proteins and powered by newly the invented Electropermanent Wobble Stepper Motor. The resulting 4 segment long prototype can transform from a straight line into any desired shape in 5 seconds. According to the researchers at MIT:

"The Milli-Motein is functional as programmable matter, able to reconfigure itself into several shapes on command. As far as we know, it is the highest-resolution chain-type programmable matter system built to date."

At present the Milli-Moteins can barely lift their own weight. So they are still a long way from Transformers or liquid metal Terminators but they still show some amazing potential. Just compare today's news to our story on DARPA's 2009 Programmable Matter milestone. You can learn more about the Milli-Motein project from the original research paper, Programmable Assembly with Universally Foldable Strings (Moteins) (PDF format) and from the more recent paper describing in great detail the Milli-Motein hardware and functionality, The Milli-Motein: A Self-Folding Chain of Programmable Matter with a One Centimeter Module Pitch (PDF format). Read on to see video of the Milli-Moteins in action as well graphics of the Wobble Motor design and an exploded diagram of a single Motein.

Read more... (0 replies)
Robots

Best Robot Photos of the Week

Posted 3 Dec 2012 at 20:01 UTC (updated 3 Dec 2012 at 20:02 UTC) by steve

Every week we post a collection of the best robot photos submitted by our readers to our robots.net flickr group. Why? Because everyone likes to see cool new robots! This week's collection includes, coincidentally, several alcohol related robots. There's a drunk graffiti robot, a Taiwan Beer display robot, even a collection of flasks bearing robot artwork. There's also the usual assortment of walking, flying, and rolling robots, both real and artistic. Want to see your robot here? Post it to flickr and add it to the robots.net flickr group. It's easy! If you're not already a flickr member, it's free and easy to sign up. Read on to see the best robot photos of the week!

Read more... (0 replies)
Robots

Random Robot Roundup

Posted 30 Nov 2012 at 18:44 UTC by steve

Bernard Froment sent us info about MOSAIC, his collaborative open hardware project to develop service robots. Speaking of service robots, Shannon let us know that the 2013 International Robotics Summit (Innorobo) for service robotics is coming up March 19-21 in Lyon, France. We noticed a tutorial on PID control for robots using an Arduino (it looks to be in Portuguese but that's what Google translate is for). The Open Hardware news site, FreeIO.org mentioned an interesting interview with Catarina Mota. Roboter Soong told us about the company he co-founded, Makeblock, which makes components for robot construction. Remember those killer robots we were talking about earlier this week? One of the X-47B prototypes was hoisted onto a Navy aircraft carrier for its first carrier take off and landing trials. NASA, meanwhile, has been busy reconsidering the advantages of analog vs digital electronics and produced an analog microchip that can perform Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) calculations super fast using only a few transistors where the equivalent digital circuit would require thousands; this could revolutionize onboard processing for space probes. The Swirling Brain sent a link to Toshiba's newest robot, which is designed to enter radioactive nuclear power plants that are too hot for humans. Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report? Send 'em our way please. Don't forget to follow us on twitter and Facebook. And now you can add us to your Google+ circles too.

Read more... (0 replies)

3482 older articles...

Suggest a story

Robot of the Day

Ester

Built by
Sirael Team

Recent blogs

17 Oct 2014 mwaibel (Master)
14 Oct 2014 shimniok (Journeyer)
5 Aug 2014 svo (Master)
20 Jul 2014 Flanneltron (Journeyer)
3 Jul 2014 jmhenry (Journeyer)
3 Jul 2014 steve (Master)
2 Jul 2014 Petar.Kormushev (Master)
10 Jun 2014 robotvibes (Master)
10 May 2014 evilrobots (Observer)
2 Mar 2014 wedesoft (Master)
1 Dec 2013 AI4U (Observer)
13 Nov 2013 jlin (Master)
23 Jun 2013 Mubot (Master)
13 May 2013 JLaplace (Observer)
21 Apr 2013 Pi Robot (Master)
12 Apr 2013 Pontifier (Apprentice)
16 Mar 2013 gidesa (Journeyer)
12 Mar 2013 ixisuprflyixi (Master)

Newest Robots

7 Aug 2009 Titan EOD
13 May 2009 Spacechair
6 Feb 2009 K-bot
9 Jan 2009 3 in 1 Bot
15 Dec 2008 UMEEBOT
10 Nov 2008 Robot
10 Nov 2008 SAMM
24 Oct 2008 Romulus
30 Sep 2008 CD-Bot
26 Sep 2008 Little Johnny
TwitterFacebookGoogle+RSS

User Cert Key

Observer
Apprentice
Journeyer
Master
X
Share this page