Robots Redux

February 16, 2012, was an historic day for human–robot relations with the first handshake between a human and robot in space. It was also a good day for rounding up the latest news from the world of robotics.

The following are some robot-related news highlights from the last two weeks:

Human and Humanoid Robot Shake Hands in Space

“The first human-humanoid handshake in space. For the record, it was a firm handshake. Quite an impressive robot.”

—Daniel Burbank, commander, International Space Station

Researchers find social robots require astute tuning to improve acceptability by the human mind

“How we interact with embodied machines is different than how we interact with a computer, cell phone or other intelligent devices. We need to understand those differences so we can leverage what is important.”

—Professor Maja Matarić, director, University of Southern California Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems

A robot sketches portraits

“We attach great importance to the artistic look of the drawings that results, but on the other hand, we have also equipped the robot with an automatic system that enables it to carry out all of the steps itself. With this installation, we have created an interface between art, science and technology.”

—Martina Richter, Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation

In new mass-production technique, robotic insects spring to life

“Our new techniques allow us to use any material including polymers, metals, ceramics, and composites. The ability to incorporate any type and number of material layers, along with integrated electronics, means that we can generate full systems in any three-dimensional shape. We’ve also demonstrated that we can create self-assembling devices by including pre-stressed materials.”

—Rob Wood, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering, Harvard

Local high school robotics teams take da Vinci for a spin

“I thought it would be more difficult, but the depth perception … after a couple seconds of doing it, it’s easy to grasp.”

—Isaiah Rodriguez, a junior at Smithtown East who took the da Vinci Surgical System for a “test drive”

New system allows robots to continuously map their environment

“There are also a lot of military applications, like mapping a bunker or cave network to enable a quick exit or re-entry when needed. Or a HazMat team could enter a biological or chemical weapons site and quickly map it on foot, while marking any hazardous spots or objects for handling by a remediation team coming later. These teams wear so much equipment that time is of the essence, making efficient mapping and navigation critical.”

—Seth Teller, head of the Robotics, Vision and Sensor Networks group, MIT

Drones, in-home robots, and military machines pose several questions

“Of course robots can deceive, play, kill, and work for us—they’re designed in our image. And the reflection they cast back triggers some soul-searching, forcing us to take a hard look at what we’re doing and where we’re going.”

—Patrick Lin, Ph.D in Slate

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.

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