Tag Archives: robot

DARPA Creates Advanced Humanoid Machines (Avoids calling them Skynet or Cylons…)

DARPA unveils one of world’s most advanced humanoid robots

Published July 12, 2013

  • Atlas Robot.jpg

    ATLAS is a hydraulically powered robot in the form of an adult human. It is capable of a variety of natural movements, including dynamic walking, calisthenics and user-programmed behavior. (DARPA)

  • ATLAS robot front.jpg

    DARPA’s Atlas robot, developed by Boston Dynamics, is six-foot-two and weighs 290 pounds. (DARPA)

He’s six-two, weighs 330 pounds, and has arms that stretch wider than a car — but the NFL doesn’t want this guy in its lineup. 

ATLAS is a hydraulically powered robot in the form of an adult human. Here’s ATLAS, by the numbers:

Weight (incl. powerpack): 330 lbs
Height: 74”
Shoulder Width: 30”

Number of hydraulic joints: 28

Other features: Crash protection, modular wrists, LIDAR, stereo sensors

Defense contractors on Thursday unveiled one of the most advanced humanoid robots ever built as part of the DARPA Virtual Robotics Challenge in Waltham, Mass. Called ATLAS, the giant is controlled by a human operator, who guides the sensors, hydraulics, and limbs through a range of natural motions, the military said.

He can walk up stairs, stay upright after getting hit with heavy weights, and climb over or around obstacles in his path — and may ultimately boost the ability of first responders in a disaster scenario.

Related: Giant robots, monsters invade theaters

“We have dramatically raised the expectations for robotic capabilities with this Challenge, and brought together a diverse group of teams to compete,” said Gill Pratt, program manager for the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

And ATLAS is just one of the robots in the military’s latest robobuilding contest.

“The Virtual Robotics Challenge was a proving ground for teams’ ability to create software to control a robot in a hypothetical scenario. The DRC Simulator tasks were fairly accurate representations of real world causes and effects, but the experience wasn’t quite the same as handling an actual, physical robot,” Pratt said.

“Now these seven teams will see if their simulation-honed algorithms can run a real machine in real environments. And we expect all teams will be further refining their algorithms, using both simulation and experimentation.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/07/12/darpa-unveils-one-world-most-advanced-humanoid-robots/?intcmp=features#ixzz2Yxs6pmRL


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Fly-sized robot takes first flight

Fly-sized robot takes first flight

By Jillian Scharr

Published May 03, 2013


  • RoboticInsect

    The RoboBee is the smallest flight-capable robot to date. (Kevin Ma and Pakpong Chirarattananon, Harvard University.)

Flies have tiny wings and even tinier brains, yet they are capable of flying swiftly and agilely through even turbulent air. How do they do it?

And could we create a robot capable of doing the same?

That’s the question that’s been buzzing around Harvard professor Robert Wood’s head for 12 years now. And finally, after years of testing and the invention of an all-new manufacturing technique inspired by children’s pop-up books, Wood and his team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have created a robot the size of a penny that is capable of remote-controlled flight. 

‘Large robots can run on electromagnetic motors, but at this small scale, you have to come up with an alternative.’

– Kevin Ma, a graduate student at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences 

You’d think that the smaller something is, the easier it’d be to make. But there’s a point at which making things smaller becomes harder rather than easier, which is why making a functional fly-sized robot has proved such a challenge.

The so-called RoboBee flaps its wings approximately 120 times per second, almost faster than the eye can track, and is capable of hovering and flying horizontally in multiple directions like a helicopter.

At 80 milligrams, which is less than one-twentieth the weight of a dime, the robot is so small that traditional components of flight-capable machines simply wouldn’t work, so the team had to create new ones.

“Large robots can run on electromagnetic motors, but at this small scale, you have to come up with an alternative, and there wasn’t one,” Kevin Ma, a co-lead author and graduate student at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said in a statement.

In place of electromagnetic motors, the team used ceramic strips that can expand or contract when hit with an electric field, a technique known as piezoelectricity. 

The problem of building these parts at a fly-sized scale was also an enormous obstacle. For example, the robot has no onboard power source — instead, it receives electricity via a thin wire connected to an external battery.

To build the other parts, the team looked for inspiration not from the natural world, but from children’s pop-up books and origami.

Their solution is a groundbreaking technique that involves layering and folding sheets of carbon fiber, brass, ceramic and other materials, and then using extremely precise lasers to cut these sheets into structures and circuits. After that, the sheets can be assembled into extremely small but entirely functional devices in a single movement, just like a children’s pop-up book.    

Wood and his team devised the pop-up technique in 2011, publishing a paper on it in February 2012. And last summer, after years of failed prototypes, the first RoboBee took flight in a Harvard robotics lab at 3 a.m.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/05/03/fly-sized-robot-takes-first-flight/?intcmp=trending#ixzz2SN5zkDo9

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Bionic Man Created

Meet Rex: the $1m bionic man with working heart, set of lungs and human face

Most human body parts can be replaced,  say scientists, and here’s the evidence



view gallery VIEW GALLERY

When Luke Skywalker received a perfect bionic replacement for the hand that was cut off in Star Wars Episode V, the idea of replicating human organs and body parts seemed far-fetched.

Thirty years later, the idea is no longer just science fiction. Scientists, among them the creators of “Rex” – the world’s most complete bionic man, unveiled in London this week – believe they can now replicate about two-thirds of the human body.

“We were surprised how many of the parts of the body can be replaced,” said Rich Walker, managing director of the robotics team Shadow, who built Rex. “There are some vital organs missing, like the stomach, but 60 to 70 per cent of a human has effectively been rebuilt.” This is heralded, then, as the dawn of the age of bionic man – although specialists caution that we are still feeling our way.

Social psychologist Bertolt Meyer, who also worked on Rex, has an interesting perspective: he was born without his left hand and has a prosthesis. “I have looked for new bionic technologies out of personal interest for a long time and I think that until five or six years ago nothing much was happening,” he said. “Suddenly we are at a point where we can build a body that is great and beautiful in its own special way.”

Not everyone in the field believes the recent progress, impressive as it is, places us on the road to complete replication of human limbs, organs and tissue. “We have motors which can lift things but, if you want to mimic the dexterity of a hand, we are not there yet,” said Professor Steven Hsiao of the John Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“What we are beginning to achieve is building prostheses which look like human body parts, but we are a long way away from making ones which relay sensory information the way the human body does.”

Professor Hsiao drew the comparison between Star Wars and real life, saying: “The goal is the scene in the film where Luke Skywalker gets his new hand tested and is able to feel pain: we are not there. In 10 years, we will be able to build a robot which has the dexterity to pick up a pen and write with it, but it will not be able to send back sensory information.”

Rex, billed as the pinnacle of robotics achievement to date, will meet his public from tomorrow at the Science Museum in London. Dubbed the Million-Dollar Man (that’s how much he cost to make), he consists of a prosthetic face, hips, knees, feet and hands, all of which are commercially available. Other off-the-shelf items include an artificial retina, cochlea and heart.

Rex’s other internal organs, among them a pancreas, a set of artificial lungs and bladder, are still in development. Some of the technology cannot work without human input; bionic hands, for example, need muscles and signals from the brain to function. Other parts, such as the heart and pancreas, are designed to work on their own.

Other body parts remain out of the reach of scientists. Mr Walker says: “The only artificial stomach we have seen is very large and generates electricity, so you couldn’t use it to replace a human stomach, but I am sure there are people in the regenerative medicine community working on that.”

And replication of the human brain, the most complex structure known to man, was not even on the radar, Mr Walker said. “This is a showcase for prosthetic parts, it shows exactly where we’ve got to in being able to replace parts of a human.”

Bertolt Meyer adds: “I’d say it’s highly unlikely that, in our lifetimes or in that of our grandchildren, we will see a fully articulate human body with an artificial intelligence.”

Mr Meyer said there would be ethical issues surrounding prostheses if they began to outperform human body parts. “Should I be allowed to cut off my real hand and replace it with something, does that gives me an unfair advantage over people who cannot afford this? I’m not saying that is going to happen but these are questions that should be on the table before that technology becomes available.”


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Man, Cyborg, Robot, Soon it Will be Hard to Tell

I now have around 15 pounds of titanium, plastic and high grade ceramic instead of a left hip and femur.  Many of us have artificial parts added to or inside our bodies now.  Fake bones, fake joints, artificial limbs, the new eye contact lenses I posted earlier, and so on.  Yet no one has looked at me and said I am no longer human.  But what if all my original parts were replaced?

Now they can tie human thought processes to control machines, such as artificial parts, and even have those parts send back signals like your real arm would.  We have decoded DNA and are starting to work with DNA splicing and improvement.  There are currently successful projects making progress on mapping brain impulses and memory centers.

My personal prediction is that in forty years, the distinction of what is human will be seriously blurred.  Maybe they can’t fix your severed spinal cord that makes you quadraplegic, so they drop your head onto a whole new mechanical body.  Suppose you get Alzheimers, so they take an earlier neural mapping of your brain and stick it into a neural net computer and replace your brain.  You think the same and have the same memories, but are you YOU?  Eventually, it will lead to every human part being replaced as it wears out.  After a hundred years or so, you will be all machine.  You will still think you are human, but are you?  Does your implanted memories and thought process into a completely artificial body retain its humanity?  If you are a believer, do you still have a soul?  Did your soul leave when your mind was replaced?

As robotics and electronic devices started to accelerate in their ability to replace and improve our natural parts, I believe cloning will not be as prevalent.  At some point, why even have skin?  It is difficult to maintain and prone to damage.  Sex?  Why not run a neural net program that simulates it instead of going out to a bar to find a partner?  We are only one or two generations away from artificial bodies being as accepted as smart phones and computer pads are now.  Yet how many have pondered the ramifications of this new world?

Here is an interesting article on the topic:

Half Man, Half Machine: Becoming Robotic

By Daniel Maas

show/hide words to know


How close are we to really having robot arms?

How close are we to really having robot arms?

What’s in the Story? 

Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Dr. Octopus, or Master Chief, what do they all have in common? Besides being famous villains and heroes, they are all part robot, or cyborgs.

Have you wondered if it were possible to become part robot like any of these characters? Thanks to science, it is no longer impossible. The PLoS Biology journal article “Learning to Control A Brain-Machine Interface for Reaching and Grasping by Primates,” discusses how our brains can control robotic parts.

Becoming a Machine

RobotA great example of this comes from the movie Spider-Man 2. Dr. Octopus is a scientist who invents four mechanical, octopus-like arms. He attaches them to his back so he can control them from his spinal cord. Then “Doc Oc” controls his robot arms with his own thoughts! Of course, things go wrong and the machine arms start to control him, making him a villian that Spider-man must stop.

Modern day science has not advanced enough to the point where you can have giant robot arms attached to your back, but we do know it’s not completely impossible. Some researchers are finding which parts of the central nervous system work best to control robot arms. When they find a good area, they attach a Brain-Machine Interface to connect the robotic parts to the nervous system. Scientists are already finding out what part of the brain works best to control robot parts.

Getting in Your Head

In the Dr. Octopus example, he thought that the best place for a brain-machine interface was in his spinal column because there are lots of neurons in your spinal cord. Neurons are the cells that receive and send signals from your brain to your muscles. But researchers in this study were more interested in how brain-machine interfaces connect to the brain, which also has lots of neurons. The scientists knew certain spots in the front and sides of the brain work better than others for this kind of task.


This is an illustrated representation of the experiment. The monkey almost looks like he’s playing video games here. But at the end of the experiment, the monkey believes the robotic arm is in control.

This is an illustrated representation of the experiment. The monkey almost looks like he’s playing video games here. But at the end of the experiment, the monkey believes the robotic arm is in control. Click to see larger version.

In the experiment, monkeys were trained to use a control stick and move it with their arms. Kind of like using an old video game controller. The monkeys used these control sticks to move one ball on a screen to a specific place on the other side of the screen. Once the monkeys got the hang of it, the control stick was removed and they watched the ball being move on its own. The trick was that the monkeys still thought they were controlling the motion. Finally, a robot arm was placed near the monkeys to make the same moves. Scientists took all of these steps so that the monkeys thought they were in control of the robotic arm moving the ball. 

During all of these steps, the scientists watched the brain wave patterns from the monkeys to see how different parts of the brain acted. The researchers monitored four specific areas of the brain to record how the monkeys though when they were moving the control sitck versus “moving” the robotic arm. This information was then used to recommend the best places to put a brain-machine interface.

What Did They Find?

After using many graphs and doing a lot of math, the team found that the front and sides of the brain contain lots of neurons that send signals to make your muscles move. Scientists suggested that any place in the brain was suitable to attach a brain-machine interfae, as long as it was attached to plenty of neurons. They also found out that it takes time to learn how to use the brain-machine interface. Scientists saw that the monkeys slowly adjusted to the robot arm, but with practice they thought their brains were using it.

What does this mean for us? It means that maybe like Dr. Octopus, people can start to use robotic limbs better. Scientists think that by using the areas they found, a brain-machine interface can work better in humans. Not only that, but scientists have proven that if you use a brain-machine interface like a robotic arm often enough, it would become easy to use and even feels like it is an actual part of our bodies. Just look at this guy playing checkers with his robotic arm!


Robotic arm

Sgt. Sebastian Cila demonstrates his new robotic hand on the Sesame Street special “Coming Home: Military Families Cope with Change,” Image from Wikimedia – Richard Termine


Robot drawing from Wikimedia – Mikael Nordin
Hand with robot hand from Wikimdia – Richard Greenhill and Marie De Ryck
Robot hand and light bulb from Wikimedia – Richard Greenhill and Hugo Elias

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Phoenix Comic Con 2012 – A Happening Place

I went today and spent quite awhile with people I know in the various genre’s just hanging out.  It was busier than last year for a Friday.  Last year, on a Saturday, it was so busy it was hard to move at times and the fire marshal kept changing the exhibit areas to one in one out.  This year there is more space and the aisles are much wider as well.  Some of my display friends were complaining about new rules, like saying they would not dance by their exhibit- so it sounds as if some negotiations went on with the fire Marshall to prevent over crowding tomorrow.

Definitely an awesome event, the best in Arizona, and the best on the west coast you can get tickets for – ComicCon in San Diego had 250k tickets sell out in less than hour…sigh.  I did not have the presence at the event I had wished.  Preliminarily I planned to be on some panels and set up a table to two, but my hip surgery threw things off.  I know I looked normal to others, but felt like this myself:

Kind of crazy, as I was dressed normally and just using a walker, yes a walker, even with dark blue tennis balls on the back.  Still, nothing makes you feel older than walking around a ComicCon with geriatric devices.  I started to tell people I was dressed up as “Full Hip Replacement Man” a new test market graphic novel hero for the aging readers, with awesome wisdom of the years superpowers but with certain mobility limits.  I don’t think it helped much.

Anyway, I had a great time, but once again, eat and drink before you get there.  The food and drinks make theater pricing look cheap and hospital food tasty.  Over half the people today were in costume which made it more fun.  I might go all Steampunk on folks tomorrow.  No time to rub down the walker with bronze…sigh.  I also believe I will be doing a live podcast tomorrow from the event, so stay tuned!

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A new type of “Hip”ster

As most of you know, I stand on the precipice of setting aside my pure human status and taking my first step to being a cyborg.  I will not start off a $7 million dollar man, but at least a tens of thousands dollar man…  I have been waiting for awhile to get my full hip replacement because I wanted a specific doctor – Doctor Jimmy Chow.  Here is a video about him:


He has a new method of doing hip replacements that is much more difficult for the surgeon, but easier for the patient.  Instead of making a huge incision so things can slide in and out – old dead bones out, new cyborg components in – he makes a smaller incision and does the work inside you.  Here is what the difference is supposed to be:










As you can see, the last column, the way he does it, seems like a better way to go.  Not that many folks do this new procedure, so he is always booked way in advance.  As afraid as I am to get this done, the pain is so bad now that I have little choice.  Those of you who are believers, please pray for me.  Those who are not, spread some good vibes my way.  I know tons of these procedures are done every day and the risk is low, but I almost died during my last heart cath, so I am still kind of freakin out.

Also, it did not help seeing the size of these things when I visited my great friend Ted Carpenter in the hospital after his accident.  This is what it will look like:







It means invasive searches by TSA if I take a plane.  If only I could get female super models to work there on my days…  Here is what it looks like now.  This is not MY personal MRI, mines actually looks worse.  The dark spots are where bone is dead and there is no blood flow:







Unfortunately, in the MRI above, all the greyish area is completely black on mine…sigh.  It really sucks, especially since it wasn’t my unhealthy living choices that led to this, but taking predisone and methylprednilisone for asthma off and on for 15 years.  No one ever told me it could kill off my bones…sigh.

I will try not to whine about my problems anymore for awhile.  Don’t want to be that old person who just talks about their aches and pains.

Last night at our Central Valley Writers’ Group, one of my good friends there told me his son-in-law is dying of incurable cancer.  His daughter and his son-in-law are newlyweds.

God always has a way of making you feel petty about your own selfish concerns.  My heart and prayers goes out to him and his family.



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