Monday, July 8, 2013

Inspiring Technology: Roombot, Rosphere, Human Exoskeleton

A compilation of famous fictional robots.
Robots in Pop Culture
This week in Inspiring Technology, I am going to show you how new advances in robotics are going to transform many elements of communication, emergency response, and even design. While the robots being produced are nothing like those portrayed in movies, they are arguably more useful. Instead of being programmed to imitate humans and reproduce their actions these robots are designed to be what humans cant be. These modern robots rely on modular technology and swarm based actions to do what no person can do.


Roombots construct a desk using their connectivity.

The Roombot is a modular robot being developed by the Swiss BioRobotics Laboratory as the future of modular furniture. At the individual level, the Roombot is a spherical robot with six rotating joints and the ability to rotate along its middle axis. However, when joined with other units, the Roombot becomes so much more. With one collective program, the Roombot has the ability to twist itself into many combinations, even being able to move inanimate objects with its joints. This ability allows the Roombot to essentially become any piece of furniture imaginable. With the click of a button the Roombot could construct an extra chair or desk, and when you are done with that furniture the Roombot can just as quickly become a small, easy-to-store cube. The Roombot is still in development, but the first modules are now being manufactured.

Click here for more information on the Roombot

Click here for a video of the Roombot modules interacting


Robosphere easily crossing bumpy and uneven terrain.

Another region in which robots could fill a niche that could be difficult or dangerous for humans is exploration. Researchers at the Universidad Polit├ęcnica de Madrid, Spain, have discovered that the stereotypical bipedal robot is probably not the best choice for mobility, and have decided on a design that forgoes convention altogether. The new Rosphere is an exploration robot that uses a method of travel that will will make it inherently balanced. Just as a hamster moves inside a hamster ball, a swinging pendulum in side the Rosphere allows it to travel both straight forward and backwards and in curves. Because of its spherical design, the Rosphere will always roll into an upright position when not in motion. Current models of this robot allow for both manual and automatic control of the robot as well as long distance communication with a receiver module. The Rosphere has many applications today, from reconnaissance to search and rescue. A marketed version of the Rosphere may have the ability to withstand irradiated areas and extreme temperatures and pressures to make it useful in space exploration.

Click here for more information on the Rosphere mobile robot

Human Exoskeleton

Robotic exoskeleton provides everyone with a chance to walk.

Many robots are currently designed to go where no man can go and do what no man can do. However, there are other robots that are being designed to work with and aid humans. The most impressive of these robots actually provide people with new abilities and opportunities. The new Rex Legs are being developed as the first stand-alone exoskeleton for the physically disabled. Unlike past exoskeletons, the Rex Legs are designed with a balance mechanism that does not require the user to use a cane or walker. This new system provides users with open hands so that they can still perform hands-on tasks while standing. The Rex Legs are not yet ready for personal use, but it is currently being exhibited and tested around the world. One model of Rex Legs will be demonstrated at the No Boundaries Conference this August.

Click here for more information on how Rex Legs are aiding the disabled

The Future of Robotics

Many researchers are trying to make robots that mimic humans. However, the most successful robots are not those that mimic humans, but the ones that are able to work in harmony with humans. We may someday see robots that look and act exactly like humans but the robot that will be getting work done will be those that fill the gaps that humans just can't quite reach on their own.

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