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What's New In Robotics This Week - Mar 18

Emmet Cole
by Emmet Cole. Last updated on Mar 18, 2016 7:00 AM
Posted on Mar 18, 2016 7:00 AM. 7 min read time

France - US Fukushima collaboration; telecommuting with robots; self-repairing electronics; semiautonomous microbots; IBM Watson the concierge... and much more. Find out what's happening in our robotics universe this week. We hope that the news we have selected will interest and amuse you. Enjoy!

France, U.S. to help develop tools to dismantle melted-down Fukushima reactors (Japan Times

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Japan's science and technology ministry has announced plans for a collaboration with the U.S. Energy Department and the French National Research Agency on a project to extract melted fuel from the reactors at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant. 

France and Japan will jointly develop remote-control technology, including robotic and image processing expertise that can withstand high-radiation environments, he [a ministry official] said.

The Japanese government plans to finance the projects by spending part of its Fukushima technology development budget, which is worth ¥3 billion.
 

How To Telecommute With A Double Robotics Robot (Business Insider

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If you're at all curious about the ins and outs of using telepresence with robots in your business, check out this article.  

Nick Brewer goes into the office every day, just like most working professionals. He shows up promptly at 9 AM, logs onto his email, hangs out by the water cooler, catches up with his boss, and attends weekly meetings. Around six or seven, he says goodbye to his colleagues and signs off. But unlike most people, Brewer isn’t physically in his office. He’s not even in the Bay Area, where his company Double Robotics is headquartered. Instead, he’s 2,900 miles away in Brooklyn, NY, with his two dogs and spouse, where he controls a robot that allows him to telecommute to California.

I've had the pleasure of using a Double Robotics and a Beam telepresence robot a few times over the years (here's a 2013 Economist piece about attending a robotics conference using a Beam) and can highly recommend the experience, which is quite literally out-of-body.  

My only frustration with the robots was that they didn't have arms and grippers attached, but it can't be long before that capability becomes reality
 
 

iRobot’s Braava Jet Mopping Robot Is Small, Smart, and Not Round (IEEE Spectrum)

iRobot has unveiled a new entry level, affordable cleaning robot to add to its massively successful product range. The $200 "Braava Jet" robot is designed for use on hard floors and despite its low price retains much of the functionality and autonomy of the more expensive Roomba and Braava cleaning devices. 

iRobot says the Braava jet may look quite simple, but the company has crammed a lot of smart engineering into it to make sure cleaning and navigation work effectively. The mopping head to which you attach the pad not only sweeps the floor but also vibrates to help loosen dirt and stains. When a conventional spray nozzle didn’t perform reliably in tests, iRobot used a design found in luxury cars. In damp mode, the robot sprays about half the amount of water as in wet mode.

 

Nanomotors Could Help Electronics Fix Themselves (R&D)

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A team of scientists at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a series of self-propelled nanomotors that can autonomously detect and repair tiny scratches in nanoscale electronics systems.

Inspired by the human body's platelets (cells that group together at the site of a wound to stem bleeding), the system involves nanobots that rush to the damaged electronics and fill in the tiny gaps, thereby allowing electricity to flow again. 

They designed and built nanoparticles out of gold and platinum that are powered by hydrogen peroxide. The platinum spurs the fuel to break down into water and oxygen, which propels the particles. Testing showed that the nanomotors zoomed over the surface of a broken electronic circuit connected to a light-emitting diode, or LED. When they approached the scratch, they got lodged in it and bridged the gap between the two sides. Because the particles are made of conductive metals, they allowed current to flow again, and the LED lit up.

Robots that can self-repair could bring autonomous robotics to a whole new level and many research groups are investigating ways to provide electronic circuits with self-healing powers. A team at Caltech, for example, revealed a self-healing integrated circuit in 2013 and researchers at the University of Texas unveiled a "self-healing gel" for electronics in 2015. 


Drexel Research Helps Bacteria-Powered Microrobots Plot a Course (Drexel University

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Now we move from nanobots to microbots, with the news that researchers at Drexel University have developed a system that uses electric fields to help microscopic bacteria-powered robots detect obstacles in their environment and navigate around them to get to their destination.

Building on previous research which showed that these hybrid robots could be controlled via magnetic fields, the new system brings an extra dimension by equipping the robots with a steering algorithm.

So when the robot senses a change in the pattern of the field the algorithm automatically adjusts its path of to dodge the obstacle. In this way, the robots are using electric fields both as a mode of transportation and as a means of navigation.

In addition to the electric field information, the algorithm also uses image-tracking from a microscope-mounted camera to locate the initial starting point of the robot and its ultimate destination.

These microbots could be used for delivering medications or building microstructures within complex systems.  

 

IBM Watson powers Hilton's robotic concierge 'Connie' (engadget)

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Not content with beating humans at Jeopardy! and helping doctors make more effective diagnoses, IBM's Watson AI (in conjunction with a Nao) is now being tested as a hotel concierge in a pilot scheme at a Virginia Hilton. 

Connie, named after the chain's founder Conrad Hilton, can greet guests when they arrive and answer questions about hotel amenities, schedule and services. It was designed to improve the more it interacts with people by storing every question guests ask for future reference. Besides answering inquiries about the hotel, Connie will also be able to recommend tourist spots, restaurants and other destinations...

And Finally... 

 
Modeled After Ants, Teams of Tiny Robots Can Move 2-ton Car (via New York Times
 
 

Maersk Tankers – Flown out by drone

 

These Robots Are So Bad They’re Good via HuffPost Tech

 

Forget the robots — here come the geminoids! (via USA Today

Defence Ministry all set to equip all infantry units with UAV squad (Economic Times, India) 

Robot eliminates hard to kill superbugs (CBS 8)

Here's how companies are actually using drones (Popular Science

Google to develop robot clones of dead loved ones (Sputnik News

Could you fall in love with this robot? (CNBC

How to Shop for a Collaborative Robot: The Definitive Guide

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Emmet Cole
Written by Emmet Cole
A freelance robotics writer since 2006, Emmet is an Economist contributor, and a regular contributor to Robotics Business Review and Robotics Trends. His writing on robots has also appeared in Wired, BBC Future, BBC Focus magazine, Space Quarterly, and numerous other outlets.
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