Fish, like most animals, have a pretty good idea of which other animals they're cool with, and which animals they're not. Very few animals are cool with humans, and fish are no exception--maybe they're afraid, maybe they're curious, and maybe they'll pretend to ignore you until you get too close, but in any of these cases, your presence is affecting their behavior. We've seen many clever examples of animal behavior researchers using robots to study their subjects up close with minimal disruption, and in a paper published in Science Robotics today, roboticists at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory describe a new kind of soft robotic spy fish that can more or less blend right in with everything else living on a coral reef. SoFi, MIT's soft robotic fish, is designed to provide close-range, minimally disruptive observations of all the fascinating and adorable animals that live underwater. The MIT roboticists (Robert K. Katzschmann, Joseph DelPreto, Robert MacCurdy, and Professor Daniela Rus) were careful to make SoFi as similar in size and behavior to a real fish as was possible, but they also had to make it completely self-contained and actually useful--SoFi isn't just a proof-of-concept for the design of a biomimetic robotic fish, it's a real research tool, with a friendly control system, and practical battery life.
It's not that often that I can steal the title of a paper and use it for a blog article that people will actually read, but I think "Popcorn-Driven Robotic Actuators" totally works, so credit for that to Steven Ceron at Cornell University who's the first author on this paper, presented at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in May. Let's see what else I can steal from it: Popcorn kernels are a natural, edible, and inexpensive material that has the potential to rapidly expand with high force upon application of heat. Although this transition is irreversible, it carries potential for several robotic applications. As kernels can change from regular to (larger) irregular shapes, we examine the change in inter-granular friction and propose their use as granular fluids in jamming actuators, without the need for a vacuum pump. Furthermore, as a proof-of-concept, we also demonstrate the use of popcorn-driven actuation in soft, compliant, and rigidlink grippers.
If your garden is your pride and joy, then you'll know that it takes a lot of work to maintain. It doesn't have to be this way, though. The lawn is the jewel of any impressive garden. There really is something special about a perfectly manicured lawn, especially when you know the owner has probably put hours into its upkeep. You can cut that time considerably with a robotic lawn mower.
We determine the future of field robotics by casting the vision, and creating the technology, robots and leaders of tomorrow. We will change the world by actualizing robots at work. There will be a fundamental shift in the way we build, secure, sustain, power and feed the world. Robots will be established as tools for craft, labor and hazardous duty on Earth and beyond. The robots we create and the leaders we develop will expand the bounds of human experience.