Robotics-1 Nature-0

February 27, 2017

It isn’t very often that a robot beats nature at its own game. Usually biologically inspired robotics is about figuring out evolution’s clever tricks and then trying to apply them to your robot to make it faster or more efficient or more skilled. However, evolution is a very intelligent designer, and because of this robotics and roboticists are going up against a half billion years of trial and error. In an…

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Mission Impossible self-destructing gadgets not so impossible

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February 22, 2017

A new self-destruct mechanism can destroy electronics within 10 seconds through wireless commands or the triggering of certain sensors. Many government agencies and corporations would value such an extra layer of security for computing devices that might get lost or stolen. But past experiments with self-destructing electronics have either relied on new specialized chip designs or have taken far longer than 10 seconds. By comparison, the new self-destruct mechanism proposed…

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Surreal robo-artist soars over his canvas

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February 22, 2017

When the artist Dragan Ilić realised he was no longer agile enough to create exactly what he wanted at the ages of 68, he wasn’t deterred. The Serbian artist makes massive abstract works using pencil and paint, filling whole rooms. “When I noticed I had got old and less able, I knew I needed a helper,” explains Ilić. “That helper turned out to be a robot.” By using an industrial…

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Electronics of today pale in comparison to yesterday’s

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February 21, 2017

Billions of people have come to see the companies providing these gadgets as the most innovative, and the people who head those companies as the most exalted, of all time. ‘Genius’ is a starter category in this discussion. But clever and appealing though today’s electronic gadgets may be, to the historian they are nothing but the inevitable fifth-order elaborations of two fundamental ideas: electromagnetic radiation, the theory of which was…

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DNA switch sparks advancement of nano-electronics

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February 20, 2017

Much like flipping your light switch at home—only on a scale 1,000 times smaller than a human hair—an ASU-led team has now developed the first controllable DNA switch to regulate the flow of electricity within a single, atomic-sized molecule. The new study, led by ASU Biodesign Institute researcher Nongjian Tao, was published in the advanced online journal Nature Communications. “It has been established that charge transport is possible in DNA,…

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Crash testing drones and self-driving cars with an open-source sim

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February 17, 2017

To let developers crash drones and self-driving cars, Microsoft has released open-source software. Called Aerial Informatics and Robotics Platform, or AirSim for short, the code creates a realistic training environment in which it’s possible to simulate mistakes without real-world consequences. Let’s say you want to teach an aerial robot to tell the difference between a wall and a shadow,” Microsoft says in a blog post. “Chances are, you’d like to…

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Bandages light up when in contact with certain chemicals

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February 17, 2017

A new ‘living material’—a tough, stretchy, biocompatible sheet of hydrogel injected with live cells that are genetically programmed to light up in the presence of certain chemicals has been designed by a team of engineers and biologists at MIT. In a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers demonstrate the new material’s potential for sensing chemicals, both in the environment and in…

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Robot mission aborted inside Fukushima reactor

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February 17, 2017

Tokyo Electric Power company has said that a ‘scorpion’ robot sent into a Japanese nuclear reactor to learn about the damage suffered in a tsunami-induced meltdown had its mission aborted after the probe ran into trouble. TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, sent the remote-controlled device into the No. 2 reactor where radiation levels have recently hit record highs. The ‘scorpion’ robot, so-called because it can lift up its…

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Individuals controlled in robot swarm through magnetics

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February 17, 2017

A way to magnetically control individual members of a robot swarm has been developed by a trio of researchers with Philips Innovative Technologies in Germany. In their paper published in the journal Science Robotics, Jürgen Rahmer, Christian Stehning and Bernhard Gleich describe their approach and the ways they believe it could be used in practical applications. Scientists have demonstrated that it is possible to control a swarm of tiny robots (or…

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Drones count small birds in ornithological surveys

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February 16, 2017

A new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances tests a new approach to wildlife monitoring, using drones, and concludes that despite some drawbacks, the method has the potential to become an important tool for ecologists and land managers. Bird surveys provide crucial data for environmental management, but they have limitations–some areas are difficult to access, and surveyors vary in their skills at identifying birds. Using audio recordings made by unmanned aerial…

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