Robots go squishy, exoskeletons do not, and here’s your drink

Gizmag profiles another soft robot, this out of University of California Berkeley with a hydrogel/graphene layer that causes it to flex when exposed to light. A natural to combine with the Harvard/Wyss/DARPA chameleon [TTA 23 Aug 12] or, according to the article, drug delivery and tissue engineering. 0:36 video demos the gel in a ‘hand’ flipping its ‘fingers’ by laser light. Soft robots could benefit from new light-controlled hydrogel

Honda, one of the many companies developing exoskeletons to assist movement, is the first to lease 100 of them to 50 hospitals in Japan for testing. After 14 years of development, it’s about time. The current model is 2.6 kg (5.7 lbs.) and according to Honda, will “improve the symmetry of the timing of each leg lifting from the ground and extending forward, and to promote a longer stride for an easier walk.” Exoskeletons have been developed on three purposes. The first is assistance to the elderly and those in rehabilitation (Honda’s, Cyberdyne’s HAL, EKSO Bionics, Argo ReWalk TTA 29 June 11). The second is industrial (Honda as well.) The third is military, to support soldiers’ strength in the field and in combat conditions (RB3D, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin; also DARPA/Harvard/Wyss TTA 27 July 12Honda begins leasing Walking Assist Exoskeleton (Gizmag)

And after all this, wouldn’t you like a drink? Coming right up…. Cornell University’s Personal Robotics Lab adapted a Willow Garage PR-2 to serve you a beer or your favorite beverage. For a robot, anticipating human actions is a real challenge. That simple top-up of a drink can, if actions are not correctly interpreted, mean a big spill. So the Cornellians programmed the robot with 120 3D videos of people in everyday tasks, broken down into subtasks that the robot then recompiles into models of different activities, and then equipped the PR-2 with a Microsoft Kinect scanner to build up a 3D map of the objects present, so that the robot can then ‘observe’ how they might be used. It gives you pause to realize that simple everyday activities are made up of a myriad of subactions. Robby, pour me a tall one….Cornell develops beer-pouring robot that anticipates people’s actions (Gizmag again)

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