Meet Frida, The Robot That’ll Staff The 24-Hour Production Line
Swiss manufacturer ABB has revealed a prototype robot called Frida that’s designed to be dexterous enough to replace a human being on a production line. ABB has made an effort to note it doesn’t see robots like Frida stealing jobs in the future—it’s designed to work alongside people, and could be very useful when a production line process changes and a reprogrammed robot could be retrained faster than a human worker.
It’s a good thing they don’t make robots that blog! Job security: Check
Memristors are a type of electronic device that you may haven’t heard about, since they were conceived theoretically a long time ago. But they’re only now becoming plausible in manufacturing—the trick is to modify an electrical current depending on a “signal” in a similar way to a transistor does, only in the case of a memristor the way they behave depends on how they were last activated. They thus have a degree of “memory” that means they behave a little more like your own brain cells do, and this has hardware folk all excited about their potential computing power. A team of scientists in Gujarat has now succeeded in making memristors out of modified human blood cells. Continued…
Why buy multiple pieces of furniture, when you could have one piece of furniture that could transform itself into whatever you need at the moment—a chair, a sofa, a table? For that matter, why settle for static, inanimate furniture at all? This is the idea behind “Roombots,” miniature modular robots that are something like Legos — except they’re also autonomous, and can walk around.
When you don’t need anything to sit on, the bots would be able to configure themselves into something obscure over in the corner, like a box. And if you have a falling out with your roommate, you could even have them transform into a wall.
The Roombots are part of a larger trend in robotics of robot swarms, the notion that many miniature robots could be more powerful than just a few big ones. Recently, the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP lab demonstrated that small robot quadrocopters could team up to construct the frame of a building. If robots are going to building our homes and decorating our interiors, let’s hope they have good taste.
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Microsoft’s Kinect may be a toy, but a new hack is giving it some serious skills: As an interface to the incredible robot surgeon da Vinci. It’s accurate enough to sew sutures.
We’ve seen several innovative, beautiful and downright freaky Kinect hacks so far, but we’ve never seen one with quite such a fascinating hint at the future: A researcher has wired upMicrosoft’s gaming toy, via an appropriate bit of interim hacked code, to the input interface of the da Vinci multi-armed surgical robot. This device, you may remember, is increasingly entering service as a genuine remote-presence surgical tool—it’s even been used to perform tricky prostate surgery. It’s a serious piece of million-dollar machinery, and marrying it with a gaming toy seems odd when people’s lives are potentially in play. So how does the hack work out?
The gesture-based controller even lets the operator insert a suture needle into a practice incision, and perform fine-motor movements like moving 6mm plastic rings between test spikes—emulating some of the ultra-precise tasks da Vinci’s surgical manipulator arms carry out when they’re actually inside a human body.
The trick in this hack was translating the three degrees of movement of the surgeon’s arms to control the six degrees of freedom of the robot’s own appendage. And then also dividing down the scale of the surgeon’s movements so that large swings of the hands were used to perform minute movements at the tip of the robot hand.