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Robot Barista

An industrial robot at the Japan Robot Week exhibition prepares coffee for visitors - video embedded below:

From The Japan Times:

Called Nextage, the company describes it as a “next-generation industrial robot.” It debuted in 2011 and has already seen action at manufacturing firms, assembling electronic components.

Industrial robots including Nextage have already proven their usefulness at manufacturing plants. But Kawada Industries, a Tokyo-based robot maker, wants to show they can be useful outside as well …


The robot, which appeared to be around 170 cm tall, had a large flat head with two cameras for eyes, wore a brown apron and seemed to know what it was doing.

More Here

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THE CUBLI

A cube that can jump, balance, and walk.

Steerable surgical needle

You can tell there is a bit of needle. And cheek. But sometimes that’s what it takes to create a non-invasive robotic cure for epilepsy.

The Vanderbilt University researchers, in the USA, have devised a curved shape memory alloy needle to navigate a path through the human cheek and into the brain. Once there, the device can destroy the small area where seizures originate.

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The story of a patient, an MRI machine and a humble robotic needle. David Comber/Vanderbilt University

I know your cheeks are twitching at the thought of it, but it could be a lot worse. At present, severe epilepsy is treated by drilling through the skull, which sounds a lot more painful.

The device consists of a 1.14mm nickel-titanium needle that works like a mechanical pencil, with concentric tubes that allow the tip to follow a curved path through the cheek and into the hippocampus, in the bottom of the brain.

The surgeon operates this magical robotic pencil using an MRI scanner – tracking its position by taking successive MRI scans at millimetre intervals.

Nickel and titanium were chosen for the needle because they are compatible with this scanning equipment. The device can also be 3D printed, so you can perform the surgery in the comfort of your own h— actually, scratch that last part. Best leave the needling to the professionals.

And, it seems robots are also weaseling their way into the heart, having conquered the mind. The robotic heart surgery trial in St Bartholomew’s Hospital, in London (below), bears testament to the increased mechanisation of medicine.

For a little more on MRI imaging, check out Simon’s recent blog: http://bit.ly/1xtsVfp

 If you are tired of hearing about robots, read how squid’s teeth and mussel feet are getting in on the medical act at http://bit.ly/1rYCNbF and  http://bit.ly/1x1na7C respectively.

By Eoin Redahan

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Zoobotics is developing modular animal-like robots made from paper, wood or plastics that can be assembled with a few tools

A startup from Hamburg (Germany) is experimenting with tetra- and hexapods, made from cardboard and paper. All technical functions are controlled by an Arduino Uno. Estimated base price incl all parts and reusable components atm around 300 €. They’re aiming for a crowdfunding release at the end of 2014. Count me in.

Description of Zuri 01:

ZURI is a programmable robot made from paper and grey cardboard. This motion machine, conceived of as a kit, can be assembled with a few tools (cutter, ruler, cutting mat, bone folder, glue and screwdriver). In addition to a distance sensor, the Paper Robot has servo motors, servo controllers and a Bluetooth module for wireless control via PC or smartphone.

ZURI is a modular robotic system. It is based on two leg variants (2DOF / 3DOF) and two different body modules (1M / 2M). The combination of leg and body modules allows for a lot of robot variations. This results in different degrees of difficulty regarding programming and coordination of the running gaits.

The ZURI-PAPERBOT-SYSTEM combines disciplines such as modeling, the use of electronics and programming. It is perfect for use in the classroom.

[Zoobotics] [long feature in german on golem] [all pictures by zoobotics]

 The first implanted mind-controlled prosthetic arm has restored a patient’s sense of touch

The prosthetic arm was developed by Swedish scientists, and is the first ever to plug directly into a patient’s bones, nerves and muscles, and translate their thoughts into action.

It was implanted into a Swedish amputee in January 2013 in order to test how stable and successful it would be long-term, and now the extremely positive results have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

"Going beyond the lab to allow the patient to face real-world challenges is the main contribution of this work," said Max Ortiz Catalan, the lead author of the publication and a researcher at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, in a press release.

But, incredibly, not only has the prostheses restored full dexterous control back to the man’s arm, it has also sent feedback the other way and allow him to feel touch sensations through the robotic arm.

Continue Reading.

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Project J-Deite

Collaborative project involving Brave Robotics, Asratec and Takara Tommy, to build a moveable 5 metre tall robotic Transformer by 2020. Currently, they have reached their quarter target, with a version which is 1.3 metres. Video embedded below:

As a first step of the result of technical research, we produced “J-deite Quarter” of 1.3 m long, a quarter of 5 m long of the final goal.

In this project, we will continue to proceed research to complete the next goal, “J-deite Half” of 2.5 m long,
a half of the final goal in 2016.

More at the project page here

Brain surgery through the cheek

For those most severely affected, treating epilepsy means drilling through the skull deep into the brain to destroy the small area where the seizures originate – invasive, dangerous and with a long recovery period.

Five years ago, a team of Vanderbilt engineers wondered: Is it possible to address epileptic seizures in a less invasive way? They decided it would be possible. Because the area of the brain involved is the hippocampus, which is located at the bottom of the brain, they could develop a robotic device that pokes through the cheek and enters the brain from underneath which avoids having to drill through the skull and is much closer to the target area.

To do so, however, meant developing a shape-memory alloy needle that can be precisely steered along a curving path and a robotic platform that can operate inside the powerful magnetic field created by an MRI scanner.

The engineers have developed a working prototype, which was unveiled in a live demonstration this week at the Fluid Power Innovation and Research Conference in Nashville by David Comber, the graduate student in mechanical engineering who did much of the design work.

The business end of the device is a 1.14 mm nickel-titanium needle that operates like a mechanical pencil, with concentric tubes, some of which are curved, that allow the tip to follow a curved path into the brain. (Unlike many common metals, nickel-titanium is compatible with MRIs). Using compressed air, a robotic platform controllably steers and advances the needle segments a millimeter at a time.

According to Comber, they have measured the accuracy of the system in the lab and found that it is better than 1.18 mm, which is considered sufficient for such an operation. In addition, the needle is inserted in tiny, millimeter steps so the surgeon can track its position by taking successive MRI scans.

According to Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Eric Barth, who headed the project, the next stage in the surgical robot’s development is testing it with cadavers. He estimates it could be in operating rooms within the next decade.

To come up with the design, the team began with capabilities that they already had.

“I’ve done a lot of work in my career on the control of pneumatic systems,” Barth said. “We knew we had this ability to have a robot in the MRI scanner, doing something in a way that other robots could not. Then we thought, ‘What can we do that would have the highest impact?’”

At the same time, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Robert Webster had developed a system of steerable surgical needles. “The idea for this came about when Eric and I were talking in the hallway one day and we figured that his expertise in pneumatics was perfect for the MRI environment and could be combined with the steerable needles I’d been working on,” said Webster.

The engineers identified epilepsy surgery as an ideal, high-impact application through discussions with Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery Joseph Neimat. They learned that currently neuroscientists use the through-the-cheek approach to implant electrodes in the brain to track brain activity and identify the location where the epileptic fits originate. But the straight needles they use can’t reach the source region, so they must drill through the skull and insert the needle used to destroy the misbehaving neurons through the top of the head.

Comber and Barth shadowed Neimat through brain surgeries to understand how their device would work in practice.

“The systems we have now that let us introduce probes into the brain – they deal with straight lines and are only manually guided,” Neimat said. “To have a system with a curved needle and unlimited access would make surgeries minimally invasive. We could do a dramatic surgery with nothing more than a needle stick to the cheek.”

The engineers have designed the system so that much of it can be made using 3-D printing in order to keep the price low. This was achieved by collaborating with Jonathon Slightam and Vito Gervasi at the Milwaukee School of Engineering who specialize in novel applications for additive manufacturing.

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Robot paralysed by choice of who to save

New Scientist has a story about a new experiment that tests Asimov’s fictional First Law of Robotics in which ethical robots prevent humans from coming to harm.

CAN we teach a robot to be good? Fascinated by the idea, roboticist Alan Winfield of Bristol Robotics Laboratory in the UK built an ethical trap for a robot – and was stunned by the machine’s response.

In an experiment, Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov’s fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm.

[read more]

Mind Controlled Prosthetic Arms That Work in Daily Life Are Now a Reality

Read the full article Mind Controlled Prosthetic Arms That Work in Daily Life Are Now a Reality at NeuroscienceNews.com.

For the first time, robotic prostheses controlled via implanted neuromuscular interfaces have become a clinical reality. A novel osseointegrated (bone-anchored) implant system gives patients new opportunities in their daily life and professional activities.

The research is in Science Translational Medicine. (full access paywall)

Research: “An osseointegrated human-machine gateway for long-term sensory feedback and motor control of artificial limbs” by Max Ortiz-Catalan, Bo Håkansson and Rickard Brånemark Science Translational Medicine. doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3008933

Image: The patient is also one of the first in the world to take part in an effort to achieve long-term sensation via the prosthesis. Because the implant is a bidirectional interface, it can also be used to send signals in the opposite direction – from the prosthetic arm to the brain. This is the researchers’ next step, to clinically implement their findings on sensory feedback. Credit Integrum.

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Soft Robotics Toolkit

Education resource developed by the Harvard Biodesign Lab to learn, experiment and develop technology in this field - video embedded below:

The Soft Robotics Toolkit is a collection of shared resources to support the design, fabrication, modeling, characterization, and control of soft robotic devices … The ultimate aim of the toolkit is to advance the field of soft robotics by allowing designers and researchers to build upon each other’s work. The toolkit includes an open source fluidic control board, detailed design documentation describing a wide range of soft robotic components (including actuators and sensors), and related files that can be downloaded and used in the design, manufacture, and operation of soft robots. In combination with low material costs and increasingly accessible rapid prototyping technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC mills, the toolkit enables soft robotic components to be produced easily and affordably.

More Here

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Wearable Robot Skin Could See Missions In Space Or On People

Purdue University engineers are working on what they call robotic fabrics that can change shape to perform different functions. 

The material is a cotton fabric with flexible polymer sensors and actuators made of shape-memory alloy that bends and contracts when electric current is applied. The system can constrict around an object if the actuators are aligned in one direction or bend the object if aligned another way.

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"Wait… you’re a girl… and you’re on a robotics team?"

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"Can you make us some posters? I bet you’re great with glitter!"

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"Whoa, whoa whoa, slow down there! Do you need help using that drill? I can show you how!"

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"Hold up, YOU’RE the mechanical/software/electrical lead?"

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