In 1994, Dante II, a 1,700 pound robot built by Carnegie Mellon and NASA, rappelled into the volcano of Mt. Spurr at the rate of one centimeter per minute. The team wanted to test the capabilities of autonomous systems and robotic mobility at the time. In August of that year, Science Friday brought together a group of experts to discuss the trends in robotics: moving from complicated,highly programmed machines to smaller swarms that could be interconnected, where robots could be useful and the ethical dilemmas the technology. One of those guest was Charles Thorpe, a senior research scientist at the Robotics Institute, who was working on developing an autonomous car. He returns to Science Friday to discuss how far robotics have come in the last two decades.
And as engineers build squishy biological-machine hybrids, with mouse muscles and sea slug mouthparts, how far are we from creating truly living machines? A look at the future of ‘bio-bots’ and the unintended consequences of combining flesh, neurons, and mechanical parts.