5 Robots in the News – October

With this article, we continue the series of articles of the month where the most excited robots or useful technologies for robotics are revealed. This post features 5 robots including here a 3D printed human-like robot, an interactive robot to play games and interact with your children, cubic blocks that can form specific shapes, a solar powered micro air vehicle, and a brain-inspired chip that mimics the human brain processes and the nervous system.

Poppy

The Poppy is a cheap biologically inspired robot designed to demonstrate the difference in walking between bent thighs and straight thighs.
Using 3D printing technology is a growing trend in robotics aimed to build cheap and technologically advanced robots. A French researcher’s team builds a human-like robot called Poppy using the 3D technology, a robot designed to study the human-robot interaction and bipedal walking.

The humanoid robot Poppy is a biologically inspired robot, and this is one of the main reasons that researchers design and built it. The list of human-like robots available on the market contains very expensive robots compared with Poppy, which has a price of €8,000 (~$11,000) including here all electronics and robotic parts.

The researchers built two versions of Poppy, one version is with bent thighs while the second version has straight thighs. These two versions were able to demonstrate that the robots with the flexibility of thighs needs to be swayed far less in walking gait compared with the straight thighs version. The aim of this project is to build autonomous walking Poppy versions.

Back to the design, using lightweight materials the robot has a less weight of only 3.5 Kg (7.7 lb) and requires less power to be functional. It has a tall of 80 cm (33 in) and 25 servomotors that move it. The brain of the robot is a Raspberry Pi and it is equipped with a wide range of sensors including here one IMU sensor, 16 force sensors, two HD cameras, and a stereo microphone.
The emotions are displayed on an LCD screen, which is the face of the robot.

ixi-play

ixi-play is an interactive robot to play games and interact with your children.
ixi-play is an interactive robot inspired by an owl and designed for children. The robot is built to entertain and educate your children, which interact with the robot through applications or by using the robot features. The ixi-play can turn the head and can make tricks with its flexible body.
Compatible with Android and iOS devices, your children can play games with the robot that can change its colors, make faces, or use the voice recognition feature.

Using WiFi connectivity and a camera mounted inside the robot, the parents can monitor every movement of the children.
On top of its head is located a multi-touch sensor, the eyes are two animated video displays, it can hear using dual microphones, and a 720p video camera to capture clear images.

Inside a dual core ARM Cortex A9 processor runs the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system. The internal memory can be expanded with SD card slot and through USB port can be connected to a PC.

M-Blocks

The M-Blocks is a project that includes a large number of cubic blocks with flywheel inside that spins and generate force to roll the cube.
M-Blocks is a project based on an idea from MIT student John Romanishin and contain blocks that can be positioned to form a wide range of shapes. Inside, each M-Block has a flywheel that spins at a revolutionary 20,000 times per minute. The force generated by the flywheel in the stop phase is transferred to the cube, which roll on the floor or other cubes. The cube can jump if the flywheel spins fast enough.

Each cube is designed with magnets on faces and on the corners. The magnets from cube faces have the role to stick the cubes together, while the magnets from the corners keep the cube in contact with another cube during the movement phase. With a stable design as a cube, it is relatively easy to reshape the blocks into different temporary structures.

The M-Blocks can be used in self-assembled applications like furniture, survey areas, or rescue.

The blocks are controlled from a laptop that can be programmed to form specific shapes.

Robo Raven

The Robo Raven project aiming to build solar powered micro air vehicles that can stay for a long time in the air.
Robo Raven is a flying robot powered by solar energy and capable of staying a lot of time in the air. In terms of the energy density, Robo Raven requires 30 watts while the solar cells from the wings produce only 3.6 watts in one sunny day.

The Robo Raven is a project from the University of Maryland and aiming to produce solar powered micro air vehicles that can stay in the air an unlimited number of days.

At this moment, the solar cells have an efficiency of 6 percent, which is far away from what the researchers need to build a flying robot that can stay for months in the air. The efficiency of the power can be increased by combining the solar cells with battery and motors, and this is the case when the efficiency can be increased between 25 to 50 percent.

Qualcomm Zeroth

The Qualcomm chipmaker company built a brain-inspired chip that mimics the human brain processes and the nervous system.
The Qualcomm chipmaker company looks to biology in order to design a new generation of processors with brain-inspired chip architecture. The result is a chip that mimics the human brain processes and the nervous system. This new chip can have embedded cognition driven by a computing process inspired by the human brain.

Back in time, many researchers were involved in projects with aiming to develop the next generation of processors that mimic the human brain. The Qualcomm researchers that design the neuro-inspired chips for robots, brain implants, vision systems and smartphones have made a big step forward. At least all these four categories need a more efficiency-processing unit.

The Qualcomm processor is based on a neural processing unit process, which is a process designed for parallel and reprogrammable tasks, as well as cognitive tasks including here the prediction or classification.

Another project from the chipmaker company provide a set of software tools capable to teach computers without too many programming lines what is bad and what is good.
The Zeroth process was demonstrated on a robot that is taught what is bad and what is wrong when it follow the yellow and white tiles on a floor.

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