LERN: Will Soft Robots Speed Up?

These soft-robot actuators quickly convert a small input into a big output. (Photo credit: Credit: Johannes Overvelde/The Bertoldi Lab)

Researchers at Harvard have developed faster actuators that might speed up soft robots. Existing soft robots must move large amounts of liquid or gas, resulting in slow movements. The new approach takes advantage of snap-through instabilities: big changes that are instantly triggered by small changes. Normally, snap-through instabilities are associated with mechanical failure, thought to be uncontrollable, and avoided. This ... Read More »

Robi the Subscription-based Robot

This little two-pound robot is sent in pieces, over an 18-month period. It's up to you to put him together. (Photo credit: De Agostini Publishing USA.)

A Professor from the University of Tokyo is selling robots, piece by piece, to those willing to pay for an subscription. For $89.99 per month (plus shipping and handling), subscribers get parts and a full color manual explaining how to build each part of the bot. At the end of the 18-month subscriptions, subscribers will have put together all the ... Read More »

LERN: 3D Imaging Technology that Works in Bright Light

A depth-sensing camera can create a 3-D image of an object, even if it is in bright light. (Photo credit: CMU.)

Researchers in Canada and the US have developed a new 3D imaging technology that — unlike other depth sensing systems — can work in bright light, because it only gathers the light it actually needs to create the image. Invented by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Toronto the system uses a mathematical model that optimizes the ... Read More »

SparkFun Snappable Protoboard

Each row and column of this prototyping board is scored so that it can be easily sized down. (Photo credit: Sparkfun.)

Not all projects need the same size protoboard. Customize your next robot with Sparkfun’s Snappable Protoboard. The board has been intentionally scored between each column and row of holes, so that it’s easy to snap in to pieces by bending it along the edge of a sturdy, sharp tool. No need to use a rotary tool or sheet metal break ... Read More »

LERN: Borrowing Human Reflexes for a Bot

MIT PhD student Joao Ramos demonstrates a Balance Feedback Interface system on HERMES.

Researchers at MIT have developed a robotic system that uses a human operator’s innate balancing ability to stop the robot from falling over after an impact. An exoskeleton worn by the human calculates the person’s movements as forces are unexpectedly applied to the robot and human simultaneously. The robot is programmed to mimic the human’s movements as he balances after ... Read More »

Light Up Flower Craft for Kids

A beautiful bouquet of E-felt flowers will shine for about a month before the battery will need to be changed. (Photo credit: Soldering Sunday)

Looking for a fun, easy way to explore STEM basics with young children? Check out the E-Flower Kit from Soldering Sunday. Children as young as 8 have completed this craft in a half an hour, while learning about LEDs, batteries, and circuits. (Note that this kit should not be used around children who are still mouthing objects, as it does ... Read More »

LERN: Robotic Whiskers Generate Tomographic Images

Seals use whiskers to hunt fish in the dark. Similarly, a team of researchers hope their Nitinol whiskers will improve robotic navigation. (Photo credit: Institute of Physics)

A new sensor inspired by mammalian whiskers can generate tomographic images measuring fluid flow. Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois’ Advanced Digital Sciences Centre in Singapore were inspired by the way many animals use their whiskers to navigate in the dark. “When it is dark, whiskers play a key role for animals in exploring, hunting or ... Read More »

LERN: New Self-Specialization Algorithm Explored

The robots were tasked with completing a task similar to that performed by Atta leafcutter ants. (Photo credit: PLOS)

New research suggests that teams of robots that self-specialize to perform specific tasks using a novel evolutionary method might have an advantage when completing missions. The study involved robotic simulations modeled loosely after the activity of leaf cutter ants that cut leaves off trees to use in their nests. Simulated MarXbots had to collect items, take them down a slope ... Read More »

A-Star 32U4 Robot Controller LV with Raspberry Pi Bridge

This programmable module combines with a Raspberry Pi to serve as the control center of a robot or electronics project. (Photo credit: Pololu Robotics and Electronics)

This A-Star can be used as a Raspberry Pi HAT (for Model B+, Model A+, and Pi 2 Model B Pi boards) or as a standalone controller for a very simple robot. Built around an ATmega32U4 AVR microcontroller with built-in USB functionality,  the board includes dual motor drivers that can provide a continuous 1.8 A per channel. It also has pushbuttons, ... Read More »

LERN: Robotic Playground Apparatus Slowly Changes Shape

MORPH

Researchers from the Interactive Architechture Lab and the University College London are developing a robotic playground structure that slowly adjusts its struts to move and change shape. Known as a MORPH [MObile Reconfigurable PolyHedra], the octahedral robots can be wirelessly guided or roam relatively freely, while staying within a certain area. The robot also has an audio alarm that goes ... Read More »

LERN: Carnegie Mellon Team Wins 5th International RoboCup Championship

The CMDragons are five-time world champions of RoboCup. This year's team (from left to right): Steven Klee, Richard Wang, Juan Pablo Mendoza, Manuela Veloso, Joydeep Biswas and Danny Zhu. Not pictured: Philip Cooksey. (Photo credit: CMU)

More than 170 teams came out for this year’s RoboCup, which took place in Heifi, China. The event included a variety of challenges, including a robot rescue contest and soccer competitions for robots of various sizes. Highlights included a big win for the Carnegie Mellon University team CMDragons. The team played a shut out game against MRL, a team from ... Read More »

Create Smooth Motion with V-Rollers

Use these V-Rollers to create smooth motion along a channel. (Photo credit: ServoCity.com)

Put your project in motion with V-Rollers. These carefully crafted parts allow you to smoothly move a tube through an Actobotics channel. The V-Rollers come in three varieties: aluminum screw-set, Delrin with bearings, and the press-fit Delrin. The contoured shape of the V-rollers allows them to self-center when running on along a tube or shaft of an appropriate diameter. The ... Read More »

Creating Smooth Motion with V-Rollers

Use these V-Rollers to create smooth motion along a channel. (Photo credit: ServoCity.com)

Put your project in motion with V-Rollers. These carefully crafted parts allow you to smoothly move a tube through an Actobotics channel. The V-Rollers come in three varieties: aluminum screw-set, Delrin with bearings, and the press-fit Delrin. The contoured shape of the V-rollers allows them to self-center when running on along a tube or shaft of an appropriate diameter. The ... Read More »