Robot Motions Featured Pattern: P0731 January 2015

Author: Carl Telford

Prototypes demonstrate the improving mobility, resilience, and stealth capabilities of robots.

Abstracts in this Pattern:

Novel sensors and actuators, improved algorithms, new materials, and improved connectivity and robot architectures are enabling developers to give robots new capabilities, as the following examples illustrate:

  • Electronics company Murata Manufacturing (Kyoto, Japan) has developed a squad of robotic cheerleaders. The company's 36-centimeter-tall robots use gyroscopic sensors to balance on a ball and conduct synchronized dance routines. A central control system employs wireless communication to coordinate the squad. Meanwhile, ultrasonic microphones measure positions and distances, and infrared sensors use flashes of infrared light to monitor locations.
  • Researchers at Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts) and Cornell University (Ithaca, New York) have developed an unusual mobile robot with a soft, pneumatic body that is 0.65 meters long and particularly resistant to adverse environments. In addition to being able to shrug off snow and puddles, the robot can survive exposure to flames and being run over by an automobile.
  • Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT; Cambridge, Massachusetts) developed a football-size submarine that can deploy in swarms to inspect the hulls of passing ships for hidden compartments. The devices feature stealthy propulsion systems, which reportedly prevent them from generating waves on the surface of the water. These robot swarms could assist in national-security efforts and perhaps prevent nefarious activities such as smuggling.

Advances in robotics could enable the creation of useful new products for the defense, security, and even entertainment sectors.