This Finned Robot Can Maneuver Over Land and Through Water

Scientists often use nature as a guide when creating new robots, making machines that mimic the behavior and movements of animals. But if you are copying a fish, that won’t do any good on land. Just like a robot based on a lizard won’t do you any good in the water. So why not build a bot with the best of both worlds?

This unique amphibious robot was created by an engineering firm called Pliant Energy Systems, and has a pair of long, flexible fins powered by eight actuators. These fins let it travel across land-based and through water environments with ease.

While on land, the fins of the Velox robot are like treads, allowing the robot to easily take on all kinds of difficult terrain -even ice. In water, the fins mimic that of a fish, moving through the water like a stingray. The robot can also handle snow and sand, by combining both movement sets.

Right now the robot is a prototype, but I think we can expect to see more of this drivetrain system in the future, maybe even in future vehicles for both land and sea.

[via New Atlas via Gizmodo]

Fitness Trackers Detect Heartbeat from Toilet Paper Rolls

I’ve never really trusted those fitness trackers. There’s just no way they can get accurate results. Actually, that’s just something I say to justify those extra doughnuts this morning. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some validity to my concerns. Recently, the Xiaomi Mi Band 3 generated some controversy after one user found out that the latest fitness tracker from the Chinese gadget maker could detect what it thought was the heartbeat of a roll of toilet paper.

Hey, I’d be nervous too if someone was about to wipe poo on me. The first video of the quirk was posted on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo. Soon after, others started exploring other objects that may be alive. Videos of the fitness tracker strapped all kinds of things started to show up online. Yes, bananas have a heart rate too.

The results were all the same; they all appeared to have heartbeats. Later, Chinese tech site Abacus made a video using other wearables, including Apple Watch Series 4, and an Android Wear device and they also picked up the “heart rate” of inanimate objects. Damn. Well, either everything is alive or these devices don’t work.

Actually, there is a logical explanation. It turns out fitness trackers and smartwatches use light to track the blood. The green light illuminates the capillaries in the wrist, while a sensor measures the frequency of the blood flow. Using an algorithm, the smartwatch is able to determine beats per minute. So it comes down to whether the light is absorbed or reflected, and that explains the mystery. Makes you wonder if it would detect a heart rate from a dead body though, doesn’t it?

[via Lost at E Minor via Mike Shouts]

Salto-1P Robot Hops Around Like Crazy, Knows Exactly Where It’s Going

The Salto-1P Robot is a small monopedal robot that looks happy as heel as it jumps for joy. It’s either happy or crazy; I’m not sure which. It is capable of continuous high-power hopping and it takes that job seriously.


The video here demonstrates a new control algorithm that can land Salto-1P’s foot at precise locations on the ground like jumping on stepping stones or playing one-legged hopscotch. It’s pretty impressive stuff. I can imagine a tiny robot like this relentlessly hopping after you and never ever giving up until it catches you. And then, of course, it will probably hop into your chest, stabbing you, as it hop-stabs you over and over again.

In fact, put a knife foot on this thing and let it play five-finger-fillet with your hand. This little crazy ‘bot is frightening on so many levels. It just seems so happy, but is soooo creepy. Stuff like this makes me fear for our world. If you pay attention to the beginning of the video it says, “This work is supported by Army Research Office Grant…” Oh man. This thing is obviously designed to kill. Hop and kill. Then hop and kill some more. Oh man.

You can read more about how Salto-1P works its hopping magic in this paper by its creators Justin K. Yim and Ronald S. Fearing.

[via iEEE Spectrum]

This Ladder-Climbing Snake Robot is Creepy as Hell

How about a game of chutes and ladders? Uh, I mean snakes and ladders. Look, snakes are nature’s creepiest creation and robots are man’s creepiest creation. So naturally, scientists had to combine them both for maximum terror. While we’re at it, let’s make these robotic creepy crawlies climb ladders, cause you know, we wouldn’t want humans getting away.

Seriously though, a snake is a great design for robotics. They can slither in and out of small spaces to look for damage in structures or rescue someone trapped under rubble, plus they can handle all kinds of terrain. But just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should. Because now researchers have taught robot snakes to climb ladders. There goes your second story escape plan.

Researchers from the Kyoto University and University of Electro-Communications have developed a robot snake that can bend and twist its segmented body, allowing it to slowly wrap itself around each rung as it climbs a ladder.

Good job researchers. Now, where are we going to go to escape robot snakes? I built a treehouse specifically to escape them and I just know that when I go up there next, now I’m going to find a bunch of robot snakes up there reading dirty mags, which is my job.

[via iEEE via Gizmodo]

Jurassic Block Puts a Natural History Museum on Your Desk

Kids love dinosaurs, which is why they collect all of the Jurassic Park toys. Adults also love dinosaurs, and they also buy the toys. But if you’re looking for a collectible that is a bit more adult than some action figures and dino statues, check out this Jurassic Block fossil collection.

Jurassic Blocks are 5 by 5-inch blocks made with high-quality, super clear acrylic, and have real dinosaur fossils embedded inside. Owning actual pieces of dinosaur sounds pretty damn cool. I don’t know anyone else who owns any dino-bits, so I could be the only one on my block to have this. Awesome.

Serious dino buffs are going to love this. IWT Designs has curated these fossils excavated from all over the world, and they include fossilized remains from the late Cretaceous period, like a dinosaur eggshell, T.rex bone and raptor, and it also has fossils of creatures from the late Jurassic era like the stegosaurus, triceratops, and pterosaur.

It will cost you $175 to $199 on Kickstarter. The campaign has already passed its set funding goal, and they should start arriving in your mailbox around January 2019. This is really a great idea for dino lovers and will impress your geek friends.

[via Mike Shouts]

Festo BionicFinWave Is a Creepy Robotic Fish

Biomimicry is the art of making technology and robots that mimic attributes of real-life animals. Festo is all about biomimicry. Take a look at this eel-like robotic fish called BionicFinWave. It swims like a cuttlefish and is mighty creepy to behold. Its fins go from head to tail and the wave-shaped movement of the fins allows the faux-fish to push the water behind it, creating a forward thrust. Creatures with this design can also swim backward in this way. Pretty weird, huh?

BionicFinWave can communicate wirelessly, transmitting sensor data, temperature, pressure, and more to researchers. It operates on the principle of a crankshaft, driven by servo motors, which facilitates the undulating fin movement. The robot is an experiment that allows them to see how this movement could serve as an effective propulsion mechanism.

It is effective alright, and is also eerily life-like. Why did they have to give it those creepy eyes? It already has a camera on the nose. Apparently, they want it to be as life-like as possible, not caring how it creeps out humans like me.

[via Mike Shouts]

Just How Aerodynamic is an X-Wing or TIE Fighter?

Have you ever wondered how aerodynamic Star Wars ships really are? Well, wonder no more. EC Henry decided to give us some answers. He used AutoDesk’s now discontinued Flow Design software to analyze the aerodynamics and drag coefficients of ships from the Star Wars universe. I know, they don’t travel through air, they travel through space, but it’s still fun to see how aerodynamic their designs are anyhow.

As you may have guessed TIE Fighters are pretty useless when flying through the air. A TIE Interceptor is not much better than a standard TIE Fighter. X-Wings are better, but still not all that great. It turns out that A-Wing fighters are pretty fast.

Boba Fett’s Slave 1 would totally suck in the atmosphere and I’m guessing the Millennium Falcon would too. So basically Star Wars ships flying through the air are not a good idea and if they did, the Empire would never catch the rebels anyway. It doesn’t matter anyway because spaceships are for space.

I would love to see this done with Star Trek ships because I’m pretty sure that the Federation’s ships would be terrible in the atmosphere. The worst ship ever? The Borg cube. You can’t just fling a brick into the air and expect it to do much.

[via The Awesomer]

This Sun-seeking Robot Flowerpot Will Keep Your Plant Alive

The Vincross Hexa is a programmable six-legged robot that looks all creepy walking on its bug-like legs, but now it has found its purpose thanks to Vincross founder Sun Tianqi. Now, the robot’s one job in life is to make sure that a single plant always get the sunlight it needs.

Tianqi got the idea for the Sharing Human Technology with Plants project from a sunflower exhibition where he noticed dead sunflowers near other plants and also observed how the plant could have survived if only it could move into the sun to get nutrients.

He replaced the original shell of the robot with a two-layer flowerpot large enough to hold a small succulent. Using sensors, the robot can move the succulent into the sun when needed. So with one of these, you will never kill your plant from lack of sunlight.

When the plant needs to be watered, the robot will even do a little dance to let you know. It is a very cool robot that could help anyone who has more of a brown thumb than a green one. Though it is a bit creepy to watch your plant walk around via six-legs. Good thing the plants and the robot can’t communicate or we would have some mobile plants taking over the world.

[via CNet]

World’s Smallest House Is Invisible to the Naked Eye

Look at this house. It looks a bit old and dilapidated, but it is the world’s smallest house. It measures a scant 300 x 300 micrometers, which means it’s too tiny for even a dust mite to make it into the door.

It was built by the nanorobotics team from the Femto-ST Institute in Besancon, France. The building of the tiniest house ever was to show off their µRobotex nanofactory. The construction was completed inside a vacuum chamber and required a process almost surgical in execution.

The team used a focused ion bean like scissors to cut a silica membrane. Once cut, a gas injection system was used to stick the edges of the structure in place. This project is the first time that the team was able to realize patterning and assembly with less than 2 nanometers of accuracy. This might be just the place for Antman to hang out when he’s really, really small.


Watch The Omnicopter Drone Play a Game of Catch

Fathers and sons do it, people do it in the park with their dogs, and Baseball players do it professionally, so why not let the robots get in on a fun game of catch? They want in on this human pastime too. And guess what? They are doing it. The Omnicopter drone is pretty good at it. It won’t be long before robots everywhere are tossing the ball to one another and forming their own Baseball teams.

It’s happening thanks to Swiss mechanical engineer Dario Brescianini and ETH Zurich professor Raffaello D’Andrea, who worked together to create this unique aerial vehicle. This drone is a super agile omni-directional drone that can fly in any direction, at any time, meaning it can change flight vectors much faster and more reliably than traditional quadcopters. That tech is the key to its success at this game. The drone is able to play a game of catch by adding a “computationally efficient trajectory generator.” So basically, it’s able to watch where the ball is being thrown, rapidly calculate its flight path, and make its way to where the ball will be in time to catch it.

The Omnicopter never fails to catch the ball, and never drops it. It is the perfect outfielder since it knows where the ball will be ahead of time. Sure, it’s impressive, but talk to me when it can swing a bat and hit a home run. We will probably see that next week.

[via Laughing Squid]