Shuttle launches humanoid robot into space

February 25, 2011

The space shuttle Discovery has launched into space on its final mission, carrying a crew of six people and one humanoid robot – the first to be sent into orbit.  Discovery launched at 1650 EST on Thursday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission will deliver water, oxygen, and spare parts to the International Space Station. The shuttle and its crew are scheduled to return to Earth after 11 days in space, but will leave a humanoid robot called Robonaut 2 on the space station.  After an initial testing period, NASA hopes that Robonaut 2 will become a useful member of the space station crew, carrying out simple tasks like cleaning to give station crew members more time for other work. It may even be sent outside the station to do inspections or maintenance work.

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Surgery’s past, present and robotic future

June 19, 2009


Continuing on the topic from the last post… Surgeon and inventor Catherine Mohr tours the history of surgery (and its pre-painkiller, pre-antiseptic past), then demos some of the newest tools for surgery through tiny incisions, performed using nimble robot hands. Fascinating — but not for the squeamish.

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da Vinci Surgery

June 11, 2009


I’m a da Vinci surgeon because it is obvious to me that this is an improvement, a paradigm shift if you will, a leap forward in our ability to take care of our patients… and it really comes down to the bottom line. If I was going to have someone in my own family operated on would I want that surgeon to be trained in robotics? Yeah, I would.

Singularity University

June 4, 2009


Singularity University, based on the NASA Ames campus in Silicon Valley, is an interdisciplinary university whose mission is to assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies (bio, nano, info, AI, etc.), and apply, focus and guide these tools to address humanity’s grand challenges.

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March 6, 2009


Robotic systems continue to evolve, slowly penetrating many areas of our lives, from manufacturing, medicine and remote exploration to entertainment, security and personal assistance. Developers in Japan are currently building robots to assist the elderly, while NASA develops the next generation of space explorers, and artists are exploring new avenues of entertainment. Collected here are a handful of images of our recent robotic past, and perhaps a glimpse into the near future. (32 photos total)

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Future Watch: A.I. comes of age

January 27, 2009


These are indeed nice days for artificial intelligence researchers. While Stair’s performance might not seem much better than that of a dog fetching the newspaper, it’s a technological tour de force unimaginable just a few years ago. “Stair, please fetch the stapler from the lab,” says the man seated at a conference room table. The Stanford Artificial Intelligence Robot, standing nearby, replies in a nasal monotone, “I will get the stapler for you.” Stair pivots and wheels into the adjacent lab, avoiding a number of obstacles on the way. Its stereoscopic camera eyes swivel back and forth, taking in the contents of the room. It seems to think for a moment, then approaches a table for a closer look at an oblong metallic object. Its articulated arm reaches out, swivels here and there, and then gently picks up the stapler with long, rubber-clad fingers. It heads back to the conference room. “Here is your stapler,” says Stair, handing it to the man. “Have a nice day.” Indeed, Stair represents a new wave of AI, one that integrates learning, vision, navigation, manipulation, planning, reasoning, speech and natural-language processing. It also marks a transition of AI from narrow, carefully defined domains to real-world situations in which systems learn to deal with complex data and adapt to uncertainty. AI has more or less followed the “hype cycle” popularized by Gartner Inc.: Technologies perk along in the shadows for a few years, then burst on the scene in a blaze of hype. Then they fall into disrepute when they fail to deliver on extravagant promises, until they eventually rise to a level of solid accomplishment and acceptance.

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Robot “Twendy-One” has personal sense of touch

January 14, 2009


Have trouble getting out of bed in the morning? Japanese scientists have developed a robot called who can help you do just that – AND bring breakfast to your table.  The 17-stone robot called Twendy-One was developed at Waseda University in Tokyo.  Built with arms and hands the size ‘of an average adult female’, Twendy has enough strength to support humans as they sit up and stand, and can pick up and manipulate delicate objects such as a drinking straw.  In a demonstration the robot picked up a loaf of bread without crushing it, served toast out of a toaster and delivered a food trays to someone in a wheelchair.

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