25 October 2011

Robotics Roach to the Rescue

As we all well know, cockroaches can reach just about anywhere. They are small, quick, and stable, as well as able to crawl, jump, and, for some, fly. For this reason, the researchers at U.C. Berkeley's Biomimetic Milli System Lab built DASH Plus Wings, an interesting little robot that tries to imitate the stability, speed, and, in some ways, flight, of our friendly roaches. Take a look (courtesy of UC Berkeley News Center):

Very effective, I must say. Especially when looking at the evolutionary "top down" or "bottom up" science of flight.

 I have notice that generally, robotics branches into two ideas.
  1. Robots try to become more and more like natural organisms living today. Achieving the ability to make efficient decisions is the main topics discussed in artificial intelligence and behavior based robotics. Trying to make robots with the ability to fly, swim, and walk are also falls under achieving organism-based actions.
  2. Robots extend to places humans can not go (i.e mars rovers, deep undersea autonomous robot) and extend the grasp of human knowledge.
This article obviously leans to the number one theory. However, it rightly does so, addressing the rescue potential of these robots, which has nothing to do with grasping knowledge. The need for wings to conquer any terrain is correctly approached using the first theory, in which birds have an easy command over both land and air. Next, of course, comes all three: land, air, and sea.

Oh, and it throws in a little reference to swarm robotics, saying that fleets of "50 or 100" of these could go out on rescue operations.

Video and article from the U.C. Berkeley News Center. Article by Sarah Wang (again).

Boy, do these Berkeley guys get it right.

24 October 2011

Back again, after some time

Once again, almost a year since I posted. Yes, I neglected this, and yes, I'm sorry. It is just that, every time I come to this blog, I see the updated blogs on the sidebar, and go straight to them. But from here on out, I'll create two posts a week, scout's honor. Now, back to the real news.

I recently read in the "Popular Science" magazine about students at UC Berkeley who created an exoskeleton for Austin Whitney, a paraplegic, so he could walk to receive his diploma for graduation. Here is the video, courtesy of Sarah Yang, who wrote the article for the UC Berkeley News Center (http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2011/05/14/paraplegic-student-stands-walks-at-graduation/)

The students at the UC Berkeley Human Engineering Laboratory did a fine job. The article quotes Whitney, saying

 "The second I pressed the button and stood up, I was flooded with a series of emotions."

However, I can't imagine the engineers who worked day in and day out to build the exoskeleton having any other kind of feeling as well.

Getting a little more technical, I am very interested in the mechanics behind this simple exoskeleton. For my high school, we are required to, as seniors, pick a social issue to try and fix. I have picked a topic in the field of prostheses and exoskeletons for veterans, and plan to contact these very engineers to see if I can do the hours of experience required with them in their lab, giving me some valuable insight into mechanics behind the exoskeleton.

This accomplishment is an excellent show of the potential at Berkeley, and is one of the main reasons I would like to go there. Mind you, any college that offers robotics and has its stuff covered in news makes me want to go there, but the point is that this piece of work covers not only the robotics aspect of colleges, but the human perspective many of the projects try to achieve as well. Kudos to those students; they did a great job.

Again, thanks to "Popular Science" and UC Berkeley News Center for such awesome articles and the video.