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Flying Jellyfish at NYU

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a… flying jellyfish?

Yep, you read right. Those dangerous, poisonous creatures are now the center of attention at New York University, where researchers have recently developed a prototype that mimics a jellyfishes’ movements…but in the air. Meant to aide search and rescue crews and to act as environmental sensors, this automaton jellyfish could also be re-purposed for military and civilian use.

But why a jellyfish? The researchers found that critters with flapping wings spend a lot of energy and time dealing with a violent environment, having to adjust to every little gust of wind. The point was to make something that is small, but able to remain stable without much thinking.

Ironically, while this jellyfish-bot, which uses four separate wings that flap up and down to stay aloft, moves more like a moth than a jellyfish, this prototype shows that such a design is feasible, and can lead to even bigger accomplishments.

Perhaps these could be used to deliver packages to tributes in the futuristic Hunger Games, or be used just to scare children during Halloween? The possibilities for this tiny jelly-bot are endless.

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Robot Wants Toy Rocket for Christmas

Did you get that fancy new PS4 or Xbox One you had on your Christmas wish list this year? All around the world, people are celebrating Christmas, opening presents, and having a good time. 220 miles above them, aboard the International Space Station, it seems that a little robot might also be getting what it wished for.

When asked what it wanted for Christmas, the world’s first robotic astronaut, Kirobo said, “Santa Claus will come to space. I want a toy rocket… let’s ask Santa Claus.”  Kirobo, accompanying Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, is part of a Japanese experiment to increase man to machine communication. Without any pre-programmed responses,  Kirobo processes the questions and then chooses words from its vocabulary to form proper answers.

The creators of Kirobo, a combination of engineers from the University of Tokyo, Robo Garage, Toyota, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), want to know if a robot with conversational skills can be a viable option for human companionship. They also want to learn how well humans and robots can interact, and hope that more robots like Kirobo can play more active roles in keeping astronauts company on their missions.

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Schaft

Recently DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, hosted a day-long robotics competition where robots competed in different disaster-relief events such as clearing debris, opening doors, driving cars…etc.

Made by Team Schaft, a team based out of Tokyo, Schaft a 5-foot-tall, 209-pound robot was able to bring stable walking and significant torque power to these DARPA trials. However, this robot still isn’t perfect, losing points when a gust of wind blew a door out of its hands, and when the robot was unable to exit a vehicle after successfully driving a predetermined course.

So after watching this prestigious Pentagon-sponsored event, we’re now just counting down the days until Schaft can morph into Arnold Schwarzenegger and save us from the Skynet apocalypse, right? Hasta la vista, baby.

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Maggot Robot, in the Brain Matter

Brain surgery is one of the most dangerous operations that can be done on the human body, with its sensitivity. One of the issues surrounding this surgery is the risk of damaging living tissue while removing damaged tissue and tumors. And what did scientists do to try and fix the problem?

Build a maggot robot, of course.

What you’re looking at is a robotic maggot called the Minimally Invasive Neurosurgical Intracranial Robot (MINIR) designed by a team of three researchers from the University of Maryland. So why maggots, you might ask. Well, maggots are small and only consume dead flesh. In some cases, live maggots are put into a wound to remove only the damaged tissue and leave the living tissue intact.

This is important on two levels. First of all, a small robot is minimally invasive and does not require the opening of the skull. Second of all, it can be used while a patient is inside an MRI. While most brain surgery patients undergo an MRI before surgery, there can still be shifts and changes before and during an operation. As such, the ability to see 3D diagrams of the brain at the same time as operating is quite useful.

This robot has already been tested in pig cadavers, and the researchers say that they’ll be ready to test in three to five years. MINIR would make brain surgery less invasive, more accurate, and ultimately safer and easier.

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Handwriting Robot at Bond Gifts

Once upon a time, “Thank You” notes had to be handwritten. Once upon a time, people took a few minutes out of their day to write in fancy cursive on a card and make a short trip to the post office to mail it. Once upon a time… but no more. The robots have come.

A company in New York, called Bond Gifts, has created an iOS app, called Bond, that tells Giles the Bond Robot in New York. This robot then writes a note in calligraphy on embossed stationery using a fountain pen. Then the letter is put into a wax-sealed envelope to be mailed.

There’s a bit of sweet irony that Bond is handwriting letters as a robot. However, as the gift-giving mantra goes, it’s the thought that counts. But this robot does do a good job in personalizing its writing; letters are not perfectly the same throughout the letter, giving a more realistic and human sense.

Above all, this robot has the potential to bring back the art of writing letters. It might be up for debate, but for now, handwritten letters seem to be a great way to add a little emotion in our rapidly advancing technological society.

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