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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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Tradinno, Robot Dragon

Most of the time when it comes to robots, size depends very much on what the robot is being used for. For convenience, some robots are smaller and portable. For sheer necessity, others are hulking machines. But when it comes to show business, for dramatic effect, bigger is better.

This real-life dragon is called Tradinno, meshing together Tradition and Innovation. He weighs 11 tons, is 51 feet long, and has a wingspan of 40 feet. This guy is nightmare fuel if you’re afraid of fire-breathing mythical creatures and a dream-come-true if you’re a fan of fantasy.

The robot is the product of a decade of planning and work, and is magnificent to behold. With a 2 liter turbo diesel engine and polyurethane, glass-reinforced plastic skin, controllable veins that spurt 21 gallons of stage blood, flappable wings, and liquid gas for fire-breathing, Tradinno is truly an entertainment robot.

In fact, this robot is in the “Guinness World Records 2014″ book as the world’s largest walking robot. The only thing it can’t do is fly, but that’s more of a blessing if you really think about it. Entertainment, on a new level.

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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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R2B2: Button Basher

This robot will probably make you take out your phone and maybe fix some features in there, because it’ll make you question just how safe the information in your phone is. If you think that your flimsy password will deter anyone, think again!

This robot is called R2B2, short for Robotic Reconfigurable Button Basher. It does the dirty work of cracking Android passwords by trying every single combination until it hits a match. Not only that, it does it in around 19 hours, less than the time in a day. If you lost your phone for a day, you could essentially have all of your information stolen!

Now the interesting thing is that R2B2 isn’t even physically worth that much. It’s made of three $10 servomotors and ¬†many 3D-printed plastic parts, overall built for less than $200. It runs on an Arduino microcontroller, wields a plastic stylus to tap screens, and uses a cheap webcam to detect when a correct password is entered.

Alas, R2B2 does have its shortcomings. It’s so far restricted to Android numerical codes, because brute-forcing locks on an iPhone on default settings. Of course, you can always change your settings a bit, and prevent the robot from getting very far. Just make sure that your passcode isn’t the one that the robot guesses in the first three tries.

This robot was created by Justin Engler and Paul Vines, the former of whom is a security engineer, so it looks like we won’t have these roaming the streets and stealing info anytime soon. Instead, this robot is being considered for the improvement of security systems, as sort of a pass system.

Better security is more privacy, so make sure that all of your information and mobile devices are locked down securely!

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