Networked surveillance minicopters can’t be kept down

Posted by on November 30th, 2009

Indoor flight requires a craft to be small, light and able to negotiate walls and other obstacles. “Reality bites you a lot more indoors,” says Zhang. But Sensorfly is too small to carry the technology it would need to look for and plan around obstacles. Instead it uses simpler strategies to survive.

Each robot carries a radio, accelerometer, compass and gyroscope. Thanks to the accelerometers it notices if it bumps into something, then backs off and warns fellow copters nearby of the obstacle’s approximate location. Any time two or more of the helicopters are within radio range, they form an improvised data network to share information. Their design is “passively stable”: as long as the twin rotors are spinning, the craft will hover in place. Its shape is such that if it is knocked to the ground, the craft need only keep trying and it should be able to get airborne again.

Squadrons of the craft connect with each other using radio. They pass information between themselves and back to a controller, and use the time delay on the radio signals to track their relative positions.


Italian Scientists Put Robot Spiders In Your Colon

Posted by on October 12th, 2009

Easier to swallow examination? From /.:

“Scientists in Italy have developed a robot which will move around the lower digestive tract using legs. The “Spider-Pill” is fitted with a camera and will stow its legs until it reaches the lower intestine. Once there it can crawl around and take pictures under direction from surgeons. Its USP is that it’s more appealing that an endoscopy.”

Orginal article on the, with a video from BBC News.

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Tiny Hummingbot

Posted by on August 16th, 2009

From, the swarm is coming for you:

The bot is part of ongoing research by DARPA to create a sort of suite of robots for deployment in combat. This one would be for checking out potential hiding spots, bomb locations, or sniper perches. They call it a Nano Air Vehicle. And remember, it’s cute now, but when it’s loaded with a neurotoxin and trying to sneak up behind the barricades…

ViRob, a Cavities Crawler

Posted by on May 29th, 2009

You are being watching from inside your own blood. A prototype has been developed:

At the upcoming ILSI-Biomed Israel 2009 conference (June 15-17 in Tel Aviv), researchers from the Medical Robotics Laboratory at the Israel Institute of Technology (Technion) will be showing off a microrobot called ViRob, that has only a 1millimeter diameter and can crawl through vessels and cavities, when controlled by an external magnetic field. The big idea behind the ViRob device is that it can be used to deliver pharmaceutical payloads to precise locations or pull a microcatheter through tortuous terrain.

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Scary MicroAV demo video

Posted by on December 18th, 2008

From Electric Spectre

Philips develops “intelligent pill”

Posted by on November 11th, 2008

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch group Philips has developed an “intelligent pill” that contains a microprocessor, battery, wireless radio, pump and a drug reservoir to release medication in a specific area in the body.

Philips, one of the world’s biggest hospital equipment makers, said Tuesday that the “iPill” capsule, measures acidity with a sensor to determine its location in the gut, and can then release drugs where they are needed.

Delivering drugs to treat digestive tract disorders such as Crohn’s disease directly to the location of the disease means doses can be lower, reducing side effects, Philips said.

While capsules containing miniature cameras are already used as diagnostic tools, those lack the ability to deliver drugs, Philips said.

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Snake-like Robotic Pills

Posted by on September 23rd, 2008

Researchers are developing ways to link multiple robotic pills together, with each section of the robotic pill having it’s own function. One might take pictures, or section might take samples. A drug delivery section would add the needed drugs to treat which ever medical conditions the pills might find.

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Take your robot pill now

Posted by on August 15th, 2008

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The NanoRobotics Lab at Carnegie Mellon University has come up with a medical robot that can be swallowed, and is then able to be controlled from outside the body. The device has small arms with adhesives that can attach to slippery internal surfaces, which has previously proven difficult. Once inside the body, it can be used to view damaged areas, deliver drugs, as well as biopsy questionable tissues, and possibly even be used to cauterize bleeding wounds with a small laser. The device could be stopped, and even reversed to get a better look at areas that may have gone unnoticed otherwise. This would be a major advancement in diagnosing intestinal problems, and could lead to potentially life saving treatments. Did we mention that it has lasers?

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Nice advance in medical diagnosis.

4-inch flybot

Posted by on July 24th, 2008

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The Delft University of Technology has shrunk their robotic ornithopter design down to a very impressive 10cm – that’s almost 1/3 the size of their previous design.

Specs for the Delfly Micro -

Size: 10 cm, from wingtip to wingtip
Weight: 3.07 gram;
Battery: 1 gram
Camera and transmitter: 0.4 gram;
Engine: 0.45 gram;
Receiver: 0.2 gram;
Actuators: 0.5 gram;
Rest: about 0.52 grams.
Battery: 30 mah lithium polymer, for three minutes fight.
Flap frequency wings: 30 Hz
Materials: Mylar foil (wings), carbon and balsawood.
Range: 50m

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    - photo via

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Ingestible Robots Survey Your Esophagus, Stomach, and Intestines

Posted by on June 4th, 2008

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Your body will soon be teeming with tiny robots. Last year, robotics researchers managed to guide micro-robots through a pig’s bloodstream using a magnetic field from an MRI machine (just a dry run before the bots infest us humans). Now scientists have invented a camera-bot you can swallow that will slide down your gastrointestinal tract, pausing to take pictures along the way.

The bot is remote-controlled by magnetic field, just like the ones in the bloodstream. To move it up and down through your insides, your doctor will have a hand-held magnetic device about the size of a chocolate bar. Where ever s/he waves the device, the bot follows. The new gadget will be used for studying the insides of the stomach and esophagus mainly, which are usually hard because a device that’s swallowed only spends few seconds in those parts of the body. Once in the stomach, it tends to sink to the bottom of the stomach, making imaging tough.

With magnetic control, doctors will be able to keep the camera-bot floating in the esophagus, stomach, or whatever part of the GI tract they want to study. It’ll probably feel really strange having a robot wiggling through your esophagus, but it could go a long way towards treating cancers in the stomach and esophagus, not to mention that pesky, heartburn-inducing acid reflux disease.

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Grasshopper-Inspired Jumping Microrobot Can Make Staggering Leaps

Posted by on May 21st, 2008

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Researchers from the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at EPFL are unveiling a novel, grasshopper-inspired jumping robot at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation May 21 in Pasadena, California. The robot weighs a miniscule 7 grams, and can jump 1.4 meters, or more than 27 times its body size — ten times farther for its size and weight than any existing jumping robot.

These jumpers could be fitted out with tiny sensors to explore rough, inaccessible terrain or to aid in search and rescue operations. “This biomimetic form of jumping is unique because it allows micro-robots to travel over many types of rough terrain where no other walking or wheeled robot could go,” explains EPFL Professor Dario Floreano.

“These tiny jumping robots could be fitted with solar cells to recharge between jumps and deployed in swarms for extended exploration of remote areas on Earth or on other planets.”

Kovac will also demonstrate the robot in the “robot zoo” at the 4th International Symposium on Adaptive Motion of Animals and Machines in Cleveland, OH on June 5, 2008.

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Artificial Silk Ducts

Posted by on April 29th, 2008

Is it just me, or does it seem like the future we’re heading towards is written by Stan Lee? After the marvels of snake like robots, German scientists have created a glass chip that spins silk by emulating a spider’s silk ducts.

Spiders’ silk ducts contain glands that process a gel of simple proteins into long fibres of protein. Different glands alter the chemistry of the gel in different ways, producing silk with different properties. The artificial duct is a glass chip shot through with tiny tubes that tries to mimic those processes. The team has not tested the artificial silk’s mechanical properties, but its grainy appearance suggests it does not yet rival the quality of the real thing. Refinements are underway with the goal of making industrial quantities of artificial silk.

Can’t be long now until some geeky lab technician wires a prototype up to some wristbands to impress the ladies.

The future? Make mine Marvel!

from New Scientist

Otto Octavius: Nothing will stand in our way! NOTHING!

Posted by on April 6th, 2008

Er, sorry, got a bit carried away there.  But I get this weird feeling looking at the robot snake developed by the Carnegie Mellon University, which can wiggle its way inside a body and perform cardiac ablations:

It’s controlled by a joystick at the moment sure, but how long before someone tries to graft one (or four) on to their spinal column, huh?

Calming down now, Technology Review reports how

It has 102 degrees of freedom, three of which can be activated at once. This allows it to enter through a single point in the chest and wrap around the heart until it reaches the right spot to, say, remove problematic tissue.

This pic shows the CardioArm moving around inside the membrane encasing a pig’s heart (successful cardiovascular surgeries has been performed on nine pigs and two human cadavers, with live human trials due to start later in the year).  Ok.  Feeling better now.  But hang on, what else do the researchers say?

The team hopes to start testing the CardioArm in natural-orifice surgery–a technique where tissues are removed through existing openings in the body, such as the mouth, to avoid postoperative pain and reduce recovery time… and aim to have surgeons use CardioArms in unison, like “an octopus, with two or three tentacles” all entering through one incision and then branching out.

Watch out, webhead.

DNA Construction Kit

Posted by on February 1st, 2008

New Scientist has the juice on tentacles self-assembling DNA.  Brrr:

‘Strands of DNA can be programmed to assemble nanoparticles into 3D structures, pointing towards a new way to engineer materials from the bottom up.

Two research groups have demonstrated the technique, using squid-like gold nanoparticles with “arms” made of DNA. After that the nanoparticles just need to be mixed together. The DNA strands start linking to one another, corralling the particles into crystal-like spongy lattice.

“These are fundamentally new structures of matter,” says Chad Mirkin of Northwestern University in Evanston, US, who led one of the groups.  “We are now closer to the dream of learning how to break everything down into fundamental building blocks, which for us are nanoparticles, and reassembling them into whatever structure we want.” ‘

Giving nanoparticles arms of carefully designed DNA can let them assemble themselves into complex 3D structures (Image: Nature)

Swarming Microbots

Posted by on January 29th, 2008

According to this New Scientist article (via Wolven), researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are working on developing swarms of microscopic robots that can combine form into almost any structure via electromagnetic fields.

One set of claytronic prototypes were cylindrical, wheeled robots with a ring of electromagnets around their edge, which they used to grab hold of one another. By switching these electromagnets on and off, the so-called “claytronic atoms” or “catoms” could securely attach and roll around each other (see video, top right).

The robot’s wheels were not powered, so they had to rely entirely on their magnets to manoeuvre themselves around. “These were the first mobile robots without any moving parts,” says Goldstein. They also used their electromagnets to share power, to communicate, and for simple sensing.

Since using magnetic forces are less efficient at smaller scales, the team has now begun experimenting with electric forces instead.

The latest prototypes are box-shaped robots dubbed “cubes” that have six plastic arms with star-shaped appendages at the end of each.

Meanwhile, while I’m here, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have recently made breakthroughs in the process of using simulated evolution to create more intelligent and efficient swarming robots.

In each experiment, five hundred generations were evolved this way, under different selective pressures. “Under some conditions, sophisticated communication evolved,” says Keller. “We saw colonies that used their lights to signal when they found food and others that used signals to communicate they had found poison.”

Cooperative communication evolved when selective success was judged at the group level – when many robots displayed efficient behaviour – or when the genomes of the robots were most similar – like biological relatives.

Harvard’s Robotic Fly

Posted by on January 24th, 2008

Harvard University’s tiny microrobotic fly, hailed by its creators as “the first robotic fly that is able to generate enough thrust to takeoff,” will be showcased at New York’s Museum of Modern Art starting Feb. 24.

The life-sized “Flybot” reportedly has a wingspan of 1.2 inches (3 cm) and weighs a mere 0.002 ounces (60 mg).

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via /.