MIT Engineers Create ‘Robotic Lightning Bug’ That Weighs Little More than a Paperclip

In a new study published in the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters a team of engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) describes how it created a 650 mg aerial robot powered by four electroluminescent actuators (tiny “soft” motors), each able to generate distinct colors and patterns. This tiny flying bug-bot, the researchers say, “further shows the potential of achieving coordinated swarm flights without using well-calibrated indoor tracking systems.”

In the video immediately above the engineers outline how their “insect-scale” flying lightning bug robot works, noting it was inspired by the ever-whimsical firefly and its ability to use bioluminescent chemical reactions to create light.

“If you think of large-scale robots, they can communicate using a lot of different tools—Bluetooth, wireless, all those sorts of things. But for a tiny, power-constrained robot, we are forced to think about new modes of communication. This is a major step toward flying these robots in outdoor environments where we don’t have a well-tuned, state-of-the-art motion tracking system, Kevin Chen says in an MIT press release. Chen is the D. Reid Weedon Jr. Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) at MIT and the senior author of the paper.

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Ukraine Unveils Mini “Terminator” Ground Robot Equipped With Machine Gun

The latest war machine headed to Ukraine’s front lines isn’t a flying drone but a miniature 4×4 ground-based robot — equipped with a machine gun.

According to Forbes, Ukrainian forces are set to receive an uncrewed ground vehicle (UGV) called “GNOM” that is no bigger than a standard microwave and weighs around 110lbs.

GNOM isn’t radio-controlled and has a 2,000 meter (1.25 mile) spool of fiber-optic cable mounted on the rear that offers operators a jam-proof way to control it on the modern battlefield without being detected or signal jammed by Russian electronic warfare equipment.

“Control of GNOM is possible in the most aggressive environment during the operation of the enemy’s electronic warfare equipment.

“The operator doesn’t deploy a control station with an antenna, and does not unmask his position. The cable is not visible, and it also does not create thermal radiation that could be seen by a thermal imager,” said Eduard Trotsenko, CEO and owner of Temerland, the maker of the GNOM.

“While it is usually operated by remote control, GNOM clearly has some onboard intelligence and is capable of autonomous navigation. Previous Temerland designs have included advanced neural network and machine learning hardware and software providing a high degree of autonomy, so the company seems to have experience,” Forbes said.

The 7.62mm machinegun mounted on top of the “Terminator-style” robot will provide fire support for Ukrainian forces in dangerous areas. The UGV can also transport ammunition or other supplies to the front lines and even evacuate wounded soldiers with a special trailer.

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Scientists have crafted living skin for robots, further blurring the line between human and machine

Technologies are blurring the line between human and machine. Now, scientists are taking the next step: developing human-like skin for robots.

Though it sounds like the stuff of science fiction, in a study published Thursday in the journal Matter, researchers described how they developed skin tissue for robots that looks and moves just like ours. “We have shown that living skin tissue can be used as a coating material for robots,” Shoji Takeuchi, an engineer at the University of Tokyo and lead author of the study, told Insider. “This result has the potential to make robots look more human-like.” 

To craft the skin, the team first submerged a robotic finger in a cylinder filled with a solution of collagen and fibroblasts — two main components that make up skin, the human body’s largest organ. Using living cells also endows robots with the biological functions of skin, such as its ability to self-repair and repel water.

The research team sees a variety of potential uses for this technology, like helping engineers create more nimble and human-like prosthetics and aiding in the development of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals for skin.  

According to Takeuchi, the “skin” is 1.5 mm in thickness (or 0.06 inches) and made only of epidermis and dermis — the top two layers of skin in the human body. “It does not look perfectly like skin,” Takeuchi said, adding that it lacks some advanced skin features like sensory neurons, hair follicles, nails, and sweat glands. “However, as the robot moves, the skin stretches and contracts, revealing wrinkles; my personal impression is that it is much more realistic than silicone,” Takeuchi said. According to him, silicone is currently the preferred material used to craft artificial robotic skin.

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Robotic Crab Tinier than a Flea Becomes the Smallest-ever Remote-controlled Robot

The remarkable record-breaking micro machine was developed by engineers at Northwestern University and comes in the form of a tiny peekytoe crab. The same team also developed millimeter-sized robots resembling inchworms, crickets, and beetles.

Although the research is exploratory at the moment, they believe the technology might bring the field of robotics closer to realizing micro-sized robots that can perform practical tasks inside tightly confined spaces. The researchers also produced a winged microchip last year that was the smallest-ever human-made flying structure.

“Robotics is an exciting field of research, and the development of microscale robots is a fun topic for academic exploration,” says bioelectronics pioneer Professor John Rogers, who led the experimental work, in a university release.

“You might imagine micro-robots as agents to repair or assemble small structures or machines in industry or as surgical assistants to clear clogged arteries, to stop internal bleeding or to eliminate cancerous tumors — all in minimally invasive procedures.”

“Our technology enables a variety of controlled motion modalities and can walk with an average speed of half its body length per second,” adds Yonggang Huang, who led the theoretical work. “This is very challenging to achieve at such small scales for terrestrial robots.”

Smaller than a flea, the crab is not powered by complex hardware, hydraulics, or electricity. Instead, Prof. Rogers explains that its power lies within the elastic resilience of its body.

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Robot dogs seeking new homes in U.S. military and security agencies

Robot dogs are finding new homes in Washington’s security establishment, as a Philadelphia-based firm is building new military companions with the goal of keeping service members and other personnel away from danger.

Ghost Robotics showed off its four-legged creatures at a military expo in D.C. this week. The firm recently hired lobbyists and has been spotted conducting demonstrations in Northern Virginia.

The robotic dogs’ ability to bite, bark, and smell goes beyond what people expect from man’s best friend — these dogs can carry weapons, communicate via a speaker, and detect biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiation threats.

“The robot is a tool, right? It’s really a tool for force multiplication; for keeping humans out of harm’s way,” Ghost Robotics CEO Gavin Kenneally said in an interview.

Mr. Kenneally’s team maneuvered its “quadrupedal unmanned ground vehicle” using a Samsung tablet at the sprawling Modern Day Marine exhibition in Washington, D.C., where government and security customers shop and test the latest equipment offered by a few hundred vendors.

The robot dogs can climb, crawl, walk, and run, moving at a maximum speed of about ten feet per second. Mr. Keneally said the robots are also capable of going underwater, and Ghost Robotics can craft software teaching it how to doggy paddle through water.

Assembling and disassembling the robots for repair takes approximately 15 minutes, according to Mr. Keneally, who said the robot’s endurance and low level of noise create advantages over other drones and robots.

“What we’re trying to do is have all humans further from harm’s way and have the robot be the thing that goes up ahead and provides [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] or inspection or security, or whatever needs to happen,” he said.

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7-Foot Robot at Dallas Love Field Airport Watches for Unmasked Travelers, Will Notify Law Enforcement of Potential Crimes

A 7-foot robot at Dallas Love Field Airport is watching for unmasked passengers and will notify law enforcement of potential crimes.

What could possibly go wrong?

The robot, dubbed “SCOT,” was installed last month to “determine if they are capable of efficiently supplementing current airport operations,” said Love Field spokeswoman Lauren Rounds, the Dallas Morning News.

SCOT can detect if a person is wearing a face mask and can detect behavior of passengers based on what they are wearing.

The robot can bark warnings at people and call the police.

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‘Black Mirror-Like’ Robo-Dogs Patrol US Border, Searching For Illegals

President Biden’s southern border crisis isn’t going away anytime soon as Republicans stress the need to beef up border security amid a flood of illegals crossing into the US. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently adopted quadrupedal machines to patrol the border’s harsh landscape, extreme temperatures, and dangerous obstacles to search for illegals. 

DHS’ research and development team, the Science & Technology Directorate (S&T), released a statement on Tuesday specifying the use of Ghost Robotics’ robot dog ‘Ghost Vision 60’ by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on the southern border to test new surveillance methods. The robot dog’s appearance is eerily similar to the rover dogs in the popular dystopian Netflix series “Black Mirror.” 

“The southern border can be an inhospitable place for man and beast, and that is exactly why a machine may excel there,” said S&T program manager, Brenda Long. “This S&T-led initiative focuses on Automated Ground Surveillance Vehicles, or what we call ‘AGSVs.’ Essentially, the AGSV program is all about…robot dogs.” 

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China Unveils ‘World’s Largest’ Quadruped Military Robot

China has introduced what it claims to be the world’s largest electrically-powered quadruped robot to assist the military on logistics and reconnaissance missions.

With a “yak-like appearance,” the four-legged robot can reportedly carry up to 352 pounds (160 kilograms) of payload and run at six miles (10 kilometers) per hour.

The platform’s structure is designed to withstand challenging off-grid military missions and conquer a wide variety of terrain, including cliffs, trenches, grasslands, fields, deserts, snow, and muddy roads.

Despite being reported as the heaviest and largest quadruped robot, the hi-tech unit can run, jump, turn, and walk diagonally.

According to state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), the platform has 12 modules and state-of-the-art sensors, allowing it to collect tactical battlefield information and perform logistics.

Potential military uses include all-weather operations in high-risk combat zones, remote border areas, and complex environments that have proven too challenging for soldiers.

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Humanity’s Final Arms Race: UN Fails To Agree On ‘Killer Robot’ Ban

Autonomous weapon systems—commonly known as killer robots—may have killed human beings for the first time ever last yearaccording to a recent United Nations Security Council report on the Libyan civil war. History could well identify this as the starting point of the next major arms race, one that has the potential to be humanity’s final one.

The United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons debated the question of banning autonomous weapons at its once-every-five-years review meeting in Geneva Dec. 13-17, 2021, but didn’t reach consensus on a ban. Established in 1983, the convention has been updated regularly to restrict some of the world’s cruelest conventional weapons, including land mines, booby traps and incendiary weapons.

Autonomous weapon systems are robots with lethal weapons that can operate independently, selecting and attacking targets without a human weighing in on those decisions. Militaries around the world are investing heavily in autonomous weapons research and development. The U.S. alone budgeted US$18 billion for autonomous weapons between 2016 and 2020.

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