Welcome to the robotic age. Long-term federal investments in fundamental science and engineering research, and the researchers who pursue them, have led to novel machines that safely partner with people in nearly every environment. Soon, helping hands are as likely to be made of metal and plastic as flesh and bone. While roboticists figure out the final frontiers of programming, materials development and systems challenges, why not throw some robot motivational posters up on the walls? Find out more in this Special Report.
Credit: Georgia Institute of Technology
In industry, fragile or difficult-to-grip items require a delicate touch. That's why Empire Robotics, funded by the NSF Small Business Innovation Research program, is bringing the VERSABALL to the marketplace. The VERSABALL is a spherical robotic hand filled with granular material that conforms to and grips objects. See more in this video.
Credit: National Science Foundation
Assembly line workers won't be swapping stories with their robotic counterparts any time soon, but future robots will be more aware of the humans they're working alongside. Roboticist and aerospace engineer Julie Shah and her team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are developing next generation assembly line robots that are smarter and more adaptable than robots available on today's assembly lines. Find out more in this Science Nation video.
Credit: Science Nation, National Science Foundation
The Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport (CBET) Systems of the Directorate for Engineering supports research and education in the rapidly evolving fields of bioengineering and environmental engineering, and in areas that involve the transformation and/or transport of matter and energy by chemical, thermal or mechanical means.
From disaster recovery to caring for the elderly in the home, scientists and engineers are developing robots that can handle critical tasks in close proximity to humans, safely and with greater resilience than previous generations of intelligent machines. NSF, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture and NASA, has announced new awards to spur the development and use of co-robots--robots that work cooperatively with people.
April 6, 2015
Giving robots and prostheses the human touch
The UCLA Biomechatronics Lab develops a language of touch that can be "felt" by computers and humans alike
Research engineers and students in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Biomechatronics Lab are designing artificial limbs to be more sensational, with the emphasis on sensation.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the team, led by mechanical engineer Veronica J. Santos, is constructing a language of touch that both a computer and a human can understand. The researchers are quantifying this with mechanical touch sensors that interact with objects of various shapes, sizes and textures. Using an array of instrumentation, Santos' team is able to translate that interaction into data a computer can understand.
The data is used to create a formula or algorithm that gives the computer the ability to identify patterns among the items it has in its library of experiences and something it has never felt before. This research will help the team develop artificial haptic intelligence, which is, essentially, giving robots, as well as prostheses, the "human touch."
The research in this episode is supported by NSF award #1208519, NRI-Small: Context-Driven Haptic Inquiry of Objects Based on Task Requirements for Artificial Grasp and Manipulation. NRI is the acronym for the National Robotics Initiative.
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