Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Robo Roundup

There have been a lot of interesting developments in robotics lately. I expect robots to take over and wipe us all out any day now.

  • Boston Dynamics has developed BigDog. This robot's a sort of small robotic pack mule, so perhaps "SmallMule" would be a more appropriate name, but I guess that didn't seem cool enough.
  • Boston Dynamics has apparently been busy, because they've also developed RiSE, a nifty little hexapod that can climb trees, brick walls, and other assorted vertical surfaces. (RiSE looks curiously similar to the killer robots Gene Simmons--yes, that Gene Simmons---sent after Tom Selleck in the 1984 movie Runaway. Runaway was written and directed by Michael Crighton, by the way.)
  • Meanwhile, snake locomotion has fascinated scientists and layfolks alike for millennia; as Barry White said in that episode of The Simpsons, "I love the sexy slither of a lady snake." Apparently, plain old terrestrial robot snakes have become passé now. A team in Japan---no surprise there---has developed an amphibious robot snake. It can slither across land and swim in (or under) water. Neat!
  • Hitec, makers of radios and servos for radio-control hobbyists, has just released the Robonova-1, a humanoid robot sized to compete in Japan's Robo-One. More importantly, the bot's designed to be hacked---if being designed to be hacked is not a contradiction in terms---so that sensors, actuators, and wireless connections can be added. I really need to get my grubby little hands on one, to put my plans of world domination effect.
Be sure to check out each robot's entertaining video.

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