Breaking ROBO-PACOLYPSE News

Robotic Dogs

Big Dogs

The past few years have been sprinkled with stories of new robots that are generally task specific.  The floor sweeper, the window washer, the flying monkeys (quadrobots in formation), and the Big Dog and Cheetah.

So “Breaking ROBO-PACOLYPSE News” will talk just robots…new models, features, and just how close we are to a the singularity of self-propelled machine and artificial intelligence.

Flying Monkeys

Flying Monkeys on the Prowl

Perhaps the Robopacolypse will come in the form of a plague of focused locusts.

According to our friends at Gizmag, Harvard researchers are getting closer to their goal of developing a controllable micro air vehicle called the Robobee. The tiny robot was already capable of taking off under its own power, but until now it was completely out of control. By adding two control actuators beneath its wings, the robot can be programmed to pitch and roll.

Robobee flying robot insect

Robobee flying robot insect

The team is now working on a feedback controller that will allow the robot to yaw, which when combined with pitch and roll should allow it to hover. Until then, the Robobee is still just crashing, albeit in more spectacular fashion than it did before. Eventually, it could be mass-produced to perform pollination or assist in search and rescue operations (along with a variety of other things).

Meanwhile, the Green Brain project underway at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex in England may provide the necessary artificial intelligence for such a robot. The ambitious project seeks to build a working simulation of a bee’s brain by mapping the complex neural connections that process the bee’s senses. This simulation could then be harnessed, enabling a robot to make navigational decisions on its own.

Dissected flying bug bot

Dissected flying bug bot

“Because the honey bee brain is smaller and more accessible than any vertebrate brain, we hope to eventually be able to produce an accurate and complete model that we can test within a flying robot,” said Dr James Marshall, a computer scientist at the University of Sheffield.

However, it seems unlikely that the two projects will be compatible any time soon. Simulating even an insect’s brain requires some intense hardware – in this case, the researchers are working with NVIDIA graphics cards normally reserved for the latest video games. It will be awhile before that kind of processing power can be carried on Robobee’s miniscule frame. You can see it performing some in-flight maneuvers in the video below.

Sources: Harvard Robobees and University of Sussex via IEEE Spectrum andBBC

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Douglas Black

Founder of ENERFICIENCY in 1999, Douglas Black  has analyzed and found positive energy solutions for a variety of projects ranging from low income housing to houses of worship, and from classrooms to courthouses.  Mr. Black was certified as a LEED Accredited Professional through the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008, and has served on many non-for-profit boards and committees.

Having more than 30 years experience in the green and sustainable building field, Douglas Black has dedicated the past 20 years to energy efficiency in the built environment.

Mr. Black is a high performance car enthusiast, always with an ear to the pavement for what’s fast and new.  He began blogging enerficiency On The Road in 2001, and now continues reporting from Auto Shows and Swap Meets at his Hot Flying Rats! blog – flyingratz.wordpress.com

He also uses his MagicEightBall to predict sporting outcomes and shares on his blog M8B4Cast.wix.com/sportsblog.

Photography is a lifelong passion for Douglas Black, and while not capturing enthusiastic smiles at Wrigley Field he captures moments in the built environment.

And in his spare time, he works on getting that Captains License, expecting to retire on the water one day, taking photos.

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