Controlling a Robot Over the Internet Grows Up

Since the beginning of the Internet people have been controlling robots over it, peering at grainy gifs of faraway rec rooms as the robot trundles around. has taken that idea and brought it fully into the teens. These robots use wifi or mobile connections, are 3D printed, and run Python.

The site aims to provide everything to anyone who wants to participate. If you’re just an anonymous visitor, you can still play with the robots, but anyone can also play with the…

ESP32 Mini Robot Packs Sensors and 4WD

[Stefan]’s Mini WiFi/BLE 4WD robot platform (seen next to a matchbox above) packs an impressive capability into a tiny rover. It’s based on a SparkFun ESP32 Thing, a very compact way to add wireless control to your project. Compare it to some giant old UNO with a WiFi shield, these boards are small but powerful, as well as an easy adoption for Arduino fans.

[Stefan] beefed up the robot with a BNO055 module to determine orientation, an APDS-9930…

Sony Unveils Swarm Robots for Kids

Sony recently unveiled Toio, an educational robotics toy for young programmers. We all know Sony as an electronics giant, but they do dabble in robotics from time to time. The AIBO dog family is probably their most famous creation, though there is also QRIO, a bipedal humanoid, and on the stranger side, the Rolly.

Toio consists of two small cube robots which roll around the desktop. You can control them with handheld rings, or run programs on them. The robots are charged by a base station, which also has a cartridge slot. Sony is marketing this as an ecosystem that can be expanded by buying packs which consist of accessories and a software cartridge. It looks like the cartridge is yet…

Soft-legged Robot Handles Rough Terrain with Ease

Whether it’s wheels, tracks, feet, or even a roly-poly body like BB-8, most robots have to deal with an essential problem: dirt and grit can get into the moving bits and cause problems. Some researchers from UCSD have come up with a clever way around this: pneumatically actuated soft-legged robots that adapt to rough terrain.

At a top speed of 20 mm per second, [Michael Tolley]’s squishy little robot won’t set any land speed records. But for applications like search and rescue or placing sensors in inhospitable or…

Who Will Pay for the Future if Not the Robots?

Andrew Baker/Getty Images

Robots are taking over the world’s workforce—and why shouldn’t they? For so many jobs, machines are faster, more consistent, smarter, and cheaper than you or I will ever be. As advances in artificial intelligence accelerate, robots will spread into all corners of the labor market: blue collar and white collar, service work and knowledge work alike. Along with their jobs, people will lose their incomes. When that happens, governments will also lose theirs. Where does the money come from without incomes to tax?

One San Francisco lawmaker is trying to get ahead of this likely revenue gap by going after the source of the problem: She wants to tax the robots. Supervisor Jane Kim has been meeting with labor leaders, academics, and tech types to explore the radical plan, a natural fit for a city where billionaire tech bros and liberal politicians both hold sway. But there’s at least one problem with Kim’s plan: No one can really agree on what a robot is.

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The concept of a robot tax isn’t new—Kim got the idea from Bill Gates’ instantly infamous interview with Quartz in February. Said Wild Bill: “Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.” The reaction was swift and not exactly measured, in no small part because tech types appreciate regulation about as much as they appreciate not wearing hoodies and jeans with flip-flops.

But it’s hard to imagine a future in which the US economy loses a third of its jobs to automation and governments just sit on their hands. “I do think that government is going to have to regulate it,” Kim says. “I mean, I know tech hates hearing that word, but we’re all part of a larger community and society, and there are implications when 37 percent of the workforce isn’t working anymore.”

Kim is not a robot-tax evangelist. She’s a supervisor in a city with one of the starkest income inequalities in the world. Robots and AI promise to further concentrate wealth in the hands of the elite techie class. So for Kim, a robot tax is an idea at least worth exploring, not hurriedly enacting next week.

I, Robot?

Ask 10 roboticists what a robot actually is and you’ll get 10 different answers. But here’s one from Hanumant Singh, of Northeastern University: a system that…

Robot Lives in Your Garden and Eats the Weeds

You can’t deny the appeal of gardening. Whether it’s a productive patch of vegetables or a flower bed to delight the senses, the effort put into gardening is amply rewarded. Nobody seems to like the weeding, though — well, almost nobody; I find it quite relaxing. But if you’re not willing to get down and dirty with the weeds, you might consider deploying a weed-eating garden robot to do the job for you.

Dubbed the Tertill, and still very much a prototype, the…

3D Printed Bionic Skin Will Help Humans and Machines Merge

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A new 3D printed “Bionic Skin” developed at the University of Minnesota, is a stretchable, electronic fabric, which would allow robots to gain tactile sensation. The results of this study were published in the journal, Advanced Materials. Scientists have been dreaming of artificial skin since the 1970’s. Thanks to funding by a division of the National Institutes of Health, we are much closer to making it a reality.

Michael McAlpine was the lead researcher on this study. He’s a mechanical engineering associate professor at the university. In 2013, while at Princeton, McApline gained international attention for 3D printing nano-materials to fashion a “bionic ear.” For this project, Prof. McAlpine enlisted graduate students Shuang-Zhuang Guo, Kaiyan Qiu, Fanben Meng, and Sung Hyun Park.

Amputee with natural looking robot arm.

This could change the calculus on options offered to amputees. Getty Images.

Dr. McAlpine and his team created a unique 3D printer unlike any in the world. The device has four nozzles, each with several different functions. To print on the skin, the surface is first carefully scanned for its contours and shape. The printer can follow any curvature. Then, once the surface area has been mapped out precisely, printing can begin. McApline and colleagues were able to print a pressure sensor on a mannequin’s hand.

The base of the “skin” is silicone which when distributed via nozzle, came out as a gel. This contains silver particles to help conduct electricity. A coiled sensor was then printed in the center. Following that, the piece was engulfed in more silicon layers. Above and below the sensor lay electrodes in the form of a conductive ink. At last, a final, temporary layer was printed to hold everything together, while it solidified. The whole thing was just 4-millimeters wide and took mere minutes to carry out. Once it dried, the last layer was washed away, revealing a…

5 new jobs of the robot generation

Above: Bots and humans need each other. Image Credit: Biczo

Embrace it and get used to it, as AI is here to stay.

While some robots may be out to take our jobs, there’s a big skills gap in the AI-fueled services industry just waiting to be filled

There will be two major drivers around the jobs of the future. The first will be what can be automated, and the second will be what level of comfort do we have for things being automated.

However, far from the widespread fear that automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will make human workers redundant, it seems people are becoming more comfortable with the idea of automation and AI in the workplace every day. Recent research conducted by Adecco Group reveals that many employees feel AI will have a positive impact in creating a future workplace with a myriad of opportunities for more flexible, rewarding work.

So if our current roles in the workplace are set to be replaced, what will we be doing instead? Here are five new jobs that are likely to see the light as a result of AI:

1. Robot Teacher

Robots are to be deployed everywhere from the classroom to hospitals, but who will ‘teach’ this new wave of bots the skills they are meant to apply so effortlessly, and, more importantly, who will teach robots how to teach each other so that AI can continue to scale? While robotic programming automation (RPA) requires an intensive focus on programming repeatable tasks, AI is here to provide structured outputs from unstructured inputs. Teacher training is about to take on a whole new meaning.

2. AI Lawyer

In the UK and Europe, regulations are being drafted to govern the use and creation of robots and AI. This includes an ‘electronic personhood’ status assigned to address the rights and responsibilities, and indeed all acts carried out by AI-programmed robots. What does it mean? Well, in short it means that governments are waking up to the fact that AIs can cause real damage to people. It also means that robots, along with their…

New pelvic exoskeleton stops people from taking tumbles

pelvic exoskeleton
GOT YOUR BACK A new wearable robotic device aims to help those at risk of falling and injuring themselves find their balance.

A wearable robot could prevent future falls among those prone to stumbles.

The new exoskeleton packs motors on a user’s hips and can sense blips in balance. In a small trial, the pelvic robot performed well in sensing and averting wearers’ slips, researchers report May 11 in Scientific Reports.

Exoskeletons have the potential to help stroke victims and people with spinal cord injuries walk again (SN: 11/16/13, p. 22) — and even kick soccer goals (SN Online: 6/12/14). But this new model focuses on a more ordinary aspect of the human condition: falling on your face or your rear. “Exoskeletons could really help in this case,” says study coauthor Silvestro Micera, an engineer at École Polytechnique…

VRobot lets you wreck a big city in virtual reality

Wrecking big cities in virtual reality is officially a thing. The latest developers to take their turn at the genre is, a team of VR developers at Nival Interactive.

VRobot lets you play as a giant robot at a time when driverless cars and robots are swarming the planet. Humans have built a giant robot to help them clean and reclaim their cities. You can just stomp around and cause mayhem, or use special tools like the tractor beam and tornado maker.

Then you have to defeat…