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New Algorithm Lets Cheetah Robot Run

Speed and agility are hallmarks of the cheetah: The big predator is the fastest land animal on Earth, able to accelerate to 60 mph in just a few seconds. As it ramps up to top speed, a cheetah pumps its legs in tandem, bounding until it reaches a full gallop.Now MIT researchers have developed an algorithm for bounding that they’ve successfully implemented in a robotic cheetah — a sleek, four-legged assemblage of gears, batteries, and electric motors that weighs about as much as its feline counterpart. The team recently took the robot for a test run on MIT’s Killian Court, where it bounded across the grass at a steady clip. In experiments on an indoor track, the robot sprinted up to 10 mph, even continuing to run after clearing a hurdle. The MIT researchers estimate that the current version of the robot may eventually reach speeds of up to 30 mph.The key to the bounding algorithm is in programming each of the robot’s legs to exert a certain amount of force in the split second during which it hits the ground, in order to maintain a given speed: In general, the faster the desired speed, the more force must be applied to propel the robot forward. In experiments, the team ran the robot at progressively smaller duty cycles, finding that, following the algorithm’s force prescriptions, the robot was able to run at higher speeds without falling. Sangbae Kim, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, says the team’s algorithm enables precise control over the forces a robot can exert while running. SourceAlso: Learn about Hall Thrusters for Robotic Solar System Exploration.

Posted in: Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Software, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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Will smart watches replace traditional timepieces and computerized wristwatches?

At a fall media event in Cupertino, CA last week, Apple unveiled its smart watch technology alongside the iPhone 6 and 6 plus. The Apple Watch comes in three styles and two sizes, with multiple options for colors and wristbands. The device also plays music, tracks fitness, sends/receives messages, and features compatibility with Apple's new Apple Pay app. The smartwatch industry is relatively new. Other wearable smart watches from competitors, such as Samsung, Sony, LG and Pebble, have come to market over the past two years. What do you think? Will smart watches replace traditional timepieces and computerized wristwatches?

Posted in: Question of the Week

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Untethered Soft Robot Walks Through Flames

Developers from Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have produced the first untethered soft robot — a quadruped that can stand up and walk away from its designers.The researchers were able to scale up earlier soft-robot designs, enabling a single robot to carry on its back all the equipment it needs to operate — micro-compressors, control systems, and batteries.Compared with earlier soft robots, which were typically no larger than a steno pad, the system is huge, measuring more than a half-meter in length and capable of carrying as much as 7½ pounds on its back.Giving the untethered robot the strength needed to carry mechanical components meant air pressures as high as 16 pounds per square inch, more than double the seven psi used by many earlier robot designs. To deal with the increased pressure, the robot had to be made of tougher stuff.The material settled on was a “composite” silicone rubber made from stiff rubber impregnated with hollow glass microspheres to reduce the robot’s weight. The robot’s bottom was made from Kevlar fabric to ensure it was tough and lightweight. The result was a robot that can stand up to a host of extreme conditions.SourceAlso: Learn about a Field-Reconfigurable Manipulator for Rovers.

Posted in: Materials, Composites, Mechanical Components, Motion Control, Motors & Drives, Machinery & Automation, Robotics, News

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Unmanned "Urban Beat Cop" Surveillance System Protects Soldiers

In a non-combat environment, information is typically collected by local law enforcement officers who are "walking their beat." Air Force expeditionary forces in Afghanistan requested a system that would give them similar situational awareness in Afghan villages and other remote areas, but without human participation or requiring them to "walk a beat." So, the Air Force and a small business partner recently developed and tested in the field a small, unmanned aircraft system (SUAS) that allows U.S. military forces to perform strategic reconnaissance while staying out of harm's way.

Posted in: Video, Imaging, Aerospace, Aviation, Defense, News

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Testing Electric Propulsion

Could this be the future — a plane with many electric motors that can hover like a helicopter and fly like a plane, and that could revolutionize air travel?

Posted in: News

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Electronic Noses Detect Chemical Warfare Gases

Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Valencia have developed a prototype electronic "nose" for the detection of chemical warfare gases, mainly nerve gas, such as Sarin, Soman, and Tabun.

Posted in: Question of the Week

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NASA Completes Successful Tests on Composite Cryotank

NASA has completed a complex series of tests on one of the largest composite cryogenic fuel tanks ever manufactured, bringing the aerospace industry much closer to designing, building, and flying lightweight, composite tanks on rockets.

Posted in: News

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