Robotics, Automation & Control

Access our comprehensive library of technical briefs on robotics, automation & control, from engineering experts at NASA and government, university, and commercial laboratories.

Briefs : Medical
Shape-Shifting Material Morphs Using Heat and Light
Shape-Shifting Material Morphs Using Heat and Light

A controllable material was developed that can transform into complex, pre-programmed shapes via light and temperature stimuli, allowing it to morph into a different shape before fully...

Shape-Shifting Material Morphs Using Heat and Light
Briefs : Medical
Soft Robotic “Sleeve” Fits Around the Heart to Help it Beat
Soft Robotic “Sleeve” Fits Around the Heart to Help it Beat

Researchers have developed a customizable soft robot that fits around a heart and helps it beat, potentially opening new treatment options for people suffering from heart...

Soft Robotic “Sleeve” Fits Around the Heart to Help it Beat
Briefs : Motion Control
Magnetic, 3D-Printed, Moving Structures
Magnetic, 3D-Printed, Moving Structures

Soft, 3D-printed structures have been created whose movements can be controlled with a wave of a magnet, much like marionettes without the strings. The structures that can be magnetically manipulated...

Magnetic, 3D-Printed, Moving Structures
Briefs : Aerospace
Large-Scale Robotic Inkjet Printing System
Large-Scale Robotic Inkjet Printing System

Painting of surfaces having numerous facets and/or curved surfaces is a time-consuming process that requires the application of several coats (layers) of paint. Such surfaces are often found on...

Large-Scale Robotic Inkjet Printing System
Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Compound-Lens Camera for Industry and Smartphones
Compound-Lens Camera for Industry and Smartphones

A process has been developed that enables the production of a 2-mm flat camera. The lens is partitioned into 135 tiny facets, similar to the eyes of an insect. The facetVISION camera is...

Compound-Lens Camera for Industry and Smartphones
Briefs : Motion Control
High-Performance Cageless Bearings with Minimal Frictional Loss
High-Performance Cageless Bearings with Minimal Frictional Loss

The global bearings market is expected to grow significantly due to increasing commercial and industrial machinery and manufacturing activity. Bearings are used in virtually...

High-Performance Cageless Bearings with Minimal Frictional Loss
Briefs : Aerospace
Sensor Combination Detects People by Smell
Sensor Combination Detects People by Smell

Trained rescue dogs are the best disaster workers — their sensitive noses help them track down people buried by earthquakes or avalanches. But dogs need breaks. A new measuring device is always...

Sensor Combination Detects People by Smell
Briefs : Medical
Inductive Non-Contact Position Sensor
Inductive Non-Contact Position Sensor

The Inductive Non-Contact Position Sensor is a highly accurate sensor for motion control applications. The sensor was designed to monitor the precise movements of an optical inspection system that...

Inductive Non-Contact Position Sensor
Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Submarine Swims Without an Engine
Submarine Swims Without an Engine

Researchers have developed a new propulsion concept for swimming robots that exploits temperature fluctuations in the water for propulsion without the need for an engine, propellant, or power supply.

Submarine Swims Without an Engine
Briefs : Data Acquisition
A Biologically Inspired Method of Improving Systems and Survivability Through Self-Sacrifice

In human beings, the self-destruction behavior of human body cells is considered as an intrinsic safety mechanism of the human body. It seems that the lifetime of a cell is programmed, and that cells know when to commit suicide. This self-destruction is...

Briefs : Software
Method Trains Robots to Collaborate Through Demonstration
Method Trains Robots to Collaborate Through Demonstration

Robots that are adapted to respond to physical human-robot interaction (pHRI) traditionally treat such interactions as disturbances, and resume their original behaviors when the...

Method Trains Robots to Collaborate Through Demonstration
Briefs : Photonics/Optics
Cell-Sized Robots Sense Their Environment
Cell-Sized Robots Sense Their Environment

Colloids — insoluble particles or molecules anywhere from a billionth to a millionth of a meter across — are so small they can stay suspended indefinitely in a liquid or even in air. Robots about...

Cell-Sized Robots Sense Their Environment
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Technique Allows Mobile Robots to Navigate Autonomously
Technique Allows Mobile Robots to Navigate Autonomously

A technique was developed to quickly teach robots novel traversal behaviors with minimal human oversight. The technique allows mobile robot platforms to navigate autonomously in...

Technique Allows Mobile Robots to Navigate Autonomously
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Robotic Modules Modify Their Environment for Specific Tasks
Robotic Modules Modify Their Environment for Specific Tasks

Given the exact parameters of the task at hand, a robot can assemble a car door or pack a box faster and more efficiently than a human, but such purpose-built machines are not...

Robotic Modules Modify Their Environment for Specific Tasks
Briefs : Medical
Popcorn-Driven Robotic Actuators
Popcorn-Driven Robotic Actuators

When heated, popcorn can expand more than 10 times in size, change its viscosity by a factor of 10, and transition from regular to highly irregular granules with surprising force. These unique qualities can...

Popcorn-Driven Robotic Actuators
Briefs : Medical
Engineering Soft Materials that Mimic Neural Tissue
Engineering Soft Materials that Mimic Neural Tissue

A process for engineering next-generation soft materials with embedded chemical networks that mimic the behavior of neural tissue lays the foundation for soft active matter with highly...

Engineering Soft Materials that Mimic Neural Tissue
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Insect-Inspired Drone Deforms Upon Impact
Insect-Inspired Drone Deforms Upon Impact

Origami manufacturing has led to considerable advances in the field of foldable structures with innovative applications in robotics, aerospace, and metamaterials; however, existing origami are either...

Insect-Inspired Drone Deforms Upon Impact
Briefs : Semiconductors & ICs
Hybrid Silicone-Fabric Sensor for Wearable Robots
Hybrid Silicone-Fabric Sensor for Wearable Robots

Wearable technologies are exploding in popularity in both the consumer and research spaces, but most of the electronic sensors that detect and transmit data from wearables are made of hard,...

Hybrid Silicone-Fabric Sensor for Wearable Robots
Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
3D-Printed Active Materials for Robots
3D-Printed Active Materials for Robots

The Army uses robots that are structurally rigid, making them impractical when performing military operations in highly congested and contested urban environments where covert maneuvering is critical...

3D-Printed Active Materials for Robots
Briefs : Electronics & Computers
An Artificial Nerve System Developed at Stanford Gives Prosthetic Devices and Robots a Sense of Touch
An Artificial Nerve System Developed at Stanford Gives Prosthetic Devices and Robots a Sense of Touch

Stanford and Seoul National University researchers have developed an artificial sensory nerve system that can activate the twitch reflex in...

An Artificial Nerve System Developed at Stanford Gives Prosthetic Devices and Robots a Sense of Touch
Briefs : Motion Control
Autonomous Crop-Counting Robot
Autonomous Crop-Counting Robot

Today's crop breeders are trying to boost yields while preparing plants to withstand severe weather and changing climates. To succeed, they must locate the genes for high-yielding, hardy traits in crop...

Autonomous Crop-Counting Robot
Briefs : Electronics & Computers
Modified, 3D-Printable Alloy for Flexible Electronics and Soft Robots
Modified, 3D-Printable Alloy for Flexible Electronics and Soft Robots

Liquid metal printing is integral to the flexible electronics field. Additive manufacturing enables fast fabrication of intricate designs and circuitry. The field features...

Modified, 3D-Printable Alloy for Flexible Electronics and Soft Robots
Briefs : Robotics, Automation & Control
Fast, Low-Voltage Actuator for Soft and Wearable Robotics
Fast, Low-Voltage Actuator for Soft and Wearable Robotics

The unique capabilities of soft robots are to bend, deform, stretch, twist, or squeeze in all the ways that conventional rigid robots cannot. Today, it is easy to envision a world in...

Fast, Low-Voltage Actuator for Soft and Wearable Robotics
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Hydraulic-Based Spherical Robot

Current spherical robots rely upon rotating mechanical weights inside the sphere to change the center of gravity of the sphere, causing the robot to roll. The use of rotating mechanical weights is not optimal due to the reliance upon moving parts, which can present burdensome maintenance issues. It would be...

Briefs : Software
Active Response Gravity Offload System

NASA has used two systems to train astronauts for weightlessness. The first is the Reduced Gravity Simulator that suspended the astronaut at an angle of 80.5 so that only 1/6th of his or her weight was supported by the ground, while the rest was supported by a pulley system. The other system, designed...

Briefs : Test & Measurement
Integrated Ultra-Wideband Tracking and Carbon Dioxide Sensing System
Integrated Ultra-Wideband Tracking and Carbon Dioxide Sensing System

Recent findings indicate that frequent, short-term crew exposure to elevated CO2 levels, combined with other physiological impacts of microgravity, may lead to a...

Integrated Ultra-Wideband Tracking and Carbon Dioxide Sensing System
Briefs : Motion Control
Transparent Eel-Like Soft Robot Swims Silently Underwater
Transparent Eel-Like Soft Robot Swims Silently Underwater

An eel-like robot was developed that can swim silently in salt water without an electric motor. Instead, the robot uses artificial muscles filled with water to propel itself. The...

Transparent Eel-Like Soft Robot Swims Silently Underwater
Briefs : Mechanical & Fluid Systems
Nano-Sized Actuator Lifts Many Times its Weight
Nano-Sized Actuator Lifts Many Times its Weight

Actuators are used in a wide variety of electromechanical systems and in robotics, in applications such as steerable catheters, aircraft wings that adapt to changing conditions, and wind...

Nano-Sized Actuator Lifts Many Times its Weight
Briefs : Imaging
Polymer-Based 2D-to-3D Transformable Surfaces

Technologies using stretchable materials are increasingly important. Yet, in general, it is not possible to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons. A method was developed that allows the calculated transformation of 2D stretchable surfaces into targeted 3D...

Briefs : Manufacturing & Prototyping
Novel 3D Printing Method Embeds Sensing Capabilities Within Robotic Actuators
Novel 3D Printing Method Embeds Sensing Capabilities Within Robotic Actuators

Soft robots inspired by nature can crawl, swim, grasp delicate objects, and even assist a beating heart, but none of them has been able to sense and respond to the...

Novel 3D Printing Method Embeds Sensing Capabilities Within Robotic Actuators
Question of the Week
Would You Cook with ‘Julia?’