The Mobile World Congress took place in Barcelona, Spain this week setting the stage for tech and telecommunications giants as well as smaller companies and startups to show off their newest products and innovations. Separation of various areas of the consumer electronics market is not that clear anymore, most of this being attributed to the ever growing adoption of the Internet of Things paradigm. Even the most mundane devices are getting more intelligent and interactive, allowing for functionality barely thought of only a little while ago.
This year we are witnessing an explosion in connected gadgets and accessories ranging from fairly advanced cameras, smart watches, or entertainment systems to the simplest wearables, some of which are nothing but very basic sensors glued together with some type of communication interface.
A short while ago Boston Dynamics released a video featuring the newest iteration of their ATLAS robot which sports very significant upgrades – to say the least – over the previous generation. Its most impressive feature is the fact that it can maintain its balance over virtually any type of terrain even when pushed or kicked, and it is also able to lift itself up unassisted in case of a fall or otherwise. The robot can operate in fully untethered fashion, and it can also accomplish certain tasks such as opening doors or maneuvering larger objects.
The new ATLAS robot is much more compact, lightweight and robust compared to the first version introduced in last year’s DARPA Robotics Challenge. The robot tips the scale at 82 kg or 180 lbs, which represents a little over half of what the previous edition weighted, and is also 15 cm shorter at 1.75 meters (5’9″).
A few days ago I stumbled upon an impressive contraption which might be the ultimate way of making paper airplanes. The LEGO machine featured in the video below requires just a sheet of paper in its feeder, the rest being a fully automated process of folding the paper and then launching the finished plane. Multiple Mindstorms EV3 bricks, servos, pneumatic actuators, sensors, countless gears and whatnot are used in this highly complex machinery which may not be the first of this kind however it seems to have the most refined design to date.
It was created by Brazilian expert builder Arthur Sacek as part of a Super Bowl commercial for Arrow Electronics, a Fortune 500 company specialized in products and services for the Aerospace and Defense industries. Another behind the scenes video can be found on Arrow’s YouTube channel.
Grippers come in all shapes and sizes and are the most common type of robotic arm end effectors in use at the moment, being employed in countless types of industrial, academic and even consumer applications. The project launched today is called OrigiGrip which is a cleverly designed dexterous yet affordable robot gripper made with 3D printed parts and actuated by a single standard high torque hobby servo, making it very easy to integrate into existing robotic projects.
Image credit: Origin Robotics
The gripper can be suitable for hobby and research purposes and was developed by Richard Laboris who is also behind the OrigiBot telepresence robot project launched almost a year ago.
A very interesting project caught my attention recently, and this time it is all about the power of air. Pneuduino is an Arduino based modular hardware platform which enables control of air flow and pressure, opening a whole new realm of possibilities for Makers who want to add unique shape shifting features to their projects. The platform was created by Felix Heilbeck and Jifei Ou as part of the MIT Media Lab’s Tangible Media Group program led by Professor Hiroshi Ishii.
Image credit: Pneuduino project
Pneuduino is currently used in high school and college workshops. Its creators suggest that the platform can be well suited for prototyping soft robots, intelligent clothing, breathing art or adaptable furniture, in conjunction with new materials designed to take advantage of air as a precisely managed resource.
As systems and processes we develop are increasingly complex the amount of possible interactions can reach levels hardly imaginable only a couple of decades ago, thus requiring careful testing and documentation in order to avoid unpredictable behavior. The amount of computing power we have at our disposal nowadays allows us to simulate and analyze even the most complicated processes before implementing them in the real world.
A short while back I had the opportunity to review the Visual Components advanced simulation software which represents a complete solution for designing and optimizing production line layouts. Professionals can simulate the entire production process complete with material flow, robotics and equipment setup, generate detailed reports and analyses and quickly change and customize process flow according to requirements.