Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Ape-like Robots in disaster areas

Are robots attacking your place of work? Luckily only in virtual reality

HightechXL is currently in final stages of the global search for start-ups working in high-tech. But that term "hightech" is quite broad, so we've narrowed it down to the areas which we believe have potential to scale globally. We're looking for teams in these sectors:

Internet of Things
Machine to Machine communication. Networks of low-cost sensors and actuators used for data collection, monitoring, decision making and process optimisation. Includes intelligent lighting systems, personal entertainment, Micro Medical Systems & relevant Nanotechnology.
Advanced Materials
New materials designed to have superior characteristics, (e.g. strengths, conductivity, weight,) or extraordinary functionality. (like graphene).
(Near) Autonomous Vehicles
Vehicles that can navigate and operate with little or no human intervention. Examples include developments in sustainable personal mobility as well as robots that lay glass-fiber inside pipes, or drone-like vehicles that operate in zones too dangerous for humans.
Energy Storage
Devices or system that store energy for later use. Includes advanced battery technologies.
3D Printing
Additive manufacturing techniques to create objects by printing layers of material based on digital models. From spare parts for obsolete cars to high-grade medical human implants. This area is creating huge interest.
Renewable Energy 
Generation of electricity from renewable sources, reducing the impact on climate. From solar cells to tidal power.
Advanced Robotics
Increasingly capable robots with enhanced intelligence, dexterity & senses. Doing things that humans find repetitive, difficult or dangerous.
Lifetech – Medtech
21st century healthcare, including the “quantified self”. Technologies to improve personal well

The more I dig into this area, the more I become fascinated by what's happening in robotics. In the mainstream media, robots seem to be portrayed as trying to mimic humans. In the film fantasy industry, out of control robot armies paint a threatening, darker picture.  Have you seen the new site Chaos in Your Town, which turned out to be a rather novel, viral campaign for a US insurance agency? Fill in your name and address and watch the action unfold. I wonder if the insurance company follows up with a proposal to protect the real property? But then from what?

More down to earth are the real autonomous robots being developed for use in natural disasters and, I guess, in the military theatres.The US Department of Defense is organising a robot challenge (the DARPA) in four months time. The IEEE magazine Spectrum spotted some of the early public entries. Like the RoboSimian from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. It is more ape-like in its movements rather than trying to imitate a human.