Friday Gadget: The BIOSwimmer Fish Robot

BioSwimmer1The Biomimetic In-Oil Swimmer (BIO-Swimmer) is an robotic fish that has been under development the last 4-5 years by Boston Engineering Corporation’s Advanced Systems Group in Waltham, MA, for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is tasked with uncovering attempts to damage, disrupt, or illegally use the flow of commerce; without detection.  As you can imagine, this is a challenging process.  With regard to waterways, a balance needs to be maintained between monitoring ports, rivers and other waterways without slowing commerce.  The BIOSwimmer is being developed to help the U.S. secure and protect these very waterways.  It is a fish-inspired (it looks like a Tuna) robot that can be deployed rapidly.  It is designed to maneuver into locations previously inaccessible to current robots and provide security intelligence far beyond current capability.

The robot is a hybrid of the design features of a regular submarine (i.e. dive planes, thruster-powered locomotion, and a rigid hull) combined with the flexible keel of a fish.  The tuna is used as a biological model because its natural swimming gait holds the front 2/3 of the fish’s body rigid, while the rear 1/3 moves; this allows the robot to utilize the front 2/3 of its body as a rigid, watertight hull, while the rear 1/3 is converted into a flooded flexible structure. The robot uses hydraulic actuators to move the flexible tail structure from side to side and electric motors for dive plane control.

It is a drone that is controlled via laptop-based system, so it requires a human operator.  It uses an onboard camera and computer suite for navigation, sensor processing, and communications.  It has onboard sensors which are designed for the challenging environment of constricted spaces and high viscosity fluids that are found in crowded and active ports on our waterways.   

All this capability produces a robotic fish-inspired drone that can both move through the water quickly and turn on a dime, a set of traits not usually seen together in underwater vehicles of any type. 

The BIOSwimmer will be expected to perform tasks like conducting ship hull inspections; performing search and rescue missions; and checking cargo holds that may have toxic fluids.   It can inspect the interior voids of ships such as flooded bilges and tanks, and hard to reach external areas such as steerage, propulsion and sea chests.  It can also inspect and protect harbors and piers, perform area searches and carry out other security missions. 

Friday Gadget: The MAB Automated Cleaning System for your house

Gadget - MAB - Automatic Cleaning SystemIn my house, I am the one usually dusting, cleaning, and vacuuming.  It’s not that I like doing the cleaning…it’s just that the other family members never seem to do be interested in having a clean house.   So this Friday’s Gadget post is one that I really like as it paint’s a future where I don’t have to do the cleaning.  

The automated robotic cleaning concept system called MAB, relies on flying mini-robots.   The concept won the 2013 Electrolux Design Lab Competition.  Check out the video below.

The ‘Mab’ automated cleaning system uses hundreds of tiny robots that fly around and collect dust and dirt.   Designer Adrian Perez Zapata says he created the system with the idea that he could  free the human race from the tedious task of cleaning.  In his Mab design, micro-robots do the work to clean every surface of your house while you sit back and relax.   I love that idea. 

Here’s how his Mab concept works.  Think of the Mab core unit as like a beehive and the flying robots as the bees.  In this case, hundreds of tiny flying robots are loaded with drops of water mixed with soap.  The Mab core unit scans the room, identifies dimensions and potential problem areas.  It then releases the flying robots to clean.  As the robots touch surfaces, the cleaning fluid picks up dirt and then the flying robot returns it to the central unit.  Back at the Mab Core unit, the dirt is filtered out from the liquid, which is then then cycled through the Mab core unit for reuse.

 

 

Embedded in Adrian’s design concept is that the Mab could be powered through wireless energy or solar energy.   He also says the wings of each robot could have solar panels to collect energy.

Just think…in the future you may never have to clean again

Friday Gadget: Rapport Device Detects and Reacts to Human Emotions

I’ve decided to bring back the Friday Gadget posts after a very long absence. 

I am not really a gadget guy, but I do like to think about what types of products future generations will have that will make their life easier and think about how emerging technologies will be a part of our lives in the future. When I first started blogging back in 2006, every Friday I would post about a concept for a future technology or gadget.   The series of posts were designed to help us all take a step back on a Friday, have a little fun, and help us all imagine how technology can disrupt the future. 

So I am bringing back the Friday Gadget posts.  I am not sure how long the series will last this time, but we will have fun with it while it lasts…

For this first new post , I found a project team that asked the question:  What if your gadgets knew how you were feeling and could then respond appropriately?   A group of designers developed a device they call Rapport that can observe, analyze and react to your facial expressions in order to select a music playlist that suits you the best.  Once you make eye contact with the device, it leans forward and analyzes your facial expression. Taking into account the time of day, it selects a song that it feels might suit your current mood.   The Rapport device starts the playback of the song at a fairly low volume, but will boost the volume if it sees you smiling or excited.

Under the covers, the team utilized 4 different software programs including Visual Studio (stores the facial recognition library and eye tracking code), Processing (runs the facial recognition library), Max/Msp(controls volume and curates music) and Arduino (drives the stepper motors inside the device).

Potential initial applications could include smart homes, retirement homes, entertainment events, and education.  In the future, application developers will utilize emotion detection systems to design robots that understand how better to interact with humans.   Over time robots could learn to understand how different humans react emotionally and treat each person differently based on both visual and auditory inputs. 

For more, check out these resources:   1) Rapport Introduction (Youtube), 2) Rapport Demonstration (YouTube), 3) Emotional Intelligence (Yanko Design), 4) Feeling the Music;  Gadget Reads Emotions to Choose Songs (Gajitz)

The Robot Report: A Great Source for Robot Industry News

I wanted to inform you of a website that is a great source of news on the Robot Industry.  Plus the website has a great new mashup that displays the location of over 1000 robot industry related companies on a Google map.

While the market for industrial robotics is well established, there is a nascent and growing market for robots outside of the factory in government, business and in the home.  We are nearing a point in our history where robots and robotic technology will begin to play a much more active part in the lives of humans.  I believe there is huge potential for robots and robotic applications in not only on the manufacturing floor and for government defense, but in the consumer and business environment as well.  I do see a day on the horizon where robots will be mass produced like automobiles and smartphones are today.  That might seem crazy right now, but mark my words…it will happen.

Frank TobeSo I am interested in following this important emerging trend and learning about the future market for robots.   One person I have been following is Frank Tobe.  Frank loves researching and learning about the market for robots.  Early in 2008, in a personal effort to learn about the robotics industry and the future of robotics, Frank began an intensive research project that took him to Japan, Korea, Germany and all over the Internet.   In the process, he founded and created  The Robot Reportwebsite to communicate industry news, his research, and his thoughts about the development of this important technology trend.

The Robot Report  gathers and reports industry news, tracks the business of robotics, and has developed proprietary (ROBO-STOX™) methods to compare robot industry stock performance to the NASDAQ Index.  Whether reporting about a robotic arm, a new robotic hand or the stock results of the robotics industry, The Robot Report does a great job of keeping me informed about all the developments in the market for business and consumer robots.

1000-Global-Robot-MfgrsOver the last 4 years, Frank has built a comprehensive worldwide database of public and private companies that are participants in the robotics industry.  Recently Frank mashed this database with Google Maps to produce a global map of 1000+ robot manufacturers worldwide.  The map is color coded so Red markers show where industrial robots are produced; blue show service robots; and green reflect start-ups. The top 20 robotics universities and research labs are shown in yellow.   The map is located at this URL: http://www.therobotreport.com/index.php/site/TRR-Global-Map/.   You can find some detailed country level analysis by going  here.

Even though this industry is still in an emerging state, you can get a feel for the potential just by looking at all the companies involved.   The map certainly reveals the growing diversity, vigor and scope of today’s robotics industry.   Kudos to Frank Tobe for being a pioneer in researching and tracking this emerging industry.  You can read Frank’s blog posts at Everything-Robotic blog and you can follow him on Twitter via @therobotreport.

Friday Gadget: Robonaut 2

Robonaut 2 (R2), a robot developed by General Motors and NASA, is scheduled to hitch a ride to the Space Station via the shuttle Discovery this September. 

The robot not only looks like a human but also is designed to work like one.  With human-like hands and arms, R2 is able to use the same tools station crew members use.

For the mission in September, engineers plan to monitor him closely to see how he operates in weightlessness.  Plans eventually call for R2 to perform tasks that would normally require astronauts to take spacewalks.  The hope is that at some point in the future robots will be able to perform spacewalks and other tasks too difficult or dangerous for humans.  For now, R2 is still a prototype and does not have adequate protection needed to exist outside the space station in the extreme temperatures of space.

For more, check out the page on Robonaut at http://robonaut.jsc.nasa.gov/

Friday Gadget: Rotundus Robot

The GroundBot has been around a few years, but I thought I’d feature it this Friday. Groundbot is a spherical shaped robot that can roll up to 6 mph through indoor and outdoor spaces with relative ease.  In fact, outside it can roll through mud, sand, snow and even water.   Inside the ‘ball’ two gyroscopically steadied wide-angle cameras along with a bunch of sensors provides people monitoring the cameras with a real-time, 360-degree view of wherever the GroundBot happens to be.  Remote operators can use the cameras to zoom in on anything they may see.  Sensors also can detect gas leaks, radioactivity and biohazards.

To get rolling, the robot simply shifts its weight. Its center of mass is suspended from a pendulum inside the sphere, so motors just push the pendulum to the front, to the back, or to the side.   Lithium-ion batteries provide up to 16 hours of spy time.  GroundBot can be remote controlled by hand or programmed to navigate by GPS. 

GroundBot can effectively increase security and cuts costs at places such as airports, factories, warehouses, etc.   Check out this video from Popular Science and you’ll the Groundbot actually rolling through water.

For more on the GroundBot, see the website:  http://www.rotundus.se/video.html  and there are more videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/RotundusRobotics

A Primer on the Consumer Market for Household Robots

Slide2 This primer on Personal Robots is meant to be a quick introduction of the trend towards personal robotics – a trend that will have a significant impact on our lives in this and future centuries.  I’ve previously authored primers on other emerging trend and technology topics…for those check out my category “Primers”.

Little by little we are all starting to share more of our space with robots as prices drop and new innovative technology makes its way into new robotic products that are designed to make our lives easier, more fun, and safer.  Yes, adoption of personal robots is beginning to ramp up.  My house now has two Roombas (one upstairs, one downstairs).  While I still like to use a traditional vacuum as I know the carpets get cleaner, my wife and kids love the Roombas as they can turn it on, leave the room, and let it do its job while they do other things.  Both my parents and my in-laws also have Roombas and they absolutely love them.

Market Environment 

The concept of a machine that performs tasks normally done by humans has captured the imagination of people throughout the ages.  The term robot describes a machine that performs programmed tasks normally performed by humans, while robotics refers to the design, construction, and use of robots.  A robot does not need to be in human form, nor does it need to be controlled remotely. 

The toy market is where allot of the action is at these days.  Robotic technology is increasingly being embedded into all sorts of toys from dinosaurs to plush toys.  Entertainment robots have expanded in capability and fallen in price as well.  There are robotic toys for entertainment, such as the Pleo, the Prime-8 Gorilla, and the Lego Mindstorms line of toys robotic companions.  

However, there is a significant personal robot market waiting to be developed beyond just toys and entertainment…a wider range of task robots are already on the market like Paro the harbor seal, that comfort the elderly.   Household robots that perform chores, provide entertainment and monitor home security have become increasingly prevalent over the last few years.  Personal Robots are being used for tasks like vacuuming.  There are also robotic lawn mowers, duct cleaners, surveillance systems, and alarm clocks. 

I found the following video that provides an overview of some of the latest consumer robot enhancements.  While I found the video a little dry and the focus is more on entertainment robots, it does gives you a feel for what is new in 2010.

Market Opportunity

As evidence that there is a market for consumer and household robots beyond just toys, the iRobot Corp published a press release in January 2010 that indicated it has sold more than 5 million Roombas (home robot vacuums) worldwide since 2002.  As I mentioned above, I have two of those Roombas in my house alone.

Projections about the overall market opportunity for personal robots range dramatically.  According to a 2009 report by ABI Research, by the year 2015 personal robot sales in the U.S. will exceed $5B.  The report, Personal Robotics 2009: Task, Security & Surveillance/Telepresence, Entertainment and Education Robot, and Robotic Components Markets Through 2015  found that the personal robotics market will quadruple from 2009-2015, when worldwide shipments will be valued at $5.26 billion.  ABI defines personal robots as those robots that perform tasks for consumers that usually have something to do with security, a simple household chore, entertainment, or education.  ABI’s report singles out North America as the largest market for personal robots right now, followed by Japan (where the culture embraces robots) and the rest of AP. 

Market Drivers / Inhibitors

The growth in the market for personal and household robots will be driven by a number of factors.

  • Toys/Entertainment:  The toy/entertainment mass market, with its lower price point, will continue to grow and is the place where many companies experimenting in robotic technology will have success in the short term.
  • The 4 D's:  Consumers will be interested in buying robots that can help them do any task that has one of the ‘4D’ components – Dirty, Dangerous, Dull, and/or Difficult. 
  • Better technology:  Improvements in hardware, software, and design allow for enhanced robot applications.
  • Reduced prices:  Personal robots prices will continue to drop as 1) component prices drop and 2) demand for robots increases
  • Skills shortages:  As skill shortages happen, robots can assist and even boost productivity.

Inhibitors to rapid growth include cost justification, the current economic environment, limited performance, and fear, uncertainty, and doubt factors related to the use of robots. 

Technology

Major developments in microelectronics, (sensors/actuators), analytics software, and computer technology have led to significant advances in robotics.  The underlying technology in a robot contains some of all of the following components.

  • A physical device capable of interacting with its environment.  This would include sensors on or around the device that are able to sense the environment and give useful feedback to the device.
  • Systems that process sensory input in the context of the device's current situation and instruct the device to perform actions in response to the situation.  This would include operating systems and application software. 
  • Services for robots are similar to other emerging application areas (consulting, implementation, and maintenance), but the services are customized for specific application areas (security, cleaning, healthcare, etc.).

Advances in military and commercial robots continue to trickle down to the consumer personal robot market.  As the
market for innovative components grows (e.g., laser rangefinders in the
military and automotive industry), we’ll see continued advancement of robotic applications
in the consumer market.

Anticipated Developments

The main personal robot market segments that have thrived in recent years are toy/entertainment robots and vacuum cleaner robots.  I expect these segments to continue to continue to grow and thrive in the coming years.  Overtime, I expect to see more robots designed for the elderly and dependents to make their way to the market.  And I also expect to see more home security robots coming to the market.

The excitement surrounding the consumer robot market is in what lies ahead in terms of innovations.  We should expect innovations that enable increased precision, better controls, lower costs, and improved technology.  Not only will new robots have more computing power, but they will have improved knowledge based systems, speech recognition, wireless capabilities and improved power (fuel cells).  All these enhancements will greatly enhance robot use.

Other anticipated developments include:

  • Telepresence applications making their way to personal robots, allowing remote users to interact with the robot’s environment.
  • Future personal robots will be able to interact with their owners, express basic emotions, and help make decisions.
  • Advanced software in the area of analytics and artificial intelligence will result in improved robot decision making capabilities
  • Advancements in machine to machine communications will lead to robot networks, multi-robot systems, and remote/distributed robotics.
  • Long term, as nanotechnology enhancements come to market, we will see a new breed of Mini, Micro, and Nanobots

There should be no doubt in our minds that the future looks bright for personal robots.  They will have a significant impact on the lifestyles of our future generations.  Personal robots will improve our productivity by taking care of everyday chores.  They will improve our safety.  They will help us make better decisions. 

Eventually personal robots will become our constant companions.  Along the way, future generations will have to resolve a whole set of new issues relating to personal robots, including security/privacy issues, robot rights, robot/human ethics, and social/cultural issues.

Companies to Watch

There are hundreds of companies that manufacture robots and robot components.  Many of these companies are focused on the commercial or military robotic industry.  Some large consumer-oriented electronic companies like Honda, and Electrolux are attempting to address the consumer robot market.  However, most robot companies are small businesses and start ups.   Here’s a list of various companies focused on the consumer market.

Cleaning Robots

Lawnmowers

  • Belgium Robotic Systems – Robotic Lawnmower
  • Husqvarna – Sells a line of robotic lawnmowers
  • Precise Path –  Has introduced the RG3 Robotic Greens Mower for golf courses.  Long term plans includes a fleet of robotic vehicles designed to tackle for every aspect of golf course conditioning and maintenance.
  • Zucchetti – sells a robotic lawnmower called the Robotica

Companionship / Entertainment

  • Bossa Nova Robotics – Is focusing on innovative robotic toys, like the Prime-8 gorilla and the Penbo Penguin
  • GeckoSystems – Based in Atlanta, GA, it sells the CareBot™ line of Mobile Service Robots for the elderly care market
  • Hitachi’s EMIEW2 – Is a prototype mobile service robot with that can conduct basic services.
  • Mistubishi’s Wakamaru – A robot designed to provide companionship to elderly and disabled people. 
  • NEC’s PaPero – is a prototype entertainment/companionship robot designed to interact with humans.
  • AIST’s Paro – This robot looks like a seal and has been designed to provide animal therapy to patients and the elderly.
  • robosoft – Based in France, the company has introduced its Kompaï robot for home elderly use.
  • Toyota – Has a research arm focused on developing future robot systems titled Toyota Partner Robots designed to interact with humans and perform basic services.
  • Yujin Robotics’ iRobi –  iRobi is an entertainment/companionship robot that will interact with humans and perform basic task.

Security 

  • Fujitsu’s enon – a prototype service robot designed to perform various tasks, including security, surveillance, guidance/assistance, and transporting items.
  • Rotundus – Sells the GroundBot security robot, a remote-controlled sphere with embedded camera that can move silently inside and outside a building
  • Spykee Spy Robot – A remote controlled security robot packed with features, including camera, microphone, VOIP phone, flashlight, sound effects, and mp3 reader.
  • WowWee Group Ltd – Hong Kong based company offers the Rovio Wi-Fi Enabled Robotic WebCam, a household security robot 

Components/Solutions/Research

  • Anybots Inc. – Telepresence solutions for robots
  • Barrett Technology, Inc. -  Core technology includes improving flexibility in robotic arms and hands
  • CoroWare, Inc -  Expertise in personal telepresence and mobile robotics
  • dRobotics – Online retail store providing a wide variety of robot components and solutions.
  • General Vision Inc – Develops and sells image recognition systems (e.g. the CogniMem neural network chip) that can be applied to robots
  • Gostai – Is focused on developing and applying artificial intelligence capabilities and software platforms to robots.
  • Hitec RCD – Distributor of component parts for robots
  • Honda’s Asimo – Honda has a long history of researching robots, with a focus on Asimo and related humanoid technology.
  • Karto Robotics – Is developing software that can provide high accuracy navigation, mapping, and exploration functionality across a broad range of mobile robot platforms.
  • KumoTek LLC – Based near Dallas, Texas, KumoTek is a robotics design and manufacturing company focusing on consumer and service robots
  • MobileRobots Inc – Designs and manufactures autonomous mobile robotic systems, including the Motivity guidance and control technology.
  • OLogic Inc – A design company focusing on the design and packaging of internal components (sensor, processor, and mobility) and devices for robotics.
  • RoadNarrows Robotics – A Colorado company developing open-interface hardware and software robotic solutions.  Focuses on research and education markets.
  • Readybot – Based in Silicon Valley, this company is focusing on developing an easy-to-use, modular, off-the-shelf, robotic work platform.  One of their target markets is robots for the elderly. 
  • Speecys Corporation – Based in Tokyo, the stated main focus of Speecys is to develop a humanoid robot and the surrounding system that enable the robot to download content via the Internet so that it can provide entertainment and perform various tasks.
  • Surveyor Corporation – A California based developer of small robots, robot controllers, and other robot components for research and education.
  • White Box Robotics – Sells the 914 PC-BOT platform to researchers, academics, and developers. It is a mobile robot with an embedded PC complete with inputs for keyboard, monitor and mouse
  • Willow Garage – Is a team of experts in robot design, control, perception, and machine learning that develop hardware and open source software for personal robotic applications.

For More Information

Well, that’s it…a basic introduction into the emerging world of personal robots.  I think we can only attempt to imagine what the world of robots will be like in 100 years from now.  There is no doubt in my mind that the impact will be significant. 

I hope you enjoyed this primer into personal robots.  For primers into other emerging trend and technology topics…for those check out my category “Primers”.

Friday Gadget: Yotaro the baby robot

Yotaro is another interesting robot idea coming out of Japan.  This robot is designed to be a baby. 

It has baby blue eyes and it makes cute baby sounds.  It also cries, sneezes, smiles, has runny noses, and even sleeps.  It reacts to touch. Facial expressions change. In fact it shows all the emotions of a typical baby and communicates those emotions pretty effectively. 

The researchers behind Yotaro are hoping that the robot can be used to help young parents learn parenting skills before the real baby arrives.  For more on Yotaro and the researchers at Tsukuba University who created it, check out this article I found at Physorg http://www.physorg.com/news187419450.html

Dr. James Canton: Top 20 Trends That Will Shape the World in the Next Year

Canton - Global Futures Forecast 2010 Since 1990, Dr. James Canton, a futurist and founder of the Institute for Global Futures, has released an annual Global Futures Forecast 2010.  These annual forecasts from Canton are always a little too sensational and dramatic in how the trends are worded.  I know he does this just to ‘sell’ the trends list and pull people into his marketing engine.  But if you ignore all that drama and read between the lines for the message of the key trend, the lists can be useful. 

In this years report, Dr. Canton lists 20 trends that he says we need to watch in 2010 as these trends are transforming our lives today and will continue to do so for many years into the future.  Here is my summary of the 20 trends. See below for a link to a 13 page pdf file wiht more detail.

  1. Future Positive.  We’ll once again look at the future in a positive way.
  2. The Existential Consumer.  Relationships have been strained between governments, business and individuals.
  3. Business as Unusual.  Expect some bold moves by businesses in 2010.
  4. Design for a Better World.  Canton says that giving back to others, social responsibility will emerge as a key trend this year.  Perhaps the Haiti earthquake is the spark we needed.
  5. Energy X.  Canton says our future is tied to finding new sources of plentiful and cheap energy.
  6. Asia Self-Reliance.  Asian economies will increasingly rely on internal sources of growth and prosperity.
  7. Personalized Medicine.  Technology will start to deliver on the promise of personalized medicine.
  8. The Neuro-Society.  Canton expects 2010 to be a breakout year for neuroscience and that there will be broad-based impact.
  9. Hungry Planet.  Canton says there will be progress made towards a cooperative approach to solving food shortages, food security, and improving quality of life.
  10. Products That Think.  Canton says we’ll have more smart products as manufacturers embed chips into everything.
  11. Social Capitalism Emerges.  Canton says that efforts to remake capitalism into a populist or social welfare tool will fail. 
  12. Workforce Talent War.  Canton expects that companies will have a talent shortage as increased complexity, competition and demands for performance drive the talent search…and talent wars.
  13. Jobs and the Innovation Economy.  Real job creation will not come from government but the private sector stepping up the innovation game.
  14. Rogues Among Us.   Canton says to watch out for rogue organizations that seek to destabilize the world’s security order.
  15. Green Tech.  Canton says there will be increased focus on helping nature help itself by geo-engineering the planet using science to protect the planet. 
  16. Internet Everywhere.  Canton safely predicts that the Internet will be everywhere this year.
  17. Tomorrow’s Markets.  Canton points out that the emerging middle class in the developing world is a huge opportunity for all businesses.
  18. Robots R Us.  Canton says “The robots are coming!”.
  19. Singularity Watch.  Canton believes that Singularity discipline (the use of advanced science and technology to cope with planetary social challenges) will get increased attention in 2010
  20. Reinventing Education.  Canton says we need to reinvent Education to make it more relevant, modern and future-ready.

For a 13 page pdf file that covers the 20 trends, check out Global Futures Forecast 2010

Scientific American: 20 World Changing Ideas in Science

Scientific American 20 World Changing Ideas Scientific American published an article back in December titled “World Changing Ideas” that caught my eye.   The article provides a laundry list of ideas that Scientific American says have the potential to improve our lives and our planet.  The magazine has been running similar articles on an annual basis for a number of years.

The December article covers ideas in five general categories (Energy,Transportation, Environment, Electronics, and Health) that highlight the power of science and technology to improve the world.

Here’s a summary of some of the 20 ideas from this article

Energy

  • Pay for solar panels on your house like you pay for a house mortgage.
  • Biofuels from genetically engineered plants.
  • Innovations in Nuclear Power production that can stem nuclear proliferation
  • Smart meters in the home
  • Wind Power harvested from a fleet of high-flying giant kites or windmills

Transportation

  • Plug-in hybrid trucks for short-haul cargo trips
  • Subway-like bus lines

Environment

  • Someday the oceans might be regulated by a worldwide marine planning and zoning committee
  • Harvesting energy trapped in garbage via a technology called plasma gasification
  • Cement that naturally absorbs carbon dioxide as it hardens
  • Introducing new honeybee colonies to our farms
  • Developing crops that can handle saltwater

Electronics

  • HP’s Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE) project
  • Smartphones that can act as real-time language translators
  • Advances in Personal Robotics

Health

  • Biomarkers can help understand the causes of complex diseases
  • Satellites can help track and predict the spread of diseases
  • Better and cheaper ways to help blood clot quicker
  • Performing blood tests in real time by putting a drop of blood on a computer chip
  • Innovations in dental care.

The 20 ideas above are all interesting and innovative trends in science and technology.  Some I would say are more ‘world changing’ than other ideas.  And I am sure we could all come up with another 20 trends / ideas in science that are not listed above.

There’s much more detail in the article.  Scientific American articles are available to subscribers only, but at the time of the writing of this post, I found the article at Scribd here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/23475128/20-World-Changing-Ideas.  Also…you can listen to a podcast where Scientific American magazine Editor in Chief Mariette DiChristina and editor Michael Moyer talk about the "World Changing Ideas" feature ( Download this podcast ). 

Friday Gadget: The Recon Scout Rescue Miniature, Mobile Reconnaissance Device

Here’s a simple looking device with a wireless-transmitting camera that can go where people can’t…or where it is safe to go.

TheRecon Scout Recon Scout® Rescue is a miniature, mobile reconnaissance device that will add greater safety and speed to search and rescue and hazmat operations. According to the company, using it requires no special training, making it a great for firefighters, disaster responders, and public safety professionals.

For example, a firefighter using would just pull the activation pin and throw the device through a doorway or over a wall, or drop it down a vertical shaft using a tether.   Then by using a joystick on a handheld control, the firefighter can then direct the device to move through.   Equipped with an infrared optical system that automatically turns on when the ambient light is low, the Rescue can see in complete darkness and can transmit video up to 100 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors.  Additional accessories allow it to transmit video to an incident command post that can be located up to 1,000 feet away.

The performance characteristics of the Recon Scout Rescue make it ideally suited to this task:

  • The Recon Scout Rescue is just seven inches long and weighs just one pound, making it extremely easy to carry and throw.
  • Deploying the Rescue takes less than 15 seconds and requires no special training.
  • The device is equipped with sophisticated infrared optical systems that can see in complete darkness and automatically turn on when the ambient light is low.
  • The Rescue transmits clear, crisp video through walls and debris up to 100 feet to a handheld Operator Control Unit (OCU) or up to 1,000 feet to a Command Monitoring Station.
  • The device can withstand throws of 120 feet and it can be tossed through windows or doors, over walls, or down a flight of stairs.
  • It can also be dropped down a vertical shaft or into a void using a provided tether.

I am thinking future version of these devices can be fitted with all types of sensors to measure things like temperature, air quality, water quality, etc.

Check out more on the website http://www.recon-scout.com

Friday Gadget: High Speed Robot Hand

In the future, robots will be not only more dexterous, but they will react dynamically at lightening speed based on all their embedded sensors.  In effect, they will become more human-like by understanding and processing their external environment by using many kinds of sensory information.

Future robot systems will be able to integrate all the sensory information into its decision making process, much like humans do today.

The Ishikawa Komuro Lab at the University of Tokyo has been doing research into both robot sensors and the parallel processing of the collected sensory information.  The purpose of the Lab’s Sensor Fusion Project is to develop innovative new architectures for sensory processing by integrating information from multiple sensors.

The Lab has recently been posting videos of some of the capabilities they have demonstrated in their lab.  Here is Ishikawa Komuro Lab's high-speed robot hand performing impressive acts of dexterity and skillful manipulation.

The robot hand

  • Dribbles a ball
  • Picks up a grain of rice with a tweezer
  • Spins a pen from one set of fingers to another
  • Knots a rope
  • Throws a ball into a net
  • Tosses a cell phone into the air and catches it.

For this technology to advance, we’ll need to see more work in areas like

  • Nanoscience
  • Sensors
  • Actuators
  • Parallel Processing
  • Dynamic Image Processing

For more information, see the Ishikawa Komuro Laboratory site.