Snake Bites with Laser
If you have some work to do in a hazardous location, you
might send in some autonomous bots to do the work. If the job
requires some serious electrical power that battery-driven units
can't provide, it may be a better idea to poke a snakebot through
an available aperture. This is the idea behind the LaserSnake
project put together by OC Robotics ( www.ocrobotics.com)
with collaborator TWI Ltd. ( www.twi.co.uk) as part of a UK
Technology Strategy Board competition for nuclear R&D feasibility
studies. A snake-arm robot was combined with a 5 k W laser to
create a selective, remote-controlled approach to dismantling and
decommissioning complex structures in hazardous and confined nuclear
environments. In a recent demonstration, one of OC's Explorer models
demonstrated the ability to perform remote single-sided cutting using a fiber laser — a trick that could ultimately be applied in a
real world nuclear environment to dismantle vessels, support structures, flasks, and pipe work. With the ability to cut through
pressure vessels, I-beams, boxes, and tubes, this guy has a bite that even a Black Mamba would envy. To see one of the units
doing repair work, just slither on over to www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsNeLB-EHsg.
OC Robotics' Explorer snakebot armed with a 5 k W
laser, integrated navigation camera, and lighting.
Bots to Adorn Your Fingers
Sometimes you get the feeling that robot developers in Japan are intentionally putting us on, or maybe just having
some fun coming up with silly things and inventing explanations
later. The suspicion grows with a set of robotic rings developed by a
"research group" at Keio University ( www.keio.ac.jp). Each unit
contains its own motor, but a PC-driven microcontroller determines
movement of the eyes and mouth from afar.
Of what practical use could this be, you ask? Well, according to
the group, "When you wear this robot on your hand, it forms a
medium for communication using the hand. So, the robot serves as
a device for enhancing the animal-like, imitative ways that people
use their hands." I can think of a way to communicate with them
using my hand and no rings, but never mind. Just don't offer a set
to your fiancee if you want the answer to be "yes."
Robotic rings developed at Keio University.
Bot Knows Squat
Exploring a different kind of hostile environment is the work of
the Schmidt Ocean Institute ( www.schmidtocean.org), whose
purpose in life is "to advance ocean exploration, discovery, and
knowledge, and catalyze sharing of information about the oceans."
At the end of August, the Schmidt folks dropped a Global Explorer
MK3 ROV into the Okeanos Ridge site — a previously unexplored
2,000 ft (600 m) deep seafloor area located about 185 mi (300 km)
west of the Florida gulf coast. The MK3 more or less resembles a
rectangular frame with two tanks and a bunch of cameras mounted
on it, so we're not bothering to show it here. However, it is one of
the few ROVs that is able to record 3D video, as well as high-def 2D
video, and it came up with many fascinating images of things like
living corals, chirostylid and golden crabs, and (see photo) squat
lobsters. A visit to the website's gallery is worth the trip. SV
Squat lobsters crawling around
in a Lophelia mound.
(Image courtesy of Deep Sea Systems,
Schmidt Ocean Institute.)
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