Kibo Bot Destined for ISS
Apparently, the Japanese have become so attached
to their humanoid robots that they can't even travel into
outer space without one. So, when Japanese Aerospace
Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata
takes command of the International Space Station next
March, he will find a mechanical companion awaiting
him. The android — produced by Japan's Kibo Robot
Project — will be programmed to recognize Wakata and
communicate with him in Japanese. The bot won't take
up much room since it’s only 34 cm ( 13. 4 inches) tall
and weighs only 1 kg ( 2. 2 lb). It will also take photos
and relay lab data back to Earth.
As of this writing, no one has come up with a
name for the little guy or his twin who will remain on
Earth to do public relations work. Fortunately, you can
visit kibo-robo.jp for updates.
Miniature android is set to serve in Expedition 39 aboard the ISS.
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Bot is Diggin' It
Although there is no shortage of bots designed to
travel over land, air, and sea, most subterranean
explorations require human participation. At the 2013
IEEE International Conference on Robotics and
Automation, some folks from the Carnegie Mellon
Robotics Institute ( www.ri.cmu.edu) presented a paper
describing a bimodal unit that is capable of rolling along
the surface to reach its destination, then screwing itself
into the ground when it arrives. According to the paper,
"The applications of a self-burying robot extend from
mining and military applications to humanitarian
applications." Or, more specifically, "to drive or be airdropped to a location close to a target, bury itself to be
hidden, perform video surveillance, and send that video
back to an operator."
The basic function is to dig straight down into a layer
of sand or other material until the entire frame is
covered. Servo motors inside the four drills cause the
metal cylinder and cone to rotate, and the thin "grousers"
slice through the material and force it upward. The paper
indicates that the unit has been tested in homogeneous
substances including sand, rice, sugar, and flour, but it
isn't clear how it would handle real dirt. Nevertheless, the
authors surmise that in the future, "many other
interesting applications like covert surveillance and
autonomous exploration can be achieved with this
Self-burying mechanical mole from Carnegie Mellon Robotics.
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