Archive for September, 2011

Robots that save lives

In high risk professions such as the military, para military, the fire fighters and first response workers at emergencies the robots can play an important function. The robots can help save lives of these people and reduce the risk profile to their jobs. Every year there are science projects based on robots that can reduce the risk to human life.

Some of the jobs that a robot can do which can help save lives are listed here. The bomb disposal squad will be happy to work with a remote controlled robot when they try to diffuse bombs. It is traumatic for team members to see their colleague blown to bits in front of their eyes as he works on diffusing a bomb.

With fire fighters a robot that can go into burning buildings and identify just where the trapped human beings are can make the job much easier. The robot can guide the people who can move through the smoke filled buildings to an exit to save their lives. they can also pin point the location and stand guard with people who have been injured and need help to be physically removed from the building.

In case of the military services it is much easier to send in a robotic drone on spying missions than a human being. Even if the unmanned aerial drone is shot down you do not lose a pilot. Robots can and do save lives every day. It is essential to support science projects that help robots to save human lives.

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Is it worth spending so much time on Robotics

Machines have been made by man to help him with almost all aspects of his life. Man can claim that all these robotics based science projects are helping him to get things done faster and more efficiently than before, but does all the help that man have improve the quality of his life?

Is it really worth spending the billions that get spent annually on robotics? Or are we just so busy developing new toys that we lose the focus on what is truly important. It is not denied that machines and robots have made it easier for us to do a number of tasks, but these were tasks we could do any way.

So by making the machines and robots work for us are we giving them the power to run our lives? So far there has not been developed successfully the kind of artificial intelligence that would be harmful to human beings. But just how soon will we have machines thinking and then what will happen when the machines realize that we the human creators are redundant?

In popular science fiction there is always the battle between man and machine looming large in the future. Perhaps if we choose to develop the right sort of machines it would be possible to skip that battle altogether. Maybe we can work out the probability of keeping machines and robots from fighting the war against humans in a science project.

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R2 makes repairs on International Space Station

Robots have been seen as a possible way to reduce risk to human life and to help humans so that their time can be freed up for more useful ventures. Many robotics based science projects have these two points in part of their aim. So the first space going humanoid robot the R2 would be expected to keep to these aims.

The Robonaut 2 is a humanoid robot which has a torso and arms but no legs. It moves on tracks and has been designed to work besides humans in outer space. The R2 went up to the International Space Station in the last trip of the space shuttle Discovery. It has been reassembled by the scientists in the space station recently.

Now the R2 has just completed its first mission. It carried out repair work on the exteriors of the International Space Station which involved replacing a faulty electrical circuit. Th repairs tool nearly two days to complete, but the robot saved one of the astronauts on the space station a spacewalk.

It is considered a good likelihood that in the future the robonauts will be able to handle such standard repairs all the time leaving the human scientists and researchers free to pursue their experiments and conduct their research. The R2 is the future of robotic personal help and the science project is bound to improve as it goes along the way.

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Can you control a Robot with your Thoughts?

For the physically disabled it is quite difficult to get anything done by themselves in their daily routine. There have been various science projects that have tried to work out a personal robotic helper for the handicapped. These were given set programming and followed a specific order.

This means that if a new situation which is not programmed comes up the robot becomes useless. Now all that is about to change. With the help of a project called ROBODANCE 5 Robert Oschler hopes to build a robot that can be told by the patient exactly what to do. The robot will be able to read facial movements, jaw clenches, and track eye movements.

All this visual data is fed into what is called the Emotiv system. Now while it is not strictly reading a thought right out of the brain, it is quite close. If the robot can interpret the new data and take actions accordingly it is a major step above and beyond what a programmed robot was able to do in the past.

There are also some science projects on robotics which are currently working on getting the robots into the area of mind reading. Kinesics and Synchronization in Personal Assistant Robotics or KASPAR is one such robot that is making headway in the field.

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Self Repairing Concrete

The last thing that comes to your mind when you think of a slab of concrete is smart green choice and somehow that is exactly what Henk Jonkers has come up with. In an interesting science project conducted in the Technical University Delft, in the Netherlands Jonkers has come up with bio- concrete.

Microorganisms are added in the concrete mix that can actually fix the cracks that appear in the concrete over time. The bacteria is of a type which eats calcium lactate and excretes calcite which fills up the crack. The spores of this bacteria can lie dormant for 50 years till water enters the material.

The bacteria lies in a dormant form within the concrete in the highly alkaline environment of the material and becomes active when the material cracks enough to let through water. Now it begins to multiply and grow and its excretion is the material that becomes the filling repair of the crack that was formed.

Is it totally ingenious or totally far fetched? The trials conducted by Jonkers have been successful enough and may be the concrete may come into commercial production in the not so distant future. Some more experimentation may find additional uses for the main product of this science project.

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