Archive for December, 2014

Eel or Taser?

The fish of the Amazon river basin have engages multitudes of researchers since the river was discovered. One of these rather intriguing forms of river life is the electric eel. The simple worm like creature is a scaleless Amazonian fish that can deliver an electrical jolt strong enough to knock down a full-grown horse.

Most humans in the area are well aware of just how dangerous a jolt from this eel can be, and this is why the researchers at the Vanderbilt University decided to conduct a study on this creature. The nine month study has now revealed how the electric eel uses high-voltage electrical discharges to locate and incapacitate its prey.

The electroshock system that the eel processes is remarkably similar to a taser. It has been established that a six-foot electric eel can generate about 600 volts of electricity. The eels also have astonishing speed as they were observed in videos swallowing a worm or small fish in about a tenth of a second during the science project.

Kenneth Catania from the Vanderbilt University  is a biologist who distinguished between three different kinds of electrical discharges from the eels. Catania said that these included low-voltage pulses for sensing their environment; short sequences of two or three high-voltage millisecond pulses (called doublets or triplets) given off while hunting; and volleys of high-voltage, high-frequency pulses when capturing prey or defending themselves from attack.


Leave a Comment

Fish Robots Aid in Understanding Animal Movement

The black ghost knifefish of the Amazon basin hunts at night in the murky rivers and moves both horizontally and vertically using a ribbon-like fin on the underside of its body. Its amazing dexterity has made it the object of many scientific studies over the last few decades. The black ghost knifefish also has  the ability to sense with a self-generated weak electric field around its entire body.

The many features this fish exhibits are highly desirable traits for underwater robots. Given that current underwater bots are not very advanced, tend to be large in size and have very little flexibility when it comes to changing directions and swimming in the water, the black ghost knifefish make ideal study subjects to plan improvements in the robots.

Malcolm MacIver from Northwestern University is using an interdisciplinary team of researchers to develop agile fish robots based on the model of the black ghost knifefish. These robotic fish would be able to study fragile coral reefs without fear of damage, repair damaged deep-sea oil rigs which are difficult for humans to work on or even investigate sunken ships to search for hidden treasure.

More than a dozen robotic fish have already been created by Malcolm’s team of researchers, and this is a science project which is showing tremendous potential for use in the real world.

Leave a Comment

What Do You Need To Build a Robot

For any robotics enthusiast the ability to make their own robot has to be a science project that they really look forward to. The lack of readily available resources often plays spoilsport in some cases, and this is what the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is hoping to change.

With technologies such as 3D printing and laser cutting becoming more accessible, it is becoming easier for people to manufacture soft robots. It is with a view to aid this field that the soft robot toolkit has been developed by these researchers. The toolkit consists of open source plans, how-to videos, case studies of designs, fabrication, modeling and control of soft robots.

All of this is available online in easily downloadable formats. Conor Walsh, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering says that the goal of the toolkit is to advance the field of soft robotics by allowing designers and researchers to build upon each other’s work.

This common resource pool that designers and manufacturers can dip into will help to reduce duplication of work. It will also stimulate new methods to be worked with, create new tools and even new kinds of soft robots. All in all this is a science project that is bound to grow by leaps and bounds in the future.

Leave a Comment

Humanoid Robots to Help Autistic Children

How an autistic child learns is very different from how a regular child is taught. It is with this difference in mind that researchers at the University of Southern California came up with the concept of individualized prompts for the autistic child from a humanoid robot to help in learning faster and with greater ease.

Over the course of the experiment a general improvement was noticed in learning imitative behavior in autistic children by interacting with humanoid robots that provided graded cueing. This is a therapy used with such children that shapes their behavior by providing them increasingly specific cues to help them learn new skills.

Nao Robots were used during the scientific study to interact with the children as they were told to perform specific tasks. The Nao Robots would first provide an instruction, followed by verbal clues, and eventually a demonstration of what was expected if the child still was unable to perform the task.

The robots would stop between each clue stage to allow the child to perform the task being described. The robot-mediated interventions in performing a task that was set for the children in the study were highly effective. The pilot science project has given hope that the technique would be successful at a larger scale as well.



Leave a Comment

Rescue Robots in the Alps

Being lost in the mountains is a nightmare that no one wants to face and thanks to these new rescue robots, it may soon become a thing of the past. Researchers at the University of  Twente have been working on a science project involving human rescue workers, a robot on the ground and flying robots in the air.

The unusual combination works together to trace, locate and finally rescue any hapless victim that the difficult mountain terrain may claim. The project, which is called SHERPA, increases the chances of rescuing victims greatly. The Raffaella Carloni and the LEO Centre for Service Robotics are bringing together the mechanical design, the control mechanism and realizing the robotic arm.

The humans on the ground will be equipped with sensors and portable technology giving the rescue operator all the possible information available in a system so that he can make the best possible decision in the situation. The human being and robots can work together in this system in order to complete a worthwhile task – saving human lives.

The combination of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle , the Ground Robot and the Human Rescuers is going to save a great many lives in the future. It is indeed a worthwhile science project that will make a huge difference to the people living or visiting the Alps.


Leave a Comment