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Robots are Doing it For Themselves
November 16, 2011
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Advances in the field of robotics are emerging all the time, from drones to wall-climbers to Terminator-like 'bots. But this week has been all about active robots: they're running, riding bikes, and yes, controlling human limbs. Read on.

Masahiko Yamaguchi's Remote-Controlled Bike-Riding Robot

This little robot is ready to roll.The 'bot, which is capable of balancing, steering and correcting itself while riding a fixed-gear bike, uses special software and hardware to keep itself upright. Although it is controlled by a human operator, the balancing act is all automated within the robot itself - the machine calculates what angle its tilting at, and corrects itself. Inventor Masahiko Yamaguchi says he is interested in artificial intelligence, and wanted to "pursue intelligence from the skills side" by creating a robot that had "cycling as its skill". His next step? Creating a robot brain intelligent enough that the robot can ride by itself without a remote control.

DARPA's Fastrunner, the Robot Ostrich

This one doesn't exist yet - but it's on its way, and it looks like it's coming fast. When you think of a robot that runs really quickly, what animal would you expect it to be based on? A leopard? A cheetah? How about an ostrich? At Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), researchers led by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) are hard at work on creating a robotic ostrich which they claim will be capable of running at speeds up to 50 miles per hour. To put that in perspective, when Usain Bolt broke the record in the 200 metre event in 2009, he was running about 28 miles per hour. That's very fast. But it's no match for a robo-ostrich.

The Robot That Takes Control

Humans controlling robots is nothing new. They are machines, after all, created by humans - it seems logical that we would maintain control over their functions and actions. But what about robots guiding human actions? This video shows a robot controlling a blindfolded human's arm, guiding it to hold a ball over a hoop and then drop the ball in. The robot controls the human's arm with electrodes that are attached to key muscle groups. The technology may end up being used to help paralyzed people perform simple tasks, which is a noble goal. Of course, the idea of giving up control of your limbs to a robot might seem a little scary to some: when the researchers presented this video at a conference, the crowd let out a nervous gasp.

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