Engineers from UCLA and the University of Washington have developed a sensitive robot skin. When a robot is handling a grape, peeling a banana, or diffusing a bomb, it is hard for the robot to sense whether or not its hand is sliding along the blue wire, or pulling it. Until recently, with the development of the Luke Arm from Mobius Bionics, prosthetic hands lacked the accurate sensing as well.
This flexible sensor skin may be the solution. The researchers stretch the skin over robot appendages and prosthetic limbs and it gives them a more accurate reading regarding shear forces and vibration.
The sensor skin mimics the way a human finger feels tension and compression as it slides along a surface to distinguish between different textures. In tests the robot skin is actually more sensitive than human skin, and it could dramatically improve how robots perform everything from surgery to industrial tasks.
The skin is made with silicone rubber that is embedded with tiny serpentine channels. The channels are filled with electrically conductive liquid metal.
When the channel geometry changes, so does the amount of electricity that can flow through them. The research team can measure these differences in electrical resistance and correlate them with the shear forces and vibrations that the robot finger is experiencing.
Right now, researchers are opening doors, shaking hands, picking up packages with the robot skin, but they we may not be too far removed from more accurate bomb disposal or even surgery.
Phantom Robot Prototype
Troops in the Ukraine may soon find themselves fighting alongside the Phantom robot, a new prototype from Ukrainian defense contractor, UkrOboronProm.
According to Defense One, the Phantom was on display last week at the Association of the U.S. Army show in Washington D.C. It has an extendable frame and modular design. So, for example, you can choose between treads or wheels. And it is packing, it comes armed with anti-tank missiles, grenade launchers or 23 mm machine guns.
The prototype is still in its testing phase, and the company has released footage of some of the Phantom's firing trials.
The Phantom has a 30 kilowatt hybrid engine and it can reach nearly 40 mph (37 mph) while covering a max distance of 80~ miles. According to the company, it can also be used to help evacuate wounded soldiers.
The robot is reminiscent of the Ironclad unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) that BAE showed off a month ago at the Defense and Security Equipment International show. It has a similar rugged and modular design, but the Phantom's range is about 50 miles better.
Even though the Phantom is still in the testing phase, it could be facing Russian forces by early next year.
USA Battles Japan in Giant Robot Duel
Most of us have played the game Rock'em Sock'em robots, and many of us have imagined what it might be like to see two massive robots square off in real life. Well, this week, two teams did just that. Whether or not it was real or kayfabe, it was literally the biggest thing to hit the engineering world this week.
It was a fight night, Team USA meets Team Japan in an abandoned warehouse. The combatants? Two human-piloted giant robots.
With two fights on the bill, the American team, MegaBots Inc., brought two robots to the event, Iron Glory, and Eagle Prime. They faced off against Kuratas from Japanese company Suidobashi Heavy Industry.
The Japanese robot was much smaller, but Kuratas easily dispatched Iron Glory in seconds in the first fight. It charged right at Iron Glory and took is out with an outstretched giant metal fist.
In the second fight, Team USA piloted Eagle Prime, which dwarfed its opponent. Realizing that the point of the contest wasn’t to kill one another, Eagle Prime still sported a giant chainsaw for an arm that is used to tear into Kuratas before the contest was stopped.
You may view this either as an engineering fantasy come alive or a surrealistic nightmare, but with other mechatronic sports, like racing, coming online soon, we may one day look back at this event as the beginning of America's new pastime ... or single greatest embarrassment.