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Ford’s Self-Driving Delivery Van Deploys a Humanoid Robot

The car tells the robot how to get around. Also, wearable sensors with octopus-inspired suckers and Salto is a jumping robot bush baby.

Wearable Sensors Designed with Octopus-Inspired Suckers

Researchers from South Korea have created a new graphene-based biosensor that sucks to your skin -- it was inspired by the suckers on an octopus.

The researchers designed a cheap, scalable production process for graphene-coated fabric (GCF) sensors that stick to your skin. The fabric is a yarn-like substrate that is coated with graphene oxide and then soaked in L-ascorbic acid to help with conductivity as well as flexibility and strength. The sensor is then coated with a film to form a conductive path from the fabric to the skin. In the final step, the researchers etch tiny, octopus-like patterns on the film.

The material is not only flexible, but durable; capable of standing up to bends, folds, twists and stretches.

In initial tests, the sensor was able to collect data in both wet and dry situations. For example, it was able to sense when a wrist was bending and also picked up electrocardiography (ECG) measurements in wet and dry environments.

It can also read speech vibrations. One test subject placed the sensor on his neck, and it could identify when he said particular words or phrases, such as “Hello” and the sentence “I am a good man.”

The report was recently published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

The technology could be big news for the wearable, pharmaceutical, drug-delivery, medical device and diagnostics industries, among others because, for wearable sensors to provide accurate information, they need to stay on your skin, no matter how wet, dry or hairy.

Salto is a Jumping Robot Bush Baby

In 2016, researchers at the University of California - Berkeley created Salto (Saltatorial Locomotion on Terrain Obstacles). Salto is a tiny jumping robot that can leap off of the ground, hit a spot on the wall, and then jump off the wall. Cool, but limited.

Since then, the team has added a host of capabilities. Salto can now run or jump for more than 10 minutes, taking as many as 100 jumps in that period.

The remote-controlled robot can also jump four-feet high, run 8-10 mph and has the ability to clear various obstacles. It also has the ability to follow, land and launch from moving targets, like a tiny little parkour robot.

Because it's so quick, it can land and launch off of surfaces that normal robots would simply slide off of. It also has onboard sensors that help it stay upright and change position while in the air to make sure it lands correctly.

Next, the team wants to make Salto more agile, including the ability to jump on/from various surfaces, like gravel. Right now, it’s restricted to wood, brick, grass and concrete. The researchers also want to add arms, so it can grab onto objects after it jumps.

The design was inspired by galagoes, which are also known as bush babies.

The team recently presented its work at the 2019 International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Montreal.

Like other robots that were designed with a unique set of skills, Salto could one day be used for search and rescue missions, looking for survivors while navigating unpredictable terrain.

Ford’s Self-Driving Delivery Van Deploys Humanoid Robot

Ford has partnered with Agility Robotics to put a humanoid robot, Digit, into self-driving vehicles to create what they call the "future of self-driving vehicle delivery."

Digit is a bipedal robot that was designed and developed by Agility Robotics. As part of the collaboration, Digit would carry out the final step of delivery, from the car to the door. 

Agility Robotics designed Digit to look human. It walks like a human, and can navigate stairs as well as uneven terrain -- it can even bump into a fellow pedestrian without falling over. 

As part of the collaboration, Digit deploys out of the back of self-driving Ford -- the new promo shows it unfolding out the back of a van. In the video, the lightweight robot, which can lift up to 40 pounds, grabs a package and brings it to a doorstep.

What is interesting is that to keep Digit lightweight, the team left some of the typical navigational tools out of the design. Once it is deployed out of the car, the vehicle creates a detailed map of the surrounding environment and wirelessly sends Digit the best route to the front door.

The robot does have LiDAR and a few stereo cameras to navigate basic situations, however, if and when it finds itself in a sticky situation, it relays an image back to the car which either solves the problem or sends the info into the cloud to request help from other systems.

This is Engineering By Design. 

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