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Eurobot
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A three-armed robot that could autonomously clamber around the outside of the International Space Station and help astronauts with maintenance work has successfully completed a round of tests on the ground.
Eurobot is being developed for the European Space Agency (ESA) by an industrial consortium led by Thales Alenia Space, which is based in Cannes la Bocca, France


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RoboCup
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RoboCup is an international joint project to promote AI, robotics, and related field. It is an attempt to foster AI and intelligent robotics research by providing a standard problem where wide range of technologies can be integrated and examined. RoboCup chose to use soccer game as a central topic of research, aiming at innovations to be applied for socially significant problems and industries. The ultimate goal of the RoboCup project is By 2050, develop a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots that can win against the human world champion team in soccer.

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RE: Robots
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A move to arm police robots with stun guns has been condemned by weapons researchers.
On 28 June, Taser International of Arizona announced plans to equip robots with stun guns. The US military already uses PackBot, made by iRobot of Massachusetts, to carry lethal weapons, but the new stun-capable robots could be used against civilians.

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"When Lionardo was at Milan the King of France came there and desired him to do something curious; accordingly he made a lion whose chest opened after he had walked a few steps, discovering himself to be full of lilies" - Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects (Florence 1550).

Constructing a mechanical lion that could walk, let alone present flowers to the king, can't have been a simple task back in 1515 - even for a genius like Leonardo da Vinci. How he managed this feat remained a mystery until 2000, when US robotics expert Mark Rosheim came to a surprising conclusion.
Pulling together fragments of notes and drawings, Rosheim worked out that the lion was almost certainly powered by a clockwork cart illustrated in da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus. Intriguingly, Rosheim suggested that the cart's steering mechanism was controlled by arms attached to rotating gears. With this design it would have been possible to control the automaton's movements simply by changing the position of these arms - in other words, Rosheim argues, da Vinci's lion was not only clockwork, it was also programmable.

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Leaping robots
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Just as ASTRO and NextSat get ready for decommissioning, a duo of lightweight leapers are getting geared up to take the proverbial next step from testing to interplanetary exploration. Jollbot and Glumper, crafted by a group of mechanical engineers from the University of Bath, could provide solutions to "travelling across rough terrain, such as climbing stairs and jumping fences, that normally create obstacles for wheeled and walking robots."

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Eurobot
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Many of the best-loved science fiction movies show intelligent robotic servants working alongside their masters. Fiction is rapidly becoming fact as European engineers develop increasingly sophisticated machines that can operate in space. One of these, known as Eurobot, has just completed trials in the giant pool at the European Astronaut Centre.
 Eurobot has been under development since 2003, with the intention that the multi-jointed, three-armed assistant will eventually handle some of the more mundane tasks currently undertaken by astronauts. One possible use will be in helping astronauts during extravehicular activity (EVA), more commonly known as spacewalks, but the robot may also be an indispensable helper during human expeditions to the Moon or Mars.   

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RE: Robots
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HRP-3 Promet Mk-II humanoid robot

The HRP-3 Promet Mk-II, a blue-collar android tough enough to trudge through heavy rains, carry out disaster relief operations and work in environments hazardous to humans, demonstrated its blue-collar skills at a June 21 press conference at Kawada Industries headquarters in Tochigi prefecture. In addition to flaunting its ability to walk on slippery surfaces, the robot showed off its electric screwdriver wielding talents by taking the opportunity to tighten up some loose screws.
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The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency plans to develop a fleet of robots that soldiers can deploy in urban combat settings as they move through houses and along streets.
The program, dubbed LANdroid, envisions miniature autonomous drones that can form a network capable of relaying radio traffic in a setting often considered challenging for communications equipment.
According to a notional image of a LANdroid included in a DARPA pamphlet, each robot will be about the size of a deck of cards, and must be rugged, lightweight and able to operate for seven to 14 days, the agency said.
Demand for technologies to improve the militarys ability to fight in urban settings has increased in recent years because many of the operations in Iraq take place in Baghdad and other Iraqi metropolitan settings.
DARPA officials will provide additional information about the program during a July 6 industry day.

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Carnegie Mellon University researchers have developed a new type of mobile robot that balances on a ball instead of legs or wheels. "Ballbot" is a self-contained, battery-operated, omnidirectional robot that balances dynamically on a single urethane-coated metal sphere. It weighs 95 pounds and is the approximate height and width of a person. Because of its long, thin shape and ability to manoeuvre in tight spaces, it has the potential to function better than current robots can in environments with people.

Ballbot's creator, Robotics Research Professor Ralph Hollis, says the robot represents a new paradigm in mobile robotics. What began as a concept in his home workshop has been funded for the last two years with grants from the National Science Foundation.
Hollis is working to prove that dynamically stable robots like Ballbot can outperform their static counterparts. Traditional, statically stable mobile robots have three or more wheels for support, but their bases are generally too wide to move easily among people and furniture. They can also tip over if they move too fast or operate on a slope.

"We wanted to create a robot that can manoeuvre easily and is tall enough to look you in the eye. Ballbot is tall and skinny, with a much higher centre of gravity than traditional wheeled robots. Because it is omnidirectional, it can move easily in any direction without having to turn first" - Ralph Hollis.

Ballbot has an onboard computer that reads balance information from its internal sensors, activating rollers that mobilise the ball on which it moves — a system that is essentially an inverse mouse-ball drive. When Ballbot is not in operation, it stands in place on three retractable legs.
Hollis noted that current legged robots, such as humanoids, are complex and expensive. He's looking for simple alternatives to better understand the issues of dynamic stability for mobile robots in human environments. He believes that the research may produce a robot that could have useful, meaningful interactions with people who are elderly, disabled or need assistance in an office environment.
Hollis and his team — including Robotics Institute Project Scientist George Kantor and graduate students Tom Lauwers, Anish Mampetta and Eric Schearer — have demonstrated Ballbot moving on carpeted surfaces. They presented their research findings in October 2005 at the prestigious International Symposium for Robotics Research in San Francisco, and most recently at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, which took place in mid-May in Orlando, Florida. Future plans for Ballbot include adding a head and a pair of arms. Swinging the arms would help to rotate and balance the body.

"We want to make Ballbot much faster, more dynamic and graceful. But there are many hurdles to overcome, like responding to unplanned contact with its surroundings, planning motion in cluttered spaces and safety issues" - Ralph Hollis.

Hollis has been a pioneer in the field of mobile robots since he began building them as a hobby in the 1950s — well before there were commodity transistors, personal computers or easily accessible off-the-shelf parts. In the 1960s, he developed one of the world's first mobile robots and followed that in the 1970s with the Newt mobile robot, which was one of the first to have an onboard computer. Hollis wrote an article about Newt for the now-defunct Byte Magazine that was voted one of the publication's best stories of all time. Newt subsequently became a subject in the NOVA television documentary "The Mind Machines."

Hollis' hobby ultimately became his career. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in physics from Kansas State University and a doctorate in the field from the University of Colorado. After a short time at North American Aviation, where he worked on computer simulations of space-flight vehicles, he joined the staff at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Centre in 1978. He initially focused on magnetism and acoustics, but jumped at the opportunity to enter their fledgling robotics research program. He served as manager of advanced robotics in IBM's Manufacturing Research Department from 1986 to 1993, when he accepted a position as a senior research scientist at Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute.

"When I started building robots, the field didn't even exist. Now the field has grown up around me and I'm in the middle of it. It's like a dream come true" - Ralph Hollis.

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