Efficiency and Agility Redefine Logistics: Fraunhofer’s Pioneering Robots

In the realm of robotic innovation, humanoid robots have garnered much attention, but Fraunhofer’s evoBOT and O³dyn pallet jack demonstrate that speed, strength, and versatility are paramount in logistics and warehousing. While humanoids aspire to perform a wide array of tasks, these specialized robots are leading the charge in redefining efficiency and productivity in industrial settings.

evoBOT, a self-balancing two-wheeled marvel, defies expectations by achieving speeds of up to 60 km/h (37 mph) on its extendable legs, while also being capable of lifting up to 65 kg (143 lb) with its self-locking lifting arms. Its dexterity may not match that of a human hand, but its rotating circular grippers enable it to lift objects smoothly without inverting them. With the ability to carry up to 100 kg (220 lb) when loaded by another source, evoBOT is surprisingly agile, thanks to its compact and lightweight design, weighing approximately 40 kg (88 lb). Remarkably, it can tackle slopes with inclinations of up to 45 degrees, even on uneven terrain. In case of a fall, evoBOT effortlessly rights itself, showcasing its resilience. It can operate for up to 8 hours on a single battery charge, making it a reliable choice for demanding tasks. The video of its successful test at Munich Airport demonstrates both its utility and the charm in its operation.

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Hadrian X: The Revolutionary Bricklaying Robot Transforming Construction

The remarkable Hadrian X, a bricklaying robot, arrives at a construction site seemingly as an ordinary truck. However, it then extends a colossal 32-meter (105-foot) boom arm and commences the precise laying of up to 300 large masonry blocks every hour. This spectacle is truly impressive. We’ve been closely following this Australian innovation since its inception as an excavator-mounted prototype back in 2015. Even at that early stage, it could construct the brick framework for a full-sized home in just two days – a pace approximately 20 times faster than human bricklayers, as reported by Fastbrick Robotics, now known as FBR, the creator of the robot. In 2023, it has transitioned to commercial use. FBR has unveiled its first “next-gen” Hadrian-X system, and during a recent outdoor test build, it achieved a new speed record, maintaining a rate exceeding 300 masonry blocks per hour on a testing and calibration run.

When we extrapolate this impressive rate to the largest blocks the Hadrian X can handle – hefty 45-kilogram (99-pound) monsters measuring 600 x 400 x 300 mm (23.6 x 15.7 x 11.8 in) – we find that this machine has the potential to lay approximately 70 square meters (753 square feet) of vertical wall each hour, roughly equivalent to a quarter of a tennis court. Furthermore, FBR anticipates that it can become even faster, with a rated top speed of 500 blocks per hour.

Upon arriving at a site, the Hadrian X is operated via a tablet, following a CAD plan to lay bricks with precision. Workers load masonry blocks into the back of the truck by the pallet load. Then, “dehacker” robots unpack and, if necessary, cut them to size using a circular saw. Subsequently, the blocks are dispatched one by one down the central shaft of the boom arm, each coated with a special construction adhesive, which replaces traditional mortar. Within 45 minutes, they are firmly in place and dry. Notably, the Hadrian X’s telescoping boom arm is sufficiently long to construct three-story structures from street level without requiring a ladder, and it operates around the clock, even in various weather conditions.

The initial test build, as seen in the video provided, reveals some minor inaccuracies in brick placement around the 1:08 mark. However, considering that this was the very first run for the next-gen robot in a testing and calibration capacity, it’s reasonable to assume that such issues will be swiftly addressed. FBR currently has two more robots under construction, with the first and second units set to travel to the USA for demonstrations and deployment in FBR’s Florida-based “Wall as a Service” business.

The Hadrian X represents a groundbreaking advancement in the construction industry, poised to revolutionize how we approach bricklaying and construction projects.

Qibot Robot Company Unveils World’s Fastest Boxer Bot

Shandong, China-based Qibot Robot Company has achieved a groundbreaking feat by creating the world’s fastest boxer bot. This single-handed robot stands over six feet (1.9 m) tall, boasting an impressive response delay time of just 12 milliseconds, making it a remarkable achievement in the robotics world, as reported by the South China Morning Post.

While robots have been designed to replace humans in mundane tasks, they are also proving to be effective alternatives in facing violence. With militaries worldwide increasingly utilizing drones to protect human lives in dangerous zones, robot wars have become a familiar concept for many.

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ANDI: The Human-Body-Mimicking Robot Aiding Research on Extreme Heat Adaptation

The scorching summer heatwaves across the globe have led to record-breaking temperatures in various regions, emphasizing the urgency of climate change mitigation. While efforts to combat climate change hold promise, we must also adapt to the current extreme heat conditions. In this endeavor, a revolutionary robot named ANDI is stepping forward to assist us, particularly in understanding how our bodies respond to extreme heat and finding ways to live more comfortably and safely in hot climates.

ANDI, akin to department store mannequins, possesses an extraordinary ability to walk, breathe, and even sweat. Developed by Thermetrics and initially used by clothing companies to test athletic wear, researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) are now leveraging ANDI’s capabilities to investigate human body responses to extreme heat. Since it is unsafe to subject humans to dangerous heat situations for research purposes, ANDI serves as an invaluable tool in understanding heat-related health issues and potential remedies.

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Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute Pioneers Autonomous Exploration Robots

A groundbreaking research group within Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute is revolutionizing exploration with their cutting-edge robotic systems. The Autonomous Exploration Research Team has developed a suite of autonomous robots and planners that enable advanced exploration, rapid mapping, and accurate navigation through unknown environments—all without the need for human intervention.

Led by Ji Zhang, a systems scientist at the Robotics Institute, the team’s robotic systems boast incredible versatility. The robots can be deployed in various environments, ranging from department stores to disaster-stricken residential buildings, to explore and map in real-time. This autonomous approach eliminates the need for human presence on-site, making exploration more efficient and safe.

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Revolute Robotics Unveils Mesmerizing Hybrid Mobility Robot: A Game-Changer for Confined Space Inspections

A remarkable startup hailing from Arizona, Revolute Robotics, has introduced a groundbreaking creation known as the Hybrid Mobility Robot (HMR). This fully autonomous bot showcases an impressive combination of rolling and flying capabilities, making it an ingenious solution for inspecting confined spaces. Designed to enhance safety and efficiency in challenging environments like oil rigs and deep mine shafts, the HMR has the potential to revolutionize the inspection process.

The core idea behind the HMR’s development is to automate inspections in spaces where human presence poses significant risks. Traditionally, inspections in such areas can halt operations for extended periods, resulting in increased costs for businesses. However, Revolute Robotics’ innovative solution utilizes a pair of gyroscopic gimbal rings, enabling the bot to roll in any direction. When faced with obstacles or inaccessible zones during inspections, it effortlessly switches to flying mode using its four propellers.

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Quadruped Robots: Paving the Way for Lunar Base Construction

Establishing a permanent lunar base on the moon is a daunting task, requiring massive logistical efforts and significant expenses. To ease the burden of transporting all necessary supplies from Earth, researchers are exploring the possibility of harvesting materials directly on the lunar surface. To accomplish this challenging feat, a team of four-legged robots may become valuable allies.

A recent study published in Science Robotics showcases the work of researchers at Switzerland’s ETH Zurich university, who conducted outdoor excursions with a trio of modified quadruped ANYmal robots. The team tested the robots on various terrains in Switzerland and at the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC) in Luxembourg. Collaborating with the Universities of Basel, Bern, and Zurich, engineers programmed each ANYmal with specific lunar tasks: one was equipped with a microscopy camera and spectrometer to identify rock varieties, while another utilized cameras and a laser scanner to map and classify its surroundings. The third robot demonstrated the ability to identify rocks and map its environment, albeit with slightly less precision than its counterparts.

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Pneumatics Bring Power and Maneuverability to Legged Robots Inspired by Cheetahs

Legged robots have gained popularity due to the use of electric motors, providing controlled movement for robotic limbs. However, when it comes to achieving the instantaneous power of biological muscles, electric motors fall short. To address this, researchers from the University of Cape Town have turned to an old-school alternative—pneumatics. Inspired by the rapid maneuvers of cheetahs, they have demonstrated that pneumatics can offer high force-to-weight ratios, built-in compliance, and cost-effective solutions, making them a viable option for powerful and agile legged robots.

The use of hydraulics in legged robots can be complicated, expensive, and messy if accidents occur. Furthermore, while hydraulics are easier to model and control, they lack forgiveness in real-world applications. Pneumatics, on the other hand, offer simplicity, relatively low cost, and compliance that hydraulics lack. The challenge lies in controlling pneumatics effectively due to the compressibility of air, which disrupts traditional control methods. Nevertheless, researchers have found that complex control may not be necessary to mimic cheetah-like locomotion.

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M4: A Shape-Shifting Robot Redefining Locomotion Capabilities

A groundbreaking robot named M4 (Multi-Modal Mobility Morphobot) has emerged as a real-life Transformer, showcasing an extraordinary range of motion capabilities. Developed by a team led by Professor Mory Gharib at Caltech’s Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies (CAST), M4 can autonomously adapt its body to achieve eight distinct types of motion, enabling it to navigate various terrains with unparalleled versatility.

The brainchild of Professor Gharib and Assistant Professor Alireza Ramezani from Northeastern University, M4 opens up a world of possibilities in fields ranging from medical transportation to space exploration. The research team, including Eric Sihite, Reza Nemovi, and Arash Kalantari, aimed to design a robot that showcases exceptional mobility and diverse locomotion modes, resulting in the successful realization of the M4 project.

The robot’s remarkable flexibility is further enhanced by artificial intelligence, allowing it to select the most effective mode of locomotion based on the terrain it encounters. For instance, M4 can roll on four wheels, stand on two wheels like a meerkat to overcome obstacles, walk using wheel-like feet, transform its wheels into rotors for flight, and even tackle steep slopes using two rotors. The seamless transition between these modes showcases the power of M4’s adaptability.

By employing artificial intelligence and reconfigurable appendages, M4 can repurpose its components to optimize its locomotion capabilities. When faced with an unfamiliar environment, M4 can analyze the situation and adjust its form accordingly. For example, it can roll on wheels for energy efficiency but switch to a bipedal stance to gain a better view of the surroundings. If confronted with an impassable obstacle, M4 can transform its wheels into rotors and effortlessly fly over the obstruction before returning to its rolling mode.

Professor Gharib emphasizes that robots equipped with multi-modal components and aided by artificial intelligence are key to navigating unknown environments successfully. One of M4’s notable features is its ability to repurpose its appendages as wheels, legs, or thrusters. When standing on two wheels, M4’s folding wheels provide balance, and when flying, all four wheels fold up, allowing the propellers to lift the robot off the ground.

The design of M4 draws inspiration from nature, taking cues from animals such as chukar birds and sea lions. By studying how these creatures utilize their appendages for various locomotion strategies, the research team incorporated similar concepts into M4’s design. Although nature has previously inspired biologists with examples of appendage repurposing, engineering is now exploring these concepts in greater depth.

Equipped with autonomous capabilities, M4 can navigate complex environments and make informed decisions about the most suitable mode of locomotion. It has undergone successful outdoor testing on Caltech’s campus, showcasing its ability to adapt to diverse terrains.

The Nature Communications paper, titled “Multi-Modal Mobility Morphobot (M4), A Platform to Inspect Appendage Repurposing for Locomotion Plasticity Enhancement,” highlights the significant advancements achieved through the development of M4 and the potential it holds for revolutionizing the field of robotics.

Amazon’s Expressive Robots Reshape Fulfillment Centers and Human-Machine Dynamics

In a sprawling warehouse in Reading, Massachusetts, Amazon has deployed a fleet of distinctive robots named Proteus that are revolutionizing the interaction between humans and automation. With their LED-rendered eyes, lidar sensors, and expressive features, these robots aim to enhance communication and collaboration with human workers. Sophie Li, a software engineer at Amazon, explains that allowing Proteus to express happiness can contribute to its effectiveness in working alongside people.

Proteus, slated for deployment aboard the Lunar Gateway as part of the Artemis mission, is just one example of the new wave of smarter robots entering Amazon’s fulfillment centers. These robots are taking on tasks previously handled by humans, such as the Sparrow robot that demonstrates human-like dexterity in picking products from storage cubbies. With these advancements, Amazon is poised for a company-wide and industry-wide shift in the balance between automation and human involvement.

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Serve Robotics Expands Uber Eats Partnership, Deploying 2,000 Autonomous Delivery Robots

Serve Robotics, the autonomous sidewalk delivery robot company spun out of Uber, is set to strengthen its collaboration with Uber Eats. The startup, backed by Nvidia, will now roll out up to 2,000 of its adorable robots through Uber’s platform in several markets across the United States. The partnership is scheduled to continue until early 2026, indicating both Serve’s commitment to mass commercialization of autonomous delivery robotics and Uber’s dedication to advancing autonomy in its services.

The initial partnership between Serve and Uber began as a pilot program in West Hollywood a year ago. Since then, the robotic deliveries facilitated by Uber have experienced a remarkable growth rate of over 30% month-over-month. Currently, more than 200 restaurants in West Hollywood, Hollywood, and Fairfax are participating in Serve’s delivery service. Serve’s CEO and co-founder, Ali Kashani, stated that the robots now operate daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Kashani expressed optimism about the continuous growth of Serve’s presence on Uber Eats, revealing plans to expand the fleet of 100 robots in Los Angeles as delivery volume and coverage on Uber’s platform increase. The fleet is shared among Serve’s various partners, including 7-Eleven, which recently introduced robotic sidewalk delivery in LA. Although the specific markets for the expanded Uber partnership were not disclosed, Serve is considering San Jose, Dallas, and Vancouver as potential locations. The company has also completed successful pilot programs with Walmart in Arkansas and Pizza Hut in Vancouver.

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Robots: Key Enablers for the Growing In-Space Economy

As the cost of space launches continues to decrease, thanks to advancements like the Starship and other massive lift systems, the barriers to entry for the space economy are expected to significantly diminish. This shift raises the question: What comes next? Two acronyms—In-Space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (ISAM) and On-orbit Servicing (OOS)—have gained prominence in the literature, offering potential glimpses into the future. In a series of articles, we will explore the meaning and prospects of these acronyms. To begin, let us examine the role of robots in this equation.

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