Swarms of Mini Robots Could Dig the Tunnels of the Future

The underground excavation industry is exploring mini robots, plasma torches, and superheated gas to replace the massive boring machines now in use.

By CHRIS BARANIUK

FOR DECADES, ENGINEERS seeking to build tunnels underground have relied on huge tube-like machines armed with a frightening array of cutting wheels at one end—blades that eat dirt for breakfast. These behemoths, called tunnel-boring machines, or TBMs, are expensive and often custom-built for each project, as were the TBMs used to excavate a path for London’s recently opened Elizabeth Line railway. The machines deployed on that project weighed over 1,000 tons each and cut tunnels over 7 meters in diameter beneath the UK capital.

But British startup hyperTunnel has other ideas. The firm proposes a future in which much smaller, roughly 3-meter-long robots shaped like half-cylinders zoom about underground via predrilled pipes. These pipes, around 250 millimeters (10 inches) in diameter, would follow the outline of the proposed tunnel’s walls. Once inside them, the bots would use a robotic arm topped with a milling head to penetrate into the surrounding earth and carve out small voids that would then get filled with concrete or some other strong material. Piece by piece like this, the structure of a new tunnel would come together.

“We’re talking about thousands of them,” says hyperTunnel’s director of engineering, Patrick Lane-Nott. “Much like an ant colony or a termite colony works in swarms.”

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MIT Researchers Develop Insect-Sized Robot Fireflies That Emit Light When Flying

Each illuminating actuator served as an active marker that can be tracke

The ability of these tiny robots to emit light can enable them to communicate with each other.

  • Robot’s actuators work as muscles enabling them to flap their wings
  • Artificial muscles were made using ultrathin layers of elastomer 
  • Team could almost accurately tell the position and altitude of the robot

A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, inspired by fireflies, created insect-sized robots that emit light when they fly. Fireflies are known for their luminescence which they use for communication purposes. The MIT researchers who created these tiny robots intended something similar.

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Robot dogs could soon patrol US Space Force’s station

They could be part of safety protocols and emergency responses

By Ameya Paleja

  • Robot dogs can work well in natural as well as man-made environments
  • They are ideal for repetitive tasks and can also be controlled remotely
  • Patrol dogs are much better than their gun-totting counterparts

The U.S. Space Force conducted a demonstration using robot dogs in a bid to automate repetitive security tasks at its Cape Canaveral spaceport, a military press release said. 

Robot dogs have been touted as replacements for many routines and highly hazardous tasks since they can get the job done without being exposed to risk, truly man’s best friend. While companies like Boston Dynamics have planned to use them for civilian and emergency purposes, those like Ghost Robotics are working to develop military applications for the same technology. 

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Telexistence to install AI re-stocking robots in 300 convenience stores across Japan

 BY MAI TAO

Telexistence has started the mass production of its originally developed artificial intelligence robot, TX SCARA, to be installed in 300 FamilyMart stores, Japan’s top-tier convenience store chain in major metropolitan areas, starting later this month, validating its AI-based “robot-as-a-service” solution for grocery retailers.

TX SCARA was created to do the specific task of restocking refrigerated shelves with bottles and cans, a repetitive, tedious job generally performed by employees in often uncomfortable settings.

TX SCARA can be in operation 24/7, replenishing shelves at a pace of up to 1,000 bottles and cans per day, relying almost completely on its AI system – known as “GORDON” – to know when and where products need to be placed on the shelves. 

The implementation of AI robots in FamilyMart stores will allow retailers to take advantage of the newly created time and economic “surplus” in the store environment. Retailers can focus on further improvements in the store environment for both employees and customers, as well as the profitability of each store.

Tomohiro Kano, general manager of store development department and railway and corporate franchisee department, of FamilyMart, says: “The decline in Japan’s labor population is one of the key management issues for FamilyMart to continue stable store operations.

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Panda Express developed a robot wok

The beginning of the end for fast food workers?

Written by Greg Nichols

As employees are becoming harder to find, fast casual restaurants have been investing in more automation. According to one estimate, the global food technology market is estimated to reach $342 billion by 2027, and there are ample signs that fast food, in particular, is embracing automation.

The latest example? Panda Express has rolled out a robotic wok, dubbed the Panda Auto Wok (PAW). The move comes on the heels of fast-casual restaurants like White Castle, Chipotle, and Jack in the Box adopting robotic systems for the back of the house cooking. Is this the end of the fast food worker? Do consumers even care in a pandemic-influenced market where convenience and touchless delivery reign supreme? 

I connected with Stanley Liu, VP of Operation Services, to talk about tofu, changing priorities in the food business and robots. The bottom line is that the restaurant industry is hyper-competitive, and efficiency is the only way to survive. 

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A bartending robot that can engage in personalized interactions with humans

The robot created by the researchers.

by Ingrid Fadelli

A widely discussed application of social robots that has so far been rarely tested in real-world settings is their use as bartenders in cafés, cocktail bars and restaurants. While many roboticists have been trying to develop systems that can effectively prepare drinks and serve them, so far very few have focused on artificially reproducing the social aspect of bartending.

Researchers at University of Naples Federico II in Italy have recently developed a new interactive robotic system called BRILLO, which is specifically designed for bartending. In a recent paper published in UMAP ’22 Adjunct: Adjunct Proceedings of the 30th ACM Conference on User Modeling, Adaptation and Personalization, they introduced a new approach that could allow their robot to have personalized interactions with regular customers.

“The bartending scenario is an extremely challenging one to tackle using robots, yet it is also very interesting from a research point of view,” Prof. Silvia Rossi, one of the researchers who carried out the study and the scientific coordinator of the project, told TechXplore. “In fact, this scenario combines the complexity of efficiently manipulating objects to make drinks with the need to interact with the users. Interestingly, however, all current applications of robotics for bartending scenarios ignore the interaction part entirely.”

Silvia Rossi and her colleagues Alessandra Rossi and Nitha Elizabeth John believe that to effectively take on the role of a bartender, a robot should not only be able to interact with humans, but it should also create a “profile” of users. This would allow it to personalize its interactions with regular customers, increasing the likelihood that they will like and continue using the robotic bartending service.

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Beyond Imagination receives order for 1,000 humanoid robots

Robotics innovator Beyond Imagination has entered into an agreement with SELF Labs to provide at least 1,000 humanoid robots for use in agricultural “grow boxes”. This is believed to be the largest deal of its kind.

 BY DAVID EDWARDS 

SELF and Beyond are announcing a partnership to develop automated off-the-grid grow boxes. Each box will be equipped with solar panels, windmills, atmospheric water generators, 5G, and an advanced version of Beyond Imagination’s Beomni robot with its Omni-Purpose AI Brain.

By aligning the visions of Milan Cheeks of SELF and Dr Harry Kloor of Beyond, this futuristic take on farming will be made possible through a uniquely powerful combination of Omni-Purpose AI, humanoid robotics, blockchain, and game technology. 

The deal with SELF represents one of the largest agreements to purchase humanoid robots in the world.

Cheeks says: “We are committed to purchasing at least 1,000 robots in the next five years, but if the effectiveness of our combined technology is as we project, that number could easily grow to ten thousand or more.”

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NASA Space Robotics Dive into Deep-Sea Work

What’s the difference between deep space and the deep sea? For a robot, the answer is: not much. Both environments are harsh and demanding, and, more importantly, both are far removed from the machine’s operator.

By Loura Hall

Nauticus Robotics’ Aquanaut robot can swim to a destination and carry out tasks with minimal supervision, saving money for offshore operations from oil wells and wind turbines to fish farms and more. Credits: Nauticus Robotics Inc.

What’s the difference between deep space and the deep sea? For a robot, the answer is: not much. Both environments are harsh and demanding, and, more importantly, both are far removed from the machine’s operator.

That’s why a team of roboticists from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston decided to apply their expertise to designing a shape-changing submersible robot that will cut costs for maritime industries.

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Scientists Invent a Tiny Robot With ‘Human-Like Hands’ That Can Lift 1000 Times Its Own Weight!

By Joaquin Victor Tacla

For the first time ever, a group of scientists from the Italian Institute of Technology has created a new class of highly effective artificial muscles that can stretch and contract like human muscles. More importantly, it can lift 1000 times its own weight!
A man approaches a plastic ball toward the finger of humanoid robot iCub during the 2014 IEEE-RAS International Conference on Humanoid Robots in Madrid on November 18, 2014. The iCub is the humanoid robot developed at IIT (Instituto Italiano di Tecnologia) as part of the EU project RobotCub and subsequently adopted by more than 20 laboratories worldwide. It has 53 motors that move the head, arms & hands, waist, and legs.

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Ottonomy.IO raises $3.3 million to expand network of autonomous robots for deliveries

By Jagmeet Singh

Ottonomy.IO, a startup working on solving delivery problems using autonomous robots, has raised $3.3 million in a seed funding round as it looks to expand its market and deploy robots to existing customers.

Led by Bengaluru-based Pi Ventures, the latest funding round included participation from Connetic Ventures and Branded Hospitality Ventures. Sangeet Kumar, founder and chief executive of Uttar Pradesh-based Addverb Technologies, also joined the round.

Founded in late 2020 by Ritukar Vijay along with Pradyot Korupolu, Ashish Gupta and Hardik Sharma, New York-headquartered Ottonomy.IO develops robots that feature sensors, including 3D lidar sensors and cameras. The company, which employs about 25 people in the U.S. and India, also writes software and AI algorithms to power the sensors.https://jac.yahoosandbox.com/1.2.0/safeframe.html

“One of the most important problems which we are trying to solve with these autonomous delivery robots is around labor shortages,” said Vijay, who serves as the chief executive of Ottonomy.IO, in an interaction with TechCrunch. He added that due to the labor shortages, there is a substantial increase in the hourly wages of laborers — to $18 to $45 per hour from $9 to $12 — in the U.S.

“So, that’s almost a 100% hike in hourly wages, making it very difficult for enterprise customers to provide the same services to the customers they were given earlier. And what happens at the end is that customers start paying more for deliveries.”

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Surgical robot developed by Nebraska company to be put to the test in space

By Chris Dunker

MIRA (“miniaturized in vivo robotic assistant”) is an investigational robot that will enable surgeons to perform minimally invasive surgeries in any hospital or surgery center, without the need for a dedicated space or for the infrastructure typically required for other “mainframe” robotic systems. Weighing only two pounds, the miniature single incision platform has full robotic capabilities, and can easily be moved from room to room.

A robot capable of autonomously operating on an ailing astronaut thousands, if not millions, of miles away from a modern surgical suite sounds like science fiction.

The surgical device — let’s call it the “miniaturized in vivo robotic assistant,” or MIRA for short — would simply be retrieved from a small locker, set up and turned on.

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How a Humanoid Robot Is Helping Scientists Explore Shipwrecks

The robot resembles a human diver from the front, with arms, hands and eyes that have a 3D vision, capturing the underwater world in full colour. 

By Bhavya Sukheja

OceanOne made its debut in 2016.

A robot created at Standford University in the United States is diving down to shipwrecks and sunken planes and allowing its operators to feel like they’re underwater explorers too. 

The robot known as OceanOneK has humanoid top half, with eyes that have a 3D vision, capturing the underwater world in full colour. It resembles a human diver from the front, with arms and hands, and its back has computers and eight multidirectional thrusters that help it carefully manoeuvre the sites of fragile sunken ships. 

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