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World’s First Vine-Like Robot Can Climb and Curl Like an Octopus



Vine-Like Robot
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On January 24, 2019 a paper published in Science Daily revealed that researchers from the Italian Institute of Technology successfully created the first robot that mimics the vine-like tendrils of plants.

Researchers say the robot has the ability to both curl and climb on and around various objects by making use of the same physical principles that aid the transport of water in vines and plants.

Thanks to this new technology, wearable devices that can curl and move, such as soft braces that can morph their shape, may someday be available.

The Italian, soft-bodied robot works by wrapping itself around objects and maneuvering itself to climb higher with the same physical principles that propel vines upward as they grow. The similarities between the new robot and an actual vine are both internal and external.

The hydraulic principle of osmosis, which transports water inside of a plant, is the what allows a vine to climb as it grows. Movement of water through a plant’s tissue is dependent on the distribution of tiny particles throughout the liquid inside plant cells, known as the cytosol. Osmosis here refers to the movement of soluble particles across a semipermeable membrane from regions of lower to higher concentration.

Using mathematical models that analyze the aforementioned quality of plants, the researchers replicated the natural system of a vine while speeding up the mechanism of movement to make it a truly intense creation.

(Image credit: futurity.)

The outside of the robot is composed of a flexible PET tube. Inside that  noodle-like body the researchers injected a solution of electrically charged particles. Flexible electrodes powered by battery installed at the bottom of the tendril attract and trap the ions to make the super-powered version of a vine in robot-form.

As the charged particles move, the robot stiffens and relaxes, thus creating movement. If the battery is turned off, the movements of the vine-like robot can be reversed.

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time people have tried to create robots that resemble tendrils.

(Image credit: siamagazin)

Almost two years ago, researchers tried to create a vine-like robot that could peek through rubble to search for victims in the event of an earthquake, building collapse, or horrific auto accident. The gif below shows the technology being used to lift a large container.

(Image credit: futurity)

According to SIA Magazine:

“The group tested the benefits of this method for getting the robot from one place to another in several ways. In the future, the researchers would like to create versions that may also grow using liquid, which could help deliver water to people trapped in tight spaces or to put out fires in closed rooms, and possibly with new, tougher materials.”

Technology can be a lot of things, and in the future, apparently robots will not necessarily have to be solid.

If a vine-like robot sounds unsettling to you, you’re likely not alone. The mere thought of a robot able to move in this way evokes images from the scariest of sci-fi and alien flicks. While this technology could certainly be used with nefarious intent, it may prove useful in dangerous situations where humans can’t quite maneuver as impressively. And in the spirit of avoiding nightmares, we suggest you focus on the positive uses.

Featured image credit: Science Daily

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Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”



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In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.

The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.

The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.

The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.

The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on “Collided with satellite.”

 “This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.

“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”

However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes

The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.

“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”

He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”

A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”

One hopes that things don’t reach that point.

In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.

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Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour



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Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.

In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.

While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.

“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.

See for yourself:

Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.

In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.

Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”

Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.

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South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash



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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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