Entries with tag massachusetts institute of technology.

MIT Develops Fast, Powerful, Cheetah-Inspired Robot

MIT researchers have created a robot, inspired by the cheetah,that is faster and more powerful than conventional robots. The prototype battery-powered Cheetah robot, which researchers control using video game-based technology, weighs 31 kilograms (68 pounds) – comparable to its biological counterpart -- and can run 16 kilometers (9.9 miles) per hour (10 miles/hour for 15 minutes. “This is kind of a Ferrari in the robotics world,” said Sangbae Kim, head of the MIT Biomimetic Robotics Lab. The robot is inspired by the cheetah’s speed and agility and shares its bounding gait. During the five-year, DARPA-funded development process, the researchers had to specially design the components because conventional technologies couldn’t yield the performance they wanted. Some of the components include 12 light, powerful motors controlled by and an onboard computer that also processes data from various sensors. The researchers also designed an algorithm that calculates matters such as the force each leg needs to propel the robot while still keeping it balanced. They are continuing to refine their technology and adding sensors to help the robot operate autonomously. They say their technologies and components could be applied to prosthetics, wearable technologies, and vehicles, and eventually could be used for search and rescue operations too dangerous for humans. (The Associated Press @ CBC News)(The Telegraph)(MIT Biomimetic Robotics Lab)

New Algorithm Helps Drone Navigation

There has been considerable hype about the promise of delivery services being able to use drones to autonomously take items to a customer’s doorstep. To operate effective, such airborne robots would have to consider factors such as wind conditions, sensor errors, and fuel levels. Compensating for these factors is computationally intensive and thus difficult to do in real time. Teams of MIT researchers have created two algorithms that can be used to assist drones. One monitors the aircraft for issues such as fuel level and component condition and lets the drone make adjustments as needed. The other algorithm simplifies the offline calculation of potential routes before the drone starts its journey. The MIT scientists combined the approaches, testing them in simulations in which drones had to deliver packages to multiple addresses in different conditions, such as high winds or limited fuel loads. In the future, they plan to test the algorithms with small quadrotor drones. They will present their work in September in Chicago at the IEEE/Robotics Society of Japan International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems. (EurekAlert)(MIT News Office)

New Approach Tries to Wring Performance from Hardware

MIT researchers are working on technologies designed to squeeze more performance from chips. Their new network-on-a-chip approach aims to reduce the number of cycles required to execute tasks by allowing each core to easily connect with its neighbors. The design also gives data multiple possible paths, which allows it to bypass congestion. The technique enables more direct communication between the cores and the cache. A second “shadow network” allows the cache in specific cores to prepare for data packets’ arrival. Typically, a core must broadcast its requests for data temporarily stored across other cores. With the new approach, circuits arrange data transfers using specific, simple requests that the system can combine and pass along without the delays common when data must wait for a bus. This, says researchers, frees up bandwidth and reduces the overhead needed to execute tasks. By using the shadow network in 36- and 64-cores, the researchers say the performance improvements were 24.1 percent and 12.9 percent, respectively, compared to similar chips not using the technique. The researchers don’t plan to commercialize their technology but intend plan to conduct tests on real applications to determine whether the shadow network design can be scaled to hundreds and thousands of cores. Once these tasks are complete, they will release the blueprints for the chip design as open source code. The researchers presented their work at the International Symposium on Computer Architecture in Minneapolis. (Computerworld)(MIT News Office)

Technology Detects Vital Signs Through Walls

A new technology from researchers at the MIT Center for Wireless Networks and Mobile Computing lets users monitor a person’s breathing and heart rate through walls. This could, for example, monitor people trapped in rubble following some type of disaster. The MIT technology, Wi-Vi works by transmitting a low-power wireless signal that passes through walls and reflects off an individual’s body, while canceling reflections from other objects in the room. The system then analyzes the detected body movements to determine vital signs. For example, it can monitor the chest’s rise and fall to estimate the heart rate with 99 percent accuracy (SlashDot)(MIT News Office)(Wi-Vi)

Baked Robots: Hot, Fresh Approach to Self-Assembly

A new approach for self-assembling robots uses heat to help the objects form properly. MIT professor Daniela Rus used materials that change shape when heat is applied. Manufacturers could use heat to make a plastic sheet with carefully located creases and slits fold into a 3D robot’s body. Rus is scheduled to demonstrate her approach during the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation this week in Hong Kong. (SlashDot)(Tech Crunch)(MIT News Office)

Soft Robotics Research and Development Growing

A growing research area within robotics is that of soft robotics. Most robots have rigid structures, but soft structures pose several operating advantages. These types of robots move differently, which means the movements do not need to be precisely calculated by operating algorithms. They also can work in environments alongside humans without fear of injury to human or robot. The danger “is on par with being attacked by a pillow,” notes MIT researchers who are working on a fish-inspired silicon robot named Bubbles.  Among the other academic organizations and businesses working on soft robotics are Harvard University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, San Francisco-based Otherlab, and researchers in Italy who constructed a robotic tentacle. (SlashDot)(The Verge)(MIT News Office)

Digital Tool Displays Taxi-Sharing Benefits

MIT researchers have developed a tool that lets users see the possible energy and time savings that sharing taxi rides could generate. The HubCab tool is based on a dataset consisting of 170 million single-passenger taxi trips by all 13,500 licensed New York City taxis in 2011, complete with all pickup and drop-off points’ GPS coordinates. The tool uses OpenStreetMap street shapes segmented with Python imported into a Mongo database. During their research, the scientists found that taxi-sharing could reduce the number of trips by 40 percent. Were there device-enabled taxi sharing networks available, this could result in less traffic congestion costs, and pollution they say. HubCab is a project of the MIT Senseable City Lab, which investigates the convergence and changes digital technologies are bringing to cities and their inhabitants.  (SlashDot)(Co.Design)(HubCab @MIT Senseable City Lab)

Researchers Create New Nanoscale Material

An international team of researchers led by scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and RMIT University have developed a new two-dimensional material they say “could revolutionize the electronics market.” The material consists of molybdenum oxide layers in sheets about 11 nanometers thick that are similar to graphite layers. The material’s structural properties, which are also semiconducting, allow electrons to freely flow at ultra-high speeds, which could enable smaller devices to be created that are able to transfer data at high speed. The researchers made nanoscale transistors with the material but say additional research is needed before devices can be made using the material. Other research collaborators included scientists from Monash University, University of California at Los Angeles, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The researchers published their work in Advanced Materials. (EurekAlert)(The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)

New Application Handles Roaming, Other Mobile Challenges

MIT researchers have created a new remote-login program called Mosh that lets users sign onto remote wireless devices and that improves mobile applications’ performance. Rather than using TCP, Mosh—a name derived from the words “mobile shell”—uses state synchronization protocol, which the MIT scientists based on the concepts used for videoconferencing. The researchers have made Mosh freely available to users and say it has been downloaded 70,000 times. They presented the work at the Usenix Annual Technical Conference in Boston earlier this month. (EurekaAlert)(MIT News Office)(MOSH: The Mobile Shell) 

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