Entries with tag harvard university.

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)

Alleged Harvard Bomb-Hoax Perpetrator Attempted to Cloak Threatening E-mails

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested a student they say is responsible for a bomb threat at Harvard University this week. The student allegedly used a temporary anonymous e-mail account routed through Tor—a network used to make communications anonymous—to send a series of threatening messages to random Harvard departments such as the campus police and student newspaper. However, FBI and Harvard technicians were able to trace the e-mails because they originated on the campus’s wireless network. Authorities have charged Eldo Kim, 20, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with making the threat to avoid taking a final exam. The messages, sent prior to the exam, resulted in the evacuation of four large buildings. Kim was a sophomore studying psychology and Japanese, according to the Harvard Crimson. If convicted, Kim, who was released on bond, faces a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of suspended release, and a $250,000 fine. (SlashDot)(NBC News)(CNN)(The Boston Globe)(The Harvard Crimson -- 1) (The Harvard Crimson -- 2) 

Sensitive Tactile Sensor Lets Robotics Work with Fragile Items

Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences researchers in the Harvard Biorobotics Laboratory have developed an inexpensive tactile sensor for robotic hands that is sensitive enough to enable a robot to gently manipulate fragile items. They designed their TakkTile sensor primarily for users such as commercial inventors, teachers, and robotics enthusiasts. They made the sensor with an air-pressure-sensing barometer, commonly found in cellular phones and GPS units in which it takes altitude measurements. This enables it to detect a very slight touch. The sensor would let a mechanical hand recognize that it is touching a fragile item and enable it to, for example, pick up a balloon without popping it. The researchers say TakkTile could also be used for devices such as toys or surgical equipment. Harvard University officials say the university plans to license the technology. (EurekAlert)(Harvard University)

Researchers Create Color-Tunable Photonic Fibers

Scientists from Harvard University and the University of Exeter—with contributions from Ludwig Maximilians University and University of Cambridge researchers—have developed a biologically inspired photonic fiber that changes color as it is stretched. The fiber consists of multiple polymer layers placed around a glass core, which is later etched away. The layers’ thickness, which changes with stretching, determines the fiber’s color. The researchers based their approach on the Margaritaria nobilis (or bastard hogberry) plant, known for its iridescent blue color caused by its complex surface structure. The researchers used a rolling technique to make the fibers. They say this will make large-scale manufacturing practical. The technology may initially be used to create smart fabrics for use in sporting applications, such as fabrics that would change color in response to muscle tension in the athlete wearing the garment. It would also be used to sense when an object is being strained as a result of heat. (EurekAlert)(Harvard University)

Researchers Create Soft-Bodied Autonomous Robot

An international team of researchers has created a robot inspired by the locomotion of soft bodied creatures such as earthworms, snails, and sea cucumbers. These invertebrates squeeze their bodies—a process called peristalsis—to ambulate. MIT, Harvard University, and Seoul National University scientists made a soft autonomous nickel and titanium robot called Meshworm with a resilient, segmented body that moves via peristalsis. They say it could be useful on rough terrain or in tight spaces. Their approach uses a small amount of applied current to the robot, which generates heat. This squeezes the machine’s mesh structure, propelling it in the desired direction. An algorithm controls the level of heating, which controls the direction in which the machine moves. The researchers also found their robot to be durable after hitting it with a hammer and stepping on it. They published their work in IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics. (Science Daily)(MIT News Office)

Software Tool Renders Real Action Figures from Digital Animations

Graphics researchers have created a software tool that enables the transformation of animated characters into action figures that 3D printers could produce. The add-on tool—which Harvard University, Technische Universität Berlin, and Cornell University scientists developed—lets users determine the possible locations for joints in a physical representation of a 3D animated character. It then optimizes their size, type, and location of the joints to allow a printer to produce the character. The software can decide, for example, whether a particular area should have a hinge or a ball-and-socket joint. The tool can also transform a low-resolution skin texture typical in an animated character to a more realistic surface texture for a 3D figure. The researchers are patenting the work, which they published in Association for Computing Machinery Transactions on Graphics and will present at the ACM Siggraph conference on 7 August 2012. (PhysOrg)(Association for Computing Machinery Transactions on Graphics)

New Algorithm Speeds Genomic Searches

MIT and Harvard University researchers have created a new algorithm that significantly reduces the time it takes to find a specific gene sequence in a genome database. The rate at which genomes can be sequenced has been doubling about every four months since 2002. For comparison, computing power doubles every 18 months. The new tool, which functions like a data-compression algorithm, accelerates the search process as the number of genomes it’s seeking increases. It can take a new genome sequence and find similar ones in a database. This could help determine the causes of infections or characterize collections of microbes, which could have important applications in medical diagnostics, soil biology, and forensics. The researchers are extending their technique to work with proteins and RNA sequences. They published their work in Nature Biotechnology. (MIT News Office)(Nature Biotechnology) 

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