Carnegie Mellon’s new robot can use its legs as arms, arms as legs

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have built a smart robot that is able to transition from a six- to a five-legged gait in order to carry objects.

“Our long-term goal is to make robots much more versatile than they are today,” Stelian Coros, an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, told Digital Trends. “One way to make progress towards this goal is to give them the ability to change how they use their bodies based on the environment they find themselves in and the tasks they are trying to complete.”

This represents a departure from current approaches, where robot limbs are designed with very specific tasks in mind — such as legs which are intended only for walking, or arms which are designed solely to manipulate other objects. While using limbs for multiple purposes is rare in terms of robotics, however, it is widespread in the natural world. Mother gorillas, for example, will often walk on three limbs as they carry their babies around.

Adding this level of versatility to robots means improvements need to be made both in hardware and software. “We mainly focused on the software aspects for this work, namely on the challenge of developing new control solutions that allow robots to quickly figure out how to change gaits as they dynamically switch the roles of their limbs,” Coros continued.

In the real world, the idea of a robot that is able to vary its movement and functionality will allow researchers to build entirely new kinds of smart robots, including miniaturizing them by doing away with excess limbs — since the remaining ones can double up by performing multiple actions. “Ultimately, the idea is to develop a system that you can feed high-level tasks to — something like ‘go over there and pick up that thing’ — and the robot will choose how best to make that happen, no matter how many legs it starts (or finishes) with,” the researchers note in a paper describing their work.

For now, however, there’s still plenty more to be done. “This is a very early research prototype, so commercialization is not on our horizon at the moment,” Coros said. “We would first like to see these robots become increasingly autonomous, dexterous and agile, and this goal poses important challenges in terms of how robots are designed, sensing and actuation technologies, controls and [artificial intelligence].”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Deals

From Samsung to HP, here are the best cheap Chromebook deals right now

Whether you want a compact laptop to enjoy some entertainment on the go, or you need a no-nonsense machine for school or work, we've smoked out the best cheap Chromebook deals -- from full-sized laptops to 2-in-1 convertibles -- that won't…
Emerging Tech

Caltech’s bird-inspired robot uses thrusters to help stay on its feet

Researchers from Caltech have developed a new bird-inspired robot that uses thrusters on its torso to help it to walk with more stability. Here's why that challenge is so important.
Gaming

One-armed Marine veteran wins ‘Apex Legends’ match using his feet

Twitch user ToeYouUp may have had one of his arms amputated, but that hasn't stopped the veteran from competing in his favorite games. He recently won an Apex Legends match using his feet.
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-powered website creates freakishly lifelike faces of people who don’t exist

No, this isn't a picture of a missing person. It's a face generated by a new artificial intelligence on the website ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com. Here's how the impressive A.I. works.
Emerging Tech

Global Good wants to rid the world of deadly diseases with lasers and A.I.

Global Good, a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates, aims to eradicate diseases that kill children in developing nations. It tackles difficult problems with high-tech prototypes.
Emerging Tech

China’s mind-controlled cyborg rats are proof we live in a cyberpunk dystopia

Neuroscience researchers from Zhejiang University, China, have created a method that allows humans to control the movements of rats using a technology called a brain-brain interface.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s MAVEN orbiter has a new job as a communication relay for Mars 2020

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter has been collecting atmospheric readings but now is taking on a new job as a data relay satellite for the Mars 2020 mission that launches next year.
Emerging Tech

Underground volcanoes could explain possible liquid water on Mars

Last year scientists discovered there could be liquid water on Mars. Now a research team argues that for there to be liquid water, there must be an underground source of heat -- and they believe underground volcanoes could be responsible.
Emerging Tech

The 10 most expensive drones that you (a civilian) can buy

OK, these drones may be a bit beyond your budget: Check out the most expensive drones in the world, from industrial giants to highest-end filming tools.
Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.
Computing

The HoloLens 2 will be announced at MWC. Here's what we know about it so far

The HoloLens 2 is ripe for an announcement. Here's what Microsoft has revealed so far, what's likely in store for the next generation HoloLens, and everything that we know about this mixed reality headset.
Emerging Tech

A river of stars one billion years old flows across the southern sky

Astronomers have identified a river of stars flowing across our galaxy and covering most of the southern sky. The estimated 4000 stars that comprise the stream were born together and have been moving together for the last one billion years.