We’ve worried about robots steadily taking human jobs and even creating themselves without human intervention. Robots even grew their own brains and were out to, er, punch us. But none of this block the path for some great robotic creations in 2010, including both scientific and homemade inventions. So here are just a few of GeekTech’s robotic highlights of the last year.
Robots in medicine have been pretty incredible this year. First up, there was OctoMag, the tiny robot that could remove blood clots from eye vessels, thus allowing patients to avoid having to endure a traditional eye surgery. This robot is also pretty basic--it’s made mainly out of five tightly coiled springs. The only catch is that it has to be inserted up the patient's nose. Gross. Watch the video to see how the robot works.
And for the first time ever, in 2010 a surgical procedure was performed entirely by robots. The incredible feat happened at McGill University Health Centre in Canada, for a prostatectomy. Although there were technically surgeons in control behind the scenes, the robots were still performing the surgery rather than human hands.
From a Chumby to a floppy drive concept design, plenty of items have sprouted robotic legs--they have even helped wheelchair users walk again. But the most fascinating is the Ranger Robot, a four-legged creation that broke a record for the distance a robot could walk before its battery died. Ranger managed to wander a whole 14.3 miles (25 kilometers) before it collapsed--1.5 miles further than the previous record holder. The university students behind Ranger are working on extending the Ranger Robot's range even further so t can run a marathon (26.2 miles), so watch this space. Watch Ranger walk gracefully into the record books in the video.
2010 also saw some interesting robots made purely to snoop around. One Japanese estate agent uses a robot to check out foundations of potentially dangerous buildings without sending a human under. The robot can send video to those above as well as jump over obstacles. Imagine what else it could possibly find under floorboards…
The best, though, was a Wi-Fi-sniffing robot called the W.A.S.P. Made in a garage by two guys, W.A.S.P (Wi-Fi Aerial Surveillance Platform) essentially sneaked around the neighborhood to find insecure Wi-Fi connections and then leech them, sending the signal back to the controller for their own use. That’s pretty sneaky, but could also be used for more honest means such as teaching people why they should secure their networks.
The most (eerily) impressive was Simon, a robot that learned how to do things as he was taught them. Simon, a product of the Georgia Institute of Technology's Socially Intelligent Machines lab, was made using simple algorithms as part of a project designed to prove that programming a robot to do certain tasks didn’t have to be difficult for individuals, as well as how robots in the home could be in future.
[Photo: Travis7s on Instructables]
A common sight this year was robots built usinf Lego Mindstorm NXT and Arduino kits. One robot, the Nerf Tank, was even made out of a child’s toy.
The coolest example of homemade fun has to be the Lego 3D Scanner. To use the scanner, you'd place an object on the machine’s two flat surfaces. The laser traces the object, and a Webcam picks up the laser-tracing, sending it to 3D modeling software on a PC. Awesome.
Did we miss your favorite robot of the year? Tell us in the comments!
This story, "The top robots of 2010" was originally published by PCWorld.