What Happens When a Robotic Cockroach Teams Up With a Robotic Bird

Image Credit: Screenshot via YouTube

What’s better than one robot that can mimic animal movements (or more terrifying, depending on your perspective)? A dynamic duo. 

Cockroaches can rapidly scurry across all kinds of terrain, which makes them an ideal model for creating robots that can traverse rough and uneven ground. But cockroach-inspired robots have difficulty getting over tall objects, and a robot that's hefty enough to zip around the ground is too heavy to fly efficiently. Bird-like flying robots, on the other hand, can easily pass over taller obstacles, but small fliers are limited in their powers, and don’t have the battery power to fly for long. 

But combining the two kinds of animal-inspired robots into one super-powered, Transformers-style creation can harness the best of both worlds. The Biomimetic Millisystems Lab, a University of California, Berkeley lab that focuses on recreating animal locomotion in robots, recently found a way to combine two of its robots, the H2Bird and the VelociRoACH, into an automated team [PDF]

Provided the VelociRoACH could get up to a speed of about 2.7 mph, it could successfully launch the flying H2Bird on its own, without any human intervention. This way, the fast, efficient cockroach robot could deliver the flying robot to a target on high without wasting precious battery power. Autonomous explorers like this are useful for gathering data and potentially doing construction in dangerous, remote places—like Mars. 

[h/t: Gizmodo]

The Simple Optical Illusion That Makes an Image Look Like It's Drawing Itself

Artist James Nolan Gandy invents robot arms that sketch intricate mathematical shapes with pen and paper. When viewed in real time, the effect is impressive. But it becomes even more so when the videos are sped up in a timelapse. If you look closely in the video below, the illustration appears to materialize faster than the robot can put the design to paper. Gizmodo recently explained how the illusion works to make it look like parts of the sketch are forming before the machine has time to draw them.

The optical illusion isn’t an example of tricky image editing: It’s the result of something called the wagon wheel effect. You can observe this in a car wheel accelerating down the highway or in propeller blades lifting up a helicopter. If an object makes enough rotations per second, it can appear to slow down, move backwards, or even stand still.

This is especially apparent on film. Every “moving image” we see on a screen is an illusion caused by the brain filling in the gaps between a sequence of still images. In the case of the timelapse video below, the camera captured the right amount of images, in the right order, to depict the pen as moving more slowly than it did in real life. But unlike the pen, the drawing formed throughout the video isn't subject to the wagon-wheel effect, so it still appears to move at full speed. This difference makes it look like the sketch is drawing itself, no pen required.

Gandy frequently shares behind-the-scenes videos of his mechanical art on his Instagram page. You can check out some of his non-timelapse clips like the one below to better understand how his machines work, then visit his website to browse and purchase the art made by his 'bots.

And if you think his stuff is impressive, make sure to explore some of the incredible art robots have made in the past.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Hiroshi Ishiguro Lab, YouTube
The Next Job Being Taken Over by Robots? TV News Anchor
Hiroshi Ishiguro Lab, YouTube
Hiroshi Ishiguro Lab, YouTube

The robots will come for all of our jobs one day, whether you’re a factory worker or a surgeon. In Japan, that reality now seems to be coming for television news anchors. According to Live Science and The Wall Street Journal, a humanoid robot named Erica is on the cusp of her debut on TV news.

Erica, who was originally built to work as a receptionist, was created at Osaka University’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory and has been called the “the most life-like (and creepiest) robot ever built.” Right now, it seems her career will reach far beyond working a reception desk. Osaka University's Hiroshi Ishiguro, who calls himself the robot’s “father,” told The Wall Street Journal that she will make her television debut sometime in 2018, with the paper saying it will likely happen in April.

Designed to look like a 23-year-old woman, she has shockingly realistic-looking skin and facial expressions. Her speech, tinged with an English accent, is a little stilted, but her responses to questions largely sound pretty natural. She can also tell jokes that are just as groan-worthy as the ones that fly back and forth during the banter between news anchors.

She can’t walk around the room by herself, but she can sit behind a desk and move her neck, shoulders, and waist autonomously. She has depth sensors to help her sense where people are standing in a room and can recognize which direction sound is coming from, turning to face someone speaking to her. She’s also equipped with face-recognition technology.

Considering that The Washington Post already has a robot news reporter that writes stories and tweets, getting a robot to recite a script in front of a camera seems fairly easy. All she has to do is sit there and read the news. But Erica’s lifelike demeanor may make her a more capable on-air personality than we can imagine right now. It might not be long before she wins her first broadcast journalism award.

[h/t Live Science]


More from mental floss studios