10 real-world robots

No longer relegated to science fiction, robots are invading the real world.

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Robots have arrived

From C-3PO to the Terminator to Star Trek’s Data, robots have entertained us on the big screen for years. But, unlike our cinematic cyborg heroes, the real thing has been something of a disappointment because the technology has failed to live up to the Hollywood hype. But this is not true anymore. Robots have arrived. Here are examples of robots being deployed in the real world. (Read the full story.)

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Web Chappell


Bio-mechatronics is the revolutionary work of Hugh Herr, head of the Bio-mechatronics research group at the MIT Media Lab. Herr, a double amputee, combined human physiology with electro-mechanics to create bionic limbs for people with physical disabilities. Herr’s bionic achievements include a gait-adaptive knee prostheses for trans-femoral amputees; a variable impedance ankle-foot exoskeleton for a gait pathology called drop foot caused by cerebral palsy, stroke, or multiple sclerosis; and his own bionic legs (the first foot and calf system).

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Aethon focuses on the healthcare industry. Using autonomous mobile robots, Aethon automates the transportation of heavy materials such as bulk laundry, cleaning products, and clinical supplies. In addition, these TUG machines can safely move hazardous waste, says Forrester analyst JP Gownder. Aethon’s robots also deliver medicines as part of an Internet of Things scenario. And, since regulations require hospitals to track all drugs, particularly narcotics; Aethon’s robotics, which have RFID chips and barcodes, enable real-time tracking of the hospitals’ medicines.

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Smart garage vendors such as Boomerang provide an interesting approach to the robotic garage technology. Robots come to your car, pick it up, and park it elsewhere in order to maximize the usable space inside a garage. Boomerang, which functions like an elevator, calls its service the Robotic Valet, and targets new construction in locales with extremely expensive real estate such as Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco.

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Serva-TS functions more like a warehouse forklift that shuffles vehicles around the parking lots like one shuffles a deck of cards. The Serva-TS system powers the Düsseldorf airport and has the ability to retrofit older garages, gaining 40 percent of usable space in the process.

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Rethink Robotics


Boston’s Rethink Robotics has introduced industrial robots that work collaboratively alongside humans, doing warehouse type activities like “pick and pack.”

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Universal Robots


Denmark’s Universal Robots has brought a whole line of collaborative robots to market. These easily programmable robots are designed to handle repetitive tasks and free up people for more advanced activities.

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ABB Robotics


Industry giant ABB Robotics has a line of robotic painters. The hollow-wrist IRB 580 is a compact, fast and accurate paint robot, which offers increased productivity, high precision and efficiency.

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KUKA Systems


KUKA Systems (human-robot collaboration technologies) has also recently launched collaborative robotic systems to meet the growing market need. The robot features sensory capabilities for safety, fast teaching and simple operator control. Some applications include fastening, machining, palletizing, measuring, testing and inspection.

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ATR Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratory


Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, part of the Department of Systems Innovation in the Graduate School of Engineering Science at Osaka UniversityJapan, has created an android named the Geminoid, that looks like him.

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Even though these robots look humanoid and are often cute, they are not all designed for household chores and entertainment. Toyota and Honda developed walking assisted devices for the elderly and physically impaired, and Cyberdyne’s HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) system is, in fact, the only robotic, remedial device that teaches the brain how to move the limbs it replaces. In addition to the medical applications, there are several full-body HAL systems in the research and development phase that enhance and/or protect the human body for situations such as disaster recovery, military and harsh environments, or in circumstances where individuals might need superior strength and endurance.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.