Stair-climbing robots are here, and they’re ready to be used in the real world

A robot that can effortlessly climb up and down stairs, as well as easily traverse uneven terrain, is being made available to companies, security services and researchers.

Dubbed ARTI3, the robot can climb three stairs in eight seconds using an entirely mechanical solution; a feat its maker, Washington DC-based Transcend Robotics, says is a world first.

Stairs have traditionally been something of a nemesis to robots, and there is considerable footage of robots failing in the attempt, most notably Honda’s humanoid robot Asimov. By equipping ARTI3 with a segmented body and gripped treads Transcend has resolved this issue, allowing robots’ domain to expand beyond the ground floor.

“Until now, the ability to climb stairs and navigate human environments has been a major challenge for mobile robots,” explained Phil Walker, CEO of Transcend Robotics. “Traditional approaches of tackling this problem are too slow, require complex controls, and are too expensive for most applications.”

ARTI3 is available in two forms: the customisable ARTI3 Mobility Platform and the out-of-the-box ARTI3 Vantage.

The Mobility Platform version is designed for industries such as construction, mining and manufacturing, and allows users to add specific sensors, electronics and software to tailor it to a particular use.

By contrast the Vantage is ready to use in a variety of situations. Equipped with pan and tilt cameras and with a carrying capacity of 30lb, the robot can be remote controlled, making it suitable for security applications and the inspection of potentially hazardous areas.

Both versions are designed to be very easy to use, potentially eliminating the need for specialist robotics operators and thus making the robot more appealing to a wider range of industries.

“ARTI technology will transform the world of robotics mobility,” said Walker. “The ARTI3 family of products brings that mobility to countless applications with unprecedented speed, simplicity and versatility.”

Images courtesy of Transcend Robotics.

Images courtesy of Transcend Robotics

ARTI3 is already being used in a wide range of industries, including telepresence, 3D scanning, hospitality, mining and defence.

In mining, the robot’s low profile allows it to access and scan areas humans cannot get to, so it is perhaps no surprise that the robot has proved particularly popular in this area.

“By equipping ARTI3 with a laser scanner, we can easily produce 3D scans of hard-to-access and rugged environments, such as caved-in openings in underground mines and underneath civil structures with narrow openings,” explained Naeem Ahmed, president of mining technology company Clickmox Solutions,

“We do this remotely even without line-of-sight to ARTI3, with complete visibility with the 360-degree pan-tilt-zoom camera, and most importantly, safely without putting our staff in harm’s way.”

Robot takes first steps towards building artificial lifeforms

A robot equipped with sophisticated AI has successfully simulated the creation of artificial lifeforms, in a key first step towards the eventual goal of creating true artificial life.

The robot, which was developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow, was able to model the creation of artificial lifeforms using unstable oil-in-water droplets. These droplets effectively played the role of living cells, demonstrating the potential of future research to develop living cells based on building blocks that cannot be found in nature.

Significantly, the robot also successfully predicted their properties before they were created, even though this could not be achieved using conventional physical models.

The robot, which was designed by Glasgow University’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, Professor Lee Cronin, is driven by machine learning and the principles of evolution.

It has been developed to autonomously create oil-in-water droplets with a host of different chemical makeups and then use image recognition to assess their behaviour.

Using this information, the robot was able to engineer droplets to have different properties­. Those which were found to be desirable could then be recreated at any time, using a specific digital code.

“This work is exciting as it shows that we are able to use machine learning and a novel robotic platform to understand the system in ways that cannot be done using conventional laboratory methods, including the discovery of ‘swarm’ like group behaviour of the droplets, akin to flocking birds,” said Cronin.

“Achieving lifelike behaviours such as this are important in our mission to make new lifeforms, and these droplets may be considered ‘protocells’ – simplified models of living cells.”

One of the oil droplets created by the robot

The research, which is published today in the journal PNAS, is one of several research projects being undertaken by Cronin and his team within the field of artificial lifeforms.

While the overarching goal is moving towards the creation of lifeforms using new and unprecedented building blocks, the research may also have more immediate potential applications.

The team believes that their work could also have applications in several practical areas, including the development of new methods for drug delivery or even innovative materials with functional properties.

Mac spyware stole millions of user images

A criminal case brought against a man from Ohio, US has shed more light on a piece of Mac malware, dubbed Fruitfly, that was used to surreptitiously turn on cameras and microphones, take and download screenshots, log keystrokes, and steal tax and medical records, photographs, internet searches, and bank transactions from users.

Source: Ars Technica

Drone swarm attack strikes Russian military bases

Russia's Ministry of Defence claims its forces in Syria were attacked a week ago by a swarm of home-made drones. According to Russia's MoD Russian forces at the Khmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility "successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)"

Source: Science Alert

Las Vegas strip club employs robot strippers

A Las Vegas strip club has flown in robot strippers from London to 'perform' at the club during CES. Sapphire Las Vegas strip club managing partner Peter Feinstein said that he employed the robots because the demographics of CES have changed and the traditional female strippers aren’t enough to lure a crowd to the club anymore.

Source: Daily Beast

GM to make driverless cars without steering wheels or pedals by 2019

General Motors has announced it plans to mass-produce self-driving cars without traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals by 2019. “It’s a pretty exciting moment in the history of the path to wide scale [autonomous vehicle] deployment and having the first production car with no driver controls,” GM President Dan Ammann told The Verge.

Source: The Verge

Russia-linked hackers "Fancy Bears" target the IOC

Following Russia's ban from the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, the Russia-linked hacking group "Fancy Bears" has published a set of apparently stolen emails, which purportedly belong to officials from the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, and third-party groups associated with the organisations.

Source: Wired

Scientists discover ice cliffs on Mars

Using images provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have described how steep cliffs, up to 100 meters tall, made of what appears to be nearly pure ice indicate that large deposits of ice may also be located in nearby underground deposits. The discovery has been described as “very exciting” for potential human bases.

Source: Science Mag