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.”

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The brain starts to eat itself after chronic sleep deprivation

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Juno mission: Jupiter’s magnetic field is even weirder than expected

It has long been known that Jupiter has the most intense magnetic field in the solar system, but the first round of results from NASA’s Juno mission has revealed that it is far stronger and more misshapen than scientists predicted.

Announcing the findings of the spacecraft’s first data-collection pass, which saw Juno fly within 2,600 miles (4,200km) of Jupiter on 27th August 2016, NASA mission scientists revealed that the planet far surpassed the expectations of models.

Measuring Jupiter’s magnetosphere using Juno’s magnetometer investigation (MAG) tool, they found that the planet’s magnetic field is even stronger than models predicted, at 7.766 Gaus: 10 times stronger than the strongest fields on Earth.

Furthermore, it is far more irregular in shape, prompting a re-think about how it could be generated.

“Juno is giving us a view of the magnetic field close to Jupiter that we’ve never had before,” said Jack Connerney, Juno deputy principal investigator and magnetic field investigation lead at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Already we see that the magnetic field looks lumpy: it is stronger in some places and weaker in others.

An enhanced colour view of Jupiter’s south pole. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gabriel Fiset. Featured image courtesy of NASA/SWRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran

At present, scientists cannot say for certain why or how Jupiter’s magnetic field is so peculiar, but they do already have a theory: that the field is not generated from the planet’s core, but in a layer closer to its surface.

“This uneven distribution suggests that the field might be generated by dynamo action closer to the surface, above the layer of metallic hydrogen,” said Connerney.

However, with many more flybys planned, the scientists will considerable opportunities to learn more about this phenomenon, and more accurately pinpoint the bizarre magnetic field’s cause.

“Every flyby we execute gets us closer to determining where and how Jupiter’s dynamo works,” added Connerney.

With each flyby, which occurs every 53 days, the scientists are treated to a 6MB haul of newly collected information, which takes around 1.5 days to transfer back to Earth.

“Every 53 days, we go screaming by Jupiter, get doused by a fire hose of Jovian science, and there is always something new,” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

A newly released image of Jupiter’s stormy south pole. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles

An unexpected magnetic field was not the only surprise from the first data haul. The mission also provided a first-look at Jupiter’s poles, which are unexpectedly covered in swirling, densely clustered storms the size of Earth.

“We’re puzzled as to how they could be formed, how stable the configuration is, and why Jupiter’s north pole doesn’t look like the south pole,” said Bolton. “We’re questioning whether this is a dynamic system, and are we seeing just one stage, and over the next year, we’re going to watch it disappear, or is this a stable configuration and these storms are circulating around one another?”

Juno’s Microwave Radiometer (MWR) also threw up some surprises, with some of the planet’s belts appearing to penetrate down to its surface, while others seem to evolve into other structures. It’s a curious phenomenon, and one which the scientists hope to better explore on future flybys.

“On our next flyby on July 11, we will fly directly over one of the most iconic features in the entire solar system – one that every school kid knows – Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said Bolton.

“If anybody is going to get to the bottom of what is going on below those mammoth swirling crimson cloud tops, it’s Juno and her cloud-piercing science instruments.”