Future Tech: Plus…a robotic leg brace & volleyball-playing robots.
Robot pollinators could fill in for dwindling bee populations
Bee deaths have been on the rise, with losses outpacing colonies' ability to regenerate. A world without bees may seem far-fetched, but experts are looking for ways to help plants survive without them.
Eijiro Miyako, a researcher at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, has designed what he believes could one day be a partial solution: an insect-sized drone capable of artificial pollination. Coated with a patch of horse hair bristles and an ionic liquid gel, these pint-sized robots can collect and transfer pollen from one plant to another.
The project stems from a serendipitous moment. Miyako had previously experimented with using the specialized gel for electrochemical applications. When the gel performed poorly, he tucked the bottles away in a drawer and forgot about them — until he moved out of his lab two years ago. As soon as he rediscovered the gel, he thought about the pollination crisis and honeybee decline.
Robotic leg brace to help partially paralyzed walk
From Popular Mechanics:
Toyota is introducing a wearable robotic leg brace designed to help partially paralyzed people walk. The Welwalk WW-1000 system is made up of a motorized mechanical frame that fits on a person's leg from the knee down.
The patients can practice walking wearing the robotic device on a special treadmill that can support their weight. Toyota Motor Corp. demonstrated the equipment for reporters at its Tokyo headquarters on Wednesday.
The gadget is designed to be worn on one leg at a time for patients severely paralyzed on one side of the body due to a stroke or other ailments, Eiichi Saito, a medical doctor and executive vice president at Fujita Health University, explained.
Japanese volleyball team practices against robots
From New Scientist:
To perfect their attacks, some of Japan’s top volleyball players are training against a robot that can mimic the tactics of opposing teams. The Japanese Volleyball Association’s “block machine” consists of three pairs of robotic arms that move side to side in front of the net.
These represent blockers – players who defend against “spikes” from the attacking team that send the ball forcefully over the net, making it hard for opposing players to return it.
Developed by researchers at the Japanese Volleyball Association and the University of Tsukuba, the block machine lets a coach program the robot arms for different training drills. If they think their team could have handled a situation in a previous game better, they can recreate the moment by positioning the arms to stand in for opposition team members. They can also mimic the tactical styles of future opponents.