Top 20 Robotic Discoveries Of 2016

Top 20 Robotic Discoveries Of 2016

Jan 2, 2017 @ 18:19 | 

Year 2016 was fantastic and most encouraging year for robotics world. Here Robot Globe team brought to you top 20 Robotic discoveries of 2016.

Year 2016 was fantastic and most encouraging year for robotics world till now. This year, we witnessed many great research findings and innovations in field of robotics. Robotic community got a tremendous boost due to 2016 noble prize for smallest molecular machine. In 2016, we have also seen some of the robotic technologies becoming commercially available like social robots, delivery robots, goods transportation and packaging in warehouse, semi automated driver assisted cars and domestic robots. This year, Robots also helped us to uncover new discoveries like world’s deepest underwater cave, Mars exploration, Antarctica under-Ice exploration etc.

Here Robot Globe brought to you top 20 Robotic discoveries of 2016. These selected robotic discoveries are based on research and development effort, future potential impact on society and industry. Our Robot Globe team has tried best to pickup top 20 robotic discoveries of 2016, enjoy it !

1. A Robotic Stingray

Bio-Inspired researchers have designed a miniature bio-hybrid robotic stingray that could help our understanding of the heart.

Robotic Stingray

Robotic Stingray is neither fully living animal nor fully artificial robot; it is the hybrid of both. It has an elastomeric body enclosing a micro-fabricated gold skeleton (non living) with rat heart muscle cells – cardiomyocytes (living). Researchers created this hybrid system to understand the structure and control of heart cells; this could lead to create artificial heart. This may a small step toward Synthetic Cognition.

This Robotic stingray is approximately 1/10th scale of the real natural Stingray. It can swim and phototactically follow a light cue.

Team of researchers from Harvard University, Sogang University-Korea, Stanford University have published a journal “Phototactic guidance of atissue-engineered soft-robotic ray” in Science on 8th July 2016.

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2. OctoBot: The first Entirely Soft Robot

Inspired by Octopus, A team of Harvard University researchers have created the first entirely soft, autonomous robot, made by a combination of embedded 3D printing, modeling and soft lithography.


A team of Harvard University researchers with expertise in 3D printing, mechanical engineering, and microfluidics has demonstrated the first autonomous, untethered, entirely soft robot. This small, 3D-printed robot — nicknamed the octobot — could pave the way for a new generation of completely soft, autonomous machines.

Soft robotics could revolutionize how humans interact with machines. But researchers have struggled to build entirely compliant robots. Electric power and control systems — such as batteries and circuit boards — are rigid and until now soft-bodied robots have been either tethered to an off-board system or rigged with hard components.

Harvard’s octobot is pneumatic-based, i.e., it is powered by gas under pressure. A reaction inside the bot transforms a small amount of liquid fuel (hydrogen peroxide) into a large amount of gas, which flows into the octobot’s arms and inflates them like a balloon.

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3. A Biohybrid Crawling Robot

Researchers have created a biohybrid robot with muscle from slug mouth and 3D printed body. Researchers believe that swarms of this robot could one day search the depths of fresh and saltwater.

biohybrid robot

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have combined tissues from a sea slug with flexible 3-D printed components to build “biohybrid” robots that crawl like sea turtles on the beach.

A muscle from the slug’s mouth provides the movement, which is currently controlled by an external electrical field. However, future iterations of the device will include ganglia, bundles of neurons and nerves that normally conduct signals to the muscle as the slug feeds, as an organic controller.

The researchers also manipulated collagen from the slug’s skin to build an organic scaffold to be tested in new versions of the robot.

In the future, swarms of biohybrid robots could be released for such tasks as locating the source of a toxic leak in a pond that would send animals fleeing, the scientists say. Or they could search the ocean floor for a black box flight data recorder, a potentially long process that may leave current robots stilled with dead batteries.

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4. Ingestible Origami Robot Removes Swallowed Batteries

Imagine, by mistake you have swallowed a button battery; you really want it out as soon as possible. What are the options to bring out swallowed button batteries – surgery only? No, the researchers made a tiny robot to do this job without any surgery, the only thing patient have to do – swallow a capsule.

origami robot
“It’s really exciting to see our small origami robots doing something with potential important applications to healthcare,” Daniela Rus says. Pictured, an example of a capsule and the unfolded origami device.
Photo: Melanie Gonick/MIT

Researchers at MIT, the University of Sheffield, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology have demonstrated a tiny origami robot (reconfigurable robots that would be able to fold themselves into arbitrary shapes) that can unfold itself from a swallowed capsule and, steered by external magnetic fields, crawl across the stomach wall to remove a swallowed button battery or patch a wound.

This ingestible origami robot is the one of MIT’s origami robot series. This new Origami robot consists of two layers of structural material sandwiching a material that shrinks when heated. A pattern of slits in the outer layers determines how the robot will fold when the middle layer contracts.

“This concept is both highly creative and highly practical, and it addresses a clinical need in an elegant way,” says Bradley Nelson, a professor of robotics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. “It is one of the most convincing applications of origami robots that I have seen.”

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5. MuddyBot: Robot Helps Study How First Land Animals Moved 360 Million Years Ago

When early terrestrial animals began moving about on mud and sand 360 million years ago, the powerful tails they used as fish may have been more important than scientists previously realized. That’s one conclusion from a new study of African mudskipper fish and a robot, MuddyBot modeled on the animal.


Animals analogous to the mudskipper would have used modified fins to move around on flat surfaces, but for climbing sandy slopes, the animals could have benefitted from using their tails to propel themselves forward, the researchers found. Results of the study, reported July 8 in the journal Science, could help designers create amphibious robots able to move across granular surfaces more efficiently – and with less likelihood of getting stuck in the mud.

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Army Research Office and the Army Research Laboratory, the project involved a multidisciplinary team of physicists, biologists and roboticists from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Clemson University and Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to a detailed study of the mudskipper and development of a robot model that used the animal’s locomotion techniques, the study also examined flow and drag conditions in representative granular materials, and applied a mathematical model incorporating new physics based on the drag research.

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6. Researchers Developed Pneumatic Linear Actuators Inspired by Muscle

The new actuators could pave the way for entirely soft-bodied robots that are safer than their conventional rigid counterparts.

muscle inspired actuator

To make robots more cooperative and have them perform tasks in close proximity to humans, they must be softer and safer. A new actuator developed by a team led by George Whitesides, Ph.D. — who is a Core Faculty member at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) – generates movements similar to those of skeletal muscles using vacuum power to automate soft, rubber beams.

Like real muscles, the actuators are soft, shock absorbing, and pose no danger to their environment or humans working collaboratively alongside them or the potential future robots equipped with them. The work was reported June 1 in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

The actuator — comprising soft rubber or ‘elastomeric’ beams — is filled with small, hollow chambers of air like a honeycomb. By applying vacuum the chambers collapse and the entire actuator contracts, generating movement. The internal honeycomb structure can be custom tailored to enable linear, twisting, bending, or combinatorial motions.

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7. Soft Robotic Hand That can Feel

A Cornell group has devised a way for a soft robot to feel its surroundings internally, in much the same way humans do.The group used its optoelectronic prosthesis to perform a variety of tasks, including grasping and probing for both shape and texture. Most notably, the hand was able to scan three tomatoes and determine, by softness, which was the ripest.robotic-hand-that-can-feel

most robots achieve grasping and tactile sensing through motorized means, which can be excessively bulky and rigid. A Cornell group has devised a way for a soft robot to feel its surroundings internally, in much the same way humans do.

A group led by Robert Shepherd, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and principal investigator of Organic Robotics Lab, has published a paper describing how stretchable optical waveguides act as curvature, elongation and force sensors in a soft robotic hand.

Zhao said this technology has many potential uses beyond prostheses, including bio-inspired robots, which Shepherd has explored along with Mason Peck, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, for use in space exploration.

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8. Proof of Concept: Robot Baby is Possible

Science fiction is becoming reality: Under the project, “Robot Baby” researchers at Vrije University (VU) Amsterdam demonstrated that robots can have children.

Robot Baby

This breakthrough is a significant first step in the Industrial Evolution and can play an important role in, for instance, the colonization of Mars. During Campus Party in the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht on May 26 2016 two of Eiben’s robots demonstrated robot mating and the first robot baby was unveiled.

This means that in addition to developing their brains by learning, robots can now develop their bodies through evolution. Because robot parents select suitable mating partners with certain desirable properties, successive generations can improve their physical form and behavior, adjusting these to their environment and the task they have to perform. This makes them suitable for locations where the circumstances are unknown in advance, such as mines in deep seas or other planets.

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9. Soft Robots That Mimic Human Muscles

An EPFL team is developing soft, flexible and reconfigurable robots. Air-actuated, they behave like human muscles and may be used in physical rehabilitation. They are made of low-cost materials and could easily be produced on a large scale.


Robots are usually expected to be rigid, fast and efficient. But researchers at EPFL’s Reconfigurable Robotics Lab (RRL) have turned that notion on its head with their soft robots.

Soft robots, powered by muscle-like actuators, are designed to be used on the human body in order to help people move. They are made of elastomers, including silicon and rubber, and so they are inherently safe. They are controlled by changing the air pressure in specially designed ‘soft balloons’, which also serve as the robot’s body. A predictive model that can be used to carefully control the mechanical behavior of the robots’ various modules has just been published in Nature – Scientific Reports.Potential applications for these robots include patient rehabilitation, handling fragile objects, biomimetic systems and home care. “Our robot designs focus largely on safety,” said Jamie Paik, the director of the RRL. “There’s very little risk of getting hurt if you’re wearing an exoskeleton made up of soft materials, for example” she added.

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10. RoboBees: Flying Micro Robot Hangs with Electrostatic Force

Many applications, such as search and rescue operations, for small drones require them to stay in the air for extended periods and we do this with hovering of drone into air, that is comparatively power consuming and complex to control stability. Inspirited by nature and electrostatic physics, the Harvard roboticists invented a flying micro robot, RoboBees that can perch during flight to save energy — like bats, birds or butterflies.


This new technique requires about 1,000 times less power to perch than it does to hover, offering to dramatically extend the operational life of the robot. Reducing the robot’s power requirements is critical for the researchers and now they are quite sure that one day these microrobots will be useful in search and rescue operation with their long endurance.

“Many applications for small drones require them to stay in the air for extended periods,” said Moritz Graule, first author of the paper, who conducted this research as a student at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. “Unfortunately, smaller drones run out of energy quickly. We want to keep them aloft longer without requiring too much additional energy.”

Read more…

11. Intel’s innovative Shooting Star drone technology

Last year Intel put 100 drones in the sky and broke a world record. This time Intel set a new record with 500 drone swarm performing in the sky. This opens new era of swarm robotics for aerial robots.

Watch our new world record performance in action.

12. DURUS: This Robot can Wear Shoe and Walks Like Human

GeorgiaTech and SRI Researchers created a humanoid robot – DURUS with Multi-contact foot behavior and it able to recycle the mechanical energy.


What is New in DURUS?

  1. Recycling of the mechanical energy:Mechanical design of DURUS is such that the robot recycles the mechanical energy. DURUS is equipped with springs between its ankles and feet. The energy from the robot’s impact with the ground is stored as mechanical energy in the springs and this stored energy used in next step, resulting high efficiency. (ATRIAS Humanoid Robot also uses same concept)
  2. Multi-contact foot behavior: The feet of the DURUS if not flat like other counterpart humanoid robots, It’s foots are like human that makes it more agile. It can wear shoes and replicates human locomotion.
  3. Longer and Faster steps: DURUS is able to take much longer, faster steps than its flat-footed counterparts because it’s replicating human locomotion.

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13. Hardware Robot Operating System (H- ROS) – Standardize Robot Hardware

The aim of Hardware ROS (H-ROS) is creating easily reusable and reconfigurable robot hardware components to simplify the creation of robots and allow parts from different manufacturers to interoperate.


Erle Robotics, developer of next generation of artificial brains for robots and drones is developing the Hardware Robot Operating System (H-ROS) under Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) and BIT Systems (BITS) innovative program – Robotics Fast Track (RFT) Effort sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

H-ROS will help companies create robot components that speak ROS natively. With H-ROS, building a robot is about placing H-ROS compatible hardware components together. Handling robots won’t be restricted to a few with high technical skills but will instead be extended to a great majority with a general understanding of the different H-ROS part types. In general H-ROS has five types of parts: cognition, communication, sensing, actuation and Hybrid.

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14. SALTO Jumping Robot: Most Vertically Agile Robot Ever Built

UC Berkeley’s bio-inspired researchers have made SALTO (Saltatorial Locomotion on Terrain Obstacles), a Galago inspired, single legged jumping robot with vertical jumping agility 1.75 m/s.salto

Roboticists at UC Berkeley have designed a small robot that can leap into the air and then spring off a wall, or perform multiple vertical jumps in a row, resulting in the highest robotic vertical jumping agility ever recorded. The agility of the robot opens new pathways of locomotion that were not previously attainable. The researchers hope that one day this robot and other vertically agile robots can be used to jump around rubble in search and rescue missions.

To build the robot, known as SALTO, the engineers studied the animal kingdom’s most vertically agile creature, the galago, which can jump five times in just four seconds to gain a combined height of 8.5 meters (27.9 feet). The galago has a special ability to store energy in its tendons so that it can jump to heights not achievable by its muscles alone.

Read more….

15. Rovables: Wearable Mini Mobile Robots

These future wearable technologies will move around the human body, and will react to its host and the environmentrovables

What if wearable devices could move around the body? For example,fingernail-sized robots that could seamlessly assemble into a wristwatch or a nametag.

Current wearable technologies are immobile devices that are worn on the body, such as smart watches (e.g. Pebble, Apple Watch), head-mounted displays (e.g. Google Glass), and fitness trackers (e.g. FitBit). Now researchers from MIT and Stanford have developed a mobile wearable device, Rovables – A Wearable Mini Mobile Robot. These future wearable technology will move around the human body, and will react to its host and the environment.

Potential Applications:  On-body sensing, modular displays, tactile feedback and interactive clothing and jewelry

Read more…

16. Small Drones Also can Perform Aggressive Maneuvers

Vijay Kumar and his team from University of Pennsylvania demonstrated an autonomous 250g drone (quadrotor) performing aggressive maneuvers.

aggressive maneuvers

you have seen fighter aircraft doing stunt, now small drones (weight 250 g) also can do those stunts.

Prof. Vijay Kumar and his research team from University of Pennsylvania demonstrated an autonomous 250 g drone (quadrotor) performing aggressive maneuvers using a qualcomm snapdragon flight and relying only on on-board computation and sensor capabilities. The control planning and estimation tasks are solved based on the information provided by a single camera and an IMU.

Now a day small drones are becoming very popular in lots of application areas like search and rescue operations, agriculture, item delivery, aerial survey and map building. Amazon is making drones to deliver items. During the operation sometimes aggressive maneuvers also required to navigate in cluttered environment.

Researchers demonstrated aggressive trajectories around poles and narrow window gaps at different inclinations. The  drone was able to traverse narrow gaps requiring accelerations up to 1.5 g and roll and pitch angles up to 90 degrees with velocities of 5 m/s.

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17. Disney Researchers Build First Untethered One-Legged Hopping Robot

The Disney researchers believe this is the first one-legged hopping robot that does not require a connection to an external motor or power source.


One-legged hopping robots have long been used to study balance issues, but their dependence on off-board power has kept them tethered, literally, to the lab. Now, Disney Research has figured out how to build a hopper that runs on battery power.

The researchers believe theirs is the first one-legged hopping robot that does not require a connection to an external motor or power source.

Though one-legged robots can only move by hopping, freeing them of tethers would open up new, non-research uses, said Joohyung Kim, associate research scientist at Disney Research. The highly efficient leg modules also can be combined to create multi-legged robots.

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18. Two VelociRoACH Robots Cooperatively Climb a Step Taller than Their Size

In this research, researchers demonstrated that physical cooperation between robots (VelociRoACH) can enable mobility over tall obstacles relative to their size.


Researchers at Biomimetic Millisystems Lab, University of California, Berkeley, have taken inspiration from the cockroach and created a Cockroach-Inspired Robot VelociRoACH (Velocity Robotic Autonomous Crawling Hexapod) and demonstrated that two VelociRoACH robots cooperatively can climb a Step. Researchers will be presented their research work “Step Climbing Cooperation Primitives for Legged Robots with a Reversible Connection” in IEEE ICRA conference 2016.

Small bio-inspired robots have the potential to improve the effectiveness of robot-assisted search and rescue in disaster scenarios (e.g. collapsed buildings). Small-scale robots can navigate through narrow spaces in a collapsed building that would be otherwise inaccessible. Furthermore, these robots can be produced cheaply and quickly. Deploying many capable and low-cost robots throughout the disaster area will help to accelerating the discovery and rescue of survivors.

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19. Robots Get Creative to Cut Through Clutter

Clutter is a special challenge for robots, but new Carnegie Mellon University software is helping robots cope, whether they’re beating a path across the Moon or grabbing a milk jug from the back of the refrigerator.


The software not only helped a robot deal efficiently with clutter, it surprisingly revealed the robot’s creativity in solving problems.

“It was exploiting sort of superhuman capabilities,” Siddhartha Srinivasa, associate professor of robotics, said of his lab’s two-armed mobile robot, the Home Exploring Robot Butler, or HERB. “The robot’s wrist has a 270-degree range, which led to behaviors we didn’t expect. Sometimes, we’re blinded by our own anthropomorphism.”

The rearrangement planner software was developed in Srinivasa’s lab by Jennifer King, a Ph.D. student in robotics, and Marco Cognetti, a Ph.D. student at Sapienza University of Rome who spent six months in Srinivasa’s lab. They  presented their findings  at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stockholm, Sweden.

In addition to HERB, the software was tested on NASA’s KRex robot, which is being designed to traverse the lunar surface. While HERB focused on clutter typical of a home, KRex used the software to find traversable paths across an obstacle-filled landscape while pushing an object.

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20. EMMA: A Robot Therapist to Treat Patients using Acupoint Therapy

A startup incubated by NTU Singapore unveiled a robot therapist- EMMA (Expert Manipulative Massage Automation) to treat patients using acupoint therapy.


Short for Expert Manipulative Massage Automation, EMMA is now treating patients at the Singapore Sports Hub, using acupoint therapy to relieve muscle strains and injuries.

Developed by AiTreat, a start-up company founded by NTU graduate Albert Zhang, EMMA is undergoing user trials at Kin Teck Tong’s Sports Science and Chinese Medicine Clinic at the Kallang Wave Mall.

Mr Zhang, the creator of EMMA, said his creation, a robotic arm with a 3D-printed massage tip that runs on proprietary software, can resolve some of the challenges faced by sports therapy clinics, such as a shortage of trained therapists and a need to deliver high quality therapy consistently.

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