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This vacuum-activated modular robot is equally nasty and neat

Soft robots are a major area of research right now, but the general paradigm seems to be that you pump something (a muscle or tube) full of something else (air, fluid) causing it to change its shape. But a robot from Swiss roboticists does the opposite: its little muscles tense when the air in them is removed. It’s cool — but it also looks kind of gross.

Each little section has several muscles, each of which can be contracted to different degrees to twist that section and exert force in some direction. All in one direction and the bot bends over; do it rhythmically and it can walk, or at any rate wriggle along. Or the vacuum could be let out in a suction cup, allowing the bot to attach securely to a wall, as  you see up top.

It was developed by Jamie Paik and Matt Robertson at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), who describe it in a paper published in the new journal Science Robotics.

And although other robot-like devices have used vacuum for various purposes — we had one on stage that used vacuum to safely grip fragile items — the researchers claim this is the first bot that works entirely by vacuum. The contractive action created by the vacuum isn’t just unique, it’s practical, Paik told me in an email.

Bending. I warned you it looked gross!

“Compared to expanding actuators, contraction is more similar to the function of biological muscle,” she said. “Without going in to more precise and detailed mimicry, this might be functionally enough an advantage in terms of applications; to mimic real muscles in cases when you’d like to work with/augment/assist body joints (as in wearable devices), and not introduce other modes of forces or motion that might impede natural function.”

It’s also totally modular, so if you want fingers or an arm made out of them, that works, and a huge, horrible snake of them is an option too. (I’d prefer you didn’t.)

“The full range of geometry and performance possible is still under investigation, but many other shapes have been tested in our lab, and the general idea is still open to many more,” wrote Paik. “Ultimately, this modular kit would be a household staple tool to automate objects or execute simple but diverse tasks (holding a nail while hammering, cleaning a refrigerator overnight, looking for lost objects around the house). Or it would be building blocks for an active wearable robots that can assist/give feedback to the user.”

Currently that testing is all manual — you have to assemble each piece and test it by hand — but the team is working on automated tools that could virtually assemble and test different configurations.

The downside of this technique is that, because vacuum pumps aren’t exactly lightweight or portable, the robot must remain tethered to one.

“Pneumatic pumps have not been optimized for portability, since they are usually used in fixed settings,” Paik explained. “Hopefully these will improve as quickly as quadrotor technology has.”

It must be said that it’s not quite as sexy as a drone you can fly in your backyard, but if Paik and Robertson’s ideas pan out, this could be a precursor to a technology as ubiquitous as those drones.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/30/this-vacuum-activated-modular-robot-is-equally-nasty-and-neat/

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Founded by Russian entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov in February 2011 with the participation of leading Russian specialists in the field of neural interfaces, robotics, artificial organs and systems.

The main goals of the 2045 Initiative: the creation and realization of a new strategy for the development of humanity which meets global civilization challenges; the creation of optimale conditions promoting the spiritual enlightenment of humanity; and the realization of a new futuristic reality based on 5 principles: high spirituality, high culture, high ethics, high science and high technologies. 

The main science mega-project of the 2045 Initiative aims to create technologies enabling the transfer of a individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality. We devote particular attention to enabling the fullest possible dialogue between the world’s major spiritual traditions, science and society.

A large-scale transformation of humanity, comparable to some of the major spiritual and sci-tech revolutions in history, will require a new strategy. We believe this to be necessary to overcome existing crises, which threaten our planetary habitat and the continued existence of humanity as a species. With the 2045 Initiative, we hope to realize a new strategy for humanity's development, and in so doing, create a more productive, fulfilling, and satisfying future.

The "2045" team is working towards creating an international research center where leading scientists will be engaged in research and development in the fields of anthropomorphic robotics, living systems modeling and brain and consciousness modeling with the goal of transferring one’s individual consciousness to an artificial carrier and achieving cybernetic immortality.

An annual congress "The Global Future 2045" is organized by the Initiative to give platform for discussing mankind's evolutionary strategy based on technologies of cybernetic immortality as well as the possible impact of such technologies on global society, politics and economies of the future.


Future prospects of "2045" Initiative for society


The emergence and widespread use of affordable android "avatars" controlled by a "brain-computer" interface. Coupled with related technologies “avatars’ will give people a number of new features: ability to work in dangerous environments, perform rescue operations, travel in extreme situations etc.
Avatar components will be used in medicine for the rehabilitation of fully or partially disabled patients giving them prosthetic limbs or recover lost senses.


Creation of an autonomous life-support system for the human brain linked to a robot, ‘avatar’, will save people whose body is completely worn out or irreversibly damaged. Any patient with an intact brain will be able to return to a fully functioning  bodily life. Such technologies will  greatly enlarge  the possibility of hybrid bio-electronic devices, thus creating a new IT revolution and will make  all  kinds of superimpositions of electronic and biological systems possible.


Creation of a computer model of the brain and human consciousness  with the subsequent development of means to transfer individual consciousness  onto an artificial carrier. This development will profoundly change the world, it will not only give everyone the possibility of  cybernetic immortality but will also create a friendly artificial intelligence,  expand human capabilities  and provide opportunities for ordinary people to restore or modify their own brain multiple times.  The final result  at this stage can be a real revolution in the understanding of human nature that will completely change the human and technical prospects for humanity.


This is the time when substance-independent minds will receive new bodies with capacities far exceeding those of ordinary humans. A new era for humanity will arrive!  Changes will occur in all spheres of human activity – energy generation, transportation, politics, medicine, psychology, sciences, and so on.

Today it is hard to imagine a future when bodies consisting of nanorobots  will become affordable  and capable of taking any form. It is also hard to imagine body holograms featuring controlled matter. One thing is clear however:  humanity, for the first time in its history, will make a fully managed evolutionary transition and eventually become a new species. Moreover,  prerequisites for a large-scale  expansion into outer space will be created as well.


Key elements of the project in the future

• International social movement
• social network immortal.me
• charitable foundation "Global Future 2045" (Foundation 2045)
• scientific research centre "Immortality"
• business incubator
• University of "Immortality"
• annual award for contribution to the realization of  the project of "Immortality”.

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