Top 5 Swiss Robots
Robots are no longer just fantastical characters of animated movies; as research progresses, robots are being created and used to contribute to science, medicine, and many other fields. Robots, many times, can do what humans cannot do and go where humans cannot go. Various Swiss laboratories and universities are spearheading the research to bring these robots alive. Here are our top 5 picks of robots that are changing the way we work and play:
senseFly is an Ecublens-based Swiss company that specializes in creating robots to aid in accurately mapping mining sites, quarries, forests, construction sites, and crops, among others. The startup began in 2009 as a part of the EPFL-based Laboratory of Intelligence Systems, and has since been awarded the CTI Startup Label by the Swiss government. As the name of the company suggests, many of their products employ aerial technologies to conduct above-the-ground surveillance. The eBee, one of the company’s products, boasts the ability to conduct 3D-modelling. senseFly contrasts their surveillance images to those provided by Google, and the results speak for themselves:
Photo credit: senseFly
Also from the EPFL Laboratory of Intelligent Systems, the GimBall draws inspiration from insects, and their ability to navigate through terrains full of complex obstacles. The GimBall’s rotating cage allows it to collide with various types of obstacles and bounce off, without effecting the center core. The mass of the core is centered, so that the robot will always stay upright as it continues to fly. Advantages to this type of robot include its relative agility and lightness, safe operation around humans because of its protective cage, and above all, potential application in other fields. The GimBall team cites the opportunities for the GimBall to survey destructed zones, like collapsed buildings, to gather information without endangering human lives.
Drawing inspiration from insects seems to be a common theme among robots engineered at EPFL, and curvACE is no exception. Unlike senseFLY and GimBall, curvACE is not a fully functional robot, but will serve as an important function in robots like those just mentioned. curvACE is short for Curved Artificial Compound Eye, and draws upon a fruitfly’s vision as inspiration for its motion-detecting capabilities. The artificial eye features a panoramic field of view, and can extract images 3 times faster than a fruitfly. curvACE can be effective in diverse environments, and thrives during all times of day, from day to night. The collaborators on the curvACE team, from Switzerland, France, and Germany, hope the robot can be applied to home automation, surveillance, medical instruments, prosthetic devices, and smart clothing.
Photo credit: Robohub
The Distributed Flight Array
As if making one flying robot weren’t difficult enough, researchers at ETH Zurich have taken on the challenge of creating a system that can assemble in an infinite number of configurations. Most astonishing about this project is that alone, none of the modular pieces can fly; together, however, they can achieve flight. The Distributed Flight Array was created, first and foremost, as a solution to a design challenge. Nevertheless, after many iterations and improvement, we are sure the robot system could have important applications in many fields.
Photo credit: RoboHub
Foosball Robot Arm
Last but definitely not least, is the foosball robot arm. Students at EPFL developed a robot that makes foosball more challenging and fun. The arm can propel the ball at 6 meters per minute, and as it continues to improve, the project members expect that it will become better at foosball than humans. Currently, the robot arm uses two different computer processes to play. The first provides information about the location of the ball so that the arm can position itself correctly, and the second controls the movements of the arm, allowing it to receive the ball and propel it towards the opponent’s goal. Proving that robots are still for play, the foosball robot arm has the potential to permanently change the game.
Which robot is your favorite? What implications could insect- and human- inspired robots have on technology, science, medicine, and other fields?