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Photos: Cutting-edge robotics from iPad-controlled robots to DaVinci doctors

National Robotics Week unveils the Robot Block Party
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By James Martin on
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National Robotics Week unveils the Robot Block Party

The US's inaugural National Robotics Week took place last week. As part of the week, Stanford University hosted a Robot Block Party on Wednesday, where locals could showcase cutting edge robotics technology and their own personal projects, including robots that drive cars, climb walls and help perform medical procedures.

National Robotics Week was organised by the Robotics Caucus of the US Congress, robotics companies and schools to give more exposure to the resources and ideas around robotics research and education.

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Homebrew Robotics club member Shiloh, 10, shows off her tabletop robot. Here, it is competing in a game to find a cube using its infrared sensors, it then must move the cube into the goal using ultrasonic sensors.

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This DaVinci robot system, made by Intuitive Surgical, is the world's only robot-controlled surgical system, according to the company. Using this technology, doctors are able to operate with less invasive techniques.

Operating the four surgical arms from a nearby console with high-resolution 3D imaging, the DaVinci system offers clear visualisation, enhanced precision, and comfort during procedures.

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Brian Higgins, left, is 98 per cent blind, and as part of his quest to integrate technology to help the blind, he has outfitted his Segway scooter with an ultrasonic sensor that alerts him to obstacles in his path.

His company, Intellisight, is currently researching ways to improve travel for blind people, and Higgins eventually would like to load his Segway with additional sensors and cameras to help him move through the world. One idea is to stream video from the Segway and allow online users to help direct blind people around wherever they are.

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Omega's 3D mouse gives users force feedback while interacting with on-screen objects. While moving these three coloured blocks around the screen, the mouse captures real forces and reflects those forces back to the user with the haptic feedback technology.

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This robotic arm is used primarily in lab research and is being applied to health care uses in hospitals. The arm incorporates seven degrees of freedom, using seven joints that provide very real and agile movements.

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Demonstrating the ability for industrial robots to easily interface with existing consumer friendly technologies, Adapt Technologies shows off its industrial robots being controlled with simple iPhone and iPad applications.

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The Stickybot iii is the third iteration of a robotics project designed to understand the way a gecko climbs walls, and to mimic these actions in robot technologies.

Wedge-shaped hairs on the adhesive material grab surfaces without requiring force to remove. As the robot climbs the wall, the arms easily pull away from the surface and take the next step.

The tail of the "gecko," also fitted with the adhesive technology, is an essential part of its climbing ability, distributing the weight and holding the robot in place as it steps forward. Without the assistance of the tail, the robot will fall.

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A solar-powered, remotely controlled robot roams the floor at the Robot Block Party at Stanford on Wednesday.

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Pi, the home-built robot made by Patrick Goebel, is demonstrating its perceptual motor co-ordination. Made entirely with stock robots parts and incorporating ultrasonic sensors, the robot is able to quickly track and follow the red balloon, then reach out and grab it.

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This car was originally created to compete in Darpa's X Prize, which encouraged the development of autonomous vehicles. The research initiative behind it is a joint project of the Volkswagen Group and the Electronics Research Laboratory at Stanford University, a program that has grown recently. On 15 April, Stanford dedicated the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Laboratory (Vail), which will continue to build on the autonomous automotive work that has already been under way.

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The HomeBrew Robotics Club is a club for developers and builders that meet once per month in Silicon Valley. At the meetings, builders exchange ideas and discuss problems they've run into and solutions to technical challenges in robotics.

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