Self-Organizing Robotic Construction Crew

We’ve all been in classrooms, offices, rec leagues, and other scenarios where it seems like nothing can ever be accomplished unless a supervisor or a leader is literally telling everyone what to do. That’s not a problem for robots, at least not the tiny, termite-inspired ‘bots that Harvard researchers have developed. The robots can construct complex structures without any supervision using a form of “group intelligence.” Continue reading

Robotic Insects Take Flight

Building on work that allowed researchers to more rapidly and economically build small-scale flying robots, Harvard University graduate student Pakpong Chirarattananon’s “RoboBee” took to the air for its first flight. The flight represents success for not only for Chirarattananon, but also for the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.

“This is what I have been trying to do for literally the last 12 years,” said Robert J. Wood, professor of engineering and applied sciences at SEAS. “It’s really only because of this lab’s recent breakthroughs in manufacturing, materials, and design that we have even been able to try this. And it just worked, spectacularly well.” Continue reading

Scientists Create Wormbot

When I think of robots I generally picture them looking like Wall-e or maybe the killing machines from The Terminator. Just from writing for this site, I realize plenty of other styles of robots exist, but I can’t help being something of a child of pop culture. The last thing I think of when thinking of robots is worms.

Scientists from MIT, Harvard and Seoul National University (SNU) have combined talents to create an autonomous robot that looks and moves like a worm. The group has dubbed their new creation the “Meshworm,” named after the nickel and titanium mesh material that forms its body.

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Slippery Slope of Liquid Repellency

Unwanted contact between liquids and solids can create a variety of problems in everything from biomedical devices to fuel tankers. In response, a number of liquid repellent surfaces have been developed to help mitigate these issues, but with limited success. Some researchers at Harvard, inspired by the the slippery surface of the carnivorous Nepenthes pitcher plant, have developed a new liquid-repellent surface technology that is transparent, self-healing, and can repel blood, oil, and brine, among other things. Continue reading

Bioengineered Jellyfish Paves Way for Heart Repairs

The Bee Gees once asked, “How can you mend a broken heart?” Evidently, the answer is to start by bioengineering a robotic jellyfish.

We’ve written about robotic jellyfish before, but this project takes things a step further. Researchers at Harvard and the California Institute of Technology, in a quest to find ways to make fresh tissue for heart patients, have created a jellyfish (named Medusoid)  via a mix of silicone and rat heart cells that can swim freely in water. Continue reading


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