As technology progresses we’ve seen robots do amazing things to benefit humanity – from enabling the disabled to aiding in disaster relief and allowing ordinary people to do extraordinary things. We’ve rounded up six of our favorite next-gen robots that are working hard to build a better future for humanity – including 3D printed spider bots, robot guide dogs, and flying cyborg bugs!


1. 3D Printed Robot Spider 

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA have developed a mobile spider robot that can be quickly deployed to provide disaster relief after hazardous events. These mini robot spiders can find people in hard to reach spaces and report back to emergency response teams with important information regarding the safety of the area in question. The lifesaving arachnids can also be quickly and economically produced using 3D printing technology instead of conventional mechanical engineering techniques.


2. Ekso Bionics’ Robotic Exoskeleton  Ekso Bionics recently announced plans to launch a fully functioning robotic exoskeleton that will allow paraplegics to walk again. The first models are slated to hit the market this year, and within two years thousands of paraplegics will have the opportunity to trade their wheelchairs for a bionic exoskeleton.The user balances their upper body on the Ekso suit, which is essentially a large robot. The 20 kg frame is supported by a set of skeletal legs, and the user shifts their weight from one side to the other by planting a walking stick on alternating sides of the frame. The sticks are set up with motion sensors that communicate with the legs, giving the user complete control of the system.

The US military has partnered with Boston Dynamics to develop an anthropomorphic robot that will be used to test new chemical protection clothing (also known as hazmat suits). The PETMAN(Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin) allows the military to test the effectiveness of new suits against chemical agents without endangering some poor volunteer. The PETMAN can balance himself and walk freely, as well as crawl and perform a series of calisthenics to test the suits to their limits. This fancy new robot also simulates human physiology by varying its temperature, humidity and even sweating in order to create the most realistic test conditions possible.

Researchers at the University of Michigan are working on a new breed of flying insectoid robots that could one day serve as first responders in disaster situations. The cyborg insects use energy generated from their own wing motion to power mini sensors installed into tiny insect backpacks (that they wear, on their backs). The bugs could investigate hazardous environments that are considered too dangerous for humans to enter, for example: nuclear disaster sites, chemical spills, or tsunami-damaged zones.
Thousands of people around the world use guide dogs to help them with their everyday lives. For those who cannot see, having a companion who’s able to lead them around, perform tasks, and look out for their general well-being is indispensable. With this in mind, Japanese company NSKhas developed a robot guide dog to provide further assistance. This robotic pooch utilizes 3D visualization through a Microsoft Kinect sensor. This sensor allows the dog to measure the amount of movement necessary to tackle an obstacle, making it easy for them to see what’s going on around them in order to keep their owner out of danger. At the moment this lil’ guy cannot replace a real-life guide dog, but he still could be extremely useful for things like negotiating long walks outside – especially if paired up with a GPS system or Google maps.
6. Flying Disaster Relief Robots 
When considering the complex issues associated with providing disaster relief, it’s important that one very fundamental issue is addressed first and foremost: communication. Fortunately, the EPFL School of Engineering is working on a Swarming Micro Air Vehicle Network (SMAVNET) specifically designed to address this challenge. Resembling a fleet of space invaders, this swarm of flying robots uses wireless technology to create a communication network for rescuers. Since these bots are airborne, difficult terrain or other land-related challenges are of no consequence. With the help of GPS systems, cameras, and more expensive hardware such as radar, the robots can provide line-of-sight communication so rescuers on the ground can contact each other as well as bases of deployment.
Via Rebecca Paul @ Inhabitat