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Smithsonian Gets Tiny Robots

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the tiny-overlords dept.

Robotics 23

CWmike writes "The Smithsonian Museum of American History on Tuesday added a number of robotic technologies to its collection, including what may have been one of the smallest robots in the world. The robot known as Marv, short for Mini Autonomous Robot Vehicle, is just one cubic inch in size. It was developed in 1996 and 1997 at the Department of Energy's Sandia National Lab. Its footprint is not much larger than a penny, and it was cobbled together from commercially available parts, including a microprocessor, that moved on wheels. Marv is one of about 100 robotic artifacts in the collection, which includes a large collection of other technology-related artifacts. Barry Spletzer, a retired engineer and scientist at Sandia, worked on Marv, an effort that began 'almost on a whim.' The robots merit a place at the museum because there are more than 1 million industrial robots in use today, said Carlene Stephens, a curator. While most of those robots perform rudimentary tasks, the sheer number is evidence that 'robots are now among us,' she said. For More info on the institute's National Robotics Week plans, see the Lemelson Center site."

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23 comments

Robots, or simply industrial machines (1)

HikingStick (878216) | about 3 years ago | (#35737252)

Yes, there are some devices out there that are in the spectrum of being robots, but many so-called devices are really just advanced industrial machines, or remote-control devices.

IMO, we don't really have true robots unless they can operate in a largely autonomous manner. Prior to that, they are just fancy appliances.

Perhaps its my taste for science fiction, or perhaps its just a dose of realism, but I don't believe that everything classified as a "robot" today is truly a robot in the sense most of our imaginations would define it.

Re:Robots, or simply industrial machines (1)

spun (1352) | about 3 years ago | (#35737552)

Look, I'm all for robots operating in a largely autonomous manner, as long as they do not eat old people's medicine for fuel.

Re:Robots, or simply industrial machines (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 years ago | (#35738000)

By definition a robot has to make some decisions itself. If you had an electromechanical arm with a programmed maximum grip strength lower than the physical maximum, then it would be a robot, even if it was also an appendage, because it would be making its own decision. The line is pretty blurry, which is why we describe robots as "partially autonomous" or "fully..."

Re:Robots, or simply industrial machines (1)

HikingStick (878216) | about 3 years ago | (#35743912)

To me, if the robot arm never used its maximum potential force because of specific programming (e.g., always clasp at 20 psi), then I wouldn't view it as a true robot. When the robot arm can, by using sensors and other inputs, determine what amount of force to use on a given object (within the confines of programmed parameters, but not as the result of a fixed pressure figure), then I'd concede true robotics. The ability to assess the environment and make adjustments ("decisions") on the fly is what really suggests robotic autonomy to me.

Re:Robots, or simply industrial machines (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 years ago | (#35745204)

You're talking about multiple inputs but why do you need more than one? All you need is consistent internal logic. It's like the difference between electric and electronic. You get one gate (and not relay-based, either) and you're electronic. Zero gates? Not electronic in spite of the many electrons involved. If you have a hydraulic arm that avoids applying maximum force by the use of a pressure relief then it's just a machine. Use an electric pressure switch and cut pump power and it's electric. If you use a hall-effect sensor with an amplifier in then it's electronic. If you use a microcontroller to filter a pressure transducer and then cut the power or open a relief with a solenoid then it's robotic.

The ability to assess the environment and make adjustments ("decisions") on the fly is what really suggests robotic autonomy to me.

You didn't read my comment at all, did you?

I think I want a few (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | about 3 years ago | (#35737336)

They look like they would be fun to work with.

Re:I think I want a few (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 years ago | (#35737562)

They look like they would be fun to work with.

Not like those robots which assemble cars, drill circuit boards, excavate in mines or run about in rail yards (have you seen the signs which say - "CAUTION: ROBOTIC ENGINES AT USE IN THIS YARD")

Roombas? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | about 3 years ago | (#35737340)

I hear that the cleaning people already use iRobot Roombas ... so I guess these are smaller?

Re:Roombas? (1)

HelioWalton (1821492) | about 3 years ago | (#35737432)

MUCH smaller. This thing is one cubic INCH. A roomba is a couple inches tall, and bigger than a frisbee in terms of diameter.

Re:Roombas? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 years ago | (#35737516)

MUCH smaller. This thing is one cubic INCH. A roomba is a couple inches tall, and bigger than a frisbee in terms of diameter.

Ah, yes, that little thing. I only have one to to say, after seeing the pictures...

WANT!

Re:Roombas? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 years ago | (#35737496)

I hear that the cleaning people already use iRobot Roombas ... so I guess these are smaller?

Think of a predictable task where a human isn't completely necessary all the time, like running a tractor or harvester on a large farm. Lots of room to employ these kinds of devices.

I'll just instruct my stock-o-bot to buy another 1,500 shares of General Rotors.

Wha? (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 3 years ago | (#35737680)

and it was cobbled together from commercially available parts, including a microprocessor, that moved on wheels

I...uh...er...what?

Re:Wha? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 3 years ago | (#35737756)

and it was cobbled together from commercially available parts, including a microprocessor, that moved on wheels

I...uh...er...what?

The 90's really did have everything, only knowledge of most of it was lost in the chaos of the dotcom bubble collapse. You should have seen some of the amazing stuff hauled away to electronic salvage when some of these businesses went bust.

Sounds like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35739600)

a personal problem

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