Then and Now


Articles from this Column

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New Technology for Today’s Home-Built Robots
By Tom Carroll
October 2014, Page 76
As technology moves forward, accessibility to new and improved products has made it that much easier for robot builders to create the automaton of their dreams.

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Robot Evolution
By Tom Carroll
September 2014, Page 76
Take a look at some of the exciting changes and progress made in the field of commercial robots.

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A New Look at Underwater Robots
By Tom Carroll
August 2014, Page 75
The sea is a harsh mistress, and there are a lot of factors that have to be considered when designing robots for work under the waves.

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Robot Control Via Speech Recognition
By Tom Carroll
July 2014, Page 75
Speech understanding and recognition are not as simple for robots as you might think. However, there are some interesting products available that may help your bot figure out what the heck you want.

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Robots Assist in Clean-Up of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
By Tom Carroll
June 2014, Page 76
Details on what really happened that day and why this particular site is so difficult to work at, making it perfect for robots to intervene.

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Amateur Robotics Competitions and Exhibitions
By Tom Carroll
May 2014, Page 74
These different group efforts make a big difference in the robotics community — especially for kids.

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Drones
By Tom Carroll
April 2014, Page 76
Bad press, misunderstood information, and abuses of power continue to bring controversy to this otherwise useful technology.

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Humanity’s Perception of Robots
By Tom Carroll
March 2014, Page 74
Whether they’re from the Uncanny Valley or just simple, hard-working automatons, people’s feelings about robots are changing.

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Conferences Showcase New Robots
By Tom Carroll
February 2014, Page 76
Check out what was and what more recently has been the highlights from robot expos and conferences.

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Robot Wars: Roomba vs. Neato
By Tom Carroll
January 2014, Page 74
See how these robot vacuums stack up against each other.

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Bases and Structure for Mobile Robots
By Tom Carroll
December 2013, Page 74
Tips, techniques, and types to consider when selecting the foundation for your bot.

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Human Augmentation
By Tom Carroll
November 2013, Page 76
The concept of exoskeletons is not new. Read about where we’ve been and where we’re going with devices that enhance human performance.

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The LEGO MINDSTORMS Evolution — RCX to EV3
By Tom Carroll
October 2013, Page 74
Take a historical look at how LEGO got started and where they are today.

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Parallax, Inc.
By Tom Carroll
September 2013, Page 74
Learn about the beginnings of this ground-breaking company and some of the products they’re famous for.

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ServoCity
By Tom Carroll
August 2013, Page 75
There once was a time when robot builders had only a few sources for project parts. That is no longer the case.

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Robots to Serve Man
By Tom Carroll
July 2013, Page 76
Robots can serve humankind in many positive ways.

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Robots and the Law
By Tom Carroll
June 2013, Page 78
What will the legal implications be if robots violate human rights?

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Get That Robot Built the Easy Way
By Tom Carroll
April 2013, Page 74
Parts to build great robots are all around us. Just use your imagination the next time you’re shopping at the local hobby, hardware, marine, RV, or toy store.

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Controlling Robots in the Air and on the Ground
By Tom Carroll
March 2013, Page 74
Multi-rotor flyers are proving to be the next level of robotics.

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Robot Telepresence and Personal Assistants
By Tom Carroll
February 2013, Page 74
I would like to begin our discussion of robots working around people with a look at some of the latest telepresence robots.

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Robots Evolve into Today’s Bipedal Humanoids
By Tom Carroll
January 2013, Page 74
Just as man's ancestors began to walk on two legs, robot experimenters decided over a decade ago that a bipedal humanoid robot was the holy grail of robotics. Science fiction movies always showed robots as two-legged walking creations.

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Linear Actuators, Servos, and Motion Devices
By Tom Carroll
December 2012, Page 74
In last month's column, I reviewed the typical rotary servos that we are so familiar with — those used as actuators for model airplane control surfaces or as drive motors for smaller tabletop robots. I also reviewed a few very large servos such as the Invenscience Torxis monster servos and a few tiny servos that weigh only a few grams each. This month, I would like to review a type of servo or actuator that not many of us ever implement into our robotic creations: linear servos and actuators.

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Servos
By Tom Carroll
November 2012, Page 74
I wrote about servos in this column back in the beginning of 2008 when the Robotis Dynamixel rotary actuators had been available for a while for the robot experimenter.

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The Many Ways to Control a Robot
By Tom Carroll
October 2012, Page 74
As designers and builders of our robotic creations, we still want some sort of control over our machines, even if the basic control is through autonomous sensor interaction with the outside world.

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Sensors for Mobile Robots — Part 4
By Tom Carroll
September 2012, Page 74
I want to cover some of the more unique sensors in this final part, such as visual image and voice recognition sensors.

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Isaac Asimov — Inspiring Today’s Robots
By Tom Carroll
August 2012, Page 76
This prolific writer has had more influence on the field and science of robotics than perhaps any other person on Earth.

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Sensors For Mobile Robots — Part 3
By Tom Carroll
July 2012, Page 74
As robot experimenters, most of us want to keep abreast of the latest advances in any science and engineering aspect of our creations.

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Then and Now
June 2012, Page 74
Sensors for Mobile Robots — Part 2: Location and Object Recognition

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
May 2012, Page 74
Sensors for Mobile Robots.

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
April 2012, Page 74
Robot-Assisted Prostate Surgery.

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
March 2012, Page 76
What Can Your Robot Do?

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
February 2012, Page 74
Eddie: RDS4 Meets Kinect Meets Parallax

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The NXT Big Thing
By Greg Intermaggio
February 2012, Page 70
Isotope — Part 3

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
January 2012, Page 78
TurtleBot: ROS Meets Kinect Meets Create

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
December 2011, Page 76
A Robot in Every Home?

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
November 2011, Page 76
Man vs. Machine

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
October 2011, Page 76
How Robotics Has Changed Over the Years

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
September 2011, Page 76
Mechanics for Robot Hands and Arms

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
August 2011, Page 75
Unique Robots Helping Mankind

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
July 2011, Page 75
Robots: Form or Function?

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
June 2011, Page 76
New Approaches to Robotics Education

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
May 2011, Page 76
The Next Step in Robotics

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
April 2011, Page 76
What Does It Take to Build a Robot?

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
March 2011, Page 76
Telepresence

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Then and Now
By Tom Carroll
February 2011, Page 76
Amazing Robots Arise From Junk.

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Robot Hands
By Tom Carroll
January 2011, Page 76
Over the years, I’ve discussed all sorts of robot manipulators and arms, but most of these have been related to industrial applications.

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Robots: From Industrial to Some Amazing Capabilities
By Tom Carroll
December 2010, Page 76
Besides some independently-built creative robots in university labs that exhibited ‘animalistic’ properties, most early robot products were of the industrial variety.

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Robot Cars
By Tom Carroll
November 2010, Page 75
The idea of robot cars has been around for many decades and, in fact, “automatic mobility” vehicles were envisioned from the very first automobile, though total autonomy as we know it today was not possible at the time. There have been many unique robotic developments that have been employed in various personal transportation devices. Science fiction movies and TV productions have long used robot cars in their sets, and most depictions are a bit off in their technology.

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From Garco to the New Bots in Town
By Tom Carroll
October 2010, Page 10
I still receive comments about many of the old robots that I wrote about years ago and I am always asked to write about some cool robot from the past that a reader has heard about. Garco, from 1953, has been one of the most requested robots people have wanted some information about, as well as the REEM series of robots that I briefly mentioned in the May ‘10 issue of SERVO.

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Robot Manipulators
By Tom Carroll
September 2010, Page 77
One of the most famous robot manipulators in use today is the RMS or Remote Manipulator System used on the Space Shuttle.

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Robot Applications
By Tom Carroll
August 2010, Page 77
Robots have come a long way since the first industrial robots of the early ’60s.

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What is a Robot?
By Tom Carroll
July 2010, Page 77
Today’s new influx of personal and service robots are not being developed because they are ‘cool’ but because people have really come to rely on them for daily tasks.

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The Age of Robotics
By Tom Carroll
June 2010, Page 77
A lot of people speak of the age of robotics. They’ve been doing that for decades. Sometimes these words are just hype by a book publisher to promote a book, whereas others are truly convinced that the period in which they live is the beginning of the age of robotics. They see robots everywhere in their lives — on TV, in the movies, cleaning their carpets, exploring space, and building cars world-wide.

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What Does A Robot Look Like?
By Tom Carroll
May 2010, Page 78
What does a robot look like? What should a robot look like? Does a robot have to look a particular way to be considered a robot?

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Robot Mobility
By Tom Carroll
April 2010, Page 76
The single feature that distinguishes a robot from a computer or any other sort of electro-mechanical device is its ability to move — whether the movement is an appendage or a movable base. Most of us want our creations to move about our house, yard or in some location. To accomplish this, we have to select and build a method of mobility. For now, and I’ll concentrate on land vehicles only.

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A Closer Look at Personal Service Robots
By Tom Carroll
March 2010, Page 76
This recession has hit all industries very hard and the robotics industry as a whole has felt the brunt of it, especially the service robot segment.

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A Brief Look at Service Robots
By Tom Carroll
February 2010, Page 79
Let’s look at the service category, which can include sub-categories of personal and consumer robots (toys, vacuum cleaner robots, etc.), military and defense robots, security robots, academic and research robots, healthcare and hospital robots, and a vast array of remotely-operated vehicles.

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The Future of Robotics Competitions
By Tom Carroll
January 2010, Page 77
There have been interesting threads on the Seattle Robotics Society’s (SRS), the Portland Area Robotics Society’s (PARTS), and the Dallas Personal Robotics Group’s (DPRG) websites lately concerning the state of experimental and home-brew robotics, and the many types of competitions available to amateur robot builders.

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Segway Inspires Balancing Robot Research
By Tom Carroll
December 2009, Page 76
I normally jump right in, discussing the history and development of a particular type of robot and how that robot or the robot’s use has changed over the years. I’m going to digress away from my usual format and start with a technology and an individual who has changed robotics and the learning of robot science in a way that I personally feel no other individual has done before.

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Robot Exoskeletons
By Tom Carroll
November 2009, Page 76
Sometimes called walking machines, wearable robots, or robot suits, these devices serve to augment physical capabilities to either assist or protect a person from certain conditions.

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Robot Animal Strive to Match Humanoids in Realism
By Tom Carroll
October 2009, Page 76
It didn’t take inventive designers and experimenters long to determine that creating realistic robot human beings was close to impossible.

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Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles
By Tom Carroll
September 2009, Page 77
The name ‘Remotely Operated Vehicles’ can really apply to any vehicle that is controlled from a distance, which can include law enforcement robots, military robots, aerial vehicles, combat robots, and even remotely-controlled boats and planes.

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The Evolution Of Experimental Robots
By Tom Carroll
August 2009, Page 76
Awhile back, I wrote about how we’ve built robots over the years and also wrote about the historical perspective of experimental robots. But what actually drove the designs?

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Law Enforcement Robots
By Tom Carroll
July 2009, Page 78
The two companies discussed here and their line of remotely controlled robots represent just a handful of the many companies producing state-of-the-art ‘assistants’ to serve law enforcement agencies and the military.

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Automated Guided Vehicles
By Tom Carroll
June 2009, Page 76
Automated Guided Vehicles or AGVs never seem to make the headlines in news stories these days, as they go quietly about their business on factory and warehouse floors around the world.

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Robots Take To The Air
By Tom Carroll
January 2008, Page 79
Back in December ’05, I wrote about robots that go to war. These were about robots that are on the ground, remotely operated from a distance. In my research, I have found so many acronyms that are tied to these types of robotic vehicles. ROV for ‘remotely-operated vehicle’ which is often tied to the underwater variety, though it has been used to describe any remotely-operated land, sea, or even aerial vehicle. AGV for ‘automated guided vehicle’ which often describes the automated vehicles ...

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Personal Robots: From Science Fiction to Reality
By Tom Carroll
February 2008, Page 78
I’ve written about personal robots for years in this column. I’ve discussed some of the early machines available back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s such as the Heath Hero series, the Androbots, and the RB5X, among others. These machines certainly differed from their industrial cousins that toiled away in modern factories. They also differ from service robots that include ROVs (remotely operated vehicles), UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that I wrote about last month, and AUVs ...

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Then and Now | March 2008
By Tom Carroll
March 2008, Page 79
I was talking with my wife, Sue, about Women’s History month and she asked if an article on Women of Robotics would be an appropriate subject for my column. She knew that I had worked with various women in my robotics work over the years. After all, in September of last year I had written about Bala Krishnamurthy in “People of Robotics.” She has been in the field of robotics for over 25 years and designed and developed programming languages for Unimate’s robots, among many other things ...

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Robot Shows
By Tom Carroll
April 2008, Page 93
The Consumer Electronics Show. The Consumer Electronics Show Typical of everything in life, as time goes on, things change. The same thing applies to shows; robot and technical shows in particular. Displays are glitzier, lights flashier, and the atmosphere of today’s events are definitely higher energy affairs. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is no exception. Early January in Las Vegas each year is the annual CES, an electronics enthusiast’s dream that fills the huge Las Vegas ...c

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Robot Muscles - Electric Motors
By Tom Carroll
May 2008, Page 94
What would a robot be without their version of muscles? Well, maybe it would be just a computer. Now, that’s not so bad if all you want to do is input data and information via a keyboard, CD-ROM, voice or some other means, have the computer do something with that information, and then have the computer store or output that data onto a screen, printed page, a speaker, or some other passive device. Most of us enjoy our computers quite a bit, but we expect some sort of movement from them...

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Books On Experimental Robotics
By Tom Carroll
June 2008, Page 77
Good reference books on any particular subject are vital for anyone who really wants to know more about the topic, and robotics is no exception. The Internet can give you access to a lot of great information, but a good set of books on robotics is necessary to delve far into this exciting field. I’d like to discuss a history, of sorts, of some of the books that made the greatest impression on me for the past 30 years or so.As you can imagine, my choices for a great series of books on robotics...

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Robotics - A Historical Perspective
By Tom Carroll
July 2008, Page 77
Over the years, I have written about advances in all types of robot designs, robot technology, and various robotic subsystems in this column. In each article, I have tried to cover advances in the science of robotics and have covered the history of a part of robotics in a specific way. I have never tried to examine the way that we humans have viewed these creations of ours as they have slowly taken over many parts of our lives. I have often wondered just what mindset developed in people’s...

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Robots - How We’ve Built Them Over The Years
By Tom Carroll
August 2008, Page 78
I’ve written recently about how robots have changed over the years from a historical perspective, but not how we’ve actually constructed them. Let’s face it, robot stores were certainly not around 40 years ago, and even today, there are only a tiny fraction of the stores we’d like to see for our robot experimenting as compared with computers. There are hundreds of thousands of computer stores and companies around the world but only a few actual robot stores, and less than a hundred robot...

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Mechatronics: The New Word in Robotics
By Tom Carroll
September 2008, Page 79
I just read an interesting article in the June 30th Design News Webcast entitled “A Mechatronic Marvel: The Barcode Scanner.” The statement was made: “There are few things in the world today that would disrupt society more than if barcode scanners stopped working. Just think of all the places where you rely on one to accomplish some task. But what is a barcode and how does a barcode scanner work? This webcast explores the role of mechatronics in the development of this nearly indispensible...

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Robots - From Humanoid To Human Status
By Tom Carroll
October 2008, Page 78
I take a lot of technical magazines, more than my postman or wife care to see. Many of them have very interesting viewpoints on technology and robotics. One is Managing Automation — a magazine concerned mostly with implementation of factory automation and robotics. MA has a monthly e-newsletter that covers many automation subjects. The August 1st issue had an interesting article entitled “More Human than Humans” by MA Editor-in-Chief, David R. Brousell...

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Robot Competitions and Contests
By Tom Carroll
November 2008, Page 78
As long as there have been two people gathered together who have different ideas and skill sets, there have been competitions of some sort. The recent Summer Olympics was an extreme example of the world’s finest who gathered together in China to prove who the best athlete in many categories was. Old records fell as younger or more experienced athletes swam or ran faster than ever before, jumped higher or further, or performed some series of athletic motions with more finesse than the others...

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Japanese Robotics
By Tom Carroll
December 2008, Page 77
I have a book on the robotics bookshelf in my office entitled Inside the Robot Kingdom by Frederik L. Schodt. With a subtitle of “Japan, Mechatronics, and the Coming Robotopia,” Joe Engelberger, the father of the industrial robot, commented about the book on the back cover: “Western industrialists will learn more about competing with Japan from this book than from all the how-to books that have proliferated since Japan, Inc., became a popular ogre.” The amazing thing is this book was...

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Government and Military Robots
By Tom Carroll
January 2009, Page 78
I have long been interested in military weapons. The meanest, sneakiest, most powerful, and most complex weapons seemed to always attract my attention. Adding robotics to these types of weapon systems makes it just that much more appealing to me. Military robots — ground, sea, and air versions — have made the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan safer and more efficient for our troops. The Military Channel and History Channel’s Future Weapons make it clear that new military technology...

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Robots: From Nano to Tiny to Small
By Tom Carroll
February 2009, Page 76
I take a lot of magazines — most to keep abreast of a broad range of technical subjects — but I rely on Forbes for business and financial articles, at least until the November 12th issue. An article in the issue, “Interview With A Cyborg” by Courtney Myers caught my eye. I had heard bits and pieces about Kevin Warwick's experimentation with cybernetics and the implantation of a 100 electrode array that he had in his arm back in 2002. (Figure 1 shows Warwick with his 'bionic' hand controlled...

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Large Robots
By Tom Carroll
March 2009, Page 78
Large robots, on the other hand, are usually easier to construct as basic tools can normally be used to cut metal, fasten fasteners, and position the parts. However, due to the larger size, large machines of any type need large motors and more beefy power supplies. These larger items cost more money and that may limit going larger. Some of my best robots were in the hundred to two hundred pound class, human-sized anthropomorphic machines. I've always enjoyed building large bots that can move...

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European Robots
By Tom Carroll
April 2009, Page 76
Rather than delve into 18th century ‘clock-work’ automatons that were famous across Europe (and ones that I’ve written about before), I’d like to center on the past few decades of more modern robotics. We have to admit that our neighbor across the Pacific — Japan — inarguably has implemented more robots into their industries than any other nation. We seem to forget that the European Union across the Atlantic has long been in the forefront of robot progress. Nations in Europe have designed ...

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Korean Robots
By Tom Carroll
May 2009, Page 76
Korea has ambitious plans to implement robotics in education, medicine, and in the military. Growth in robotics research and sales in Korea is predicted to increase from $1 billion (US) in 2007 to $10 billion (US) in 2010, though the international recession may cut that back a bit...