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See the tiny robotic flies in action

Scientists in the US have created a robot the size of a fly that is able to perform the agile manoeuvres of the ubiquitous insects.

This “robo-fly”, built from carbon fibre, weighs a fraction of a gram and has super-fast electronic “muscles” to power its wings.

Its Harvard University developers say tiny robots like theirs may eventually be used in rescue operations.

It could, for example, navigate through tiny spaces in collapsed buildings.

The development is reported in the journal Science.

Tethered flight: It will take “a few more years” before the robo-flies will be able to carry a power source

Dr Kevin Ma from Harvard University and his team, led by Dr Robert Wood, say they have made the world’s smallest flying robot.

It also has the fly-like agility that allows the insects to evade even the swiftest of human efforts to swat them.

This comes largely from very precise wing movements.

By constantly adjusting the effect of lift and thrust acting on its body at an incredibly high speed, the insect’s (and the robot’s) wings enable it to hover, or to perform sudden evasive manoeuvres.

And just like a real fly, the robot’s thin, flexible wings beat approximately 120 times every second.

The researchers achieved this wing speed with special substance called piezoelectric material, which contracts every time a voltage is applied to it.

By very rapidly switching the voltage on and off, the scientists were able to make this material behave like just like the tiny muscles that makes a fly’s wings beat so fast.

Flapping and flying

As an insect’s wings move through the air, they are held at a slight angle, deflecting the air downward.

This deflection means the air flows faster over the wing than underneath, causing air pressure to build up beneath the wings, while the pressure above the wings is reduced. It is this difference in pressure that produces lift.

Flapping creates an additional forward and upward force known as thrust, which counteracts the insect’s weight and the “drag” of air resistance.

The downstroke or the flap is also called the “power stroke”, as it provides the majority of the thrust. During this, the wing is angled downwards even more steeply.

You can imagine this stroke as a very brief downward dive through the air – it momentarily uses the weight of the animal’s own weight in order to move forwards. But because the wings continue to generate lift, the creature remains airborne.

In each upstroke, the wing is slightly folded inwards to reduce resistance.

“We get it to contract and relax, like biological muscle,” said Dr Ma.

The main goal of this research was to understand how insect flight works, rather than to build a useful robot.

He added though that there could be many uses for such a diminutive flying vehicle.

“We could envision these robots being used for search-and-rescue operations to search for human survivors under collapsed buildings or [in] other hazardous environments,” he said.

“They [could] be used for environmental monitoring, to be dispersed into a habitat to sense trace chemicals or other factors.

Dr Ma even suggested that the robots could behave like many real insects and assist with the pollination of crops, “to function as the now-struggling honeybee populations do in supporting agriculture around the world”.

The current model of robo-fly is tethered to a small, off-board power source but Dr Ma says the next step will be to miniaturise the other bits of technology that will be needed to create a “fully wireless flying robot”.

“It will be a few more years before full integration is possible,” he said.

“Until then, this research project continues to be very captivating work because of its similarity to natural insects. It is a demonstration of how far human engineering ingenuity has reached, to be mimicking natural systems.”

Dr Jon Dyhr, a biologist from the University of Washington who also studies insect flight, said these flying robots were “impressive feats of engineering”.

“The physics of flight at such small scales is relatively poorly understood which makes designing small flying systems very difficult,” he told BBC News, adding that biological systems provided “critical insights into designing our own artificial flyers”.

Source Article from
Robotic insect: World’s smallest flying robot takes off – BBC News
Science – Google News
Google News

The first-ever small-screen Windows tablet made a brief appearance on today, before quickly being yanked from the online retailer’s e-shelves.While Acer was busy showing off a smattering of large-screen Windows devices in New York Friday, the 8.1-inch Acer Iconia W3-810-1600 was briefly available for perusal in the digital realm. Why does that matter? Because all Windows 8 tablets released thus far have packed 10-inch or larger displays, as Microsoft’s operating system was engineered before diminutive tablets like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire became all the rage.

Oops! (Click to enlarge.)

Microsoft has tweaked a bevy of features and specs since the release of Windows 8 to create a friendlier environment for smaller slates. The OS’s hardware certification program recently dropped the minimum allowable screen resolution for Windows 8 tablets from 1366-by-768 down to 1024-by-768, while leaked builds of the impending Windows Blue update sported a Snap feature that works just fine on tiny tablets. (Previously, Snap only worked on displays with that 1366-by-768 resolution.)

The Acer Iconia W3’s tech specs, according to Amazon. (Click to enlarge)

As far as Acer’s Iconia W3 goes, rumors of the 8-inch slate first surfaced in late April. It’s still yet to make an official debut, but the Amazon page revealed that the tablet packs a dual-core Atom processor, along with numerous other technical details you can see in the image to the right.

(Update: Commenters have astutely pointed out that the chart to the right lists the processor as a 1.5GHz Apple A4, i.e. the chip in the original iPad. The item description in the now-yanked listing stated the Iconia W3 runs on Intel’s dual-core Atom CPU, however.)

A few key details stand out about the Iconia W3. First of all, it definitely takes advantage of the reduced screen resolution spec, with a Nexus 7-matching 1280-by-800 display.

Second, the inclusion of an x86 processor means the 1.1-pound slate will run the full-blown version of Windows 8, rather than the neutered Windows RT operating system. We still have some reservations about using the full-blown version of Windows 8 on such a small screen, but hey, 7-inch tablets are what people are buying. Microsoft needs to be there to be competitive.

The most important numbers game

The most notable part of the Acer Iconia W3’s Amazon listing, however, is the price. Small screen Windows tablets have had one major question hovering over their heads since the concept was first floated: How low can they go?

The rear of the Acer Iconia W3.

Android tablets hit such rock-bottom prices because Google doesn’t force manufacturers to pay a license fee for the OS, whereas OEMs need to pay Microsoft for each and every Windows tablet built. Microsoft is rumored to be offering Windows and Offices at highly reduced costs to spur small slate development, however.

Amazon’s early leak of the Acer tablet gives us an unofficial price barometer. The e-tailer had the Iconia W3 listed at a $379.99 That’s more than a dirt-cheap Android tablet, but far from outrageous—basically, it offers the full Windows 8 experience for just $50 more than the cost of the iPad mini.

Not too shabby. We’ll undoubtedly hear more about the Acer Iconia W3—and presumably, a multitude of other small-screen Windows slates—in the weeks and months to come.

Source Article from
Amazon accidentally leaks world’s first small-screen Windows 8 tablet – PCWorld

Technology – Google News
Google News

Eternal Darkness holds a special place in the hearts of many Nintendo fanatics. The GameCube game made excellent use of Lovecraftian horror and introduced an absolutely mindbending sense of trickery to the survival horror genre. The fact that it was published by Nintendo just added to the insanity (pun intended). So naturally, fans have been clamoring for a sequel ever sense.

While it likely won’t be published by Nintendo, we may just get one.

Dennis Dyack and the rest of his Precursor Games team unveiled a teaser trailer for Shadow of the Eternals on IGN yesterday. Eternals is officially billed as a “spiritual successor” to Eternal Darkness, but it is currently planned for release on the Wii U and PC. The complete game will be broken down into 12 episodes, and a crowdfunding campaign will begin on Monday, May 6 in an attempt to fund the first one. Precursor is seeking $1.5 million to help them develop Shadow of the Eternals: Episode One.

It’s likely that Dyack began working on Shadow of the Eternals while he was still at Silicon Knights, the original creators of Eternal Darkness.

Source Article from
Eternal Darkness spiritual successor in development at Precursor Games – Warp Zoned
Technology – Google News
Google News