ROBOTICS NEWS: What's Trending in September 2019

Welcome to the second installment in our monthly series, What's Trending in Robotics News! We will cover all the breaking news, hot issues, trending stories, and cool stuff that is happening - or has happened - in the robotics industry. Let's see what caught our attention this month.

Domo Arigato, Dr. Roboto: Robotics Continue to Make Inroads in Surgical Techniques

Robots want to crawl around your brain - for good purposes, we assure you. Robotics continues to make astonishing progress in the world of surgical procedures. A magnetic "soft robot" developed by those wizards at MIT can enter a person's body through the femoral artery, then (guided by a metal wire thread) travel on up to the brain to remove dangerous blood clots. This remarkable technology earned notices in Vice, TechCrunch, and other sources around the web.

Elsewhere, robots helped to perform the first-ever long-distance heart surgery on a patient in India, with coverage in Popular Mechanics, Interesting Engineering, and other outlets.

It's incredible to think of a world where significant surgeries are being done mostly by robotics, but it appears that's where we are heading. Do you feel more comfortable with the supposedly-perfect hands of a robot or the skills of a human brain and fingers? Fascinating stuff - and certainly something we'll all be dealing with through the future.

Russian Robot Returns: FEDOR Comes Back to Earth

Last month, we highlighted the story of a Russian robot piloting a ship to the International Space Station; now, he's coming back! After a two-week stay, "FEDOR" the robot is on the way back to Mother Russia. It was no pleasure cruise for FEDOR - while it was onboard the ISS, the crew experimented with the robot to see how many of their everyday tasks they could pass on to their mechanical friend. FEDOR's journey earned a wide range of coverage, from Fox News and Yahoo to the Japan Times and The Verge.

We've all grown up with science-fiction examples of these type of helpful robots. One generation had The Robot from "Lost in Space," another had R2D2, this one has TARS and CASE. For the next generation? They may be adoring robots who exist in real life.

Flying Robot Fish! Cool New Tech of the Month

"I caught one that was thisssssss big ... but it was a robot, so I had to give it back."

Well, hopefully, no ambitious fishermen will accidentally catch one of the new flying robot fish that Imperial College London has developed. This robotic fish travels throughout the world to collect water samples - and utilizes a water-powered propulsion system in its rear that can send it gliding up to 85 feet around obstacles. Yep. As detailed in Futurism, The Independent and elsewhere, this robot fish flies by shooting water out of its butt. That's the first time we've ever typed that sentence, for show.

Another fascinating innovation? A new, stretchable optical lace developed at Cornell is a system that can help to give robots even more sensory ability. This "sensitive" topic earned coverage by Cornell's news department, along with The Engineer, Photonics, TechXplore, and many other outlets.

Wouldn't it be cool if those two stories get mixed? Imagine how much fun a robot fish would have, feeling the air on its skin as it soars through the air after a quick dip in the water. Something amusing to think about.

What's New in the Industry?

How about some quick hits around the industry?

  • Hyundai workers are going to use a wearable robotic exoskeleton (called the VEX - or Vest EXoskeleton) to help out on the assembly line. This very neat development (imagine Henry Ford seeing this) got coverage in Digital Trends, New Atlas, Yellow Hammer News, and the Alabama News Center (among others).
  • One of those traditional farming chores may get taken over by robots soon enough; The Robot Report, TechCrunch, Robotics and Automation News, and others reported on FarmWise's Series A round funding. This company is developing an autonomous "weeding robot" to help out farmers.

Honorable Mentions for This Month...

Before we go, here are a few honorable mentions for September.

First (as covered in CNET, Digital Trends, and elsewhere), AI is coming to the McDonald's drive-thru ordering process. Just think, the next time you're hungering for some Mickey D's, you may be ordering from a robot. Again, this shows the ever-growing influence of robotics and AI throughout traditional service jobs.

Second, as we get closer to the new season of Westworld in 2020, check out the interactions between the show's actor Evan Rachel Wood and a robot from Hanson Robotics. This story got coverage in Futurism, CNET, and many other places.

For anyone interested in human-robotics interaction, Westworld is already a must-watch; it's fascinating to see the show coordinating with real-world technology. Also, fun fact - did you know that Westworld is based off a book by Jurassic Park writer Michael Crichton?

What's to Come?

Of course, that's only just a taste of all the robotics news out there, but these are fascinating stories. Robotics seems to be an ever-increasing presence in our daily lives. Think of all the traditional outlets, like the old-fashioned American assembly line or farm work, that are being affected with this new technology. It's intriguing stuff, and we'll be here next month - and every month - after that to deliver you the news you need to hear and see.

One more thing, readers - if you have anything that we should add in for the next edition, let us know! What caught your attention in the robotics world throughout September? Comment below and we might feature it in our next issue!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to stay up to date on the latest news in the field.

Picture credit: 
Imperial College London/Misty Robotics/
Hyundai Motor Group
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