robotics

Usain Bolt Has Nothing on This Cutting-Edge New Robot

Usain Bolt, the world's fastest human, has nothing on the Cheetah.

No, not the animal.

I'm talking about the four-legged robot built by the research division of the Pentagon known as DARPA. Their Cheetah robot recently clocked in at 28.30 miles per hour.

To be sure, the bot had a slight edge - it ran on a treadmill. Bolt was running on a track when he set the speed record for man at 27.78 mph.

Still, researchers say the Cheetah's new speed record shows that robots are becoming ever more agile. DARPA wants to use the bots to traverse tough terrain, like debris, ditches, and rocks.

Meantime, remember how I told you back in July about the robofish that could help save the oceans?

Next up are "coralbots." These diving ocean bots are designed to work in "swarms," like bees or ants. They may sound menacing but are being put to good use - saving the coral reefs.

Reefs are underwater living organisms essential to healthy life in the oceans. They make up some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world and do a lot to protect our shorelines. And they are in danger, not only from pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, but from overfishing, disease, agricultural runoff, a rising sea temperature, and ocean acidification.

That's why researchers in the U.K. are programming the bots to work in swarms to find coral fragments and re-cement them to the reef, restoring the structures. They will start work in the cold, deep waters off Scotland - a stretch often too challenging for humans.

Of course, these weren't the only fascinating high-tech advance I came across this month.

Here are some others that will blow you away....

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Liquid Robotics is About to Grab a Big Piece of a Gigantic But Little-Known Market

Technology investors should keep an eye on Bill Vass. He's making a big splash in robotics.

You may not have heard of him but he used to run a $1.4 billion unit for Sun Microsystems that dealt with federal contracts. When Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq:ORCL) later acquired Sun, Vass' work there played a major role.

Before that, Vass served as an information technology (IT) honcho at the Pentagon. He had major input into some 6,800 defense IT systems with a budget of more than $35.5 billion.

As one of the nation's most senior high-tech experts, Vass now serves as CEO of a small but well-funded startup.

It's called Liquid Robotics.   

And its self-propelled water bots can travel from California to Hawaii without using a single drop of fuel.

But here's where the big payoff comes in for investors: each bot is packed with sensors that can gather a wide range of critical data about the world's oceans.

Believe it or not, that opens up a gigantic but little-known opportunity.  

According to Vass, that potentially puts Liquid Robotics at the forefront of a $40 billion market.

And from what I can see, Vass is making all the right moves.

One to Keep an Eye On

In fact, Vass recently launched a new unit that will target the Pentagon for sales at a time when the Navy desperately needs cheaper sources of data.

Meanwhile, just a few weeks earlier, Liquid Robotics snared both a contract and an investment from Schlumberger Ltd. (NYSE:SLB), the oil services giant with a market cap of about $100 billion.

As I see it, that means Liquid Robotics is now on a clear path to issuing shares to the public in as little as three years.

Along the way, Vass is making quite a name for himself and his firm.

For investors that's a good thing, since it helps build the brand, keeping potential competitors at bay while adding value to any IPO down the road.

Turns out, Vass is in high demand these days.

While I was on the phone with one of his reps to arrange a chat with Vass, Liquid Robotics was juggling the details of a special about tracking great white sharks that ran on the Discovery Channel.

The TV show featured the firm's Wave Glider, the wave-powered marine robot that looks like a high-tech surfboard. The autonomous device has already set world records by covering some 13,000 nautical miles on the high seas.

His PR rep also was working out the details of an interview with Time magazine. All of this follows recent stories in both The New York Times and Forbes.

So, I'm glad to report that Vass was able to fit me in to his crowded schedule.

After all, Liquid Robotics is one of those startups you need to know about as a key player in what I call the Era of Radical Change.

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With Internet Traffic Set to Zoom, Here's the Stock You Need to Buy Now


Back on May 9, Internet bellwether Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) warned investors of a weaker-than-expected outlook for the current quarter - thanks to what CEO John Chambers described as a "cautious" spending environment for networking gear.

Cisco's shares were trashed - as were many other tech-sector stocks.

So I was more than a little surprised when Cisco later announced that a new company study says that Web traffic will quadruple in the next four years.

That's one hell of an about-face. But if it's true, it also represents one hell of a profit opportunity.

To sort this out - and get the real story for you - I went directly to our new tech-sector expert: Radical Technology Profits Editor Michael A. Robinson.

The bottom line is that Michael says Cisco's traffic estimate is accurate in terms of its magnitude. He's a bit less sanguine about its target date, however.

"You know Bill, there's an old investing adage that says to never have a date and a number in the same statement," Michael quipped. "Like so many futurists, Cisco is guilty of making an all-too-definitive statement. I have no doubt that the company is correct in the broadest sense in terms of the traffic increase it sees. We'll see about the timing."

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New Touch Technology Paves the Way for a Robotic Jimi Hendrix

Most people could easily tell the difference between an apple and an orange, even if you put a blindfold on them.

No, they wouldn't have to taste or smell either one to be sure. Quite simply, they could pick out each fruit just by feeling it.

Our sense of touch is a key part of the human experience. It's why we prefer to wear shirts or blouses made of silk instead of those made from burlap.

Not only that, touch is the only one of our five senses that covers our entire bodies. And we have lots of nerve endings all over waiting to give us this tactile feedback. Consider that your fingertips alone contain some 1,000 touch receptors - roughly 100 for each tip of each finger.

If you stop and think about it for a moment, you'll realize just how complex the sense of touch really is. It combines the feelings of hot and cold, rough and smooth, wet and dry, soft and hard, as well as pain and pleasure.

Now just imagine trying to put such a complex system into a sensor so small it could fit into the tip of a robot's "finger." No doubt that would a huge breakthrough.

For one thing, it would make robots far more "human"...

It would open up a whole new range of jobs for robots in industry, farming, and mining.

It could even usher in the day when a robot could learn to play the electric guitar in a way that rivals the late rock legend Jimi Hendrix. And it could certainly improve the quality of life for millions of amputees around the world.

Robotic Touch That Rivals the Human Hand

That's why I'm so excited to introduce you to SynTouch LLC, a small San Diego startup focused on making tactile sensors for robots. The firm wants to create the same type of dynamic range as that found in the human hand.



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Investing in the Robotics Revolution

You may not live or work with any robots today... but you will soon.

The robotics market is about to explode.

I predict that, in the next few years, we will see swarms of robots entering the workplace.

Of course, we've had bots working in factories for years now. But as they get both cheaper and smarter, we will find lots of new jobs for them to do. And they'll do those jobs better and better.

Robots of all sizes are already capable of doing some very complex tasks: They can perform surgery, hair transplants, and even climb inside the human body - through the mouth - to "eat" stomach cancers.

To understand the scale of the robotics revolution, just look at what's happening in China.

Cheap labor in that nation not only stole U.S. jobs, it vaulted China to the front ranks of fast-growing markets. But now robots are invading Chinese factories in a big way.

Take the case of Foxconn International Holdings Ltd., which is based in Taiwan and makes electronic components and other goods for big computer firms (it supplies parts for the iPad, iPhone, Xbox, and Kindle).

Well, Foxconn announced it plans to buy enough robots to replace roughly half the firm's 1.2 million workers in China. This is the largest robotics rollout in the history.

The trade group the International Federation of Robotics says there are about one million industrial robots now in use around the world. So, based on Foxconn's rollout alone - one company in one country - we know that figure is set to more than double by the end of the decade.

The robotics revolution is here.

So what's a clever tech investor to do?

Let's dig into the latest activities of one visionary robotics expert who's so engrossed in the field, he once told a reporter he winced when RoboCop went "belly up"...

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A New Robotic Horde Means Big Business for iRobot (Nasdaq: IRBT)

Don't let the recent sell-off in iRobot Corp. (Nasdaq: IRBT) shares get you down about robotics.

The truth is, this small-cap robotics leader just reported record results for 2011.

Shares of iRobot only fell when the company warned that tight defense budgets could curb sales of "warbots" until the second half of the year.

iRobot investors who are concerned that the drubbing is a reason to worry about the future of this industry are making a very big mistake.

Here's why.

An Asian electronics firm alone will field nearly 1 million new robots in less than five years. And in a moment I'll give you the details behind this robotic horde....

But first I want to make sure you know why I'm so bullish about this emerging high-tech field.

After all, in the Era of Radical Change, robots and other smart machines will transform the world in ways we still don't fully understand.

A Robotic Leap Forward

I realize that robots have been around for at least 30 years in factories. I actually saw some of the earliest versions in use at a General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) plant in the early 1980s.

But today, the robotics industry continues to register one advance after another...

You see, we've reached critical mass in key areas. Today we have better software, chips, programming, and artificial intelligence.

All these high-tech advancements add up to a new generation of robots that can perform highly complex jobs.

Now, even low-cost Chinese workers who steal jobs from Americans face pressure from this new generation of "workerbots."

Just ask the workers at Foxconn International Holdings Ltd., a firm based in Taiwan that makes products for big computer firms.


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A Hundred Billion Reasons to Invest in Robotics Technology

Here's a 100 billion reasons why space technology should be on your radar screen -especially if you're interested in robotics.

According to the journal Nature, the Milky Way Galaxy alone contains at least 100 billion planets.

Now forgive me if I sound excited...but that is huge.

After all, just 20 years ago, astronomers still widel y believed that our own tiny solar system contained allof the major planets.

So when I talk about how we are entering an Era of Radical Change, this is exactly what I'm talking about.

It's not about tiny incremental changes but gigantic shifts in thought.

And here is something else to ponder...

With all of this new data, scientists now believe the universe may contain more than 150 billion galaxies. The math is enough to make your head spin.

How Nuclear-Powered Robots Are Winning the New Space Race

All this brings to mind one key point: The odds that we are alone in the universe grow smaller and smaller every day.

That puts us on the cusp of a New Space Race - one that will undoubtedly favor robots.

That's why I think NASA's new Spidernaut is such an important piece of technology. It's an eight-legged robot that looks like it crawled right out of a sci-fi movie.

NASA plans to use these robots to help construct a new generation of space-science platforms that are so large and fragile they'll have to be built in orbit.

As it turns out, spiders are really nimble creatures. NASA designed the prototype arachnid robot to have the grace and weight distribution of real spiders.

If the technology works as planned, these giant spider robots would crawl across a "web" of space tethers so as not to damage delicate equipment.

Now how cool is that?...

It all goes to show you that despite the soft global economy and budget cuts, we've actually never had more interest in space exploration.

But this time it's not just the United States and Russia. Indeed, China, India and Japan are also funding major programs.



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