The exceptional flexibility of the seahorse's armor is inspiring engineers looking to develop more flexible arms for robots intended for bomb disposal and underwater exploration. 3D printers are being used to replicate sections of the natural armor, which tests have determined can be compressed more than 50% without causing permanent damage.
Engineer Corinna Lathan's AnthroTronix has developed a robot that helps kids with cerebral palsy work through therapy and a glove that helps soldiers signal during night missions. But these are just a start for the company, whose ultimate aim is providing a completely intuitive interface between human beings and their now sometimes balky electronics.
Organic polymers may be the eventual key to batteries that can flex and fold and that might prove considerably lighter, extending the range of possibilities for a number of products. The promise of added safety as well is spurring research into polymers for use in rechargeable lithium batteries, with a focus on the essential problem of understanding the factors that govern ion transport within these materials.
Japan is providing government subsidies of 50% to 60% of R&D costs for research into robotics to help develop mechanized care for its aging population. Among the practical things envisioned are a robotic suit to lift non-ambulatory patients and a robot that can assist the elderly in walking.
Engineers can help build applications for mobile devices -- and they can also play games and learn from them. Engineering-centric apps require a varying range of skill and knowledge -- from almost none to a quite bit more.