Sensor Sunday: DARPA’s atom-width brain sensor, single-motor robots, and more smart cities!

It’s another Sensor Sunday and there has been more sensor news than we can possibly encapsulate here, but these are some of our favourite stories, plus a look at a really clever single-motor robot.

Iowa Flood Center Installs Sensors to Provide Flood Updates

The Iowa Flood Center (IFC) installed 50 more sensors on the downstream side of bridges across the state, adding to the more than 150 statewide sensors already in place. The sensors work by emitting electronic pulses that measure the distance between the bridge and the water. Data is available to the public on the Iowa Flood Information System website and will help officials respond to floods and help citizens prepare for rising water better.

(via Iowa Now)

Chicago Joins the Gang of Smart Cities

Chicago has joined the fast-growing list of sensing cities. Although they already have sensors on bridges to collect information about temperature and road conditions, the new initiative seeks to gather data about how Chicago functions at various levels through wind, heat, light, precipitation and wi-fi/bluetooth sensors, among others. With the information gathered, the team hopes to improve the design, responsiveness and management of the city.

(via PSFK)

Atom-scale Sensors Could Open New Window Into The Brain

Graphene Sensors Provide View Into the Brain like Never Before

One of the see-through sensors developed by a team of UW-Madison engineers (Photo: Justin Williams research group)

DARPA, with help from researchers at the University of Wisconsin, announced an early stage project that allows them to gain more insight into the brain’s structure and function. Using graphene sensors just four atoms thick that behave both electrically and optically, they will be able to get a vivid picture of the mind. The non-toxic sensor arrays will be implanted into the brain then used to stimulate and monitor activity in a continuous stream.

(DARPA & University of Wisconson News via Endgaget)

An Easy DIY Balancing Robot Using Ultrasonic Sensors

One project that particularly impressed me was Mike Redrobe’s ultrasonic balancing robot. Most balancing robots use gyros to achieve stabilization, but Redrobe’s robot has an ultrasonic distance sensor pointed at the floor. This means that if the sensor measures a shorter distance the bot is falling forward and a longer distance, the bot is falling backwards. It’s a pretty neat design.

(via LetsMakeRobots)

A Steerable Robot Made With A Single Motor

Biomimetic Millisystems Lab have designed a remarkable robot that operates off a single motor. The robot is called 1STAR, for “1 actuator STeerAble Robot.” IEEE describes the robot’s locomotion here:

The robot’s legs make contact with the floor in a tripod pattern. At a given point in time, one front and one rear leg are touching the floor, along with one middle (compliant) leg on the opposite side. If the robot accelerates, the compliant leg bends while the rigid legs don’t, and the robot will turn towards the compliant side, since the bending leg doesn’t move as far. If the acceleration of the robot remains constant, this will happen on each stride, and the robot will move forward. If, however, the robot only accelerates when the compliant leg on one side is touching the floor, and then decelerates when the compliant leg on the other side is touching the floor, it’ll turn in one direction. Switch up the acceleration and deceleration, and the robot will turn in the other direction. These changes in acceleration happen fast enough that you can’t see it as the robot moves, but as the video shows, the robot is easily capable of avoiding obstacles.

Really amazing.

(via IEEE)

Come back next Sunday for more updates about developments in sensor technology and applications. Do you know of something happening in the field? Please leave a comment with more information and links.

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Math lover. Engineering communicator. Mad-lib enthusiast. Total nerd.

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