Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Robotic Worm For Colonoscopy

Learning to Crawl
By Karen Epper Hoffman May 30, 2005

"Engineering is starting to take inspiration from biology as we come across challenges that machines can't solve," Mangan says.
.. the Case Western work typifies a shift in robotics, where more engineers will copy biological systems to create "anthropomorphic robots" made of softer and lighter materials that operate like a living creature.

With that in mind, Case Western graduate student in mechanical engineering Liz Mangan had a challenging task in building the robotic device that Chiel and his colleagues Roger Quinn, director of the university’s Biorobotics Laboratory, and Randy Beer, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, designed in 2000.

A team of researchers at Case Western Reserve University have created a robotic device that moves much like a slug or earthworm -- and it could ultimately become the ideal tool to help doctors perform colonoscopies.

Building on several years of work studying the movements and behavior of soft-tissue animals, Chiel's team has constructed an endoscopic device made up of three muscle-like latex actuators -- mechanisms that help the robot move in its environment -- covered in nylon mesh. The device resembles a nine-inch hollow worm with a small camera inside it. Right now, it's about a half-inch wide, but the team hopes to miniaturize it down to no more than 20 millimeters in diameter.

By inflating and contracting the mechanism, using a self-managing movable seal system that the researchers had to create, the actuator segments move the robotic "worm" forward -- the same way its biological counterpart scrunches its body to propel itself. Doctors will use a joystick, initially connected by wire to the device, to control the direction in which it travels, says Chiel.

Learning to Crawl

Maybe use a bug instead of a worm.

Link to SnakeBot Gallery

Underwater Robot Begins Gulf Stream Journey

Underwater Robot Launched From Bermuda To Cross Gulf Stream

A small autonomous underwater vehicle, or AUV, named Spray was launched recently about 12 miles southeast of Bermuda. The two-meter-(6-foot)-long orange glider with a four-foot wingspan will slowly make its way northwest, crossing the Gulf Stream and reaching the continental shelf on the other side before turning around and heading back to Bermuda, where it will be recovered in July.

The voyage will be the vehicle's second trip across the Gulf Stream.Spray made history last fall as the first AUV to cross the Gulf Stream, but this time it is making the trip from the other direction. The 112-pound vehicle was launched by researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution near a long-term research site known as Station S. Scientists Breck Owens from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Russ Davis and Jeff Sherman of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, will track its progress and are able to communicate with the vehicle via satellite during the mission to change course or alter the information it is collecting while at sea.

The vehicle, which looks like a model airplane with no visible moving parts, will proceed north at about one-half knot, roughly half a mile an hour or 12 miles per day, measuring various properties of the ocean as it glides up to the surface and then glides back down to 1,000-meters depth (3,300 feet) three times a day. Every seven hours Spray spends about 15 minutes on the surface to relay its position and information about ocean conditions, such as temperature, salinity and pressure, via satellite back to Woods Hole, Mass., and San Diego.

Underwater Robot Launched From Bermuda To Cross Gulf Stream


Monday, May 30, 2005

Toyota Aims for Home Robot Market

Toyota aims to sell service robots by 2010-Asahi
Mon May 30, 2005 08:12 PM ET

TOKYO (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp.aims to start selling robots that can help look after elderly people or serve tea to guests by 2010, the Asahi daily reported on Tuesday.

Japan's top automaker sees a declining birthrate and aging population leading to growing demand for robots that can help in tasks such as child care and nursing care, the report said.

Toyota will soon set up a liaison committee to develop technology for the robots with group firms, including car parts maker Denso Corp. , it added.

So far, Toyota Partner robot entertains by playing the trumpet.

Science News Article | Reuters.com

Robot Bug To Explore Intenstines

Robot combined with swallowable camera could give docs a better look inside the small intestine Gutcheck

Monday, May 30, 2005
By Byron Spice, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Metin Sitti, director of the NanoRobotics Lab, is developing a set of legs that could be incorporated into the swallowable camera-in-a-pill that has become available in the past four years for diagnosing gastrointestinal disorders in the small intestine.

But Sitti is hoping that adding legs to the capsule will give physicians a measure of control. The work is supported by the Intelligent Microsystems Center in Seoul, Korea, and sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy.

Polymer pads on the leg tips, mimicking the adhesive foot pads of the palmetto beetle, would stick to the intestinal walls. The adhesive foot pads require very little pressure, yet enable the beetle to withstand forces of more than 200 times its body weight.

A more elaborate, telescoping capsule, featuring a set of three legs on either end, would enable it to crawl as if it were inchworm. The capsule could thus go rapidly to a point of interest or, if sufficient power was available, move upstream to give doctors a second look at a suspicious lesion.

echnologists have long speculated about the potential for medical/surgical robots that could maneuver inside the body. Another CMU roboticist, Cameron Riviere, is developing his own robotic inchworm that would use suction pads to adhere to the exterior of a beating heart. The two-footed device, called HeartLander, might be used to inject cells or drugs, implant electrodes or perform coronary artery bypass procedures.

In addition to equipping the robot with biopsy capability, it also might be used to deliver anti-inflammatory or other medications. Lebovitz said that a robot equipped with a flashing light might even help surgeons find a diseased area that needs to be excised.

For that matter, Sitti said, it may be possible to someday equip an intestinal robot to perform surgeries beyond just biopsies. But for now, developing a robot that could improve diagnosis of digestive tract disease is the immediate concern.

Robot combined with swallowable camera could give docs a better look inside the small intestine

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Robot Bartender to Debut in Scotland

Young Scot set for share in millions from robot barman
By Julia Fields

The UK club industry could be transformed by an invention that promises to put an end to tiresome bar queues and at the same time curb the binge-drinking culture.

Glasgow entrepreneur Michael Bowes will this week officially unveil a vending machine that dispenses bottles of beer with an electronic robotic hand.

Bowes, managing director of Bowes Enterprises, has signed a manufacturing deal with Japanese conglomerate Fuji for the Barhand machines. Bowes will have the exclusive rights to sell the product in Europe and elsewhere.

Orders have already been taken from bars and clubs across England and elsewhere in Europe. But the first unit will be installed in one of Glasgow’s largest clubs, The Garage.

Patrick Browne, spokesman for the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said Bowes Enterprises would have to address a number of crucial issues. He said: “One of the offences in licensing laws is allowing people to sell alcohol to someone who is drunk. How do you stop someone who is drunk from going and using the vending machine again? The other issue is the physical supervision of the sale, again something that is required.”

A survey of 500 people aged 18-50 in Glasgow showed that 75% bought several drinks at the same time when they had to wait in a queue. Bowes is convinced that if these queues are eliminated, punters will buy one drink at a time and pace their consumption .

Young Scot set for share in millions from robot barman - [Sunday Herald]

Friday, May 27, 2005

Robotics Industry Off to Fastest Start Ever - Robotics Online

Robotics Industry Off to Fastest Start Ever

First Quarter Orders Up 30% in North America

Ann Arbor, MI – The North American robotics industry had its best opening quarter ever, with new robot orders up 30%, according to new statistics released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group headquartered here.

A total of 5,316 robots valued at $302.5 million were ordered by North American manufacturing companies in the January-March period. An additional 272 robots valued at $18 million were ordered by manufacturing companies outside North America.

‘‘It was an outstanding quarter, one of the best since we started tracking robot sales in 1983,’‘ said Donald A. Vincent, Executive Vice President of RIA.

Automotive manufacturers and suppliers accounted for about 70% of the orders in the first quarter. In non-automotive sectors, strong growth was seen in primary metals industries (+63%) and food & consumer goods (+33%).

Robotics Industry Off to Fastest Start Ever - Robotics Online

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$50 million more for robotic weapons control

General Dynamics gets $50 million more for battlefield robotics

General Dynamics Robotics Systems of Westminster, Md., received $50.7 million in additional funding for its Army Future Combat Systems Autonomous Navigation System, designed to bring next-generation robotic ground vehicles to the battlefield to aid warfighters.

The increase was awarded by Future Combat System contractor Science Applications International Corp. and brings General Dynamics' total FCS contract value to $237 million. SAIC and Boeing Co. are lead systems integrators for FCS.

General Dynamics Robotic Systems, a unit of General Dynamics Corp., is designing and manufacturing a system that can autonomously control several of the 18 manned and unmanned ground vehicles that are part of the program. FCS ultimately will link 18 ground and air weapons systems and sensors on a common computer network.

The contractor will work on vehicles including the Multifunctional Utility Logistics Equipment (MULE) platform, Armed Reconnaissance Vehicle (ARV) and Manned Ground Vehicles (MGV).

The Autonomous Navigation System "will comprise field sensor and software solutions based on autonomous mobility technology," said Scott Myers, president of General Dynamics Robotic Systems. Myers said the ANS system -- the intelligence of FCS robotic vehicles -- will advance the Army's vision of a lighter, faster future force

General Dynamics recently won three add-on contracts for its FCS work. The company's Land Systems division in Sterling Heights, Mich., won a $282 million modification to its $2 billion contract for engineering development and demonstration of a family of MGVs for FCS. The work will be done in Sterling Heights and Muskegon, Mich. and Woodbridge, Va.

In late April, General Dynamics and Rockwell Collins Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, won a $153.9 million contract modification to speed development of the Integrated Computer System, the common computer environment for FCS.

General Dynamics is No. 5 on Washington Technology's Top 100 list of prime government IT contractors.

General Dynamics gets $50 million more for battlefield robotics

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Baby Robot Simulator for Medical Training

Medical Education Technologies, Inc of Sarasota, Florida has announced the addition of a robot baby mannequin to their line of medical patient simulators.
The sophisticated baby, BabySim, is anatomically correct and has tears, drool, noises and pulse.

The robots run on Human Patient Simulator (HPS) software to mimic an actual patient. They will even die if treated improperly.
The baby extends the product line that already includes Stan, the Standard Man, a child, PediaSim and other more specific body-training models.

AirSim Airway Simulator

Medical Education Technologies, Inc.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Robots in Manufacturing

"Robot Resurgence"

Although robots are not new to manufacturing, recent advances in technology and the availability of lower-cost products should expand the use of robotics. Combine these trends with other forces, including scarce labor, worker safety, productivity and ergonomics, and robots may become a stronger force in many areas of manufacturing.

In addition, the growing use of simulation, which simplifies and expedites the programming of robot paths, has accelerated the start-up process -- making robots available to more, and smaller, operations.

However, the greater availability of the technology raises other issues in the manufacturing operation. What cannot be overlooked in new installations is the human factor, especially if the robot will automate a manual operation. Communication and training are essential to defuse employee fears about job loss and ensure worker safety around the robot cell. "The impact of robots will be felt plant-wide," according to Robotics for Senior Management, a paper published by the Robotics Industries Association (Ann Arbor, MI).

With robots playing an important role in how customers receive shipments, many manufacturers are moving to integrate enterprise systems all the way down to the robot level.
Advances in technology have made a higher level of connectivity possible between robot and back-end systems, such as enterprise resource planning or warehouse management.
"The level of data integration inside factories is incredible," says Campbell. "Controller technology now is thoroughly robust and can happily communicate with any level of intelligent device on the floor,"
However, bridging the gap between the manufacturing world and the data world presents new concerns.
In a data-driven system, everything is driven by information moving between databases. As a result, when the data world is integrated with robotics, there have to be contingency and recovery plans for glitches, such as power failures.

"Robot Resurgence" – a Managing Automation� article

Study: Heart Surgery Robots Are Worth the Cost

Dr. Jeffrey A. Morgan and his team at Columbia University in New York concluded that robotic technology did not significantly increase hospital cost. Adding these cost benefits to the improvement in patients' postoperative quality of life and quicker return to activity resulting from robotic surgery, the investment in this emerging technology could be justified.

While potential benefits of robotic technology include decreased morbidity and improved recovery, some have suggested a prohibitively high cost.

A recent study in Journal of Cardiac Surgery compared actual hospital costs of robotically assisted cardiac procedures with conventional techniques. The research looked at financial data of 20 patients who underwent two different cardiac procedures using robotic and conventional approaches. It was determined that although actual hospital cost to conduct the procedure was not higher, when considering the capital investment for the robot, costs were just $300.00 higher.

Is robotic technology reducing health care costs for cardiac patients?


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

iRobot goes for water sports

'BOTS Roomba Repurposed

The sequel to the successful Roomba—1.2 million sold, the most ever for a home robot— it's an automated mop called Scooba, which looks and sounds like the Roomba but wets, washes and dries floors.

Scientists at iRobot have been trying to solve the delicate technical challenges of a mop-bot for more than two years. Early prototypes used off-the-shelf detergent and became bubble-spewing machines that spun their wheels on the wet surface.

Scooba, which will go on sale by the end of the year at a still undecided price, works in four stages. A high-velocity jet stream pushes loose particles into a dirty-water compartment. Then two nozzles squirt cleaning fluid from a clean tank, and a mustache brush spreads it around. A scrubbing brush then rubs the floor and, finally, a squeegee sucks the dirty liquid into the dirty tank. iRobot's sales pitch: the separate clean and dirty compartments allow Scooba to do a better job than humans, who tend to spread dirty water around. "We are not just going to replace mopping, we are going to obsolete it," Angle says. Humans, we imagine, will gladly turn over this particular chore to our automated friends.

'BOTS Roomba Repurposed - Newsweek Periscope - MSNBC.com


Asimo UK tour update

EDP24 - Prince upstaged by robot

One of the world's most advanced bipedal robots, Asimo, was the star of the show, despite the Duke of York's presence at the official opening of a £3.5m car Honda centre.

But after handing over the scissors and shaking hands with the Prince, flag-waving school children chanted Asimo's name while his new royal friend toured the showroom and workshop.

The invention then turned and waved to the children from nearby Fen Park, Dell and Meadow Primary Schools, before showing off his talents, including standing on one foot and pretending to be a chicken to the watching media.

And although his battery was running low, the Japanese robot returned later to thank the Prince for his visit.

“Thank you for visiting us today,” Asimo mocked. “It's been a very special occasion for us all.”

EDP24 - Prince upstaged by robot

Robot Hand Available

Shadow Robot Company:Commercial Hand

THE SHADOW ROBOT COMPANY has developed the worlds most advanced Dexterous Hand.

We now intend to produce a limited number of second generation prototypes for sale to research and development organisations and other interested parties.


# Research
# Medicine
# Industries
# Entertainment
# Edutainment

Shadow Robot Company:Commercial Hand

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Asimo Spotted partying with Prince Andrew

EDP24 - Duke of York to meet robot

Later the Prince will perform the official opening at the £3.5 million Ling's Honda Centre, and meet Asimo

It is hoped the robot [Asimo, not the Duke], which can also recognise faces and approach when beckoned, could eventually find gainful employment in homes and offices.

It is also understood that Asimo will hand the Prince scissors to cut the ribbon to officially open the centre.

EDP24 - Duke of York to meet robot

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Robot Menu

The Robot Menu is a gallery of robots created by humans.
Hobbyists send in their creations to show off to the world.

The site is run By Arrick Robots, a supplier of robots, parts and information.

Arrick Robotics� ---� The Robot Menu

Friday, May 20, 2005

Home Care Robots from Toshiba

Toshiba unveils go-with-you robot sidekick
May 20, 2005, 15:48 gmt

TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese electronics giant Toshiba unveiled robots to help out the elderly and children from the home to the shopping mall by following them and responding to their voices.
The "ApriAttanda" identifies an individual with its visual sensor and high-speed image processing system and follows the person.

When the person moves forward, the robot moves forward. When the person stops, the robot stops -- while maintaining a certain distance.
If the robot loses contact with its companion, it calls to the person and responds to their reply, Toshiba said.

Apri robots from Toshiba

The other type of robot, nicknamed "sharp ear," detects the directions of voices from multiple speakers with six built-in microphones and recognizes what they have said.
The company plans to develop the robots further so that they "can accompany people to shopping complexes and carry things, look after young children and elderly people."

It also aims to make the robots capable of sending images to family members outside showing what is going on at home.

The company targets commercialization of the robot sidekicks in five or six years time.


Robots in the Military Today

Military Robots Demonstrated

Cutting-edge robotics head for battle
By Kristin Wilson, May 19, 2005

Examples of just some of the cutting-edge technologies that are making their way onto today's battlefields were on display Wednesday at Carlisle Barracks. The aerial, ground and bunker-hole devices all have similar missions — to defeat enemy forces while minimizing casualties to American troops.

Roadside ambushes
"Every day in Iraq, you hear about roadside ambushes," says Air Force Lt. Col. Steve Ward. That's why the Air Force's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Battlelab is working to get lighter, more mobile and easy to use "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles" (UAVs) to accompany convoy units.

Robotic Evacuation Vehicle
The U.S. Army is developing a way for robots to detect and protect wounded soldiers in the field.
Members of the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) and the Telemedicine and Advance Technology Research Center are working on robotic teams that will be able to find downed soldiers and protect them while a field medic gets to the scene.
Robert Watts of TARDEC explains the robotic version of a Red Cross van will roll into a field and send off a smaller robot capable of detecting human life.

Robot Medic

"It has sensors that can detect wounded individuals. It can identify respiratory and heart rate," says Watts. The robot can also cover a soldier with a "ballistic blanket" for further protection.

Explosive Disabler Robot
Experiences with explosive devices in the Middle East prompted defense contractors to come up with a robot that can examine and potentially disable bombs.

The Foster-Miller company robot — TALON — is the main platform for the specialized system that allows Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) soldiers to investigate a suspicious item from a secure, remote location, explains Dave Kowachek of TARDEC.

A bomb defuser is attached to the robot so that an explosive device can be eliminated, minimizing damage to the surrounding area. This type of technology is especially important when a bomb is discovered on a bridge or urban area, where it would not be possible to detonate the devise safely, Kowachek says.

Helicopter Surveillance Robot
For 15 years a dedicated team of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a highly intelligent, unmanned, autonomous helicopter that can map terrain or chase a target.

Like an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the helicopter's advantage is providing a bird's eye view of unknown territory. However, a helicopter model has specific advantages, says Dr. Omead Amidi, a research faculty member at the university.

"A helicopter is good because it can stop. When you can stop, you can look around, you can chase someone," he says. It is also easier to change altitudes, take off and land. The Carnegie Mellon helicopter system doesn't require a person to be on the ground to help with takeoff or landing.

Army Helicopter Robot

In fact, the helicopter doesn't require any manning at all. While a remote-control option is available, the helicopter's computer system can be programmed to complete a mission without any human interaction.
The Carnegie Mellon team developed intelligence that programs helicopters to "follow" unique or specialized objects it comes across.

The Sentinel Online - Archived Story

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Flexible tactile sensors

Flexible tactile sensors could help robots work better
James E. Kloeppel, Physical Sciences Editor
217-244-1073; kloeppel@uiuc.edu

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A robot’s sensitivity to touch could be vastly improved by an array of polymer-based tactile sensors that has been combined with a robust signal-processing algorithm to classify surface textures. The work, performed by a team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is an essential step in the development of robots that can identify and manipulate objects in unstructured environments.

“We are developing artificial tactile sensors that will imitate the functionality and efficiency found in biological structures such as human fingers,” said Chang Liu, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Illinois. “We have shown that simple, low-cost sensor arrays can be used to analyze and identify surface textures.”

The research team consisted of Liu and Jones (who also are researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology), and graduate students Jonathan Engel and Sung-Hoon Kim. They describe the construction and operation of their tactile sensory array in the May issue of the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, published by the Institute of Physics (http://www.iop.org/EJ/journal/JMM).

The sensors are fabricated from an inexpensive polymer sheet using photolithographic patterning techniques. In the reported work, the researchers created a 4 x 4 array (16 sensors) and evaluated its performance.

See also High-Tech Skin

Flexible tactile sensors could help robots work better

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

More Money for Swarms

Engineers to Develop Robot Swarms from MARS

Engineers at the University of Pennsylvania have received a $5 million grant from the Department of Defense to develop large-scale "swarms" of robots that could work together to thoroughly search large areas from the ground and sky.
The Scalable Swarms of Autonomous Robots and Sensors or the Swarms Project, as it is known takes organizational cues from the natural world where tens or even hundreds of small, independent robots work together to accomplish specific tasks, such as finding a bomb in a crowded city.

Penn's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception Laboratory will receive the five-year grant from the federal government under the Defense Department's Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative program. The Swarms project is based upon the success of the GRASP Lab's smaller-scale Multiple Autonomous Robotics project, which managed the movement and behavior of about a dozen robots.

While MARS demonstrated the feasibility of such a program, the Swarms Project will take the complexity involved to a new level. To get a better grasp of swarming behavior, Kumar and his colleagues are looking to the natural world for inspiration.

The Swarms Project brings together a cross-disciplinary team of researchers with expertise in artificial intelligence, control theory, robotics, systems engineering and biology. They will take cues from the sort of group behaviors that appear in beehives, ant colonies, wolf packs, bird flocks and fish schools. But the GRASP researchers are also working with molecular and cell biologists interested in the complicated signaling processes and group behaviors that go on inside and among cells.

Engineers to Develop Robot Swarms from MARS

Previous post about Swarms

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Grant to Develop Robot Swarms

May 16, 2005

Couple Receive Grant to Develop Robots

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - A couple who work in the University of Wyoming's Computer Science Department have received a $100,000 National Science Foundation grant to further develop tiny robots that could help clean up oil spills or respond to a terrorist attack.

"Somebody from the National Science Foundation came out here and said we had the best robotics work he'd ever seen," Diana Spears said.

Spears and her husband, William, envision robots that would communicate with one another, relaying information back to humans or to a larger robot that would take care of the problem.

A swarm of small robots would cover a larger area more quickly than a single robot, and if one failed, the others could take up the slack.

The robots would travel in a formation based on a theory developed by William Spears.

They plan to have an operational system in about a year, when they hope to hold demonstrations for the military and others.

Eventually they hope to develop robots that could fly or swim. "When we get our demos going of what our robots can do, that's going to really wow people," Spears said.

Las Vegas SUN: Couple Receive Grant to Develop Robots

More on swarm robotics from swarm-robotics.org:

Swarm robotics can be defined as the study of how a swarm of relatively simple physically embodied agents can be contructed to collectively accomplish tasks that are beyond the capabilities of a single one. Different from other studies on multi-robot systems, swarm robotics emphasizes self-organization and emergence while keeping in mind the issues of scalability and robustness. These emphases promote the use of relatively simple robots, equipped with localized sensing abilities, scalable communication mechanisms and the exploration of decentralized control strategies.

ICU Rx Robot Avatar Success

It looks like the introduction of the Robot avatar, Roni, into the intensive care unit of the UCLA hospital back in March is going well.
The unit is an RP-6 from inTouch Health.

CBS 5: Robot Doctors in the ICU

May 16, 2005 5:03 pm US/Pacific
A robot doctor has become a valuable member of the neurosurgery intensive care unit at UCLA.

Roni is a five-foot, six-inch tall robot who makes bedside visits with a twist. The patient sees, hears, and interacts with their doctor through this life-size robot, and that means the doctor can see first hand how the patient is doing.
But there's an alarming shortage of ICU doctors across the country. Fewer than 6000 specialists practice in America today, and more than 5 million patients are admitted to ICUs every year.
The robot is equipped with a monitor and a video camera, so the specialists can see and interact with the patient in real time from a remote location.
"Talking to the doctor in terms of the robot -- it almost seemed like he was right there," said Timothy Copeland.


That may be the most important part of robo-doc. It lets you connect with your doctors when you need them the most.

CBS 5: Robot Doctors in the ICU

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

High-Tech Robot Skin

by Lori Keesey

Goddard Technologist Proposes Sensitive Skin Covering for Robots

Lumelsky, until recently a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has begun setting up a laboratory at Goddard to develop a high-tech covering that would enable robots to sense their environment and react to it, much like humans respond when something or someone touches their skin. Such a technology, which he refers to as a "High-Tech Skin," is essential for carrying out the Vision for Space Exploration because the Vision depends heavily on humans and robots working together under a variety of working conditions, many of them highly unstructured, Lumelsky said.

Although great headway is being made in the area of computer vision, vision isn’t enough, he said. "Humans can survive without sight, but they can’t survive without tactile sensing. The skin is the biggest organ in our body. It's nothing more than a huge sensor."

The idea is to develop a "sensitive skin" that technicians could use to cover a robot. This skin will include more than 1,000 infrared sensors that would detect an object, and send the information to the robot's "brain."
Future skin prototypes likely will have a higher density of sensors on the skin, which will provide the robots with even greater dexterity.

PhysOrg: High-Tech Robot Skin

Robots Replace forklift drivers

CourierPress: Business

Robots latest line of automated processes at GE plant

By TOM RAITHEL, Courier & Press staff writer 464-7595 or raithel@evansville.net
May 13, 2005

he big yellow fork lifts move without drivers over the factory floor. They lift boxes weighing hundreds of pounds and back up and steer down the lanes. Emitting regular beeps, they are guided by a laser sent from the top of what might otherwise be a cab.

Warehouse Robots

They bring their boxes to large conveyor belt that will load them onto trucks - all automatically.

The robots, or SGVs (Scanner Guided Vehicles) as they are called at GE, are the latest in a line of automated processes that have been applied to the packaging area of the Lexan production unit at the Mount Vernon plant.

Much of this process has been automated for years. But until recently, a certain portion of it, the movement of boxes from the finishing line to the truck to the warehouse, was done by workers driving forklifts, or operating other machinery.

The team's purpose was "to eliminate the nonvalue added jobs," Garris said. This means getting rid of work that is relatively menial to let workers do other things.

They selected FMC Technologies and Manufacturing Solutions Inc., both of Pennsylvania, to help build the machines.

In addition to the laser-guided fork lifts, the team designed a stacker that will automatically stack boxes (and make sure each of several products is stacked in the right place), a conveyor that will load them onto trucks and a conveyor that takes them from the trucks to the warehouse on GE property.
CourierPress: Business

Self-stacking Blocks

Cornell News: self-replicating robots

Cornell University researchers have created a machine that can build copies of itself.

Their robots are made up of a series of modular cubes -- called "molecubes" -- each containing identical machinery and the complete computer program for replication. The cubes have electromagnets on their faces that allow them to selectively attach to and detach from one another, and a complete robot consists of several cubes linked together. Each cube is divided in half along a long diagonal, which allows a robot composed of many cubes to bend, reconfigure and manipulate other cubes. For example, a tower of cubes can bend itself over at a right angle to pick up another cube.


To begin replication, the stack of cubes bends over and sets its top cube on the table. Then it bends to one side or another to pick up a new cube and deposit it on top of the first. By repeating the process, one robot made up of a stack of cubes can create another just like itself.

Stack called robot

Self-replicating machines have been the subject of theoretical discussion since the early days of computing and robotics, but only two physical devices that can replicate have been reported. One uses Lego parts assembled in a two-dimensional pattern by moving along tracks; another uses an arrangement of wooden tiles that tumble into a new arrangement when given a shove.

Exactly what qualifies as "self-replication" is open to discussion, Lipson points out. "It is not just a binary property -- of whether something self-replicates or not, but rather a continuum," he explains.

The new robots in Lipson's lab are also very dependent on their environment. They draw power through contacts on the surface of the table and cannot replicate unless the experimenters "feed" them by supplying additional modules.

Cornell News: self-replicating robots

Friday, May 13, 2005

Army of 2015 to be 1/3 Robots - Congressional Mandate

From the battlefield straight to your home | InfoWorld | News | 2005-05-12 | By Johan Bostrom, IDG News Service

The development of mobile military robots is being pushed by a Congressional mandate that at least a third of all military vehicles be autonomous by 2015. That presents a great opportunity for manufacturers of consumer electronics and household appliances, according to Neena Buck, strategy analyst at research firm Emerging Frontiers.

Irobot, a robotics company with both a strong military division and a successful consumer products unit-- it has sold 1.2 million units of the vacuum cleaner robot Roomba -- is an exception and a good example of how things should be done, in Buck's opinion.

Another company that sees promise in robots for civilian purposes is Vecna Technologies Inc. in College Park, Maryland. It is working with the U.S. Army on developing a robot dubbed Bear to assist in removing the wounded from battlefields.

From the battlefield straight to your home | InfoWorld | News | 2005-05-12 | By Johan Bostrom, IDG News Service


Slapping robots

From we-make-money-not-art.com:

The frog and the cat of WATSCHENDISKURS (Watschen means "to slap") are discussing about language theory. Like in many a real life discussion they pick their phrases from a pool of more or less witty statements including Wittgenstein-Quotes and Russian weather proverbs. But when words no longer seem to be the right tool of convincing the other one, the puppets lose their temper. A slap in the face stops the opponent and gives way for another intellectual excursus about the different layers of speech.

Frog and Cat discussion

Must see video link
we make money not art: Slapping robots

Cross Pollinating in the Robot World

Man becomes, as it were, the sex organs of the machine world, as the bee of the plant world, enabling it to fecundate and to evolve ever new forms. --Marshall McLuhan

Battelle Memorial Institute said Tuesday it acquired a Massachusetts-based maker of underwater robots.
The Columbus research institute did not disclose the sum it paid for Cambridge-based Bluefin Robotics Corp. Battelle said Bluefin will retain its name and management team.

Business Week Tech Beat

Now comes the merger of two tiny robot companies that promises to deliver smart robots at affordable prices.
The "brains" in this union are provided by Frontline Robotics, an Ottawa outfit with just 11 employees that has designed Robot Open Control, a robot operating system for collaborative security robots. The "brawn" comes from White Box Robots, which is basically one guy: Thomas Burick, a Pittsburgh inventor. Burick came up with the idea of making tough little mobile robots, called PC-BOTs, mainly out of off-the-shelf PC parts. They even run Windows. Think of them as PCs on wheels. Frontline announced its acquisition of White Box on May 10.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Robot Partners from NASA Ames

NASA - NASA Developing Robots with Human Traits

NASA researchers envision futuristic robots that 'act' like people, enabling these mechanical helpers to work more efficiently with astronauts.

Because human crews will be limited to small teams, astronauts will need robot 'helpers' to do much of each team's work, scientists reason.

Though remotely-controlled machines and robots that work entirely on their own are valid goals, the NASA-Ames team plans to focus on robots that are partly controlled by people and operate independently the rest of the time, Nourbakhsh said.

There are three main areas that Nourbakhsh's team will develop. One is called 'collaborative control,' during which the human being and the robot will speak to one another and work as partners.
A second area that NASA Ames researchers will develop is to build robots that have reasoning mechanisms that work similarly to human reasoning.
Thirdly, the researchers will conduct field tests of people and robots working together.

The robots will help assemble buildings, test equipment, weld structures and dig with small tools.

Human beings and robots will use "partner-to-partner" interaction to share information and to support one another.

"These teams will include humans and robots working in close quarters as well as humans controlling and interacting with robots over medium distances and from ground control," Nourbakhsh predicted. "The effectiveness of human-robot interaction will have a major impact on productivity, cost and risk reduction in exploration missions," he explained.

Robots and human beings need to clearly converse about goals, abilities, plans and achievements, according to Fong. People and robots need to "collaborate to solve problems, especially when situations exceed (robot) autonomous capabilities," Fong explained.

NASA - NASA Developing Robots with Human Traits

Robotic Baby Seal for Elderly

This robot seal has been used for human therapy since 2003. It has been named the "world's most theraputic robot" by Guiness book of records.


Robot seal there to be petted
11 May 2005

A Japanese robot designed to replace household pets has been given the seal of approval by Christchurch's [New Zealand] elderly.

The world's first robotic seal, nicknamed Paro, visited a Christchurch resthome yesterday and was greeted with great enthusiasm.

The cat-sized robot was designed at a cost of $15 million to take the place of pets in Japan where many people were unable to keep animals in their apartments, inventor Takanori Shibata said.

PARO had sensors all over its body, moved when stroked and made the same noise as real seal pups, he said.

A Japanese university study found stroking Paro's thick fur had a powerful positive effect on the elderly and those in hospital who were often deprived of contact with furry creatures, Shibata said.

During the 12 years it took for Shibata to design Paro he visited the Canadian ice fields and recorded seal noises and videotaped the way the animals moved.

Before deciding to design a robotic seal, Shibata made cat and dog robot prototypes. But he found people's expectations of the domestic animals were too high because they had experienced them before.

Shibata said he finally decided on making a seal robot because they were small, cute, had soft fur and were a novelty.

Four hundred Paro robots had been sold in Japan since going on the market at the beginning of this year, Shibata said.

STUFF New Zealand's leading news and information website


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Wal-Mart Hires Robots for Blind Shoppers

This is a follow-up on the robot shboppers for the blind covered earlier.

A Utah Walmart is the first to try out the helper robots. This first version is still moronic in its abilities.

The initial version of RG—which weighs about 22 pounds and is roughly the height of an upright vacuum cleaner—is limited to three basic functions.

First, it guides the consumer through the aisles and around people, displays and merchandise using RFID readers and 16 ultrasonic sonars. The navigation system is sophisticated enough to handle environments—including elevators and limited open spaces—that usually literally trip up robots, Kulyukin said.

ts second function is to communicate with the consumer. It takes instructions via a small Braille directory of products that is attached to the robot's handle, and it replies to the shopper's questions with spoken answers

The third function is to use its RFID reader to locate the desired products. The store's RFID tags help the robot navigate the lanes as well as locate products.

The robot has its limitations, though. Until item-level tagging becomes the norm, the system can indicate only the part of the shelf where the product is supposed to be. If it's been moved—either by an employee moving stock who forgot to move the update the RFID tag or by another consumer who put a tube of Aim toothpaste amidst the Colgate—the visually impaired consumer might grab the wrong product.

"It's a great thing for the customers who don't have their eyesight," said Wal-Mart store manager Ron Tuttle. "We have a lot of customers who come in and ask for someone to help them. I talked with one lady and she was very excited about it because it makes her feel more independent."

Kulyukin also said that having a small squadron of robots around a retail shop could be valuable in other ways. When there are no customers using the robots, they can assist in moving merchandise, carrying extremely heavy boxes and unloading trucks.

Wal-Mart Tests Robots for Blind Shoppers

Robots to Save American Factories

Save Your Factory Initiative, a more profitable alternative to off-shoring your business

“Save Your Factory” is an effort to educate the North American manufacturing industry that automation and robotics are more cost effective and profitable alternatives to moving manufacturing facilities off shore.

Today, when manufacturing facilities are faced with the tough decision of how to compete in a growing global market, they often look at outsourcing or closing inefficient operations. Automation can assist in reducing operating costs and improving product quality while utilizing existing capital and resources.

The greatest leaps in quality can be made through automation and a streamlined production process. An automated facility enables exact, consistent manufacturing tolerances. This leads to the absolute highest quality products.

"Save Your Factory" is intended to help companies consider an alternative to moving off shore. Automating and streamlining our existing manufacturing facilities will enable North America to maintain its manufacturing and productivity leadership, keep its economies strong and utilize its available labor force effectively.

Save Your Factory Initiative, a more profitable alternative to off-shoring your business

Monday, May 09, 2005

Armed "Negotiator" Deployed in Maine

Another Andros Joins Police Force

Persuasion goes high tech
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA -- In the dead of night a week ago, during a standoff with a Waterville gunman, state police negotiators rolled out a little assistant.

Its eight wheels are designed to travel in rough terrain and even climb stairs. It's got three cameras and side mounts that can hold -- and fire -- guns.

"We use it in some situations where it's too dangerous to send a human being," said Detective Adam Kelley, who heads the state police's crisis negotiation team. "We use it in facilitating communications."

That's one way of putting it.

In a sticky situation, this little guy -- its technical name is Remotec Andros F6A -- drives a hard bargain.

It needs to: The Andros is used by the state police's 15-member crisis negotiation team.

Negotiators are a relatively rare breed, trained at defusing situations where emotional levels are extremely high, and weapons are usually involved. Negotiators go for 40-hour FBI courses, and their training emphasizes listening and communications skills. Only a trooper with at least three years experience is eligible for training as a negotiator.

"Usually it's situations where shots have been fired, or someone is pointing a weapon," Kelley said. These include suicidal people and hostage situations.

The robot accompanies state police negotiators on every call, but it isn't always deployed.

Shortly after state police bought the $150,000 robot in May 2003, they were called into a dangerous domestic situation in the greater Bangor area.

"It involved two deaf people in the residence, and their (text-based) phone was off the hook," Kelley said. "One had a weapon."

In the wide-open space around the residence, troopers would have been vulnerable to an armed and unstable attacker.

In went the Andros, with a sign that asked the armed person to come out and surrender. It worked.

Persuasion goes high tech

Students bring robots to 'Sacred Flame' confab

Robocon 2005, Vietnam’s national robot contest, will kick off May 10 and witness the largest-ever number of students nationwide competing.

This year, 303 robot teams - double last year’s number - from 52 universities, colleges, high schools and professional secondary schools will join the robot competition, themed “Sacred flame sparking and rising”.

Robocon 2005 is co-held by Vietnam Television, the Ministry of Education and Training, Ministry of Science and Technology, Communist Youth Union and main sponsor Toyota Vietnam.

According to the contest rules, each university has to organize its own qualifying rounds to choose the best teams for the regional round.

Of the total 303 robot teams, 178 of the top teams will be selected at the school-level qualifying rounds. Then 32 of the 178 teams will be chosen from the regional round taking place in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. After that, the 32 finalists will compete for the top prize in HCMC June 18 to 26.

The champion will then represent Vietnam at the Asia-Pacific contest in Beijing, China at the end of this year.

According to Professor Dr. Ho Dac Tho, headmaster of Saigon Private University of Technology, Robocon has created an interesting playground for students to bring their creations to life.

To prepare for this year’s contest, many universities, including Saigon Private University of Technology, have invested tens of millions of dong to build a practicing ground for students’ robots.

Vietnam is hoping for another victory after winning the top prize in the robot contests in Japan (2002) and Korea (2004). In 2003, the country ranked third in the robot contest in Thailand.

Reported by To Tam – Translated by Quynh Nhu.

Vietnam latest news - Thanh Nien Daily


Robot shops for blind humans

shopping robot for the blind
By Lucy Sherriff
Published Thursday 5th May 2005 10:58 GMT

US computer scientists have built a robot that uses RFID tags to navigate. They say it could help guide blind people around large buildings or shops, where RFID tags could also identify products on a shopping list. The robot also has a laser range finder to stop it from crashing into things.

The robot is the brainchild of Utah State University's Professor Vladimir Kulyukin, the BBC reports. He says that the robot is not intended as a replacement for guide dogs, but as a shopping assistant.

"The idea is that you...come to the store, grab the shopping assistant and it leads you to the different products. When you leave the store, you leave it behind," he told the BBC.

The prototype has been tested in a local store while it was closed, but now the research team is negotiating more extensive testing with a larger supermarket chain. Kulyukin is adamant that the robot needs testing in a real-world environment.

Based on the initial feedback, the team is working on a synthetic speech interface - the current interface is in Braille, and not all testers could use it. They are also working to improve its movement, after one tester said the machine accelerated to quickly for her.

In its current form, the prototype costs around $8,000, but the team is confident that the cost can be reduced by around two-thirds, if it was to be mass produced. If the project attracts the right kind of attention, Kulyukin says it could be in shops within two or three years. ®

Scientists build shopping robot for the blind | The Register

Osaka Robot Mecca?

Osaka is quickly becoming the robot capital of the world
Japan has emerged as a leading maker of `next-generation' robots, or those that can act independently to perform complex tasks in various different areas

By Justin McCurry
Sunday, May 08, 2005,Page 12

During Japan's "lost decade" of economic decline, Osaka was a leader in homelessness, unemployment, bag snatching and groping on trains. Now the port city is pinning its hopes on a 39cm-tall humanoid with an eye on the goal of achieving a more worthy reputation -- that of robot capital of the world.

Weighing in at just 2.4kg, VisiON is the product of Team Osaka, which consists of researchers at Osaka University, two robot firms and an aircraft parts manufacturer.

The investment quickly paid off. VisiON, which uses an omni-directional sensor to give it instantaneous 360-degree visibility, won the humanoid category at last year's Robot World Cup football finals in Lisbon.

VisiON's creators say his skills will be honed before the next tournament, in July in Osaka, when he will be up against robots from 35 countries. Their aim is to put together a team of robots capable of beating the human world football champions by 2050. For now, though, VisiON and other second-generation robots are an integral part of Osaka's efforts to rescue a local economy whose traditional industries and businesses are struggling to find their post-recession feet.

Osaka spent ?150 million on robot development in 2004, two-thirds of which went on opening a laboratory in central Osaka at the end of last year. Now occupying a floor high above the busy Umeda district, the lab will form a major part of a 24-hectare plot of land north of Osaka's main railway station that will be developed over the next few years.

Local officials hope that Robo City will be a place where robot developers worldwide can take their ideas, however crazy, knowing that they will be given a fair hearing and, perhaps, see their brainstorms turned into hardware. "In a few years, Osaka will be the Silicon Valley of the robot industry," Ishiguro said.

Although a fully domesticated robot is about 40 years away, Ishiguro said: "It will be only several years before you can have a system that can call you on your mobile and ask you what time you'll be home, what you want for dinner, whether you want a bath. It'll be just like having a wife."

Taipei Times - archives: "invigilating "

Thursday, May 05, 2005

New Haven Recuits Life-saving Robot

NEW HAVEN — The Police Department unveiled its new hazardous duty robot outside police headquarters Tuesday, showing off the city’s latest tool in its emergency services division.

"It’s going to save a life," said Sgt. Craig Guglielmo, a bomb technician with the department’s hazardous device unit. "It’s going to save my life. It’s going to save another bomb tech’s life. It’s going to save a civilian’s life."

The Andros F6A robot, one of four in the state, was purchased through a homeland security grant. Members of the bomb squad traveled to Tennessee last month to pick up the $150,000 device and has been training with it since.

New Haven Robot

According to emergency services officials, the new robot, which is equipped with three cameras and a maneuverable arm, can be used in a variety of scenarios. Hazardous devices can be examined, moved and even X-rayed while the technician is a safe distance away. With its arm and pincer, it can be used in a hostage situation to deliver a secure phone to establish communications without exposing an officer to danger, said Officer Ray Crowley.

It’s equipped with audio and video capability and, according to the manufacturer, can be operated over rough terrain, cross obstacles and ditches, climb stairs and operate in sand, gravel, mud and grass.

New Haven Register - News - 05/04/2005 - City’s hazardous duty robot struts its stuff

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

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