Monday, October 31, 2005

Robots on Patrol in Brussels

According to Reuters, robots are on patrol 24 hours a day on the streets of Brussels. The robots travel on treads and sport a 360 degree camera and gas sensor. They have a speaker and microphone so that the officer back at the station can talk to perps on the street.
The machines are the OFRO model from Robowatch Technologies.

move along...nothing to see here...

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TechWeb: The Business Technology Network

A Robot in Every Korean Home By 2020

Robotic Helpers to Fill Homes from Next Year

The Ministry of Information and Communication Republic of Korea said Wednesday it will launch robotic home helpers at the very reasonable price of around W1 million (US$1,000) in a test market from October next year. Information Minister Chin Dae-je said, “I expect the ‘one household, one robot’ era will come in 2020.” The low-priced robot project will create W1.5 trillion (US$1.5 billion) in added value, Chin added.

The ministry’s network robots come in three types ? the relatively smart education robot Jupiter, which reads English fairy tales to children using voice recognition software, the simpler remote-controlled cleaning robot Netoro, and the e-mail-literate telecommunication robot Roboid. Looking remarkably similar to R2D2 in “Star Wars”, they will be made by robotics firms Yujin Robotics, Hanool Robotics and I.O. Tech.
Minister Chin Dae-je [from The Korea Times]

The key to the ministry’s robot project lies in linking robots with the broadband convergence network (BcN) built by KTF and SK Telecom to control their operation. They are run not by expensive built-in software but through a mobile high-speed Internet connection.

“Since robots operate as quasi-artificial intelligence, unlike PCs, they can potentially harm human beings, especially the elderly or children,” the minister said. “That’s why we are going to concentrate our efforts on the security or stability of the system.”

Digital Chosunilbo (English Edition) : Daily News in English About Korea: "The Ministry of Information and Communication"


Robots Diagnose Autism

By Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal

Brian Scassellati is a robotics researcher in Yale's computer-science department, and is part of an interdisciplinary group on campus that includes doctors and others. Part of his contribution has been to build very simple robotic heads -- more like smart toys -- then to watch how different children, autistic and nonautistic, respond to them.

These devices can be programmed to monitor where the child is, or whether the child has said anything, and then to say something appropriate. In other cases, the robot head will spout things randomly. Prof. Scassellati said that with three year olds, nonautistic children will continue to interact with a robot that is responding appropriately, but will quickly tire of one that isn't. Autistic children, however, show no such preference, and will be equally fascinated by each.

Prof. Scassellati says his group's work so far is devoted entirely to diagnosing autism -- not to treating it. (Even with that more modest goal, the results aren't in yet.) But he and others can't help but think of the ways that robots might be useful one day in actually treating the disease.

Working with autistic children can be exhausting, notes Prof. Scassellati, but machines don't tire.

Robotic toys may one day diagnose autism

Friday, October 28, 2005

Surgical Robot Revenues Rocket

Intuitive Surgical 3rd-qtr profit more than triples

Intuitive Surgical Inc. (ISRG.O), which makes robotic surgical systems, on Tuesday reported quarterly profit more than tripled, sending its shares up 26 percent afterhours.

Net income for the third quarter was $20.7 million, or 55 cents per diluted share, compared with $6.1 million, or 17 cents per diluted share, a year ago.

Total sales rose to $60.9 million from $35.5 million in the third quarter of 2004, driven by shipments of the company's da Vinci Surgical Systems and continued recurring revenue growth, Intuitive said.

Intuitive sold 30 da Vinci systems during the quarter, compared to 18 a year ago. The system consists of a 3-D vision system and a control console for the surgeon, and three or four robotic arms which perform the surgery according to the surgeon's movements on the console.

It is the only maker of such systems.

Intuitive Surgical Press Release

Surgical Robots Raise Legal Issues

Tiny Robots Climb Inside for Surgery

by Karen Burbach and Tom O'Connor, UNMC public affairs

Medical responders of the future may be three inches tall or less.

But, these tiny-wheeled robots – slipped into the abdomen and controlled by surgeons hundreds of kilometers away – may be giants in saving the lives of roadside accident victims and soldiers injured on the battlefield.
Each camera-carrying robot -- the width of a lipstick case -- would illuminate the patient’s abdomen, beam back video images and carry different tools to help surgeons stop internal bleeding by clamping, clotting or cauterizing wounds.

Physicians and engineers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and University of Nebraska-Lincoln already are turning a handful of miniature prototypes.
“We want to be the Microsoft leader in this technology and be the state that changes the way surgery is done,” said Shane Farritor, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in UNL’s College of Engineering and Technology.
“This work has the potential to completely change the minimally invasive surgery landscape,” said Dmitry Oleynikov, M.D., director of education and training for the minimally invasive and computer-assisted surgery initiative. “This is just the start of things to come regarding robotic devices at work inside the body during surgery.”

University of Nebraska Press Release

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Nano Robots for Nano Manufacturing

Nanorobot fabrication makes ultrasmall sensors possible

Researchers working with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) have developed a way to build extremely small sensors using nanorobot fabrication.
This new process, created by Harold Szu and James Buss of ONR and implemented by Xi Ning of Michigan State University, allows a human operator using a powerful microscope and hand-held controller to manipulate nano-sized contact points remotely--like using extremely small hands--to construct the pixel elements that will form the heart of the sensor. Each pixel will be composed of carbon nanotubes, which have nanoscale diameters and submicron lengths.

To improve the ability of carrier strike groups to detect missiles over the horizon, the U.S. Navy is searching for ways to augment its surveillance capabilities with a covert team of mini-UAVs equipped with passive sensors that can cruise near the ocean surface at slow speeds for many hours.
Unfortunately, a mini-UAV's payload limitation does not allow such a bulky technology on board--but a small UAV is possible with the advent of nano-based sensors.

"This new technology will revolutionize how sensors, cameras, and countless other medical devices will be made by a nanorobot, which can respond to public demands of non-contact examinations for early cancer screening at every household," said Father Giofranco Basti of the Pontifical Lateran University at the Vatican City, Rome, Italy. Next spring, the university will conduct a screening test bed of early breast tumor treatment using this new technology in collaboration with ONR.

Guarding giants with tiny protectors


Another breakthrough development from the folks at CMU's Robotics Institute...

By Vic Rodrick

BOFFINS have invented a robotic bagpiper which they say can play faster than any human. But the robo piper, named "McBlare" is so noisy that audiences need earplugs to cope with the din it makes.
[...exactly like a real bagpiper!]
McBlare has no head and the pipes are fixed to a wooden board which forms its body.

Metal fingers are driven at high speed by electromagnets and the "blaw" comes from mechanical lungs driven by an air pump.

The piper also contains a computer which is programmed with real pipe tunes.

Roger Dannenberg, the professor leading the bizarre project, said: "Compared to a real Scottish piper, McBlare is certainly faster and more accurate."

The Daily Record - NEWS - ROBO PIPER

Hyundai Celebrates 10,000th Robot

Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. surpassed 10,000 in its accumulated number of industrial robot production.
The company has produced its 10,000th industrial robot 20 years after turning out its first robot in 1986.
The 10,000th robot, a spot-welding robot named "HX165," will be delivered to Kia Motors Corp.'s Slovakian assembly plant to which the company sold $30 million worth of industrial robots earlier this year.

Hyundai Heavy Industries held a ceremony last Friday to commemorate the event at its Ulsan plant and confirmed its goals of producing 2,000 units annually and to become the fifth largest robot maker in the world by 2010.
Other than welding robots, Korea's largest industrial robot manufacturer plans to produce laser robots, cleaning robots and wireless robots, since the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy selected robot technology as one of the 10 economic growth engines, along with information and biotechnologies last year.
The company has 43 percent of the domestic industrial robot market share.

By Hwang Si-young

The Korea Herald

Friday, October 21, 2005

Legions of Ocean Robots

University of California and Scripps Institution of Oceanography have announced some major milestones for the army of Argo oceanographer robots...

The free-floating Argo "robot oceanographers," a successful observation program that began in 2000 and is part of the global observing system to monitor Earth's oceans, reached two milestones: two-thirds completion of the international global array and the collection of nearly 55,000 profiles by the U.S. floats.

Argo is an internationally coordinated, broad-scale global array of temperature and salinity profiling floats, and a major component of the global ocean observing system. The program will eventually deploy 3,000 temperature and salinity profiling floats. As of October 12, there are 2,057 floats around the world.

Float data from argo homepage

The 54,447th Argo profile was transmitted Oct. 5 on the Global Telecommunications System (GTS) for use by the international oceanographic community. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, Fla., manages the real-time U.S. Argo data.

The floats are deployed from research vessels, volunteer merchant ships, and aircraft. Upon release, the floats sink to a prescribed depth (typically 1000 or 2000m), remain submerged from 10 to 14 days, and then obtain temperature and salinity profiles of the water column on their return to the surface. Once on the surface, the floats transmit their data to satellites then repeat their data collecting cycle.

Each float is designed for a four-year lifespan, or approximately 150 cycles. Some have lasted longer.

Two Milestones for Argo Ocean 'Robots' Achieved: Global Array 2/3 Complete, 55,000th Profile Near

UC NewsWire -- Two milestones for ocean robots

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

No Robot Left Behind

Groups Join Forces for DHS Rescue Robot Standards

At the recommendation of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this month asked ASTM International to work with NIST and other stakeholders to develop voluntary consensus standards for urban search and rescue (US&R) robots.

To assist this effort, NIST engineers, first responders, technology developers and robot vendors have begun to examine potential types of standards as well as tests needed to certify compliance to them. The comprehensive US&R standards drive, sponsored by DHS, is aimed at increasing federal, state and local officials' confidence in the emerging technology, spurring the purchase and deployment of the potentially life-saving devices.

Participants in a series of NIST-hosted workshops to define performance requirements identified at least 13 different robot varieties that may be applicable to search and rescue, from R2D2-type machines that search for victims within collapsed buildings to aerial ledge landers and aquatic bottom crawlers. They also counted more than 100 possible individual performance requirements in the categories of human-system interaction, logistics, operating environment, and system components (which includes chassis, communications, mobility, payload, power and sensing). Additional requirements are expected to arise during the standardization process.

ASTM Press Release

Intelligent Systems Division (ISD) of NISD

ISD Press Release

Monday, October 17, 2005

Pneumatic Robot Art


Pneumatic sculptures come to life with computer control. Awakening the imagination with more possibilities for robot design.

From the website...
A pneumatic sculpture amply decorates a cold modern urban space as if it were such that the city wears a fashionable dress, and realizes a large scale device for the world of spectacular dream any place and any time in the space of daily life.

Seeing a richly swelled balloon brings about the ease of mind.
Balloons have a kind of mysterious power that brings a human being to an anarchic mood.
In the plump shapes, balloons keep a moderate tension.

movie in English

Cricket the Robot

Cricket is an autonomous robot that walks around by moving all six legs using three motors. He avoids objects when touched by the feelers, chirps randomly, and blinks his lights.

After touching an obstacle he makes various sounds depending on which feeler sensed the object. All his functions are under control of the on board Stamp II controller. Cricket is designed to be made from readily available materials.

Cricket The Robot

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Robots Join Nuclear Sensor Lineup

by Casey Dickinson, Journal Staff

HORSEHEADS, New York — Robots will be the latest addition to Imaging and Sensing Technology, Inc.’s (IST) lineup of sensing and inspection equipment for the nuclear-power industry. IST has acquired the exclusive worldwide marketing and manufacturing rights for the Inuktun line of mobile robots used for nuclear inspection and repair.

British Columbia–based Inuktun Services, Ltd. manufactures camera-equipped robots that can operate underwater and in other hazardous conditions.
Inuktun Nanomag

IST and Inuktun signed a five-year, renewable agreement for an undisclosed sum, says Donald Hartman, CEO of IST. The deal will help bring Inuktun’s robots to a wider audience in the nuclear-power industry through IST. The company’s products are known in North America, Hartman explains, but can benefit from IST’s worldwide market.

The Central New York Business Journal


Saturday, October 15, 2005

Robot Librarian

Jaume is being developped in the Robotic Intelligence Lab of Universitat Jaume I (UJI) in Castellón (Spain) by a research group managed by Prof. Angel P. del Pobil.


We want the UJI librarian robot to be able to search and retrieve a book requested by a user. The operation starts when the user requests a book by its name or code, either through Internet or by voice. The robot is then in charge of locating the book in an ordinary library, extract it and take it to the user. The only initial information is the book code, written on a label which is read by the vision system. This general application integrates several inter-disciplinary skills like path planning, visual perception or multisensory-based grasping, all linked together by reasoning capabilities.

Jaume, the UJI Librarian Robot

Surgical Robots Open Legal Gash

The use of robots to assist in surgery has opened legal debates and raised questions about their benefits.

Some former patients and families of deceased patients are claiming that the surgeon did not give them the choice of opting out of the new robotic procedures. The were injured by the use of the robot.

Promoters of the robots, specifically the daVinci robot from Intuitive Surgical, claim significant benefits from the use of the robots. Further, many doctors say, which tools they choose to use for surgery are not always discussed with their patients. In an article in the Maryland Daily Record, Dr. Mark A. Talamini, a proponent of the daVinci robot, says:
“This to me is a different set of surgical instruments, so we are not doing a different operation; it’s not a new operation; it’s not a different procedure; it’s not an experimental procedure; it’s simply a different set of tools to accomplish the same operation,” he said. “So if I was in the operating room and I had a pair of scissors and I decided, you know, that the scissors aren’t working for me, I am gonna use a knife instead, I wouldn’t ask permission to use a knife instead of the scissors, I would just use them.”

Other medical professionals disagree. Surgical techniques that were honed in medical shcool are not readily transferrable to robot assisted surgery.

Others question whether the claims that robot surgery is safer and leaves less damage are always true. It has also been reported that robot assisted surgery can take longer than laparoscopic techniques.

Hospitals though are pressuring doctors to use the robots because of the high cost of purchasing and maintaining the equipment. The Daily Record article reports that the robots cost $1.3 million with an additional ten percent of that price annually for maintenence.

While the technology for surgical robots may be advancing quickly, the acceptance of them may not be growing so fast. A warm welcome is not guaranteed for robots in many situations.

Technology raises questions of informed consent
Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

Friday, October 14, 2005

Re-inventing the Wheel

Robo-Mule Gets Wheel, Leg Blend

The Future Force Warrior program's Robotic Mule will be able to go wherever the infantry go, carrying supplies and ammunition and giving them somewhere to plug in their rechargers.

One approach to the Mule is to build a four-legged robot very much like the biological version -- or some sort of wheeled equivalent. But there is another way, and this is where Danny Hillis of Creative Minds comes in. Hillis is best known for developing the parallel processing that underlies most modern supercomputers, but has been active in many different fields. His idea is to develop something that is part wheel, part leg, combining the strengths of both. It's not a matter of reinventing the wheel so much as repackaging it.

"Nature doesn't generally use wheels," Hillis explains, "because although they are good for smooth surfaces, there are few smooth surfaces in nature. In fact we spent a great deal of effort building flat surfaces for wheels to roll on. It would be better to have a wheel which could go on any surface."

The new alternative would be as simple and cheap as a wheel but with the all-terrain capability of legs. Hillis is very cagey about the configuration - evidently there have been several different versions – and the picture shows one prototype. The ultimate design may be completely different.

Defense Tech: Robo-Mule Gets Wheel, Leg Blend

Thursday, October 13, 2005

High Speed Sushi Robot

Tokyo (JCN) Oct 12, 2005- Suzumo Machinery Co., Ltd. announced on October 12 that it would release SGP-SNA, the miniature robot capable of making 2000 wrapped sushi in an hour at the most. It will be release from the end of October this year.
SGP-SNA adopts the special film, which generates negative ion, to wrap sushi. The film is easy to remove when eating.

"Create New Rice Eating Culture to the Worlds."
"SUZUMO as the first name in Sushi Robots"


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Robot Dynamic Terrain

This as a robotic bed with a robotic quilt and you will never feel alone.

Dynamic Terrain is an experimental robotic surface that forms the surroundings depending on the action taken by the user.
the surface can be controlled through a computer interface or by the user toucing the surface.
A gentle pressure makes the surface rise up in a hill. A harder push will make it go down. The rubber surface is formed by motors from below.

Janisland Dynamic Terrain

via wmmna

Kid in Bed Sends Robot to School

Child at Valhalla hospital attends school as a "robot"

Trevor Ortiz raised his hand to ask and answer questions, listened intently and moved his head and eyes to follow the teacher.

But Ortiz, 13, wasn't in the social studies classroom at Blythedale Children's Hospital. He was in a room down the hall, looking at a robot that was looking right back at him through a similar apparatus in the classroom.
His class participation was "telepresence," the notion that someone can be someplace he isn't. This wasn't a "virtual classroom." It was a real one, and Ortiz participated in the lesson precisely the same as students who were actually there.

The other students said it was no big deal to have Ortiz in class robotically, but teachers said the results for the Brooklyn resident were astounding.
"Sitting" at a desk with other students, the classroom robot had a live video of Ortiz's face in its head, which moved from side to side and up and down as Ortiz directed what looked like a game pad with the skill of one well-schooled in video games. His teachers said he knew how to work the controller minutes after he got it.

"It has a good zoom," Ortiz said as he expertly panned and zoomed the robotic camera.

The computer is a venture of The PEBBLES Project, a nonprofit educational organization in Milford, Conn. The robots were placed in various locations throughout the U.S. — including New Haven, Conn.; Cleveland; San Francisco; and Miami — through $1.8 million in federal grants.

They also are for sale commercially through Telbotics, a Toronto-based company in the "telepresence" business.
Telbotics' philosophy includes the notion that the units — actually carts on which the robots' heads and torsos are mounted — should take up about the same space as a child so students around it will feel comfortable and interact with their classmate on the screen.

Ideally, PEBBLES technician Dan Broderick said, "the technology becomes transparent, allowing the child to feel he's in the room."

Child at Valhalla hospital attends school as a "robot"


Robot Hospital Combat Support

The Four Hour Robot Repair Guarantee

October 10, 2005: With over 1500 deployed robots in Iraq and Afghanistan, with twice as many in service by the end of the year, the U.S. Army has set up a facility in Baghdad for in-theatre robot repairs. As of September 2005, the facility is averaging around 50 repairs a week (up from 20-30 in the spring) and offers a four hour repair guarantee. If it can't be fixed in four hours, the troops leave with another working robot. All a "customer" has to do is to bring in their broken robot – or in the case of a fatal encounter with an IED, the remains of the robot. Even if the robot isn't fixable, usable parts are scavenged for use in other repairs.
In addition to being blown up, a combination of heat, sand, wind, and rain also can cause problems for robots. At a cost of anywhere from $4500 for the cheapest "Throwbot," to more than $100,000 for a high-end EOD robot, there's a lot of pressure and effort to repair the scarce and always in demand machines as quickly as possible. Two repair shops have crews on-call around the clock, with technicians provided from the Army, Navy, and Marines, as well as some civilian contractors. Spare parts are shipped in to Baghdad via FedEx or DHL. – Doug Mohney.

Combat Support

Labels: ,

Robot makes Waffles and Family Ties

By Eric Stevick
Herald Writer

ARLINGTON - Jesse Klein's invention - a robot that toasts, butters, pours syrup and spreads whipped cream on waffles - is both ingenious and absurd.
When Arlington High School teacher Brett Sarver wanted to impress a vocational education advisory board last week, he called on Klein, a recent graduate, to demonstrate his machine.
Klein's machine toasted the waffle, and a five-pronged mechanical jaw grabbed it and placed in on a plate. A mechanical arm moved the plate from station to station - a butter drop, a syrup squeezer and a whipped cream slatherer.
"I just added whipped cream for the fun of it," Klein said.

Klein and his father made all the parts in the family workshop. His mother started logging how many hours her son and husband spent in the shop. She stopped at 150.

"The best part of it was working alongside my dad," Klein said.
Waffles are fine, but Klein can imagine a different machine.
"I would rather have it make ice cream sundaes," he said.

HeraldNet: Waffle-making robot a hit

Robot to Explore Great Pyramid

By Tom Perry

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will send a robot up narrow shafts in the Great Pyramid to try to solve one of the mysteries of the 4,500-year-old pharaonic mausoleum, Egypt's top archaeologist said on Monday.

Zahi Hawass told Reuters he would this week inspect a robot designed to climb the two narrow shafts which might lead to an undiscovered burial chamber in the pyramid of Cheops at Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo.

Hawass said the shafts and stone panels which block them could mark the location of the burial chamber of Cheops, also known as Khufu. That would mean none of the chambers already discovered in the pyramid were the pharaoh's real tomb.

The shafts were last probed in September 2002, when a robot drilled a hole through one of the stone panels to reveal a small empty space at the end of which lay another panel, which appeared cracked and fragile.

The new robot, designed by a university in Singapore over two years, would drill through that panel and the stone slab blocking the second shaft.
"I believe that these doors are hiding something... It could be, and this is a theory, that maybe Khufu's chamber is still hidden in the pyramid," he said.

[Images from The University of Haifa Library]

The two shafts, which rise from an unfinished chamber in the pyramid, have puzzled archaeologists since they were first discovered in 1872.

Some Egyptologists had said the shafts, which measure 20 cm by 20 cm (eight by eight inches) were built as vents. Others said they were passages for the king's soul to ascend to the afterlife.

reuters article

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Armed Robots To Deploy in Iraq

From Al Menhar online...

The US military is planning to deploy robots armed with machine-guns to wage war against insurgents in Iraq.
Eighteen of the 1m-high robots, equipped with cameras and operated by remote control, are going to Iraq this spring, the Associated Press reports.
The robot fighter has been named Swords, after the acronym for Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection Systems.
It is based on the Talon robot, which is widely used by the military to disarm bombs.
A US officer who helped test the robot said it was a more accurate shot than the average soldier because it is mounted on a stable platform and takes aim electronically.

"It eliminates the majority of shooting errors you have," said Staff Sgt Santiago Tordillos.
Mr Quinn of Foster-Miller says there are plans to replace the computer screen, joysticks and keypad in the remote-control unit with a Gameboy-style controller and virtual-reality goggles.
The Foster-Miller company is owned by the QinetiQ Group, a joint venture between the UK's Ministry of Defence and US-based holding company, Carlyle Group.

We have reported about the Talon before but I thought this was interesting because the source is an Iraqi newspaper.

US plans 'robot troops' for Iraq

DARPA Grand Challenge 2005

You have probably already heard that The Stanford University team won the $2 million Darpa Grand Challenge this year with their VW Robot 'Stanley.'

The results of the challenge show that it does not take much to solve some problems. It is only the second year of the challenge and the results this year are dramatically different than last.
Of the 23 teams that started the race, five of them completed it. Congratualtions to them all. They are probably kicking themselves for not running it just a little faster. It would probably just take a small tweek to get most of these five teams to improve their times.

It may only take a small tweek for many of the other teams to finish the course. Almost all of the teams made it farther than ten miles. Two other teams made it more than half way.

This contest shows that it is not necessary to have a major technological breakthrough in order to accomplish some very complex tasks.
It only takes the incentive and the efforts of a motivated team.

I hope they continue the challenge. They could make the course more complicated. And I bet the robots will run much faster next year.
Eventually the ideas in the brains of these robots will be included in our cars.

DARPA Grand Challenge 2005


Investments in Robots Increasing

The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) in cooperation with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) publishes the study World Robotics 2005.

Worldwide investment in industrial robots up 17% in 2004
In 2004, more than 52,000 robots were supplied to Asian countries (including Australia and New Zealand), almost 29% more than 2003, as a result of strong investments within the automotive industry and the electrical/electronics industry.

The installations in the other Asian markets, including China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan (Province of China), surged by an average of about 125%.

In first half of 2005, orders for robots were up another 13%
Worldwide growth in the period 2005-2008 forecast at an average annual rate of about 6%

UNECE and IFR estimate the total worldwide stock of operational industrial robots at the end of 2004 between a minimum of 848,000 units and a possible maximum of 1,120,000 units

Over 1,000,000 household robots in use – several millions in the next few years

The growth of automotive manufacturing robots may slow but the growth of general purpose industrial robots will accelerate.
The increase is due to improving technology in the robot interactions with the world - sensors, vision and motor control - as well as improving safety in robot to human cooperation.

UNECE - United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Report Summary (pdf)

Robot Fish

I'm back from California. I still have more to post from RobNexus but first I will catch up on other news.

Robot Fish at London Aquarium...
The robot fish are from Professor Huosheng Hu at the Human Cenetered Robotics Group at the University of Essex.

Videos and more at webpage of Phd student Jindong Liu


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Stars at RoboNexus

Courtesy of Fred Barton Productions, Famous Movie Robots...

Friday, October 07, 2005

Big News From Segway WowWee

Segway, maker of the revolutionary Human Transporter, was at RoboNexus promoting their Robotic Mobility Platform.
They also made a splash by announcing a development project with revolutionary robot designer WowWee, make of Robosapiens and Robosaurus.

Segway's Robotic Mobility Platform (RMP) incorporates their electric balancing wheels from the Human Transporter into a base for robot development. The full-sized RMP 200 shown here is a fully controllable platform with built-in dynamic balance control. It can carry up to 200 pounds at up to 10 miles per hour.

Segway's announcment though, was that it is not necessary for a robot designer to buy the integrated unit but that they will license the technology and partner on development of products using their "Segway Smart Motion" technology.
[Picture from - thanks guys]

Their first partner, WowWee, is renowned for their innovative robot and toy designs. Their new Robosapien V2 and Robosaurus were everywhere at this show. On Saturday there will be a Robosapien Hacking Contest.

Every participant at the show agreed that this combination of two such innovative labs is a sure bet for a totally unexpected and exciting new product in 2006.
This is one to watch.

Segway press release


As I promised yesterday, I got a picture of Chroino. (see other movies here)
Chroino is a creation of Dr. Tomotaka Takahashi. He designs robots at RoboGarage.
His presentation was interesting because of the demonstration of the natural motion of Chroino and because of the design philosophy that he described.

First, he said, we must like a robot in order to interact with it effectively. If we like the robot then we communicate much better with it. The more complete interaction comes from our attitude when we enjoy the robot. We will accept imperfections in the robot and remain patient when we have to put extra effort into making ourselves clear to it.

Dr. Takahashi prepares Chroino and VisiON for a show

He compared it to how we communicate with a child in the family. We do not reject the child because because he does not understand us on the first try. We put in extra effort to make sure that the child learns from us.
In the same way, if we enjoy interacting with a robot then we will support it to learn.

To elicit this from humans he says that the robot must have "friendly motions" and be entertaining. He uses cartoons for inspiration.
So, using this foundation, he designs his robots starting from the attractve appearance then moving to the engineering construction. He says that many robots are designed from engineering principles first then the aesthetic and they are not accepted by humans.

Team Osaka's VisiON robot is also a Takahashi design.

I think this is an incredibly important concept that all robot designers need to understand. A large obstacle to introducing robots into homes and public places is not the technology but peoples' willingness to accept the robots. Dr. Takahashi and Dr. Shibata with his Paro robot have much to teach robot designers about getting humans to engage with robots.

RoboNexus Friday

I am back from the RoboNexus conference for the day. It was a very interesting day. I have many ideas to post, however, it will take me awhile to decompress.

In the meantime here are a few pictures...

Part of the scheduled activities today included the RoboNexus Educational Outreach Program. Schools were allowed to bring students in to the exhibits for free.
It was fun to see all the kids fascinated by the robots. Many of the booths had special activities for the kids too.

This group concentrates on assembling robot kits.

A winner at robot Sumo!

Go Anywhere Search Robot

I had the chance to see a demo of the American Standard Robotics Xtreme VGTV - Variable Geometry Tracked Vehicle.

It is under two feet long and weighs only 15 pounds. It is almost all treads but it comes with a camera and can carry any kind of sensors. The unique part of it is the shape change from flat to triangular tracks to get up over obstacles.

It is waterproof to 100 feet and it looks like it is practically indestructable.

The company was started by a bunch of graduates from University of Southern Florida and their Robot Assisted Search and Rescue Program.
The engineers in the company are also trained firefighters so they know what it takes for effective search and rescue. They were recently featured on CNN and elsewhere for their efforts in finding survivors after Katrina the Hurricane.
Their dedication to the craft certainly shows up in this scrappy little machine.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

RoboNexus Afternoon

Of the afternoon sessions at the RoboNexus conference today I most enjoyed the presentation of some robotics from Japan sponsored by Japan External trade organization, JETRO.

Although the information about Osaka's presented by Dr. Eimei Onaga was very interesting (post from May 2005), I have to admit that the presentations with hardware are much more fun.

Dr. Takanori Shibata presented on the topic of his baby seal robot Paro. I have written about Paro before and seen pictures. I must admit that is much more engaging in person than in pictures. During the presentation paro sat on the table and moved around and coo-ed. You could see that the attention of the audience would shift from the presentation to the animal when it wriggled and bleeted for attention.

Dr. Shibata presented data from experiments with demetia patients that showed measurable improvement in their condition after therapy with Paro. They are encouraged by the results. They are currently selling a limited number of Paro theraputic pets for about US $3500.

Dr. Shibata talked about some of the thoughts that led to the design of the robot as a baby seal. Aesthetic criteria were most important from the start. The engineering followed.
He had watched interactions between people and a robot kitten. The kitten was very sophisticated but people became bored with it because their expectations were high. The robot looked so much like a real cat that the people expected it to act like a cat. Even with the impressive technology the robot cat could not live up to the expectations.
The baby seal, on the other hand, does not have to perform to anyone's expectations because people do not really know what to expect from it. Therefore, they concentrated on creating friendly and pleasing behavior unencumbered by the personality of a 'real' animal.

Dr. Tomotaka Takahashi also gave an excellent presentation and showed his robot Chroino. I do not yet have a picture of his robot. I will get one tomorrow and post it.

Robonexus Opens

I only have a few minutes during lunch here to update on the first morning session of the RoboNexus conference.
There is more so I will just touch on a few things here.

It opened with a demo from Team Osaka's VisiON- winner of humanoid division of Robocup competition. A cute little 2 foot tall machine. He drew applause by bending to pick up a ball then drop kicking it and laying down then standing up again. Is this audience easy to impress?

One thing that stood out for me was a definition of robotics by Matthew Mason, Director of Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University:

"Robotics is where computing meets the real world"
The technologies have three foundations: perception, intelligence and action.

Another presenter, Jeanne Dietsch, CEO of MobileRobots, emphasized the "action" aspect of robotics more. She argued that the recent increases in productivity gains have come from information, data and communications improvements. The next surge in productivity will come from improvements in the manipulation of the 'real world.'
I do not know if I buy into that idea completely - but, unfortunately I have run out of time.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Robots for Sale

*****Make sure to check out robots for sale at the Roboteria*****

I am in San Jose now for the RoboNexus Conference.
Since I sat half the day sitting on an airplane I took the opportunity to check the status of consumer robots.
So I spent some time looking for robots in the Skymall. The Skymall, for those of you who don’t fly much, is a catalog of expensive stuff for people who can afford it.
There is still not much in the way of robots in SkyMall.
There are a few toys: a voice controlled R2D2 replica. It is 15 inches tall and costs $120. It can obey some voice commands, “and dance while plying the famed cantina music..”
Another robot is an Erector set kit robot. Once you assemble it you can download music and moves through USB so it can dance and perform “actions common toys cannot replicate.” You can also make a working crane or trucks with it. $130
There is the Roomba. This one is actually supposed to do something useful, sweep the floor. Boring…it does not even play music and dance. But it is only $300.
More toys. There is the latest robot dinosaur, Velociraptor. It will play with you for $100.
Sharper Image always has the stuff that people need the most, for example a lot of iPod accessories. I guess they figure if someone is willing to pay so much for an mp3 player than they’ll buy anything.
They have mini radio controlled sumo robots. 2 inches tall. Only $70 per pair.
On the same page they have a pair of Robot Battle Beasts for $130. They are some kind of cross between a bull and dinosaur but with wheels. It does not say what size they are.

On the very same page they have “lifesize and incredibly lifelike robot animatronic chimpanzee.” He will move autonomously and “display moods.” It does not mention if he can dance. The purpose of it is to amaze your friends. US $150
Next is Robosapien V2. This new version of Robosapien is two feet tall and is capable of combinations of 67 movements. It can even throw a ball. Will respond to your voice commands for $250.
Trainable ‘Robopet” dog looking thing. It has a weird head and spindly legs so it looks like a cross between a dog and an insect. It has ‘loads of personality’ lots of motions, voice commands, the works. There are good-pet and bad-pet buttons to train the thing. Yours for $90.

Some are not quite robots, but could be. There is a radio controlled mouse with blinking red eyes for torturing your cat( $25 each).

That is it for the robots. There are other automated and radio controlled devices but not robots. I do not consider the perfect hotdog cooker a robot - even if the hot dogs and buns do come out perfect every time.
The dearth of SkyMall robots shows that even though robots are improving everyday, they are not yet moving into our home lives. There are many reasons why not. Maybe they can not do what we really want them to. Maybe we do not want them at all. Possibly, the field is as wide open today as the pc business was in 1978.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Packbot Gets Sniper Sensors

iRobot and Boston Univ. Photonics Center Unveil
Advanced Sniper Detection System for iRobot PackBot

BURLINGTON, Mass. and BOSTON - Oct. 3, 2005 - iRobot Corp. and The Photonics Center at Boston University introduced a tactical sensory system payload prototype, dubbed REDOWL, for the combat-proven iRobot PackBot® robot.
REDOWL, or Robot Enhanced Detection Outpost with Lasers, can detect and locate snipers and mortars on the very first shot fired at personnel or vehicles.
REDOWL is an ongoing rapid development program led by The Photonics Center at Boston University with iRobot, Insight Technology and BioMimetic Systems. The technology will be demonstrated publicly for the first time today at the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

REDOWL features an array of optics and acoustic detection systems including a laser pointer and illuminator, acoustic localizer and classifier, thermal imager, GPS positioning, an infrared and daylight camera and two wide-angle cameras. When integrated with the PackBot, these systems enable the robot to accurately detect, locate and identify the origination point of hostile gunfire. These systems also make REDOWL ideal for day and night urban surveillance, reconnaissance, hostage/barricade situations, forward observation outposts and perimeter protection missions.

REDOWL features an Acoustic Direction Finding (ADF) system developed by BioMimetic Systems. The ADF is based on advanced “neural circuits” emulating human hearing and provides accurate detection and bearing information in high background noise environments

The Photonics Center at Boston University


Vehicle Runs Autonomous or Manned

Elbit Systems Unveils Revolutionary UGV Avantguard

At the upcoming AUSA exhibition, Elbit Systems will unveil "AvantGuard", a futuristic Autonomous Ground Vehicle and the first and only such vehicle to offer the options of unmanned or manned operation.

Incorporating unique, proprietary advanced robotics and sensor technologies, AvantGuard's smart capabilities allow it to virtually think, avoid obstacles, and communicate. Its structural features enable performance in the toughest, most complex terrains.

Based on the mission profile, AvantGuard can carry various payloads - including electro-optical, communication relay, jamming and weapon stations. At the AUSA exhibition, AvantGuard will be equipped with Elbit Systems' 7.62 remote-controlled weapons station which is also making its exhibition debut.

The ORCWS 7.62 mm, Overhead Remote Controlled Weapon Station is fully stabilized and designed for optimal integration into various platforms with no deck penetration. The system has a very low silhouette and weighs less than 95 kg.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Enjoy Drinks with Robot Fun

Osaka, Japan:

Enjoy drinks and food while being entertained by robots.

(Or, if you are a robot, enjoy playtime while being entertained by drinking humans.)

Robocafe is the first restaurant/bar to offer full interaction with robots while you dine.
No word on whether you should slip a dollar to the robots for their antics.

robocafe with dancing nuvos and roomba sweeping up table.


Hospital Robots get financial Boost

The maker of the hospital 'remote presence' robot, RP-6, has gotten a $12.1 million financing deal from investors.

InTouch Health is a privately held company led by chairman and CEO Yulan Wang.

Evidently the investors see a bright future for this television on wheels. I do not. I see it as a fad type of product. Why have a rolling robot when every hospital room already has a television? It would be a simple and faily low cost (by hospital measure) solution to put cameras at every bed. The doctor culd be present whenever he wanted instead of waiting for this silly robot to lumber from room to room.
I think patients may object too, not because of the cold robot visiting them, but when they get the bill and realize that they are getting billed for a doctor consultation when they only got to talk to a tv likeness of a distracted doctor sitting in his office downtown somewhere.

We repeatedly see robots replacing the dangerous, menial, repetitive jobs. Does a doctor visiting his patients fall into this ob category? Maybe so.
As the InTouch Healthcare page says, demographics may drive the need for these doctor substitutes:
There is a demographic crisis in healthcare. Over the next 10 years the number of elderly age 85 and over will grow 38% doubling the number of seniors requiring healthcare support. Already today there are over 400,000 unfilled nursing positions causing hospitals across the country to close wings or risk negative outcomes. Over the coming years, the declining ratio of working age adults to elderly will further exacerbate the shortage. In 1950 there were 8 adults available to support each elder 65+, today the ratio is 5:1 and by 2020 the ratio will drop to 3 working age adults per elder person. Technology solutions which dramatically increase the effectiveness of healthcare professionals are required.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

Robots Teach English to Korean Kids

by Sang-Hoon Kim

On October 2, the Ministry of Information and Communication reported that the Korea Advanced Intelligent Robot Association (KAIRA) recently began pilot projects featuring “tutor robots” in some apartment complexes in the Seoul Metropolitan area, including Seoul, Bucheon, Seongnam and Bundang.

The robots will provide education to elementary schoolers in those regions for three months until this December. Learning English with the robot, children will read English sentences after the robot and get their English pronunciation corrected.

Apart from providing the education service, the robot is equipped with other functions to provide various information such as weather information.

KAIRA will test the robot in various aspects during the pilot project running period. After working on problems found during this period, KAIRA plans to introduce “live-in-house tutor” robots sometime between October and December next year. Those robots will stay at home and teach children.

The price of a robot will be between 700,000 and 800,000 won (US $670-770). Affordable, according to KAIRA, which claims that future software developments will result in more sophisticated robots that will be able to teach adults.

The Ministry of Information and Communication invested more than three billion won (US $3 mil) into the research and development of the robot. Ten other private companies under KAIRA also participated in its development. [english donga]

Robot Bug to Swallow

Pill-sized camera gets to grips with your gut
* news service
* Zeeya Merali

IT SOUNDS like the stuff of nightmares - a robot that crawls around inside your gut, anchoring itself by biting onto the walls of your intestine.

But the researchers behind a new take on the camera-in-a-pill claim its ability to move and stop on command will give doctors greater control over the images it takes, allowing them to focus on particular areas of concern.

Existing camera capsules designed to take images of the intestine cannot be controlled externally, so they simply drift through the gut along with everything else. "It's like watching the view from a train window," says the bot's developer, Arianna Menciassi of the Sant' Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy. "If you see something of interest, there's no way to turn back and get a better look."

The radio-controlled crawling capsule has six legs, each with tiny hooks on the end. These help prevent the device slipping on mucus in the intestine as it moves along, but are too small to damage the soft tissues, says Menciassi. The capsule can park at any site of interest by releasing a clamp with two 5-millimetre-long jaws, each with teeth. These grab onto the gut wall tightly enough to resist the muscular pulsations trying to push the device along.

New Scientist Breaking News - Pill-sized camera gets to grips with your gut

Other links...

Robot Worm for Colonoscopy

Robot Bug for Intenstines