Friday, June 30, 2006

Robot Museum to Open in Japan

From Pink Tentacle:

The Robot Museum, Japan’s first museum fully dedicated to educating visitors about the robots of the world, is scheduled to open in Nagoya’s Sakae district in October, according to a June 29 announcement by Osaka-based robot venture GYROWALK and Osaka-based real estate auction services provider IDU.

The 2,600 square meter museum will center around an exhibition area entitled “Robothink,” where everything from toy robots to industrial robots will be showcased in exhibits covering topics from robot history to the latest in robot technology. Some of the robots that enjoyed the limelight of the 2005 Aichi Expo, held just outside Nagoya, will be prominently featured.

Gyrowalk's vision:
The robotic generation is truly starting to come alive, with the speed and acceleration of change motivated by the admiration of what robots can do for mankind.GyroWalk considers the future of robots as a symbol of dreams and hopes when man and robot can coexist together in harmony.
This generation will experience pure wonderment and surprise when we bear witness to the use of robots in our everyday lives, anticipating that someday robots will be looked upon as free flowing entities as life itself.

Also...Gyrowalk runs Osaka's Robocafe, "A futuristic space where everyone communicates with Robots..."

Power Sucking Robot Gnats

From US Air Force Institute of Technology:
Engineers are working on flying micro-robots that get their power from the environment - or a laser beam they find.

The robots would be less than 1mm across and propelled by fluttering wings like a butterfly.
They are manufactured using micro-electromechanical system technology, MEMS. The micro-machining process consists of etching from silicon and selectively plating to make the robot's shape.
Once made the robots would be launched by energizing them with a laser.

The ultimate goal of the project is to make controllable micro-sized robots that can be directed to perform a task. Much like having a swarm of gnats - but maybe gnats with cameras and weapons - at your command.

So far, the robots can flap their wings but they cannot fly. But that may be a good thing because they have not figured out how to control them either.

Denninghoff, Daniel J. , Power-Scavenging MEMS Robots

Microrobots for surgery
Smallest Mobile Robot
Nanorobot manufacturing
Microrobot Swimmer
Mini Lab robots

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Korea Picks 'Ubiquitous Robot Companion' Network Partner

From The Korea Herald:

The National Computerization Agency said yesterday it picked KT Corp. to offer a new network-based robot service in September-December on a trial basis.

Network-based robots are dubbed "ubiquitous robotic companions" by Korean government officials, as they will be network-based to provide necessary services anytime, anywhere.

Consumers will enjoy an array of services provided by robots at low costs since URCs will be operated by simply adding voice-recognition servers and networks onto the existing robots, the NCA said.

The NCA and KT will respectively invest 3.5 billion won. They will embark on the project next month, to test contents, functions and reliabilities of the robots before the trial service.

Around 1,000 intelligent robots will be provided at homes and kindergartens across the country during the trial run.

Robots will offer daily news, weather information and recipes, as well as clean up homes. Users will only have to attach recognition codes to necessary spots at homes so that they can direct robots to places they want.

KT will partner with Samsung Electronics, Dasa Tech and Robo Tech in developing public service robot platforms and application servers.

Yujin Robotics, Hanool Robotics, Dasa Tech, Izi Robotics, Korea I.O. Tech and Most I-tech will cooperate with KT in developing home service platforms.

The local market for intelligent robots was estimated at $1 billion in 2004, but it is expected to grow to $4.9 billion in 2007 and $23.1 billion in 2010, according to the NCA.

The Korea Herald : The Nation's No.1 English Newspaper

Towns compete for robot Business
A Robot in Every Home


Robots Shunned By Many Farmers

According to an article in the online edition of the Florida newspaper Florida farmers would like to get robots to help in their harvest but thr robots just can't compete with people.

Only ten percent of Florida's crops are harvested by automatic machines even though a shortage of farm workers is trying to drive the numbers higher.

It turns out that there is more to harvesting some fruits than just shaking the trees. Oranges, for example, have both ripe and immature fruits on the same branch. A picker must be able to tell the difference.

A recent innovation may be to dump 300 gallons per acre of a chemical called CMNP on the orange trees to make the ripe fruit fall off easily without harming the young fruits. That way an automatic tree-shaker could grab only the good stuff. However, the chemical approach has not been approved yet. And maybe there could be some unintended consequences?

But there are many more crops that machines cannot pick.
"We don't mechanically harvest tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, eggplant or cucumbers," Phyllis Gilreath, a Manatee County, Florida extension agent said. "Cabbage is even handpicked.

This year, according to the article, the county has had a severe shortage of farm workers and interest in robot farm workers is growing.
It is hoped that universities can play a major role in finding robot solutions for more farm problems. Maybe ideas from contests like the recent Field Robot competition in Germany can be extended from harvesting golf balls to harvesting strawberries.

Bradenton Herald | 06/29/2006 | Farms seek scientific future


Robot Farmers Compete

Farm robot inventions descended on the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany last week to compete for titles in the Field Robot Event 2006.

The robots matched skills on drawing field lines, maneuvering through Fields, finding dandelions, speed racing and freestyle demonstrations of skill.
Advanced competition included searching for holes and debris on a playing field.

The 'dandelions' were actually yellow golf balls - but the idea is there. If the farm thing doesn't work out they could always get a job at a driving range.

The overall winner out of a field of contestants from all over the world was MAIZERATI from Osnabruck, Germany.

Field Robot Event Website


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Marines Bring Out The Big Dogs

The US Marine Corps was showing off some of their coolest new toys last week at the Marine Corps Air Station in New River, North Carolina.
They buzzed down in an MV-22 Osprey, opened the cargo door and out marched a view of the battlefield of the future.

Gunnery Sgt. James D. Davenport wore a robotic exoskeleton with a huge weapon attached. The attached rig - a DARPA project: Exoskeleton for Human Performance Augmentation - allows the soldier to carry up to 200 pounds and still walk without effort.

Next to march out of the Osprey were two "Big Dog" battlefield mules under development by Boston Dynamics.

The 'dogs are designed to run along side a soldier to carry his supplies for him. They can walk up to 3.5 miles per hour over rough terrain and carry over a hundred pounds.

Last, they rolled off a demonstration of the Life Support for Trauma and Transport-lite. This new 50 pound version of a 'portable emergency room' is similar to one in use today but weighs only 1/4 as much.

According to John Main, a program manager at DARPA, the purpose of the demonstration was to get an idea of how all these new technologies will work together and how they will benefit the Marine Corps.

Marine Corps News -> Rise of the machines: DARPA tests new technology at VMX-22

Related: Robot Beasts

Monday, June 26, 2006

Underwater Competition

I had the opportunity to go to the 5th Annual International ROV Competition organized by the Marine Advanced technology education Center, MATE.

The competition is for college and high school teams to perform underwater tasks with ROV's that they have designed and built themselves. The underwater action took place at the NASA Johnson Space Center neutral buoyancy pool in Houston Texas.

I was very impressed with the professionalism of the ROV designs and the teams. There were more than 40 teams competing from all over the US, Canada and a few from Hong Kong. The teams at this event got there by winning a regional contest.

The contest venue, the NASA neutral buoyancy lab, is impressive by itself. It is the giant swimming pool where astronauts train for weightless work in space. It has mock-ups of the international space station and space shuttle cargo bays under the water. The MATE group used just a small portion of the pool.

It is hard to convey the scale of the pool with pictures from a little digital camera. In the picture above you can see the contest platform at the right end of the pool where the people are standing.
Below it in the water is the space shuttle cargo bay mock-up. You can also see the reflection of the second story control room. There were operating video cameras underwater so you could watch the live action from the control rooms and display area.

The judging is not only on the ROV and performance during the tasks but the teams also have to present to technical judges. I talked to a few of the teams and found them all to be way smarter than I was at that age. They knew about their ROV but also knew about other designs. They were somewhat restricted by the rules of the contest and almost everyone I talked to told me about ways that they could make their machine go faster or lift more weight.
One group I spoke with was the Falcon Robotics Team from Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, Arizona. I did not know at the time that they were already sort of famous. There have been articles and maybe an upcoming movie about them. The team started with a bunch of high school kids who were on the verge of dropping out of school from dis-interest, need to get a job, citizenship problems, etc, - to go on to beat MIT in a national competition. An inspirational story. At the time, I was just grateful that they took the time out to explain everything to me. Their control system was particularly impressive. Everything, including the video monitors, was mounted in a travel case such that it just popped open ready to use.

Another team I talked to briefly was from COSI Academy in Columbus, Ohio. This was a bunch of kids from different high schools who formed the team through the science museum. I was attracted to their work area by their very well constructed ROB. It was a very symmetrical, a nice green color and just looked like there was a lot of work in it. Yes, I am easily amazed. However, the real story of most of the teams is not about the ROV but about how they got there. In most cases, especially among the high school teams, the kids really drive the program. It seems that one of their toughest problems can be finding sponsors both for money and for guidance for the teams.
The amount of work and creativity that goes into these projects is not something that you could tell someone to go out and do. The teams are completely self-motivated to invent this incredible new stuff.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Android Beauty Speaks at Tech Fair

From Korea Times online:
By Kim Tae-gyu

A female android will chair the opening ceremony of the SEK 2006, Korea’s biggest info-tech exhibition that begins a four-day run at COEX in southern Seoul Wednesday.

The life-like android, named EveR-1, was developed by a research team at the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology and went public early last month.

``EveR-1 is poised to introduce notable participants at today’s SEK ceremony before delivering an oral presentation on the annual fair,’’ said Baeg Moon-hong, a senior researcher at the state-sponsored institute.

``We are happy to show off our own android at the advanced IT fair. We aim to make efforts to develop the robot to be more like humans,’’ Baeg said.

Eve R-1 can understand 400 words and talk, with her lips in synch with the pronunciation of words.

Standing 1.6 meters tall and weighing about 50 kilograms, EveR-1 can blink her eyes and make several facial expressions as well as converse with others.

But she cannot move because her lower half is glued to the floor. Baeg aims to make her the first mobile android in history by enabling her to sit down and stand up this year.

``Should we get sufficient funds and personnel, we will be able to upgrade EveR-1 so that she can walk on her own in a couple of years,’’ Baeg said.

Korea Times Article


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ugobe Pleo Update

PC Magazine has an interview by Mark Hachman with Bob Christopher, CEO of Ugobe, about the progress of their toy robot dinosaur, Pleo.

A few interesting clips:

There will be different types of software developer kits for the rubber dinosaur. There will be a consumer version that will allow you to create animations and moods for your robot on a pc through a graphical interface. For the consumer software you will not have to learn any direct commands. The "third-party" SDK will be for programmers who are interested in getting into the head of the robot and re-designing the behaviors for their own application.

They are trying to get the units shipped before the end of the year but Christopher was making no promises. He emphasized that the quality of the product was more important than getting it out early. Sounds like he is really not expecting it to be ready for holidays 2006.
The suggested price will be US $250.

They are trying to get the motions to be very smooth and without the servo grinding sound of most of todays robots. It also needs to react quickly and appropriately in order to maintain its creature credibility.

Ugobe's Three Laws of Lifeforms:
Now Pleo, and all the Life Forms, are governed by three laws. And one of the laws is that they have to be aware of themselves and their environment: the ability to have real-time sensory arrays, and the ability to react to it.
The second law is having the ability to have emotions and show them—feel and show emotion. You don't really care if it's happy unless it's showing you it's happy. So feeling and showing emotions.
And the third thing is that all of our Life Forms have to be able to grow and evolve over time. They have to be able to adapt and adjust, personalize themselves over time, which is really a creation of the user experience over time.

Why will people want a Pleo?

To really succeed in the mass market, there has to be an emotional language between people and robots, where robots can actually feel emotions, and can react on an emotional level. You have to take the mechanics away from everything and create an emotional dialogue. And that's the big thing we're doing, we're creating an emotional relationship where you can feel empathy and feel emotions for, in this case, Pleo.

So you almost have to think about it in a way—how do you get robots from a level where they're not really kind of robots, but something that is really meaningful to us, and it's that emotional relationship to be a big play that allows this market to become where we think it can go, and that's where we're leading the charge as a company.

You don't have to do a lot to affect an emotional bond. You have to do a lot over time to continually make it interesting. People read into their products a lot—they read into the Roomba vacuum cleaner...
There's a lot more appetite that we're seeing exposed in the media to read into and create an emotional bond with something mechanical.

In my opinion Ugobe is designing a new computer interface. Effective cooperation between robots and humans is a big problem. A type of interface like Pleo may be part of the solution.
There are those who believe that it is necessary to have a voice interface with the partner-robot. This is especially true if the robot is a co-worker for manual labor or lifting.
However, humans have worked quite well with horses for many ages and horses do not talk.
Horses are large enough to crunch a human if they get in the way and they need to understand very subtle instructions under difficult conditions - the same worries that people have about robots. Yet the interface between the human and the horse is an indescribable language of movements, sounds and emotional outbursts. It appears to me that Ugobe may be on the way to developing such an interface for robots.

News from PC Magazine: Q&A: Ugobe's Three Laws Of Robotics

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FAA Surprised By Flying Drones

via engadget,
As if they were on cue from the post this morning about pilots wanting some controls on unmanned aircraft, Los Angeles County Sheriff Department is being reprimanded for not getting clearance to demonstrate their new flying reconnaissance toys.

From Wired News:

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles County sheriff's plan to use small, remote-controlled planes to track criminals and look for lost hikers has been temporarily grounded by federal officials worried about air safety.

The Federal Aviation Administration won't authorize the drones until it investigates a demonstration the sheriff's department conducted last week, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said.

"I wouldn't want to term us as peeved, but we were definitely surprised," Brown said.

She said agency officials told the sheriff's department it needed their authorization before flying the drones to ensure they don't interfere with other aircraft. The department could face disciplinary action over the demonstration.

I told you so!

Wired News

Dog Robots Create Secret Language

From The Engineer Online:

Researchers led by the Institute of Cognitive Science and Technology in Italy are developing robots that evolve their own language, bypassing the limits of imposing human rule-based communication.

“The result is machines that evolve and develop by themselves without human intervention,” said Stefano Nolfi, the coordinator the ECAgents project. The project is financed by the European Commission’s Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) initiative.

The technology, dubbed Embedded and Communicating Agents by researchers at Sony’s Computer Science Laboratory in France, has allowed the robotic pet to learn new tricks itself and share its knowledge with others.

“What has been achieved at Sony shows that the technology gives the robot the ability to develop its own language with which to describe its environment and interact with other AIBOs. It sees a ball and it can tell another one where the ball is, if it’s moving and what colour it is, and the other is capable of recognising it,” Nolfi said.

The most important aspect is how it learns to communicate and interact. Whereas we humans use the word ‘ball’ to refer to a ball, the AIBO dogs start from scratch to develop common agreement on a word to use to refer the ball.

The AIBOs initially started babbling aimlessly until two or more settled on a sound to describe an object or aspect of their environment, gradually building a lexicon and grammatical rules through which to communicate.

The Engineer Online - [News: engineering news, engineering info, latest technology, manufacturing news, manufacturing info, automotive news, aerospace news, materials news, research & development]

Flying Robots Should Take Care of Themselves

At an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Exploratory Meeting on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in Montreal recently, the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) called for measures to make UAVs compatible with existing air traffic, ensuring equivalent or higher levels of safety.

Major concerns raised at the meeting included the following:

* UAV certification standards must equal or exceed conventional aircraft standards;
* The need for UAVs to reliably "see"-and-avoid manned aircraft -- especially for the smaller, hard-to-see UAVs (like those already in use in several municipalities);
* Airspace access must not be restricted to accommodate UAV operations;
* Existing manned aircraft should not be required to add equipment to assist with UAV compatibility -- especially as more than 100,000 aircraft have no electrical system that would support such a requirement.

The bottom line is that the pilots are worried that the rapid growth in UAV's will force human pilots out of the sky.

This may become a more significant issue as police forces, farmers, forestry services, and environmental monitoring begin to launch low-cost autonomous drones to improve their operations.

For many of the lightweight and hand-launch UAV models it is not possible to add the sensors and control equipment necessary to allow them to avoid obstacles, like small aircraft, autonomously.

Who will decide who has the rights to the sky?

:: Aero-News Network: The Aviation and Aerospace World's Daily/Real-Time News and Information Service


Robots That Know Your Attitude

Engineers at Vanderbilt University's Robots and Autonomous Systems Laboratory are making robots easier to work with by empowering them with emotional sensors.
The robots will measure the emotional state of the human co-worker and adjust their behavior accordingly.
Look, Dave, I can see you're really upset about this...I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over...

Mood measurements could include sensors for heart rate variability, brainwaves, skin conductance, respiration, muscle tension, blood pressure and temperature.

The research team called Affect Sensitive Human-Robot Collaboration is studying the details of how to measure the human feelings and how to feed it back to the robots.

So how will the humans know the mood of the robot? Maybe from their tone of voice?

The problem of robot-human relations also came up recently in a keynote address by Maj. Gen. Charles Cartwright, program manager for the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems, at the RoboBusiness Conference in Pittsburgh.
The US military has more than 10,000 robots on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan but they are reluctant to arm them. The robots do not have the skills to judge how to use firearms safely. They do not seem to understand the difference between friend or foe. Today the robots are all controlled by human puppetmasters.
"How do you put ground robots and people together in the same environment? How do you know you're there and how can you do it safely?" Cartwright asks.

Department of Mechanical Engineering - Vanderbilt University School of Engineering

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Microsoft Jumps Onto Robot Bandwagon

Microsoft will anounce today that it is launching a new effort to dominate the robot world.
They will offer a software platform that could provide a foundation operating environmant for robots.

Their motivation for the efforts,according to an announcement letter from Tandy Trower, General Manager, Microsoft Robotics Group,is, "We think robotics is poised to take off rapidly, and there are solid indications that this is true! With component hardware costs coming down and computational capabilities increasing, the robotics industry appears to have the right conditions to really grow quickly."

Their Robotics Studio software will include:

A scalable, extensible runtime architecture that can span a wide variety of hardware and devices.

A set of useful tools that make programming and debugging robot applications scenarios easier.

A set of useful technology libraries services samples to help developers get started with writing robot applications.

Will Robotics Studio do for robot development what Windows did for PC's?

Microsoft will also be funding the new Center for Innovative Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. CMU is the foremost university for robot research and engineering.

The director of the new center, Dr. Illah Nourbaksh, writes:
Innovation in robotics is difficult today because the software development costs are so high. People who have ideas for a new robot, or a new use for an existing robot, too often abandon the effort because they lack the specialized knowledge necessary for making hardware, software and sensors work together. If software development for robotics becomes less daunting, more inventors and businesses may be willing to test their ideas and perhaps generate (or create) innovative new robots or applications for robots.

The center will maintain a website for open source solutions and sharing using Micorsoft's Robotic Studio.

...UPDATE: There is lots of good information in two articles in the online version of Robot magazine,

Microsoft Robotics Studio

Monday, June 19, 2006

Flying Robot Crop Duster

From The Nation, Thailand:

The mechatronics laboratory at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) has developed an autonomous flying robot to help farmers fertilise fields and conduct aerial surveillance.
"The robot has minimised human risk factors as it is controlled by a computer on the ground," said Sukon Puntunan, a doctoral student at AIT, who helped develop the flying robot.

An operator feeds flight-plan information into a computer at the ground station, which is then transmitted to the machine on board through a wireless modem. This information guides the robot to predetermined destinations and helps it to perform tasks like spraying or capturing images.

The on-board computer system continuously communicates with the ground station's system to receive and update new commands every 200 milliseconds within a three-kilometre range. The geographical positioning system (GPS) allows the robot to pinpoint its current position and chart its next moves.

Flying robot helps farmers avoid dangerous chemicals

Friday, June 16, 2006

Robot Plumber Challenge

The Spaceward Foundation and NASA Centennial Challenge are sponsoring a US $250,000 contest for robot construction skills.

The task will be to have your robots construct a pipeline from one storage tank to another then let the fluid flow without a leak.

The robots can be cntrolled remotely except that there wll be a 20 minute delay in communications between the human boss and the robot workers. The humans will not be allowed to see the construction site except through the sensors of the robots.
These constraints on controls simulate interaction with robots on the moon. It is expected that the robots will be mostly autonomous in their construction tasks.

The exact rules of the challenge are open for public comment for the next 30 days at the Spaceward Foundation site.

So you think you have a team of worker robots that can plumb one simple pipe from here to there? Get to work... the contests will start in August 2007.

The Spaceward Foundation


GoldenEye Flier Advances

From Press Release:
Manassas, Va. June 13 – Aurora Flight Sciences announced today that Team GoldenEye, an industry team led by Aurora, has won $23.6 million and was selected for Phase III of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Organic Air Vehicle–II program.
Team GoldenEye’s system will give company commanders a self-contained capability to collect and act on intelligence, surveillance and targeting data in the quickly changing battlefield environment.
GoldenEye-OAV is a possible candidate to fill the Class II unmanned aircraft requirement in the Army’s Future Combat System by supporting company-sized (100 soldier) units.

The GoldenEye aircraft lift off vertically like a helicopter and then transition to high-speed wingborne flight like a fixed winged aircraft. At the target, the aircraft can return to hover flight and observe an area of interest. For longer periods of observation, the aircraft can land, or ‘perch,’ shut off its engine and watch an area for extended periods. Unlike a helicopter, the GoldenEye aircraft feature an enclosed propeller that increases operator safety, reduces the aircraft’s acoustic signature and increases aircraft survivability during urban operations.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

RoboCup Fever

Robocup 2006 is underway in Bremen, Germany. Teams from all over the world are competing in 11 major divisions.

The robocup organization has a vision of:
"By the year 2050,
develop a team of fully autonomous humanoid robots that can win against the human world soccer champion team."

A friend of mine observed, "Of course they will beat a human team. They're robots! Once they learn how to do it they can be programmed to play perfectly. Humans wouldn't have a chance. The robots could just break the knees on their weak human opponents anyway. It is more likely that robots will be banned from playing against humans by 2050!"

In the meantime time today's robots struggle to get out of the locker room.
I have been following the action via the RoboCup 2006 website and Flickr posts. I have not been able to find a blogger who is at the games and writes in English. (If anyone knows of someone blogging the games, please send the link)

Here are a few photos stolen off Flickr...

RoboCup team has luxurious travel arrangements.

Small Size League Match

Qrio is giving a live commentary for Aibo tournament. The specially trained robots named Ami and Sango have been provided by Manuela Veloso, the head of Carnegie Mellon's RoboCup teams and CORAL program.

RoboCup Middle Size action.

RoboCup Official Site

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Teach Your Roomba How to Act

The kids at myRoomBud have come up with an even better way to give your Roomba vacuum robot a personality.

They have been selling custom costumes for the rug robots for awhile. Now they have come up with the idea to make the robot character go more than skin deep.

Using the programming accessory RooTooth from Robodynamics you can communicate with your Roomba through a computer.

The myRoomBud folks have designed personalities and made a windows program, 'myRoomBud Is Alive Dashboard or MIAD (pronounced 'maid')' to teach them to your Roomba. The program includes a frog that hops, a tiger that growls and a French maid that wiggles.
Very cute.

They are also working on a voice command interface.

An observation - it may be obvious - robot personality and advanced 'artificial intelligence' are not necessarily coupled. It does not take a robot with near human intelligence or brain-like reasoning capacity to become a friendly interacting member of the family - as a pet or helper.

The development of human to robot relationships could advance at very different rate than the science of artificial intelligence. The next invention in robot personalities no longer depends on the next step in technology. It will be driven more by what people want.

I guess we had to reach a certain level of capability before this decoupling could occur.

Anyway, it is nice that you can now pick a personality, sort of like a font, to go in your vacuum cleaner. Will we need to start upgrading our other applances? And, will they all get along?

Will people's household robots start to resemble them? Or the other way around?

myRoomBud RoomBud iRobot Roomba costumes


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Crumb Test Dummy

British biscuit ('cookie' for you soccer fans) maker and research center Mcvitie's has found the solution for age old problem of measuring how many crumbs are produced while eating a cookie.

Although many children might dream of one day becoming a professional biscuit eater, it turns out that people actually cannot keep up on the volume of cookies needed to be tested.

This new lab assistant can eat bisuits all day long but never puke. That's because he is a robot.

"Eating lots of biscuits is obviously an enjoyable prospect for most people but we haven't yet found a human who can test on this scale," Mcvitie's brand manager Liz Ashdown added.

"The Crumb Test Dummy has a never-ending appetite and doesn't need to stop for breath."

BBC NEWS | England | Beds/Bucks/Herts | Biscuit-eating dummy tests crumbs

via crechendo

Futurist Forecasts Robot Revolution

Paul Saffo is the director of think tank Institute of The Future, member of the Association of Professional Futurists and renowned technology forecaster. He was recently interviewed by Michelle Quinn for the silicon Valley newspaper Mercury News.

He is expecting that robots will take off in popularity like PC's. Partly his conclusions are based on the popularity of the Roomba vacuum cleaner robot and the friendly, accepting relationships people make with them. But also on the technological advances in sensors...

Every decade is shaped by a cheap enabling technology. The 1980s were shaped by cheap microprocessors and the poster child was the personal computer. The '90s were shaped by cheap lasers and the poster child was the World Wide Web.

This decade is being shaped by cheap sensors, eyes, ears and sensory organs for our machines.

The next big consumer phenomenon -- the big revolution that will surprise everyone -- robots. The geek on the cover of Business Week and Time is going to be someone making robots.

The cover of Business week will be a robot-building geek? Why not a robot? It will be even more telling when we see Asimo on the cover of 'People'. | 06/11/2006 | Peeking at what's around the corner

RobuROC 6 Outdoor Robot Platform Rocks

New from French company Robosoft:

RobuROC 6 outdoor mobile platform features :
- Lenght : 160 cm
- Width : 78 cm (including wheels)
- Height : 50 cm
- Wheels diam. : 50 cm
- estimated weight (incld. batteries) : 160 Kgr (Li-ion batteries) (350 lbs)
- Step clearance : around 400 mm (capable to climb standard stairs)
- Speed :around 3,61 m/s (8 mph)
- Max slope : 45°
- Max Payload : Around 100 Kg (220 lbs)
- Turn radius : 0 - turns on the spot.
- Power : 3 Li-ion battery pack
- Runtime : 3-5 Hrs

The rolling base has a unique structure of three body sections with two wheels each that can flex side-to-side and up-and-down. This allows it to be able to scamper up over obstacles.

The robot will be shown for the first time at the Eurosatory2006 military hardware show this week in Paris.


Robot Assistant For Spinal Surgery

An Israeli company, Mazor Surgical Technologies, has a small robot, called SpineAssist, that improves precision for spinal surgery.

First, the doctor takes CT scans of the patient and loads them into the SpineAssist workstation. Special software converts the images into a 3D model of the patients spine.
The doctor plans the surgery on the workstation.

To begin surgery, just two x-ray shots of the subject's spine are taken to align the person with the 3D model in the robot's memory. The arm of the robot then knows its position on the patient and can position itself just right.

The robot arm guides the surgical tools and implants. The surgeon hits the right spot every time. No worry about accidentally cutting into other delicate stuff in the spinal cord.

Mazor Surgical Technologies

Monday, June 12, 2006

Explosives Robot 'MoonBuggy'

Smith Engineering's Moonbuggy unmanned ground vehicle is an 1800 pound, six-wheeled vehicle that can be controlled via radio or an umbilical. It runs at up to 12 kph with a 33 hp diesel engine.

It can be decked out with various scoops and shovels on the front and back.
It includes 4-camera front and rear view with pan and tilt.

In the configuration shown in this picture it looks like it would also be a perfect alternative for cleaning the cat box.

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Robot Begins Grocery Store Job

Fujitsu Robot Enon began working as a sales helper in the grocery department of Jusco department store in Oita city in southern Japan recently. For now, the robot will be working only part time on the weekend.

Enon will guide shoppers around the store and help them carry their groceries. She can also show helpful advertisments on the display screen on her chest.

The job opportunity for robot helpers was announced by Jusco's parent compnay Aeon back in December. The best candidate was Enon (Exciting Nova On Network) which was released for sale in September 2005 by Fujitsu Laboratories and Fujitsu Frontech.

Walmart has denied the rumor that they will be hiring robot helpers after it was reported that they were employing one to assist handicapped shoppers in a store in Utah.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Korea Shows Off Robot Soldiers

The Agency for Defense Development (ADD), part of the Defense Ministry, demonstrated the new Experimental Autonomous Vehicle (XAV) for the public.

The XAV is a rolling soldier that will be able to carry out survellience or combat missions.
Those shown were a 1.2 ton battery operated and .9 ton gasoline engine version. Both are armed with machine guns.

Thye robot warriors can be operated by remote control or commanded to run autonomously. They always know their location with GPS sensors. The gas powered fighter can chase you at up to 45 kilometers per hour.

These are part of an ongoing $30-plus million program to develop an automated army by 2012.
Another soldier robot under development, the gyeonma, will have eight legs to help get it through rough terrain.

They also hope to use robots for civilian protection and control.

The Korea Herald : The Nation's No.1 English Newspaper


Robot For Baseball

In a collaboration of a mechanical engineering and psychology, two professors from Arizona State Universtiy have designed a robot that chases balls on a baseball field.

Engineer Thomas G. Sugar and psychologist Michael K. McBeath have built a rolling robot that simulates the perception and prediction of a baseball player and can move at 30 feet per second to intercept fly balls and scoop up grounders.

So far the little robot is not armed with a glove to catch the fly balls but that is coming soon.

A child can send a robot as a surrogate to school for them. Perhaps they will also be able to send a robot to cover for them at the little league.

Nuts-and-Bolts Ballplayer for a Space-Age Infield - New York Times

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

ASIMO Baby Pictures

Before Asimo was the world renowned party robot that he is today he was no more than a toaster on legs.

Asimo's creator Honda has put up a website that tells the story of the early days including pictures of the immature stumbler.

Robots do not develop like humans - starting as a small model and getting larger as they age - but rather they change from clanking metal frames with giant breadboard brains to more and more compact thinking dynamos with progressively more satiny plastic skin.

Asimo's story starts like many other of his kind. He came from humble beginnings in the Honda research labs. But he has gone on to become a popular icon of the jet set and one of the most recognizable robots in the world.

Honda Worldwide | ASIMO | History

Neural Interface Progress

Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc. presented results of clinical trials of the BrainGate Neural Interface System at the American Society of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery (ASSFN) Biennial Meeting on Sunday, June 4, 2006, in Boston, Massachusetts.

"The results from the third participant are particularly significant because we have begun to replicate the intuitive control of a computer mouse," stated John P. Donoghue, Ph.D., a founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Cyberkinetics and Director of the Brain Science Program at Brown University. "Such control, including the ability to 'stop' the computer cursor, for example, is directly related to a person's ability to stop other electronically controlled devices, such as a motorized wheel chair."

The third participant in the trial, who cannot speak due to a stroke, has been able to use the Braingate interface to move and stop a cursor on the computer screen. They have been able to type messages through the neural interface and software using only their thoughts.

"This pilot trial continues to indicate that an implantable brain-computer interface can one day provide an operating system for patients with severe disabilities", added Tim Surgenor, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cyberkinetics, "We now have a clearer idea of the hardware and software challenges involved in moving forward... as well as moving toward more compact, fully implantable, wireless devices."

So far, three patients have successfully been implanted with the interface and been able to interface with a computer through the neural connection.

Cyberkinetics - Neurotechnology Systems, Inc.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Guardium Autonomous Border Patrol

By B.C. Kessner From

LOD, Israel--Executives said Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) is producing the first operational units of its Guardium unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) system and that sales for international border and military applications should follow soon.

"We are definitely entering the operational phase for this system," Tal Shazar, Guardium's program manager, told sister publication Defense Daily this week here at IAI's facilities, "Things are moving...we are seeing a lot more in the way of RFIs and RFPs beginning to emerge."

Executives said the United States market in particular is very interesting because Americans seem to be most aware of the need. With the continuing debate in the U.S. about border solutions at home and force protection solutions in Iraq, IAI thinks the timing for the maturation of Guardium could not be better.

However, developing (and selling) the concept for the system is even more important than the hardware, Shazar said. "The concept is flexible enough to be almost platform independent."

For example, convoy protection is something IAI has been looking at for Guardium. "What goes out forward (of the convoy) doesn't have to just be a UGV looking like Guardium, Shazar said. It could be something that looks exactly like other vehicles in the convoy, perhaps closed up and with tinted glass, but nothing indicating it is a remote vehicle testing the route or looking for IEDs, he added.

In addition to the convoy and border scenarios--to which Shazar added that the U.S.-Canadian border also presented opportunities for UGVs--IAI is looking to expand military UGV missions from areas such as force protection and forward base security to urban warfare.

"We have deployed [Guardium] several times in operational situations...including realistic and complicated urban settings," he said.
He added. "Now there is a lot of room for imagination and...the robots' presence is beginning to make its way [closer and closer] to the people."

Watch the video

News - Hoover's


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Bomb Robot Defuses Offering to a God

According to Gainsville Florida Sun at, a bomb disposal robot was used to defuse an offering to the god Ogun.

Alachua County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Steve Maynard said deputies with the Bomb Disposal Team operated a robot that wheeled over toward the bundles and was able to pick them up. As it did, corn, peppers, beans and pennies tumbled out from the cloth, officials said.

Officers picked through the items afterward and also found two pocketknives, toy cars and a toy soldier, crackers and a food-stained, handwritten note. Headed with the words "To OGG," it read like a wish list and asked that "Steve to get over wife, Sassy to get over Jamie, Marcia to find new love, Sheldon to get over fears."

The robot was not called out for religious reasons although it is believed that any curse will fall upon the robot and not on a county employee.

"Our concern is certainly the litter but also the fact that people are trespassing on our railroad and creating a potential hazard to themselves," said CSX spokesman Gary Sease. "We stress over and over again that railroad tracks are not the place for people to be."

Leaving bundles like those found in northwestern Alachua County violates state law prohibiting interference with a railroad track, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Offering to a god on railroad draws bomb squad | | The Gainesville Sun | Gainesville, Fla.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Combo Swimmer and Crawler for Ship Hull Inspection

SeaBotix and Vortex HC have joined efforts to build the ultimate ship's hull inspection robot.

The Little Benthic Crawler, LBC, swims like a submariner ROV then sucks onto the ship hull and rolls like small truck.
The LBC makes it possible to perform a quick-search inspection of a hull or other underwater structure but also stop and perform detailed inspection when needed.

Working prototypes have been built (see videos) and the final version of the LBC is planned for sale toward the end of 2006.

SeaBotix Inc. - LBC Hybrid ROV/Crawler


Robot Powered by Nintendo DS

If you get bored with your handheld game console you can always turn it into a robot.
Here's a rolling contraption that one day may be sold as a kit.
The claims:
# 20 Digital Input/Output for multipurpose use.
# Customizable with you own Motors and Sensors
# Wireless programming and controling.
# You can use your DSRobot with NinjaDS to make the robot works alone.
# Programmable in C or C++ with devkitpro and a custom library to manage the signals.
# You can use PAlib (very easy NDS library to program you first DSRobot
# Upgradable Software & Hardware.

And, of course the video

DSRobot: A Nintendo DS Robot