Thursday, August 31, 2006

Robot For Your iPod

What do you get when you combine speakers from Kenwood with robot technology from ZMP - the makers of Nuvo - and give it an iPod to carry around?

You get miuro, 'music innovation based on utility robot technology' (shouldn't that be mibourot?)

This is your basic robot ovaloid that rolls around the house playing your ipod. You can command it with a remote control or chat with it wirelessly from your pc.

It evidently does not understand speech (Has its ears plugged?). But at only US $930 what do you expect?
What more could you want than a robot that rolls around on the floor and shakes its booty with your ipod?

The units are available in Japan now and will be availble overseas in about a year.

ZMP plans to sell 10,000 of them in the first year. Says ZMP president Hisashi Taniguchi, "The robot helps you listen to music wherever you are without even thinking about it. Sometimes I don't even have the energy to put on a CD."

Another age old problem solved by robots!

Japanese robot adds wheels to iPod - Yahoo! News

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Robot cat from SEGA called 'Near Me'
The marketing genius seller on ebay describes it as "Creepy cat robot"

It is only available retail in Japan for $300-$400 US. This guy is selling it for US $200 plus $98 shipping from Hong Kong.

The robot moves like a lazy cat, makes cat noises and has 7 sensors to make it go. It developes a different personality depending on how it is treated.

Near Me page (Japanese) Includes video near bottom of page.


Reminds me of older NeCoRo from OMRON. Anyone know the connection?

Friday, August 25, 2006

ROBOT Focus of Design Competition

Japan Design Foundation has announced that the theme of their 2006 International Design Competition will be 'Robots.'

They explain that robots include any "tool created to solve present-day social challenges" by reducing "people's loads and burdens in their daily lives and that help establish more delightful and positive relationships between humans and things."

They are looking for designs that establish new relationships "between humans and the things around us" and "...can enhance or perform human functions."

Works can be submitted from September 20 through october 22, 2006.

Conditions and Rules of International Design Competition Osaka

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hubo Gets a Segway Scooter

Professor Oh Jun-ho of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology announced that his walking robot Hubo will be getting a Segway to scoot around on. Hubo will be the first robot to get on Segway and control the scooter. This is just the latest innovation from the Hubo Labs.

Albert Hubo is a version of the robot that sports an animated Albert Eistein head. Albert has been appointed as the official ambassador of 'Dynamic Korea.' He has been seen gallivanting around the world lately trying to catch up to the popularity of his Japanese rival Asimo.

Albert Hubo has reportedly signed a deal with pop-star Kanye West to perform in a music video for the 3-man band Sara on their debut album later this year.

When asked about the Segway trick for Hubo, Asimo reportedly scoffed, "Honda has spent hundreds of millions teaching me to walk and run. I don't need no stinkin' scooter."
For now, Hubo needs hep to get on or off the Segway but Oh says that he will be able to handle it all by himself after software upgrades.

The Korea Times : Korean Robot to Drive 2-Wheeled Scooter


Programmable Robot Toy Mech

The start-up company D2E Robotics formed by Daeduk College in Taejon, Korea, has announced their first foray into commercial toy robots for the home.
They say their robot, the D2V-ZN, will be, "arguably be the smartest robot in the market."
The 2-foot tall robot will be fully programmable from a pc. It will have a built in camera and capability for face and voice recognition.
I like the look of the backward-knee chicken legs, but the arms look like they have fake machine guns instead of grabbers. Will it be able to hold anything?

The robot is the beginning of a plan to launch the business, and Daeduk College, onto the top of the heap in Korea's booming robot industry. They hope to have a majority market share in the Korean toy robot business by 2008 and overseas markets by 2010. The ultimate goal is to be a major player in the service robot business by 2012.

The Korea Times : Korea to Unveil Programmable Robot in October

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Robots to Help With Oil Mess

Japanese company Fukada Salvage and Marine Works Co. Ltd. are expected to bring on underwater robots to help with the salvage of the M/T Solar I in Guimaras province Philippines.

The M/T Solar I sank August 11 spilling millions of liters of oil into the sea. It is not clear if oil has stopped leaking from the vessel that sits on the bottom at a depth of 640 meters (2,100 feet).

The robots will be used to first find the ship then to hook-up and suck the remaining oil out of it. There could be almost 2 million liters (50,000+ gallons)of bunker oil - oil used for fuel rather than cargo - left in the tanks.
If the ship is sitting upright then the robots can connect lines to the valves and drain the tanks. If the valves are blocked then they can cut a hole and "hot tap" the tanks to connect a drain hose.
After the oil is drained salvage workers will attempt to raise the ship.

The local government and residents are irate that the ship has been allowed to sit and spew oil. Some are calling for a boycott of Petron Oil who had the ship under contract. Petron is majority owned by Philippines governement. The ship was owned by Sunshine Maritime Development Corp.

Side note:

To me, it seems that this disaster has gotten very little publicity. The spill has reportedly destroyed 220 kilometers (136 miles) of the Guimaras coastline and displaced up to 26,000 people. The economy of this area depends on fishing and tourism so this contamination of the coast is truly devastating. Earlier this week the governor of the province was calling on citizens to donate materials to be used to make booms to contain the oil and prevent the damage from spreading. Where is the worldwide response to this type of disaster?

The people of Guimaras are asking for help. They have set up a web page Project Sunrise to keep people posted on what is happening and to let the world know how they can help.

It is widely known that the quicker an oil spill can be contained the less the damage. It seems that every major oil spill spreads out of control and kills hundreds of square miles of ocean before anyone does anything. This problem is not going to go away. I think the UN should sponsor an emergency response team to rush to any oil spill in the world to help minimize the damage. That's what I think.
Someone should invent some robots to contain the spill when they happen then to clean up the mess afterward.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Killer Spider Tank Tachikoma

From the amazing robot god Tomotaka Takahashi at Robo Garage:
Tachikoma is from the anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
The creatures are inspired by jumping spiders but, in the series, are as large as cars and very intelligent. They can run, roll at high speed with wheels on their feet and jump.

The robot version is much smaller - lucky for us - at 40 cm long.

The robot Tachikoma have 19 degrees of freedom, run off lithium polymer batteries and as you can see from the videos (here and here) they seem very friendly.

via Loving the Machine: Charm from the barrel of a gun

Female Robot Warrior
Chroino at RoboNexus

Monday, August 21, 2006

New Source for Robot Kits and Parts

Matt Trossen has opened a new website, to supply all the needs of robot builders and hackers.
The store includes pretty much everything you need to build robots from complete kits to all the sensors, components, brackets, nuts and bolts you might need.

He promises in the future to serve up some robotics development software using XML to be platform independent. He plans to set up forums and libraries where people can trade tips and re-useable robot code.

They are very enthusiastic about supporting robot development so you can expect to see lots of new stuff from them in the coming months.

Trossen Robotics - Robot Kits - Robot Parts - Robot Sensors - Robot controllers

Predators Await Disaster

The US Air Force has four MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft on standby at their home at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, waiting to assist when the need arises.

An agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier this year cleared the way for unmanned planes to help out during emergencies.

Immediately after hurricane Katrina, the FAA blocked the use of robot aircraft because there was no procedure to prevent them from interfering with commercial and other rescue aircraft.

The new plan calls for the FAA to designate airspace during emergencies where the Predators can hunt. For example they could identify paths or altitudes where other aircraft would have to avoid the UAV's.

The Predator is about the size of a private plane, 27 feet long with a 48 foot wingspan and 100 horsepower engine. It cruises at only 85 miles per hour.

In a disaster the Predators would be loaded onto a freight aircraft or trucks and brought to an airport near the scene. They only need to be within 150 miles of the work zone. The take-off and landing are operated by pilots from remote stations at the location then control is handed to flight specialists at the base in Nevada.

Predators can be used in a disaster for search operations, to survey damage and to make accurate maps of the disaster zone. The Predator also has an infrared camera for nighttime survellience. It can spot the heat of a person from 10,000 feet.
They can also be armed with two laser-guided Hellfire anti-tank missiles - just in case.

Air Force Times - Disaster-relief role considered for Predator

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Robot Colonists on the Moon

The folks at NASA JPL Evolvable Hardware Laboratory have been working on robot companions for the next round of travel to the moon.

They have reasoned that the best mechanical helpers would be humanoid robots. They feel that robots shaped like humans - with arms, legs and stereo vision - are the best partners for construction and everyday living on the moon and Mars.
They admit that there is need for "extension" robots which extend human capabililties for sensing, strength and super-human capabilitites. But there is also a need for "replacement" robots which can do all that humans can and more.
Humanoid robots are the best form for replacement robots. Some advantages of humanoid robots are:

-Humanoids are able to operate in human environments
-They can use the same tools as humans
-They can climb ladders and scaffolding
-They can help humans directly in emergencies

- Humans can interact woith them more easily
- Humans accept the familiar shape more readily
- There is highest efficiency in teaching and learning new skills

The training and learning are among the most important considerations for companion robots in space colonies, they conclude. Robots cannot be programmed for everything, they must be able to learn how to adapt and optimize their skills.

One of the key factors of the robot's success may depend not on their ability to learn but on the human's ability to teach. We must be able to pass new skills to robots (and from robot to robot) by training them through demonstration and imitation and not by trying to write millions of lines of code.

Starting in 2004 the group has been using a Fujitsu HOAP-2 (Humanoid for Open Architecture Platform) for development.
They have been able to get the 50 cm tall guy to recognize objects and colors and do simple moving tasks. They aim is to get the robots to complete simple construction tasks. The next big step would be to upsize to a full-scale humanoid like SARCOS creation, for example.

When will humanoid robots be our helpers in space?

They have outlined a timeline of humanoid development to match the NASA 'Vision for Space Exploration' established in 2004:

2023- 2030 Include humanoid robot technology in some space missions

2028 - Humanoids assist in lunar habitat assembly

2033 - Humanoid robots build habitats without human intervention

2040 - Robots perform site selection, sample collection and laboratory analysis of samples.

2050 - Robot colonists run large scale commercial mining operations including processing materials, transporting to Earth and energy production.

It seems a long way to robot colonies from today's ability to optimize a walking algorithm on a 2-foot tall robot doll. Robot baby steps.

Humanoid Project

SARCOS high performance humanoid videos

Fujitsu HOAP-2 videos
related: Fujitsu Announces HOAP-3


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Protector USV Hits US Shores

Defense mega-corporations are showing off the Unmanned Surface Vehicle, USV, "Protector" to US military and security services in hopes of drumming up new orders.

BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Rafael Armament Development Authority, Ltd., announced that they will be demonstrating the unit in the US this year.

According to Steve Kelly, director of BAE Systems Naval Systems in Minneapolis, "The Protector has performed exceptionally well in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean. This system is ready and available today to meet the needs of our maritime security and defense forces."

The Protector is armed with with a Raphael stabilized mini-Typhoon weapon system and a variety of stabilized cameras, radar and navigation gear. It is described as 'highly autonomous' and can be controlled remotely from land-based or marine stations.

It can operate day or night in rough seas running up to 43 miles per hour.

Videos here.

BAE SYSTEMS North America: News and Information: News Releases

Related: Protector Naval Combat


Packbot Gets Advanced Sniffer

Smiths Detection, part of the global engineering business Smiths Group, has been selected by the US Army’s Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center to supply the Lightweight Chemical Detector (LCD)for use with a new advanced reconnaissance robot.

The LCD is fitted to an iRobot PackBot robot. The LCD can detect a wide range of chemical warfare agents including nerve, blister, blood and choking agents.

The new robots, which will be known as the CBRN Unmanned Ground Vehicle or CUGV, recently completed technical demonstrations at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Smiths Detection Press Release


Nascar Gets Robot Sponsor

RobotWorx has teamed up with McGill Motorspots to sponsor their #36 car for a Nascar Busch Series team.
Nascar driver Jeff Green will be driving the blue and gray car in its debut this weekend at the Michigan International Speedway.

RobotWorx is an Ohio based integrator of industrial robot systems and automation. They install robots from Motoman, Panasonic, Fanuc and ABB among others.
Where are the Nascar sponsorships from some of these robot manufacturer heavyweights? Nascar Busch Racing

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Robots Share Each Others' Senses

Engineers from Örebro University in Sweden have trained robots to cooperate with each other by sharing their sensors.

The robots are being developed by PhD student Robert Lundh working in the Mobile Robotics Lab.

The robots can cooperate with each other by deciding that one of the other robots in their team can help them then wirelessly seeing the world through the their teammates sensors.
For example, robots trying to find their way around an obstacle can look at it from different perspectives. Where a single robot may not be able to see all sides of a situation, a team can cooperate to get a complete picture. The robots are able to do more as a team than each of them could do individually.

The robots can choose to work alone or to combine their efforts into a team. Lunch says it is very much like any teamwork, "Humans don't exist in fixed teams," he says. "They cooperate as needed."

Robot team-mates tap into each others' talents - tech - 15 August 2006 - New Scientist Tech

Monday, August 14, 2006

Robot Works on AIDS Vaccine

A new lab robot called CrystalMation promises to speed up the discovery of new vaccines for HIV and other diseases.
The robot was developed by the RoboDesign division of privately held Rigaku.

Located at Scripps Research Institute, the $2.2 million Crystalmation, can complete in days a task that had previously taken months to perform.

From Scripps:
X-ray crystallography is a technique that can solve structures to exquisitely high resolution. To make the technique work, scientists manipulate a protein or some other molecule so that a crystal forms. This crystal is then placed in front of a beam of x-rays, which diffract when they strike the atoms in the crystal. Based on the pattern of diffraction, scientists can reconstruct the shape of the original molecule.

The catch is that it can be extremely difficult to get a crystal to form. In the past, scientists have spent months trying to coax a protein to form crystals by varying dozens of conditions and combinations of conditions, such as temperature, ionic strength, protein concentration, buffer, and pH—time spent with no guarantee of success.

Robotic crystallography brings the technique to a new level. Instead of varying conditions one by one, scientists can run dozens of conditions at once to see if any work.

In fact, the new system at Scripps Research is so automated and integrated that scientists can put a sample of protein in at one end, and, if all goes well, some two weeks later pick up high quality crystals to solve the structure. The machine handles the dispensing, sealing, incubation, and imaging without any human intervention.

This robotic technology helps to solve between 100 and 200 structures a year — about one every three working days.

This is a good example of robot technology that can extend capabilities to levels that are not possible without the robot help.

TSRI - News & Views

Wilson Lab

International AIDS Vaccine Initiative
Joint Ceneter for Structural Genomics

Japan Announces Robot of the Year Award

Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry has announced that they will present awards to the best robots of the year in a ceremony in December.

The purpose of the award is to recognize promising achievements in robot development and to encourage private industry interest in robot design.

Recognition - no monetary prize - will be given in four categories: robots for service, industrial use robots, special purpose robots such as rescue units, and robots manufactured by small or medium-sized companies.

Robots developed in the past year through the end of August are eligible for consideration. Nominations will be accepted from August 21 through September 29.

Gov't establishes robot award to encourage development

Balancing Ballbot Demonstrates Dynamic Stability

Another ingenious invention from the robot pioneers at Carnegie Mellon University.

Ballbot moves and balances on a single spherical wheel.
The design of the robot is as tall as a person and slender enough to negotiate a crowded room. The center of gravity is high but it will not tip over.

The project leader, Professor Ralph Hollis, says, "We wanted to create a robot that can maneuver easily and is tall enough to look you in the eye."

Ballbot's brains read balance information from its internal sensors and activate rollers to move the ball on which it stands.
When powered down it rests in place on three retractable legs.

Dr. Hollis recognized problems with current attempts at service robots trying to interact with people. Many robots are heavy, have a low center of gravity and are dangerous to be around. Ballbot on the other hand is agile and can yield when bumped or pushed.
Their goal is to get a robot that can easily and safely work with people in their home or workplace.

Carnegie Mellon Press Release: August 9, 2006

Movies: balance, motion

Koolio Snack Delivery Robot

Created by students for the Machine Intelligence Laboratory at the University of Florida, Koolio brings cold drinks and snacks directly to you.

You can log on to Koolio's request page and tell him which room you are in. Koolio can navigate down the halls, read the room numbers and find the correct room.

After the delivery he returns to his charging station to wait for another order.

Koolio is like an hotel mini-bar that comes to you. Is Sheraton room-service robot next?


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Remote contolled Humans

Scientists have figured out how to remotely control the direction and balance of a walking person.
Just as the REM song says:
If you are confused check with the sun
Carry a compass to help you along
Your feet are going to be on the ground
Your head is there to move you around

Researchers from Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute and the University of New South Wales in Australia, and University College London have found that the human that human bipedalism is accomplished by two types of processing: balance and steering.

Their research allows insight into the unique upright walking of humans and also how to control the vestibular sensations. By stimulating the nerves that carry information from the semicircular canals they can make a person turn or lean.

They expect that their new understanding will lead to new therapies as well as virtual reality applications.

Also it can also be used to make human robot slaves like NTT's Parasitic Humanoid.

ScienceDaily: Stimulation Of The Semicircular Canals Can Artificially Control Human Walking And Balance

Robot Kayaks Reduce Research Costs

They are a long way from the original Inuit technology of skins stretched over wooden frame but the SCOUT kayaks serve the same purpose - of using available resources to get the job done.

SCOUT stands for Surface Crafts for Oceanographic and Undersea Testing and is used by MIT students and researchers to test ideas for autonomous maritime robots.

The robots are made from standard $500 plastic kayaks and are outfitted with navigation, communication and computing gear.
"I want to have master's students and Ph.D. students that can come in, test algorithms and develop them on a shoestring budget," said Associate Professor John J. Leonard of mechanical engineering.
Just like the Inuit the students learn to get what they need from the slim resources.

Testing with underwater craft can quickly run up into the millions of dollars.

10 SCOUTS have been built in cooperation with the US Naval Underwater Warfare Center. The boats provide a standard platform on which experiment.

Some of the applications for an autonomous fleet of robot boats include search and rescue, sweeping for mines and surveillance patrols.

Kayaks adapted to test marine robotics - MIT News Office

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Exoskeleton Assists Swiss Peak Ascent

In a dramatic demonstration of the super-human feats that can be accomplished with HAL, the robot exoskeleton, mountain climbers will carry disabled men to the 4164 meter (13,741 feet) Alpine summit of Breithorn in Switzerland.

HAL stands for 'Hybrid Assistive Limb'. It is marketed by Cyberdyne Inc. of Japan. Cyberdyne is a company founded to commercialize inventions from the Cybernics labs of Dr. Yoshiyuki Sankai at the University of Tsukuba.
[This is no relation to Cyberdyne Systems which reverse-engineered the arm from Terminator to create an army of robots who turn on humans to cause the fall of civilization and movie sequels T2 and T3 and a rumored T4 which will not star a robot Arnold.]

A person wearing HAL can double their lifting strength. Experienced mountain climber Ken Noguchi will carry a man paralyzed from the neck down. Another mountaineer will carry a 16 year old student stricken with muscular dystrophy. The climbers would not be able to carry the men without the assist of the HAL exoskeleton.

HAL was invented to help improve the capabilities of weakened elderly.
The climb will be to inspire others to see the potential benefits of the HAL suit as well as fulfill the dreams of the disabled participants.

Japanese quadriplegic to begin attempt robot-assisted ascent of Swiss mountain

US' DARPA also has a exoskeleton but for soldiers.

China Doll Tour Guide

China is joining the life-size female robot race with their version of the beautiful receptionist.
(check out Korean and Japanese creations)

From Li Chengrong and others at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Institute of Automation comes a Chinese "beauty."Li said the cost for designing and making the first robot was 300,000 yuan (US $37,500).
However, they plan to start selling the robots next year and the cost would drop to 100,000 yuan if they can sell 100 per year.
Potential customers would include star-rated hotels and entertainment clubs.

This robot is interactive and can understand and speak in a Sichuan dialect for her new job as a tour guide at Sichuan Science Museum.

Female robot to act as a tour guide

People's Daily

Friday, August 04, 2006

US Robot Orders Decline

According to statistics released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the robot trade group, new orders received by North American based robotics companies fell 38% in the first half of 2006.

According to the article, a 52% reduction in automotive factory robot sales is due to a cyclical turn for auto factories. Record high investments in robots over the past few years and an overall slowdown in the auto industry are both factors in the declining rate of robot hiring.

On the other hand, sales of robots to non-automotive business was down by only 5%. This raises non-auto robots to almost half (45%) of the total sales of robots so far this year. This shows the growing penetration for robots into other areas of manufacturing outside the auto industry.

RIA estimates that 162,000 robots are now installed in US factories, second only to Japan in robot use.

For first half 2006 - 6607 robots worth $473.5 million have been ordered by US companies.

Robot Sales Fall 38% in North America - Robotics Online

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

School of Underwater Robots Plays as a Team

Data collection this August in Monterey Bay, California will cap a three year cooperative effort involving a team of research scientists and underwater robots.
The program called Adaptive Sampling and Prediction (ASAP), was led by Naomi Ehrich Leonard of Princeton University and Steven Ramp of the Naval Postgraduate School.
The team includes scientists from all over the world and an autonomous underwater team from Woods Hole Institute and Scripps Oceanography Institute.

The objectives of the project include studying the seasonal ocean currents of the area.
The underwater robots will be able to make decisions about where to take measurements. Usually with studies like this the robots must be pre-programmed to make sure they cover the entire area. In this case the robots will decide for themselves how best to cover the interesting changes and get the most data.

The self-directed school of robot submarines may one day be able to be set free for more wideranging tasks. they could follow oil spills, fish migrations or help with military operations.

ASAP Project page

Underwater robots work together without human input


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Robot Controlled by Brain in a Dish

Researchers at Georgia Tech are experimenting with home grown rat brains connected to remote robots.

A group led by Dr. Steve Potter at the Laboratory for Neuroengineering has succesfully connected lumps of living brain tissue to virtual and mechanical robots. The cells are from mammal brains, for example a rat.

The brain cells are cultured on multi-electrode arrays so there is intimate communication with the neurons. The thinking mass is then given a body via a computer interpreter.

The cells can be brought to life as a virtual creature called an animat in a video game style universe or they can be connected to moving robot bodies.

In one application the brain living in Atlanta was connected to a robot arm in Australia and allowed to express its tortured existence through art.
The resulting drawings looked like random scribblings which clearly expressed the torment of the brain during the gruesome experiement.

In other experiments the brain is embodied by a rolling robot. Researchers call these creations hybrots for 'hybrid living robot.'

The mechanical body is allowed to interact with another robot which does not have a brain and moves about randomly. The hybrots are given very simple instructions to follow or evade the other robot. The goal is to get the brain cells to perform tasks with unquestioning obedience.

So far they have not tried rat-brain-driven robots for any of the popular applications like vacuuming or bomb disposal.
Hopefully they are not working on a way to weaponize the creatures.

With fresh brains grown directly inside robots we may not have all those jobs for humans in the future after all.

Wired News: It's Alive (ish)

Friefighting Robot

The Brazilian company ARMTEC has released the latest version of its firefighting robot.

The SACI (Incidents Support Combat System) robot brings the firehose directly into the fire or sprays water or foam from 60 meters. The robot can work for 3 hours before it needs a recharge.

ARMTEC has also recently received funding to design an underwater robot for inspection oil platforsms and pipelines.