Friday, April 28, 2006

Robot Shoes Protect From Landmines

Shoes that allow you to walk through a minefield.
The shoes have six short legs under each of your feet. The pods on each of the little legs has a metal detector. If one of the robot-shoe legs senses a trigger of a mine then it releases so that it can move up out of the way without setting off the mine. You would be supported by the other five legs on the shoe. When you step forward the leg locks in place again.

The invention is from scientists at the BioMedical Engineering Research Center of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Read the details in this paper.

Landmine Resistant Robotic Shoes -

Suicide Bomber Robots

Cyberhand has announced the completion of the next stage in their line of Mobile Miniature Anti-Personnel, MMAP, robots in development by its subsidiary CyLogic Aerospace.
Their latest version of the six-legged walking bomb is free to roam on its own and detects and responds to sounds.
The final version will be able to track and approach its target prey before exploding.

They have also recently announced that they will be launching their first rocket in May. The rocket will be the booster of their Avenger urban warfare missile.
The missile will use what they call Empath Fire Control System. The system will allow target acquisition on the fly through some sort of video goggles and, according to Michael Burke, CEO, "This unit will be able to track targets, follow them in an urban or hostile terrain, and selectively eliminate perceived threats." That's a missile he is talking about.

So if you are a 'perceived threat' and you manage to escape the swarm of landmine spiders chasing after you then watch out for the Avenger missile that knows what you look like.

I am not quite sure what to make of these press releases. I cannot find a web page for the CyLogic Aerospace part of Cyberhand. Their webpage includes the latest info on ergonomic keyboards - not quite walking landmines. It is hard to tell whether they are exaggerating the claims of what their weapons will do or whether they are really inventing the next wave in warfare. Maybe I shouldn't piss them off just in case.

[About the picture: From the 1984 movie Runaway with Tom Selleck and Gene Simmons (yes, the guy from KISS). This classic robot flick included both of these inventions. The picture above shows the MMAP's. They did not explode but squirted acid out of very evil-looking needles. The plot had the bad guys trying to sell stolen computer chips to terrorists. The chips would be used to make large bullets that would target and chase the victim, very much like the Avenger missile.]

Cyberhand Technologies International Starts Construction on Sound Activated Anti-Personnel Fighting Robot Prototype: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

Armored Combat Robot

Mesa Robotics' ACER, Amored Combat Engineer Robot, looks like a little monster workhorse.

ACER is a bit larger than a small lawn tractor but has tank treads and weighs 4500 lbs with a 60 hp turbodeisel power plant.

It is amour plated and runs as a semi-autonomous utility vehicle. It can tow - up to 25,000 pounds - and lift up to 1000 pounds.

It can be equipped with buckets, blades, cutters, arms and weapons. Perfect for that big bomb disposal problem or to help out with the weekend projects around the yard.

See the Movie

Innova Holdings' Walt Weisel has recently announced that they will be licensing their controller and motion sensing software to Mesa for their military robots.

Mesa Robotics - ACER

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Robot Pet Dog

Korean industrial robot company Dasatech has announced their new line of entertainment robots for the home. The new pet, Genibo, is 30 cm tall and weighs 1.5 kg. It can respond to 100 different words like come, sit and of course, "do a headstand."

It has all the usual sensors and servos to act like a pet as well as Bluetooth communication to mentally communicate with a computer.

No price or availability yet.

The company has been working on personal robots for 3 years since Seokhee Kang, CEO, said in a press release in 2003, "Personal robot market is beginning to be realized... Our company as a industrial robot maker have no choice but to extend our business to this new area in whatever form is may be."

Digital Chosunilbo (English Edition) : Daily News in English About Korea

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Biped Locomotor

Atsuo Takanishi demonstrated his latest 'walking wheelchair' at Waseda University in Tokyo.
The leg-chair was developed at Waseda University's Humanoid Robotics Institute with Tmsuk robot researchers.

A human rides in a chair set on top of the robot legs about four feet up. With its ability to climb stairs it could render wheelchairs totally obsolete.

This latest version of the Waseda Legs, WL-16RII, is controlled by the user from joysticks in the armrests of the chair.

Eventually the research group hopes to build an autonomous set of legs that are simple to use for elderly or as a stairclimbing carrier in warehouses or, with a robot body on top, as an humanoid worker.

Videos here.

Robot legs could give Japan's elderly a lift - Yahoo! News: "Atsuo Takanishi"

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Robots for Medical Device Manufacturing

LIVERMORE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 25, 2006--Adept Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:ADEP) announced a major medical device automation program with Insulet Corporation for the OmniPod(TM) Insulet Management System, a disruptive technology for insulin delivery in diabetes management.

Insulet's groundbreaking OmniPod is being assembled in the USA. "Insulet is ramping up large-scale manufacturing and requires rapid deployment of Adept's robotics in our clean room environment," says Kevin Schmid, VP of Manufacturing. "Adept has a proven track record in clean room robotics and the ability to scale to meet our demand."

Says Janine Roth, Vice President Marketing, Adept Technology. "Insulet is an excellent example of a company gaining competitive edge via its progressive manufacturing approach."

Sal Spada, Research Director for ARC Advisory Group, commented, "As medical devices become smaller, more complex, and individually customized it is economically unfeasible to consider an assembly operation without robotics. Based on these drivers, ARC Advisory Group's most recent assessment of the robotics market projected that the medical device sector would outpace the overall market growth for robotic solutions. As such, over the next five years the robotic shipments into the medical device sector will surpass an 11 percent annual growth."

Adept: News Release

Android Science

There is a good article on Scientific about Hiroshi Ishiguro, the creator of the ultra-realistic robot Repliee.

Ishiguro is the director of Osaka University's Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. He calls his area of expertise Android Science, the merger of robot science and the study of human cognition. Ultimately he is studying the nature of human interactions with androids and pushing the robots to the highest levels of human 'realism.'
"Appearance is very important to have better interpersonal relationships with a robot," says Ishiguro. "Robots are information media, especially humanoid robots. Their main role in our future is to interact naturally with people."

By making his androids as realistic as possible he hopes to gain some insight into the humans that androids strive to be. Even so, he says that a perfect android will never be possible. An android may appear human for a short time, he says, but there will always be something that will give them away.

Science & Technology at Scientific Android Science -- Hiroshi Ishiguro makes perhaps the most humanlike robots around--not particularly to serve as societal helpers but to tell us something about ourselves

Monday, April 24, 2006

Madeleine the Robot Turtle

Tom Simonite

A robotic turtle could help engineers build better autonomous underwater vehicles and answer fundamental questions about how prehistoric beasts swam. The robot, called Madeleine, is already helping researchers understand when it is best to swim with four flippers and when to use two.

Madeleine is similar in size and weight to a Kemp's Ridley or Olive Ridley sea turtle, measuring 80 centimetres by 30 cm and weighing 24 kilograms. The robot also has a comparable power output, between 5 and 10 watts per kilogram, depending on how hard it is working.

However Madeleine includes on-board sensors: sonar, video, depth, altimeter, accelerometer.

By imitating the design of a turtle, the researchers hope to build more efficient ocean robots, with flippers. "The thinking is that if nature did it, it must be good," explains John Long, one of Madeleine's makers from Vassar College, in New York, US

Long and colleagues used their robo-turtle and a swimming pool to experiment with different forms of flipper propulsion. They showed that four flippers are best for acceleration and stopping, while two flippers are more efficient for simply cruising along.

See a movie here

New Scientist SPACE - Breaking News - Robo-turtle answers some flippery questions


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Kiwi Packer With Soft Touch

By Graham Skellern

The robotic arm spies a kiwifruit on the moving lane and lunges, picking up the small, tender fruit and placing it softly in the tray.

The arm, which has a vacuum cup instead of fingers, won't blemish any of the valuable gold kiwifruit - and it packs nearly three times faster than a person.

The automated ABB FlexPicker went into commercial production at Seeka Kiwifruit Industries' Transpack Packhouse near Te Puke late last week. The robot was built by Swiss-based engineering multinational ABB but Seeka, in conjunction with Fruit Handling Systems of Hastings, developed the operating methods to integrate it into the production line.

Alan Mobley, Seeka's manfacturing engineer, said the FlexPicker made a big difference in packing the single-layer trays.

These trays, which typically contain 30 kiwifruit, make up 45 per cent of the production in the packhouse and are the most time consuming because the pointed gold variety can only be packed one way.
He said the FlexPicker won't replace people - it just makes the packhouse more efficient and increases the throughput.

The robotic arm, which has a reach of 900mm, packs a single-layer tray of 30 kiwifruit in 17 seconds - an experienced person takes 45 seconds to fill the tray.

It can work faster but Mr Mobley is satisfied the robot is operating at a speed that doesn't damage any fruit.

The robot has three arms that are connected to electric servo motors at the top and a soft silicon vacuum cap at the bottom.

It is programmed to track and locate both the empty trays and the kiwifruit as they move along the conveyor system. The robot fills the tray while it's still moving.

Hi-tech Flexpicker eases the load - Bay of Plenty Times - Apr 20 2006 11:00AM - localnews

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Robot Inspector for Complex Parts

German company Viscom AG has announced their new robot inspection system for complex machined parts.

The S3012ROB system includes one or more robot arms above a parts conveyor.
The parts can be inspected with fixed cameras - where the arm moves the part to the best position for viewing - or moving sensors attached to the robot arms. All sides of the part are checked.

The lighting can also be controlled to get the best conditions for each feature being inspected.

Options can be added for marking the inspected parts or moving defective parts to a reject area.

Viscom - Vision Technology

Robot Hall of Fame Inductees

The third year inductees into the Robot Hall of Fame were announced. The Robot Hall of Fame is run by Canegie Mellon University to honor robots, both real and fictional, that have inspired or demonstrated significant accomplishments for robots.

The official induction ceremony for the 5 honorees will be held at the RoboBusiness Conference in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania on June 20 this year.

Here are pictures (stolen form various websites) of this year's inductees:

AIBO, an entertainment robot from SONY that was mass-marketed from 1999 until production was stopped this year:

SCARA, Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm. SCARA robots, with shoulder, elbow and wrist joints, are commonly used in pick-and-place assembly and packaging operations.

Robot Maria, from "Metropolis" works for a city's evil corporate leader to instigate a worker's revolt. She established an image for robotics that would persist for decades. Maria's art deco design influenced that of C-3P0 in "Star Wars," a movie that premiered a half-century after the silent film classic.

Gort from "The Day the Earth Stood Still" He was left behind on Earth with the promise that all humanity would be destroyed if they did not get along with each other.

Boy android David from the movie "AI".
"David provides an important template for thinking about robot/human relationships, said psychologist Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. "I think that the problem he sets up with his adoptive mother, Monica -- that we love the machine we nurture -- is a significant model for an important psychological dynamic in contemporary robotics.""

Carnegie Mellon Press Release: April 19, 2006

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fire Fighting Robot Contest Results

The 13th Annual Trinity College Fire Fighting Robot contest was held April 8 and 9 at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. The final Prize results were posted today.

While the overall world champion trophy went to a team from Hadera, Isreal, the teams from China dominated most of the contests.

The contest is for a small robot to run through a maze representing a home and extinguish a candle, representing a fire in the house. The maze is about 8 feet square and this year included stairs.
The robots are limited in size to about 12 x 12 inches.
The robots must be completely autonomous.

The contestants are split into 6 divisions: Expert, Senior, High School Entry, High School Entry Level and Junior.

Congratulations to the teams from China for first place in the Expert, High School and Junior divisions.
China also took second and third in Junior and High School divisions.

The China wins are the big story but there obviously were tremendous efforts from many other participants.
Jump to the final results here.

[Picture is from 2005 contest.]

Welcome to the 13th Annual International Fire Fighting Robot Contest


Monday, April 17, 2006

QRIO Spies on Kids in School

Last year we read about QRIO attending nursery school in California and how the children were treating him like a "feeble younger brother." This was, of course, before his rise to stardom with politics, dance and music videos and more recent politics.

It turns out that during the nursery school days QRIO was actually on a covert mission to uncover the scandalous truth behind the seemingly simple life in the California school.

In a paper delivered in March at the Annual Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, researchers reported on what QRIO uncovered.

QRIO infiltrated a nursery school with children up to 24 months old. The young age of the children was chosen so that QRIO would not have to use his speaking skills.

QRIO would stay in a side room at the nursery while the kids were free to play with him or not. QRIO would try to lure the kids into his influence by playing music and dancing.
He used two dance modes to beguile the unsuspecting students. Sometimes he would perform an open-loop dance. This is a dance where he ignores the movements of the kids and hopes that they will mimic him. Other times he would use his visual feedback skills to perform actual closed loop dancing with the children and mimic their upper body movements.

The encounters were secretly video taped and played back over and over for researchers. (Probably at their wild academic parties.)

Other times QRIO played music but was nowhere to be seen.

The results, unveiled at the conference, showed that kids have more interest in a dancing robot than they do in music with no robot.
It turns out that the kids really do not care if the robot tries to copy them dancing or not. (Too bad for the sucker who spent years writing the software for the closed-loop dance mode.)
It seems that the children would leave and come back about the same amount of time - three minutes or so - no matter what was going on.

Another part of the study looked at how often QRIO was knocked over. It showed that for the first few days the kids wouldn't get near him so he hardly ever fell over. After a couple of weeks though the story changed. It looks like he spent more time on his ass than his feet. (This must have been a very dark time for QRIO. Like any undercover detective he must have questioned his own motivations and wondered whether it was really worth it at all.) But after awhile, as he gained the sympathy of the test subjects, he managed to stay on his feet more. In the last days of the experiment they never pushed him over even once.

The study does not say how the children felt after the experiment was over and QRIO just did not show up in class anymore. There was probably much sadness when they heard he was gone - for about three minutes or so.

QRIO's proven skill at gaining the confidence of a group of innocent people and his ability to penetrate their social group makes one wonder. What has this seeminly innocent and curious robot been up to as he travels the world like - well, like James Bond?

Children 'bond with robots' | World Breaking News | The Australian

Robot Controlled via Satellite

Friedrichshafen, April 13, 2006 - ND SatCom has, together with its partner BASE TEN, finalized an unmanned 'Satcom on the Move' controlled robotic vehicle system, RoboScout®, to the German Armed Forces.

Under the leadership of BASE TEN, a group of German midsize companies has designed and built a modular, autonomous, satellite-based overland-robot system for surveillance, protection and reconnaissance purposes.

The future system is made up of several robotic vehicles named Geckos, various payloads and a communication center from which the robotic vehicles can be remotely controlled. The vehicles are connected to the communication center via satellite and can transmit and receive data while in motion.

The current 'Satcom on the Move' vehicle can transmit surveillance and reconnaissance data up to 2 Mbps and receive control channel data up to 128 Kbps.

Press ND SatCom

Sunday, April 16, 2006

European Land-Robot Trial, ELROB

The German Armed Forces are sponsoring a robot challenge for unmanned ground robots.
They state that it will not be a competition so much as a demonstration of skills - and who has the best skills - but it is not a competition. In other words, there are no cash prizes.

The European Land-Robot Trial 2006 (ELROB 2006) begins May 15, 2006 near Hammelburg, Germany. It will consist of 3 seperate contests and a robot exposition.

The first contest will be for long range non-urban navigation by unmanned robots. The robots will have to navigate up to a kilometer through the countryside over ditches, berms, dirt, around fences, up to 40 degree incline and they may also have to face secret obstacles that could disable the robot if they are encountered.

The second contest is for urban search - "Tactical awareness in urban environment."
The robot could run into all kinds of trouble, " Examples of obstacles include standing water, fire and smoke, boulders, narrow underpasses, construction equipment, concrete safety rails, power line towers, barbed wire fences, and cattle guards. In addition to the existing natural obstacles, the organisers might place obstacles (e.g. military equipment) on the route that may disable a vehicle if struck. The buildings may be partially collapsed. These obstacles must be detected and circumnavigated for a vehicle to successfully complete the route. To enter the houses and floors there will be stairs and ramps if necessary."

The thrid contest is called EOD/IED/UXO. Even the name sounds dangerous. It will include finding explosives:
Explosive Ordinance, Improvised Explosive Devises, Unexploded Devices. The robot will have an hour to search through cars, trucks and buildings to find as many bombs as possible. Of couse they will have to face all the obstacles. I hope they include some real bombs too, just for the excitement.

The website does not mention if this will be televised but it sounds like it would make an exciting show. Especially the part about the "might place obstacles (e.g. military equipment)" along the route.
As the race begins, the announcer reveals the obstacles, " And for this next race the secret hazard will be.... Acme rocket powered robot exterminator spay!!"

1st European Land-Robot Trial 2006

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Heavy Lift Palletizing Robot

Indianapolis, IN - American-Newlong's new 4-axis Robotic Palletizer EC-201 has a payload capacity of 440 lbs. and a capacity of over 20 cycles per minute.
The EC-201 palletizes bags, cases, pails and other various products.

The weight of the mechanically balanced arm can be supported by a single finger. This unique design allows our robot to use less energy and dramatically reduces unwanted stress on the arm joints, bearings, pivot points, and floor supports.

The operators can change a palletizing program in less than 5 seconds through a touch-screen.
Management can track palletized inventory by specific programs and have the ability to monitor the machine in real time from their office.

American Newlong - Packaging Equipment

America's Answer to Immigration?

This may sound somewhat like a rant, but I must comment on UPI article from the Washington Times written by Shihoko Goto.

Called "Robots answer to immigration?" the article asks the question, "Could robotic technology be part of the solution to the immigration conundrum that is facing the nation?"

The article says that after all, "From gadgets that will sweep and mop floors to robots that will look after people, hi-tech products may well help buyers circumvent the headache of trying to find affordable and reliable domestic help that do not require government papers or tax filings, not to mention sick days and time off."
""We provide peace of mind," said Martin Spencer, chief executive of Atlanta-based GeckoSystems, which specializes in making domestic-use robots, most notably its Carebots."

The Gecko Carebots are your basic mobile telepresence robots with built in appointment reminder. Two-way video and audio, PC functionality, probably plays DVD's for the kids, etc. At US $20,000 it is no bargain. It does get points because it looks like Rosie from the Jetsons, though.

The premise of the article is that a root cause of immigration is rich Americans needing someone to mop their floors. Therefore if you fill that need with robots the immigration problem will go away.

Any human should feel deeply insulted by the suggestion that any human, immigrant or otherwise, could be replaced with one of these high-dollar rolling cell phones.

This is an example of what I call technomorphism. Technomorphism is applying a technological solution to a problem that is could or should be solved with humanity.

My point: You cannot solve migration issues with robots!
Immigrants are people - moms and dads, children, families, lives - they cannot be replaced with robots.
Even if every home in America is fully automated there will still be people who will come here for the opportunity and a dream for a better life for them and their descendents. They do not come here to clean floors.

This article is also an example of the kind of ridiculous claims (or the suggestion of ridiculous claims) that can lead to hype and expectations that can never be met. The truth is, robots are robots. They will probably create many more social problems than they will solve.

United Press International�-�The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Shocking Robot Hazing MIT Secret Exposed

From The Onion

CAMBRIDGE, MA—Several members of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology chapter of the Theta Tau fraternity are in campus-police custody today following a brutal hazing incident in which one robot remains missing and two others are in critical condition with extensive circuitry and servo-motor injuries, sources revealed Monday.

The robots, experimental prototypes recently devised at MIT's prestigious Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, were participating in an apparent initiation exercise that police say involved butyl alcohol and compressed air.
According to eyewitnesses, the three robots were ripped from their chargers at the Theta Tau chapter house at 3 a.m. Tuesday. One, a titanium-alloy hexapod approximately 13 inches in diameter, was reportedly forced to climb stairs built at a grade too steep for its small hinged legs, causing six of its pneumatic actuators to short out. A second robot, a biped from MIT's Leg Laboratory, was allegedly forced to replicate "the same humiliating hopping algorithm" 200,000 times, and is currently in critical condition in the laboratory's emergency-repair room.
The third robot, a tread-driven 38-inch-tall rover, is feared drowned after being forced to consume over 40 terabytes of data and then swim across the Charles River with a burning candle stuck in its rear port.

MIT Dean of Students Geraldine Knight said. "These robots are extremely artificially intelligent. They wouldn't willingly subject themselves to this sort of abuse without extreme levels of peer pressure or even downright reprogramming."

This latest incident comes in the wake of a February episode in which an ambulating chatbot device created at Caltech was programmed to repeat the phrase "I am a faggot" while locomoting across campus.

A spokesman for the Theta Tau fraternity claimed that the "fun just got out of hand," and that the robot pledges were "100 percent cool with the initiation."

"They showed us they were willing to do anything to be Theta Tau brothers. Loyalty, commitment, and conformity are what the Greek system is all about," the spokesman said.

MIT Fraternity Accused Of Robot Hazing | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

KUKA Robotics Endows Robot Chair at Georgia Tech

ATLANTA – The College of Computing at Georgia Tech today announced that it has appointed international robotics expert Dr. Henrik Christensen to the newly endowed KUKA Chair of Robotics. The position is endowed by a $1.5 million grant from KUKA Robotics, the North American subsidiary of KUKA Roboter GmbH

Said Richard A. DeMillo, the John P. Imlay Jr. Dean of the College of Computing at Georgia Tech. “With the generous support from our friends at KUKA Robotics, the faculty and students of the College of Computing will lead our nation’s charge to invent tomorrow’s cutting-edge robotics breakthroughs.”

"KUKA is proud to support the College of Computing at Georgia Tech in their continued pursuit of advanced robotic solutions," noted Leroy Rodgers II, president of KUKA Robotics Corporation. "KUKA's products are an excellent platform for innovation, and we expect the College of Computing’s faculty and students will lead the industry for years to come."

Dr. Christensen brings to the College of Computing an impeccable pedigree in robotics research and innovation. As the founding chairman of the European Robotics Research Network, Dr. Christensen will work with existing faculty to further enrich the robotics curriculum within the Interactive and Intelligent Computing (IIC) division at the College of Computing.
With a focus on personal and everyday robotics, as well as the future of automation, the College of Computing robotics program will offer both undergraduate and doctoral programs tailored to best enable students to understand and drive the future role of robotics in society and industry.

College of Computing - CoC and KUKA Robotics Collaborate to Lead Robotics Education and Innovation

Snake Robots Aid in Rescues

We need more snake robots... from AP writer Daniel Lovering

For most people, snakes seem unpleasant or even threatening. But Howie Choset sees in their delicate movements a way to save lives.
The 37-year-old Carnegie Mellon University professor has spent years developing snake-like robots he hopes will eventually slither through collapsed buildings in search of victims trapped after natural disasters or other emergencies.

In recent weeks, Choset and some of his students made what he said was an industry breakthrough: enabling the articulated, remote-controlled devices to climb up and around pipes.

Rescue workers say such robots would help them meet their challenge of locating survivors. Current equipment has limited mobility and is usually lowered into fallen structures, Choset said.

The Carnegie Mellon machines are designed to carry cameras and electronic sensors and can be controlled with a joystick. They wriggle with the help of small electric motors, or servos, commonly used by hobbyists in model airplanes.

Built from lightweight aluminum or plastic, the robots are about the size of a human arm or smaller. They are semiautonomous and can sense which way is up, but are only as good as their human operators.

The robots, with nicknames such as "Breadstick" and "Pepperoni," have successfully inched up the insides and outsides of storm drains, negotiated large gaps between pieces of debris, and maneuvered through underbrush and fences, Choset said.

Snake-Like Robots Made to Aid in Rescues - Yahoo! News

Other snake: OCRobotics
Gavin Miller
More snakes

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Robots and Factory Flexibility

Excerpts from Chrysler gives new flexibility to its factories
By Neal E. Boudette, The Wall Street Journal

Chrysler rethought how it assembles cars, looking at everything from the order in which door parts are welded together to whether it's cheaper to install windshields manually or by machine. The result is a new, flexible assembly system that Chrysler is betting can transform the company's economics. Its central feature is the ability to make more than one type of vehicle at a plant.

If the new system, which entails more robots, is successful, it should enable the Chrysler unit of DaimlerChrysler to increase profits despite a relatively high-cost unionized U.S. work force. Even as unionized rivals General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. gush red ink in their North American operations and prepare to buy out or lay off a total of 60,000 workers, Chrysler is profitable and has been recalling some laid-off employees.

Chrysler's move is part of a broad shift in thinking that has been rippling through the auto industry for years, but is now starting to bring big changes.

Car companies are trying to tap into buyers' appetites by offering a wider array of models -- SUVs of all sizes and levels of luxury, sporty new roadsters and so forth.
The number of models of cars and light trucks in the U.S. market rose to 286 last year from 181 in 2000.

Chrysler can use the cost edge it thus gains to be more competitive on price.

The most noticeable elements at Belvidere are hundreds of bright orange robots.
About 15 feet tall, each robot is essentially a large mechanical arm attached to a base. Each arm has a kind of hand, a grid of metal bars designed to hold the parts.
The robots can quickly exchange one of these devices, or "end effectors," for another, the way a human being would put down a wrench and pick up a hammer. By switching end effectors, the robots can produce a different car.
The robots are a third less expensive than old-style tooling. And since they aren't designed to build a single vehicle, and discarded when it's dropped, the robots can be expected to stay in use about twice as long, perhaps 10 to 12 years.

In 2003, Chrysler asked robot maker ABB Ltd., of Zurich, to set up an entire body shop for Belvidere using robots -- a total of 777.

In all, the new robotic body shop has 180 workstations, about half as many as in the old process. Mr. Faga pulled up to a workstation where a cluster of 20 robots was welding, gluing together and sealing support beams, roofs and side panels. The task used to take five workers. "Now," he said, holding up an index finger, "I've got one. At this one workstation, that's an 80 percent reduction in labor."

The robotic process has cut by about 10 percent the number of workers in the Belvidere body shop. But total employment at the plant as a whole is up because of the 1,000 workers brought on for the second shift.

Chrysler gives new flexibility to its factories

Low-cost Labor No Substitute For Robots

Thomas Fuller of the International Herald Tribune looks at car manufacturing in Thailand and other low-cost labor countries and asks the question, "Why bother with million-dollar robots when you have people who will work for $10 a day?"

I think most readers of Robot Gossip know the answer is that cost reduction is only one of many talents that robots bring to a factory. Let's see what Mr. Fuller discovered...

For a variety of reasons, including safety, automation is necessary even in countries where an army of cheaply paid workers is readily available.

"Some things can't be done safely by people," William Botwick, president of General Motors Thailand, yelled over the din of a stamping machine as it crushed steel into side panels and chassis. "So you need a robot."

But while companies in many industries have moved their operations to Asia, the complex equation of timeliness, quality control and cost in the auto industry dictates that car production is not as easily outsourced as sewing a shirt or a pair of pants.

Deciding on the level of automation in these far-flung manufacturing plants depends on several factors, but the main consideration is volume: robots work much faster, more efficiently and with less risk of accident than humans in certain jobs, and they can make sure there are no bottlenecks in the process.

Hajime Yamamoto, an independent auto consultant based in Bangkok cites a more intriguing reason carmakers choose automation. Newly built Japanese factories in China use robots intensively despite relatively low labor costs, he said.

"The workers don't have much experience," Yamamoto said, "Instead of educating them, they prefer to use more robots."

The Workplace: Robots in low-cost lands - Business - International Herald Tribune

Monday, April 10, 2006

All Wheel Rolling Robot

MobileRobots has announced their latest platform for roving robots.
The Seekur is a 4-wheel drive robot that can go outdoors in the weather as well as indoors.
All four wheels rotate so it can drive forward, backward and side to side.
According to MobileRobots' Chief Technology Officer, Dr. William Kennedy, "Seekur is the robot developer's dream. Seekur is holonomic; programming it is much easier than a Jeep or other vehicle with a large turning radius."
Moves are so cool you have to make up a new word to describe it.
"Holonomic" from Greek holo meaning whole and nomic meaning new fake word.
Wikipedia gives a definition of holonomic for robotics, meaning you can control every possible degree of freedom. I do not think that the Seekur can fly so it is, at best, holonomic along the ground.
Anyway, this omnidirectional robot can run autonomous or remote control.
It can carry up to 50 kg of navigation, sensors, stereovision, communications, weapons - you name it.
It is about a meter tall and 1.4 meters long and wide and weighs a whopping 770 pounds.
It can move at up to 5 mph. The 24 v NiCad battery pack can last 7 hours.

MobileRobots for Commercial & Research Applications



Walking Stalker Landmines

CALGARY, AB--(MARKET WIRE)-- Cyberhand Technologies International, Inc. (Other OTC:CYHD), announced today that it has begun construction on its first anti-personnel fighting robot prototype.
The announcement was made through its military defense division, Cylogic Aerospace.

This prototype, the first in a series of Mobile Miniature Anti-Personnel (MMAP) devices designed as a form of "Smart Mines" programmed for specific targets.
It is a hard-wired, six-legged scale model of an anti-personnel fighting robot.

This is the first in a line of prototypes that will result in a fully automated, all weather, miniature, walking land mine and anti-personnel weapon system. The mobile field control distributor (MFCD) can coordinate up to 1000 MMAP units simultaneously in real time hostile conditions.

Mr. Michael Burke, CEO of Cyberhand Technologies, commented, "This unit will be able to track targets in a given area for hours, days and even weeks before responding to a command to acquire and neutralize any individual target."

The announcement does not say if this is related to DARPA's Self Healing Minefield projects.

Cyberhand Technologies International Begins Construction on Anti-Personnel Fighting Robot Prototype for Military Use: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

SkyTote Vertical Take-off UAV

Engineers at the US Air Force Research Lab and AeroVironment Inc are working on the SkyTote unmanned aircraft.

The SkyTote takes off vertically like a helicopter then flies like an airplane at up to 200km/hr (125 mi/hr).

The SkyTote is 8 feet tall, weighs just over 200 pounds and has a 52 horsepower engine. It can carry a 50 pound payload up to 150 miles to land and take-off vertically.

The unit operates autonomously but a pilot can take control if it runs into trouble.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Female Robot Warrior

Robot creator Tomotaka Takahashi of Robo Garage has come up with a female version of his friendly robots. Named FT for 'Female Type', it is 35 cm tall and walks like a fashion model.

"There're loads of male-type and child-type robots around, so we figured making one in the style of a woman would be good for PR and stuff, as well as create new demand," Tomotaka Takahashi said during a Friday media conference.

To counter the instability resulting from FT's slim-line figure, Robo Garage installed two sensors inside the robot that detect if it's starting to lean. When activated, the sensors stop FT moving so that it can regain its balance.

FT took 13 months to build and cost several million yen.

'Female' robot 'models' in Kyoto - MSN-Mainichi Daily News

About Takahashi robots.

Single Board Robot Brains

Portland, Ore. -- Analog Devices Inc. announced this week at the Embedded Systems Conference that it has teamed with robotics expert Fred Martin at the University of Massachusetts Lowell to create a single-board solution for autonomous robots.
The Blackfin Handy Board, containing all the electronics needed for sensing, processing and actuating robots, will be an updated version of the popular hand-held controller board for educational robotics applications that is used by hundreds of universities in undergraduate engineering courses.

The original Handy Board was created by Professor Fred Martin, PhD, of UMass Lowell while he was a student at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This new version is a state-of-the-art robots controller board based on the high-performance Blackfin Processor from ADI.

Blackfin Handy Board Wiki at UMass Lowell

Robots Making Sausage

COLOGNE, Germany: The future of food processing can be seen in a working sausage processing and packing line set up by robot manufacturers at the international trade fair Anuga FoodTech.

Meat goes into a hopper at one end and comes out the other palleted and wrapped for transport, all with minimal human intervention.

About 20 robot manufacturers have pooled together to demonstrate the technology as a complete system.

Robotics holds out the promise of reducing costs by helping to speed up lines, making production more efficient and reducing labour requirements.

The Bremen-based consultancy K-Robotix is coordinating the consortium of manufacturers attempting to push the technology into the food industry.

The robot manufacturers are pushing the technology as a means of eliminating the need for human contact with food products. Workers are a major source of contamination in food factories.

The line at Anuga was staffed with two workers, who fed the line with sausage meat, casings and packaging materials. At an aseptic section of the line, meat is fed into a hopper and is funnelled down one part of the line to be put into casings.

The sausages then tumble on to another conveyor belt at up to 200 a minute.

The completed sausages remain in a closed aseptic system and pass, scattered haphazardly, under a special scanning light on the conveyor belt. The laser light feeds information into a computer about where each sausage is located. The information is sent immediately to two crab-like robots, each with three arms.

Knowing the location on the conveyor belt, the robots are able to pick up the individual sausages as they pass through the aseptic area and place them five at a time in individual meat packs.

The packs pass through a film sealing machine, where air is removed and replaced with an inert gas such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen.

Covered with a plastic film, the packages move to another machine that labels and weighs them to ensure they come within the correct range requirement. The packages move down the line where another robot picks them up four at a time and places them into a carton.

Once the eight-pack carton is full, a larger robot arm, picks it up and places it on a wooden pallet. After 50 cartons are on the pallet, another robot takes over and places it in a machine called the “Octupus”, which bands film completely around it and places it at the end of the line, ready to roll into trucks and off to the grocery store.

Robotics: the future of food processing?

FANUC Introduces New Intelligent Robot Series

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich.--April 7, 2006--FANUC Robotics America, Inc. today introduced the new R-2000iB, a multi-purpose intelligent robot designed for a wide range of applications including welding, assembly, part transfer, material removal, and machine loading. The new R-2000iB is compatible with its predecessor, the industry-leading R-2000iA six-axis robot.

The R-2000iB offers a variety of intelligent function enhancements including Robot Link, which controls and coordinates up to ten robots through a network exchange of robot positional data. With the new Radar Monitoring function for multiple robots the R-2000iB exchanges current positional data and robot motion information to prevent interference in multi-robot applications.

"The R-2000iB is an evolved, multi-purpose, intelligent robot that meets the ever-changing automation needs of manufacturers," said Claude Dinsmoor, general manager, controller software product development, FANUC Robotics America, Inc.

FANUC Robotics America Introduces New R-2000iB Intelligent Robot Series and R-J3iC Controller

Robot Searches for Explosives

HiEnergy Technologies, Inc. (BULLETIN BOARD: HIET) presented its novel robotic vehicle Atometer(TM) detector of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) today at the Unmanned Ground and Sea Systems Conference held in Washington D.C. from April 5 - 7, 2006.

Dr. Alex Vaucher, HiEnergy Technologies' head of R&D, presented HiEnergy's STARRAY(TM) robot-borne Atometer(TM) explosive detector.

The STARRAY(TM) is HiEnergy Technologies' latest robot-borne Atometer(TM) explosives detection system.
The STARRAY(TM) can cover rough terrain, climb stairs, clear obstacles and cross ditches. It is capable of non-invasively determining within minutes the presence of landmines, concealed explosives or unexploded ordnances and identifying the type of munitions or explosives discovered. In September and October of 2005, the U.S. Army conducted extensive tests of the STARRAY(TM) prototype.

HiEnergy Technologies, Inc.

Friday, April 07, 2006

ABB Robotics World HQ is Shanghaied

BEIJING (AFX) - ABB Ltd has moved the headquarters of its robotics division from Detroit to Shanghai, the South China Morning Post reported.

At a media briefing, chief executive Fred Kindle was quoted as saying in the Hong Kong paper that China overtook Germany last year to become ABB's second-biggest market worldwide, after the United States, and was likely to become number one in the future.

"The car market is the most important for robotics. China has more than 120 vehicle plants and investment of 25.5 bln usd in new manufacturing by (next year) will bring the capacity to 15 mln units," Kindle said.

"In the current global market, there are four main robotics makers - two Japanese, one German and ourselves - each with special customer relationships. In China, we can gain market share before others. You cannot produce a modern car without a robot," he added.

The decision to move the headquarters also reflects the shift of ABB's business from Europe to Asia.

Last year, Asia accounted for 23 pct of its total revenue, up from 15 pct in 2002, and Europe contributed 49 pct, down from 54 pct.

Business finance news - currency market news - online UK currency markets - financial news - Interactive Investor

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Water Bug Robot

By Jennifer Bails

Inspired by the strange motion of the basilisk lizard, Carnegie Mellon University mechanical engineers have built a tiny robot that can sprint across land and water with equal aplomb.

By understanding the mechanics of living creatures such as the gecko lizard, water-strider bugs, beetles and bacteria, the research team is constructing a veritable zoo of fully autonomous, biologically inspired robots that can fly, swim, climb walls and navigate terrain of all kinds.

"My dream is that, in the end, we will combine all of these forms of dynamic locomotion into one robot," said assistant professor of engineering Metin Sitti, who heads Carnegie Mellon's NanoRobotics Lab.

For the water-walker robot Sitti emulated the motion of the basilisk lizard, a skittish member of the Iguana family that lives in the rain forests of Central and South America. Sometimes it is called the Jesus lizard because of its ability to run on water.

For now, the robot has a foot-long, boxy body made from carbon fibers with four plastic legs driven by a lightweight, high-power motor. The four legs give the robot extra lift needed to stay afloat.

CMU robot walks on water -

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Roving Guard Robot

Cypress Computer Systems, a security technology integrator, is showing off MobileRobots second generation PatrolBot at a show for security professionals, ISC West, in Las Vegas.

The latest version of the rolling security gurad robot includes remote video, two-way audio and options for all kinds of additional sensors. The guard robot can interface directly with the security system so that it will automatically respond to emergencies without human intervention.
Other options available are touch-screens for guide duty or office delivery service.

CypressWorld - Cypress Computer Systems, Inc.