Monday, March 12, 2007

Scorpion EOD for The Big Jobs

Isreali police forces have recently used the Explosive Ordinance Disposal, EOD, robot Scorpion to dispose of a hidden bomb.

The Scorpion is from Autonomous Solutions, Inc of Utah. It is made from a modified Bobcat excavator with ASI's command and control brains.

Six Scorpions were delivered to Isreali police in 2006 and this is their first success on active duty.

The large size of the EOD robot makes it unique in the growing family of bomb disposal robots.
According to ASI:
The Scorpion's size, strength, and its ability to cut through steel introduces new capabilities which are changing the way the Israeli Police plan and execute their explosive ordnance disposal operations.

Autonomous Solutions, Inc.

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The Semantic Robotic Vision Challenge

A robot challenge has been announced that will test robots' abilities to recognize objects as well as their skill at understanding language.

The robot contestants will be given a list of objects located around their competition arena where they will be expected to go get them.

The robots will be required to look up the name of the objects on the internet - for example from Google image search - then find the required items.

From the website:

Integrating a mobile robot with the vision research adds another interesting layer of complexity that would not ordinarily be available in a purely computer vision competition. Semantic understanding of the objects could also be expanded to scene understanding as well.

So the objects will be located in proper context for example office items will be set up in a simulated office.

The final rules for the competition will be posted this week. Contestants are required to pass a qualifying test to get into the finals.
The final event will be held at the Twenty-Second AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence held in Vancouver July 22-26 2007.

The Semantic Robotic Vision Challenge

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Robot Goes to Work For You

Last year we saw a telepresence robot that would allow a bedridden student to attend classes as a rolling video terminal. There are also robot screens that can transport a doctor to the the side of a patient's hospital bed from his office.
Now there is a startup promising a telepresence robot for teleconferencing and allowin you to be in two places at once.
Headthere is designing a remote controlled robot named Giraffe. You will be able to roll arouns the office remotely with the 5 foot 8 inch Giraffe. It has a high resolution camera with 8x zoom atop a 14 inch monitor.

Presumably you would display your own live face in the monitor, but you could display any body part there. Who knows, you might even be able to put your face with the background of say an airport terminal instead of your actual poolside scene.

The base has some obstacle avoidance capabilities and can roll over small obstacles so you could wander around a factory or move from office to conference room.
This would be perfect for the control freak or the slacker.

Headthere says that the cost will range from US $1800 to $3000 and it will be available in 2008. Just a guess that there looking for venture capital too.

HeadThere: Maker of the Giraffe Video Conferencing Robot


Thursday, March 08, 2007

NASA Launch of Orbital Robot

Two autonomous satellites are expected to be launched tonight aboard an Atlas 5 booster from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The satellites were built for the Orbital Express program to test autonomous refueling and repair of satellites in orbit.
The ASTRO, for Autonomous Space Transport Robotic Operations, is a 950 kg (2100 pound) robot with extra tanks of fuel and a 3.3 meter arm for catching and holding other satellites.

The second satellite, NextSat, is a 223 kg (500 pound) prototype of the next generation on-orbit serviceable satellite.

The two satellites will work together to test the autonomous navigation as well as procedures and standards for space repair. The tasks will include refueling with hydrazine and exchanging batteries. The test mission is scheduled to run for 90 days.

The Orbital Express is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program with Boeing as the lead integrator.

Boeing built the ASTRO and Ball Aerospace built the NextSat prototype. -- Orbital Express: Prototype Satellites Primed for In-Flight Service

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

War Machine Protest in Pittsburgh Update

The Pittsburg Organizing Group has declared their planned blockade of the National Robotics Engineering Center a success.

They succeeded in closing the research facility for the day on Friday and drawing attention to military connections to the center.

They blocked various entrances to the site with people connected together with PVC pipe and duct tape. There was also a person on a 20 foot high tripod set up in front of the main entrance.
The action started around 7 AM and lasted until about noon. 13 (or 14) people were arrested for "failure to disperse, obstructiong of a public highway, and possession of instruments of a crime with criminal intent."
The "instruments of crime" were reportedly the PVC pipe that they used to bind themselves together.

There were about 20 people directly involved with the barricade plus over 100 supporters and observers.
News reports said that CMU officials told police that a few of the protesters who were on CMU property, rather than a public road, could stay of they wanted. They were not arrested.

There was a moderate amount of local news coverage but they had to compete for television attention with the funeral of that rich blonde chick. People have their priorities.

I do not know personally whether the work done at NREC is good or bad for world peace, etc. But I do appreciate the efforts of these few protestors to raise the issue and maybe cause people to ask questions about the consequences of their engineering work. Many times engineers become so enamoured with the elegance of their technology that they forget to ask for what it is to be used.

Barricade the War Machine in Pittsburgh

Planned Action

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Remote Controlled Pigeons

A team of scientists from the Robot Research Center at the Shandong University of Science and Technology have implanted radio receiver electrodes in the brain of pigeons to control them.
The scientists can make the pigeons hover, fly or turn right or left through a computer control.

"Chief scientist Professor Su Xuecheng explained the pigeon does not feel sense of pain at the head and failures will not influence the pigeon's life."

In fact, the control will allow the pigeons to be less of a threat to social stability and national unity in China.

Welcom to Changsha!

Zombie Mice Robots
Robot Zombie Cockroaches

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Urban Robots to Improve Quality of Life

The EU is funding a 3 year study to design robots to improve the quality of life in European cities.
The URUS,Ubiquitous Networking Robotics in Urban Settings, project will study how to use a network of robots to make the old cities more liveable.

The project will concentrate on designing robots to interact with people in the city to help them in basic ways. They will design robots for assistance and giving directions. This will become more important as the population of the cities ages.
They will look at robots to automatically make deliveries around the urban core to reduce the need for motor vehicles.
And they will look at robots to help in security throughout the cities.
They anticipate that the network of robots will work in combination with fixed sensors - like cameras - and with PDA's and cell phones.

The biggest technologies to conquer, they expect, are the ability of robots to navigate independently and to be able to interact in a 'friendly' manner with people.

The proposed network of robots will be tested in a section of Barcelona probably not before 2008 or 2009.

The Engineer Online

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