Alphabet to Sell Boston Dynamics

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, are working on ventures in a great number of fields, however, the rumours that their robotics division was in trouble could be worse than expected. In a report published by the Bloomberg News, Alphabet is looking to sell off Boston Dynamics, their most prominent robotics company, who developed robots such as Spot the dog.

In 2013, Google picked up 8 robotics companies, including Boston Dynamics to form their new robotics division named Replicant. Even this early on it was reported that the numerous firms that made up Replicant had very little in common and were scattered about the globe, causing difficulties in many collaborative efforts. When the head of Replicant, Android founder Andy Rubin, left Google, those who had joined the tech giant in robotics research and development were left confused and disorganised.

After reorganizing into Alphabet, the situation got worse, with the new parent company focused on seeking investors for its sub-companies. While Boston Dynamics constantly put out publicity videos showing off their developments growing fear amongst workers that robots could eventually take away their jobs and the lack of faith that they would have a marketable product in the next few years made Boston Dynamics a liability. While many of the startups that made up Replicant have been moved to the Alphabet X division, the future seems bleak for robotics development at Alphabet.

Where Boston Dynamics will end up remains to be seen, however, the best guesses seem to currently be that Toyota or Amazon will be looking to pick up the firm, with the former recently putting a lot of funding into robotics development. Neither company has come out with a statement regarding the possible acquisition, so it really could be up for grabs. We can only hope that no matter who their next owner ends up being, that Boston Dynamics keep pushing the field of robotics forward with their work.

Panasonic Shows off New Assistive Robotic Exoskeletons

In a video released today, Panasonic has given us an idea of what our robot-assisted future may be like. The video showed off three different kinds of their Assist Robot technology, all of them robotic exoskeletons, but each possessing its own unique design for use in different types of task.

The first design on show is one for industrial use, sporting a rather striking purple and green colour scheme. This assistive suit’s main functionality is to aid industrial and factory workers who do a lot of heavy lifting and carrying, providing extra support for the wearer’s lower back, reducing strain by as much as 33 pounds. Next up is the leaner PLN-1, which has a more catchy moniker of “Ninja”, focusing on aiding the motions of walking and running. One of the main functions of this suit on show was to make hiking and climbing up steep trails far easier. Using sensors on the feet and motors on the back, it allows the wearer to walk more naturally on difficult terrain. Future versions of the Ninja aim to include an upper body component too, to assist in carrying.

Lastly, looking like it just fell out of Aliens is the Power Loader. While perhaps not built with the purpose of combating xenomorphs, the power loader is built for construction and disaster relief. Panasonic aims to decrease the unit’s massive weight before it is released, but there already plans for mass production. Another design under development with Panasonic include beds and wheelchairs to aid in nursing.

The time when these systems will be ubiquitous is still a long way off, but if they are already as impressive as those Panasonic have on show, it could be sooner than we think.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGmymin7d0o

MicroTug Microrobots Capable of Pulling Full-Size Car

There are times where working together can create results vastly in excess of multiple individual efforts. This kind of collaborative effort was the approach taken by a number of Stanford University researchers when they developed a series of amazingly strong microbots. By working together in perfect harmony, it took only 6 microTug microbots, each weighing 17-grams, in order to move an 1800kg car.

The microTug robots’ designs take a lot of cues from nature, where such feats are commonly seen in insects like ants. Like an ant, each microTug is strong individually, but when they work together, the results are astounding. Talking to the New York Times David Christensen, a graduate student from the BDML lab, said “By considering the dynamics of the team, not just the individual, we are able to build a team of our ‘microTug’ robots that, like ants, are super strong individually, but then also work together as a team.” He also compared the feat of pulling the car to 6 human beings moving the Eiffel Tower.

Ants aren’t the only creatures that the microTug bots were designed from either. Part of the bots strength comes from the pads on their bases, which are actually covered in sticky rubber spikes, similar to a gecko, providing enormous amounts of grip that can be used to anchor them while they pull objects. These tiny spikes bend under pressure, providing a larger contact surface area and stickiness while still being easy to detach with the spikes straightening out again when the pad is lifted.

This line of robot-pulling research is has been published as part of a paper titled Let’s All Pull Together: Principles for Sharing Large Loads in Microrobot Teams and is due to be presented at International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stockholm this May.

Atlas The Robot Is Now Battery Powered and More

Boston Dynamics is a company that keeps pushing us further and further in the field of robotics. From Spot the Dog to giant canine like robots designed for military purposes (except for their noise apparently). The latest from Boston Dynamic though is something a little more human.

Atlas is Boston Dynamics humanoid robotics model, with two legs, two hands and all the abilities that could soon make it take our jobs. Atlas not only operates off battery power, an issue which has long left large robots plugged into the wall like a phone charger, but it also has the ability to self-balance. Demonstrated in the video, if you try to push over Atlas it rebalances itself to avoid falling over. Just in case, Atlas can also pick itself up off of the ground, for those unfortunate accidents.

Atlas isn’t just restricted to the office or warehouse, with the ability to open push doors (not so sure pull doors would work as well) and with the help from the balancing systems, can even go for those long walks in the woods with you.

We warn you, if the robots ever do rise up against their human overlords, chances are this video will be used as evidence of our abuse against robots.

Logan Streondj Warns That Robots Will Declare War By 2040

The continual advancement of AI is compelling at the very least; the notion that machines will have the ability to experience human emotions and abilities has opened the door to a whole new world of potential possibilities. But, are machines really a threat to mankind? Sci-fi author Logan Streondj thinks so and has detailed his vision in a blog post.

The aforementioned author suggests that a potential conflict could happen as intelligent robots are predicted to outnumber humans. The acclaimed author references the fact from “World Counts” that there are around 350 thousand human babies born each day or 130 million a year; the growth rate is 1%. According to the International Federation of Robotics, there were around 5 million robots being produced in 2014 with a growth rate of 15%. Within the same year there were approximately 11,000 military robots being produced and this could be significantly higher if you take into consideration the many top-secret projects which are being developed by governments etc.

This suggests that if growth statistics stays the same, in 25 years time or (2040) parity will be reached. Mr. Streondj also conveys the notion that there is a growth rate of 13% of military robots and by 2053, there will be around a million produced each year.

Is this possible or indeed believable? It really depends on the advancements of AI intelligence, the biggest fear among the human race is that robots will be able to decide their own destiny; if this is the case then it is conceivable that robots may not agree with us. An interesting point has been released by the World Fact Book which states that humans have a life expectancy of around 70 years globally, this compares with around 10 years for robots, this means that robots would need to produce approximately 7 times more a year in order to have the same population as humans.

It is really up to us, if we continue our path and develop a robot that is able to think for itself then we may technically see a revolt within the distant future, if not and we contain the abilities with which machines can reach, then we can control our own future.

Image courtesy of corbisimages

Russian Scientists Develop Cockroach Spy Robot

A team of Russian scientists has built a tiny spybot which looks and moves like a cockroach. The scientists, from the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University in Kaliningrad, hope to use the insectoid robot to help find victims trapped under debris.

“Berkeley University has been working on their cockroach for the past four years,” explained project leader Aleksey Belousov, “but they didn’t have to make it look like an insect, so it’s faster than ours. But it can’t turn at speed and it doesn’t look like a real cockroach at all. Whereas we were specifically told to create a cockroach robot on time and on budget.”

The robot, which is 10cm long, can move at 30cm-per-second, which is 1/3 the speed of a real cockroach, and can carry a weight of up to 10g, enough for a small camera. It is fitted with light sensors, plus contact and non-contact probes to help it negotiate obstacles and move through small spaces.

“We had to develop many things from scratch. For example, there’s a company in Austria that produces gearing for legs, but a unit for one robot would have cost us nearly $9,000 while our entire budget is $22,500,” Danil Borchevkin, lead engineer at the university, said.

The team from Kant Baltic Federal University is currently working on a camouflaged version for the Russian military.

Thank you The Stack and Kantiana for providing us with this information.

Meet the Robot That Won $2 Million in the Darpa Robotics Challenge

In Pomona, California on Friday and Saturday, some of the greatest robotic engineers gathered together to compete for a £2 million prize in a competition run by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to find the most advanced robot in the world. The two-day event pitted 24 teams –  each with their own robot funded by companies and institutions such as Amazon and NASA – against each other.

“You are going be the vanguard of this new future that you’re going to go build,” Arati Prabhakar, director of Darpa, said at the prize-giving ceremony. “We have people here from countries all over the world, and every single one of you made an incredible contribution to the field of robotics. As you do that, I know you’re going to think back to 2015, the end of the DRC and the beginning of a huge journey.”

The eventual winner that scooped the $2 million prize money, revealed on Saturday evening, was DRC-Hubo, a humanoid robot developed and built by the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon, South Korea. DRC-Hubo was one of three robots to successfully complete the eight-task challenge – the other two being Atlas, a robot developed by Google’s Boston Dynamics, and Chimp, built by Tartan Rescue – but the South Korean creation was the one deemed to have engaged with the test most effectively.

Thank you The Guardian for providing us with this information.

Origami Mini-drone Folds, Walks, Swims and Dissolves.

“Image courtesy of ieee.org .”

At ICRA 2015, MIT researchers demonstrated an origami robot which self-folds, walks, swims and dissolves.

From a flat sheet with centered magnet, it folds into action completing its final form in a matter of seconds, ready to take on land or sea. After pushing its forms to the limit one can simply dissolve its shell and start all over again.

The unfolded robot is made of a magnet and PVC enclosed by a structural layer, it weighs 0.31 g and measures 1.7 cm on its side. When placed on a heated surface, the PVC contracts creating folds where the structural layer’s been cut. Goes from flat to folded in under a minute giving you the ability to cruise at a comfortable 3-4 cm/s.

There’s one minor issue, the motor can’t fold or dissolve. The motor a two part magnetic driven system uses a cubic neodymium magnet which the shell encloses and four electromagnetic coils underneath the surface providing magnetic fields for motion. The field turns on and off at 15 Hz causing the robot’s magnet to oscillate back and forth, this combined with its asymmetric design and off-center balance point causes the robot to walk. Its folded design also aids in floating giving you a water st-riders control. Upon completion of tasks submerging the bot in acetone dissolves its outer shell readying it for a new design.

Stages of configuration: (a) Outlook of the system. (b) The crease pattern. (c) Walking mode by torque-based control. (d) Swimming mode by force-based control.

“Image courtesy of ieee.org .”

 

Electromagnetic Coil System:

“Image courtesy of ieee.org .”

Here’s a video of it in action:

This really gives a glimpse of the future, medical, military and energy applications are endless plus we’re one step closer to the Jetsons flying car, the folded briefcase. If you think this one’s amazing let us know in the comments section.

“Thank you ieee.org for providing us with this information.”

War Robots Put Humankind at Risk, AI Experts Warn

An artificial intelligence expert has warned the development of killer robots, or Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), capable of engaging targets without human intervention puts the principles of human dignity at risk. “LAWS could violate fundamental principles of human dignity by allowing machines to choose whom to kill,” Stuart Russell, Professor of Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley, warns. “For example, they might be tasked to eliminate anyone exhibiting ‘threatening behaviour’.”

A report written by members of the Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, entitled Mind the Gap: The Lack of Accountability for Killer Robots, counselled the European Union to ban so-called ‘killer robots’, due to the serious moral and ethical ramifications of machines possessing “the ability to select and engage their targets without meaningful human control.”

“Despite the limits imposed by physics, one can expect platforms deployed in the millions, the agility and lethality of which will leave humans utterly defenceless. This is not a desirable future,” Russell adds.

According to Russell, DARPA is already working on such technology and he estimates that it is only a couple of years away from being a reality. Potential LAWS weapons could be armed quadcopters or self-driving tanks with the capacity to identify and eliminate hostile targets.

Russell spoke at the recent United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons event. Germany were receptive to LAWS restrictions, saying it would “not accept that the decision over life and death is taken solely by an autonomous system”, but the UK, US, and Israel refused to commit to an international treaty to restrict the use of LAWS.

Thank you International Business Times for providing us with this information.

Miniature Robot Can Pull 2,000 Its Own Weight

A team of engineers from Stanford University in California have built a series of “MicroTugs”, tiny robots capable of dragging objects substantially heavier than they are, the strongest of which can pull up to 2,000 times its own weight, despite weighing only 12 grams.

The robots’ pulling power comes from their adhesive feet, inspired by those legendary reptilian climbers, geckos. The feet of the robots are covered in tiny rubber spikes that, when pressed against a surface, create a large surface area that allows the feet to stick. Another member of the animal kingdom inspired the movement of the robots, with the little mechanoids mimicking the scooching motion of the inchworm, with one foot holding while the other moves forward a small amount.

The Stanford team built a wide range of MicroTugs, the smallest of which weighs 20 milligrams, can pull loads of up to 500 milligrams, and had to be constructed under a microscope with tweezers. The 9 gram robots are able to tug objects as heavy as a kilogram, both horizontally and vertically.

The powerhouse iteration of the MicroTug is the μTug, a 12 gram robot capable of hauling loads of up to 24 kilograms, which is “the same as you pulling around a blue whale”, according to project engineer David Christensen.

The robots will have a public unveiling at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle, Washington next month.

Thank you New Scientist for providing us with this information.

One-Year-Old AI Robot Close to Becoming “Self-Aware”

This time last year, researchers at Bielefeld University in Germany uploaded a six-legged robot, nicknamed Hector, with a newly developed artificial intelligence software that gave it a simple form of consciousness, allowing the machine to learn to navigate an obstacle course.

Since then, the research team has been hard at work refining its AI technology, upgrading the software architecture to mimic the brain’s neural network, which is a significant step towards making Hector self-aware. The team is close to testing Hector’s software in advance of physical trials with the robot.

As Dr. Holk Cruse, Professor at the Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) at Bielefeld University, explains, “What works in the computer simulation must then, in a second phase, be transferred over to the robot and tested on it.” CITEC are looking for “emergent” abilities within the software. In other words, learned behaviours that the AI is not programmed to perform. Cruse and his colleague, Dr. Malte Schilling, seem optimistic that Hector will demonstrate such traits.

“Emotions can be read from behaviour. For example, a person who is happy takes more risks and makes decisions faster than someone who is anxious,” Cruse says, expounding that, “Depending on its inner mental state, the system may adopt quick, but risky solutions, and at other times, it may take its time to search for a safer solution.”

“With the new software, Hector could observe its inner mental state – to a certain extent, its moods – and direct its actions using this information,” say Schilling. “What makes this unique, however, is that with our software expansion, the basic faculties are prepared so that Hector may also be able to assess the mental state of others. It may be able to sense other people’s intentions or expectations and act accordingly.”

Cruse adds, “the robot may then be able to ‘think’: what does this subject expect from me? And then it can orient its actions accordingly.”

Thank you Hearst Electronic Products for providing us with this information.

Your Pot Noodles Will Become a Thing of the Past with New Robotic Chef

I think it’s safe to say that not everyone finds joy in labouring away in the kitchen just to create some mediocre dish and a mountain of dishes that will inevitably be left until the morning. But all of that could be about to change as the pioneering robotics company Moley Robotics have announced that they will be releasing The Robotic Kitchen, a personal robotic chef, to consumers as soon as 2017.

The robotic arms used in the automated kitchen are made by Shadow Robot Company, who specialise in creating state-of-the-art anthropomorphic robot hands, and are like something straight from a sci-fi film, mimicking the movements of a professional chef to create your favourite dishes at the touch of a button on your smartphone and upon release it aims to be able to stir, chop and do just about everything other action required in a kitchen to create a masterpiece worthy of a dinner party.

The creators aim to use an app store system to allow you to download any dish of your desire, giving the more unskilled cooks a chance to try out new and exciting foods. Mark Oleynik, the founder of Moley Robotics wrote, “Whether you love food and want to explore different cuisines, or fancy saving a family recipe for everyone to enjoy for years to come, the Automated Kitchen can do this.”

The future truly is upon us with such a fantastic piece technology and perhaps we may see it all over the place in the years to come.

Thank you Factor Tech for providing us with this information.

Double Amputee Gets Cybernetic Arms He Can Control With His Brain

A double amputee has been given a set of robotic arms that can be controlled by his mind. Les Baugh of Colorado, who lost his arms 40 years ago, has gained the cybernetic limbs as part of the Revolutionising Prosthetics Program run by John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

After 10 years of work, the program has developed what it calls Modular Prosthetic Limbs, but the researchers say that Baugh is the “first bilateral shoulder-level amputee” to wear two MPLs simultaneously. The MPLs are connected to Baugh’s nervous system using a procedure called ‘targeted muscle reinnervation’ which hooks directly into the nerves that used to control his arms and hands.

The team helped teach Baugh to use the arms, and his progress was remarkable. He was picking up and moving cups within 10 days of operating his new limbs. As Courtney Moran, a researcher with the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, puts it:

We expected him to exceed performance compared to what he might achieve with conventional systems, but the speed with which he learned motions and the number of motions he was able to control in such a short period of time was far beyond expectation. What really was amazing, and was another major milestone with MPL control, was his ability to control a combination of motions across both arms at the same time. This was a first for simultaneous bimanual control.

So far, Baugh has only been able to use the arms under laboratory conditions. The research team hope to develop a version he can use at home.

Source: Engadget

Video Shows UAV Communicating with UGV to Land Autonomously

Robohub has an ongoing effort to make the latest papers in robotics accessible to the general audience. Striking once again on that subject, they have shown us a video of an unmanned Areal Vehicle (UAV) communicating via decentralized control for safe landing on a moving unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV).

Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles can be both safe and manoeuvrable, but their small size means they can’t carry much payload and their battery life will only allow for short flights. To increase the range of a small UAV, one idea is to pair it with an unmanned ground vehicle that can carry it to a site of operation and transport heavier cargo. Having both ground and aerial perspectives can also be useful during a mission.

One challenge is to make sure the vehicles have the ability to rendezvous and perform coordinated landings autonomously. To this end, a paper by Daly et al. in Autonomous Robots presents a coordinated control method and experimental results for landing a quad-rotor on a ground rover.

The two robots communicate their positions, converge to a common docking location and the dock successfully, both indoors and out.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRjJV_WLluA[/youtube]

In the video above the use of a coordinated control strategy for autonomous docking of a Aeryon Scout UAV onto a skid-steer UGV from Clearpath Robotics is demonstrated. The controller handles the non-linearities inherent in the motions of the two vehicles, and is stable in the face of multi-second time delays, allowing unreliable Wi-Fi communication to be used in the landing. Both indoor and outdoor experiments demonstrate the validity of the approach, and also reveal the major disturbance caused by the ground effect when hovering over the ground vehicle.

Ship Builders Testing Exoskeletons, Can Help You Lift 100KG With Ease

Last year in South Korea, ship building workers were wearing robotic exoskeletons, allowing them to walk around with huge sections of metal, pipe work and other objects weighing around 100KG as if they were light as a feather!

The test was operated by one of the largest shipbuilders in the world, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering at their Okpo-dong facility. The early prototypes proved successful, but the team are now working to improve the exoskeletons for deployment to the general workforce.

The current model will fit anyone between 160 and 185cm tall, and it’s 28 GK frame is constructed from carbon, aluminium alloy and steel, but despite it’s bulky weight, it manages to feel weightless thanks to it’s build-in balancing and lifting systems that carry its own weight for you, allowing you to move freely, or at least until its 3 hour battery life is depleted, in which case you can simply climb out of the suit.

The design is modular too, it can be fitted with a small crane, tools and other equipment to help the worker perform tasks. Worker feedback has been positive so far as it speeds up productivity without causing them strain from lifting, their only gripe is that they now want faster and stronger units, something the team are already busy developing.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen manufacturing modifying humans to help with construction, such as the 3D printed thumb attachments used by BMW, although mech suits are waaaay cooler than what the Germans are using right now.

Thank you NewScientist for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of NewScientist.

All-Robot Event Heading to Japan 2020 Olympics

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has begun preparations for the 2020 Olympics, and while all the usual events will still be taking place in six years time, he has plans to shake things up with a completely new event designed exclusively for robots!

Abe has expressed interest in hosting an Olympic event exclusively for robots, “I would like to gather all of the world’s robots and aim to hold an Olympics where they compete in technical skills,” Abe said when speaking with Agence France Presse. “We want to make robots a major pillar of our economic growth strategy.” he added.

With RoboCup, RoboGames and the DARPA Robotics Challenge to name but a few of the current robotic proving grounds, added something to the Olympics, even if it is just a gimmick to a certain extent, could be a great way of providing a more public gallery for many robotics developers to really show off their work to a wider audience. Abe also hopes that pushing these developments could help bring economic benefits.

What they didn’t say is what kind of events they could hold for the robots, but I’m sure our readers have a few suggestions, right? Let us know in the comments section below.

Thank you Dailydot for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Dailydot.

 

Asimo Gets an Upgrade – Can Now Run, Jump and Sign

Amazing to think that back in 2000 I was just 5 years old and Asimo had just been created, how time flies eh? Anyway it’s amazing to see how far technology has come in such a short period of time with Asimo being a perfect example of just that. Since 2000 Asimo has been taught to perform complex sign language, walk up and down stairs (Which is a phenomenal feat of engineering I might add, a robot doesn’t know how to balance on one foot automatically you know), recognize objects held in front of it and can now run and jump!

Asimo is only 4ft tall and is designed to help wherever it can, whether it be assisting the elderly or being sent in first to a nuclear reactor after a meltdown, Asimo is the robot for the job. Although Asimo isn’t available yet, this is the stuff he’s expected to be doing once he is.

“It’s great to see the results of research in human-robot interaction that Honda is doing, but the reality is that Asimo needs to be a lot cheaper before it’s a household robot,” said Andra Keay, managing director of Silicon Valley Robotics

Instead, she thinks ideas such as Jibo – a lamp-like assistant for helping around the house, will hit the market sooner.

“Perhaps the direction that Jibo has taken is the most appropriate one right now – minimum viable robot product to get maximal learning from human interaction.

“We’re entering a rich age for deep machine learning from humans.”

Thanks to BBC for supplying us with this information.

Images courtesy of Honda and BBC.

SupraPed Humanoid Robot Uses Walking Sticks to Navigate Tough Terrain


Stanford University researchers revealed more information about its SupraPed humanoid robot, described as humanoid contact-supported locomotion that can be used for 3D unstructured environments.

SupraPed is being worked on by Shu-Yun Chung and Oussama Khatib, and can provide a great platform to provide additional stability for bipedal robots. In difficult terrain, wheeled and treaded robots can struggle to traverse the environment, and an upright humanoid with custom walking instruments will be better suited to move around.

A combination of the walking staffs with sensors, sophisticated planning software, and multi-contact control are able to provide real-time reaction to the environment – with the SupraPed platform controllable by human operators to issue high level commands.

Most robots designed to walk struggle to move around similar to humans, and instead with a certain level of uncertainty. Researchers are interested in improving stability and motion among humanoids, but it has been a difficult battle due to technological restraints.

There is great interest in developing robotic technology, which has a wide variety of uses in multiple industries, including consumer, business, manufacturing, and aerospace.

Thank you to IEEE Spectrum for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of IEEE

Search and Rescue Operations to Get Assistance from Robot Snake

A team of engineers in Israel have developed a new search and rescue robot to help them search dangerous sites. The new snake-like robot is capable of crawling through rubble to aid in the search of people and more, and it’s especially adept at tight spaces where a human could not search.

The snake robot is perfect for searching under collapsed buildings and that has obvious benefits to saving time, when it comes to saving lives in these kinds of situations, knowing where to dig can mean the difference between life and death for those trapped in the rubble.

Amir Shapiro’s lab at Ben-Gurion University in the Israeli city of Beersheba is no stranger to creating robots, and Mr Shapiro’s robots are often funded for the Israeli Army who often deploy his creations, and the new snake-bot is likely going to aid in the army search and rescue efforts in the very near future.

[youtube width=”800″ height=”450″]http://youtu.be/zOz-HbR9lIU[/youtube]

Thank you Telegraph for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Telegraph.

Former NASA Technician Wants to Build 70ft Tall Car Juggling Robot

While we’re still a long way from having robots like those seen in the Transformers movie, partly because they’re actually aliens and also because something like that is just too advanced for us to create with modern technology, we can still have fun with other kinds of giant robots. Dan Granett, a former technician at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (see: Crazy rocket scientist) wants to build a 70 foot tall car jugging robot called the Bugjuggler.

While only a concept at the moment, the team behind it are trying to secure the required £2.3 million budget needed to construct this behemoth. If constructed, the Bugjuggler will be a stick-man like robot with two giant legs and robotic arms, capable of throwing and catching 1800 pound Volkswagen Beetle cars. Cooler than that, it will be a puppet robot, controlled by a person wearing computerized gloves that simulate what the robot is holding in realtime, allowing someone to use the robot to juggle cars.

It’s certainly a step up from TruckZilla the car eating, fire breathing robot, but I can certainly see the two robots becoming great friends. Perhaps one can throw the cars, the other can set fire to them. Sounds like a pretty awesome show to me!

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of The Verge.

Google Robot Pulled out of Military Service, Aims to Develop Consumer Model

Schaft was working on developing some truly impressive robotics hardware for the military as part of the $2 million Robotics Challenge. This was an incentive setup by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to seek the most advanced robotics in the world. With barely half of the three year campaign underway, Google owned Schaft have pulled out of the running.

Schaft were already competing prior to Google buying them out, as the company was formed exclusively to work on this project. However, Schaft was accepting money from the Defense Department, which obviously meant that Google was then a defence contractor, not exactly their angle. Schaft announced earlier this year that it was renouncing DARPA funding now that it had Google writing the cheques, but have now elected to withdraw from the finals completely.

Now it looks like the company and Google, who also own Boston Dynamics, will be pushing for commercially viable products, so expect Google Android to take a whole new and somewhat literally meaning in the next couple of years.

[youtube width=”800″ height=”450″]http://youtu.be/diaZFIUBMBQ[/youtube]

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of YouTube.

3D Printer Hacked To Create Ultimate Air Hockey Robot

Owning an air hockey table is cool, they’re a great thing to have in the house for a few cheeky games with your friends. Having a 3D printer is also very cool, being able to create all kinds of crazy things with relative ease, but what if you combined that hockey table with the general mechanical parts and controller of the 3D printer? Awesome happens, obviously.

“I have seen several interesting projects of robots that paint or manufacture PCBs, etc. but I was looking for something different. My daughter loves the Air Hockey game and I love robotics so one day an idea born in my mind. Can I construct? Mmmmm. It seemed very complicated and with many unresolved questions (puck detection, robot speed), but that is also part of the fun.” Said the devices creator on the official blog.

Air Hockey Robot is a great hardware and software project, and it’s something that not only worked very well (as you can see in the video), but it also looks like a lot of fun to play against as it never misses a hit. Add to that that there are three different gaming modes, defend, attack, attack+defend, and you’ve got the ultimate Air Hockey training machine.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/CjzSeOg8oTs[/youtube]

Thank you Ciencia Y Cacharreo for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of Ciencia Y Cacharreo.

Dyson Invests £5m In Robotics Lab At Imperial College London

Dyson are a household name, no doubt the first thing you’ll think of when you here the company’s name is vacuum cleaners, but there is a whole lot more to Dyson as they’re an engineering company first, and vacuums are just one of their crowning achievements.

The company has always worked to promote research and engineering, and their latest investment which sees the company put £5 million into the robotics lab at Imperial College, London, could help inspire a new generation of engineers and of course a new generation of robotics.

The new research will be focused on vision systems, devices capable of helping robots better understand and adapt to the world around them. Of course the research will help Dyson make better robotic vacuum cleaners, but they stress that the research will cover domestic robots as well.

Sir James Dyson said: “My generation believed the world would be overrun by robots by the year 2014. We now have the mechanical and electronic capabilities, but robots still lack understanding – seeing and thinking in the way we do. Mastering this will make our lives easier and lead to previously unthinkable technologies.”

The future of advanced robotics isn’t too far away, but we must overcome many little hurdles along the way and Dyson will be applying a team of 15 scientists to the new project, as well as an extra £3 million of match-funding from other sources, let’s see if they can give the future of robotics a new set of eyes.

Thank you BBC for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of BBC.

Bionic Hand Connected To Man’s Nerves Returns Sense Of Touch

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute in Lausanne and Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Italy have reported that a bionic hand has been successfully wired into the nerves of a man’s amputated arm, allow him to feel sensations of touch in real-time via the prosthetic!

“The sensory feedback was incredible, I could feel things that I hadn’t been able to feel in over nine years. When I held an object, I could feel if it was soft or hard, round or square.” said Dennis Aabo Sørensen, the Danish man who underwent this ground breaking procedure.

This isn’t the first time touch has been conveyed from a prosthetic, but it’s certainly the most advanced one so far, especially as far as the user is concerned as it gives much more feedback. Sørensen said that his standard prosthetic was not wired into his nerves and he had to literally watch it all the time when using it as he would likely crush whatever it was holding. However, his new arm gives him feedback like our hand does, so he can feel that pressure naturally, rather than have to gauge it by eye.

Unfortunately he had to give up his new bionic arm after just a month due to it just being a clinical study and they apparently need the arm back to try on other patients. It’s still in the early stages of testing in the real world, but for Sørensen, it’s likely been one incredible month.

Thank you Gigaom for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Gigaom.

Robots Are Expected To “Work” In Supermarkets In The Next 2 years

Robots have always been in the research benches, as we try to figure out the best way in using their abilities and in the process figure out how to build them in order to suit our needs. Not long ago, Google has also bought Boston Dynamics for their robotics development, and now it seems that even the supermarkets are going to get one.

Researchers at Cornell University are developing a robot to be used as a cashier in supermarkets all around the world. It’s name is PR2, or Baxter as a more common name, and it is currently learning how to handle different product categories you normally find in supermarkets. What makes Baxter different from, let’s say robots found in factories, is that he is quite smart. And getting even smarter each day, thanks to researchers who are working on teaching him how to handle and anticipate human behaviour.

What he is being taught is handling dangerous items, such as kitchen knives, not to harm anyone when manoeuvring them around. As well, he is taught how to handle fragile objects, such as eggs, so as not to break them. When Baxter makes a mistake, his arm is corrected and pointed in a direction more suitable for moving the object around and not poking or stabbing anyone with it.

The researchers at Cornell University are using anticipation to teach Baxter how to do and interact with things. For a human, anticipation comes naturally, but for robots, it takes a load of calculations and process power. The result had a 75% success rate for Baxter to anticipate human interaction for the first 3 seconds, but the success rate dropped drastically if prolonged longer than 3 seconds.

The researchers predict that in two years, we will have robots working in supermarkets, having the robot researching prices drop year after year. The current cost of the PR2 robot is around $300,000 for each unit.

Thank you BBC UK for providing us with this information
Image courtesy of Gizmag

Want Super Strength? Artificial Muscles May Be The Answer

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have developed something we never thought would be possible. After all robots that have been designed so far to date have only been made to help in retrieval and mundane tasks such as painting and assembling. However the team at the University of California have designed a micro sized robotic muscle that is over 1,000 times stronger than an ordinary human muscle. The researchers have found that using a material called vanadium dioxide, that when the material is heated to 152.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 67 degrees Celsius the compound of the material changes. The change is from an insulator to conductive, giving the metal compound a massive amount of strength during the transition.

Once this compound has been changed, the muscle in the robot would be able to pick up and throw objects over 50 times heavier than the robot and also reach a distance of over five times the length of the robot. All this happens within 60 milliseconds, which is faster than the human eye can blink. The way to achieve the heating of the robot muscle is to use a tiny heat pad or by using an electrical current. Junqiao Wu, a Professor of Material Science and lead designer of the project had this to say about the break through;

“With its combination of power and multi-functionality, our micro-muscle shows great potential for applications that require a high level of functionality integration in a small space. Multiple micro-muscles can be assembled into a micro-robotic system that simulates an active neuromuscular system.”

For more information on this amazing discovery the Team at the University of California have published a paper in the Journal of Advanced Materials, which you can view here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOnY9mk7jGM[/youtube]

Here is a video showing the micro-muscle in action

Thanks to CNET for the information provided.

Image courtesy of ExtremeTech

 

NASA Control Robot With Kinect 2 And Oculus Rift

NASA are no stranger to innovation, which is exactly why they signed up for the Kinect for Windows developer program in order to get their hands on the Kinect 2. It wouldn’t be the first time the team have tinkered with gaming peripherals for their experiments either as the team previously used the Leap Motion controller, Oculus Rift and Virtuix Omni to allow them to take a virtual walk around tour of the red planet.

Using the Oculus Rift and Kinect 2 the team at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were able to get the two devices controlling an off-the-shelf robotic arm. Using a head mounted display and the motion sensors lead the team to state that the resulting interface was their “most immersive interface to date”.

“It allowed us to track open and closed states, and the rotation of the wrist,” says Human Interfaces Engineer Victor Luo. “With all of these new tracking points and rotational degrees of freedom, we were able to better manipulate the arm.”

Latency is an issue for the team, especially given they have to simulate the delay incurred by remote controlling missions on other planets such as Mars rovers. They work around this issue in their simulations by having a ghost image of the control arm which you control, while the solid image of the arm catches up, allowing you to plot moves in advance for the robot to then carry out.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/pqNC72fgetc[/youtube]

Thank you Engadget for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Engadget.