David Kirkpatrick

November 12, 2010

Robots with an, ahem, personal touch

Probably got you with the title. Here’s news from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

From the link:

A robot known as “Cody” successfully wiped away blue candy from a test user’s legs and arms without being too forceful, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology (led by assistant professor Charlie Kemp) reported at the 2010 IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) conference last month.

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September 10, 2010

Deceptive robots

Via KurzweilAI.net — Not too sure if I like this idea. Seems like we’re already heading down the path of breaking Asimov’s robotic laws with a lot of milbots in development and practice.

From the link:

We have developed  algorithms that allow a robot to determine whether it should deceive a human or other intelligent machine and we have designed techniques that help the robot select the best deceptive strategy to reduce its chance of being discovered,” said Ronald Arkin, a Regents professor in the Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing.

The results of robot experiments and theoretical and cognitive deception modeling were published online on September 3 in the International Journal of Social Robotics. Because the researchers explored the phenomenon of robot deception from a general perspective, the study’s results apply to robot-robot and human-robot interactions. This research was funded by the Office of Naval Research.

In the future, robots capable of deception may be valuable for several different areas, including military and search and rescue operations. A search and rescue robot may need to deceive in order to calm or receive cooperation from a panicking victim. Robots on the battlefield with the power of deception will be able to successfully hide and mislead the enemy to keep themselves and valuable information safe.

“Most social robots will probably rarely use deception, but it’s still an important tool in the robot’s interactive arsenal because robots that recognize the need for deception have advantages in terms of outcome compared to robots that do not recognize the need for deception,” said the study’s co-author, Alan Wagner, a research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

September 2, 2010

Meet the new boss …

Filed under: Business, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:14 am

… not even close to same as the old boss (with apologies to the Who.)

Get ready to bow down to your robotic overlord supervisor.

From the link:

Remember the Segway? It never quite revolutionized transportation, but a similar mobility technology now underpins this tele presence robot, called Anybot. It glides on two wheels around an office or factory to let workers videoconference with the boss, who can control the contraption from a remote keyboard.

To my mind it looks more like a cop from a 80s-era science fiction movie more than anything:

Product: Anybot

Cost: $15,000

Availability: November

Source: www.anybots.com

Company: Anybots

August 30, 2010

Flying robots with hands …

pretty cool tech, actually.

From the link:

A robotic hand attached to a small helicopter can successfully and autonomously grip objects while the helicopter is hovering, as demonstrated by a group at Yale University led by Aaron Dollar, one of this year’s TR35s.

The helicopter hand, dubbed the Yale Aerial Manipulator, could be used in spots that are difficult for ground robots to get to, such as high or roughly terrained places. It could also be used to pick up bombs or packages, or even as a form of delivery, moving packages in urban environments where trucks would have a hard time, suggests Paul Pounds, first author of the work.

Hit the link for video of the Yale Aerial Manipulator in action.

August 27, 2010

Oil spill news

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:18 pm

Came across two interesting news items on oil spills. One is on a technology developed by MIT researchers on cleaning up surface oil after a spill and the second involves the BP Deepwater Horizon spill and how microbes may be cleaning at least the oil in deep water plumes.

From the second link:

Microbes may become the heroes of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by gobbling up oil more rapidly than anyone expected. Now some experts suggest we ought to artificially stimulate such microbes in stricken marshland areas to aid their cleanup.

Evidence published this week shows that deep-water microbes in the Gulf may be rapidly chewing up BP’s spilled crude. This could sway federal authorities to use petroleum-digesting microbes or fertilizer additives that can stimulate naturally occurring bacteria for future spills. Such measures were originally rejected for the BP spill.

From the first link, the story on MIT’s oil spill clean-up tech comes from KurzweilAI.net:

MIT researchers unveil autonomous oil-absorbing robot

August 27, 2010 by Editor

Researchers at MIT have created a robotic prototype that could autonomously navigate the surface of the ocean to collect surface oil and process it on site.

The system, called Seaswarm, is a fleet of vehicles that may make cleaning up future oil spills both less expensive and more efficient than current skimming methods.

The Seaswarm robot uses a conveyor belt covered with a thin nanowire mesh to absorb oil. The fabric, previously featured in a paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, can absorb up to twenty times its own weight in oil while repelling water. By heating up the material, the oil can be removed and burnt locally and the nanofabric can be reused.

The Seaswarm robot, which is 16 feet long and seven feet wide, uses two square meters of solar panels for self-propulsion. With just 100 watts, the equivalent of one household light bulb, it could potentially clean continuously for weeks.

Using swarm behavior, the units will use wireless communication and GPS and manage their coordinates and ensure an even distribution over a spill site. By detecting the edge of a spill and moving inward, a single vehicle could clean an entire site autonomously or engage other vehicles for faster cleaning.

MIT researchers estimate that a fleet of 5,000 Seaswarm robots would be able to clean a spill the size of the gulf in one month. The team has future plans to enter their design into the X-Prize’s $1 million oil-cleanup competition. The award is given to the team that can most efficiently collect surface oil with the highest recovery rate.

By autonomously navigating the water’s surface, Seaswarm proposes a new system for ocean-skimming and oil removal. Video: Senseable City Lab

More info: MIT news

July 15, 2010

Start cowering under your afghans …

… the robots are coming. (Just to let you know, the title refers to an old Saturday Night Live short selling insurance to the elderly for protection from robots.)

The Conference on Artificial Intelligence is making the case for robotics as a major growth industry in the very near future.

From the link:

“Early on there was this dream that robots could be generally intelligent; that they would rival and surpass humans in their abilities to do things,” Leslie Kaelbling, a professor of computer science and engineering at MIT, said at the conference. “The current commercial reality is pretty different.”

A lot of AI research fragmented in directions away from robotics, creating algorithms that underpin business intelligence, finance, Web and other uses. AI got separated from robotics because the machines are a pain: physical and unreliable. However, “They are getting better,” Kaelbling said.

Today, robotics researchers have computers that are faster, machinery that is more reliable, and many of the algorithms used in routine robotic tasks have already been built, said Kaelbling, who asked this research community whether it was time to give robotics another try.

June 4, 2010

Monkey controls robotic arm with its mind

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:36 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — Very promising research in many ways and for a whole host of future applications. Pretty amazing video.

Advanced Robotic Arm Controlled by Monkey’s Thoughts
PhysOrg.com, June 3, 2010

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have taught a monkey to use its thoughts to control an advanced robotic arm with seven degrees of freedom and perform elaborate and precise maneuvers with it.

Sensors implanted in the hand and arm areas of its motor cortex send data to a computer that translates the patterns into commands that control the robotic arm.

Researchers hope to one day be able to use the researchto engineer and operate advanced prosthetics in a natural way to help paralyzed people live a close to normal life.

Read Original Article>>

June 2, 2010

Robotics news — LittleDog and a warrior PackBot

Both via KurzweilAI.net

First up is LittleDog, complete with very cool, if not a bit creepy video:

New “Brains” For LittleDog
Technology Review, May 27, 2010

The small four-legged robot LittleDog, from Boston Dynamics, has acquired an impressive array of improved locomotion skills thanks to researchers at the University of Southern California.


Read Original Article>>

And next is iRobot’s warrior bot:

iRobot Demonstrates New Weaponized Robot
IEEE Spectrum, May 30, 2010

iRobot has released new video of its Warrior robot, a beefed up version of the more well-known PackBot, designed for “deliberate breaching of anti-personnel minefields and multi-strand wire obstacles.”


Read Original Article>>

May 28, 2010

Open source robotics

A great idea and ought to really help out robotics hobbyists.

From the link:

Robotics company Willow Garage has started a two-year project to work with institutions from around the world on new applications for its robot: the PR2. Each of 11 teams will work on their own projects, but will share their code with each other and the rest of the world. Everything created will be open-source, meaning others can use the code for their own endeavors. (The PR2 runs on a software platform called Robot Open Source, also developed by Willow Garage.)

May 4, 2010

Tuesday video fun — Craig Ferguson, “There’s a monster coming”

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:03 am

I happened to catch this when it aired on April 5 and immediately DVRed it for posterity. This is one late-night clip everyone should see at least once.

March 17, 2010

Ray Kurzweil on Singularity University

A note from Ray hot from today’s inbox:

I wanted to take a moment to provide you a quick update on the ongoing progress of Singularity University.

I started Singularity University with Peter Diamandis (X Prize) last year and I am happy to report that it is growing, well, exponentially. Last week we concluded our second 9-Day Executive Program at our NASA Ames campus in Silicon Valley. Forty-five entrepreneurs, CEOs, venture capitalists, and government leaders came from over 15 countries and the feedback we are receiving from participants has been remarkably positive. Over 90% of participants rated the program very highly with one third saying it was their “best program ever!”

Our next 9-day program is coming up on April 30 – May 9th. The program concentrates on six exponential growing technologies:

1. Artificial Intelligence and Robotics

2. Nanotechnology

3. Biotechnology and Bioinformatics

4. Medicine and Human-Machine Interfaces

5. Networks & Computing Systems

6. Energy & Environmental Systems
Attending the program provides an understanding of how these accelerating technologies will transform your business and your industry by showing you what is in the lab today and where the technologies will be in 5 and 10 years. If you have an interest in attending, learn more about the program and how to apply by visiting our website at http://singularityu.org/executive-programs/.
With my best wishes,
Ray

February 23, 2010

Improving artificial skin

This sounds like a real step forward in improving artificial skin, plus anything involving quantum physics is just cool.

From the link:

The UK company Peratech, which last month signed a deal to develop novel pressure-sensing technology for screen maker Nissha, has announced that it will use the same approach to make artificial “skin” for the MIT Media Lab.

Peratech makes an electrically conductive material called quantum tunneling composite (QTC). When the material is compressed electrons jump between two conductors separated by polymer insulating layer covered with metallic nanoparticles. QTC has already been used to make small sensors for NASA’s Robonaut and for a robotic gripper made by Shadow Robot Company.

February 21, 2010

The medibots are coming, part two

Okay, I admit I’m running this release for the most part to run the title above (hit this link for part one), but robot-assisted surgery is an idea that will continue to gain acceptance and improve as a discipline.

The release:

Comparison shows robot-assisted option offers advantages for kidney surgery

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A comparison of two types of minimally invasive surgery to repair kidney blockages that prevent urine from draining normally to the bladder found that robot-assisted surgery was faster and resulted in less blood loss and shorter hospital stays.

Reporting in the Canadian Journal of Urology, Ashok Hemal, M.D., a urologic surgeon from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, compared laparoscopic and robot-assisted surgery for repairing the blockage, known as uretero-pelvic junction obstruction. Following the patients for 18 months showed that both options were equally successful, but the robot-assisted technique had several advantages.

On average, robot-assisted surgery was 50 percent faster (98-minute versus 145-minute average), resulted in 60 percent less blood loss (40ml versus 101ml average), and required a two-day hospital stay, versus 3.5 days for laparoscopic surgery.

“This was one of the first studies where a single surgeon at one center performed both types of surgery and compared the results,” said Hemal, director of the Robotic and Minimally Invasive Urologic Surgery Program at Wake Forest Baptist. “It allows for a more accurate comparison of surgical options than multiple physicians performing the surgeries. The results showed that robot-assisted surgery had significant advantages for this condition. It is also generally easier for surgeons to learn.”

All 60 patients had a procedure known as pyeloplasty that involves reconstructing the narrow area where part of the kidney meets the ureter, the tube that carries the urine from the renal pelvis into the bladder. Blockages in this area can be the result of birth defects or, in adults, from injury, previous surgery or disorders that can cause inflammation of the upper urinary tract.

Previously the repair required a large incision. New technology led to minimally invasive approaches that require only small incisions — laparoscopic surgery, in which the surgeon directly manipulates a viewing device and operating instruments inserted into the abdomen, and robot-assisted surgery, in which the surgeon sits at a console and uses hand and finger movements to control centimeter-size instruments while viewing the surgical site on a screen.

Various studies have reported on the results of the options, but this is one of the first studies in which a surgeon with expertise in both options compared them. Hemal treated 30 patients with laparoscopic surgery and 30 with robot-assisted surgery.

“The evolution of laparoscopic surgery in urology has been limited because it is technically challenging and requires the surgeon to be proficient in advanced suturing,” said Hemal. “Robot-assisted surgery offers a way of overcoming some of the major impediments of laparoscopic surgery. This study shows the two options are equally effective and that robot-assisted surgery has several advantages.”

###

Hemal’s colleagues on the report are Satyadip Mukherjee, M.D., and Kaku Singh, M.D., both with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, where the surgeries were performed.

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (www.wfubmc.edu) is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital, Brenner Children’s Hospital, Wake Forest University Physicians, and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine and Piedmont Triad Research Park. The system comprises 1,154 acute care, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and has been ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report since 1993. Wake Forest Baptist is ranked 32nd in the nation by America’s Top Doctors for the number of its doctors considered best by their peers. The institution ranks in the top third in funding by the National Institutes of Health and fourth in the Southeast in revenues from its licensed intellectual property.

February 15, 2010

Free 3D tech “lunch & learn” for aerospace industry

The event will be held at the SculptCAD office near downtown Dallas next Wednesday, February 24. This seminar on 3D technology for the aerospace industry involves 100 percent inspection and reverse engineering for maintenance, repair and operations (MRO). Topics include exploring Steinbichler’s White Light Scanning technology and how it differs from laser scanning, CMM measurement and why white light scanning is a better scanning option with more value and speed, and discussing the inspection and reverse engineering features of the GeoMagic Studio and Qualify software package.

Here’s what SculptCAD founder and president Nancy Hairston told me about the upcoming seminar, “This event will be a great opportunity to view the newest white light scanner from Steinbichler and the pairing of GeoMagic for aerospace applications. GeoMagic’s inspection, reverse engineering and parametric exchange toolsets enable fast and accurate workflows with seamless transfer into CAD systems.”

This “lunch & learn” includes demonstrations of the Steinbichler Comet 5 digital sensor and  GeoMagic’s Studio 11 3D modeling software.

Details on this “lunch & learn”

From the first and last links in this post:

Topics expected to be covered but are not limited to include:

· The use of 100% noncontact inspection complementing traditional CMM inspection including the use of robotics
and automatic geometrical dimensional & tolerance report generation

· “Best practices” regarding the scanning of physical objects directly into your CAD system

· How to digitally recreate, modify and/or repair existing tooling

· Examples of applying cost saving 3D technologies to structure, engine, systems and interior components by
Engineering, QA and Inspection departments

February 5, 2010

First they took the auto industry jobs …

… now they’re stealing childhood dreams.

Seriously though, the idea of highly functional humanoid robotics is a great idea for space travel. Of course Ellen Ripley might disagree.

Via KurzweilAI.net:

NASA, GM team up to build robotic astronauts
Computerworld, Feb. 4, 2010

NASA and General Motors (GM) are developing humanoid robots that can work side-by-side with humans to help astronauts during dangerous mission and to help GM build cars and automotive plants.

Robonaut 2, aka R2, is designed to be a “faster, more dexterous and more technologically advanced” robot than Robonaut 1, using its hands to manipulate small parts, while also having exceptional strength.

Video
Read Original Article>>

January 28, 2010

The microbots are coming …

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:53 pm

… and that sounds like a good thing.

Via KurzweilAI.net:

Insectlike ‘microids’ might walk, run, work in colonies
Physorg.com, Jan. 27, 2010

Insectlike “microids” — robots the size of ants that move their tiny legs and mandibles using solid-state “muscles” — have been modeled by Jason Clark, an assistant professor of electrical, computer and mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

The microids could have significantly better dexterity than previous microscale robots, while having the ability to “scavenge vibrational energy” from the environment to recharge their power supply.

He also envisions the possibility of thousands of microids working in unison and communicating with each other to perform a complex task.


(Jason Clark)


Read Original Article>>

November 20, 2009

The medibots are coming

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:10 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — This is a concept that combines a lot of elements — excitement, concern, fear, hope and quite a bit of creepy.

Medibots: The world’s smallest surgeons
New Scientist Health, Nov. 20, 2009

Advances in robotics could revolutionize healthcare, pushing the limits of what surgeons can achieve, from worm-inspired capsules to crawl through your gut, and systems swallowed in pieces that assemble themselves inside the body, to surgical robots that will soon be ready to embark on a fantastic voyage through our bodies, homing in on the part that’s ailing and fixing it from the inside.

Swimming camera capsule (The Royal College of Surgeons / Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna)

 

Read Original Article>>

October 28, 2009

The latest in military robots

Filed under: Politics, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:17 pm

Anyone remember BigDog, the four-legged military robot from Boston Dynamics that many found a bit creepy?  Meet Petman, the two-legged cousin of BigDog.

From the Technology Review link:

The company that created BigDog–a headless robotic pack mule with an impressively realistic gait–recently released a video of another robot, Petman.

This bipedal bot walks on two legs and can recover from a push, using the same balancing technology that allows BigDog to recover from a kick or keep its balance when walking on ice.

While BigDog was designed to carry payloads for soldiers in the field, Petman will be used for military chemical suit research. In the final version, which should be ready in 2011, Petman will have a range of motions. According to the company:

Unlike previous suit testers, which had to be supported mechanically and had a limited repertoire of motion, PETMAN will balance itself and move freely; walking, crawling and doing a variety of suit-stressing calisthenics during exposure to chemical warfare agents.

July 31, 2009

More science fiction becoming science fact

Via KurzweilAI.net — This time technology heading toward Fantastic Voyage territory. I’ll have to admit thing looks a bit large to be roaming free inside of anyone just yet. I think I’ll wait more more nanoscale-sized devices.

Robot Can Crawl Through Human Body
KurzweilAI.net, July 31, 2009

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology researchers have created a prototype micro robot that can crawl through the human body.

It is only a millimeter in diameter and 14 millimeters long, so it can get into the body’s smallest areas. It is powered by either actuation through magnetic force located outside the body, or through an on-board actuation system. Made of silicone and metal, it can be made completely biocompatible, so it could remain in the body much as a stent placed in arteries does.

In the future, they hope the robot will be able to travel through a blood vessel, the digestive tract or the lungs, delivering targeted medicines to specific locations, clearing blockages, performing biopsies, or placed inside a shunt to drain body fluids from clogged areas.

Source: American Technion Society news release

May 21, 2009

NASA plans robotic moon exploration

A release hot from the inbox:

NASA Details Plans for Lunar Exploration Robotic Missions

WASHINGTON, May 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA’s return to the moon will get a boost in June with the launch of two satellites that will return a wealth of data about Earth’s nearest neighbor. On Thursday, the agency outlined the upcoming missions of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS. The spacecraft will launch together June 17 aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO )

Using a suite of seven instruments, LRO will help identify safe landing sites for future human explorers, locate potential resources, characterize the radiation environment and test new technology. LCROSS will seek a definitive answer about the presence of water ice at the lunar poles. LCROSS will use the spent second stage Atlas Centaur rocket in an unprecedented way that will culminate with two spectacular impacts on the moon’s surface.

“These two missions will provide exciting new information about the moon, our nearest neighbor,” said Doug Cooke, associate administrator of NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington. “Imaging will show dramatic landscapes and areas of interest down to one-meter resolution. The data also will provide information about potential new uses of the moon. These teams have done a tremendous job designing and building these two spacecraft.”

LRO’s instruments will help scientists compile high resolution, three-dimensional maps of the lunar surface and also survey it in the far ultraviolet spectrum. The satellite’s instruments will help explain how the lunar radiation environment may affect humans and measure radiation absorption with a plastic that is like human tissue.

LRO’s instruments also will allow scientists to explore the moon’s deepest craters, look beneath its surface for clues to the location of water ice, and identify and explore both permanently lit and permanently shadowed regions. High resolution imagery from its camera will help identify landing sites and characterize the moon’s topography and composition. A miniaturized radar will image the poles and test the system’s communications capabilities.

“LRO is an amazingly sophisticated spacecraft,” said Craig Tooley, LRO project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Its suite of instruments will work in concert to send us data in areas where we’ve been hungry for information for years.”

While most Centaurs complete their work after boosting payloads out of Earth’s orbit, the LCROSS Centaur will journey with the spacecraft for four months and be guided to an impact in a permanently shadowed crater at one of the moon’s poles. The resulting debris plume is expected to rise more than six miles. It presents a dynamic observation target for LCROSS as well as a network of ground-based telescopes, LRO, and possibly the Hubble Space Telescope. Observers will search for evidence of water ice by examining the plume in direct sunlight. LCROSS also will increase knowledge of the mineralogical makeup of some of the remote polar craters that sunlight never reaches. The satellite represents a new generation of fast development, cost capped missions that use flight proven hardware and off the shelf software to achieve focused mission goals.

“We look forward to engaging a wide cross section of the public in LCROSS’ spectacular arrival at the moon and search for water ice,” said LCROSS Project Manager Dan Andrews of NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. “It’s possible we’ll learn the answer to what is increasingly one of planetary science’s most intriguing questions.”

LRO and LCROSS are the first missions launched by the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Their data will be used to advance goals of future human exploration of the solar system. LRO will spend at least one year in low polar orbit around the moon, collecting detailed information for exploration purposes before being transferred to NASA’s Science Mission Directorate to continue collecting additional scientific data.

Goddard manages the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Ames manages the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite. LRO is a NASA mission with international participation from the Institute for Space Research in Moscow. Russia provides the neutron detector aboard the spacecraft. Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, Calif., built the LCROSS spacecraft.

  For more information about LRO, visit:

  http://www.nasa.gov/lro

  For more information about LCROSS, visit:

  http://www.nasa.gov/lcross

Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO
AP Archive:  http://photoarchive.ap.org/
PRN Photo Desk photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: NASA
   

Web Site:  http://www.nasa.gov/

April 24, 2009

Ten cool robots

Well — cool, useful, interesting, etc.

I usually only run one example from these CIO slideshows, but for obvious reasons I had to do two this time.

Number two:

<!– end

–>

Image credit: BMT Group

The Fish Bot

Known for: Fighting pollution

A school of robotic carp—equipped with chemical sensors and artificial intelligence—will be unleashed into a Spanish port to search for water pollutants. Developed by British scientists, these five-foot-long robotic fish will monitor oxygen levels and detect potentially hazardous leaks. The fish will communicate with each other using ultrasonics, and information will be wirelessly sent to the “charging hub” (where fish will charge their batteries). The port’s authorities can use this data to track the source and scale of the pollution. If this robotic pollution monitoring system is successful, researchers hope to use it globally. <!–

–>

And number four:
<!– end

–> 

Image credit

The Telepathic Bot

Known for: Reading minds

Honda’s ASIMO humanoid robot can now be controlled with thought alone—and with a little help from brain machine interface technology. BMI tech relies on electroencephalography (EEG) and near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and newly developed information abstraction technology. How it works: EEG and NIRS sensors are placed on a person’s head. When the user imagines moving one of four predetermined body part options, ASIMO complies with a corresponding movement. The setup detects changes in brain waves and cerebral blood flow, which is analyzed on a real-time basis to translate what the user imagined. Tests on the process yielded a 90 percent accuracy rate, says Honda. <!–

–>

March 17, 2009

Robotic fashion model

Filed under: Arts, et.al., Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:09 pm

Not sure if this robot is quite ready for Paris or Milan, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.

From the link:

Japanese researchers have unveiled a robot that will soon strut her stuff down a Tokyo catwalk.

The girlie-faced humanoid with slightly oversized eyes, a tiny nose and a shoulder length hair-do boasts 42 motion motors programed to mimic the movements of flesh-and-blood fashion models.

“Hello everybody, I am cybernetic human HRP-4C,” said the futuristic fashionista, opening her media premiere at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology outside Tokyo.

The fashion-bot is 158 centimetres tall, the average height of Japanese women aged 19 to 29, but weighs in at a waif-like 43 kilograms – including batteries.

She has a manga-inspired human face but a silver metallic body.

“If we had made the robot too similar to a real human, it would have been uncanny,” said one of the inventors, humanoid research leader Shuji Kajita.

“We have deliberately leaned toward an anime style.”

The institute said the robot “has been developed mainly for use in the entertainment industry” but is not for sale at the moment.

Left, a "cybernetic human" HRP-4C, designed to look like an average Japanese woman. Right, a model presents a creation by Ukrainian designer Oksana Karavanska during fashion week in Kiev.

January 6, 2009

Prep for our military robot overlords …

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:40 pm

… any day now. I’m not holding my breath.

Only a few troops, perhaps 1 percent, will actually direct aimed fire at the enemy with the intent to kill. These troops are treasured, and set apart, and called snipers.

Armed robots will all be snipers. Stone-cold killers, every one of them. They will aim with inhuman precision and fire without human hesitation. They will not need bonuses to enlist or housing for their families or expensive training ranges or retirement payments. Commanders will order them onto battlefields that would mean certain death for humans, knowing that the worst to come is a trip to the shop for repairs. The writing of condolence letters would become a lost art.

No human army could withstand such an onslaught. Such an adversary would present the enemy with the simple choice of martyrdom or flight. So equipped, America’s military would be irresistible in battle.

I found the above link at the Unreligious Right (a great blog, by the way) and this sums up my sentiments.

From the second link:

There are many problems with Pike’s theories that just leap out at the reader. Pilotless drones and other unmanned vehicles are not the same thing as self-directing robots capable of replacing humans. Unless Pike has classified information on these robots not available to the general public, the technology for the type of robot army he describes simply does not exist, and is unlikely to appear in the next few years. His entire article appears to be based on the military equivalent of vaporware. But even if such technology did exist, his other assertions are also way off-base. Pike argues that “no human army” could stand against a robot “onslaught,” and that anyone facing such a force would have a “simple choice of martyrdom or flight.” I find it difficult to believe that someone like John Pike, with his knowledge of military affairs, would make such a ridiculous unfounded assertion. Any weapon system has weaknesses and can be defeated by human ingenuity, or other factors unforseen by the creator of the wonder weapon. And the idea that the U.S. could suddenly deploy a completely irresistable robot army, of the type Pike envisions, doesnot even qualify as good science fiction, let alone a reasonable real-world military prediction.

December 19, 2008

Start cowering under your afghans …

Filed under: et.al., Politics, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:14 am

… the killer robots are coming.

Well, not yet.

The release:

British scientist warns we must protect the vulnerable from robots

Top robotics expert Professor Noel Sharkey, of the University of Sheffield, has called for international guidelines to be set for the ethical and safe application of robots before it is too late. Professor Sharkey, writing in the prestigious Science journal, believes that as the use of robots increases, decisions about their application will be left to the military, industry and busy parents instead of international legislative bodies.

Robots have been used in laboratories and factories for many years, but their uses are changing fast. Since the turn of the century, sales of professional and personal service robots have risen sharply and are estimated to total 5.5 million in 2008. IFR Statistics estimate 11.5 million in the next two years. The price of robot manufacture is also falling. With robots 80% cheaper in 2006 than they were in 1990, they are set to enter our lives in unprecedented numbers.

Service robots are currently being used in all walks of life, from child-minding robots to robots that care for the elderly. These types of robots can be controlled by a mobile phone or from a PC, allowing input from camera “eyes” and remote talking from caregivers. Sophisticated elder-care robots like the Secom “My Spoon” automatic feeding robot; the Sanyo electric bathtub robot that automatically washes and rinses; and the Mitsubishi Wakamura robot, used for reminding people to take their medicine, are already in widespread use.

Despite this no international legislation or policy guidelines currently exist, except in terms of negligence. This is still to be tested in court for robot surrogates and may be difficult to prove in the home (relative to cases of physical abuse).

Professor Sharkey urges his fellow scientists and engineers working in robotics to be mindful of the unanticipated risks and the ethical problems linked to their work. He believes that robots for care represent just one of many ethically problematic areas that will soon arise from the increase in their use, and that policy guidelines for ethical and safe application need to be set before the guidelines set themselves.

He said: “Research into service robots has demonstrated close bonding and attachment by children, who, in most cases, prefer a robot to a teddy bear. Short-term exposure can provide an enjoyable and entertaining experience that creates interest and curiosity.

“However, because of the physical safety that robot minders provide, children could be left without human contact for many hours a day or perhaps for several days, and the possible psychological impact of the varying degrees of social isolation on development is unknown.

“At the other end of the age spectrum, the relative increase in many countries in the population of the elderly relative to available younger caregivers has spurred the development of elder-care robots. These robots can help the elderly to maintain independence in their own homes, but their presence could lead to the risk of leaving the elderly in the exclusive care of machines without sufficient human contact.”

 

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In the article Professor Sharkey also writes about the immediate ethical problems linked to military applications of robotics, particularly with regards to the protection of innocents. For the full article visit http://www.sciencemag.org/

December 5, 2008

Jollbot — a hopping, rolling robot

The release:

Press Release – 04 December 2008

Researcher designs robot that jumps like a grasshopper

The first robot that can jump like a grasshopper and roll like a ball could play a key role in future space exploration.

The ‘Jollbot’ has been created by Rhodri Armour, a PhD student from the University of Bath. It’s hoped his creation, which can jump over obstacles and roll over smoother terrain, could be used for space exploration or land survey work in the future.

One of the major challenges that face robots designed for space exploration is being able to move over rough terrain. Robots with legs are generally very complex, expensive to build and control, and encounter problems if they fall over. Wheels are a simpler solution to this, but are limited by the size of obstacles they can overcome.

To solve the problem, Rhodri and colleagues in the University’s Centre for Biomimetic & Natural Technologies have been looking to nature for inspiration – designing a robot that jumps obstacles in its path like an insect.

The ‘Jollbot’ is shaped like a spherical cage which can roll in any direction, giving it the manoeuvrability of wheels without the problem of overturning or getting stuck in potholes.

The robot is also flexible and small, weighing less than a kilogramme, meaning it’s not damaged when landing after jumping and is therefore less expensive than conventional exploration robots.

Mr Armour explained:”Others in the past have made robots that jump and robots that roll; but we’ve made the first robot that can do both.

“In nature there are two main types of jumping: hopping, like a kangaroo, which uses its fine control and direct muscle action to propel it along; and ‘pause and leap’, such as in a grasshopper, which stores muscle energy in spring-like elements and rapidly releases it to make the jump.

“We’ve made a robot that jumps in a similar way to the grasshopper, but uses electrical motors to slowly store the energy needed to leap in its springy skeleton.

“Before jumping, the robot squashes its spherical shape. When it is ready, it releases the stored energy all at once to jump to heights of up to half a metre.”

Mr Armour, who has just submitted his PhD thesis, took measurements using a high speed camera to analyse how the robot jumped and to predict how it might behave in a low-gravity environment, such as in space.

He added: “Future prototypes could include a stretchy skin covered in solar cells on the outside of the robot, so it could power itself, and robotic control sensors to enable it to sense its environment.”

The components of the robot were made by rapid prototyping technology, similar to that used by the RepRap machine pioneered by the University, which builds parts by “printing” layers of plastic on top of each other to produce a 3D object.

 

The University of Bath is one of the UK’s leading universities, with an international reputation for quality research and teaching. View a full list of the University’s press releases: http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/releases

Rhodri Armour
Rhodri Armour designed Jollbot as part of his PhD thesis. Click here to view a movie.

November 25, 2008

Search and rescue robots

The release from today:

Rescue robot exercise brings together robots, developers, first responders

IMAGE: Robots are being trained to map spaces using their sensors. This robot travels through a simulated “wooded area ” that has uneven terrain and randomly placed PVC pipes as “trees. ” It…

Click here for more information. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) held a rescue robot exercise in Texas last week in which about three dozen robots were tested by developers and first responders in order to develop a standard suite of performance tests to help evaluate candidate mechanical rescuers. This exercise was sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate to develop performance standards for robots for use in urban search and rescue missions.

Urban search and rescue robots assist first responders by performing such tasks as entering partially collapsed structures to search for living victims or to sniff out poisonous chemicals. NIST is developing robot standards for testing in cooperation with industry and government partners.

“It is challenging to develop the test standards as the robots are still evolving,” explained Elena Messina, acting chief of the Intelligent Systems Division, “because standards are usually set for products already in use. But it is critical for developers to be able to compare results, which is not possible without reproducible test environments. So, we have reproducible rough terrain that everyone can build in their labs, whereas you can’t reproduce a rubble pile. This way, developers in Japan can run tests, and people in Chicago can understand what the robot achieved.”

The event took place at Disaster City, Texas, a test facility run by the Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX). The facility offers an airstrip, lakes, train wrecks and rubble piles that can be arranged for many types of challenging tests.

Exercises included testing battery capacity by having robots perform figure eights on an undulating terrain and mobility tests in which robots ran through increasingly challenging exercises beginning with climbing steps and escalating to climbing ramps and then making it up steps with unequal gaps. A new mapping challenge introduced at this event tests how accurate a robot-generated map can be—the robot must traverse a simulated “wooded area” that has uneven terrain and PVC pipes for trees, and create a map using its sensors. Researchers came from across the globe to collect data to feed into their mapping algorithms. NIST researchers developing ultra-high-resolution three-dimensional sensors also participated.

Communications and manipulator tests were performed and discussed at the November exercise will be submitted to ASTM International as a potential rescue robot test standard.

 

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To see the robots in action, three videos can be viewed at the Disaster City TEEX Web site: www.teexblog.blogspot.com/.

October 14, 2008

Lunar prospecting robot tested on Mauna Kea

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:57 pm

A cool press release from Carnegie Mellon University and NASA:

Lunar Prospecting Robot To Be
Field Tested on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea

NASA Rover Was Developed by Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute

PITTSBURGH—The cool, rocky slopes of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano that is Hawaii’s highest mountain, will serve as a stand-in for the moon as researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, NASA and other organizations test a robot designed for lunar prospecting.
    
During the field experiment, Nov. 1-13, the robot called Scarab will simulate a lunar mission to extract water, hydrogen, oxygen and other compounds that could potentially be mined for use by future lunar explorers. The four-wheeled robot will trek to different sites, using a Canadian-built drill to obtain a one-meter geologic core at each site. Each core will be chemically analyzed by on-board instruments developed by NASA.
    
“People will not return to the moon for prolonged stays unless we can find resources there to help sustain them,” said University Professor William “Red” Whittaker, director of the Robotics Institute’s Field Robotics Center. “The technology being developed for Scarab will help locate whatever water or resources might exist on the moon as we seek out the raw materials for a new age of exploration.”
    
Scarab was designed and built for NASA’s Human Robot Systems program by Carnegie Mellon. It serves as a terrestrial testbed for technologies that would be used to explore craters at the moon’s southern pole, where a robot would operate in perpetual darkness at temperatures of minus 385 degrees Fahrenheit. The rover features a novel rocker-arm suspension that enables it to negotiate sandy, rock-strewn inclines and to lower its 5 1/2-foot by 3-foot body to the ground for drilling operations. Scarab weighs 400 kilograms (about 880 pounds) and can operate on just 100 watts of power.
    
“Last year, we demonstrated Scarab’s unique maneuverability and its ability to navigate autonomously,” said David Wettergreen, associate research professor of robotics and project leader. “This year we reconfigured Scarab to accommodate a rock sample analysis payload developed by NASA. Now it is a complete robotic system for exploring the lunar poles and prospecting for resources.”
    
Scarab is outfitted with a drill assembly built by the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology Inc. (Norcat) in Sudbury, Ontario. The drill takes hours to cut a one-meter core into a dense layer of weathered rock and soil, known as regolith. The core is then transferred into another Norcat device that pulverizes it, about one foot at a time.
    
The crushed rock and soil drops into the Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatile Extraction (RESOLVE) experiment being developed by NASA’s In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) program. Inside RESOLVE’s heating chamber, the sample is heated to 900 degrees Celsius (1652 degrees Fahrenheit); gases released by the heat are transported to a gas chromatograph, an instrument that identifies individual chemicals and their relative abundance, and to absorption beds, each of which measures a particular compound of interest. It takes up to 20 hours to analyze an entire one-meter core.
    
Hawaii, famed for its tropical beaches, may not seem to have much in common with the moon. But the nearly 14,000-foot summit of Mauna Kea, home to a dozen major telescopes, is often snow-capped during winter months. The NASA field test will occur at elevations of approximately 9,000 feet, where Scarab is likely to encounter rain and fog and daytime temperatures of about 40 degrees.
    
Scarab is funded through NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and is managed by NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Both Scarab and ISRU’s RESOLVE experiment are part of NASA’s Exploration Technology Development Program, which is managed at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.    

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March 18, 2008

Tuesday video — BigDog robotic pack mule

Filed under: et.al., Media, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:50 am

This is entirely too cool for words.

From the Boing Boing link:

From BB Gadgets:

This new video of “Big Dog,” the amazing quadrupedal robot from Boston Dynamics, shows of its latest tricks: the ability to walk through snow and even over ice, catching itself when it slips and falls. Its normal gait is unnatural, but when it starts to scramble to recover it looks eerily real.

Link