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Robot and robotics news and information - keep up with the latest engineering innovations.
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Robot and robotics news and information – keep up with the latest engineering breakthroughs

Toyota Human Support Robot

Toyota continues to develop their partner robot initiative. Demographics in Japan make a compelling case for the need to provide solutions to those who need assistance to support independent living.

The aim is to contribute to the maintenance and improvement of quality of life.

In cooperation of the Yokohama Rehabilitation Center, Toyota conducted experiments for disabled people, using HSR in their homes, in 2011. Toyota has been integrating the feedback to the design, based on actual user experience.

The Human Support Robot (HSR) can pick up something on and bring it to the person. Also it can do small tasks such as opening the curtains.

Controlling the robot can be done easily, by using the voice recognition function or using a tablet control. In addition, Toyota is designing it to directly assist the person, helping them get into and out of a bathtub, for example.

They are also developing new features for remote viewing and remote operation (to provide off site help to make the robot more useful). They are working with health care professionals, including nurses, and research institutions aimed at practical use for such a robot.

Toyota, along with several other Japanese companies, continue to invest a great deal to create personal care robots.

Related: Toyota Partner RobotsToyota Develops Thought-controlled WheelchairHonda’s Robolegs Help People WalkToyota Winglet, Personal Transportation

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New iPad Telepresence Robot for $2,000

Double is a new telepresence robot that is on sale arrives fully functional as soon as you open the box – just insert your iPad. Touch the power switch to activate Double’s self-balancing sensors, keeping itself upright. At only 15 pounds, it’s easy to move around.

Touch to drive (using your iPad remotely). Adjust height also (to match standing or sitting colleagues). It runs for 8 hours on full charge and charges up in 2 hours.

Pre-order now at $2000 (saving $500 over list price). Delivery is expected in December 2012.

Related: Anybots, Remote Presence RobotBuild a Remote Presence Robot to Play with Your Dog While You Are AwayRobot Prison Guards in South KoreaToyota Partner RobotsMoth Controlled Robot

Using Robots to Collect Data on our Oceans

Interesting idea to use self propelled robots to provide data on the oceans. They use no fuel to move, they use wave energy. They also have solar panels on the top. The wave gliders can travel to a distant area, collect data, and return to base. One of the big problems with convention methods of collecting data on the oceans is the large costs of placing the buoys (and the cost of servicing them).

Related: Wave Glider – The State of the OceansAutonomous Underwater Robot Decides on Experiment OptionsAltered Oceans: the Crisis at Sea

Lean Science: Using Cheap Robots to Aid Research

Fun video showing how scientists use Lego Mindstorm robots to aid research into creating artificial bones. Lego Mindstorm robots are useful at a very reasonable price.

The webcast also includes this practical quote from Michelle Oyen, lecturer in the Department of Engineering at Cambridge University: “without your bones you would be a pile of goo lying on the floor.”

The thinking discussed in the webcast echos the lean manufacturing principles discussed in the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog: finding good solutions to aid people in doing their jobs. The type of custom solutions they discuss here are great.

This type of use of technology is great. One of the problems we often see with technology solutions though is when they are imposed on the workplace in a way that doesn’t aid people. There is a big difference between what Toyota does (using robots to make people’s jobs easier) and what others do in trying to copy Toyota (using robots to eliminate jobs). Lean manufacturing stressed the importance of using brainpower people bring to work every day. You want to use technology to enable people. These scientists understand that. Unfortunately many managers don’t.

Related: Lego Mindstorms Robots Solving: Sudoku and Rubik’s CubeOpen Source for LEGO MindstormsRubick’s Cube Solving Lego Mindstorms Robot

Build a Remote Presence Robot to Play with Your Dog While You Are Away

This Microsoft robotics test developer built this remote controlled robot to play with his dog while he was at work.

Related: Remote Presence RobotSwarmanoid: Cooperative Robot NetworksAutomatic Dog Washing Machine

20th Annual US First Robotics Competition

If you have a child, niece, nephew, grandchild… who you haven’t been able to convince about the wonders of science maybe the starts on this promo (Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, Justin Bieber…) can help convince them. If you want to convince your grandparents science is cool, then maybe they will like the cameos by Steven Tyler and Bono :-P This is an effort being pushed by will.i.am (Black Eyed Peas) and Dean Kamen (US First Founder) to promote science and engineering. Since most politicians don’t seem interested in promoting and supporting science anymore maybe musicians can help turn things around.

I have written about US First, it is a great program. It engages children in learning by taping their curiosity and desire to create. I think learning this way is much more natural and fun and affective than what we have too often in schools today. I know I was bored quite often but was told the adults knew best. Well know I am an adult and I think I was right back then: our education system can, and should be greatly improved. Until then, US First, and similar, programs give kids a good environment for learning that keeps their desire to learn intact.

The video spot was created to promote a TV show commemorating the 20th annual US FIRST Robotics competition. Watch the TV show:

Related: Lunacy, FIRST Robotics Challenge 2009For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), 2005 postTest it Out, Experiment by They Might Be GiantsBotball 2009 Finals

Cool Robot Locomotion: Transforms from Wheeled to Walking For Stairs and Rough Terrain

This is a very cool engineering solution. Wheeled locomotion is very efficient on the right terrain. This transformation lets the robot switch to climb stairs and handle rough terrain very nicely. A team of mechanical engineers at National Taiwan University built this energy-efficient leg-wheel hybrid mobile robot. From their description:

Compared to most hybrid platforms, which have separate mechanisms and actuators for wheels and legs, our leg-wheel hybrid mobile robot, Quattroped, uses a “transformation mechanism” that deforms a specific portion of the body to act as a wheel or a leg. From a geometrical point of view, a wheel usually has a circular rim and a rotational axis located at the center of the rim. The rim contacts the ground and the rotational axis connects to the robot body at a point hereafter referred to as the “hip joint.” In general, with wheeled locomotion on flat ground, the wheel rotates continuously and the ground-contact point of the wheel is located directly below the hip joint with a fixed distance. In contrast, in legged locomotion the leg moves in a periodic manner and there is no specific geometrical configuration between the hip joint and the ground-contact point; thereby, the relative position of the legs varies frequently and periodically during locomotion.

Based on this observation, shifting the hip joint out of the center of the circular rim and changing the continuous rotation motion to other motion patterns implies the locomotion switches from wheeled mode to legged mode. This motivated us to design a mechanism that directly controls the relative position of the circular rim with respect to the hip joint so it can generate both wheeled and legged motions. Because the circular rim is a 2-dimensional object, the most straightforward method to achieve this goal is to add a second degree of freedom (DOF) that can adjust the relative position of the hip joint to the center of the circular rim along the radial direction. The motions of the two DOFs are also orthogonal to each other. In addition, the same set of actuation power can be efficiently used in both wheeled and legged modes.

Related: Big Dog, The Robotic Dog (2008)Robots That Start as Babies Master Walking Faster Than Those That Start as AdultsSelf Re-assembling RobotsSoft Morphing Robot (soft tissue)

Remote Presence Robot

Anybots allow remote presence today. They can be rented for just $600 a month. You can purchase your own for just $15,000.

The newest version, just unveiled at a CES has a much bigger screen (which seems very wise to me).

This is another example of robots making it into real use. While I am sure few workplaces are ready for this jump today, 10 or 20 years from now a telepresence robot (that can do much more) is likely I think to be significantly used. Not only will functionality increase, prices will drop dramatically: as the wonderful combination so often happens with technology. There is a great deal of effort going into making commercial viable “personal” robots. I think these efforts will make significant inroads in the next 10-20 years.

My old office wouldn’t have been willing to pay $15,000 but one of our developers looked into creating his own (after he moved and was working remotely). He hasn’t quite gotten it done yet, but may at some point.

Related: Managing By Rolling Around (I like how the robot owner used the robot to have his mother attend his wedding (and dressed up the robot) – Robot Finds Lost Shoppers and Provides DirectionsNew Yorkers Help Robot Find Its Way in the Big CityToyota Partner Robots

Robot Prison Guards in South Korea

photo of robot prison guard

Robotic prison wardens to patrol South Korean prison

The one-month trial will cost 1bn won (£554,000) and is being sponsored by the South Korean government. It is the latest in a series of investments made by the state to develop its robotics industry.

The country’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in January that it had spent the equivalent of £415m on research in the sector between 2002 and 2010. It said the aim was to compete with other countries, such as Japan, which are also exploring the industry’s potential.

In October the ministry said the Korean robot market had recorded 75% growth over the past two years and was now worth about £1 billion…

The potential market for robotics is huge. Smart countries are investing in becoming the centers for excellence in that area. Japan and South Korea may well be in the lead. The USA, Germany and China also have strong communities.

Related: Robot Finds Lost Shoppers and Provides DirectionsThe Robotic Dog (2008 post)Soft Morphing Robot FutureHonda’s Robolegs Help People WalkRoachbot: Cockroach Controlled Robot

Dennis Hong, Virginia Tech Mechanical Engineering Professor, Leading Robotics Innovation

Dennis Hong is the U.S. star in humanoid robotics

Hong came by his interest in science naturally. He was born in 1971 on the exclusive Palos Verdes Peninsula, outside Los Angeles, and his father, Yong Shik Hong, worked as an aerospace engineer at the federally funded Aerospace Corp. The family returned to Seoul in 1974 so the elder Hong could lead South Korea’s short-range missile program, at the bidding of then-President Park Chung Hee.

Korean fathers of that era were strict and remote. Hong’s father was engaged and intellectually indulgent. He installed a work bench in Dennis’s room when he was 4, complete with a hammer and saw. He led the children in chemistry experiments and brought home model airplanes from America.

Dennis Hong built things with scraps of wood and metal and bits of plastic. He disassembled toys and stored the parts in a chest beneath his bed.

“We spent a lot of time building things and breaking things,” said Julie Hong, Hong’s older sister. “He was the one who broke things the most and built things the most.”

Hong traveled to America to complete his university study, following his father’s credo, “Big fish must swim in the big sea.” He earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin and a master’s and doctorate at Purdue.

Dennis’ success illustrates several themes repeated in posts on this blog: the USA attracting talent from overseas, kids curiosity and exposure to science and engineering leading to great things, the value of strong science and engineering programs and professors. Robotics continue to progress very quickly. The economic impact of robotics is large already (largely in manufacturing) and will continue to grow dramatically. Likely robots will find their way into much more diverse areas over the next 2 decades. The Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, lead by Dennis Hong, seems poised to play a big role in that future.

Related: Robocup 2010, Robot FootballSoft Morphing Robot FutureEvolution of Altruism in RobotsToyota Develops Thought-controlled Wheelchair

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Swarmanoid: Cooperative Robot Networks

Very cool cooperation between robots. It seems more and more research is going on in cooperative robotics. It would seem this would let us have specialized robots for various tasks instead of having to have robots that can do everything (which is very complex and difficult). Plus cooperating robots are just cool. See the Swarmanoid project web site and the overarching Swarmbot site. I look forward to what these scientists and engineers can create for us.

Related: Robots Working Together to Share Talents (2006)Autonomous Helicopters Teach Themselves to FlyUnderwater Robots Collaborate

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