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Robot and robotics news and information - keep up with the latest engineering innovations.
Recommended posts: Tour the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Lab - Robot Learning - La Vida Robot - Lego Learning - Toyota Robots - Robo-One Grand Championship

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

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

NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover

Curiosity is the name of the new rover from NASA. It will be launched to continue the exploration of Mars so successfully done by Spirit and Opportunity (2 previous Mars rovers that did some amazing work and laster years longer than expected). The rover is NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, a mobile robot for investigating Mars’ past or present ability to sustain microbial life.

photo of NASA's Mars Rover: Curiosity

Once on the surface, the rover will be able to roll over obstacles up to 75 centimeters (29 inches) high and travel up to 90 meters per hour. On average, the rover is expected to travel about 30 meters per hour, based on power levels, slippage, steepness of the terrain, visibility, and other variables.

The rover is about the size of a small SUV — 10 feet long (not including the arm), 9 feet wide and 7 feet tall. It weighs 900 kilograms (2,000 pounds)

The rover will carry a radioisotope power system that generates electricity from the heat of plutonium’s radioactive decay. This power source gives the mission an operating lifespan on Mars’ surface of a full martian year (687 Earth days) or more, while also providing significantly greater mobility and operational flexibility, enhanced science payload capability, and exploration of a much larger range of latitudes and altitudes than was possible on previous missions to Mars.

Related: Mars Rover Continues ExplorationMars Rovers Getting Ready for Another Adventure (2007)Sunset on Mars

Evolution of Altruism in Robots

The webcast explores robots evolving cooperative behavior. A Quantitative Test of Hamilton’s Rule for the Evolution of Altruism (open access paper)

One of the enduring puzzles in biology and the social sciences is the origin and persistence of altruism, whereby a behavior benefiting another individual incurs a direct cost for the individual performing the altruistic action. This apparent paradox was resolved by Hamilton’s theory, known as kin selection, which states that individuals can transmit copies of their own genes not only directly through their own reproduction but also indirectly by favoring the reproduction of kin, such as siblings or cousins. While many studies have provided qualitative support for kin selection theory, quantitative tests have not yet been possible due to the difficulty of quantifying the costs and benefits of helping acts. In this study, we conduct simulations with the help of a simulated system of foraging robots to manipulate the costs and benefits of altruism and determine the conditions under which altruism evolves.

By conducting experimental evolution over hundreds of generations of selection in populations with different costs and benefits of altruistic behavior, we show that kin selection theory always accurately predicts the minimum relatedness necessary for altruism to evolve. This high accuracy is remarkable given the presence of pleiotropic and epistatic effects, as well as mutations with strong effects on behavior and fitness. In addition to providing a quantitative test of kin selection theory in a system with a complex mapping between genotype and phenotype, this study reveals that a fundamental principle of natural selection also applies to synthetic organisms when these have heritable properties.

Related: Robots That Start as Babies Master Walking Faster Than Those That Start as AdultsFriday Fun: Robocup 2010, Robot FootballToyota Develops Thought-controlled Wheelchair
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Robots That Start as Babies Master Walking Faster Than Those That Start as Adults

In a first-of-its-kind experiment, Bongard created both simulated and actual robots that, like tadpoles becoming frogs, change their body forms while learning how to walk. And, over generations, his simulated robots also evolved, spending less time in “infant” tadpole-like forms and more time in “adult” four-legged forms.

These evolving populations of robots were able to learn to walk more rapidly than ones with fixed body forms. And, in their final form, the changing robots had developed a more robust gait — better able to deal with, say, being knocked with a stick — than the ones that had learned to walk using upright legs from the beginning.

Bongard’s research, supported by the National Science Foundation, is part of a wider venture called evolutionary robotics. “We have an engineering goal,” he says “to produce robots as quickly and consistently as possible.” In this experimental case: upright four-legged robots that can move themselves to a light source without falling over.

Using a sophisticated computer simulation, Bongard unleashed a series of synthetic beasts that move about in a 3-dimensional space. “It looks like a modern video game,” he says. Each creature — or, rather, generations of the creatures — then run a software routine, called a genetic algorithm, that experiments with various motions until it develops a slither, shuffle, or walking gait — based on its body plan — that can get it to the light source without tipping over.


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Google’s Self Driving Car

Google thinks big. Google thinks like engineers. Google is willing to spend money taking on problems that other companies don’t. They have been developing a car that can drive itself. They see a huge amount of waste (drivers lives and drivers time) and seek a solution.

Larry and Sergey founded Google because they wanted to help solve really big problems using technology. And one of the big problems we’re working on today is car safety and efficiency. Our goal is to help prevent traffic accidents, free up people’s time and reduce carbon emissions by fundamentally changing car use.

So we have developed technology for cars that can drive themselves. Our automated cars, manned by trained operators, just drove from our Mountain View campus to our Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard. They’ve driven down Lombard Street, crossed the Golden Gate bridge, navigated the Pacific Coast Highway, and even made it all the way around Lake Tahoe. All in all, our self-driving cars have logged over 140,000 miles. We think this is a first in robotics research.

Our automated cars use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic, as well as detailed maps (which we collect using manually driven vehicles) to navigate the road ahead. This is all made possible by Google’s data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by our cars when mapping their terrain.

To develop this technology, we gathered some of the very best engineers from the DARPA Challenges, a series of autonomous vehicle races organized by the U.S. Government. Chris Urmson was the technical team leader of the CMU team that won the 2007 Urban Challenge. Mike Montemerlo was the software lead for the Stanford team that won the 2005 Grand Challenge. Also on the team is Anthony Levandowski, who built the world’s first autonomous motorcycle that participated in a DARPA Grand Challenge, and who also built a modified Prius that delivered pizza without a person inside.

Related: Larry Page and Sergey Brin WebcastEnergy Secretary Steve Chu and Google CEO Eric Schmidt Speak On Funding Science ResearchGoogle’s Ten Golden RulesCMU Wins $2 million in DARPA Auto Race

Friday Fun: Robocup 2010, Robot Football

Robocup 2010 took place in Singapore and 2 German team faced each other in the finals. Robocup is an international research and education initiative. RoboCupRescue is a related effort to develop rescue robots for hostile environments.

Related: RoboCup 2008: Robot Football (Soccer)Robot Playing Table TennisToyota Develops Thought-controlled Wheelchair

NASA to Launch GM Co-Developed Robot to International Space Station

photo of humanoid GM NASA roblot

NASA will launch the first human-like robot to space later this year to become a permanent resident of the International Space Station. Robonaut 2, or R2, was developed jointly by NASA and General Motors under a cooperative agreement to develop a robotic assistant that can work alongside humans, whether they be astronauts in space or workers at GM manufacturing plants on Earth.

The 300-pound R2 consists of a head and a torso with two arms and two hands and will launch on space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission planned for September. Once aboard the station, engineers will monitor how the robot operates in weightlessness. R2 joins another station robot, known as Dextre. That robot, built by the Canadian Space Agency, consists of two, long arms to perform tasks that normally require spacewalking astronauts to complete.

While Dextre is located on the station’s exterior, R2 will be confined to operations in the station’s Destiny laboratory. However, future enhancements could allow it to move more freely around the station’s interior, and it could one day be modified to operate outside the complex.

“The use of R2 on the space station is just the beginning of a quickening pace between human and robotic exploration of space,” said John Olson, director of NASA’s Exploration Systems Integration Office. “The partnership of humans and robots will be critical to opening up the solar system and will allow us to go farther and achieve more than we can probably even imagine today.”

The dexterous humanoid robot not only looks like a human, it is designed to work like one. With human-like hands and arms, R2 is able to use the same tools that station crew members use. In the future, the greatest benefit of humanoid robots in space may be as an assistant or stand-in for astronauts during spacewalks or for tasks too difficult or dangerous for humans. For now, R2 is still a prototype and lacks adequate protection needed to exist outside the space station in the extreme temperatures of space.

Related: Awesome Robot: uBot-5RoboCup German Open 2008Toyota Develops Thought-controlled WheelchairThe Robotic Dog

Robot Built Largely From Old TV Parts

Unfortunately I can’t find any additional information – other than what is in the webcast. Sam Todo,
a student in Lome, Togo, Africa, built this robot almost entirely from old TV parts.

Related: Making Robots from Trash in ChinaMoth Controlled Robotmore home engineering postsRobot Finds Lost Shoppers and Provides Directions

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