Posts about Robots

Small Farm Robots

The IdaBot was created by researchers at Northwest Nazarene University (Idaho, USA).

Using robots in farming is limited today but the future could see a huge growth in that use. Benefits of introducing more robots to farming include reducing the use of pesticides and chemicals to control weeds.

Reducing labor costs is also a potential benefit but at current market prices (due to high costs of robotics and available cheap labor) that is more something for the future than today. However that can change fairly quickly – as for example the collapse in solar panel costs have made solar energy economically very attractive. In areas with high labor costs (Japan etc.) or areas where there are active efforts to reduce the supply of labor (in the USA where a significant portion of labor does not have proper visa to work in the USA and the current administration is seeking to reduce that labor availability) robots become more attractive economically.

Robot farmers are coming to a field near you

In Japan, using robots to harvest strawberries is roughly cost-equivalent to human labor if the ‘bots are shared between multiple farms, Lux Research said.

“With strawberry-picking being slow and labor-intensive, and labor scarce and expensive — the average agricultural worker in Japan is over 70 years old – the robot is quickly likely to become the cheaper option,” it said.

Lux Research also forecast European lettuce-growing — a major industry on the continent — would become automated by 2028.

“Automated lettuce weeding is already competitive with human labor in Europe, thanks to regulatory limitations on agrochemicals. Lettuce thinning is still accomplished manually at lower cost, but robots are likely to reach breakeven with human labor in 2028,”

The global market for agricultural robots will explode to $73.9 billion by 2024, up from $3.0 billion 2015

Related: For Many Crops Ants Can Provide Pest Protection Superior or Equal to Chemicals at a Much Lower CostSustainable Ocean FarmingCool Robot Locomotion: Transforms from Wheeled to Walking For Stairs and Rough Terrain (2012)Lean Science: Using Cheap Robots to Aid ResearchMoth Controlled Robot (2009)

Pepper – A Social Robot from Softbank

Pepper is a social robot developed in France and part of the Japanese conglomerate Softbank.

Pepper robots are at work in retail stores in Asia and Europe as sales associates. The first personal robots have been available in Japan for 2 years now and may be available elsewhere soon.

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Autonomous Delivery Robots Launched in Europe and USA

Starship Technologies is launching a fleet of autonomous delivery robots on the pavements of the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland as part of the testing program. A similar program will be announced for the United States shortly.

The largest European food delivery company Just Eat, leading German parcel delivery company Hermes, leading German retailer Metro Group, and innovative London food delivery startup Pronto will test the delivery robots developed by Starship Technologies, a company launched in 2014 by Skype co-founders.

a starship robot at Branderburg Gate, Berlin

Starship delivery robot, Branderburg Gate, Berlin, Germany

As part of the program, dozens of robots will be deployed in five cities to run first test deliveries and introduce the innovative devices to the general public.

“By launching partnerships with major companies we will enter the next phase in our development. While Starship has been testing the robots in 12 countries in the last nine months, we will now develop know-how on running real robotic delivery services,” said Ahti Heinla, co-founder, CEO and CTO of Starship Technologies.

Robots developed by Starship Technologies are meant for delivering packages, groceries and food to consumers in a 2-3 mile radius. The robots can drive autonomously while being monitored by human operators in control centers. Introduced to European and American cities since the end of last year, the robots have already driven close to 5,000 miles and met over 400,000 people without a single accident.

Frank Rausch, CEO of Hermes Germany, said: “We are very proud to be Starship’s exclusive logistics partner in Germany. At Hermes we believe that parcel delivery’s main goal is to fully satisfy the customers’ needs in receiving their online shopping orders as fast and convenient as possible. Nobody likes to spend hours waiting for the courier just to have a parcel delivered. Therefore, individually scheduled delivery services will become increasingly important within the coming years.”

The test programs will run in London, Düsseldorf, Bern and another German city to start, before moving to several other European and American cities. Starship Technologies will also continue testing in Tallinn, Estonia where its R&D facilities are located.

Related: Using Drones to Deliver Medical Supplies in Roadless Areas (2014)Self Driving Cars Have Huge Potential for Benefit to Society (2014)Autonomous Helicopters Teach Themselves to Fly (2008)Toyota Develops Thought-controlled Wheelchair (2009)

Using The Building of Robots to Engage Students in Learning

Fundi bots has a mission to use robotics training in African schools to create and inspire a new generation of problem solvers, innovators and change-makers. I believe strongly in this type of effort. We waste so much human potential by killing students design to learn. Instead we need to create systems that not only don’t kill that desire but allow it to flourish.

Fundi Bots focuses on the technological process of building robots as a way for students to look at the world around them from a practical, solution oriented perspective. By guiding students through problem identification, brainstorming, collaboration, construction, programming, final deployment and system feedback, we show them how the problems around them can be solved through a technological approach and persistent reductive analysis.

Fundi Made is an effort to create professional grade electronics right in our Fundi Spaces, and deploy the products in five core market segments; home-automation, agriculture, energy, security and health.

Related: Promoting Innovation in Sierra LeoneLetting Children Learn using Hole in the Wall ComputersGiven Tablets but No Teachers, Kids Teach Themselves (Having Never Seen Advanced Technology Before)Teaching Through TinkeringEncouraging Curiosity in Kids20th Annual US First Robotics Competition (2012)

Self Driving Cars Have Huge Potential for Benefit to Society

Self-driving cars was something that seemed very far-fetched when I first read Google was seriously investing in pursuing that idea as a commercially viable product (Google’s Self Driving Car – 2010 post). I quickly became convinced they were right. I still think it is questionable if they will succeed (the political issues may well be even more difficult than technical ones). But the chances of success seem reasonable and the investment in research could provide a huge payoff.

Google’s self driving cars have driven 700,000 miles without an accident already; which is amazing. Warren Buffett stated that “self-driving cars are a real threat to the car insurance business” (His company owns the GIECO car insurance company) at the 2014 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting in Omaha.

There are some people, stressing that this is not ready for mass market use. They are right. But, I think it is funny to see people thinking that a very early stage huge innovation in transportation not being ready today is a reasonable criticism. I am amazed that this huge innovation may actually be available before 2020. That would be incredible.

Certainly even then it will have limitations. And certainly there will be accidents. The current transportation system with humans driving cars has thosands of accidents a day and tens of thousands of deaths a year in the USA alone every year. Every year 1.2 million people die worldwide in traffic-related incidents, and over 90% of those accidents are due to human error.

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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 😛 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

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