Teresa Escrig

News and oppinion about Cognitive AI & Robotics

Archive for August, 2012

Will elderly embrace robot health care?

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By THOMAS ROGERS, 08/20/2012

“Full robots with arms are still very expensive,” says Ashutosh Saxena, a professor in the department of computer science at Cornell, “but they are getting cheaper by the day.” He predicts that armless robots — capable of communicating verbally with the elderly and observing them in case of accidents — will hit the market within the next five years.

There’s just one hiccup: the elderly themselves.

Despite manufacturers’ hopes, robotic technology has proven to be alienating for many older people — even, the BBC reports, in Japan, a country with an intense, long-term love of all things robotic.

Alexander Libin, scientific director of simulation and education research at Medstar Health Research Institute, argues that one of the biggest challenges is that the elderly need to be able to communicate easily with them. Although many robots (and mobile phones) can now recognize voice commands, nonverbal cues pose a much bigger challenge. Libin, who has worked extensively on robot-patient interaction, believes that touch-sensitive technology — like the one used by Paro, the therapeutic seal robot — will play a large role in making robots palatable to seniors.

“The Japanese want robots to be like them,” says Libin, noting Japan’s long tradition of treating inanimate objects like living beings. In the United States, we’re more comfortable treating machines as machines. “We want things we can control.”

The path toward robot acceptance may also require  patience. Like other forms of social change, robot acceptance may simply require one generation to replace the previous one.

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The robotic lawn mowers industry is growing at an exponential rate

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Miimo is Honda’s entry into the growing robotic lawn mower market. Honda’s announcement comes hot on the heels of Bosch showing off its Indego mower. The Auto-Mower, Robby Garden XP, Evolution, and Robomow are some of the other examples of robotic lawn mowers to emerge in recent years. It is clear that this industry is growing at an exponential rate, and Honda is making sure to throw its name into the hat.

According to Honda, the Miimo “navigates the garden through an intelligent combination of controls, timers and real-time sensory feedback.” It knows the limits of your yard with a boundary wire that is installed either underground or in the grass. The wire sends an electronic signal to the Miimo and tells it to stay within that area.

Miimo uses a “ continuous cutting” system that cuts about three millimeters of grass at a time. You can choose between three cutting modes: random, directional, and mixed.

Miimo has a couple of unique features that Honda hopes will help it stand above the competition. The first of these is the fan that resides above the blades. This helps suck grass towards the blades and should offer a cleaner cut. Additionally, the mower’s three blades are flexible, designed to bend on impact with a hard object instead of breaking.

The Miimo will hit the market in early 2013.

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Written by Teresa Escrig

August 28th, 2012 at 12:51 am

Electronic nose to detect harmful airborne agents

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A prototype of an electronic nose to detect harmful airborne agents such as pesticides, biological weapons, gas leaks and other unwanted presences has been developed at University of California.

The “electronic nose” will eventually be developed into three platforms: a handheld device, which could be used for environmental monitoring, a smaller wearable version useful for monitoring air quality, and a smartphone-integrated system, which the team reports could detect a potentially harmful airborne agent.

This is a very important sensor to include into robots, as well.

By , August 23, 2012

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Surfing Robot Tells Scientists Where the Sharks Are

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Researchers at Stanford University have developed a Wave Glider robot which tracks the migratory patterns of great white sharks off the California coast, near San Francisco.

Stanford marine scientists have spent the past 12 years tracking the migratory patterns of sharks by placing acoustic tags on the animals that send a signal to a receiver when they pass within 1,500 feet.


Their goal is to use revolutionary technology that increases our capacity to observe our oceans and census populations, improve fisheries management models, and monitor animal responses to climate change.

The surfing robot will receive audio information from the shark’s tags and then it will propel itself forward through the water to follow the animal in an unobtrusive manner. The surfboard part acts like a WiFi hotspot, pinging the research team with the latest data about the sharks’ movements.

The Stanford team has released a new iPhone and iPad app called Shark Net to model the sharks’ patterns and offer real-time notifications when the robot crosses paths with certain sharks. The idea behind the app is to allow everyone to explore the places where these sharks live, and to get to know them just like their friends on Facebook.

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By August 20, 2012 Read more >

SwRI launches ROS-Industrial Consortium

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San Antonio — August 15, 2012 — Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is launching a cooperative research consortium to accelerate the development of ROS-Industrial, an open-source extension of ROS focused on the needs of industrial users.

ROS, which stands for Robot Operating System, is an open-source project providing a common framework of libraries and tools for a wide range of applications, particularly for service and research robots. The ROS-Industrial Consortium (RIC) will enable the industrial robotics community to apply the advanced capabilities of ROS for industrial applications quickly and easily using a common platform, the ROS-Industrial open source software program. The consortium will conduct foundational, precompetitive research and code development at the direction of the membership. Test results, data, recommendations and analysis generated by RIC will create a competitive advantage for its members and will be protected from public disclosure for a period of time.

ROS-Industrial will create code quality standards indicative of an industrial software product, to include rating/tracking code quality metrics, multi-level testing and documentation.

RIC will have its first kickoff meeting in early 2013. Annual membership fees vary depending on the size and type of organization.

For more information about the ROS-Industrial Consortium, see ric.swri.org or contact Evans at paul.evans@swri.org or (210) 522-2994.

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Cognitive Robot has also adopted ROS to develop its Cognitive Brain for Service Robotics.

Willow Garage’ s PR2 robot giving the disable independence

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Great job from Willow Garage. This is a nice example of the utility of robots in the near future. PR2 is too expensive to be acquired by a regular disable citizen, but you get the idea…

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Cloud Robotics: benefits to adopt, drawbacks to solve

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For us humans, with our non-upgradeable, offline meat brains, the possibility of acquiring new skills by connecting our heads to a computer network is still science fiction. It is a reality for robots.

Cloud Robotics can allow the robot to access vast amounts of processing power, data and offload compute-intensive tasks like image processing and voice recognition and even download new skills instantly, Matrix-style.

There is an excellent post at ieee spectrum about Cloud Robotics that I absolute recommend to read for those who want to know what is next in the Robotics world.

Here are the benefits I see by using Cloud-enable robots: Read the rest of this entry »

Hanson Robokind unveils latest version of its Zeno humanoid robot

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by August 2, 2012

Built by Hanson Robotics, Zeno’s open-platform software allows for custom tinkering by the purchaser, but the robot is currently programmed for a number of functions as well as speaking 26 languages. In the video, it asserts that it can carry on “conversations” and show “compassion.” It can also “deliver education curricula,” provide autism treatment therapy and can answer questions. It demonstrated the last of these by fielding spoken questions on astronomy, sports and films.

Zeno will be joined by a “female” counterpart called Alice in August of 2012. Neither, however, will be selling for the US$300 that Hanson had hoped for five years ago. Though no price has been set, current Hanson RoboKind robots are valued on its website at up to US$16,750. However, the company is still keen on breaking into the mass market and plans to roll out smaller, cheaper “cousins” for Zeno sometime in 2013.

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There is a huge amount of work done in this platform. Congratulations to the team. This platform brings robotics closer to the public.