Teresa Escrig

News and oppinion about Cognitive AI & Robotics

Archive for September 18th, 2012

Baxter, the new Arm Manipulator with behavioral robotics from Rethink Robotics

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This is the company and the robot that Amazon has been contemplating to acquire to provide a complete automatic solution for the retail industry. The last piece of the puzzle after Amazon’s Kiva acquisition for $775 M.

By , September 18, 2012

Baxter, the first product of Rethink Robotics, an ambitious start-up company in a revived manufacturing district, is a significant bet that robots in the future will work directly with humans in the workplace.

Here in a brick factory that was once one of the first electrified manufacturing sites in New England, Rodney A. Brooks, the legendary roboticist who is Rethink’s founder, proves its safety by placing his head in the path of Baxter’s arm while it moves objects on an assembly line.

The $22,000 robot that Rethink will begin selling in October is the clearest evidence yet that robotics is more than a laboratory curiosity or a tool only for large companies with vast amounts of capital.

Baxter will come equipped with a library of simple tasks or behaviors.

Rethink itself has made a significant effort to design a robot that mimics biological systems. The concept is called behavioral robotics, a design approach that was pioneered by Dr. Brooks in the 1990s and was used by NASA to build an early generation of vehicles that explored Mars.

Dr. Brooks first proposed the idea in 1989 in a paper titled “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control: A Robot Invasion of the Solar System.” Rather than sending a costly system that had a traditional and expensive artificial intelligence based control system, fleets of inexpensive systems could explore like insects. It helped lead to Sojourner, an early Mars vehicle.

The next generation of robots will increasingly function as assistants to human workers, freeing them for functions like planning, design and troubleshooting.

Rethink’s strategy calls for the robot to double as a “platform,” a computerized system that other developers can add both hardware devices and software applications for particular purposes. It is based on open-source software efforts — including the Robot Operating System, or ROS, developed by the Silicon Valley company Willow Garage, and a separate project called OpenCV, or Open Source Computer Vision Library.

That will make it possible for independent developers to extend the system in directions that Rethink hasn’t considered, much in the same way the original Apple II computer had slots for additional peripheral cards.

“We will publish an interface for the end of the wrist,” Dr. Brooks said. That will mean that while Baxter comes with a simple hand, or “end effector,” it will be able to adapt the system with more complex and capable hands that will be able to perform tasks that require greater dexterity.

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Human-Computer (or Robot) interface through Rough Sketches

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A team from Rhode Island’s Brown University and the Technical University of Berlin have created software that analyzes users’ crude, cartoony sketches, and figures out what it is that they’re trying to draw.

To develop the system, the researchers started with a database made up of 250 categories of annotated photographs. Then, using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowd-sourcing service, they hired people to make rough sketches of objects from each of those categories. The resulting 20,000 sketches were then subjected to recognition and machine learning algorithms, in order to teach the system what general sort of sketches could be attributed to which categories. After seeing numerous examples of how various people drew a rabbit, for instance, it would learn that combinations of specific shapes usually meant “rabbit.”

Check out the video showing the performance of the application. It is amazing! This technology has a broad and very deep implication in many areas, robotics is just one.

The research  is  available online, together with a library of sample sketches, and other materials. The team is currently considering a ‘Pictionary’ type open source game to expand the systems’ drawing reference library.

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