Teresa Escrig

News and oppinion about Cognitive AI & Robotics

Archive for the ‘artificial intelligence associated with a body’ tag

Reproducing the APP ECONOMY syndrome in the Robotics industry

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The Robotics Industry is definitely taking off. Many new corporations are being created in the area than ever before. According to a November 2011 report from the market research firm Metra Martech, the robotics industry will create one million new jobs over the next five years. Many organizations report that they are actually having trouble finding enough quality employees. We’re going to see more manufacturing come back to the United States, where robots will help us better control quality and intellectual property [1]. Service applications for robotics are growing faster in the United States than elsewhere but the competition is growing, spurred on by heavy investment in countries like South Korea [1].

Big acquisitions and investments are taken place in this industry. Examples are the significant investment in Aldebaran Robotics, and the more spectacular acquisition of Kiva Systems by Amazon for $750 M. The case of Kiva Systems is very remarkable because Amazon is one of the main players of the Cloud Computing industry and their ultimate goal is to have fully automated logistics for retail sells. Kiva Systems provide a scalable, very reliable robotics solution to transport items in a warehouse. At this moment, the only time where a person is touching an item is to grab it from the shelf that is brought to him and place it in the box to send it out. Amazon is now making investigations to acquire a company expert on grasping / arm manipulators to automated the last piece of the system. Soon we will be able to buy the book we want, from our iPad or iPhone (or similar) and see in our screen how a robot is finding our book, transporting it to the door of the warehouse where an arm manipulator is placing it in our box. We will receive the book the same day or the day after, depending on the distance from the warehouse to our home. This is a successful story that it is happening while we speak.

However, there are many other robotic companies struggling to arrive to the market. Although robotics is a very hot topic, robots still need to have “more intelligence”, the software needs to be hardware independent and reusable, and the components need to be less expensive, so that the balance between price and benefits goes by far to the side of the benefits.

A comparable example in our recent history has been the iPhone: “too expensive, nobody would buy it”, said the competition, and they were wrong. Now everybody “have to have” a smartphone, the benefits have override the cost. Most people do not think about the cost, they only think about the amount of benefits they are going to get from it.

The great advantage of a smartphone is that it provides so many tools in a single, readily available, relatively inexpensive package.

Almost a million apps have been created for the iPhone, iPad and Android alone, greatly augmenting the usefulness of mobile devices [1]. Want to play games, track your workouts, write music? There are a plethora of apps to choose from, many of them free. This analysis—conducted for TechNet by Dr. Michael Mandel of South Mountain Economics, LLC—shows that the App Economy now is responsible for roughly 466,000 jobs in the United States in the last four years, since 2007 when the iPhone was introduced. This total includes jobs at ‘pure’ app firms such as Zynga, a San Francisco-based maker of Facebook game apps that went public in December 2011. App Economy employment also includes app-related jobs at large companies such as Electronic Arts, Amazon, and AT&T, as well as app ‘infrastructure’ jobs at core firms such as Google, Apple, and Facebook. In additional, the App Economy total includes employment spillovers to the rest of the economy. Our results also suggest that the App Economy is still growing at a rapid clip, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

In order to provide users with a wider range of engaging experiences, social networks and mobile operating systems have opened their platforms to developers, transforming the creation, distribution and consumption of digital content. We refer to this as the “App Economy.” In the App Economy, developers can create applications accessing unique features of the platforms, distribute applications digitally to a broad audience and regularly update existing applications”

The App Economy is only one way technology creates jobs. As explained here there is other ways in which robots create jobs.

The combination of ease of development and ease of delivery makes possible a stunning variety of apps.

Our claim is that this App Economy phenomenon in the mobile industry can be reproduced again in the robotic industry to help that industry take off.

In order to do so, we need to provide in the robotics world the same breeding ground as it exists for mobile platforms: ease of development and ease of delivery.

We need to assign capital to do it!

References:

[1] Mandel, M., “Where the Jobs Are: The App Economy”, TechNet 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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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.

 

RP-VITA, the new iRobot Telepresence robot doctor

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By , July 26, 2012

iRobot and InTouch Health are working under a partnership and joint development and licensing agreement to develop the RP-VITA, which will allow doctors and other health specialists to not only visit patients remotely, but to robotically navigate through wards, access patient records and even carry out examinations.

The RP-VITA is a combination of iRobot’s Robot Ava mobile robotics platform and the InTouch Telemedicine System. This produces what the partners refer to as a an “expandable telemedicine technology platform.”

It’s controlled by a simple iPad interface and has an enhanced autonomous navigation capability. That means it can be sent where needed with a single click. Using its Obstacle Detection Obstacle Avoidance (ODOA) system, the robot can proceed to its location on its own, navigating the hospital quickly, safely and accurately.

The robot allows doctors and staff real-time access to important clinical data from the patient’s online files, but it also can transmit live information by means of its built-in electronic stethoscope or by linking to diagnostic devices such as otoscopes and ultrasound machines.

The RP-VITA is being unveiled to the public at the InTouch Health 7th Annual Clinical Innovations Forum (July 26-28, 2012) in Santa Barbara, CA.

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Cognitive Robots includes Common-Sense Knowledge and Reasoning into their Robotics and Computer Vision solutions

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Representation, reasoning and learning are the basic principles of human intelligence. The emulation of human intelligence has been the aim of Artificial Intelligence since its origins in 1956.

In fact, converting raw data into information (data in the context of other data) and hence into knowledge (information in the context of other information), is critical for understanding activities, behaviors, and in general the world we try to model. Both in the Robotics and the Computer Vision areas we try to model the real world where the humans are operating.

The type of knowledge that Robotics and Computer Vision need to obtain is Common Sense Knowledge. Contra intuitively, common sense knowledge is more difficult to model than expert knowledge, which can be quite easily modeled by expert systems (a more or less closed research area since the 70s).

Both in Robotics and Computer Vision areas, Probabilistic and Bayesian models have historically been used as the way to represent, reason and learn from the world. These methods have provided very good initial results. The problem is that they have never been scalable. That is why there is no commercial intelligent robot that has the full ability to serve people yet. Although there exist many preliminary solutions including artificial vision, the percentage of false positives or negatives are still too high to consider it as completely reliable, and therefore artificial vision is still an open research area.

The problems detected in the probabilistic approaches have been twofold: Read the rest of this entry »

This Little Robot Could Totally Transform The Way Humanity Shops

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by Jill Krasny  Jul. 20, 2012

AndyVision Future of Retail Project at Carnegie Mellon University. This project involves in-store digital signage for customers to browse the store’s 3D planograms, as well as an autonomous store-operations robot to assist in inventory management, including out-of-stock detection.

AndyVision manages inventory, but his influence might go farther than that, reports Motherboard’s Adam Clark Estes. Researchers say the lightweight, red-hoodied robot was built to “transform the shopping experience.”

Here, Estes explains how the “mechanized messenger” works:

“With the help of a video camera and an onboard computer that combines image-processing with machine learning algorithms, it can patrol the aisles counting stock and scanning for misplaced items … The data from the inventory scans are all sent to a large touchscreen, where customers can browse through what’s available in the store.”

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More light about why Amazon acquired Kiva

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In this brilliant TED talk, Kiva‘s CEO, Mick Mountz, explains how they revolutionized the way warehouses pack and ship their inventory by using robots, mobile shelving, and algorithms based on complexity theory. What used to take hours of tedious tasks is transformed into fun, 15-minute, click-to-ship order processing.

Kiva’s CEO, Mick Mountz, had a front row seat when internet pioneer Weban failed to deliver online fulfillment services in a cost effective manner.

The system is absolutely brilliant and effective. That is a very good reason for Kiva System being acquired by Amazon for $775 M.

Can you imagine how it could be if the robots would not need to have wires to direct their trajectory under the floor? That is the next step for automation which will require intelligence.

Comments:

by Dan Kara (LinkedIn): Robotics Trends International Network

Kiva Acquisition Has Huge Implications for Businesses and Society

Teresa, I analyzed the Kiva purchase for Robotics Business Review (www.roboticsbusinessreview.com). It is important to note that Kiva Systems is not the only robotics company that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has exhibited interest in. Bezos Expeditions, the firm that manages the personal investments of Bezos, participated in equity rounds for Rethink Robotics (formally Heartland Robotics), the Boston based start-up founded by Rod Brooks, noted roboticist and co-founder of iRobot. Rethink, I believe, is developing a class of low cost, dexterous robotic systems capable of working directly with humans.

For all of the billions that Amazon has invested in automating its fulfillment processes, it is still dependent on large numbers of people to get the job done. The Kiva system succeeds largely because it reduces the number of humans that must traverse the distribution center collecting products to ship. But what if the model was extended even further, to include the humans who actually “pick” individual items out of the robotically delivered storage containers? In theory, a dexterous robotic system capable of fine manipulation and using vision in combination with touch sensors (much like its human “picker” counterpart) could perform the last, unautomated leg of the Kiva fulfillment process.

Kiva MPS represents a paradigm shift in the way in which ecommerce companies go about fulfilling orders. The long term ramifications of the purchase are not clear, but in the end Amazon could become an architecture provider for ebusiness order fulfillment (own the architecture, win the war). It could also develop fulfillment and distribution centers that for all purposes contain no people. Furthermore, it would make the holy grail of “same day shipping” possible. That’s more than a paradigm shift, it is a seismic change and one with profound implications for businesses and society.

by Thomas Ciesielka (LinkedIn): Robotics Trends International Network

Dan, You are spot on. Robotics, in this configuration, will lead the way for economic revitalization and evolution. Combining it with a “cognitive brain” that Teresa has championed, is the future.

Autonomous Underwater robots – another very active market area for robotics

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With the ultimate goal of designing completely autonomous robots that can navigate and map cloudy underwater environments without any prior knowledge of the environment and detect mines as small as 10 cm in diameter, researchers at HoverGroup (MIT) have came up with algorithms to program a robot called the Hovering Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (HAUV).

To provide a detailed sweep of a ship’s hull, the researchers took a two-stage approach. Firstly, the robot is programmed to swim in a square around the ship’s hull at a safe distance of 10 meters (33 ft), using its sonar camera to gather data that is used to produce a grainy point cloud. Although a ship’s large propeller can be identified at this low resolution, it isn’t detailed enough to make out a small mine.

Additionally, the point cloud may not necessarily tell the robot where a ship’s structure begins and ends – a problem if it wants to avoid colliding with a ship’s propellers. To generate a three-dimensional, “watertight” mesh model of the ship, the researchers translated this point cloud into a solid structure by adapting computer-graphics algorithms to the sonar data.

Once the robot has a solid structure to work with, the robot moves onto the second stage. This sees the robot programmed to swim closer to the ship, with the idea of covering every point in the mesh at spaces of 10 centimeters apart.

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US Navy is also developing autonomous underwater hull-cleaning robots. The Robotic Hull Bio-inspired Underwater Grooming tool, or Hull BUG, is being developed by the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) and SeaRobotics.

The Hull BUG has four wheels, and attaches itself to the underside of ships using a negative pressure device that creates a vortex between the BUG and the hull. Much like a robotic vacuum cleaner, lawnmower or floor cleaner, the idea is that once it’s put in place, it can set about getting the job done without any outside control.

Onboard sensors allow it to steer around obstacles, and a fluorometer lets it detect biofilm, the goop in which barnacles and other greeblies settle. Once it detects biofilm, powerful brushes on its underside are activated, and the film is scrubbed off. In this way, it is intended more for the prevention of barnacles, than for their removal. Initial tests have shown it to be very effective.

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