Teresa Escrig

News and oppinion about Cognitive AI & Robotics

Archive for the ‘autonomous robots’ tag

The new Toyota’s Human Support Robot (HSR) is able to change size of body and arm

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Toyota's Human Support Robot

By . September 22, 2012

Toyota has unveiled a new assistant robot designed to help the disabled live more independently. Called the Human Support Robot (HSR), it represents the latest initiative in Toyota’s Partner Robot program and is intended to help out around the home by fetching things, opening curtains, and picking up objects that have fallen to the floor.

The HSR can be controlled using a simple graphical user interface via tablet PC. HSR has also an arm of 2.5 feet length and gripper. When not in use, the robot’s single arm is designed to fold in tightly to reduce its body’s overall diameter to just 14.5 inches

The robot has a telescopic body, which gives it a height of 2.7 to 4.3 feet.

The robot appears to have both a Prosense (Microsoft Kinect) sensor and stereo cameras in its head, which would allow it to sense depth and visually identify people and objects.

Expected price of the robot is unknown, but given that Japanese public health insurance will cover 90% of associated costs (a law designed specifically for robot technology that was passed recently), it seems HSR will have a decent shot at becoming a real consumer product, though it may take another couple of years of development.

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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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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

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 >

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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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.

 

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.