Teresa Escrig

News and oppinion about Cognitive AI & Robotics

Archive for the ‘Cognitive Brain for Service Robotics’ tag

Open-source humanoid platform from NimbRo to compete in RoboCup’s TeenSize league

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Once upon a time, when I finished my PhD dissertation, I went to the IJCAI conference in Kyoto, Japan, and the Robocup competition was taken place in the same venue. I absolutely fall in love with the Aibo dog and cat robots from Sony, that were exposed at the competition (before they were widely used at the same competition).

At that event I decided that I wanted to apply the results of my PhD to bring Intelligence to robots. And that is what I did. I started a research group at Jaume I University. My students play with the Aibos for years. And working on one of the challenges of the Robocup competition with my students, I put all the dots together, and after 10 years of research since my PhD was finished, the seed of Cognitive Robots was born. That technology became a patent pending for our company and is still ahead of the rest of the technology that brings Intelligence to the robots, as far as we know.

I have great memories about the Robocup competition. I agree that it is a great play ground to integrate and test technologies in the areas of AI and Robotics. And it is for sure much more that a toy test.

By , October 8, 2012

University of Bonn’s Team NimbRo are commercializing a humanoid platform, NimbRo-OP, for €20,000 (US$26,000) to compete in RoboCup‘s TeenSize league. It sounds rather expensive, but it will save teams the trouble of prototyping their own, and the untold hours of research and development that would normally require.

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Shoal, the robo-fish that monitors oxygen levels and salinity of waters north of Spain

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By , October 1, 2012

A five foot long (1.5 meter) robo-fish prototype that monitors oxygen levels and salinity is currently being tested in waters north of Spain as part of the EU-funded Shoal Consortium project.

The idea is to have real-time monitoring of pollution, so that if someone is dumping chemicals or something is leaking, it can be detected straight away, find out what is causing the problem and put a stop to it.

Traditional robots use propellers or thrusters for propulsion, however Shoal robot-fish uses the fin of a fish to propel itself through the water.

The Shoal robot-fish costs US$32,000, and it operates for just eight hours before needing to be charged. However, there’s no doubt that if this problem can be overcome (with, perhaps, some sort of underwater charging station) the robo-fish will find homes in coastal waters around the world.

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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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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

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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