Teresa Escrig

News and oppinion about Cognitive AI & Robotics

Archive for the ‘Robotics’ tag

AISOY1 II, a programmable inexpensive robot with emotions

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By , September 19, 2012

Spanish start-up Aisoy Robotics is marketing a new robot that, while it may look similar to the famous Furby, is actually a fully programmable research and development platform.

The Aisoy1 II robot comes with a variety of sensors (touch, light, position, temperature, and camera), microphone and speaker, RGB LEDs in its body, and a 70 mini-LED matrix display (for animated lips). Four servos control the robot’s neck rotation, eyelids, and eyebrows. The platform doesn’t move.

The package includes a dialogue system for speech recognition and synthesis, as well as computer vision software for stuff like face and object recognition, all running on the Linux operating system. The company claims even complete novices can take advantage of these functions without having to learn how to code thanks to DIA, its visual programming tool. The program runs in HTML5 compatible browsers, allowing you to select nodes that control the robot’s various sensors and behaviors.

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Aisoy 1 II includes a dialogue system for speech recognition and synthesis, as well as com...As the Thymio II, a specific non-standard programming language is against the robotic community efforts for standardization. However, the fact that is HTML5 compatible contributes to the creation of the Robotics App Economy.

The most important feature of Aisoy1 II, which is not mentioned in the previous article, is its emotional motor, a very interesting AI feature at the service of developers for a very low price. As their creators said: ” humans would not take decisions without emotions”. This emotional motor can be a key factor for development of the robotic industry.

Very cute little and inexpensive robots that can help to promote robotics education at schools and colleges.

Thymio II, a new educational robot with a non-standard language programming

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Very nice promotional video of Thymio II, the new educational robotic platform from the Swiss research institute EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne/Swiss Federal Institute of Technology).

Thymio II is a new educational robot designed by Swiss research institute EPFLThymio II is available now, at a price of 99 Swiss francs (US$106).

Wheels can  be connected to user-supplied moving parts such as arms, propellers, winches, or just about anything else.

It also features a microphone and speaker, a 3-axis accelerometer, five proximity sensors, two ground sensors, a temperature sensor, and 39 LEDs which allow its body to illuminate in different colors.

It can accept programming via a USB connection (which is also used to charge its lithium-polymer battery) or a memory card slot. Programming is created using EPFL’s robotics-specific ASEBA language. This is a drawback considering the robotic community efforts for standardization with the Robotics Operating System (ROS).

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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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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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Cheetah Robot sets a new robotic land speed record

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In its current version, Cheetah is powered by an off-board hydraulic pump with a boom-like device keeping it centered on the treadmill. DARPA says improved control algorithms and a more powerful pump were responsible for the increase in speeds since the robot set its previous record.

Being developed and tested by Boston Dynamics under DARPA’s Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program, Cheetah is being designed to perform in emergency response, humanitarian assistance and military missions. With such applications certain to involve rough terrain, DARPA intends to test a prototype on natural terrain next year.

By , September 6, 2012

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Written by Teresa Escrig

September 6th, 2012 at 7:42 pm

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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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 >