Teresa Escrig

News and oppinion about Cognitive AI & Robotics

Archive for the ‘robots’ tag

Is the long anticipated shift in robotics finally happening?

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Whew… with so many exciting things happening in the robotics field lately, I just couldn’t remain silent anymore…

kiva robots

Kiva robots carrying shelves in a warehouse.

We were all wowed by Amazon’s acquisition in 2012 of  Kiva Systems for $775 million.  Kiva’s clever self-propelled robots scoot around warehouses in a numeric control dance to retrieve and carry entire shelf-units of items to their proper packaging point.

In December 2013 and January 2014, Google bought 7 robotics companies investing an unknown amount of money.  The Internet giant and pioneer of self-driving cars is serious about a robot-filled future. However we don’t know much about the intent of Google with all these acquisitions. They’re all a part of the Google X division, which is top secret by definition. Most of these companies have closed down their websites and retreated into stealth mode. My guess is that they are grouping up to decide the direction they’ll take to serve Google’s goals.

The robotics team is led by Andy Rubin, who recently stepped down as head of Android.

Here there is a brief summary of all Google’s acquisitions (and a bunch of links to dig deeper):

Arm manipulator of Industrial Perception, Inc.

Arm manipulator of Industrial Perception, Inc.

The biped robot at Schaft, Inc.

The biped robot at Schaft, Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Industrial Perception, Inc (IPI) – spun off of the Menlo Park robotics company Willow Garage.  They have a 3D vision-guided robot to be used in manufacturing and logistics.
  • Schaft Inc. The Japanese team that got its start at Tokyo University. They took the top prize at DARPA’s Robotics Challenge Trial with their bipedal robot.
  • Redwood Robotics – started as a joint venture between Meka Robotics, SRI International, and Willow Garage (IPI’s parent). Redwood wants to build the “next generation arm” for robots.
  • Meka Robotics – A very nice torso robot with very sophisticated hands in a mobile platform with wheels.

  • Bot & Dolly  – a design and engineering studio that specializes in automation, robotics, and filmmaking. They use robots to help film commercials and movies like Gravity.
  • Holomini – The only thing we know about them is that they are creators of high-tech wheels for omnidirectional motion.
Bot & Dolly arm with camera.

Bot & Dolly arm with camera.

 

Holomini's wheels.

Holomini’s wheels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Boston Dynamics  – The most high-profile of all the robotic companies that Google has acquired so far. They have two main robots: ATLAS -the sophisticated humanoid robot and Cheetah, also called the BigDog that can reach 28 mph.
ATLAS robot from Boston Robotics.

ATLAS robot from Boston Robotics.

BigDog from Boston Robotics.

BigDog from Boston Robotics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the middle of January 2014, Google acquired Nest for $3.2 billion dollars.

  • Nest  – is an automation startup whose product is a smoke and CO2 alarm that talks.

And at the end of January Google acquired DeepMind for more than $500 M (after having beaten out Facebook):

  • DeepMind – is an AI research company out of London founded by neuroscientist Demis Hassabis, Skype developer Jaan Tallin, and researcher Shane Leggthe.  They use the best techniques from machine learning and systems neuroscience to build powerful general-purpose learning algorithms.

In 2012 Google hired Ray Kurzweil to work on machine learning and language processing, to actually understand the content of the Web pages and provide a better way to rank them beside the number of times a web site is mentioned in other web sites. According to Dr. Kurzweil… you will be able to “ask it more complex questions that might be a whole paragraph… It might engage in a dialogue with you to find out what you need… It might come back in two months if it finds something useful.”

imperial college london robotics lab

The butler robot from the Imperial College London Robotics Lab

And now Sir James Dyson (the bagless vacuum cleaner inventor) is investing £5M in the Imperial College London to develop a new generation of “intelligent domestic robots” (an Iron Man’s style robot), with a further £3 million investment from various sources over the next five years.

Dyson remains frustrated at his prototypes’ inability to navigate simple household obstacles after working on a robotic vacuum cleaner  to go along with his company’s famous bagless line for as long as a decade. Indeed, even the greatest Roomba finds itself at a loss under a tangle of dining room chairs, and would shrug its shoulders when faced with a flight of stairs.”

Is the tide finally turning in robotics?

Autonomous scrubber machines: is the market ready for them?

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11.19.12Cognitive Robots’ first product was the incorporation of our Cognitive Brain for Service Robotics (R) into commercial scrubber machines. This allows any existing commercial scrubber machine to be easily transformed into an autonomous and intelligent robot, that cleans floors, without the need of a human operator.

Did you know that, the operator of a scrubber machine has to follow the same path/pattern every single time they clean an area? It’s true, because otherwise people would be able to perceive the lines of movement of the scrubber on the floors, which are not considered aesthetically pleasing. The main corridors of an airport or a supermarket need to be cleaned longitudinally.

This job is so boring that industrial scrubber machines are increasingly being destroyed by the operators earlier and earlier. Therefore, scrubber manufacturers have changed their machines to be cheaper and with less electronics, resulting in lower life expectancy for their product.  The downside of this, is that in the long-term, due to replacement costs, end-user’s will spend more money to service their clients.

We are now in the midst of a global debate that is exploring the question, “Are robots taking jobs away or providing jobs for people?”  In the current economic climate, we need to decide if we want to maintain the status quo to protect low-profile jobs; or embrace advances that allow us to become more competitive and effective in our jobs, promote learning new skills, and provide jobs where human creativity and intelligence are necessary.

What do we want?

Here it is the specification sheet of the autonomous scrubber machine that Cognitive Robots can provide: specification sheet scrubber machines

Is this product good enough to solve the problem of automatic cleaning?

Is the market ready for this?  What do you think?

How I fell in love with Robotics?

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International Women’s Day.

I received my PhD in Artificial Intelligence, in particular on cognitive models to simulate the way people think about space and time, to effectively move daily around their environment, without the use of any measurement tools. I applied those theoretical models to the movement of simulated robots through the streets of my hometown, Castellon, Spain. It was quite a theoretical thesis, and I really enjoyed working on it.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAfter I finished my PhD thesis, I went to a IJCAI (International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence) conference in Japan to present my research. The Robocup competition was going on at the same venue as the conference. For the first time, Sony was there presenting their cat and dog robot pets in a fiberglass showcase. The movements of those little robots were so well done, that I stood there looking at them in amazement for a very long time. I thought, “I want to be working with these robots”, “I want to include the technology that I just developed for my thesis to these robots”, “the best way for the robots to move through their environment is by using cognitive models, and I am going to make this happen”! Read the rest of this entry »

What are the benefits of Artificial Intelligence in Robotics?

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Happy New Year to all!  It’s been a while since my last post. Too busy. Now, I’m back.

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Robotics is not only a research field within artificial intelligence, but a field of application, one where all areas of artificial intelligence can be tested and integrated into a final result.

Amazing humanoid robots exhibit elegant and smooth motion capable of walking, running, and going up and down stairs.  They use their hands to protect themselves when falling, and to get up afterward.  They’re an example of the tremendous financial and human capital that is being devoted to research and development in the field of electronics, control and the design of robots.

Very often, the behavior of these robots contains a fixed number of pre-programmed instructions that are repeated regardless of  any changes in the environment. These robots have no autonomy, nor adaptation, to the changing environment, and therefore do not show intelligent behavior. We are amazed by the technology they provide, which is fantastic! But we can not infer that, because the robots are physically so realistic and the movements so precise and gentle, that they are able to do what we (people) do. Read the rest of this entry »

Amazing examples of the variety of uses of service robotics

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By Ann R. Thryft 11/12/2012

Service robots often mean robots that assist the elderly, or help with the rehabilitation of medical patients. But the range of services that robots can perform is extremely broad.

From a robotic fish that uses artificial intelligence to detect and identify pollution in seawater created by SHOAL,

 

 

 

 

 

 

To a telepresence PatrolBot which will let disabled police officers and military veterans serve as distance patrol officers, filling a gap in both the lack of patrol staff, and the lack of available jobs for disabled vets and officers, developed by Florida International University. Read the rest of this entry »

Fiona, a community robotic project to create an artificial mind

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Adele Robotics has launched Fiona, a project for the robotics community to create an artificial mind.

This is another example of Cloud Robotics and reproducing the Apps economy for the robotics industry, the future of robotics.

Congratulations Adele!

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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Sasuke and Love, two robot nurses to help caregivers with their job

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ROBOHELPER SASUKE, a robot lifter,  and ROBOHELPER LOVE, a bodily waste removal system, are two devices created to help caregivers in their daily tasks. They were designed with the help of Toshiyuki Kita, who is known for creating the look of Sharp’s AQUOS TVs and Mitsubishi’s failed yellow household robot Wakamaru.

ROBOHELPER SASUKE helps lift a person into and out of bed using servo motors. The device has two rods connected by a sling that slides under the body. The sling is made of a special material and can accommodate a weight of 264 lbs (120 kg). Furthermore the arms can rotate up to 60 degrees, which allows the patient to comfortably transfer from a prone position to a sitting position.

ROBOHELPER LOVE – is an an automatic bodily waste disposal unit aimed at making bedpans a thing of the past. A cup wraps around the patient’s waist, fitted with sensors that automatically detect the presence of fluid and/or stool. The waste is quickly suctioned away into a holding tank, followed by a cleansing wash using room temperature water. The cup itself can be washed and sterilized automatically at the station. It can operate for up to 12 hours without supervision, making it ideal for overnight use.

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Written by Teresa Escrig

October 2nd, 2012 at 6:39 pm

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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