Teresa Escrig

News and oppinion about Cognitive AI & Robotics

Archive for the ‘service robotics’ 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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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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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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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 »