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Friday, August 29, 2008

Fuel Filling Robots

Since the early 1990-ies automated fuelling a car has been a robotics application idea such as Swedish Autofill, Israelian FuelOmat, French OSCAR MK5, or German Robin. As the first company in the world, Trans Robotics showed a functional and operating unit for automatic refuelling for cars at a gas station in Stockholm, Sweden already in 1990.

Swedish Fuelmatics AB has now developed a new automatic refuelling system based on an exclusive world wide licence to a series of patents for automatic refuelling originating from Fuelmatic´s predecessor Autofill and Trans Robotics. Fuelmatics automativ Refueling System, ARS, is a refueling concept that allows the driver to remain in the car during the entire refueling process, thus providing a "Drive-Through fill up". The ARS has opened up for new and more efficient payment solutions based on cellphones as virtual terminal and thus can replace the customer terminal which is common at "Pay at the Pump" sites.

In the Netherlands The TankPitstop has recently opened the first automated fuel robot in the world to actually work in practice. The TankPitstop is an automated fuel robot which allows motorists to refuel and pay without actually doing anything themselves. The innovative robotic technology will make refuelling much easier. The system reduces the burden on the environment, enhances safety and, by fully automating the refuelling process, makes refuelling quicker and more comfortable.

The €75,000 car-fueling robot works by registering the car on arrival at the filling station, and matching it to a database of fuel cap designs and fuel types. A robotic arm fitted with multiple sensors extends from a regular gas pump, opens the car's flap, unscrews the gas tank cap, picks up the fuel nozzle, and directs it toward the tank opening, much as a human arm would, and as efficiently.

N. van Staveren BV and Rotec Engineering are the first companies in the world to have perfected this refuelling technology and to make it actually work in practice. After being extensively piloted on a wide variety of different cars, the TankPitstop will be put into operation at various petrol stations in the Netherlands in the second quarter of 2008.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Climbing and creeping robots

MIT-spinoff company Boston Dynamics has developed a range of legged robots that can run in rough and vertical terrain.

RiSE is a small six-feet robot that climbs vertical terrain such as walls, trees and fences. It's feet have claws, micro-claws or sticky material, depending on the climbing surface. RiSE changes posture to conform to the curvature of the climbing surface and a fixed tail helps RiSE balance on steep ascents. RiSE is about 0.25 m long, weighs 2 kg, and travels 0.3 m/s.

RHex is a man-portable robot with extraordinary rough terrain mobility. RHex climbs over rock fields, mud, sand, vegetation, railroad tracks, telephone poles and up steep slopes and stairways. RHex has a sealed body, making it fully operational in wet weather, in muddy and swampy conditions, and it can swim on the surface or dive underwater.

LittleDog is a quadruped robot for research on learning locomotion and BigDog is the most advanced quadruped robot on earth. It walks, runs, and climbs on rough terrain and carries heavy loads. BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog's legs are articulated like an animal’s, and have compliant elements that absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. BigDog is the size of a large dog or small mule, measuring 1 meter long, 0.7 meters tall and 75 kg weight.

New exoskeleton for wheelchair users

Wheelchair markets are expected to grow as the baby boomers age and will need more technical support for continued mobility through disability. Rehabilitation becomes more prevalent and baby boomers will be willing to pay directly for mobility and comfort as they do for homes and cars now. This trend will assure market growth worldwide and opens market opportunities for new technical solutions such as exoskeletons and robot suits.

Israelian Argo Medical Technologies Ltd is one of the first companies in the world to offers a exoskeleton called ReWalk™, the first commercially viable upright walking assistance tool. ReWalk™ is a wearable, motorized quasi robotic suit that enables wheelchair users with lower-limb disabilities to stand, walk, and even climb stairs. For potentially millions of wheelchair users, ReWalk™ delivers a new perspective – on the world, on themselves, and on life.

Japanese company Cyberdyne has recently established a new research and development laboratory and manufacturing center which will allow manufacture of 500 robot suits per year.

3D maps för servicerobot navigation

3D maps have gained substantial interest in the robotics community as such maps provide better support for a wide variety of tasks including navigation, localization,and perception. For example, robots that know about the 3D-structure of the environment can better avoid obstacles, can more reliably localize themselves, and can more robustly detect objects. 3D-representations provide benefits in all applications in which robots are deployed in real-world scenarios. 3D-models of environments are envisioned to be useful in a wide area of applications, which goes far beyond robotics, like architecture, emergency planning, interaction, and visualization.
At the research center Roobotics, Automation and Process Control at Örebro university, Sweden, a group of researchers has developed a 3D navigation system for autonomous mining trucks. The first field tests have been conducted i Finland in 2007.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Toyota personal scooter

Toyota unveiled its Winglet electric scooter, similar to a Segway and incorporating robotics technology from Sony's Aibo lab. The automaker calls it "a personal transport assistance robot, designed to contribute to society by helping people enjoy a safe and fully mobile life. The Winglet is a compact next-generation everyday transport tool that offers advanced ease of use and expands the user's range of mobility.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New edutainment robot from LEGO

LEGO Education, The LEGO Group’s educational division announced a new robot product, WeDo, that redefines classroom robotics, making it possible for primary school students 7 to 11 years of age to build and program their own solutions. Bridging the physical world, represented by LEGO models, and the virtual world, represented by computers and programming software, WeDo provides a hands-on, minds-on learning experience that actively involves young students in their own learning process and promotes children’s creative thinking, teamwork and problem solving skills – skills that are essential in the workplace of the 21st century. The new product will be available in the United States and Brazil beginning January 1, 2009.

The complete LEGO WeDo package includes:

  • 158 brightly colored LEGO elements, including gears, and levers
  • One LEGO USB Hub connects directly to a Mac/PC laptop, desktop, OLPC XO or Intel Classmate computer to allow control of hardware input (tilt and motion sensors) and output (motor), thereby bringing models to life
  • One motor, one motion sensor and one tilt sensor
  • Drag-and-drop icon-based software that provides an intuitive and easy-to-use programming environment suitable for beginners and experienced users alike, developed by a leading provider of engineering hardware and software, National Instruments
  • Activity pack CD-Rom provides up to 24 hours of instruction and includes 12 activities based on four themes: Amazing Mechanisms, Wild Animals, Play Soccer and Adventure Stories. Running alongside programming software, activities are introduced via animations. Teacher notes and glossary are also included.