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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Research Centre on Automation and Robotics in Spain

Thanks to an agreement between the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) and the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) a new Joint Scientific and Technologic Research Centre has been created.

The main objective of the new centre, named “Centro de Automática y Robotica” is to perform applied research with the purpose of producing results useful to the society of the 21st Century. With the synergies created and the critical mass achieved, the centre aims at positioning itself as a reference organization. Due to both human and technical resources of the institutions that combine their efforts together, the centre posseses an excellent potential. The activities of the centre will be centred on control and system integration, artificial perception and robotics.

The Centre will occupy an area of over 8000 squared meters located nearby Madrid, and will employ around 300 staff researchers.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy New Robotics Year 2010!

"There is only one condition in which we can imagine managers not needing subordinates, and masters not needing slaves. This would be if every machine could work by itself, at the word of command or by intelligent anticipation."
- Aristotle, from his justification of slavery in Politics

Happy New Robotics Year 2010!

Despite economic and climate crisis - Robotics will be hot in 2010+. More than 20.000+ robotics researchers and developers all over the world are doing their best to find out how to understand human intelligence, how to develop intelligent machines, how to learn from natur, how to invent new robots. This work will continue and accelerate in new robotics research programmes and projects.

2010 will be an exciting year for the global robotics community with the launch of brand new products and service for knowledge sharing, networking and futurizing. You all are invited to join and become part of the new Global Robotics Research Community.

Hope to see you soon at

My best wishes for a New Robotics Year 2010!

Wolfgang Heller


Saturday, December 19, 2009

$ 3,5 Million for Robotics Curriculum

Researchers and curriculum developers from Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC) and Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) are beginning a five-year, $3.5 million National Science Foundation study to discover how effective robotics and engineering design are at teaching eighth grade physical science content, and at increasing students’ interest and engagement in science, math and engineering.

“Robots are good at increasing students’ engagement in science and engineering, but there’s no solid evidence to tell us what they actually learn from robotics. Do the students learn science and math, or are they just having fun,” said Marion Usselman, senior research scientist and associate director at CEISMC.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Robot with gentle touch

US company Pressure Profile Systems, PPS, develops tactile pressure sensors which give robots the sensitivity for delicate motions and actions. PPS worked with Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan to embed high performance tactile sensors into the hands of their famous human symbiotic robot, Twendy-One. The robot can pick up a loaf of bread without crushing it, serve toast, and even crack an egg. This dexerity and "gentle touch" can be attributed to the 241 RoboTouch sensors integrated into each of Twendy-One's hands.

The video clip below shows the benefits of RoboTouch technology.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gostai wins Microsoft ACES 2009 Award

French Gostai wins the ACES 2009 Microsoft ICT Academic Enterprise Awards Europe. This prize awards a successful company spin out from academics research, ENSTA Paristech Cognitive Robotics Lab in the case of Gostai.

The core technology is URBI, the Universal Real-time Behavior Interface which is a powerful parallel script engine coupled with the UObject component architecture, usable to control hardware and software components in a flexible and portable way.

The cognitive robotics researchers at ENSTA ParisTech are working on perception and machine learning to endow robots with capabilities to work autonomously and in interaction with humans. One of the main research topic is the problem of grounding symbols in perception in the framework of developmental robotics. We are also working on mobile robot navigation and Human-Robot interaction.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rescue and Security Robots 2010+

The Swedish Defence Research Agency, FOI, one of Europe’s leading research institutes in the defence and security area, has recently started a foresight project aimed to assess socialy changes caused by implementing robot systems in public rescue and security operations in the coming decades. I cooperation with the Department of Philosophy and the History of Technology at the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, in Stockholm, researchers are asking questions about opportunities and risks with robot systems in society.
How are todays society systems influenced by the development of technical system with a higher degree of autonomy?
Will new vulnerabilities emerge by transfering important society tasks to robots?
What kind of new important society functions and activities may occur due to technical robotics innovations?
Will increased use of robots change the responsibility conditions for incidents and accidents?
Will the possibilities for control and democratic influence be affected by transfering important society functions from humans to robots?

Some very important questions. Please visit my Robotland Forum and join an open discussion about "Risks and Opportunities with future robots".

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Korean-Swedish Robotics Cooperation

Researchers at Umeå University, Sweden and South Korea’s oldest university Sungkyunkwan are cooperating to develop robots that can see. The methods will have applications which can be used with everything from forest machinery to health care in the future. Within a period of 5 to 10 years, robots will become an important part of our day-to-day life according to prof. Anton Shiriaev head of the Robotics and Control Lab, Umea University.
The research at the RCL is focused on the development of mathematical models for real-world systems, from heavy-lifting hydraulic cranes to the fluid flow within the human brain and the subsequent use of such models for sensing, visualization, prediction and control of important variables within these systems.
The Swedish-Korean Cooperation started in 2007 thanks to grants, in particular from The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT) and from the Kempe Foundation.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

US President supports Robotics Educational Programs

Robotics Education has advanced as an important tool for science and techology education in the U.S and get public support by president Barack Obama. In his speech at the National Academy of Science Annual Meeting on April 27, 2009 he said: "I want us to think about new creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether it's science festivals, robotics competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent — to be makers of things, not just consumers of things."

On Nov 23 when launching the Educate to Innovate Campaign he expressed his believe "that robotics can inspire young people to pursue science and engineering."

This is great support for robotics educational programs such as First Lego League, and robot platforms such as iRobot Create, Lego Mindstorm, VEX Robotics, Modular Robotics.

SPARK is an educational robotics web portal that was started by iRobot that supports Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education in American schools. The webportal features links to curricula and activities for students in kindergarten through college. SPARK includes information on a variety of robotics platforms as well as articles demonstrating how educators around the United States are utilizing robotics to teach students.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Robot Exhibiton 2009 in Japan

Highlights from the International Robot Exhibition 2009, Nov. 25-28 at Tokyo Big Site.

Source: Japan Times

Despite fast robotic development in Japan the leading robot engineer Prof. Tomomasa Sato of the University of Tokyo and chairman of the Japan Robot Association warned earlier this year that it still could take decades until practical humanoid robots are ready for the market. Mr. Sato called for the development of a standardized robotmodel based on an open-source operating system in order to kick-start the mass production of humanoid robots. Only when a standardised robot model is created and shared by tens of thousands of scientists and innovators across the globe, will the development of practical robots begin to be met.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Denmark invests € 4,5 Million in Therapeutic Robots from Japan

The Centre for Robot Technology at the Danish Technological Institute started in 2008 an extensive national project with focus on Paro, a human-interactive robotic seal, and its therapeutic qualities within the field of care and welfare. This testing of the robotic seal was the first of its kind outside Japan. Denmark has signed an aggreeemnt with Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) to purcase 1,000 of Paros for use in health care facilities. Paro has scientifically demonstrated the ability to elicit emotions, activate the mind and calm nerves in patients at hospitals and nursing homes. Although the well-traveled Paro now resides at welfare institutions in more than 20 nations around the world, the Danish government is the first organization to make a large-scale purchase. Denmark aims to have the Paro robots in their new homes by 2011.

€11 Million for a Companion Robot

Researchers from six European countries and 18 reseach institutions are working together to provide the synergy of Robotics and Ambient Intelligence technologies and their semantic integration to provide for a care-giver's assistive environment. The CompanionAble consortium lead by The University of Reading, UK, has 48 months and a budget of €11 million to address the issues of social inclusion and homecare of persons suffering from chronic cognitive disabilities prevalent among the elderly, a rapidly increasing population group. Those people need support of carers and are at risk of social exclusion, yet this problem not well addressed by ICT technology, but would lead to a social and economical pressure for staying at home as long as possible.will

1st Demonstration of the CompanionAble Robot will be helt at the Conference Marking the European Day of People with Disabilities from the 3rd to 4th December in Brussels.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cultural Acceptability for Educational Robots

Reseachers at the Cheongju National Univ. of Education in Chungbuk, South Korea have compared the cultural acceptability for Educational Robots between Korea and Europe (Spain). Their findings, pubished in the Journal of Information Processing Systems, Vol.4, No.3, September 2008, are that Spains are much more rigid in their thinking on robots and especially have a negative view on robots as peers since they regard robots as labor machines. Recently, Korea invented several educational robots as peer tutors. Korean parents have a strong tendency to see robots as 'the friend of children,' while on the other hand, European parents tend to see educational robots as 'machines or electronics'. Meanwhile, the expectation of children on educational robots showing identification content was higher in Europe than in Korea since European children are familiar with costume parties. This result implies that the Korean market for educational robots is earlier than the European market, but European children will be eager to play with educational robots even though their parents have a negative view of them.

Acceptance of Healthcare Robots

The rapidly ageing population is placing increasing strain on healthcare services. Robots have been proposed as a way to assist people to stay healthy and safe in their own homes. I en recent published article in the Int. Journal of Social Robot researchers at the University of Aukland, NZ, who have reviewed the literature about human responses to healthcare robots and summarises the variables that have been found to influence responses, propose that despite the need for such assistive devices and the success of some healthcare robots, other robots have had a poor response.

They come to the conclusion that it may be possible to increase acceptance of healthcare robots by properly assessing the needs of the human user and then matching the robot’s role, appearance and behaviour to these needs. Because robots have limitations in their abilities, another way to increase acceptance may be to modify the expectations of users to better match robots’ abilities. They ask for more research in potential users’ needs and expectations in specific situations and whether interventions to increase the match between robot and human can increase acceptance.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

$ 1,5 Million for 50 Ton Robot Statue

In Kobe’s Wakamatsu Park a new 18-meter tal and 50 ton heavy metal Robot Statue of Gigantor – or Tetsujin #28 as it is known in Japan has been built in commemoration of the devastating 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake. The new tourist attraction has cost $ 1,5 million (135 million yen) to build.

€ 0,6 Million for Fully Autonomous WheeL Loaders

Researchers at the AASS Learning Systems Lab at Örebro University collaborate with Swedish construction company NCC and truck builder Volvo CE to develope a generic, modularized system for autonomous wheel loaders that carries out all parts of the material handling cycle in the context of an asphalt production site.

This project is co-sponsored by the KK-foundation, Vinnova and Robodalen.

€ 2 Million for Domestic Robots

French robot manufacturer ROBOSOFT is coordinating a three year € 2 Million EU-project with 8 partners from France, Austria and Hungaria to find out, evaluate and demonstrate the relevance and efficiency of an evolutionary integration robotics platform. The consortium will study the needs in robotics, sensors and 24/7 communication services for the elderly and the deployment of the proposed system in realistic environments. Overall project goal: to have products available at the end of the project 2012.

Two robot platforms will be evaluated: RobuMate will be used to evaluate verbal and visual interactions with the user, cognitive and memory assistance, sending video stream for scene analysis in case of emergency alarm, stimulation for doing physical exercises and watching user behaviour.

RobuWalker is a robotic walker for physical interaction with the user assisting the sit-to-stand and walking, supervising, monitoring the heart rate and sending data to processing centre.

Exploring the Future of Robotics

What are the greatest opportunities and risks with Future Robotics?
How are todays society systems influenced by the development of technical system with a higher degree of autonomy?
Will new vulnerabilities emerge by transfering important society tasks to robots?
What will happen, when robots take over tasks in the home?

These and other highly critical issues are now discussed at Robotland Open Forum.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cyberdyne in Sweden

Today I attended a seminar at Danderyds Hospital about innovative Technology in neurorehabilitation. Prof. Sankai, Tsukuba University gave a lecture about his research and demonstrated his latest version of robot suit HAL. His company Cyberdyne has signed a letter of attention with DS to conduct clinical trails. This is a great opportunity for Sweden to evaluate forefront robotics.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, November 19, 2009

€36 million Q3 loss for ABB Robotics

ABB has no plans to sell its Robotics division despite $36 million loss in Q3according to ABB CEO Joe Hogan. In the long run he believes in Robotics because robotics solutions will be demanded the coming 5-6 years to other industry segments and not as now concentrated to the auto industry. ABB is repositioning now and will return stronger when the recession is over.

A positive sign comes from China, where ABB´s robots have become the highlight of in the new hall of the China Science and Technology Museum in Beijing. With a creative theme and interactive program, the ABB robots have The presentation allows the audience, especially young visitors, to experience the excitement of robotic technology, providing an informative and memorable science lesson.

This May, ABB Engineering (Shanghai) inaugurated a new multi-business manufacturing facility in Shanghai, doubling ABB’s manufacturing capacity for robotic products in China.

IEEE Spectrum 11/09

Robots for real - Androids of Hiroshi Ishiguro

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

$750.000 for Moondust Robot

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute-sponsored team Paul’s Robotics took home first place at NASA’s 2009 Regolith Challenge, beating out 22 other teams of professional engineers, and college, university, and high school students from across the country, for the $500,000 top prize. The competition was held Oct. 17-18, 2009 at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., and was part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program, which exists to help inspire innovative solutions to technical challenges in the aerospace industry.

Since fall 2007, WPI has offered the nation's first bachelor's degree program in robotics engineering, and in 2009 began offering a new master's-level robotics program.

$700 Million for Military Robots

Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle(SUGV) have fast grown into a multibillion-dollar business. Massachusetts company iRobot has already delivered around 2,700 robots to militaries around the world. Some of those were part of a December 2007, $300 million U.S. Defense Department contract that iRobot won after prevailing over an upstart that purloined its technology. A second Massachusetts firm, Foster-Miller, won a contract in 2008 for another $400 million to supply thousands of its TALON robots. Both iRobot's PackBot and Foster-Miller's TALON are mostly used to locate and detonate improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which have proved to be one of the Taliban's deadliest weapons.

$10 million for a RoboBee

A multidisciplinary team of computer scientists, engineers, and biologists at Harvard received a $10 million National Science Foundation (NSF) Expeditions in Computing grant for RoboBees, a colony of small-scale mobile robotic devices.

US Spherical robot

Colorado State grad student Greg Schroll has developed a spherical robot as a thesis project at MIT. Among those applications for this robot are use on environmentally hazardous sites, underwater and space exploration. Schroll has been named one of Popular Mechanics' 10 Most Brilliant Innovators of 2009.

A similar robot called Groundbot designed to detect and report intruders has been developed by a Swedish start-up company Rotundus.

$20 Million for Feeling Communication Robots

At the $20 million Keio-NUS CUTE Center in Singapore more than 50 researchers from Japan and Singapore are inventing next generation Social Networking Robots for children to communicate in multisensory ways. The first robot called Petimo is an interactive robotic toy designed to protect children from potential risks in social networks and the virtual world and it helps them to make a safely connected social networking environment. Together, Petimo and Petimo-World is a new mediator in cultivating positive social behavior and better familiarization to computing environments among young growing minds.

iPhone controlled bipedal walking robot with multi-touch gestures

A novel operating method for a bipedal walking robot through personalized gesture expressions of fingers has been developed by researchers at Keio University, Japan.

Bipedal walking robot mimics the human walking for a certain extend and fingers can be used as analogy to human legs. Moreover, fingers not only have visual resemblance but also can mimic actions of legs such as walking, running, kicking or turning, very easily.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Home Evaluation Trial for Care Robot

According to a report from Georgia Institute of Techology older adults reported more willingness than younger adults in having a robot perform critical tasks in their home.

The results suggest that both younger and older individuals are more interested in the benefits that a robot can provide than in their interactive abilities. The responses of 117 older adults (aged 65-86) and 60 younger adults (aged 18-25) were analyzed. The results indicated that respondents of both groups were more willing to have robots perform infrequent, albeit important, tasks that required little interaction with the human compared to service-type tasks with more required interaction; they were least willing to have a robot perform non-critical tasks requiring extensive interaction between robot and human.

U.S. company GeckoSystems Intl. Corp has recently announced that they are starting limited in home evaluation trials for their first product, a personal companion home care robot, the CareBot(TM). The company claims to be "the first mobile robot developer in the world to begin actual in-home eldercare evaluation trials".

The primary market for this product is the family for use in eldercare, care for the chronically ill, and childcare. The primary distribution channel for this new home appliance is the thousands of independent personal computer retailers in the U.S. The manufacturing infrastructure for this new product category of mobile service robots is essentially the same as the personal computer industry. Several outside contract manufacturers have been identified and qualified their ability to produce up to 1,000 CareBots per month within four to six months.

2 mill Euro for Danish Field Robot

Researchers from the Mobile Robotics Group at the Aalborg University have received a grant of 14.3 mill DKK (2 mill EUR) for the ASETA project from the Danish Strategic Research Council. The project is in cooperation with Life and Green Support Services at Copenhagen University and Nordic Beet Research. The goal is to develop a system based on autonomous helicopters and ground robots that can spot weed in field of sugar beets and apply appropriate treatment. The first field test is planned to summer 2011 with a larger demonstration of the entire concept in 2013.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

China to hold first humanoid robot Olympics 2010

HARBIN, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) -- Robot makers around the world can show their creations and compete in the first International Humanoid Robot Olympic Games in June 2010 in China's northeastern city of Harbin.

More than 100 universities from about 20 countries are expected to send humanoid robots to compete in 16 events in five categories, including track and field, balls, combat, dancing as well as domestic service such as cleaning and medical care, said Hong Rongbing, a professor with Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) and an official with the China National Conference of Artificial Intelligence.

Unlike other games that allow both wheeled and humanoid robots, this event accepts only android robots designed in human forms, with two legs and two arms, he said.

ShanghAI Lecture 5

This lecture is about development and learning in embodied systems. Prof. Pfeifer gave an example of the relation between physical dynamics and information processing by showing a video från University of Tokyo where researchers have developed Mowgli, the jumping robot frog. He can jump on and off of things about 20 inches high, and can even kick a soccer ball (somehow).

The jump is only controlled by the morphological structure of the robot, there is no controller needed. The robot utilizes an artificial musculoskeletal system with pneumatic muscles to perform explosive motion jumping as high as 50% the robot’s height and landing smoothly.

ECCCEROBOT (Embodied Cognition in a Compliantly Engineered Robot) is a three-year project funded by the 7th framework programme of the EU (ICT-Challenge 2, "Cognitive Systems, Interaction, Robotics") that has the goal to build and control the first anthropomimetic robot and finally, to investigate its human-like cognitive features.

€ 405 Million for Flying Demorobot nEUROn

Image: Saab
At Swedish Saab in Linköping the construction of Europe's experimental Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV), nEUROn, has now started. The nEURON is a €405 million cooperation between several European countries, with French Dassault as master builder. France will provide €202.5 million, half of the program's €405 million budget, while the remaining funds will be supplied by the other participating member nations. Sweden has a 25% stake in nEUROn, with Saab’s responsibilities including supplying its core avionics and mission computer, working on its autonomous capabilities and manufacturing its front and centre fuselage.

nEUROn is a delta wing stealth UCAV demonstration project and not for military operational deployment. A main aim of the nEUROn programme is to sustain and develop European manufacturers' aeronautic and other technologies for next-generation combat aircraft and UAVs.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

iRobot Healthcare Robots

iRobot announced the creation of a new product unit: healthcare robots. CEO Colin Angle said the overall goal is to add “one million hours of independent living” to seniors’ lives.

President of the healthcare business unit will be Tod Loofbourrow. The new business unit is committed to exploring the potential of robotics as an assistive technology to promote wellness and enhance quality of life for seniors. In this role, Loofbourrow will be responsible for all aspects of the group’s strategy, research and operations. He will report directly to Angle.

iRobot is now targeting the market for eldercare robots based on the experience of the short-lived ConnectR project they worked on last year. ConnectR was designed to facilitate telepresence, such as between a parent and child in different geographical locations. Telepresence has applications in remote physician visits, or for adult children to check up on their elderly parents. Combine iRobot’s experience with telepresence with their innovative ways to automate common household chores in a user-friendly way, and you have a compelling case for a useful, assistive robot that may allow elderly people to live independently for a greater length of time.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Robotics Research Overview 2009

More than 50.000 scientific papers related to Robotics have been published since 1980-ies based on bibliographic research conducted by Infonaut. Most papers have been published in 2009 with a total of 6000.

According to one scentific source (Springer) representing appr. 15 percent of all robotics papers came from the U.S. followed by Russia, Japan, the United Kingdom and France.

Among the the 4200 robotics research institutions worldwide the Russian Academy of Sciences is the leader with 328 published papers followed by the University of California (159), Carnegie Mellon University (152), MIT (63) and Nanyang Technological University (59).

Most productive among the 12.000 robotics scientists have been so far Professor Keigo Watanabe, Saga University with 37 papers followed by Professor Kiyotaka Izumi, Saga University with 29 papers.

The leading scientific robotics journals with most published papers are Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing, Machine Learning, Journal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems, Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing, International Journal of Computer Vision, and Automation and Remote Control.

A detailed overview of the global robotics community by country, research organisation, researcher and subjects can be ordered from Infonaut.

$ 100 Million for Japanese Robots

In the past several years, the Japanese government has funded some $100 million for the first phase of a humanoid robotics project, and development of key robot technologies until 2010. The government estimates the national robotics industry could surge from about $5.2 bln in 2006 to $26 bln in 2010 and nearly $70 bln by 2025

At EXPO 2005 Aichi World Exhibiton Japan presented about 100 next generation robot projects to demonstrate the countries leading positon in robotics research and development. There were robots that can come into practical use by 2010 and a diverse range of prototype robots expected to emerge around 2020. Some examples are presented below.

Find more photos like this on Robotland

Four years have now passed since the Robot exhibition in Aichi but there is still a long way to go until some of these prototype robots will hit the global mass market.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New chief for ABB Robotics Sweden

ABB Sweden has appointed Mr. Dennis Helfridson as new chief of the Swedish Robotics division. He will also be responsible for the Swedish business unit Robotics Products and will also become a member of the ABB Sweden management group.

Mr. Helfridson came to ABB in 1995 where he has worked with product development, construction, production, procurment and business development. Today he is global product manager for medium motors and chief for business unit LV Motors in Sweden.

Last year Mr. Helfridson has been ranked as the most influencial technology person under 40 years by the Swedish technology newspaper Ny Teknik.

Mr. Anders Nylander today pro tempore manager for the Swedish robotics division, will continue as global manager for the business unit Robotics Products.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Skiing robot developed by Slovakian researchers

Bojan Nemec of the Jozef Stefan Institute unveiled a skiing robot at a talk at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems this week. The video below shows the robot, around the size of an eight-year-old child, scooting down a snow-covered hill on a couple of practice runs before taking on a giant slalom course.

Ethics in the Robotics Revolution

The number of unmanned systems on the ground in Iraq has gone from zero to 12,000 over the last five years. Military officers quietly acknowledge that new prototypes will soon make human fighter pilots obsolete, while the Pentagon researches tiny robots the size of flies to carry out reconnaissance work now handled by elite Special Forces troops.

Are there types of robots that shouldn't be created? Should we use robots in military combat? Or is there actually nothing to worry about? Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute professor Illah Nourbakhsh addresses issues raised by recent book Wired for War by P.W. Singer and gives his personal take on ethics and robotics.

$6 million for Robotic CarLab at Stanford

Volkswagen of America said Thursday that it will spend about $6 million to build and fund an automotive research lab on the Stanford University campus.

To be called the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab, the building will serve as a research center for vehicle-safety and environmental issues, as well as continuing work on autonomous driving. Since 2004, Stanford professors and students have collaborated with VW's Electronics Research Lab in Palo Alto to build a series of robotic vehicles that have finished first and second in Defense Department events in 2005 and 2007.

Chris Gerdes, a mechanical engineering professor, will direct research that will take place, which Stanford has dubbed as CarLab.

VW said it will donate $2 million for the building, and $750,000 a year for five years to fund research.

The 8,000-square-foot lab near Stock Farm Road and Campus Drive West will replace a dusty Quonset hut where the robotic vehicle team tested its vehicles. It will include auto bays with lifts, a machine shop, meeting rooms and an outdoor drive space.

Monday, October 26, 2009

100.000 Robotic Lawn Mowers from Sweden

Image: Husqvarna

Husqvarna Automower®, the world's first robotic lawn mower, counts 100,000 units sold since 1995. Automower®, now sold in 30 countries, is a fully automatic and silent robotic lawn mower for homeowners and hotels. Without emissions, day or night, rain or shine, it fertilizes and cuts the lawn to perfection, all by itself.

Husqvarna, the world's largest producer of lawn mowers, chainsaws and portable petrol-powered garden equipment such as trimmers and blowers, intends to implement a number of structural changes in order to reduce costs and improve the Group's competitiveness. The measures are aimed at eliminating overlap and duplication within production and administration, and involve consolidation of production in Sweden and the US, and of the sales organization in Europe and Asia/Pacific.

The changes are scheduled to be implemented in 2009-2010 and will affect approximately 1,200 employees. As a result of an increase in the number of employees in other production facilities in Poland and China, the net reduction in the number of employees is estimated at 400.

Robotic Healthcare Design

At the Austrian University of Applied Arts in Vienna students are developing new design concepts for human tools. The CARRIER designed by three students is an advanced wheelchair for handicapped and temporary disabled people. It has multiple features, that make it more usable than a regular wheelchair and gives the user a chance to spend the day as usually as without a wheelchair. See project page.

Walking Robot

Boston Dynamics, best known for the quadruped robots BigDog and Little Dog, have now developed a dynamically balancing bipedal robot that uses a toe-to-heel walking method very similar to a human. The robot, called PETMAN, can be seen in the YouTube video above going through tests on a treadmill. PETMAN is an anthropomorphic robot for testing chemical protection clothing used by the US Army. Unlike previous suit testers, which had to be supported mechanically and had a limited repertoire of motion, PETMAN will balance itself and move freely; walking, crawling and doing a variety of suit-stressing calisthenics during exposure to chemical warfare agents. PETMAN will also simulate human physiology within the protective suit by controlling temperature, humidity and sweating when necessary, all to provide realistic test conditions.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

French Robotics Cluster _ Cap Robotique

Cap Robotique is the first business cluster in France dedicated to the robotics industry. Cap Robotique is opened to every company or laboratory which wants to bring its expertise to the French industry of the domestic service robotics. The cluster gathers yet prestigious protagonists like the CEA LIST or the CNRS LAAS, but also various innovative start-ups, recognized experts of their fields, like Gostai, Spir.Ops or also Voxler.

The Romeo project is a founding and federative project which aims to design, within 3 years, a general public robot, tall and autonomous, dedicated to the service. Officially launched the 22th of January of 2009, the project is mainly financed by the “Ile de France” French region, the French DGE and Paris city. Aldebaran Robotics led the consortium in charge of its development, composed of 13 world-renowned companies and laboratories.

Health Robot NAO

Dr Octavian Purcarea, Global Solutions Manager, Worldwide Health Team, Microsoft Corp. reports on this blog about the use of robots at the San Raffaele Hospital, one of the leading University Hospitals in Italy, to train diabetic children to take the insulin injections. According to Dr. Purcarea the training is so effective that children are showing total adherence to the treatment and become even “proud” to have such condition which allows them to be seen and filmed with the robots. The films are than showed (with the parents and children consent) to the classmates who discover that having diabetes and being obliged to treat yourself is not such a fatality but an excellent occasion to learn a new healthy behavior and even play with robots.

The robots used are Nao's developed by the French company Aldebaran Robotics. The robot is a 58-cm biped robot, that can be programmed and controlled using all available platforms. The hardware has been built from the ground up with the latest technologies providing great fluidity in its movements and offering a wide range of sensors. Demovideo (Quicktime)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reading Robot

Researchers at Waseda University’s Information, Production and Systems Research Center (IPSRC), have developed a one meter tall and 25 kg heavy robot that can read by training its camera eyes on printed materials placed on a special book stand. The robot can recognize over 2,000 kanji, hiragana and katakanasigns and can currently read elementary japanese texts. Character recognition software installed on a computer in the robot's backpack translates the text into spoken words, which are produced by a voice synthesizer.

Is there a need for robots that can read?

ShanghAI Lecture 2 - Embodyment

The topic of lecture 2 was Cognition as computation: Succes and failures and the need for embodied perspective on intelligence.
Prof. Pfeifer explained the challenging problem of what a theory of intelligence might look like and how a set of desiign principles, complemented by a general framwork in the form of a number of meta-pronciples, would be suitable.

The original idea of Artificial Intelligence (AI) was that "evert aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a mchine can be mode to simulate it." (John McCarthy, 1955)

The so-called physical symbol systems hypothesis (PSSH) by Allen Newell and Herbert Simon states that for “general intelligent action” it is a necessary and sufficient condition that the system be a “physical symbol system”, i.e., a system that can build and manipulate symbol structures and has a physical implementation
(e.g., a brain or a computer).

Classical AI reseach areas have been problem solving, knowledge representation and reasoning, acting logically, uncertain knowledge and reasoning, learning and memory, communication, perceiving and acting.

Classical AI successes are search engines, formal games (chess), text pprocessing systems, data mining systems, restricted natural language systems, appliances, control systems.

Classical AI failures have been more natural forms of intelligence such as vision/perception in the real world, speech, moving, manipulation of objects.

There is a great difference between the real and virtual reality, industrial environments and real world. Industrial environments are well-known, little uncertainty, high predictability. Real world environments have limited knowledge and predictability, are rapidley changing and have a high degree of uncertainty.

More will come.....

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Embodied Intelligence

Infonaut is participating a course about "Embodied Intelligence" that is broadcasted by videoconference from Jiao Tong University in Shanghai to 23 universities across the planet, complemented by 3D collaborative virtual environments and other community-building activities to promote interaction and cooperation among the participants.

The lectures are based on "How the Body Shapes the Way We Think - A New View of Intelligence" by Rolf Pfeifer and Josh C. Bongard, MIT Press, November 2006, ISBN 0-262-16239.

How could the body influence our thinking when it seems obvious that the brain controls the body? In How the Body Shapes the Way We Think, Rolf Pfeifer and Josh Bongard demonstrate that thought is not independent of the body but is tightly constrained, and at the same time enabled, by it. They argue that the kinds of thoughts we are capable of have their foundation in our embodiment - in our morphology and the material properties of our bodies.

The first lecture included the opening ceremony with Jie Yin, Vice President, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Weidong Chen, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Prof. Rolf Pfeifer, University of Zürich. In the second part of the lecture prof. Pfeifer gave a short introduction about the topic intelligence.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nissan Robot Car

Nissan Motor Co. has demonstrated at the CEATEC JAPAN 2009 the world's first development of a robot car that can travel in a group by sharing the position and information of others within a group via communication technologies. Its new fish-inspired "EPORO*1" robot car concept, which is designed to travel in a group of six like-vehicles, mimicking the behavioral patterns of a school of fish in avoiding obstacles without colliding with each other.

Security Risks with Household Robots

According to researchers at the University of Washington household robots increase the the privacy and security risks at home. In their paper titled "A Spotlight on Security and Privacy Risks with Future Household Robots: Attacks and Lessons" (PDF format) the researchers examined the security of the three currently available robots: The WowWee Rovio, the Erector Spykee, and the WowWee RoboSapien v2. The security tests uncovered a number of vulnerabilities such as the possibility of an attacker compromising a home robot to spy with the built in video camera or remote server intrusion. The research use their findings to develop a set of questions designed to promote more secure household robots that will preserve their human's privacy.

Singing Robot 2009

The female version of HRP-4C humanoid robot developed by AIST has demonstrated at the CEATEC Show in Japan its new singing abilities by using Yamaha’s Vocaloid singing voice synthesizer software. In the video below the robot sings a rendition of Hitoto Yo’s “Hanamizuki.”

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

8 Million Euro for a Robot Hand

A research consortium including nine partners from six EU countries - France, UK, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, and Germany - has started the four year research project HANDLE coordinated by the university Pierre and Marie Curie of Paris. With a budget of 8 million Euro the researchers will try to understand how humans perform the manipulation of objects in order to replicate grasping and skilled in-hand movements with an anthropomorphic artificial hand, and thereby move robot grippers from current best practice towards more autonomous, natural and effective articulated hands. The project implies not only focusing on technological developments but also working with fundamental multidisciplinary research aspects in order to endow the robotic hand system with advanced perception capabilities, high level feedback control and elements of intelligence that allow recognition of objects and context, reasoning about actions and a high degree of recovery from failure during the execution of dexterous tasks.

This collaborative project is funded by the European Commission within the Seventh Framework Programme FP7, as part of theme 2: Cognitive Systems, Interaction, Robotics, under grant agreement 231640 with 6.35 million Euro.

DOMEO Companion robot for cognitive and physical stimulation

French Robosoft, is developing and evaluating in real conditions DOMEO, a new companion robotic system that would allow cognitive and physical stimulation. Providing an efficient system to elderly, disabled or simply needing people is very ambitious.

The video below shos how the companion robot can help people in their everyday life, using natural language.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

IFR World Robotics 2009

The IFR Statistical Department, which is hosted by the VDMA Robotics + Automation association has published two new studies about World Robotics 2009.

Includes data
•about 40 country reports 2003 - 2008
•by application areas,
•by industrial branches,
•by types of robots
•and by other technical and economic variables.
•data on production, exports and imports
•Trends in robot densities, i.e. number of robots per 10,000 persons employed in relevant sectors
•Forecast 2009 – 2012
•Special Feature:
Robotics innovations, research and visions

World-wide statistics on professional service robots and personal/domestic service robots
•by type 2008 and stock up to 2008
•Forecast 2009 – 2012
•Market analysis
International Research Strategies on Service Robotics
Case Studies

New Unmanned Naval Patrol Vehicle from Swedish Kockums

According to Swedish press the Swedish warefare shipyard Kockums will next week present a new type of unmanned, autonomous, remotely controlled naval patrol vehicles called Piraya. The four meter long vehicles can be used for patrolling and surveillance missions. The Pirayas can be controlled as a group by only one controller, without exposing personnel and capital assets to unnecessary risk. Patroling costs can also be reduced significally.

Kockums is part of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Honda U3X Personal Unicycle

Honda's new "personal mobility" device looks like a unicycle, but all you need to do to zip around on it — sideways as well as forward and back — is lean your weight into the direction you want to go.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Robotics for Play and Health

Denmark is leading the development of robotics for play and health. At the Center for Playware, which was launched in August 2007, scientists from different disciplines are developing and testing intelligent hardware and software which produces play and playful experiences for young and elderly users. The Center for Playware focusses on a number of different application areas. Two of the them are playgrounds and health.

Playgrounds: Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark, who are linked to the Center for Playware, have built special playgrounds at two schools, two kindergartens and two youth clubs in Odense city using "intelligent tiles", a grid of pressure-sensitive floor tiles for playgrounds. Each tile has a small computer inside it, which measures the force of the child's foot and responds with either colored lights or sounds.

Health: The company Entertainment Robotics linked with the Center for Playware and the University of Southern Denmark has now introduced its "theraphy tiles" which guide patients recovering from surgery or injuries through physical routines and help them heal. Through these intelligent robotics the intention is for the patients to physically play their way to a full recovery.

Center for Play is part of The Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute, the University of Southern Denmark, situated in the city of Odense. One of the key areas of growth defined and included in Odense Municipality's new trade, industry and growth strategy is "The playful/learning city". Thus the municipality emphasizes strongly the importance of developing robotics for play and playful experiences in this strategy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Google Lunar X PRIZE

The Google Lunar X PRIZE is a $30 million international competition to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send images and data back to the Earth. Teams must be at least 90% privately funded and must be registered to compete by December 31, 2010. The first team to land on the Moon and complete the mission objectives will be awarded $20 million; the full first prize is available until December 31, 2012. After that date, the first prize will drop to $15 million. The second team to do so will be awarded $5 million. Another $5 million will awarded in bonus prizes. The final deadline for winning the prize is December 31, 2014.

New book about Ethics and Robotics

Ethics and robotics are two academic disciplines, one dealing with the moral norms and values underlying implicitly or explicitly human behavior and the other aiming at the production of artificial agents, mostly as physical devices, with some degree of autonomy based on rules and programmes set up by their creators. Robotics is also one of the research fields where the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science is currently taking place with large societal and legal implications beyond traditional industrial applications. Robots are and will remain -in the foreseeable future- dependent on human ethical scrutiny as well as on the moral and legal responsibility of humans. Human-robot interaction raises serious ethical questions right now that are theoretically less ambitious, but practically more important than the possibility of the creation of moral machines that would be more than machines with an ethical code. The ethical perspective addressed in this volume is therefore the one we humans have when interacting with robots. Topics include the ethical challenges of healthcare and warfare applications of robotics, as well as fundamental questions concerning the moral dimension of human-robot-interaction including epistomological, ontological and psychoanalytic issues. It deals also with the intercultural dialogue between Western and Non-Western as well as between European and US-American ethicists.

Ethics and Robotics
Edited by: R. Capurro and M. Nagenborg
August 2009, 136 pp., softcover
ISBN: 978-1-60750-008-7 NEW
Price: US$65 / €45 / £41

EyeSeeCam wins 10.000 EURO award at Danish RoboDays

EyeSeeCam from University Hospital in Munich Germany won among 25 nominated research projects the international robot award at 10.000 euros at the annual RoboDays robot festival in Odense, Denmark, and is worth 10.000 Euros.

EyeSeeCam is a unique camera system that is controlled with the eyes. It is the only system that can record what the eyes of its user really see. Unrestricted user mobility and field of view as well as the utilization of biological image stabilization reflexes are main benefits of EyeSeeCam.

EyeSeeCam was initially developed at the Institute of Neuroscience of LMU Hospital under Prof. Thomas Brandt. The current versions were refined by Dr Schneider within CoTeSys and also used as a very useful tool in several other CoTeSys projects.

Chinese Pet Feeding Robot

Who feeds your pet, when you are traveling? Researchers at The Chinese University of Hong Kong are developing av ball-like mobile robot called Petsitter, aimed to monitor and feed pets remotely when their owners need to be away from their pets. Petsitter can be remote controlled through the Internet and tranmit real-time images of the pet. When pets become hungry the owner can release food stored in the compartment. The robot can be controlled to play with the pets and play music for them.

But who will feed the pet feeding robot? R&D opportunities for roboticists seem to be endless.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

RepRap - The Future of Manufacturing

"Think of RepRap as a China on your desktop."-
Chris DiBona, Open Source Programs Manager, Google Inc., 8 April 2008.

The RepRap Project is an initiative aimed at creating a largely self-replicating machine which can be used for rapid prototyping and manufacturing. A rapid prototyper is a 3D printer that is able to fabricate three dimensional artifacts from a computer-based model.

Project authors describe 'self-replication', understood as the ability to reproduce the components necessary to build another version of itself, as one of the goals for the project. It is self-replication that distinguishes the RepRap Project from the similar Fab@Home project.

Eccerobot humanlike moves

The ECCEROBOT project is a spin-off of the CRONOS project conducted at the University of Essex. The goal of this project was to investigate machine consciousness through internal modeling. For this purpose the first anthropomimetic robot torso was built. In order to further enhance the torso, the team at Essex developed a controller for it, and investigated the development of human-like cognitive abilities.

Source: Eccerobot, University of Essex)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Robot Cooks at Nagoya restaurant

Ni-Lab blogger reports about two AISEI robots that have got cooking work at the newly opened FA-men restaurant in Nagoya, Japan. The robots are fully autonomous, taking a customer order and cooking it from start to finish. Check out the video below.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Care Robot Market China - Wishfull Thinking?

US service robot manufacturer Gecko Systems is looking East and has identified two atractive market segments for service robots in China: the new Chinese millionairs who are purchasing the latest high-tech gadgets for fun and entertainment and the 20+ miljon elderly with family care needs. It is expected that in the next 5-10 years the Chinese market for family care robots will grow rapidly into a multi-billion dollar market.

Applications the company hopes can attract the Chinese market are cost effective monitoring of the elderly. One of the main reasons for adult children to purchase an elder care robot are concern for their parents living health and quality of life when staying a home alone. Virtual visits, automatic reminders, companionship and automatic emergency notification are some applications that a care robot can offer for elderly and their care givers.

Some ideas what Chinese elderly are thinking about these new gadgets?

Danish Industry´s Robot Vision

Within the next five-ten years, Danish industrial firms are expected to have acquired many flexible production systems. In a foresight study from The Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, experts list some important features that robots will have:
* increased use of computer vision
* increased flexibility and change-over capabilities in terms of type of
* increased safety levels in relation to interaction with humans and surroundings and will contribute to a better working environment
* more modular within the individual robot series
* internal logical decision-making systems that continuously prioritise the
robot’s tasks.

The industry’s needs in robot-based innovation within a time frame of ten years are primarily related to further development of the robot technology that is in use today. Creating more investment-friendly standard solutions within cognitive robot technology presents huge challenges even though cognitive in this regard is only sensing through vision along with other sensors and preprogrammed reaction patterns. The Danish industry would like to see a shift focus towards establishing a better balance between the interests of industry and the very research-intensive part that is needed outside of industry. It is also important for the industry that the focus is not only on new application areas, but more on increasing efficiency and penetrating the existing application areas.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Euron/Europ annual meetings 2010, 2011

The EURON and EUROP Boards have taken a decision about the organisation of their Annual Meetings of 2010 and 2011. The 2010 meeting will be organised in cooperation with Fatronik/Tecnalia in San Sebastian, Spain and the 2011 meeting will be organised by Robotdalen in Västerås, Sweden.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Robotics in Agriculture Research Program

The agricultural industry is behind other industries in using robots because the sort of jobs involved in agriculture are not straight forward and many repetitive tasks are not exactly the same everytime. The main area of application of robots in agriculture is at the harvesting stage and robots are designed to replace human labour.

ICT-AGRI is the acronym for the project which has the full title “Coordination of European Research within ICT and Robotics in Agriculture and Related Environmental Issues”.

The overall goal of ICT-AGRI is to strengthen the European Research Area and develop a common European research agenda concerning ICT and robotics in agriculture. ICT-AGRI is funded by the European Commission's ERA-NET scheme under the 7th Framework Programme for Research.

ICT-AGRI has 18 partner organisations that finance or manage national or regional research programmes in Europe and associated countries. Many of the partner organisations will contribute funding for joint calls in the area of ICT and Robotics in Agriculture and related Environment Issues. The research projects will be funded using a real common pot or a virtual common pot instrument.

Some examples of earlier European agri-robot projects:

Researchers from the University of Warwick's horticultural arm, Warwick HRI, and its manufacturing engineering section, Warwick Manufacturing Group, are working on a number of robotics and automation products that will vastly reduce the labour costs of farmers and growers. Those projects include a robotic mushroom picker, a robot grass cutter, Aeropick, an inflatable conveyor belt system to aid the agricultural and horticultural harvesting process that offers huge savings in labour costs and an significant increases in productivity.

In the Netherlands Wageningen University are researching in small machinery and robots for agriculture. A Field Robot Event tested the tiny machines’ ability to navigate and detect weeds.

In Denmark research groups have developed a plant nursing robot (Hortibot(2007)), a computer assisted slope mowing robot Casmobot, , a robotic fruit picker is under development.

The Danish Agrobotic Network has been launched 2009 as part of a program with the main objective to further expand the cooporation and development within the agro-robotic field.

If you have any information about ongoing agro-robotics projects please comment or send an email.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

ABB Sweden coordinates 10MEUR robotic project

The 4-year ROSETTA project coordinated by ABB Sweden started March 1st, 2009, and has a total budget of 10 MEUR. The goal of the project is to develop “human-centric” technology for industrial robots that will not only appear more human-like, but also cooperate with workers in ways that are safe and perceived as natural. Such robots will be programmed in an intuitive and efficient manner, making it easier to adapt them to new tasks when a production line is changed to manufacture a new product.

ROSETTA is the acronym for a new European Large-Scale Integrating Research Project “RObot control for Skilled ExecuTion of Tasks in natural interaction with humans; based on Autonomy, cumulative knowledge and learning”.

Winner of Robotdalen Scientifc Award 2009

The winner of the 2009 Robotdalen Scientific Award is Dr. Davide Scaramuzza, ETH Zurich, Switzerland. He received the prize sum of € 20 000 for his competition contribution - his doctoral thesis on autonomous navigation of vehicles. In his PhD thesis, he introduced a new generalized model for wide-angle cameras and a method to accurately estimate the motion of a vehicle (car or helicopter) and build a 3D map of the environment from a single camera alone (without GPS or other sensors). His research found several industrial applications in robotics, automotive, endoscopic imagery, meteorology, and aerial photography.
Dr. Scaramuzza received his Master degree in Electrical Engineering (2004) at the University of Perugia, Italy and a PhD in Computer Vision and Robotics (2008) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich. He is currently senior researcher at the Autonomous Systems Lab at the ETH Zurich and IEEE member. HE is lecturer of the Master course “Autonomous Mobile Robots” at the ETH Zurich, and also project leader and scientific manager of the European Project sFly.
He leads the European MAV team at the ETH Zurich and he is also author of the Omnidirectional Camera Calibration Toolbox for MATLAB!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Top European Robotics Researchers

The three finalists of Robotdalen Scientific Award 2009 have presented their research at the SWAR'09 workshop today.

Mario Prats, Jaume-I University, Castelon, Spain talked about this PhD thesis "Robot Physical Interaction through the combination of Vision, Tactile and Force Feedback" and its applications to assistive robotics. The purpose of his research is to advance towards autonomous, robust and versatile manipulation. By integrating the grasp and the task robotic manipulation can get an innovativ breakthrough. Pdf

Davide Scaramuzza, ETH Zurich, Switzerland presented his PhD thesis "Omnidirectional Vision: from Calibration to Robot Motion Estimation". A car is equipped with an omnidirectional camera and the motion of the vehicle is purely recovered from salient features tracked over time. The developed algorithm can runs at 400 Hz on a normal laptop and is sofar the most efficient visual odometry algorithm. Pdf

Sami Haddadin, RWTH University, Germany presented his research "Towards Safe Robots: Approaching Asinov's 1st Law. The ”Impact” of the Robot’s Weight Class". The desired coexistence of robotic systems and humans in the same physical domain, by sharing their workspace and actually cooperating in a physical manner, poses the very fundamental problem of ensuring safety to the user. In his paper he shows the influence of the robot mass and velocity during blunt unconstrained impacts with humans. Pdf

The prize ceremony takes place on the annual conference Robotdalen Day in Västerås, Sweden on September 9th.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Biorobotic systems and AAL Scenario

The recently published Ambient Assisted Living Roadmap of the European Ambient Assisted Living Innovation Alliance (AALiance) includes an R&D state-of-the-art overview about biorobotic solutions including biorobotics for personal autonomy and for care, cognitive and companion robots, biorobotics for neuro-rehabilitation, exoskeleton-like machines.

I an Assitant Robot Scenario 62 years old electronic technichian José works in the Repairs Office of a company that makes microwave ovens. The company has adopted the AAL approach and equiped his environment with sensors that constantly monitor and recognize the positions of workers, documents and objects. A smart assistant robot has also been adopted for moving objects. José works with a PC and and with mechanical and electrical tools to work on microwave ovens that are sent to him for repair. When a broken oven arrives at the warehouse , a message is sent to José and he calls the smart assistant robot to move the system from the warehouse to his office. The smart assistant robot is able to move safely around in the company space, recognizing the presence of people and avoiding any obstacles in its path. When José finishes his work, he instructs the assistant robot to move the microwave oven from his office to the warehouse in order for it to be sent back to its owners.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Prof. Toshio Fukuda to receive IEEE R&A Award

Professor Toshio Fukuda of the University of Nagoya, Japan will receive the IEEE Robotics and Automation Technical Field Award for leadership and pioneering contributions to Intelligent Robotic Systems and Micro and Nano Robotic Systems.

Fukuda has been working in the area of intelligent robotic systems for over 30 years. He and colleagues and students working under his direction at his University of Nagoya laboratory are recognized for their intelligent robotics systems including brachiation robots, cellular robotic systems and in particular, micro-nano robotic systems. His pioneer work in the micro and nano world include 3D manipulation of the Carbon Nano Tubes (CNT) for nano sensors and actuators.

Fukuda will be presented with the Robotics and Automation Field Award at the Awards Ceremony during ICRA 2010.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Warehouse Robots on the Move seems to look at more efficient ways to operate its factories with the help of robots. The company's recent acquisition of Zappos points in this direction. The factories Amazon acquired from Zappos had robots helping speed up the process of order fulfillment. Zappos was working closely with Kiva Systems, a startup building these sorts of robots. founder Jeff Bezos has also invested $7 million in Heartland Robotics, a startup working on industrial robotics. One of the co-founders of Heartland Robotics is Rodney Brooks, who had also founded iRobot, the leading military and vaccum cleaning robot manufacturer.

Berry Picking Robots

According to the Swedish Institute of Food and Biotechnology, SIK, more than 500.000 tons of wild berries are growing in the Swedish forests annualy but only 10-20.000 tons are picked by locals and 8000 foreign berry pickers during the summer season. There is a huge potential for market and technology development but picking automation seem to be tricky. A berry picking robot needs to pick ripe berries without damaging the branches or leaves of the berry tree. High mobility is needed and the robots must be able to access all areas of the berry tree being harvested. The robots must be 'intelligent', and have a human-like interaction with their surroundings through senses of touch, sight, and image processing.

The Japanesse venture firm Romobility Youto was first in 2006 with its strawberry picking robot. The robot moves through a greenhouse scanning the strawberries with its color-sensitive camera eye that could not only identify berries amidst the foliage, but also determine how ripe a strawberry is. The robot could snip the berries and place it on a tray. But the robot was very slow, only one berry every 10 seconds.

San Diego, USA based company Vision Robotics is working on a pair of robots that would trundle through orchards plucking oranges, apples or other fruit from the trees. The company hopes to develop a robot that can perform the tedious and labor-intensive task of fruit picking that currently employs thousands of migrant workers each season.

Image: Vision Robotics

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Health Care Robotics Roadmap for Europe

The European Commission has assigned the Dutch innovation agency TNO the task of exploring the possible healthcare applications of robotics. Together with eighty experts from around the world, TNO has developed a roadmap that identifies, among other things, the most promising areas of innovation. Six of these are contained in the roadmap:
* Smart medical capsules
* Robotised surgery
* Smart Intelligent prosthesis
* Robotised analysis of motion coordination and therapy
* Robotised patient monitoring systems
* Robot-supported psychic, cognitive and social therapy

TNO Health Care Robotics Innovations Map

Key findings of the road map study:
* Robotics hold the promise of addressing some major healthcare issues.
* The field of robotics in healthcare is in its infancy – industry, government and research can still exert influence.
* There is a need to bridge the difficult transitions from laboratories to trials and from trials to regular healthcare practice.
* Systematic support to research is needed for progress to be made.
* Addressing ethical and legal problems should be an integral part of any research programme in this field.
* Awareness must be raised through a flanking communication programme.

More information at TNO Robotics for Healthcare

Italy Robotics Top Talent Hunt

The Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) offers eight PhD positions at the Robotics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department (RBCS). RBCS is the home of the iCub humanoid a small-size robot being designed by the RobotCub Consortium, consisting of several European universities. The main goal of this platform is to study cognition through the implementation of biological motivated algorithms.

The RobotCub consortium is a multidisciplinary group of leading laboratories from across the globe. The commonality between the groups is their interest in understanding and replicating human cognitive processes. These groups bring specific expertise in humanoid technologies (Genoa, Pisa, Lausanne, Zurich, Sheffield, Lisbon, Cambridge, Tokyo and Kyoto), in developmental psychology (Uppsala), Neuroscience (Ferrara), and human-humanoid interaction and social behaviour (Hertfordshire).

In April 2009 eight iCub robots have been delivered and are in use by other institutions in Europe and the total count will reach 20 at the end of 2009.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

UK Robotics Hot Spots

A recent report, commissioned by the HSBC Commercial Bank, predicts that six UK regions will become Robotics hubs in the future business landscape of the UK: Birmingham, Edinburgh, Essex, London, Manchester and Plymouth.

Birmingham has a respectable position in the robotics field, with names like Kuka Automation and Robotics, based in Halesowen. The School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham has an established and growing international reputation for research and teaching in Computer Science, AI and robotics. The School has nearly 90 active researchers and the robotics research group conducts research in a number of sub-fields of intelligent robotics and related areas such as statistical machine learning.

The Institute of Perception, Action, and Behaviour at the University of Edinburgh is focused on activities related to how to link, in theory and in practice, computational perception, representation, transformation and generation processes to external worlds.

The Essex Robotics group is one of the large mobile robotics groups in the UK.Robotics research at the University of Essex focuses on autonomous mobile robotics, and addresses a wide range of research questions.with advanced mobile robotics research facilities such as the Essex Robotics Arena featuring the world's largest powered floor and a real-time 3D VICON motion tracking system.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering at Imperial College in London is leading in research into medical robotics for neurosurgery.

The University of Plymouth was the first to provide an undergraduate degree in Robotics and Automated Systems in 1992. The University now offers degree courses at BSc, BEng, MEng and MSc level in Robotics supported by an active research group. The key research strands include human robot interfaces, natural language communication, cognition and reasoning and visual and haptic interfaces.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Open Robotics Development - ECHORD Opening Event

The European Clearing House for Open Robotics Development (ECHORD) is a new EU-funded project aimed to reinforce cooperation between the industry and the scientific research in robotics. ECHORD is coordinated by Professor Knoll, Technical University of Munich. The project's international orientation and its positioning in the existing robotics landscape are emphasized by the participation of the University of Naples Federico II (Prof. Siciliano) and the University of Coimbra in Portugal (Prof. Pires).
The industry can support research groups in the purchase of robotic equipment and the development of experiments in a series of selected scenarios, that are scientifically interesting and commercially relevant.

ECHORD Opening Event will be held September 4, 2009, 10 am – 4 pma t the Deutsches Museum, Ehrensaal Munich, Germany

Speakers will include:

• Horst Forster - Director of Directorate E "Digital Content and Cognitive Systems", Directorate-General for "Information Society and Media", European Commission
• Prof. Dr. Roland Siegwart – Autonomous Systems Lab , ETH, Zürich
• Ulf-Göran Norefors - Vice President ABB Automation Technologies, Sweden

Friday, August 28, 2009

Robot for Interactive Body Assistance

Researchers at Japan’s Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) and Tokai Rubber Industries, Ltd. (TRI) have developed a robot for Interactive Body Assistance (RIBA). The robot is designed primarily to assist nurses by lifting patients in and out of their beds and wheelchairs (as well as on and off the toilet), the 180-kilogram robot can safely pick up and carry people weighing up to 61 kilograms.

Robot Idea Contest

At ICAR 2009 June 2009 in Munich the robotics community at large was invited to an idea contest on affordable robots. 19 robot ideas have been applied including a humanoid robot for traffic control, a robot which feeds the parking meter when you are not there, an autonomous housemaid, a window cleaning robot, a household multipurpose robot.

The complete list with short presentation of the 19 ideas can be found here.

New Health Robotics R&D Center in Japan

A new international health robotics center named VEDA has been established at Munakata-city, Fukuoka Prefecture. It consists of major robotics and medical researchers from Kyushu University, Waseda University, The Systems Biology Institute, Kanazawa Institute of Technology, Kyoto University, Kyushu Institute of Technology, Fraunhofer IAIS, Germany, Scuola Superiore San't Anna, Italy and TmsukCo.,Ltd.Missions of Veda Center are both R&D of the advanced robotics technology and realizing profitable business/industry by its integrated robotics technology.

Chairman of VEDA is Prof. Makoto Hashizume, Professor & Chairman, Department of Advanced Medical Initiatives, Faculty of Medical Sciences and Director, Emergency & Critical Care Center of Kyushu University.

The first product announcement of the VEDA Centre is a universal vehicle named “RODEM”. RODEM” is the new category vehicle of all people to free barrier for aged and disabled people even though it seems a robot or a vehicle or a wheelchair on users’situation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Care-providing robot FRIEND

Researchers of the AMaRob project will present the latest results regarding the new care-providing robot FRIEND - developed at the Institute of Automation (IAT) at the University of Bremen, Germany- at the REHACARE, an international trade fair and congress for rehabilitation, care, prevention and integration. REHACARE will take place from October 14th until October 17th, 2009 in the exhibition centre of Düsseldorf, Germany.

FRIEND is a care-providing robot built from commercially available, reliable industrial components. FRIEND is a construction set of adapted components.

Available Components: Wheelchair based on Nemo-platform, 7 DOF-lightweight robot arm, mounted on automated pan-unit, Prosthetic hand –“SensorHand Speed”– with force and slip sensor, Force torque sensor, wrist mounted, Intelligent tray for position and weight, measurement, Energy-management, Pan-tilt-unit for stereo camera systems and 3D-cameras, 10”-TFT-touch screen, mounted on
automated pan-unit, Command unit(s) – adapted to the impairment of the user, Chin joystick, Speech control, Eye control, Hand joystick, Brain-computer interface, IR/Wireless environmental control unit, e.g. for control of doors, High-end PC-unit.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Future of robotics in the United States.

The Computing Community Consortium (CCC) has through a grant from NSF approved a study to formulate a targeted R&D roadmap for robotics. The process has been managed by a broad group of researcher across major US institutions. The Robotics Roadmap has finally been presented to Congress! On May 21, 2009 four presentations were given before a Congressional Caucus about the future of robotics in the United States. CCC Robotics Roadmap Final Report