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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.