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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.