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Friday, February 20, 2009

US Robot Vision 2025

A report from The National Intelligence Council, NIC, titled "Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World" describes military, economic and environmental challenges the U.S. will face over the next 17 years. The report also looks at technologies, and it includes some sweeping ideas about the future of robotics.

According to NIC robotics technology will be far enough along to take over low-skilled jobs in 2025. Robots can take over elderly care tasks and may be used to augment human capabilities. NIC foresees the possible development of wearable humanoid robots, so called exoskeletons, that uses sensors, interfaces, power systems and actuators to monitor and respond to arm and leg movements, providing the wearer with increased strength and control. There will also be wearable devices that can help improve vision, hearing and memory.

Robots have the potential to replace humans in a variety of applications with far-reaching implications. Robotics and enabling technologies have already advanced to the stage where single-application robots and related systems (including autonomous vehicles) are being implemented in a wide range of civil and defense applications. Although a great deal of development is still required in terms of intelligence for robots, many of the building blocks for potentially disruptive robot systems are either already in place, or will be by 2025, including hardware (e.g. sensors, actuators, and power systems) and software (e.g. robot platforms).

Defense Robots
The use of unmanned systems for terrorist activities could emerge because the availability of commercial civil robot platforms will increase significantly. Unmanned military systems with a much greater level of autonomy and closely related/synergistic technologies (e.g. human augmentation systems) could enhance the performance of soldiers.

Caring Robots
The development and implementation of robots for elder-care applications, and the development of human-augmentation technologies, mean that robots could be working alongside humans in looking after and rehabilitating people. A change in domestic and social responsibilities and a change in domestic employment requirements could adversely affect lower income service-oriented workers.

Robot Podcast from EPFL

A team of robot evangelists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland publish since May 2008 a podcast to provide free, high quality, educational information for the robotics community and the general public.

So far the team has talked about with experts about Robot Toys, Robot Musicians, Bio-inspired Locomotion, Androids, Human Presence and the Uncanny Valley Jumping and Crawling Millirobots, Warehouse Robots, Swarming Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, An Uncertain Revolution, Bacteria-Propelled Microrobots, DelFly and Europe's Micro Air Vehicle Competition, Robot Blogosphere, Modular and Reconfigurable Robots, Robot Soccer, A Robot Fly at Harvard and at the MoMA Cornell Racing Team and Velodyne's LIDAR Sensor

In their feb 2009 episod the team talks about ethical issues in robotics with two world-renowned experts in ethics. Noel Sharkey, professor of Public Engagement, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the University of Sheffield in the UK and with Ronald Arkin, the director of the Mobile Robot Lab and Associate Dean of Research at Georgia Tech in the US.

Creative, inspiring, nice done! The Robots podcast is available via Apple iTunes and all other major podcast servers.

Mining Robots Down Under

The Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR) at the University of Sydney is a world-renown research group in field robotics and automation and consists of over 150 research staff and students. The ACFR has established a major new Centre for Mine Automation (CMA) to develop and implement the vision of a fully autonomous, remotely operated mine. Rio Tinto, a global mining company, has committed $21m of funding for an initial period of five years for this new Centre.

Since its launch, a world class research and technical team of more than 20 talented engineers have joined the Centre. These individuals, from locations spanning 6 continents, are involved in the research, development and deployment of technology for a fully autonomous, remotely operated mine.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Robots@home

The three-year, 3.2 million Euro project Robot@home began on May 1, 2007 and is has developed a scaleable, affordable platform, James the Robot, that corresponds to requirements of the project’s three industrial partners, companies in the areas of domotics (intelligent technology to automate the home environment), food delivery, and care for the elderly.

At present James is limited to orienting itself/himself to a room’s dimensions and contents. But it is foreseen that James will be able to help the elderly, those confined to bed or suffering from physical disabilities to get out of bed, fetch medication, do light carrying or even clean the apartment. Responding to verbal commands including “make and bring the coffee” are applications that are near to fruition. For James, who would help to ensure the continued autonomy and independence of the elderly at home, the future is open. The system has already been tested at the home furnishings store, IKEA, in Vienna, Austria. Testing will continue in different home environments.

Robotic Pedestrian Assistant Project

An European consortium coordinated by German ALBERT-LUDWIGS-UNIVERSITAET FREIBURG aims to develop the foundations for service robots designed to autonomously navigate in urban environments outdoors as well as in shopping malls and shops to provide various services to users including guidance, delivery, and transportation. The project called European robotic pedestrian assistant (EUROPA) will apply sophisticated probabilistic scene interpretation techniques to deal with the unpredictable and changing environments. Based on data gathered with its sensors, the robot will acquire a detailed model of the environment, detect and track moving objects in the environment, adapt its navigation behaviour according to the current situation and communicate with its users in a natural way, even remotely. EUROPA is targeted at developing novel technologies that will open new perspectives for commercial applications of service robots in the future.

The project will start 2 March 2009 and end 1 March 2012. The project cost is 3, 84 million Euro and is funded by the European Commission (FP7-ICT-231888) with 2.94 million Euro.

Partners: Albert-Ludwigs-Universitaet Freiburg, Germany; University of Oxford, United Kingdom; Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule Zurich, Switzerland; Bluebotics SA, Switzerland; Rheinisch-Westfaelische Technische Hochschule Aachen, Germany; Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Japan´s New Robot Plans

Today the Japanese robotics strategy is focused on three main sectors, manufacturing industry, service industry and work in special environments. The national robotics program includes three projects: 1 Strategic Development of Advanced Robotics Elemental Technologies (Budget 2008: 800 million yen), 2 Intelligent Robot Technology Software Project (1,5 billion yen), 3 Project for Open Innovation Promotion by Utilizing Basic Robotic Technology (100 million yen).

Research and development will be carried out on (1) production robot systems that can handle
flexible goods and (2) human-robot cooperative cell production and assembly systems in the area of next-generation industrial robots; (1) a manipulation RT system for clearing tasks, (2) a communication RT system to work with elderly people, and (3) a conveyance robot system in the area of service robots; and (1) an RT system to travel within disasteraffected buildings and (2) industry waste disposal handling RT systems in the area of special environment robots.


NEDO Robotics Strategy 2008


Next-generation robots
The Japanese innovation authority NEDO has selected six types of robots that will be continued to be developed for the coming two years under its "Project Strategic Development of Advanced Robotics Elemental Technologies".

NEDO has selected Mitsubishi Electric Corp's "R&D of Robotic System for FA Equipment Assembly," an industrial robotic system capable of handling soft items, as well as Fanuc Ltd's "Development of Cell Production/Assembly System for Advanced Industrial Countries," a human-robot cooperative cell production/assembly system to be continued.

As for the service robots, NEDO selected the "R&D of System for Handling Randomly Piled Laundry," a manipulation RT (robot technology) system intended for organizing by Kagawa University and its partners, as well as the "Development of Omni-directional Autonomous Delivery Robot," a robotic delivery system by Murata Machinery Ltd and its partners. The robotic delivery system uses a delivery robot intended for reducing the burden on nurses by, for example, delivering drugs to patients late at night. Murata Machinery plans to periodically conduct verification testing in hospitals to improve its utility.



In regard to the robots for specific environments, the "High-speed Running Search Robots for Confined Space," an RT system for moving inside collapsed buildings developed by International Rescue System Institute (IRS) and its partners as well as Tokyu Construction Co Ltd's "Development of Waste Separation and Sorting System Using Next-generation Manipulator," an RT system for dealing with construction waste, were selected for continued development.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Robot Control Console for Google Android

"Forknife 2" is a robot built by Jeffrey Nelson, Macpod Inc. to show off some of the cool things you can do with open source software and hardware. The robot is based off of the SRV-1 robot controller (www.surveyor.com/). The android application controlling the robot is called SRV1Console and the source + binary for this can be found here: http://code.google.com/p/srv1console


A great idea to use cam phones as robot remotes. The conversion of robots, mobilephones, WiFi, touchscreens and gyrotech in Open Source Space will lay the ground for a multitude of telepresence applications for companies and consumers . Let´s hope that this stuff will be availabe for young developers at schools and robot clubs all over the world to create next generation telepresence services.

Robot Horror or Salvation 2018?

Hollywood continues producing spectacular, post-apocalyptic robot horror movies and reinforces the Western image of robots as animies and mankind threatening machines. In May 2009 Warner Bros Pictures will release Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins. The film, set in 2018, focuses on the war between humanity and Skynet. Directed by Joseph McGinty Nichol (McG), it is the fourth Terminator film and stars Christian Bale as John Connor and Sam Worthington as the Terminator Marcus Wright.

Despite the dystopian robot war theme WBP marketing people have launched a viral marketing campaign at Skynet Research promising "Robots are the Future". Skynet Research calls for robot designs and is offering a "new line of consumer grade robotic module free of charge and before it is even available in stores!" The video below shows a Japanese user with a Enhanced Model 101 robot at their home.


Confusing message to promote robotics as future technology that in the movie may lead to the possible annihilation of mankind. Even more confusing to mix pro-robot japanese girl with western macho-meka-destro-dystropian robot. What a postmodern high-tech movie low marketing intelligent mess.
For real robot salvation please take a look at assistant robot Twenty One.

Wearable Robots for Soldiers and Elderly

New EU-Project - Wearable Robots
The Evryon project (Evolving Morphologies for Human-Robot Symbiotic Interaction) is a research project funded by the European Commission in the Seventh Framework Programme (Proposal/Contract number FP7-ICT-2007-3-231451). The Evryon project aims at providing a novel design methodology for harvesting the potentialities of structural intelligence in the development of Wearable Robots, using a design for emergence approach where a symbiotic interaction between the robot and the human body is sought to achieve useful emerging dynamic behaviours.

Wearable robot are robots designed to be worn by a person. Examples include stroke rehabilitation devices , exoskeletons that help people to walk or lift and robots that are designed to serve as front-end for wearable computers.

Wearable Robots for Stroke Rehabilitation
Strokes afflict 700,000 Americans annually, frequently leaving partial paralysis in their wake. One of the most common stroke disabilities is a paralyzed arm. Conventional rehabilitation requires physical or occupational therapists to spend long hours with patients, manually helping them as they move the affected arm hundreds or thousands of times. With help of a wearable robot, The Hand Mentor, patients can increase the abilities of joints involved in tasks such as raising the arm, flexing the elbow, and rotating the forearm.

Exoskeleton robots for soldiers and eldery
The exoskeleton robot, serving as an assistive device, is worn by the human (orthotic) and functions as a human-amplifier. Its joints and links correspond to those of the human body, and its actuators share a portion of the external load with the operator. One of the primary innovative ideas of the proposed research is to set the Human Machine Interface (HMI) at the neuromuscular level of the human physiological hierarchy using the body's own neural command signals as one of the primary command signals of the exoskeleton.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), was funding a US$50 million project known as "Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation" in early 2000. The scope of the program included the development of actively controlled exoskeletons that not only increase strength and speed, but enable larger weapons to be carried, provide a higher level of protection from enemy fire or chemical attack, allow wearers to stay active longer and carry more food, ammunition and field supplies. Exoskeletons may eventually even be programmed to bring injured soldiers back to base by themselves. The Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEEX) was the first functional energetically autonomous load carrying human exoskeleton and was demonstrated at U.C. Berkeley, walking at the average speed of 0.9 m/s (2 mph) while carrying a 34 kg (75 lb) payload.

Robot Suit HAL from Japanese Cyberdyne is the first wearable robot to be applied in various fields such as rehabilitation support and physical training support in medical field, ADL support for disabled people, heavy labour support at factories, and rescue support at disaster sites, as well as in the entertainment field. that can expand and improve physical capability.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Robot Startups to Watch

Heartland Robotics
iRobot co-founder Rodney Brooks has formed a startup called Heartland Robotics combinding computers, robots and workforce, to increase productivity and revitalize manufacturing. HR is developing low-cost robots "that will empower American workers"(Brooks). The basic idea is to let ordinary manual workers become their own information engineer and increase their own productivity. Today it takes automation engineers months to program industrial robots for new tasks. Brooks plan is to develop robots that could make U.S.-based manufacturing a viable alternative to outsourcing in many circumstances.

Some brains behind the idea may be Gill Pratt, Ph.DProfessor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Eduardo Torres-Jara, postdoctoral associate at the Humanoid Robotics Group at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Pratt works with "series-elastic" actuators with more natural properties than industrial robots possess, and "virtual model" control languages that allow natural dynamics and active control to work synergistically. Torres-Jara works with sensitive manipulation and sensitive grasping on the the Oberon robot platform.



MIT: Oberon platform

The Droid Works
iRobot co-founder Helen Greiner has formed a stealth company called The Droid Works. The first project is in the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) space.

Willow Garage
Scott Hassan founder of eGroups (a group email messaging company now known as Yahoo Groups) and the key software architect/developer of Google, Alexa Internet and the Stanford Digital Library, founded Willow Garage in 2006. Willow Garage is a privately-funded research and development lab focused on delivering autonomous technology. The company is committed to collaboratively building Open Source platforms that enable other researchers to more easily replicate and build on results. Willow Garage is contributing to the tools and infrastructure that will facilitate the growth of a robotics business ecosystem. As a privately-funded company, Willow Garage research is not influenced by military contracts, allowing us to focus solely on helping people and the environment.

Ioan Sucan of Rice University and Radu Rusu of TU München demo dynamic obstacle avoidance on the Willow Garage PR2 prototype. The demonstration includes real-time 3D mapping coupled with sampling-based motion planning.

World´s First Robot Theme Park in South Korea


South Korea will spend about US$1.05 billion to build two robot theme parks as part of a drive to nurture the robotics industry as a new growth engine, officials said on Thursday. The Ministry of Knowledge Economy said it would build the world's first robot theme park by the end of 2013 in Incheon, a port city west of Seoul. The government said it has set aside 784.5 billion won (US$559 million) for the Incheon park, to be called 'Robot Land.' Construction would begin later this year, it added.

The second theme park will be built in the southern industrial city of Masan although detailed plans have yet to be drawn up, it said.
The two parks - requiring a total of 1.48 trillion won from local and central governments - will help create 18,000 jobs and boost the competitiveness of the robot industry.

Korea has been eyeing the robotics industry as a future growth engine, as robots have been widely used in the nation's key industries including automobiles, flat panel displays, semiconductors and shipbuilding industries.
The government is now putting more emphasis on developing service robots that help clean homes and provide entertainment.

Kim Hong-seok, chief research engineer at the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology, said the service robot market is expected to be worth between $17 billion and $50 billion by 2012, in a recent report.
(Source: Korean Herald Feb 13, 2009)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Robotics Handbook Wins “Oscar of Scientifc Publishing”

9 months after its publication, the Robotics Handbook was recognized with the PROSE Award in the Engineering & Technology Category, as well as with the Award for Excellence in the overall Physical Sciences & Mathematics Category.

Key Topics

  • Robotics foundations
  • Robot structures
  • Sensing and perception
  • Manipulation and interfaces
  • Mobile and distributed robotics
  • Field and service robotics
  • Human-centered and life-like robotics

Features

  • Comprehensive coverage of research and development in robotics
  • Scientific resource for both experts and non experts in the field
  • Technical contents laid out in a tutorial setting
  • A coherent three-layer organization: robotics foundations, consolidated methodologies and technologies, advanced applications
  • Anchored in seven parts expanded into sixty-four chapters with interconnected presentation of subject matter
  • Developed in about 1650 pages with over 950 color illustrations including422 four-color, 80 tables and over 5500 references
  • Detailed index and fully searchable DVD-ROM providing rapid access todata and links to other source

Springer Handbook of Robotics
Siciliano, Bruno; Khatib, Oussama (Eds.)
2008, LX, 1611 p. 1375 illus., 422 in color. With DVD., Hardcover
ISBN: 978-3-540-23957-4

Online version available

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Technology Visions

Personal Robots

"In the not-too-distant future, we will have personal robots just like we have personal computers today. The robots of the future will be generalists. They will be employed in a large variety of tasks that require a lot more smarts and autonomy than is currently possible. They will have the ability to learn how to perform new tasks on their own without human intervention."

Alexander Stoytchev, Assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Iowa State University, Jan 30, 2009

The Law of Accelerating Returns

An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense "intuitive linear" view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century -- it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). The "returns," such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There's even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity -- technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.

Ray Kurzweil, inventor and futurist, March 7, 2001

Ray Kurzweil Technology Predictions:

2010:

  • Supercomputers will have the same raw power as human brains (although not yet the equivalently flexible software).
  • Computers will disappear as distinct physical objects, meaning many will have nontraditional shapes and/or will be embedded in clothing and everyday objects.
  • Full-immersion audio-visual virtual reality will exist.

2014:

  • Automatic house cleaning robots will have become common

2018:

  • 10^13 bits of computer memory--roughly the equivalent of the memory space in a single human brain

2020:

  • Personal computers will have the same processing power as human brains

New Assistant Robot from Japan

Waseda University in Tokyo unveiled its updated assistant robot, named Twendy-One, showcasing the robot's ability to pick up even the most difficult of objects.

The collaborative efforts of the University of Tokyo, Toyota, Fujitsu, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Sega and Olympus under the auspices of IRT, (Robot Technology Research Technology Initiative) have formed a Home Assistant Robot Project. The robot is 61-inches in height by 25.6-inches wide with a depth of 31.31-inches.

The robot is equipped with a wide-angle stereo camera, a telephoto stereo camera and ultra-sensitive sensors. AR operates on a two-wheel drive base with balancing wheels. The battery life is estimated to run 30-minutes to 1-hour. The robot can sweep the floor, pick up a tray of dirty dishes, move them to the sink, load up the dishwasher, move chairs, put dirty clothes in the washer and more. More demo movies

Infonaut Trendwatch - Ambient Assisted Living

Many new concepts and solutions have been developed focusing on the living environment and facilities like Smart Homes, Smart Living, Connected Homes, Home Networking, Independent Living and Assistive Living. New services like E-Health, E-Care and Telecare are under development and the results are promising even when learning curves and investments are still high.

The concept of Ambient Assisted Living (AAL), launched in 2006 by the EU as part of its “Aging Well in the Information Society” Action Plan, focuses on aging people and their real needs based on a conceptual framework of ageing in a life course perspective.

AAL is now promoted by the European Union and more than 25 national governments to develop assistive technology that can support elderly people to live longer and better in their homes and to stay in touch with their families, friends and caregivers.

The AAL Joint Programme is initially a six-year funding programme (2008 – 2013), with a planned total budget of about 700m €, of which 50% is public funding and 50% private funding from the participating organizations. The public funding consists of contributions from the AAL partner states (approx. 210m €) and from the European Community (max. 150m €) for the duration of the AAL Joint Programme.

Infonaut has recently started to watch facts, trends and business opportunities in Ambient Assited Living. For more information please visit Infonauts AAL-blog or contact Infonaut.