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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Next Generation Robotics from Norway

The future developments of the marine industries and infrastructure require new structures and facilities such as vessels with higher speed for transport, deep-water operations and sea-farms in more exposed sites than at present.

Underwater Robot Arm for 3000 kg lift
In January 2010 a team of Norwegian Seabed Rig demonstrated autonomous grasping and real-time control of an underwater robot arm designed to lift 3000 kg, one of the most powerful robot arms in the world. The arm is being controlled by patented Actin control software from Energid , which simplifies development and allows for smooth, safe, intelligent control. The arm is coupled with a novel underactuated hand being developed by Stanford University.The hand is inherently compliant—allowing it to wrap around a variety of objects without relying on a priori knowledge of the objects’ geometry.

The arm and hand are designed to operate on an autonomous undersea oil rig being created by Seabed Rig for oil exploration in ultra-deep and arctic regions. Seabed Rig is developing this innovative sea bed drilling rig to carry out cost-effective drilling from a location at the sea bed, at deep waters and in arctic areas. The Seabed Rig is unmanned with automated and robotized working operations that are remotely controlled from an interactive 3D interface.

World’s smallest unmanned aircraft systems
On February 1st Prox Dynamics lifted off its eighth prototype, Hornet-4a, a 16 grams aircraft with an enclosed aerodynamic body and a complete set of flight sensors, GPS and a nose mounted camera. The micro UAV has been flown outside in sub zero temperatures, and has achieved more than 20 minutes endurance with all systems running.

The PD-100 Black Hornet is the first Personal Unmanned Aircraft System to be developed for military use. It will provide soldiers with their own immediate Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability for operations indoors, in confined areas and even outdoors.
A complete system comprises three ready to fly 15 grams nanocopters located inside the pocket sized Ground Control Station. Total weight of the system will be less than one kg. Expected operational early 2011.

Center for Advanced Robotics
The Norwegian oil and gas company StatoilHydro has cooperated with SINTEF and the Norwegian Univ. of Science And Technology (NTNU) since 2007 and financed the Gemini Center for Advanced Robotics in Trondheim. A new concept for a remotely operated oil & gas platform located offshore is developed including research on robotics and instrumentation systems for the new platform. The goal is to develop this platform within 2015.

Snake Robots for rescue and fire fighting mission
WheeKo is a snake robot with passive wheels, developed at NTNU and SINTEF. Pål Liljebäck is the designer and creator of this robot.

Next Generation Robotics for Norwegian Industry
Since 2009 Norwegian industry and SINTEF work together to develop enabling technology for next generation robotics for the Norwegian industry. The five year 36 million NOK project will run until 2014 and is co-financed by the Research Council of Norway and the industrial partners.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Philips Helping Robot Arm

(Image: Philips Applied Technologies)

Dutch R&D company Philips Applied Technologies (PAT) is developing a new robot technology that allows people to safely benefit from robot assistance in a wide range of human-interaction applications. The company has demonstrated a people-friendly robot arm that could be a helping hand for many people in the future.

The company lists elderly, disabled people, care providers, doctors and factory workers as potential users. Wheelchair bound people could use the the robot arm to open doors or perform other tasks, allowing more independent living. Even factory workers could be assisted by a robot arm, either so that they can work more efficiently and cost-effectively, or so that they can avoid the need for expensive safety measures.

PAT is a contract R&D organization and supports all phases of the innovation process, from concept, design, engineering to mass production. The company supports Philips and external customers such as market leaders, fast growing companies and start-ups.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Danish Prime Minister tests Exoskeleton HAL

(Image: Danish Ambassy in Tokyo)

The Danish Prime Minster Lars Løkke Rasmussen (right) has recently paid a working visit to Japan. During his stay he met with Prof. Sankai, inventor and founder of Cyberdyne (center), the manufacturer of exoskeleton HAL. The Prime Minister got a demonstration and was also testing the robotic device supervised by Danish robotisist Prof. Henrik Hautop Lund (left).

Denmark and Japan have established close robotics relations in recent years. In 2008 Denmark signed an agreement with Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) to purcase 1,000 therapeutic robots (Paro) for use in health care facilities. 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.

Cyberdyne has recently signed for collaboration with Rehabilitation Center in Odense for starting a project funded by the Danish Government. "HAL" will be introduced to a rehabilitation center in Odense University Hospital for clinical trials regarding worker augmentation.

(Tokyo 2010-03-08)

€ 1,9 Million for Farming Robots

Denmark is leading in farming robotics and has started a new project called ASETA. The main scientific long term objective of ASETA is fully automated surveying and targeted treatment of crops to substantially reduce the environmental impact of farming chemicals and fuel.

ASETA brings together roboticists, agricultural engineers, and biologists to develop a team of cooperating autonomous vehicles for surveying and targeted treatment of crops. Surveillance is based on small unmanned helicopters equipped with a range of sensors, including multispectral and thermal cameras. Data collected are transmitted to a ground station, which analyses the data and triggers aerial and ground-based vehicles to start close inspection and plant treatment in specified areas.

ASETA is a cooperation between Aalborg University (AAU), Life at Copenhagen University, Nordic Beet Research, and Green Support Services at Copenhagen University. In the project the focus is on sugar beets and perennial weeds. AAU is responsible for coordination and for the airborne vehicles, Life is responsible for image processing and ground vehicles, Nordic Beet Research for contact to manufacturers and consumers and for proper demonstration and testing conditions, while Green Supports Services provides properly maintained and cultivated test fields.

The project is funded by The Danish Council for Strategic Research as grant 09-067027 with a total of 14.3 mill DKK (€1,9M). It started in January 2010 and will end in December 2013. There are 6 faculty staff, 1 techical staff, 1 post doc, and 3 PhD students directly involved in the project. Also, 5 foreign guest researchers will participate.

There will be a public, live demonstration of the project concept in the summer or fall 2013 at Green Support Services in Taastrup, Denmark.

Friday, March 19, 2010

€ 600 Million for European Robotics Research

The European Robotics Research Program with start year 2000 has involved more than 900 participants in over 120 projects with a total funding of € 600 million. EU has contributed with appr. € 450 million. More than 6.000 man-months have been funded in cognitive vision, cognitive systems, advanced robotics and interaction projects.

Within the FP7 (2007-2013) about 50 new projects have been launched, of these are 19 related to Call 4. Research topics span from bio-inspired locomotion, motor control, dexterous manipulation, haptics and robot vision, to human-robot interaction and sensor networks.

According to a recent Global Robotics Analysis conduced by Infonaut nearly 50% of the world's robotics researchers are from Europe. Germany, UK, France, Italy and Spain are the leading robotics research countries with totally 5.000 researchers.

A network analysis of the European robotics research community shows the dominance of a small group of high ranked researchers, who are driving the European robotics research agenda and its scientific outcomes.

The great challenge for the coming years will be to transfer scientific knowledge and technology faster and more competitive into new products and solutions that can strengthen European industry and contribute to sustainable growth and prosperity in Europe.

European robotics is aware of this challenge as demonstrated at the first joint EUROP/EURON meeting in San Sebastian, where academia and industry discussed plans to speed up European robotics research and development.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Robotics Training Network offers 10 research positions

The INTeractive RObotics Research Network, INTRO, a 4-year EU funded Initial Training Network (ITN) in the Marie-Curie People Programme (FP7) coordinated by the University of Umea, Sweden is offering 10 research positions (8 PhD student positions starting in 2010 and 2 post-doctoral positions starting in 2011) in the interdisciplinary areas of Interactive Robotics; Cooperative Robot Learning, Cognitive Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) and Intelligent Interface Design.

INTRO aims to create a new generation of robotic researchers with a broad understanding of the research and technologies needed to build intelligent robots that function in close interaction with humans in unstructured, changing “real word” conditions. The training has a strong multidisciplinary approach complemented by specialized domain knowledge. Young researchers will work closely with industries, endowing them with insight and understanding of the industrial product life-cycle and valuable hands-on experience of top-level industrial robot development.

Academic and industrial partners in this network are coming from Sweden, Israel, Germany, Belgium, France and UK.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


For the first time both EUROP and EURON held their annual meetings during the same period and at the same location - San Sebastian, Spain. Both EUROP and EURON members welcome this opportunity for exchange and communication of ideas among their members. This move facilitated EUROP and EURON's joint collaboration efforts in organising workshops during the first common day.

The first workshop was on real technical problems and the other workshop was about social challenges. The conclusion after the two workshops was that more technical details and more problem description from the product visions are needed.

Tackling societal challenges such as aging society, climate change and sustainable manufacturing very concrete descriptions of product visions are needed for an upcoming position paper prepared by EUROP.

For information about the Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) for robotics in Europe visit EUROP´s SRA webpage where you also can download a copy for free.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Robots at the 2010 World Expo

Robots will be one high-tech attraction at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. They will support and amuse visitors by serving a cup of coffee, play music and perform kungfu. Shanghai Yingsi Software Technical Co. Ltd. has developed various kinds of robots that will demonstrate state-of-the-art Chinese robotics.
The Institute of Robotics at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University will demonstrate intelligent wheelchairs that will allow people to use speech, sign language and even brainwaves to command the robots, Also a virtual robot called Dr. Haibao will be accessible via computer or phone, offering pavilion programs, the weather, and location information for lost visitors.

Swisslog enters US mobile robot market

Swisslog, a leading provider of automated materials transport and pharmacy automation solutions for hospitals, announced Feb 2010 that it has entered the autonomous mobile robot market with the introduction of Swisslog SpeciMinder and Swisslog RoboCourier in North America.

SpeciMinder and RoboCourier will be manufactured for Swisslog by CCS Robotics, Inc., widely
recognized as a national leader in the development of autonomous mobile robots for commercial applications within hospitals and laboratories. SpeciMinder robots produced by CCS Robotics have been in use in major medical facilities for the past three years.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Swiss Fibre-optic Robot cuts costs

Swisscom has won the FTTH (Fibre to the Home) Council Europe Innovation Award in the Deployment & Operation Innovations category for developing a robot to enable simple and fast expansion of the fibre-optic network. Up to 50 per cent of the underground engineering work involved in laying the fibre-optic network can be avoided thanks to the robot. Swisscom's innovation is helping to speed up fibre-optic expansion in Switzerland and cut costs.

One robot is already being used to build the fibre-optic network. Five more will follow from April 2010. Both Swisscom and its cooperation partners stand to benefit from their use in expanding the fibre-optic network. The robot is to be used as often as possible in the future, not just to expand the fibre-optic network, but to repair the existing network too. Other network construction companies can also use the fibre-optic robots. Bex-based Plumettaz SA, an international specialist in cable-laying products, is set to take on the job of sales and marketing of the robot with immediate effect.

Music Robot plays with Humans

The Robotic Musicianship Group at the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology develops meaningful musical interactions between humans and machines, leading to novel musical experiences and outcomes.

Shimon, the second robotic member of Robotic Musicianship Group, is designed to play the marimba. It utilizes melodic and harmonic perception and improvisation algorithms, adding to the rhythmic improvisation approach taken by Haile, Georgia Tech’s first robotic drummer. Shimon is designed create rich acoustic sound and to provide communicative social cues to its human counterparts. The robot’s head provides fellow musicians visual cues that represent social-musical elements, from beat detection and tonality, to attention and spatial interaction.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

€ 3 Million for European Care Robot

A 10 partner consortium coordinated by the Manufacturing Engineering Centre (MEC), Cardiff University, UK will start a R&D project to develop a remotely-controlled, semi-autonomous robotic solutions in domestic environments to support elderly people. In particular, the project will demonstrate an innovative, practical and efficient system called “SRS robot” for personalised home care.

The care robot wil be designed to act as a "shadow" of its controller. For example, elderly parents can have a robot as a shadow of their children or carers. In this case, adult children or carers can help them remotely and physically with tasks such as getting up or going to bed, doing the laundry and setting up ICT equipment etc. as if the children or carers were resident in the house.

This objective will be realised by the following SRS innovations:

A new intent-based remote control mechanism to enable the robots to be tele-operated over a real-world communication network robustly.

An adaptive autonomy mechanism to enable a highly efficient task execution for remotely controlled service robots.

A new robotic self-learning mechanism to enable the robots to learn from their experience.

A safety-oriented framework derived through extensive usability and user acceptance studies that enable service robots to be effectively deployed into home care applications.

The prototypes created in this project will be tested at the “S.Maria Nascente” Centre in Milano and the IZA Care Center in San Sebastián. The final solution will be further developed by Hewlett-Packard and other industrial partners of the consortium for a worldwide market with significant potential and volume.

The € 3 Million research project is supported by EC funding from the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The project comprises partners from Bulgaria, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Interactive Music Robot

This piece is a joint performance created by Infonaut and Quartet is an Internet Interactive Kenetic Musical robotinstrument.

The interactive music robot was developed by art roboticists Jeff Lieberman and Dan Paluska and consists of three robotic musical instruments and an installation visitor. The division of labor is simple: the user inputs a musical motif, software composes a work, and the robot orchestra delivers the performance (though one that turns out to be a highly complex affair). The five-centimeter-wide bars of a marimba are bombarded with balls fired from several meters away, robot fingers dexterously draw melodies out of a wine-glass organ, and an unconventional percussion section provides the rhythm.

The musicrobot Quartet is hosted by the Ars Electronics Center (AEC) in Linz Austria, where visitors can create their own song live, which will automatically posted to YouTube. The music robot can even be accessed via Internet.