Robotland Bookstore

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Robot Festival 2010 at EPFL

Robot Festival 2010 at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) May 29-30, includes 25 robotics demonstrations and performances among them humanoid ASIMO and Robot Dance with four industrial robots.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Home Robot Visions from iRobot

iRobot CEO and co-founder Colin Angle told recently in an interview about his company´s plans in the senior home healthcare arena. Angel is facing an elderly care crisis in the next 20 years, because of shortage of care personal. Elderly live longer and will need more help at home such as vacuum cleaning, helping out of bed, getting dressed, getting to the bathroom. Angle talks about a "robot buddy" that he can call and activate to drive around in his mothers home to make sure that his mother is OK. Instead of sensor based home surveillance he proposes a mobile platform for on-demand virtual visits and social interaction via videoconferencing.

Angel´s view is that the development of the technology platform has to be funded by government agencies before companies can start industrializing for low-cost production and mass marketing via retail and online.

A market boost may be the US the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS), which is a mechanism to reimburse people staying at home for technology and services that allow them to stay at home. This will create a great economic opportunity for companies that can deliver cost-effective solutions for independent living.

Angel´s vision of a telepresence robot is not new. Already in 2007 iRobot had launched ConnectR a telepresence robot but it was not practical enough to meet user expectations. Meanwhile competing telepresence systems have established on the market as reported here before but if they will succeed in the long run is an open question. Many technical, legal and ethical issues have to be considered before mobile videorobots can enter elderly´s homes.

Angel´s vision of a robot buddy isn´t new either. Joe Engelberger, the father of robotics, considered in Discovermagazine, March 2000 "a household robot to be an appliance--one that cooks and cleans, offers an arm, handles security, fetches and carries, does my bidding in response to natural language, and carries out the kind of a conversation that an 85-year-old person does. We can do that right now."

10 years after Engelbergers over-optimistic statement the step from a mobile telepresence robot to an intelligent home buddy that can do real homework is still huge. Despite great research efforts, technological advances and promising prototypes it seems that it will take many years, before household robots can help elderly to stay independent.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Robotic Mannequin for Virtual Fitting Room

The most advanced robotic mannequin for online shoppers comes so far from Estonia! Researchers from the Intelligent Materials and Systems Laboratory of Institute of Technology, University of Tartu, and the Center of Biorobotics at Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia have developed a robot robotic mannequins to mimic the shape and size of online shoppers.

At a virtual fitting room for online clothing retailers gives online shoppers a tool to try clothes before buying. After the customer has entered their body measurements, they can see the fit of a clothing item – like in the real-life fitting room. The robotic mannequin is used to mimic the shape and size of the customer and the customer can see photos of the mannequin wearing different sizes of clothing.

The world’s first Virtual Fitting Room for online clothing retailers was recently launched in partnership with Hawes & Curtis, the leading UK specialized business and luxury shirt retailer.

Automated mannequins have been introduced in Japan first by Japanese Flower Robotics and have been available for purchase or rental since 2009. Available in two styles, full body and upper torso, the “Palette” mannequins carry sensors that can detect people around them, turn towards them, and assume appropriate positions. The robot mannequins are equipped with “intelligent systems” that record audience reactions and help them learn over time which poses are likely to generate a positive response. “Motion design software” also allows the people in charge to design and program a specific series of poses.

In 2010 the cardboard robot mannequin D+Ropop was launched by Japanese Eager s the worlds first eco-friendly robot. Besides using recycled materials, the system has a number of benefits which include: lower cost, light weight (4kg); printable surfaces allow company logos to be displayed; customizable motion routines; and a variety of configurations.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Global Robotics Brain 2010

The Global Robotics Brain 2010 is a unique tool for robotics research and analysis developed and maintained by Wolfgang Heller, Infonaut AB.
The Global Robotics Brain is a unique information database including more than 20.000 robotics research and development organizations, 33.000 links to people, projects and publications. The database includes also more than 8.000 web links, 2.400 notes and 120 tags.
For a short introduction click on the image below.

A free, fully functional trial web version of the Global Robotics Brain 2010 is available. Please join by signing up for the beta list.
Global Robotics Brain 2010 is developed with Personal Brain 5 from TheBrain Technologies.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Robots at the 2010 World Expo

Image: Toyota
The Japan Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo attracted thousands of visitors on Saturday, officials said. At the peak, people waited in line for as long as four hours to gain entry to the pavilion, one of the most popular attractions at the Expo. Visitors said they were impressed by exhibits featuring Japan’s latest robot technologies represented by Toyota's Partner Robot aimed to support people's activities by helping out with nursing and medical care and with housework. Its humanoid form and ability to walk on two legs makes it easier for people accept and bond with. The joints of the hands and arms are coordinated by a sophisticated control mechanism, allowing delicate, human-like movements. As part of the pre-show, the Partner Robot is playing the violin. This virtuoso performance demonstrates the level of Toyota's research and development, which have produced a robot that, in addition to walking on two legs, can accurately finger the violin's strings and move the bow across them to make music.

Chinese Robot Restaurant
At the Shanghai Corporate Joint Pavilion, an eco-building with intelligent technologies, dream-like atmospheres, and interactive experiences, the visitors are welcomed by Performance Robots at the entrance of the pavilion. Inside the pavilion is a brand new "robot restaurant" where all the meals are cooked by an intelligent robot system without any human chefs at all. There is a grand buffet but not free.

Two robots at a restaurant serve dishes from different parts of China for 50 yuan (US$7.33) per person. Four dishes -- chicken cubes in chili sauce, shredded beef with green pepper, sauteed shelled shrimps and shredded meat with beans, are available to visitors. The robots can make 10 dishes every five minutes. A 50 yuan set meal includes two of the four dishes and refreshments in a restaurant seating 50 people. The pavilion invited chefs from different provinces to cook the dishes and every step was programmed into the robots. The chefs found that the dishes made by the robots tasted the same as the ones they had made themselves, according to a staff member in the restaurant. Visitors need only press some buttons to select dishes and the robots collect ingredients, add sauces and seasonings and cook them while diners watch the process.

Haibao Robots
Thirty-seven 1.55-meter tall Haibao robots are helping visitors at the World Expo. The robots have touch screens on their chests to answer inquiries about Expo and transport in six languages, and they can even take photos for visitors. The Haibao robots will be located at Shanghai's two international airports and at the entrances of some major Expo venues.

Infonaut will report directly from the Shanghai World Expo between May 24-27.

Robot boat in search of toxic bacteria at Lake Zurich

Image: ETHZ
Reseachers from the Zurich Limnological Station at the University of Zurich, and from the Autonomous Systems Lab at ETH Zurich will run a 3 years multi-disciplinary project to provide unprecedented spatial and temporal coverage of key limnological parameters of Lake Zurich for a better understanding of the mass occurrence and population dynamics of the toxic cyanobacterium P. rubescens. The team will develop a Autonomous Boat equipped with a variety of sensors (temperature, pH, light, oxygen, nutrients, and algal pigments) to allow for the high-frequency monitoring of cyanobacterial spatiotemporal distribution. In parallel, the researchers will develop and apply methods to rapidly assess the contribution of toxic strains to the P. rubescens population.
The project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Investing in Robot Stocks

In 2003 Rodney Brooks, co-founder of iRobot, gave a TED-talk predicting "robots will invade our lives". In 2007 Bill Gates predicted in Scientific America the robotics industry as the "next PC industry". Roboticists in Japan, South Korea, USA and Europe predict that robots will enter our homes and do everything from vacuum cleaning, dish washing, cooking, monitoring children and elderly in the near future. A multi billion growth industry is expected to develop in the next couple of years, but no one can say with any certainty when this will happen. So far, the number of robotics companies traded at the stock market are few and dominated by industrial robotics , only a few are related to service or consumer robotics.

Investing in robotics stocks has been a disappointment so far as shown in the stock graph below. In the last five years leading consumer robotics company iRobot (IRBT) has lost 45 percent of its stock value. Even industrial robotics companies such as Japanese Fanuc (6506), German KUKA (KU2) or US Adept (ADEP) have lost value caused by financial crisis and recession starting in 2007-08.
Source: Google Finance
But one robotic stock that did very well during the recession is Intutitive Surgical the global technology leader in robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgery (MIS). The Company's da Vinci® Surgical System offers surgeons superior visualization, enhanced dexterity, greater precision and ergonomic comfort for the optimal performance of MIS. In June 2003 the share was trading at $6.02, now it is trading around $ 360.
Source: Google Finance