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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

XOS 2 - Next Generation Exoskeleton

US Raytheon (NYSE: RTN) unveiled its second generation Exoskeleton (XOS 2) at its research facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, during a demonstration with Paramount Home Entertainment. The new robotic suit is lighter, faster and stronger than its predecessor, yet it uses 50 percent less power. Its enhanced design also means that it is more resistant to the environment. 
Raytheon’s Exoskeleton has been called the real “Iron Man” suit because of its ability to enhance the wearer’s strength and endurance in a way that is reminiscent of Tony Stark’s high-tech suit in the films. The XOS 2 was unveiled to coincide with September 28th release of Iron Man 2 on Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment.

Raytheon Company, together with its subsidiaries, develops products, services and solutions in defense markets; sensing, effects, command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I), and mission support, as well as the cybersecurity and homeland security markets. 

(Source/Image: Raytheon)

Berkeley Bionics announced a press conference on Thursday, October 7 at 10:30am PST to unveil a brand new exoskeleton

€780 Million for Strategic ICT Research in 2011

The European Commission has announced Sept 27th, one of the biggest calls ever for information and communications technology (ICT) research proposals under the EU's research framework programmes. The announcement was made at Europe's largest event for ICT research and innovation, ICT 2010-Digitally Driven. It will result in project funding of € 780 million in 2011. This funding will advance research on the future internet, robotics, smart and embedded systems, photonics, ICT for energy efficiency, health and well-being in an ageing society, and more. Under the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200), the Commission has committed to maintaining the pace of a 20% yearly increase of the annual ICT R&D budget at least until 2013.
More than 100 groundbreaking (ICT) research projects funded by the EU are being showcased at the "ICT 2010-Digitally Driven" conference and exhibition in Brussels Expo, among them the project “Kompaï the robot” and iCub. 
The Kompaï robot is designed to assist ill, disabled or ageing people who need help to lead independent lives at home. The robot can speak, understand what is said, find its way around the house, and even access internet services. It reminds users of meetings with friends and family, it can keep track of shopping lists or set up a videoconference on the internet so the users can talk to their doctors. French company Robosoft has designed Kompaï. Other research partners are from Austria, France and Hungary.

iCub can sit, crawl and pick up objects with its five-fingered hands. By watching, listening and touching, the robot learns from its surroundings – just like a child would. There is a growing need for household robots with cognitive skills to tackle the challenge of the ageing society. Assistive robots need to perform household chores like bringing medicine or serving a drink to help the elderly or physically impaired. More than 20 laboratories in the world have adopted iCub. The project was carried out by universities and research centres in Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Universal Robotics Makes Robots Learn Faster

Universal Robotics, Inc. unveiled its flagship technology, Neocortex™, a revolutionary, patent-protected software that that allows machines to learn from their experiences in the physical world. Launched at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ (CSCMP) Annual Global Conference in San Diego, California, Neocortex makes flexible automation in unstructured environments possible for the first time.
“With Neocortex, we’ve given industrial robots the ability to adapt and react to the world around them and execute tasks in an ever-changing environment, said David Peters, CEO of Universal Robotics. “With this ability to learn, machines will be implemented in revolutionary ways across industries.”
Neocortex has been in development since 2001. It was created at Vanderbilt University with funding from DARPA and NASA and developed using Robonaut, NASA’s humanoid robot.
Unlike traditional automation, in which machines are pre-programmed with movements and tasks to execute, Neocortex allows a robot to learn how to complete a task. Once the task is learned, the machine observes its environment through more than 50 channels of sensor data. Drawing on what it learned from previous experiences, the Neocortex-enabled robot changes its actions as necessary in real time to complete the task.
Universal Robotics partnered with Yaskawa / Motoman Robotics, the world leader in industrial robots, to provide a hardware/machine intelligence work cell solution that features Neocortex software, Motoman’s SDA-series robots, custom box moving end effectors and a suite of sensors, including Universal’s recently launched easy-to-use 3D vision system Spatial Vision.

New CMU Robotic Systems Development Master´s Program

Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute is offering a new master's degree program in robotic systems development that will provide beginning and early-entry practicing professionals with the multidisciplinary skills and know-how needed to succeed in industry. Graduates of this program will be capable of operating at a higher technical/managerial level within a company, making them extremely desirable job candidates.
Hagen Schempf, a principal systems scientist in the Robotics Institute, is director of the new master's degree program. According to Schempf the master's degree in robotic systems development (MRSD) will be useful for anyone who seeks to be a high-tech manager, regardless of whether that position is in the robotics or automation fields.

The degree program, which will begin in fall 2011, includes two full-time semesters on campus followed by a seven-month internship with an affiliated industrial partner active in robotics or automation markets. The curriculum includes instruction in the broad array of robotic sciences and technologies, hands-on project courses and seminar-style business and management courses. 

For further details on the program, please visit 

VIBOT - New European Master´s Program in Vision and Robotics

The European Master´s in Vision and Robotics - VIBOT - aims to provide qualifications for entry into the professions in the area of robotics, computer vision, image processing and medical imaging either in public laboratory or private research company. 
Over 4 semesters (120 ECTS), the students attend three universities, where all the classes will be taught in English. An introduction to Scottish, Spanish and French culture and language will be proposed to the students.
The student population will be between 30 and 40 per year. The average ratio professor/student relation is approximately 1:5.

The  (VIBOT) is a collaboration between the Université de Bourgogne (Le Creusot, France), the Universitat de Girona(Girona, Spain) and Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh, Scotland).  
Official Project Summary download.

US$ 3 Million for Robotics Teams

Google has finally announced the winners of Google's Project 10^100 and will provide $3 million to develop and jump start new student-driven robotics team fundraising programs that will empower more student teams to participate in FIRST - a non-profit organization that promotes science and math education around the world through team competition. Its mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by giving them real world experience working with professional engineers and scientists. FIRST, founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wearable Agri Robot Suit from Japan

Manual labor is becoming more and more difficult for Japan's aging farmers, prompting Prof. Shigeki Toyama of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology's Graduate School of Engineering to develop an exoskeleton to enhance the bodies of the farmers themselves.

The robot suit weighs about 18 kilograms (39.6 pounds). The researchers aim to reduce the weight to about 6 kilograms (13.2 pounds) by using lighter ultrasonic wave motors. They hope to begin selling the suits two years from now for about 500,000 yen (about US$5,830) each.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dancing Robot Swan

The Dying Swan turns smooth and gentle, sometimes dramatic and fiery as the Tchaikovsky's majestic music from the ballet Swan Lake is playing. But this is no ordinary ballet dancer, but a robot in the form of a swan, created at Mälardalen University and choreographed by professional dancer Åsa Unander-Scharin. On September 23 to 26 displayed swan robot for the first time to the public in Sweden's largest book fair in Gothenburg.

"We would like to explore where the boundaries of what a robot can do, what human expression that can take and how it affects people's perception of the robot when it appears in art and dance, "says Lars Asplund, Professor of Computer Science at Mälardalen University in Västerås. He has designed the approximately one meter tall dancing swan on the basis of a robot that was previously a thesis student of robotics, Alexander Larsson. The robot swan is built by a so-called modular system and in the white wings, neck, beak and feet are a total of 19 different joints, which makes it very flexible.

The idea for the dancing robot hatched jointly by Lars Asplund and his colleague Kerstin Gauffin, who works with theater at Mälardalen University. "With our tail, we are showing that we can use robots in new ways: simply because they are beautiful and give the audience experiences, "says Kerstin Gauffin, who wants to see robots play theater venues along with" ordinary "actors.
Source: MDH,

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

€ 3,87 million for Social Robot Assistant

Europe is investing more research money in "social robotics" convinced that robots can help to face the strong demographic changes in Europe, where more and more elderly people live alone in their homes or in nursing or elderly care homes, with different levels of autonomy.

The latest initiative is a partnership among 20 European states, the European Union and a number of private enterprises that has launched a three-year, Euro 3, 87 million project to make robots capable of serving as adaptable, interactive, and above all safe assistants for elderly people. The research project, known as ALIAS, places special emphasis on maintaining social networks, warding off feelings of loneliness and isolation, and increasing activities that may protect and enhance cognitive capabilities. ALIAS is a project associated with the Cluster of Excellence CoTeSys (Cognition for Technical Systems) and will widen the competencies of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) in the area of social robotics.
Image/Source: TU Munich

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Japanese Humanoid Update

Kawada Industries and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have updated their 10-year-old line of HRP humanoid robots with an athletic machine they hope to develop into a menial worker. The blue and white humanoid -- named HRP-4 -- stands 1.51 meters (5 ft) tall and it weights  39 kg, 4 kg less than last year's entertainment-oriented HRP-4C fembotKawada and AIST plan to begin selling the robots to universities and research institutions in January 2011 at a starting price of 26 million yen ($305,000) each.
[Sources: Nikkei, AIST] via pinktentacle]

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

US-French Assistive Robot

US start-up Hoaloha Robotics and French Robosoft announce on an agreement to work collaboratively on the design of a socially assistive robot that can enable individuals who require assistive care to address the challenges to daily living that may come as the result of chronic illness, injury, or aging and empower individuals live more independently, with dignity, and at more sustainable costs.

Robosoft is a pioneer in advanced service robotic solutions addressing high value markets such as automatic transportation, cleaning, security, health and research. In 2006, ROBOSOFT introduced the robuBOX®, based on Microsoft Robotics Studio. The market for assistive robots is one of the most likely opportunities for the emerging personal robotics industry,” says Vincent Dupourqué, CEO of Robosoft. 
With an increasing population needing assistive, rising costs, and shrinking available resources, defining solutions address this challenge is the primary objective for Hoaloha Robotics,” says Tandy Trower, CEO of Hoaloha Robotics. “Teaming up with Robosoft and their experience in robotics is a perfect complement to the software and services that Hoaloha is developing.
Hoaloha Robotics was founded in 2010 by Tandy Trower, an experienced, long-time executive in the personal computer industry and a leader and proponent of user centered design. Having founded Microsoft’s robotics initiative, he has also been a featured speaker at conferences and events on the market and opportunities for emerging robotics technology.  His goal is to create a $5k-10k personal robot in the next five-to-ten years that can address the needs of older adults, such as telepresence activities and other healthcare tasks. 

$ 25 Billion Global Robot Sales in 2009

According to new statistics from International Federation of Robotics, IFR, the total value of the global robotics market up to the end 2009 was about $ 25 billion. The value of the 60.000 industrial robots sold in 2009, a decline of 47%, including software, peripherals and system engineering is estimated to $ 12 billion.

The value of the 76,000 professional service robots sold in 2009 is estimated to  $13.2 billion. Defense applications with 23,200 units, accounted for 30% of the total number of service robots for professional use sold up to the end of 2009. Thereafter follow field robots (mainly milking robots) with 25%, cleaning robots and medical robots with 8% each and underwater systems with 7%. Construction and demolition robots and mobile robot platforms for general use (6%, each) logistic systems (5%) and rescue and security applications (4%) come in the next ranges. Minor installation numbers were counted for inspection systems and public relation robots.

About 5.6 million service robots for domestic use and about 3.1 million units for entertainment and leisure were sold up to end of 2009

Projections for the period 2010-2013
A strong recovery of worldwide robot installations in 2010 will result in an increase of about 27% or about 76,000 units. IFR estimates 102,200 installations in 2013. 

The stock of service robots for professional use is forecast to increase to some 80,000 units. Application areas with strong growth are defence, rescue and security applications, field robots, logistic systems, inspection robots, medical robots and mobile robot platforms for multiple use.

About 11.4 million units of service robots for personal use to be sold. It is projected that sales of all types of domestic robots (vacuum cleaning, lawn-mowing, window cleaning and other types) in the period 2010-2013 could reach some 6.7 million units. The market for entertainment and leisure robots, which includes toy robots, is forecast at about 4.6 million units, most of which, of course, are very low cost.

World Robotics 2010 Industrial Robots and Service Robots can be ordered at

Festo awarded with German Future Prize

Taking inspiration from nature, Festo has developed the Bionic Handling Assistant modeled on an elephant’s trunk. It is an adaptable assistance system that allows man and machine to interact effectively as a team and without risk. What makes the Bionic Handling Assistant system so unique is its safe and compliant behavior. Conventional systems and industrial robots are not compliant. They are designed for stiffness, resulting in heavy configurations that are not entirely without danger for the operator. Contact between man and robot is only possible with permanently installed safety devices such as protective screens or the use of costly shielding.

Partnership between Festo and Fraunhofer IPA

Festo has been chiefly responsible for the development and design of the Bionic Handling Assistant. To complement their own core competence the Festo team enlisted the support of generative manufacturing experts from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA as partner. The team was able to utilize the expertise of Fraunhofer IPA in the area of rapid manufacturing, particularly for the development of the expansion bellows.

About Festo
Festo is a leading international supplier of automation technology. With its innovations and problem-solving expertise in the field of pneumatics and electronics, the company has established itself as the performance leader in its sector. Festo’s innovative strength is demonstrated by over 100 new products which it launches every year and the 2,900 patents it holds worldwide. Its new approach to product development using bionics and biomechatronics within the framework of the Bionic Learning Network, represents a true first in the field of automation technology.

About Fraunhofer IPA
The research and development focus of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA is on organizational and technological tasks related to production. Since 2005, the institute has been aiding partners and clients both in the planning and design of new products as well as the redesigning and optimization of existing product lines using generative manufacturing processes.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Robot Market Watch 2010

iRobot CEO Colin Angel claimed recently in Wired that there is no good business model for a robot servant.
Nobody wants to pay massive amounts of cash for the androids the company is capable of making today.

Chief engineer Satoshi Shigemi, project leader of the ASIMO development, Honda R&D Co., Ltd said in an interview with Infonaut, that Honda has so far only reached about 10 percent of its technological targets for commercial humanoid robots. Much more research and development is needed before humanoids can be sold on consumer markets. Many issues such as safety, reliability, user friendliness are critical, human-robot interaction has to be considered carefully, even power supply is critical. Honda is focusing on human-robot interaction research to examine the diverse levels of robot acceptance and interaction around the world. The aim of this research is to better understand what the ideal interaction and communication between people and humanoid robots ought to be in the future. People need to be able to comfortably communicate with the robot so that it can react properly to their commands and carry out their wished when assistance is needed.
In his opinion consumer robotics is still in its infancy and it will take many years until affordable partner robots will be available on the market.

In the meantime new robots are developed to attract researchers and early business adopters. Some of the latest developments are new personal robot platforms and mobile telepresence robots.

PR2 - Personal robot platform
Willow Garage has announce that PR2, a robot platform for research and development is officially for sale. PR2 is priced at $400,000 but for individuals with a proven track record in contributions to the open source
community, the company also introduced an award which amounts to a $120,000 discount on PR2 purchases.

YouBot - Mobile robot arm 
Geman KUKA Robotics has unveiled a omni-directional mobile platform called "YouBot" with a 5 DOF
manipulator mobile robot. YouBot is prized € 19.990 excl. VAT and shipment and will be shiped in December 2010. Universities and research facilities are eligible for a 20% academic discount on KUKA youBot hardware. Early bird discount of 25% on KUKA youBot hardware is available until 15. September

Telepresence robots 
A new generation of telepresence robots is now available in the US for those who need to be att two places
at one. Telepresence robots are remote controlled cameras on wheels and connected via Wi-Fi to the users
computer or moble phone. The user can communicate via a "human-scale" robot with other people and
move around a workplace or home from anywhere.

VGO from Vgo Communications is a 4 foot high robot with a 7 inch display screen, camera auto-tilts based on drive speed. top 4,4 km/h (2,75 mph), text-to-speech, remote monitoring headlights and auto-docking to the charger. His battery life is around 6-10 hours of use. Vgo works over Wi-Fi, with a recommended bandwidth of at least 384kbps for good streaming of the H.264 video and audio. It´s four microphones provides good all-round audio pick-up in meeting scenarios. His camera can be positioned for "any view"
with a 60 degrees field of view. Finally, the dedicated Vgo app includes easy driving controls and works on any Windows PC with Webcam, speakers and mic attached. VGO is prized $ 4.995.

Tilr from RoboDynamics was introduced in 2007 and is a human-scale robot (3,8 or 4,2 foot high) with a 8 inch touch screen, and a 55 degrees camera view. Top speed is 3,9 km/h (2,4 mph). Web-based controls, video communication via Skype, Google Video Chat or MSN. The Tilr is prized $10.000.

Anybot QB
QB from Anybots, unveiled in May 2010 is an self-balancing, two-wheel drive robot, 2,6 to 6 foot high, with a 3,5 inch screen. Top speed is 5,6 km/h (3,5 mph). QB is prized $ 15.000

RP-7 Intouch Health
In the high-end segement is the RP-7 from InTouch Health, a 5,5 foot high robot with a 15 inch screen. RP-7 is FDA-cleard and connects directly to Class II medical devices including electronic stethoscopes, otoscopes and ultrasound. The RP-7 units sell for about $120,000 each, but most accounts are leasing the units for between $5.000 to $ 7.000 a month.

Willow Garage is developing a telepresence robot called Texai. It is 5,2 foot high and has a 15 inch screen. Top speed is 1,5 mph. No price available yet.

In Europe French Robosoft and US-Swedish Giraff Technologies are also developing telepresence robots targeting elderly and health care markets.  Robosoft has announced an agreement with US start-up Hoaloha Robotics to work collaboratively on the design of a socially assistive robot. See here.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

€ 120 Million for Robotics & Mechatronics Center

German Aerospace Center DLR and European Space Agency ESA have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the Berlin Air Show in June 2010 on the use of the new DLR Robotics and Mechatronics Center (RMC) as an ESA reference laboratory. This cooperation aims to set up an extensive network of international partners in space-sector robotics with the aims of exploiting synergies between the partners to best effect, further increasing expertise in this area and preparing for the future. Some € 120 Million  are being invested in the centre. It will investigate autonomous robots for the servicing of spacecraft in orbit and for the exploration of the planets, among other projects. 

DLR Robotics and Mechatronics Center has its origin in the Institute of Robotics and Mechantronics and will, in future, consist of many facilities and institutes working in the field of robotics, mechatronics, system dynamics, control engineering and optical information systems. The aim is to further consolidate and enhance Germany's leading position worldwide in both the scientific and industrial areas of robotics. This initiative is being supported by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) and the State of Bavaria.

Last year, Esa agreed to give its new technical centre at Harwell in the UK a space robotics portfolio. 

Source: DLR, ESA

Winner of Robotdalen Scientific Award 2010

The winner of the Robotdalen Scientific Award 2010 is Matei Theodor Ciocarlie from Columbia University, USA, for his thesis on robotic grasping. 
Ciocarlies research interests are robotic perception and action in unstructured environments, 3D-modelling and computer simulators for physical systems. He has received several awards for his work. Ciocarlie participated in the Robotdalen Scientific Award competition with his PhD-thesis Low-Dimensional Robotic Grasping: Eigengrasp Subspaces and Optimized Underactuation. The thesis aims at reducing the complexity associated with robotic grasping without compromising versatility. 

The jury’s statement was:
The thesis presents fundamental advances in robot hand grasp representation studied in the contexts of practical applications that strain the field's envelopes of understanding and performance. Ciocarlie first introduces simple low-dimensional hand posture subspaces that are nevertheless adequate to represent complex grasps. The work is illustrated and validated with an insightful blend of theoretical exposition and practical implementation. The jury was particularly impressed by the depth and breadth of the contributions, theoretical and practical, applicable to robot and prosthetic human hands, and general enough to encompass natural-world as well as laboratory and factory applications.

Mobile robot arm from KUKA

After desktop computing and desktop 3D printing now it´s time to think desktop manipulation and tele-manufacturing. In a near future thousands of students and entrepreneurs will get access to new design and production tools to learn, experiment and realize their product and service dreams. A new era of small scale production and tele-operated manufacturing may be at the horizon, a renaissance for local production and new craftsmen and women?

German industrial robotics manufacturer KUKA Robotics has developed a mobile manipulator for education and research that could become instrumental for promoting and accelerating research in mobile manipulation. The robot is called „youBot“ and has the weight and size to fit on a regular desktop although this is not intended to be the primary work space.

In a student project of the Bavarian elite graduate program Software Engineering at the University of Augsburg an early prototype of the KUKA youBot was connected to the Nintendo Wii controller. Motions of the controller are translated into motions of the youBot arm which holds a wooden marble labyrinth game. Different game modes are possible, where two players can play cooperatively or against each other. 

The omni-directional mobile platform with a 5 DOF manipulator mobile robot is prized € 19.990 excl. VAT and shipment. First KUKA youBots will ship in December 2010. Universities and research facilities are eligible for a 20% academic discount on KUKA youBot hardware. Early bird discount of 25% on KUKA youBot hardware is available until 15. September 2010. 

Locomotec, the official KUKA youBot distributor, has registered the robot in the ECHORD hardware list. Based on the listed robotics hardware European universities and research labs can propose so-called experiments. Experiments are small-scale focused research projects with a strong focus on industrial relevance.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

DARPA unveils new robotics program

Early investments in mobile manipulators, or robots, have led to a family of ground platforms now used in military operations for many missions, including countering improvised explosive devices. Although these robots save lives and help reduce casualties, they have limitations. Most require significant human interaction, which increases the time required to complete tasks. Robot performance under human remote control is limited by video fields of view, perspective and communications bandwidth.

DARPA's latest effort, the Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM) program, envisions robots with a high degree of autonomy requiring only high-level supervision by an operator. This simplifies human control and could drastically improve execution of tasks. If successful, these future robots could perform multiple military missions. The goal of the four-year ARM program is to develop software and hardware that enables a robot to autonomously grasp and manipulate to perform complicated tasks with a human providing only high-level direction.

Three research teams are participating in the hardware track of this program: iRobot, Sandia National Laboratories and SRI International are developing designs for a new multi-finger hand with an emphasis on robust design and low cost. Six teams working in the software track will develop software that enables the robot to perform several tasks. Software researchers include Carnegie Mellon University, HRL Laboratories, iRobot, NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory, SRI International and University of Southern California.
(Source: DARPAPublicAffairsOffice Aug 2010)

Pixelspaces I: Human Robot Harmony – Humanoid Robot „Honda ASIMO“

Ars Electronica Futurelab and Honda R&D are currently conducting collaborative research into the next generation-relationship between humans and robots. From industrial robots supporting the production process to humanoid robots, many researchers have explored the range of possibilities for robots. Recently, these robot technologies are integrated mostly with information technology, and we see the robotization of physical space emerging. Therefore the applied research contains important questions, such as how will we integrate technologies like the “Humanoid Robot ASIMO” into our daily life, and how we can influence human acceptance and coexistence.

Panel 1: Human Robot Interaction Design
In the Human-Robot Interaction Design session, we will discuss how we can apply methodologies from the fields of art, motion, communication, and interaction to the problem of finding ways in which human robot interactions become natural and intuitive.

Introduction by Christopher Lindinger (AT) - Director of Research and Innovation Ars Electronica Futurelab
Matthew Gardiner (AU) - Artist in Residence at the Ars Electronica Futurelab
Anthony Dunne (UK) - Professor and Head of the Design Interactions Department at the Royal College of Art
Golan Levin (US) - Director Studio for Creative Inquiry and Professor of Electronic Art, Design and Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University
Satoshi Shigemi (JP) - Project Leader of the ASIMO Development

Panel 2: Human-Robot Harmony
What is essential in creating harmony in a society living together with robots? What are the key elements in considering the balance – not the border – between humans and robots.

Introduction by Christopher Lindinger (AT) - Christopher Lindinger (AT), Director of Research and Innovation Ars Electronica Futurelab
Noel Sharkey (UK) - Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Professor of Public Engagement at the University of Sheffield
Alan Shapiro (US/DE) - Technologist and Futurist
Bernad Batinic (DE/AT) - Professor and Head of the Psychology and Pedagogic Department at the University Linz
Hideaki Ogawa (JP/AT) - Artist & Creator in the Research and Innovation Group of the Ars Electronica Futurelab
Satoshi Shigemi (JP) Project Leader of the ASIMO Development

EUR 10 million for Swiss Robotics Research Centre

Swiss National Science Foundation will support the strategic initiative "NCCR Robotics" - NCCR stands for "National Competence Center Research" - with 13,3 million CHF (EU 10,26) for four years and can be extended twice for a duration of up to twelve years. Leading House is EPFL with Prof. Dario Floreano, Deputy Leader is the University of Zurich (Dept. of Informatics) with Prof. Rolf Pfeifer. NCCR robotics includes all major robotics laboratories in Switzerland and will boost robotics research in Switzerland.

NCCR Robotics will develop interactive “helper” robots, a new generation of intelligent machines that perform tasks for people in their everyday environments and safely co-exist with them. To achieve the grand goal of developing helper robots, fundamental breakthroughs in technology, materials, and control methods will be required. An NCCR constitutes an ideal and timely platform for creating the desired synergies bearing the potential of a quantum leap in robotic technology and further strengthening Switzerland’s already strong international position and visibility in human-oriented robotics. The NCCR will capitalize on the Swiss tradition in micro-engineering, precise manufacturing, and human-friendly technology, creating tremendous opportunities for knowledge and technology transfer at a point in history when developing robots with a human orientation is in a situation strategically similar to that of the nascent personal-computer industry 30 years ago.
(Source: ifi, Univ. of Zurich)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Telenoid - Communication Medium of the Future

Prof. Ishiguro demonstrating telerobot Telenoid at Ars Electronica 2010 in Linz (AT).

In robot development, Professor Ishiguro concentrates on the idea of making a robot that is as similar as possible to a live human being. At the World Expo 2005 in Aichi he unveiled the "female" android named Repliee Q1Expo. He explained that he very soon realised the importance of a robots appearance. A human-like appearance gives a robot a strong feeling of presence. Repliee Q1Expo could interact with people. It could respond to people touching it. It's very satisfying to interact with robots and people respond emotionally to robot interaction. In his opinion, it may be possible to build an android that is indistinguishable from a human, at least during a brief encounter. Ishiguro has also made an android that resembles himself, called the Geminoid.

The latest robot is called Telenoid R1, a portable telephone-operated android robot, it only measures 80 centimeters and weighs for only 5 kilograms. It has a minimum design that can distinguish it as human-like robot. Actually the appearance of this newly made android is quite disturbing. It looks like an undeveloped child with no gender.
Two visitors interact with a telenoid at Ars Electronica 2010

The idea in this project was to create a teleoperated robot that can be female or male, an adult or a youngster, that can be easily transferred, making it suitable for a wide-range of users. The system works by capturing the voice and tracking the head movements of the operator via a computer webcam. An operator sits with a computer with a webcam that sends the voice and head movements to the telenoid. These movements are then being imitated by the telenoid which is sitting beside the messages recipient. The operator can also push buttons to activate different behavior of the telenoid.

The Telenoid R1 only uses 9 dc motors as actuators compared to other Ishiguro’s android which uses 50 pneumatic actuators for Geminoid HI-1 and 12 pneumatic actuators for Geminoid F. Its simplified body helped the developers to cut production cost. The research version of the robot is estimated to cost for about $35,000 and the commercial version is about $8,000.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The World in 100 Years

"Everyone will have his own pocket telephone that will enable him to get in touch with anyone he wishes. People living in the Wireless Age will be able to go everywhere with their transceivers, which they will be able to affix wherever they like— to their hat, for instance …“
Robert Sloss: "
The Wireless Century,” in: "The World in 100 Years,” Berlin, 1910

credit: Nicolas Ferrando, Lois Lammerhuber

The new exhibition at the Ars Electronica Center Linz, Austria pays tribute to the creativity, courage and inventiveness of those men and women who have totally committed their energies, abilities and knowledge to a vision of the future. This exhibition surveys a 200-year time span: looking back at what people about a century ago anticipated for this day and age, and showcasing what contemporary thinkers foresee 100 years from now.

Asimo at AEC

Honda’s humanoid robot ASIMO will makes its public debut in Austria at this year's Ars Electronica Festival. September 2-8 in Linz, festival visitors will have the opportunity to experience an impressive demonstration of ASIMO’s extraordinary capabilities at Deep Space in the Ars Electronica Center.

ASIMO will perform “Deep Symphony”, a project developed jointly by researchers and artists at the Ars Electronica Futurelab and Honda’s R&D people. This application enables visitors of the Deep Space, to interactively explore an audiovisual environment together with ASIMO.

Telenoid R1 at Ars Electronica 2010

Japanese roboticist prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro, director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka university, will present his newest project a geminoid named “Telenoid R1”.

The term Telenoid is a new term coined from a prefix Tele-, as Telephone and Teleoperation, and the Latin postfix -oides which indicates similarity, as Humanoid. Using Telenoids, people will investigate the essential elements for representing and transferring humanlike presence. In practical usage, Ishiguro expects Telenoid to be used as a new communication media.

The unique appearance may be eery when we first see it. However, once we communicate with others by using the telenoid, we can adapt to it. If a friend speaks from the telenoid, we can imagine the friend’s face on the telenoid’s face. If we embrace it, we have the feeling, that we embrace the friend.

Ishiguro exhibited a “geminoid” during the Ars Electronica Festival 2009 as a featured artist. The geminoid was a tele-operated android modeled after his creator. Once the operator talked with visitors by using the geminoid, both the operator and visitors could adapt to the android body. The operator recognized the android body as his own body and the visitors recognize it as the operator.