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Sunday, October 31, 2010

French Robot Ballet at World Expo 2010

One of the robotics highlights at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai was the robot ballet performed by 20 synchronized Nao robots of French Aldebran Technolgies. The 8 minutes dance involved information exchanges between the NAOs by WiFi or infrared signals. The robots were not remote-controlled, but able to "think" and act together.

Aldebaran Robotics Nao Robot Show in France Pavilion Shanghai Expo 2010
Video credit: Aldreba

The Nao robots are also playing at Robocup, the world´s largets robotics competition, that was held 2010 in Singapore. In July 2007, Nao was nominated as the official platform for the standard league by the RoboCup Organizing Committee, and successor to Sony’s Aibo robot dog.

ASIMO 10th Anniversary

ASIMO has reached a huge milestone and will celebrate its 10th Anniversary on 31st October. A decade ago, Honda created a humanoid robot so advanced it started a revolution in humanoid robot technology. To mark this date, dedicated Anniversary websites and films have been launched today, with new photos, videos, the story of its creation and smartphone apps.

Click here to view ASIMO's Anniversary celebrations - ( 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Swedish Service Robotics 2010

Country Profile Sweden  - Service Robotics 2010
Sweden has a highy developed robotics industry with market leaders in industrial, service and consumer robotics such as ABB Robotics, Atlas Copco, Delaval, Electrolux and Saab. These global players are supported by small highly specialised development companies in optronics, system design and integration.
The network graph below shows leading Swedish service robotics companies and some of their links to each other.
(Click on the image for large view).

Image: GRB/Infonaut 2010

If you are interested in this or other robotics industry graphs from around the world contact Infonaut.   

The End of Swedish Countermine Technologies

According to the Landmine Monitor 2010, a total of 66 states and seven other areas were confirmed or suspected to be mine-affected. At least 1,041 people were killed, 2,855 were injured by landmines.
Credit: Countermine Technologies AB
"From Mined Land to Farmland" was the business idea of the Swedish company Countermine Technologies. October 28, 2010 Swedish Countermine Technologies declared bankruptcy after years of technical problems and economic scandals.
The story started in 1998 with the design concept for the mine-clearing machine based on a forestry machine with double flails and a forward positioned mine clearing device and the establishment of Scandinavian Demining Group 1999. The prototype “Scanjack” was built and sent to Croatia for certification., "yielding excellent results" according to Scanjack history webpage.
In tests conducted by the SWEDEC ( Swedish EOD and Demining Centre) of the three machines 2001 Scanjack was judged to be the best on the market. Scanjack was chosen as the winner based on effectiveness, resistance to detonation and driver safety. Scanjack left behind only 2% undetonated personal mines whereas Hydrema 910 MCV single flail left 9% undetonated or intact mines and Bofors Mine Guzzler with tiller left 30% fully functioning mines. Scanjack AB was primarily engaged in the development and production of equipment for mechanical industrial landmine clearance. Later on the Company was active through eight subsidiaries and had operations in Sweden, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Turkey, Egypt and Libya.Obstacle Removal And Clean Land Equipment (ORACLE) was built by Countermine Technologies and U.S. Caterpillar (CAT ) Inc. using one of Cat's off-the-rack loaders. The cost of remote controlled ORACLE was said to be 1/100 as much as a military system to set up and run. ORACLE is mentioned in Springer Handbook of Robotics 2008, page 1105.
In May 2009 Scanjack AB was acquired by Countermine Technologies AB through a stock purchase agreement. Scanjack AB continued to operate as a subsidiary in the Countermine Group.
Chairman of the Board of Directors and largest investor in Countermine Technologies AB was Mr. Björn Wolrath, the former Managing Director of Skandia (1981-1997), a large Swedish insurance company, Chairman of the Swedish Credit Corporation, and member of the Board of Directors of several industrial corporations. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences.

Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors was Air Marshall Sir John Walker, former Chief of Defence Intelligence and Deputy Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee at the MoD and until recently Special Adviser to the House of Commons Defence Committee. He is former MoD Director of Forward Policy (RAF). He is also a member of the Board of Directors of several corporations. Sir John is a regular commentator on national television, radio, and press and has lectured on mine-warfare.

A sad story about demining robotics especially for those waiting for land mine cleared farmland.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Anime Robots Made in Japan

Japanese love anime, humanoids and robot competitions. To combine these three for promoting humanoid robotics training and education is the goal of the new organization Robot Yuenchi (RY) established by well known humanoid robot companies like Kyosho, Kondo, Himeji Software Works, Robo Garage, and the humanoid robot competition organization ROBO-ONE 

RY will promote robot competitions and events, with the support of industry experts from participating companies and other groups to educate and excite students and the public using a variety of classroom tools, TV and stage demonstrations, exhibiting humanoid robots, flying robots, distribution of magazines, active participation in workshops, and other activities. RY aims also to develop and promote robots based on commercially available designs that utilize robot anime characters. Major robot anime intellectual property companies, like Sunrise and Bandai are already active members of the ROBO-ONE organization.

The first ROBO-ONE contest was held in Japan in 2002 and consisted of an initial judged autonomous "Demonstration" stage, followed by one-on-one matches.

Monday, October 25, 2010

€ 13,9 Million for Open Ambient Assisted Living Platform

As the European population ages, more support is needed with fewer hands to cater for their needs. There is a huge market potential for Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) solutions, but adoption is limited because they require significant resources for implementation. 
universAAL is a FP7 project started in Februari 2010 aiming at creating an open platform and standards which will make it technically feasible and economically viable to develop Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) solutions. The consortium is built of major industrial and research players in the field, including key participants from earlier projects.  EU is supporting the € 13,9 million project with € 10 million. 
Image: GRB/Infonaut

universAAL is one of the major founders of the Ambient Assisted Living Open Association (AALOA). The mission of AALOA is to create a shared open framework for developers, technology and service providers, research institutions and enduser associations to discuss, design, develop, evaluate and standardize a common
service platform in the field of Ambient Assisted Living.

The AALOA Manifesto defines the rationale around which several European projects decided to join their efforts. It is a call for action addressing all the stakeholders working in this area. The association is currently in the incubation stage, where the subscribers to the Manifesto are organized in
two groups: promoters and supporters.

Robotic Kitchen of the Future

Daniel Dobrogorsky, currently studying Industrial Design & Mechanical Engineering at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, one of the finalists of Electrolux Design Lab 2010 has a great visionary idea - the Kitchen Hideaway - a virtual reality concept that allows the inhabitants of a communal building to imagine being in a kitchen, preparing a particular meal rather than having to actually do this for themselves. The thoughts of the user are then transmitted to robotic chefs within the building who then prepare the visualised meal in a real kitchen and with real ingredients. In effect, the headset replaces the need for kitchen appliances in individual dwellings, saving space through creative thinking. 
Daniel didn´t win the competition but Electrolux, Swedish world leading producer of appliances and equipment for kitchen and cleaning, likes his idea so much that it already has applied patent (SE1000512-2for "Method for Cooking" including the following claims:
1. Method for cooking food comprising the steps of :
- the user enters into a virtual reality kitchen (1);
- The user cooks the food in the virtual reality kitchen (2);
- The information about the virtual cooking is sent to a real kitchen in which the real food is prepared (3).
2. Method accoring to claim 1, further comprise the steps of:
- The real food is prepared by a human person, preferably a chef (4).
3. Method according to claim 1, further comprising the steps of:
- The real food is prepared by a robotic chef (4).
4. Method occording to any of the claims above, further comprising the steps of:
- The real food is sent to the user, or anyone specified by the user (5)
5. Method according to any of the claims above, further comprising the steps of:
- The use is assisted by a virtual instructor.
6. Method according to any of the claims above, further comprises the steps of:
- The  use can customize the virtual kitchen, e.g. rearranging appliances, lightning and counter tops.
7. Method according to any of the claims above, further comprises the steps of:
- The user can order real food from a database of previously virtually cooked food.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Robot Theater in São Paulo

The Portuguese robot artist Leonel Moura, creator of the first zoo in the world for artificial life Robotarium (2007) has recently debuted with his redesigned Karel Capeks classic play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) in São Paulo, Brazil. The artist famous for his creative robot installations uses real autonomous robots, acting and interacting with human actors. The navigation system to guide the robots on stage and the interactive abilities that give life to these machines was developed by  the Portuguese company selfTecha spin-off of the Lisbon's Institute for Systems and Robotics

(Source/credit: selfTech, Leonel Moura) 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

US$ 400.000 for Robotic Orange Picker

Robotics firm Energid Technologies Corp. has won more funding to develop a robotic citrus harvest from the federal government. Best known for making software to control robotics systems, Energid will be working on a multi-armed robot to automate the labor-intensive harvest.

The new funding, US$ 400.000, comes in the form of a Small Business Innovation Research program grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The award is a Phase 2 grant — the company won the original Phase 1 SBIR grant (US$ 80.000) for a robotic citrus harvester in June of 2008 from the USDA.

According to Energid, 12 million tons of citrus were harvested in the United States in 2009, of which about 3.5 percent were removed through shaking, usually done by machine. The other 96.5 percent, approximately 50 billion pieces of fruit, were picked by hand.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

$34.5 million for Brain-Controlled Robot Arm

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., has awarded a contract for up to $34.5 million of DARPA to manage the development and testing of the Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL) system on human subjects, using a brain-controlled interface.

APL scientists and engineers developed the underlying technology under DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics 2009 program, an ambitious four-year effort to create a prosthetic arm that would by far eclipse the World War II era hook-and-cable device used by most amputees. The program has already produced two complex prototypes, each advancing the art of upper-arm prosthetics.

The team will develop implantable micro-arrays used to record brain signals and stimulate the brain. They will also conduct experiments and clinical trials to demonstrate the ability to use implantable neural interfaces safely and effectively to control a prosthesis, and optimize arm control and sensory feedback algorithms that enable dexterous manipulation through the use of a neuro-prosthetic limb.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Finalist in the MAGIC UGV Battle Challenge

Six high-tech teams from the U.S., Turkey, Japan and Australia have made it to the finals of the International Multi-Autonomous Ground-robotics International Challenge MAGIC 2010. The aim is to develop the next generation of fully autonomous robots that could undertake dangerous missions on the future battlefield.
The six finalists will compete at the Royal Showground in Adelaide, South Australia in November.

The six teams are: Cappadocia (Turkey), Chiba (Japan), Magician (Australia), RASR (USA), Team Michigan (USA), and University of Pennsylvania (USA).

All teams are at the forefront of robotics technology and have survived a rigorous assessment and elimination process against six other semi-finalist teams. The teams performed a range of activities to demonstrate certain capabilities including the ability to operate autonomously and to map their surroundings digitally.

They have now a few weeks to fine-tune their concepts for the grand final challenge when they will be required to field at least three robots and accomplish a complex task involving mapping and identification of threats while demonstrating a high level of autonomy between the robots.  

MAGIC is a joint initiative of Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation and the U.S. Department of Defense. The aim is to develop teams of robots which can operate autonomously on the battlefield in dangerous situations, keeping soldiers out of harm’s way.

Monday, October 18, 2010

€ 20 million for Border Protection Robots

TALOS is an international research project co-funded from EU 7th Framework Programme funds in Security priority. The main objective of TALOS project is to develop and field test the innovative concept of a mobile, autonomous system for protecting European land borders. The conventional border protection systems are based mainly on expensive ground facilities installed along the entire length of the border complemented by human patrols. The system developed within the TALOS project will be more versatile, efficient, flexible and cost effective.

The complete system applies both aerial and ground unmanned vehicles, supervised by command and control centre. The ground platforms will be both the watching stations and the first reaction patrols, which will inform the Control and Command Centre and an intruder about her/his situation, and will undertake the proper measures to stop the illegal action almost autonomously with supervision of border guard officers.

The most important features of the system are scalability, autonomous operation, mobility, adaptability and modular construction. Through its flexibility it will be easy to adjust the system to the local requirements such as border length and topographic conditions. Important role in the project is given to Border Guards from countries with EU external land border in order to tailor system to end user needs and requirements.

TALOS project consortium has adequate resources to face the challenge. The system will be developed by experts working for 14 institutions from 8 EU member states (Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Poland, Romania, Spain) as well as 1 EU candidate (Turkey) and 1 associated country (Israel). Wide range of the necessary competencies has been ensured by composing the consortium of industrial companies, research institutions, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and a technical university. Project budget sums up to about 20 million Euro, 13 million of which has been granted by the EC.

TALOS video animation

Pick up an autonomous taxi cab in Berlin with iPad

Researchers of the Freie Universität Berlin have developed a modular system for the operation of autonomous or semi-autonomous cars that is tested with the new car MadeInGermany, a modified Volkswagen Passat Variant 3c. Latest LIDAR/ RADAR sensor technology, as well as cameras, help to overview its surrounding area (see sketch below for details). A special GPS system gives precise information about the position. The car is also equipped with Drive-by-Wire technology, meaning that engine, brakes, steering and other actuating elements can be accessed directly via the CAN-BUS. The car's intelligence is based on software, which is implemented on computing systems located in the trunk compartment. Most of the required electromechanical modifications and integration of the sensors were performed by the Volkswagen Research Garage. The  "Operating System for intelligent cars" is one of the key research topics of the Artificial Intelligence Group at the Freie Universität Berlin. The Innovation Lab AutoNOMOS is funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research in the framework of the German High-Tech Strategy.

The latest autonomous driving solution is calling an autonomous taxi via iPad. The autonomous car is capable of picking up a passenger at a random location. Check out the video for more information. 

(Image/Video: FU Berlin)

Friday, October 15, 2010

$10 million for a Robotic Expedition to the Moon

PITTSBURGH, PA - October 15, 2010 -Astrobotic Technology today was awarded a NASA contract worth up to $10 million for a robotic expedition to the Moon in April 2013.

Astrobotic revealed that the alliance for this pursuit includes Carnegie Mellon University, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Aerojet, Scaled Composites, International Rectifier, Harmonic Drive LLC and Caterpillar Inc.
The expedition has 220 pounds of payload capacity available for customers at universities, space agencies, and corporate sponsors.  The mission also will pursue $24 million through Google's Lunar X PRIZE and Florida's $2 million launch prize.
(Source/Image: Astrobotic Technology)

Robotics in Africa

A student in Togo, Sam Todo, creates a mobile robot out of old TV parts and other used electronics. He has ambitions for making robots that can do even more sophisticated things like fully autonomous robots. Watch this inspiring young African talk about his ambition. 

(Source: Afrinnovator)

Intelligent Floor for Robot Navigation

Keeping track of robots in enclosed spaces still requires sophisticated technology. German Future-Shape has developed an intelligent floor that provides invisible landmarks by using RFID tags. RFID stands for Radio Frequency IDentification.
These tags use an electromagnetic field to retrieve or store information. Since they are passive devices, they do not require a power supply, and they are becoming increasingly popular in logistics applications. Robotic vehicles or other moving objects only need an RFID reader and map loaded in the controller to indicate the position of the tags in the floor. Equipped in this way, the robot can determine its exact position whenever the reader comes within range of a tag.

The intelligent floor calles NaviFloor® is based on impact (footstep) sound insulation textile layer which can easily be installed using a non-permanent adhesive. Future-Shape has developed a robust encapsulation technique which can be used to embed a grid (e.g. 50 cm) of RFID tags (13.56 MHz) into the underlay and protects them against mechanical stress and moisture. The NaviFloor® underlay has been tested for installation under carpeting, laminate and parquet.

Images: Future-Shape, BARiT(R)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

US $14 Million Order to iRobot from the U.S. Army

U.S. iRobot Corp., leading provider of robotic technology-based solutions, announced that it has received a $14 million order from the U.S. Army TACOM Contracting Center in Warren, Mich. According to a release, the order calls for the delivery of iRobot Aware 2 robot intelligence software and spare parts for iRobot PackBot tactical mobile robots. This order will allow the Army to upgrade its existing iRobot 510 FasTac fleet to the iRobot 510 PackBot multi-mission robot.
This is the 20th order under the $286 million Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) xBot contract. The current total contract value now stands at approximately $143 million.
iRobot has delivered more than 3,500 unmanned ground vehicles to the military and civil defense forces worldwide.
(Image: iRobot)

US $ 3.84 Million SUGV contract for Boeing and iRobot

The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] and partner iRobot Corp. [NASDAQ: IRBT] announced Oct 10, that they have received an initial contract with the U.S. Air Force to provide Small Unmanned Ground Vehicles (SUGV) to its Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team. The contract calls for up to 70 model 310 SUGV robots, with an initial value of $3.84 million. The Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity contract will run through September 2012.
Boeing and iRobot developed the SUGV family of vehicles under a strategic alliance that began in 2007. It is designed to give warfighters real-time awareness of critical situations and to allow them to complete missions from safe standoff distances. It is ideal for a variety of mission types, including EOD, route clearance and reconnaissance.

As the prime contractor, Boeing provides program management, contracts, and quality-control support from offices in Huntsville. iRobot is responsible for engineering, manufacturing, training and logistics services, with the majority of work conducted in Bedford, Mass.

Will Google change only our car driving behavior?

First Google conquered cyberspace with its search engine, then it changed mapping with Google Earth, then it changed the rule for advertising and spread Cloud computing to the masses with Picasa, blogger and Gmail. Now Google hit the roads with cars that drive themselves. 
October 10 the company announced that Google Cars, manned by trained operators, have logged over 140,000 miles by driving from Google's Mountain View campus to their Santa Monica office and on to Hollywood Boulevard. 
DARPA winner behind Google Car
The brain behind this project is Sebastian Thrun, the 43-year-old director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, a Google engineer and the co-inventor of the Street View mapping service.
In 2005, he led a team of Stanford students and faculty members in designing the Stanley robot car, winning the second Grand Challenge of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a $2 million Pentagon prize for driving autonomously over 132 miles in the desert.
Besides the team of 15 engineers working on the current project, Google hired more than a dozen people, each with a spotless driving record, to sit in the driver’s seat, paying $15 an hour or more. Google is using six Priuses and an Audi TT in the project.
The Google researchers said the company did not yet have a clear plan to create a business from the experiments. 
Google cars will safe life and nature
Google refers to World Health Organization, WHO, reporting more than 1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents. Google believes that their technology has the potential to cut that number, perhaps by as much as half.  Google beliefs that self-driving cars will transform car sharing, significantly reducing car usage, as well as help create the new “highway trains of tomorrow." These highway trains should cut energy consumption while also increasing the number of people that can be transported on our major roads. 

This is a milestone in the history of self driving cars and opens a new area in transportation. In the near future we will search for a destination at Google Earth, then search for a free Google Car next to us and pay with our Google phone for free. In the next step Google will know, based on search behavior and life style pattern, when to send a Google Car to me, long before I ever know that I will need a car. Amazing foresight service for Ambient Assisted Living.  

Google Car is a visionary step from cyberspace into physical space and if it succeeds, it will boost hands free driving and mobile robotics of all kind. Google Car will become a new kind of mobile hands free information and media channel. Google Car will be fueled by information, ads and entertainment following every passenger from location to location without delay. Where ever you will be in the future, Google will be with you and you will be with Google. Some rules have already changed, and may be, they will even change Google in the future. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chiara Robot Plays Chess

For his MS thesis research, Jonathan Coens programmed a Chiara robot to play chess on a real chessboard. The robot competed in the AAAI-10 Small Scale Manipulation Challenge, July 13-14, 2010 in Atlanta.
The Chiara is a new, open source educational robot, developed at Carnegie Mellon University'sTekkotsu lab, that will be manufactured and sold by RoPro Design, Inc.

World’s First Online Test Drive

Starting November 2nd and continuing through November 10th, 2010, Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc., (MMNA), will host the World’s First Online Test Drive of an actual vehicle utilizing interactive remote control of the company’s latest automotive creation, the all-new 2011 Outlander Sport.
Residents of the U.S. who are 18 years and older with a valid driver’s license will be able to register to have the chance to take a virtual jump behind the wheel to drive the all-new, affordably-priced 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, a handsome and sure-footed 5-passenger compact crossover vehicle (CUV) with numerous available high-tech features normally associated with expensive high-end vehicles. Using a combination of remote control software and hardware and a unique system interface, participants will be able to take an actual 2011 Outlander Sport for a virtual spin on a closed course from their personal computers.
Source/Image credit: Mitsubishi 

Service and social robotics systems for “Ageing Well”

Social robotics as a tool to serve an aging society and the EU wants to strengthen the global position of European industry in service robotics for “ageing well” as well as significantly advanced state of the art in the field.
Robotics is a prioritized research sector in EU's latest FP7 ICT Programme 2011-2012 and robotics scientists are now challenged to demonstrate that robotics assistance can be a cost-effective alternative to institutionalized care while improving quality of life.

Assistive robotics for Ambient Assisted Living

EU demands research proposals that  focus on integration of advanced robotics systems and intelligent environments to provide solutions to key issues of relevance for improved independent living and quality of life of elderly people and efficiency of care. Major challenges to be addressed include: self-learning robotics solutions, which can  adapt to the user needs and share contextual information with other artefacts in the surroundings of the user; navigate in unstructured environments and perform precise manipulation of relevant objects, provide affective and empathetic user-robotic interaction, taking into account the acceptance by users. Development of basic robotics components is not called for.

Services for elderly people

Services for elderly people should focus on enabling extended independent living and support for higher efficiency and quality of care work based on robotics solutions. Examples of services include support to daily tasks, mediated social interaction with carers and relatives as well as support to mobility. Key stakeholders in the value chain of service provision should be involved, such as care service providers, insurance companies, housing organisations, relevant industry partners and public bodies. Involvement of users will be an essential element as well as appropriate consideration of safety and ethical aspects. Use of  open robotics platforms and contribution to standards is encouraged. These services shall be developed and validated against public sector needs through a joint Pre-Commercial Procurement (PCP).

Robotics for rehabilitation of stroke and neurological conditions

In the future robots will be part of personal health systems for remote management of diseases, treatment and rehabilitation, outside hospitals and care centres. What is needed are systems providing patient services at home, with telesupervision by health professionals as and when required. Solutions may build on robotic and haptic technologies, wearable systems, implants, human-computer interfaces, web services or virtual reality environments to facilitate continuity of personalised cognitive and functional rehabilitation. Heterogeneous data (e.g., biofeedback, monitoring of limb movements, behavioural monitoring and analysis) and predictive models will be used to assess patient status and progress, monitor risk factors and predict new episodes.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Reports from VIAC Challenge from Parma to Shanghai

VisLab Intercontinental Autonomous Challenge (VIAC) is the challenge organized by VisLab for autonomous vehicles. It is scheduled from July 20, 2010 to October 28, 2010, involving two driverless vehicles driving with minimum human intervention on a 13,000 km trip from Parma, Italy to Shanghai, China

The vehicles travel at a maximum 50 or 60 kilometers an hour (30 or 37 miles an hour), and must be recharged for a full eight hours after every two to three hours of driving.
They are now between Kazakhstan and China waiting to enter China. 

It’s the first time in history that vehicles with no driver and without using oil-based propulsion travel on an intercontinental route. If everything will go as planned, this will be a huge milestone in the history of mobility and robotics.

The project has been funded with a euro1.8 million ($2.3 million) grant from the European Commission's European Research Council, and Vislab has technical sponsors including Piaggio, which has provided the Piaggio Porter vans.
Latest Video News link
Download VIAC iPhone app:

First Automatic Driving in Real City Traffic

Today for the first time, an automatic vehicle was driving in everyday city traffic in Braunschweig, Germany.  On Braunschweig’s two-lane ring road, the research vehicle “Leonie” is able to conduct challenging driving maneuvers at speeds up to 60 km/h: lane keeping, behavior at intersections, avoiding obstacles, and adjusting distances and speeds to the flowing traffic. 

The research project „Stadtpilot“ is the only research project worldwide so far that realizes automatic driving in real city traffic. Already in 2007, the TU Braunschweig participated successfully in the DARPA Urban Challenge, the worldwide leading competition for autonomous vehicles: with the 2006 VW Passat Variant “Caroline”, the team CarOLO was in the finals as one of 11 teams out of the initial 89. Based on these experiences, an interdisciplinary team from three different faculties has now developed the follow-up “Leonie”.
Leonie is a VW Passat station wagon, 2.0 TDI. With satellite positioning the vehicle can calculate its position in the traffic. Thanks to various laser scanners and radar sensors, Leonie can perceive its environment continuously and process the data. 
(Source/Image: TU Brainschweig)

One of the first truly autonomous cars was the VaMP driverless car along with its twin vehicle, the VITA-2. Developed by the team of Ernst Dickmanns at the Bundeswehr University of Munich and Mercedes Benz as part of the ECU EUREKA Prometheus Project on autonomous vehicles (1987-1995). VaMP was able to drive in heavy traffic for long distances without human intervention, using computer vision to recognize rapidly moving obstacles such as other cars, and automatically avoid and pass them. 

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Berkeley Bionics eLEGS for Wheelchair Users

Berkeley Bionics™, developer and maker of bionic exoskeletons that augment human strength, endurance and mobility, today unveiled eLEGS, a wearable, artificially intelligent, bionic device that powers paraplegics up to get them standing and walking.
eLEGS was unveiled at a press conference today in San Francisco by Berkeley Bionics’ CEO, Eythor Bender, who explained that the company’s mission is to provide people with unprecedented mobility options. 

eLEGS is a wearable, artificially intelligent, bionic device that enables people with paralysis to stand up and walk again. The exoskeleton is battery-powered and rechargeable, fitting comfortably and securely over the users clothing. The current eLEGS prototype — under nominal usage in a rehabilitation setting — stays charged over 6 hours.
Initially, eLEGS will be used under medical supervision for rehabilitation and training. Current prototypes of eLEGS enable users to walk in a straight line, stand from a sitting position, stand for an extended period of time, and sit down from a standing position. When the device debuts at rehabilitation centers next year, users will be able to make tight and wide turns, and take steps on without help. 
See video here:
(Source/Image: Berkeley Bionics)

Monday, October 04, 2010

€155 million for European Robotics Research

The European Commission's Directorate-General for Research has launched a new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Call: FP7-ICT-2011-7 including Challenge 2: Cognitive Systems and Robotics

Challenge 2 aims to enhance the performance and manageability of artificial cognitive systems and to expand and improve the functionalities of robotic systems operating under circumstances that were not fully planned for explicitly at design time. It supports both research on endowing artificial systems with cognitive capabilities as well as research more specifically related to the design and engineering of robotic systems. The call lists folowing Target Outcomes:

a) Robotic systems operating in real-world environments
b) Cognition and control in complex systems
c) Gearing up and accelerating cross-fertilisation between academic and industrial robotics research
d) Fostering communication and co-operation between robotics and cognitive systems research communities
e) Speeding up progress towards smarter robots through targeted competitions
Indicative budget distribution: EUR 155 million split in ICT Call 7 Target outcomes a) and d) EUR 73 million, and 

ICT Call 9 Target outcomes b), c), e) EUR 82 million. 
The objective of ICT research under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) is to improve the competitiveness of European industry – as well as to enable Europe to master and shape the future developments of these technologies so that the demands of its society and economy are met. The EU Member States have earmarked a total of € 9.1 billion for funding ICT over the duration of FP7; making it the largest research theme in the Cooperation programme, which is itself the largest specific programme of FP7 (with 64% of the total budget).

Saturday, October 02, 2010

ABB's First Robotics Application Center in Asia

ABB Robotics , the Swedish leading supplier of industrial robots, has opened its first Asian Robotics Application Center (RAC) in Singapore. ABB sees a great potential for Singapore to take leadership in packaging and other robotics solutions in Southeast Asia, as we benefit from the presence of high-end manufacturing industries in Singapore, great local and regional companies that support the development of cost-effective systems, and a booming food & beverage industry in Southeast Asia, according to James Foo, ABB’s president and country manager in Singapore.
The robotics set-up in the RAC is a picking, packing, and palletizing line, which is an essential process for many growing industries like food & beverage, pharmaceutical production, semiconductor and photovoltaics. 
ABB has installed more than 175,000 robots worldwide.

(Source: PR Log Oct 1, 2010)

Mini UAVs on Civil Sky - New Risk Scanarios

While U.S. increase its strikes by large drone aircraft on suspected militants in Pakistan in the past few weeks to thwart terror attack plans in European countries, civil aviation authorities are warning for risks of mini UAVs at home land. 

With the increasing popularity of small, unmanned aircraft (20 kg or less), some of which can now be controlled by Smart Phones, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has issued advice on using mini UAVs in built-up areas or when in proximity to people, property or vehicles. The CAA said it was important that owners of the aircraft understood the risks they pose, despite their small size, to other airspace users and also to individuals on the ground. The CAA pointed out that these devices are ‘aircraft’ and are therefore covered by regulations within the Air Navigation Order, which anyone flying them should be aware of. There have been a number of accidents in recent years, some fatal, involving model aircraft, and to avoid similar incidents and risk to third parties, operators of these new generation of unmanned aircraft should take great care when using them. Where such small, unmanned aircraft are fitted with surveillance cameras, they need permission from the CAA to operate within 50 metres of a person, vehicle, vessel or structure (not in control of the person in charge) and when operating over or within 150 metres of any area that is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes or open-air assemblies of more than 1,000 people.

Emergency services, and many commercial operators, are already using small, unmanned aircraft mounted with cameras, but are doing so with the full knowledge and authorisation of the CAA. All such flying is done within set distances from the pilot, who must also be able to clearly see the aircraft at all times to ensure safe operation and the avoidance of collisions.

Matt Lee, Head of Regulation Enforcement at the CAA, said: “Anyone thinking of buying a small, unmanned aircraft should be aware that whilst there is a lot of pleasure in flying one, they are not toys and they must be operated legally. In the wrong hands or used irresponsibly in built-up areas, or, too close to other people or property, they represent a very real safety risk. As well as the danger of being physically hit, there is also the chance of other accidents being caused through distraction, for example, if a car driver was to be surprised by something flying towards him. In the past we have seen people seriously injured or even killed by model aircraft and, now that small, unmanned aircraft are becoming more readily available and simpler to fly, we need to avoid any similar incidents.”
Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace – Guidance (pdf)

The technical aspects of terror attacks by using UAVs was described
by Eugene Miasnikov researcher at Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology in his report "Threat of Terrorism Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Technical Aspects" (2004).