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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Robocon 2011 ABU Asia-Pacific Robot Contest 2011 Bangkok

The Asia-Pacific Robot Contest (ABU Robocon) is an Asian Oceanian College robot competition. founded in 2002 by Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union. In the competition robots compete to complete a task within a set period of time. The contest aims to create friendship among young people with similar interests who will lead their countries in the 21st century, as well as help advance engineering and broadcasting technologies in the region. The event is broadcast in many countries through ABU member broadcasters. In the last three years teams from China have been awarded both the ABU Robocon Award and the Grand Prix. 
The Robocon 2011 Contest will be held August 26-30, Bangkok Thailand. The 2011 contest theme is Loy Krathong, Lighting Happiness with Friendship. See video introduction below. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Winner of the 4th Robot Award 2010

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has announced the winners from  92 applicants of the "4th Robot of the Year Award" 2010.

Soft Robot wins Grand Prize 2010

METI: Safe Human-Robot Interaction
The winner of the Minister Award Prize 2010 for industrial robots is Toyota Motor Corporation, Ochiai Nekus Inc. Nagoya Institute of Technology and Tokyo Metropolitan University for its low power 80W energy-saving comfortable robot  installed at the Toyota car assembly plant working safely in cooperation with people.

Since 2006, METI has presented the "Robot of the Year" awards in recognition of contributions to market creation and the most promising robots of that year. The award program has resulted in an increase in the number of inquiries received by the winning companies and otherwise helped to achieve increased visibility for robots and achieve market creation.

Venture Business Award was awarded to the Pork Ham Automatic Slitting and Deboner Robot HAMDAS-R developed by Mayekawa. It is a mechanized slitting process assumed to be the most difficult for automation by optimally controlling knives incorporated in vertical multi-joint robots. This system has achieved high or higher yield ration than a skilled-workers do.  The system doesn't cut off the meat but debone with dismantling so the meat is free from the damages caused by knife. Since human hands don't touch the meat, the problem of sanitation and security is highly improved. HAMDAS-R will contribute yield ration improvement and man-power saving.

Japan Machinery Federation President Award was awarded to the Medication Picking Robot System developed by Panasonic Healthcare Corporation.

Organization for Small & Medium Enterprises Chairman Award was awardet to Expliner high pressure transmission lines inspection robot developed by HiBot Inc.

Hisashi Tate Award Miraikan was awarded to "Kibo" Robotic Arm developed by Agency Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NEC Corporation (NEC).

Service robot sector "Excellence Award" was awarded to humanoid robot HRP-4C developed by National Institute of AIST 
Courtesy AIST: HRP-4C

HRP-4C was efficiently developed based on the User Centered Robot Open Architecture utilizing the fundamental robot technologies (RTs) including real-time Linux, RT middleware, robot simulator OpenHRP3, speech recognition and bipedal walking technology which have been studied and developed at AIST .

HRP-4C is expected to be useful in the entertainment industry, for device evaluation for humans working as human simulators, and mechanical products to assist human movements.

Service robot sector "Excellence Award" was also awarded to the strawberry harvesting robot developed by Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement Institution (BRAIN) and Esuai Seiko Co., Ltd, and to and joystick driving system developed by National University Corporation Tokyo University of Agriculture and Automotive Industry Co., Ltd. Nissin.

Industrial Robots division "Excellence Award" was awarded to M-1iA light weight and compact high speed assembly robot series developed by FANUC Robot.

Public sector Frontier "Excellence Award"
was awarded to FRIGO-M fire-fighting reconnaissance robot developed by Special Equipment Systems Co., Mitsubishi denki and Fire Academy and Fire Research Ministry.

Component Software Division "Excellence Award"
was awarded to Module D3 service robot communication kit developed by D3 Technology Co., Ltd.

Robot Award of the Year Winners 2006-2010 (click image to enlarge)
Infonaut/GRB - Robot Award of the Year Winners 2006-2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

$20 million for High School Student Robotics Program

United States Foundation For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a nonprofit organization in Manchester, N.H. founded by U.S. entrepreneur Dean Kamen in 1989 to encourage youth to become leaders in science and technology, will get up to $20 million over the next five years of NASA to support a national program to inspire student interest in science, technology and mathematics with a focus on robotic technology.
NASA is the largest organization involved with FIRST and has participated since 1995. In 1999, NASA and FIRST signed a memorandum of agreement to cooperatively expand the availability of technology development, education and inspiration programs to students throughout the country.

FIRST reaches about 235.000 students most of them via FIRST LEGO League (FLL) with over 147.000 students ages 9-16 years, in 57 countries and with a design and build format utilizing Danish LEGO Mindstorm technologies.

As reported here before also Google will provide $3 million to support FIRST robotics teams. 

In 1998, The LEGO Group was a pioneer in educational consumer robotics with the launch of the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Robotics Invention System, that introduced children to the world of robotics.
The Danish LEGO Group’s revenue in 2009 was about US $ 2,09 billion (DKK 11,661 million) an increase by 22.4%.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Factory of the Future

Japanese Kawada Industries demonstrated in 2009 their idea of future factory workers that with their versatile arms and precise movements can cooperate with each other and humans. The upper body humanoid robots are equipped with special sensors that allow it to remain mindful of humans in its vicinity, particularly in a production line environment.

The upper body humanoid robots are based on the HIRO platform developed by Kawada Industries, Inc. with its background and know-how gained from lease and maintenance business with biped humanoid robot, HRP-2 “Promet.” By keeping the price low - about US$ 65.000 for basic version - Kawada released HIRO as an upper body humanoid robot platform that enables users to carry out practical robotics research activities. HIRO enables its users to develop important technologies for next generation robotics including safety devices, image processing, voice recognition/synthesis, and work in real human environments. By incorporating an environment recognition device, for instance, an exterior camera, HIRO becomes a suitable research tool to developing future generation robotics systems.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Walkman is Dead, Dancegirl Alive.

Virtual robot Hatsune Miku (初音ミク?) is a singing synthesizer application and its female character, developed by Crypton Future Media. It uses Yamaha Corporation's Vocaloid synthesizing technology. Customers can purchase the digital avatal and then program to perform any song on a computer. But that´s not all, now Hatsune Miku, the Singer in the Box, has jumped on stadium stages in 3D Hologram as part of a concert tour, where capacity crowds waved their glow sticks and sang along.

Guess, what´s next? Hatsune Miku downloaded to a female HRP-4C android body. Who will be first to launch  a new generation robotic Dance Girls? Japanese Robot Yuenchi or French Aldebaran? One Hatsune Miku in every home! Let´s Dance!

Obama´s meeting with Japanese robots

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Yokohama, Japan, U.S. President Barack Obama met Japanese female humanoid robot HRP-4C and therapy robot PARO. He even sat down in the latest version of Toyota's i-REAL personal mobility vehicle, but there was not time for a real test drive.

Interesting to note from the video above are the different reactions of the president related to the robots. The meeting with the talking and gesturing android is formal without any interaction, while the president is directly touching seal robot PARO when talking to the demonstrators. He seems even more interested, even a bit scary, when sitting in the personal vehicle.
Soft robotic animals are more attractive to the U.S. president than plastic androids. The test ride was very short and caused some balancing problems.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Opera Mecatronica

35 meters below earth in a unique 13000 m3 exhibition space, which was Sweden’s first nuclear reactor, designed for scientific research, built in 1954 and phased out in 1970s, robot marionette Olimpia and robot swan Robocygne perform mecatronical dances at the Opera Mecatronica exhibition in Stockholm.
Olimpia is a three‐meter tall three‐dimensional creation built from rusty and patinated machine parts that dance in a curiously human like manner whilst singing an aria from The Tales of Hoffmann.

Swedish choreographer and dancer Åsa Unander-Scharin and her team of composers, visual artists, computer programmers and robot designers have created six installations at the exhibition Opera Mecatronica. The dancing robot swan Robocygne is dancing to Carl Unander-­‐Scharin’s electroacoustic version of Tchaikovsky’s majestic music from Swan Lake. Robocygne was developed at Mälardalen University and had its debut at the Swedish Book Fair in Gothenburg in September 2010.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Winning Robot Boat from Austria

Image: INNOC ASV Roboat

Austria's ASV Roboat remains the undisputed world champion in robotic sailing. The completely automatic sailing boat from the  Austrian INNOC research team was able to defend its title against eight competitors from the USA, Great Britain, Canada and Germany at this year's World Robotic Sailing Championship (WRSC) in Canada from the 7th to the 10th of June 2010. All in all, the participating boats had to prove their worth in six disciplines. By using artificial intelligence, robotic sailing boats can, in the long term, be set on any course – fully automated and without human involvement. INNOC – Austrian Society for Innovative Computer Sciences is an independent research center founded in 2005 and located in Vienna, Austria. INNOC focuses its scientific work at Cognitive Systems, Robotics, Electronics and Embedded Systems.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Robot Cleaning 2010 - from gadget to appliance?

Ten years after that the first home cleaning robot - the Trilobite 1.0. - of Swedish Electrolux became commercially available as a mass product, a new generation of cleaning robots has been launched 2010 promising clean floors and time saving. Home robotics is cool again and growth expectations are high. In 2001 Trilobite 1.0 was an expensive US$ 2000 gadget but also a milestone in the history of cleaning robotics. It opened the market for many other companies such as iRobot (2002), Kärcher (2004), Sharper Image (2004) Hanool (2005), Yujin (2005) etc. 
According to the robotics bible "Handbook of Robotics" published in 2008 the market size for full-size household vacuum cleaners in the US was estimated to be close to 20 million units in 2003. The ratio between domestic cleaning robots sold worldwide from 2002 to 2006 and regular vacuum cleaners sold only in the U.S. during the same time was 1:40. Conservatively estimated, this ratio may be around 1:400 or worse worldwide. Given these figures domestic cleaning robots still seem to be considered to be gadgets rather than appliances." (Handbook of Robotics 2008, page 1279).
Shenzhen Silver Star Intelligent Electronic Ltd
Two years later the IFR Service Robotics 2010 study estimates 5.6 million units for domestic use have been sold up to end of 2009, most of these are cleaning robots. IFR statistics claim about one million vacuum cleaning robots sold in 2009, 7% fewer than in 2008. With an average price of US $400 per unit the cleaning robot market may be valued US $400 million in 2009. A forecast of WinterGreen Research for 2016 anticipates cleaning robot sales of US$ 2 billion in 2016, which means 4 million cleaning robots worldwide. Well, compared to smart phones that sell in millions, cleaning robots still have problems to attract the masses. Apple sold 1 million iPhones in 74 days and 1.7 million iPhone 4 units for the first three days the device was available to customers.
Today there are at least 20 brands and 100 different models of cleaning robots on the market in the price range US$ 69 to US$ 1500. American iRobot is the leader with more than 5 million Roomba robots sold in 10 years.
Image: GRB/Infonaut Cleaning Robots 2010. (Click image to enlarge)

But there are many competitors around the corner. New features such as anti-cliff sensors, side brushes, UV light, built in fragrant compartment for deodorizing, washable filters, scheduling etc. have been introduced in the last 10 years. New navigation technologies have been recently implemented by companies like Neato Robotics, Evolution Robotics, Samsung and LG. New entrants like Taiwanese electronic giants ASUS and MSI have identified home robotics as a post-netbook growth market. Chinese manufacturers offer already 50+ different models. The image above shows a selection of cleaning robots from only one of these companies, which can supply 50,000 sets per month each.

Philips FC9910/01 HomeRun
Prices are falling, but so do product and service quality. A look into user forums shows a mixed picture of happy and angry owners of robot cleaners. When the market is flooded with low priced vacuum cleaner robots from Asia, the number of frustrated consumers increases and so do the electronics rubbish tips. Electronic giant Philips seems to see opportunities for advanced models and has decided to make a late entry with the brand new Homerun FC9910/01 cleaning robot, equipped with an integrated camera, 14 infrared sensors, USB port and with scalable software which allows it to create mappable grids for effective cleaning. On a 3 hour charge it offers 100 minutes of cleaning. Sales of Homerun starts in France priced at 700 Euros ($ 885). 2011 will show if cleaning robots have grown up to be accepted as useful cleaning appliances or if they are still funny gadgets for some million robot nerds.

Grant Cleaning Robots Challenge 2012?
The First International Contest for Autonomous Cleaning Robots took place on October 1-3, 2002, in Lausanne, Switzerland at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne. The general objective of this contest was to bring together representatives from the cleaning industry and appliance manufacturers as well as young researchers, future customers and users, and draw their attention to an emerging technology. The goal was to clean within 10 minutes a 5 x 5 m sugar covered room as good as possible. Of total 12 teams the winner of the competition was the Czech team with robot Berta. 2012 would be a great opportunity to challenge the robotics industry with a "Grant Cleaning Challenge" for cleaning robots under the rule of professional cleaning criteria and real consumer demands. If cleaning robots want to invade peoples homes they have to be better, cheaper and greener than traditional vacuum cleaners. If they aren´t, they may have trubble to survive. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cleaning Robot Idea for Development

Swedish Electrolux offshored its vacuum cleaner production to Hungary in 2004 and closed the Swedish factory in Vaestervik. Robot cleaner Trilobite 2.0 became the second and last generation from the Swedish  consumer robotics pioneer. Sad for customers but also for creative developers behind a concept idea of a multi-functional robot cleaner. The idea responds perfectly to what cleaning experts claim for a healthy home - not only cleaning of floors but also textile furniture. Take a look at the video below. 

BTW, Electrolux had launched the Ergorapido 2in1 manual stick vacuum in 2004 and the idea of robot cleaner and stick vac was not so new in 2006. But the idea is great and I´m sure multi-functional cleaning robots will come. Who will be first with a green, affordable and effective solution? 

At Yanko Design a very similar All-In-One Robot Cleaner design concept of In-oh Yoo & Sun-woong Oh for Metatrend Institute  was published May 2010. 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Positive Market Signs from Japan

A recent November report carried out by JARA, the Japanese Robot Association, shows significant growth of +86,1% in Q3 2010 robot orders in Japan. This was four consecutive quarters of positive growth. The production value was 2,4 times higher than one year ago.
According to JARA robot demand is driven by the automotive industry that is shifting to electric cars and hybrid vehicles, the electronic industry under strong sales of telecommunications equipment and semiconductor industry.
Looking at the overseas market, China has become the center for mounting electronic components and welding due to strong smartphone sales. In addition, exports to Europe are going up.

Source: JARA/Infonaut

Friday, November 05, 2010

Celebrating 10.000 visits mark

To our visitors and readers! 
Today Robotland passed the 10.000 visits mark. A great day and a wonderful feeling to look at the global map visualizing spots of Robotland readers. 

Thank you to all, who have contributed with links, great robotics ideas and comments since our counting start in Februari 2010.  Robotland will continue to watch the global robotsphere, report about exciting events, analyze robotics innovations and explore future challenges and robotics visions. 

The new Global Robotics Brain Cloud will be released very soon including 20.000 robotics research organisations and companies with 35.000 links to people, projects, places and 8.000 webpages. 
We invite you to join by signing up for the beta test. 

Robotics Timeline
Celebrating 50 Years of Robotics a brand new Robotics Timeline is now open for preview.  

 Please, send an e-mail to grb[ at ] if you are interested in a preview. 

Thursday, November 04, 2010

World's most advanced Robot Runners

Recently Bloomberg/Business Week has listed 20 of the Worlds's most advanced robots. Surprisingly the list doesn´t include two of the world's most advanced humanoid runners: ASIMO from Honda running 6 km/hr and Toyota's humanoid running 7 km/hr.

The video below shows a Toyota robot displaying balancing skills and running (i.e. feet completely leave the ground with each stride) at 7 km/h.
Toyota Humanoid run


Run with ASIMO App

Honda has released 'Run with ASIMO,' a funand informative iPhone app featuring a race around the Suzuka circuit in ASIMO Grand Prix, and a visual history of Honda's bipedal robot development. (Android version will be available in mid- to late-November.)

Great idea HONDA to get people running instead of driving! 

Robonaut 2 Ready for Liftoff

NASA will launch the first human-like robot to space today to become a permanent resident of the International Space Station (ISS). Robonaut 2, or R2, was developed jointly by NASA and General Motors under a cooperative agreement to develop a robotic assistant that can work alongside humans, whether they are astronauts in space or workers at GM manufacturing plants on Earth.
The 300-pound R2 consists of a head and a torso with two arms and two hands.

R2 will launch on space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission. Once aboard the station, engineers will monitor how the robot operates in weightlessness.

GM plans to use technologies from R2 in future advanced vehicle safety systems and manufacturing plant applications

R2 Prep for Liftoff video below.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Robotic Theater at Copernicus Science Centre, Warsaw

At the brand new Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw Polen, three robotic actors are ready for the grand opening on Friday 5th November. The RoboThespians will be performing two scientifically-themed plays in both Polish and English within a purpose built theatre. One play is based on the short story “Prince Ferrix and the Princess Crystal” by Stanislaw Lem. 
Below is a preview of the Robotic Theatre – Teatru Robotycznego.

The fully programmable humanoid robots are developed by UK company Engineered Arts Ltd. specialised in the design and build of imaginative, interactive exhibitions, audio visual and mixed media installations. RoboThespian™ robot actors, which are installed in science museums and public venues around the world have  three major applications: to meet and greet visitors, to interact with the public, and to perform. At the Shanghai Expo 2010, "Jack" the RoboThespian greeted visitors as they walked through the Macau Pavilion exhibition area. At the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh "Andy Roid" the RoboThespian greets visitors entering the roboworld exhibition. 

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

€ 1,2 Million for Danish-German Robot Project

Handling and packing of natural objects from agriculture and food industry is still mainly a manual process. This because no robot currently available is able to handle the degree of flexibility found in these products.
In Southern Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein, there is a rather large food industry that could become endangered if production costs rise. Here, it would be advantageous to upgrade production with intelligent robotic assembly, which at the same time will upgrade the qualifications and required skills of the workers.

The Danish-German cross-boarder robotics project IFRO (Intelligent Robots for handling of Flexible Objects) is aims at bundling expertise within computer vision and robotics across the Danish-German border and supplying a competence center that links to industry as well as research and educational centers in the regions. The € 1,2 Million project is sponsored by the INTERREG 4A programme Syddanmark-Schleswig-K.E.R.N and The European Union’s "The European Regional Development Fund" with € 0,8 million.

Robotics Skills & Knowledge Wanted

Japanese CYBERDYNE Inc. is offering R&D engineering positions available for highly qualified individuals who are willing to challenge the leading edge of technology.

Here is the list of required qualifications:
Required skills: Robot Design, Mechanical/Mechanism Design, Dynamics, Kinematics, 3-D CAD, CAM, CAE, Circuit design/Electronic design, Programming, Application development (interface/data base), Designing sense, Cybernic technologies.

Required knowledge: Mechanical engineering, Mechanical design, Robot control theory, Robotics
Informatics, Computer sciences, Digital and analogue circuit design, Sensing circuit design, Human interface theory, Telecommunication programming, Programming languages (C, C++, JAVA, XML, Objective-C, etc.), Operation System (Linux, OSX, Windows, Tron, etc.), Data base (i.e. SQL, Oracle etc.), Cybernics, Physiology, Physiotherapy, Brain/Nerve Sciences, System Engineering, Other professional knowledges.

Candidates with communication skills in Japanese are preferable. Candidates are required to be residing in Japan prior to the application.

Monday, November 01, 2010

How will we work and play with Robots & Avatars in 10-15 years?

Robots and Avatars is an innovative programme in the UK developed by body>data>space with key partner NESTA. It is designed to explore how young people will work and play with new representational forms of virtual and physical life in 10-15 years time. It examines multi-identity evolutions of today’s younger generations within the context of a world in which virtual and physical spaces are increasingly blended. Robots and Avatars are producing a series of vodcasts which are available to view on their site. They explore the themes of the programme, including Artifical Intelligence, Behaviours and Ethics, Health and Wellbeing and the Future Workplace from the perspective of a diverse array of professionals and experts, who share their expertise and insight in this series of interviews.innovation experts are exploring

Robots and Avatars Vodcast #1 from body>data>space on Vimeo.