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Monday, February 28, 2011

Eating Robot improves Quality of Life

Support for eating at elderly care homes is a very resource-heavy task that requires a helper spend between 20-30 minutes at least three times a day to feed a single citizen. The need of assistance for dining might be 1-1,5 hours per day and elderly, according to a Danish study with three municipalities.
The Danish Institute of Assistive Technology has recently started a project to demonstrate that eating robots can increase the quality of life for elderly, when able to eat independently at their own pace. At the same time caregivers can save time and use it to support other individual needs. The annual support for eating in Denmark is estimated to about 50 to 100 full-time care workers.
Robotic Help for Self Help
A smart solution to support eating comes from Sweden. The new robotic eating device Bestic was developed for persons with reduced or no capability in their arms or hands. Check out the video below.

 Individuals who are mobility impaired in their arms or hands can feel the freedom of eating on their own with the eating robot. The Bestic user can decide himself or herself which pieces of food to take, and when they should be lifted to the mouth. Bestic is made to suit dining environments with its discreet design, low sound level and soft movements. Bestic can be adapted to most individuals since every user can select the button or joystick which feels most comfortable for them. Bestic has the CE-mark and meets all European standards and regulations. It is registered at the Swedish Medical Products Agency. This makes it possible to purchase Bestic within EU.

Military Robotics Business Opportunities & Risks

ABI Research has released a new research report titled ‘Defense Robots: UAVs, UGVs, UUVs and Task Robots for Military Applications’. The study predicts that the global military robotics market will experience significant growth from $5.8 billion in 2010 to around $8 billion in 2016.

In the report Autonomous Military Robotics: Risk, Ethics, and Design (2008) Patrick Lin, Prof. George Bekey, and Keith Abney, Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University recommend "not to unduly rush the process" of introducing robots in military affairs without a rigorous testing phase of robots. They discuss the challenge of creating autonomous military robots that can act reliably according the Laws of War and most Rules of Engagement, i.e. to distinguish enemy combatants from non-combatants. They conclude that military robots aimed to also replace human soldiers, especially in ‘dull, dirty, and dangerous’ jobs, raise novel ethical and social questions that should be raised "before irrational public fears or accidents arising from military robotics derail research progress and national security interests."
Credit: Talon Metal Storm
Robot Arms Control
According to the International Committee for Robot Arms ControlICRAC, more than 40 countries already have robotic programs and even Iran has launched a UAV bomber with a range of several hundred miles. Unmanned robot systems are still difficult to develop but easy to copy. The committee fears that advances in robotic systems will lead to more countries committing to war, since robots would be taking the place of humans on the battlefield. The biggest concern for the future is autonomous systems that select targets themselves. ICRAC is promoting the regulation and control of armed military robots including a prohibition on the further development of armed autonomous robots and the setting of restrictions on armed tele-operated drones for applications such as targeted killings in sovereign territories not at war.

Robots Against Landmines

According to the Landmine Monitor 2010, a total of 66 states and seven other areas were confirmed or suspected to be mine-affected. A total of 3,956 new casualties to landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) were recorded in 2009, the lowest annual total since monitoring began in 1999 and 28% lower than in 2008. At least 1,041 people were killed, 2,855 were injured, and the status of 60 casualties was unknown.
Robots Safe Lives
There have been major recent advances in robotic systems that can replace humans in undertaking hazardous activities in demanding or dangerous environments. The new book
Using robots in hazardous environments: Landmine detection, de-mining and other applications, edited by Y Baudoin, Polytechnical Faculty Royal Military Academy, Belgium and M K Habib, American University in Cairo, Egypt, reviews the development of robotic systems for de-mining and other risky activities such as fire-fighting, discusses the development and applications of sensors for mine detection using different robotic systems and examines research on multi-agent-systems and multi-robotics systems. Published in association with the CLAWAR (Climbing and Walking Robots and Associated Technologies Association) this important book is an indispensible reference for researchers and government agencies involved in the use of robots for landmine detection and disposal.
See also: The End of Swedish Countermine Technologies

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Dawn of a New Robot Renaissance

Credit: IFTF (Click to enlarge)

The Institute for the Future, IFTF, an independent nonprofit research group based in Palo Alto, CA, is predicting a Robot Renaissance. After decades of hype, false starts, and few successes, smart machines are finally ready for prime time. 
According to the IFTF researchers in the next decade we will share our offices, hospitals, schools, battlefields, nursing homes, and homes with a new breed of companion.  
Robot Renaissance Map
As part of its 2010 research, IFTF's Technology Horizons program, IFTF has created the Robot Renaissance Mapa tool to help navigate the coming changes, designed to spark excitement, and even cautious optimism, about the possible futures of human-machine interaction. The map is organized around seven big forecasts. These are the core stories that define the interactions and intersections between humans and machines. Each big forecast is supported with a “from/to” statement, suggesting a dramatic shift from where we are today to where we’re going in the future. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Robovie-PC Winner of the World's First Robot Marathon

Credit: AFP/Yahoo News
The winner of the world´s first full-length marathon for two-legged robots is Robovie PC (right) of Japanese robot technology firm Vstone Co.,
Robovie PC won after running 54 hours 57 minutes 50 seconds, organizers said, one second ahead of its rival. The average speed was 0,75 km/hr.
World Champion Runners Speed
Robots will have to exercise many years before they can compete with human world champions.  
The human marathon world record is 2 hours 3 minutes and 59 seconds, held by Ethiopian long-distance track and road running athlete Haile Gebrselassie. He is about 27 times faster than Robovie.
100 Meter Speed Record
The 100 m world record champion Usain Bolt from Jamaica is running 37,58 km/h.
Paraolymics runner
South African Oscar Pistorius, who has a double amputation and runs with the aid of Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs by Ossur is the world record holder in the 100, 200 and 400 meter (sport class T44) events. His 100 meter running speed is 33 km/h.
The the world's most advanced humanoid runners so far are ASIMO from Honda running 6 km/hr and Toyota's humanoid running 7 km/h.

Robonaut 2 - First Humanoid Robot in Space

Credit: NASA
STS-133 was successfully launched at 4:53:24PM EST on February 24, 2011 from Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39A. The mission is being flown by Space Shuttle Discovery on it's last mission. The mission duration is 11 days. Aboard Discovery is Robonaut 2 (R2), a collaboration between GM and NASA. R2 is the first humanoid robot in space. R2's primary job for now is to teach engineers how dexterous robots behave in space.
R2, the latest generation of the Robonaut astronaut helpers, is the first humanoid robot in space, and although its primary job for now is teaching engineers how dexterous robots behave in space, the hope is that through upgrades and advancements, it could one day venture outside the station to help spacewalkers make repairs or additions to the station or perform scientific work.
 Credit: NASALeonardo Multi Purpose Logistics Module
R2 will launch inside the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module, which will be packed with supplies and equipment for the station and then installed permanently on the Unity node. Once R2 is unpacked – likely several months after it arrives – it will initially be operated inside the Destiny laboratory for operational testing, but over time both its territory and its applications could expand. There are no plans to return R2 to Earth.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spy Drones Take Off into Olympic Sky

Monitoring Olympic Sky 2012
From the UK, video surveillance country number one in Europe and host of the Summer Olympics 2012, the Brittish Guardian reports about police plans to use spy drones for "routine" monitoring of antisocial motorists, protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers, in a significant expansion of covert state surveillance. BAE Systems, 2nd largest global defence company based on 2009 revenues, is already adapting its military drones for a consortium of government agencies led by Kent police.
New German Microdrones Take Off
But BAE drones will not be alone. German microdrones GmbH, located in Buchen, has recently launched the new new md4-1000, a rotary wing based micro UAV. It can carry a most diverse range of imaging, video and other sensor systems. Check out the video below for a test flight.

The civilian market for unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, is expected to grow up to $2 billion over the next 10 years according to a UK Trade & Investment report. Market drivers are increased demand of aerial photography, surveillance, plant inspection, fire and rescue service, border control, police monitoring. 

Looking Back Into The Future of Robotics 2006 - 2040

Futurists Ian Neild & Ian Pearson, editors of the BT Technology Timeline 2005 including some robotics predictions have been quite good in foresight according to my recent research. (My comments in brackets).
Comments and contributions are very welcome!
  • Global domestic robot numbers passes 4M (yes, confirmed by IRF statisitcs)
  • Global industrial robot numbers passes 1M   (yes, onfirmed by IRF statisitcs)
  • Totally automated factories (yes, watch video below)

    • Fractal shape-changing robots (Cubelets)
    • Insect-like robots used in warfare (prototypes, watch video below)

    • Robotic dolls and pets account for 10 % of domestic telecomm traffic (no, smartphones are leading)
    • Self monitoring infrastructures using smart materials and sensors (some projects)
    • Micromechanical gnomes (research projects)
    • Robots for cleaning, washing fetch and carry in hospital (yes, watch video below)

      • Robot dance tutors (Partner Ballroom Dance Robot, 2005)
      • Nanowalkers, nanoworms, nanofish (nano pioneer Adriano Cavalcanti)
      • Mechanical intelligence using MEMS and NEMS (early stage)
      • Android robots used for factory jobs (prototype HRP-3 Promet MK II)
      • Fleet of garden robots for plant and lawn care and tidying (ome prototypes)
      • Robots for cleaning, washing fetch and carry, in office (prototypes)
      • Robot pest killers (some prototypes)
      • Housework robots - fetch, carry, clean & tidy, organise etc.
      • Robots for guiding blind people (First car drive of blind person 2011)
      • Cybernetic use in sports (Ossue Flex-foot, Otto Bock C-Leg)
      • Robots for cleaning, washing, fetch and carry, in home (Roomba, Scooba, prototypes)
      • Self diagnostic self repairing robots (?)
      • Actuators resembling human muscles (Polymer Actuators research)
      • Insect sized robots banned in gardens due to effects on wildlife (UAV restrictions already discussed)
      • Robotic delivery for internal mail (AGVs)
      • Robotic exercise companion (TOPIO robot play ping-pong with humans)
      • More robots than people in developed countries (very optimistic)
      • Android gladiators (EU FET Flagship project Companion Robot for Citizens)
      • GM and robotics converge, GM used to make organic robots (artifical meat projects)
      • Micro-Mechano fractal construction kit
      • i-Robot style robots with polymer muscles and strong AI

      Wednesday, February 23, 2011

      US $ 8 Billion for War Robots in 2016

      Worldwide, as many as 80 countries already are using or are acquiring robots for military use, according to ABI Research. The market for military robots is growing from $5.8 billion in 2010 to $8 billion in 2016, ABI said in a mid February 2011 report. 

      There are an estimated 2,000 robots in Afghanistan today. They're mainly used for explosive ordnance disposal, but they're branching out. Equipped with wire cutters, spades, rakes and cameras they are used for clearing supply routes and inspecting vehicles at checkpoints.

      The US Defence Budget for 2012 continues strong funding for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) that enhance intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The base budget includes $4.8 billion to develop and procure additional Global Hawk Class (RQ-4), Predator Class (MQ-1/9), and other less expensive, low-altitude systems.

      Robert Moses, head of the government and industrial robots division of Boston-based iRobot, expects the number of Unmanned Ground robots will rise from 1:50 to 1:30 troops in combat. Today, one soldier typically operates one robot, but with improvements in robots' ability to operate autonomously, Moses foresights one operator controlling 5 to 10 robots. iRobot PacBots cost today $100,000 to $200,000 apiece depending on their sensor packages.

      US$ 38 Million for Spiderbots
      BAE Systems, 2nd largest global defence company based on 2009 revenues, develop miniature robots, Spiderbots, to to enhance warfighter's tactical situational awareness in urban and complex terrain by enabling the autonomous operation of a collaborative ensemble of multifunctional, mobile microsystems. BAE Systems  leads the $38 million MAST project in alliance of researchers and scientists from the Army, academia and industry.
      Credit: ARL CTA
      The goal for the MAST project are small scale robots that can autonomously plan and execute military missions,  readily adapt to changing environments and scenarios and learn from prior experience. The robots share common understanding with team members and seamlessly integrate unmanned systems into military and civilian society. They manipulate objects with near-human dexterity and maneuver  through three dimensional environments.
      Bio-inspired Spiderbots are small scale, stealth designed robots that can maneuver in confined spaces, autonomously and in swarms with minimum human control for navigation.

      A senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Peter W. Singer, and author of "Wired for War", calls robots on the battlefield "an amazing revolution" that "change not just how wars are fought, but also the politics, economics, laws, and ethics that surround war itself."
      Robot Arms Control Needed
      At the First Experts Workshop on Limiting Armed Tele-Operated and Autonomous Systems in Berlin 2010 the risks and dangers that military robots pose to peace and international security and to civilians in war were discussed and resulted in a statement that proclaims "an urgent need to bring into existence an arms control regime to regulate the development, acquisition, deployment, and use of armed tele-operated and
      autonomous robotic weapons."
      "Point-of-no-return" Warning
      Nicholas Hunt-Bull, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Political Theory in the School of Arts and Sciences, Southern New Hamshire University, argues in his 2006 essay A Neo-Luddite Manifesto: or Why I Do Not Love Robots "we should be leery of embracing ubiquitous use of robots in society. Once the technology is deployed it will be too late to go back."
      See also: Warning signals about the "Robotic Moment" and Robotics in the Mind of Ray Kurzweil for further reflection.

      Tuesday, February 22, 2011

      Robot Lady from Germany

      Credit: DFKI Bremen

      The lastest version of German robot lady AILA, developed at the DFKI Bremen Robotics Innovation Center, will demonstrate at CEBIT 2011 human like object handling with two arms supported by digital product memory. AILA consists of a complete anthropomorphic upper body mounted on a wheeled mobile plat-form. The upper body consists of two arms, each of them with seven degrees of freedom, a torso with four joints, and a head with two degrees of freedom. The robot is equipped with a stereo camera in the head as well as a 3D-camera on the torso used for object and scene recognition, and pose estimation two computers for vision processing and motion control, one located in the head and one in the torso the “nervous system” consists of three independent CAN-lines for communicating with the arms and torso, GigaEthernet connection for the stereo camera, and RS-485 for the servos moving the pan-tilt unit on the head.

      The mobile platform consists of six wheels with two degrees of freedom each, one for the steering axis and one for driving the wheel. These are controlled by two independent CAN-lines. The steering axis can be positioned in any direction, making the mobile platform extremely versatile – it can navigate autonomously in slightly rough indoor environment because each pair of wheels is connected with the platform through a non-actuated rotary axis. Two laser scanners monitor the environment, recognize the relevant working area and therefore support a precise approach towards the objects to be handled.

      The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, DFKI, with facilities in Kaiserslautern, Saarbrücken, Bremen, and a project office in Berlin, is the country's leading research center in the area of innovative software technology for commercial application.
      CeBIT (Centrum der Büro- und Informationstechnik; German for "Centre of Office and Information technology") is the world's largest computer expo. It is held each spring on the world's largest fairground in Hanover, Germany.

      Robot Ethics in Camel Racing

      Credit: RAQBI Center Qatar
      Robot jockeys have been used in camel racing in the Middle East for several years following international condemnation of the use of children as jockeys, often as young as four. Qatar and the UAE have banned the use of human jockeys in favor of robot jockeys, since 2004.
      Camel robot jockeys are manufactured by RAQBI Center Qatar, located at Al Shahaniya, 30 Kms from Doha city. The different models allow camel  owners to remotely whip and steer the camels from the sidelines and can also be equipped with GPS and a heart-rate monitor to assess performance. However, using electric shocks on a camel is not permitted during races and anyone caught doing so can face up to three months in prison.
      Shock Jockeys
      According to press reports the Dubai Police had recently arrested three men for allegedly selling robotic camel jockeys with an illegal electric shock feature. The suspects were reportedly selling their "shock jockeys" for up to $ 8000. The cost of an ordinary robotic camel jockey is between $ 220-320.

      Bristol host city for FIRA Robot World Cup 2012

      Federation International of Robosoccer Association, FIRA Executive Committee has announced that the host city for 17th FIRA RoboWorldCoup 2012 will be Bristol, UK. The event will take place August 20-25, just after the Olympic Games, at the Bristol Robotics Lab (BRL), the largest multi-disciplinary robotics facility in the UK with an international reputation in advanced robotics research. BRL is a collaboration between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England. BRL is . The event will be combined with the UK’s robotics conference “Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems” (TAROS), the annual premier event for UK roboticists.
      The 16th FIRA RoboWorldCoup 2011 will take place in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, August 27-30, 2011.
      FIRA robot soccer began in 1995 and the first international championship was held at KAIST, Daejeon, Korea in 1996. FIRA was founded in June 1997 with a basic goal of  taking the spirit of science and technology of robotics to the laymen and the younger generation, through the game of robot soccer.

      Monday, February 21, 2011

      The Future of Robotics is Self-Assembling

      The global success of  apps for smartphones has cross-fertilized many Cyber-Physical System (CPS) ideas and concepts including Internet of Things, Internet for Robots and Ambient Intelligence. The next big hype might be apps for self-configuring modular robotsiMoBots. It could work like this: connect to a robot app store, download an app to a modular robot swarm and watch how the robot modules configure into the object of your choice i.e. a watch dog, a music box or a chair. In the future we might only need a "Buck of Stuff" with small, low-cost robot modules, that can connect to each other in a variety of shapes according to design needs and design instructions downloaded from the Internet.

      Credit: Modular Robotics
      The first commercially availabe robot modules are called Cubelets, developed by Modular Robotics, a  spin-off from Carnegie Mellon University Computational Design lab.
      Cubelets are smart modular cube robots that can be snapped together to make an endless variety of robots with no programming and no wires. The cubelets standard kit comes with 20 magnetic blocks in a variety of sensor, logic and actuator blocks, allowing to create simple reconfigurable cube robots that can drive around on a tabletop, respond to light, sound, and temperature, and have surprisingly lifelike behaviors. The Standard Cubelet pack with 20 cubes is available for $300 direct from Modular Robotics. The basic kit includes 20 Cubelets: Action Blocks: 2 Drive, 1 Rotate, 1 Speaker, 1 Flashlight, 1 Bar Graph, Sense Blocks: 1 Knob, 1 Brightness, 2 Distance, 1 Temperature, Think/Utility Blocks: 2 Inverse, 1 Minimum, 1 Maximum, 1 Battery, 2 Passive, 2 Blocker.
      The iMobot is a reconfigurable modular robot, developed at the Integration Engineering Lab, at University of California by Prof. Harry H. Cheng, has four controllable degrees of freedom. iMobot is designed for search and rescue operations as well as research and teaching.  iMobot has versatile locomotion including a unique feature of driving as though with wheels and lifting itself into a camera platform.

      Credit: UCLA/IE Lab
      Researchers at the Biorobotics Lab, EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, are featuring the modular robotics platform Roombots designed to self-assemble into changing, active every-day environment elements, e.g. pieces of furniture. As they have multi-purpose features they can be used to assemble legged robots, like quadruped robots. Modular robot furniture can assemble itself, can change shape over time, move using actuated joints to different locations depending on the users needs. See: IKEA's nightmare

      Construction with Quadrotor Teams
      The last example is from the the GRASP Lab, University of Pennsylvania, where a team of quadrotors autonomously build tower-like cubic structures from laid out modular parts.

      Credit: GRASP Lab

      Sunday, February 20, 2011

      Research in Brain Controlled Robots

      Researchers from USA and Switzerland demonstrated state-of-the-art research in brain controlled robotics at the AAAS 2011 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

      Brain Controlled Telepresence Robot
      José del R. Millan, Defitech professor at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, focused on how brain-machine interfaces can help patients limited in mobility to interact with their families. Not only can the patients keep mental control of the machine, but they can also perform daily tasks at the same time.
      Out-of-body experience
      Olaf Blanke, assistant professor of cognitive neuroscience at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, presented a virtual reality experiment that focused on self-consciousness in connection with body representation.
      Brain Controlled Robot Arm Prothesis
      Todd Kuiken, director at the Center for Bionic Medicine at Northwestern University and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, explained the neural interface technique “targeted reinnervation.” Glen Lehman, a retired U.S. Army sergeant who lost his arm while in combat in Iraq, accompanied Kuiken. When Lehman thinks about moving the arm, the arms moves.
      Brain Controlled Robot Arm
      Andrew Schwartz, professor of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh, also presented a way to control an artificial arm, but through the brain’s motor cortex. This would be beneficial for people with spinal cord injuries.

      Saturday, February 19, 2011

      $ 2,1 million to U.S. Congress Promoters of Unmanned Systems

      The US Defense Budget for 2012 continues strong funding for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) with $4.8 billion. This means jobs in the U.S. defense industry and saving lives of U.S. war fighters. One of the most influential promoters of Unmanned Systems in the U.S. is the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus (USC), originally formed as the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Caucus in 2009. USC is a bipartisan group of 32 Republican and 10 Democrat members of the U.S. Congress, committed to the growth and expansion of unmanned systems in defense,  intelligence, law enforcement, homeland security and science. USC defines its mission "to educate members of Congress and the public on the strategic, tactical, and scientific value of unmanned systems; actively support further development and acquisition of more systems, and more effectively engage the civilian aviation community on unmanned system use and safety."
      Infonaut/GRB2011: Members of the U.S. Unmanned Systems Caucus (Dem=blue, Rep=red)
      Co-Chairs of the USC are Republican Congressman Buck McKeon and Democrat Congressman Henry Cuellar. McKeon is representative for California’s 25th District that holds several military locations, including Fort Irwin, Edwards Air Force Base, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, and the Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center. McKeon is also the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, ASC, who influence military policy and have the power to create demand for this industry's commodities. 11 of the USC members are also members of the ASC.

      2,1 Million Defense Industry Donations
      The hundreds of billions of dollars the federal government spends each year on defense are part of the reason defense firms invest millions of dollars in lobbying activities and campaign contributions. Defense companies concentrate their political donations on members of the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees that allocate federal defense money. 
      According to data from The Center for Responsive Politics, CRP, a nonpartisan research group based in Washington, D.C. that tracks money in politics and the effect of money and lobbying activity on elections and public policy, the defense sector has spend about $ 139 Million in 2010 on lobbying. The sector includes defense aerospace, defense electronics and other miscellaneous defense companies. The sector’s biggest companies include Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Dynamics, as well as Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. In 2010, more than 1.000 lobbyists represented about 300 clients.
      Defense Campaign Donations 2009-2010 
      According to data from the Senate Office of Public Records and CRP 29 USC members of 42 have received  about $ 2,1 million from defence industry during the 2009-2010 campaign. The top 3 recipients, 2009-2010 are Co-Chair Buck McKeon R-CA) $322.900, Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) $ 172.900 and Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA) $128.850.
      See also: The House Ethical Rules  and White House fact sheet about special interests reform. 

      Friday, February 18, 2011

      Real World Testbed for Robots

      The Japanese city Tsukuba City, located in Ibaraki Prefectureis, is a nationally designated "Robot Zone" hosting leading robot company Cyberdyne and research institute AIST. Tsukuba is first providing real world infrastructure and testbeds for developing and commercializing robotics technologies. Special provision in Japan´s traffic laws enable active use of Tsukuba´s parks, public roads, industrial parks, residential areas, agricultural areas, schools and shopping areas for robotics testing. The annual Tsukuba Real World Robot Challenge gathers teams of university students from all around Japan in order to test the skills of their robots in autonomous navigation on a real environment.

      Robot Safety Center is the first safety certification center for civilian robotics. It will lay needed groundwork for interantional safety standards that are needed before robots can be put to wide public use. A collaboration between a number of organizations including Japan’s Automobile Research Institute (JARI), the center has areas for testing various robots and exoskeletons for things like obstacle detection, electronic jamming resistance, durability, and more. As well as developing safety standards for the devices, it is hoped that within the next five years it will provide certification services for new robots as they become commercially available.

      Tsukuba High Tech Park is a "mini" industrial park for robotics start-ups and provides training and education for the workforce needed to support robotics business models.

      The planned Tsukuba Robotics Solution Center will promote cooperation between industry, institutes and universities to apply robotics to real world needs.

      Thursday, February 17, 2011

      US$ 4,8 Billion for Unmanned Aerial Systems

      The US Defence Budget for 2012 continues strong funding for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) that enhance intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The base budget includes $4.8 billion to develop and procure additional Global Hawk Class (RQ-4), Predator Class (MQ-1/9), and other less expensive, low-altitude systems. The 2012 budget asks for $1.7 billion for the high-altitude Global Hawk class – the same as in 2010, $2.5 billion for Predator-class drones, a significant increase
      up from the current $1.7 billion. But smaller UAS, such as the Army’s 3-foot, hand-launched Raven, are being cut from $1.2 billion in the last funding bill down to $600 million.
      3 Global Hawk Class (RQ-4):  similar to the U-2 in mission and design – providing high-altitude, near-real-time, high-resolution ISR imagery.  The RQ-4 can survey large geographic areas with pinpoint accuracy over land and water. The Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) system is a maritime variant of Global Hawk.  
      84 Predator Class (MQ-1/9):  operates over-the-horizon at medium altitude for long endurance. The MQ-1 (Predator for USAF and SOCOM, Gray Eagle for Army) has a primary mission of reconnaissance against perishable targets. The MQ-9 Reaper (USAF and SOCOM) has a hunter-killer primary mission.  
      1308 smaller UAS: less-expensive low altitude systems – including some available to frontline commanders at battalion level or lower.

      Wednesday, February 16, 2011

      Robotics Timeline

      A timeline is a graphical representation of a chronology or events in time. It is a great tool to visualize and analyze technology and product life cycles, market and industry development, companies, networks etc.
      Below an example with the great help of Dipity.

      Tuesday, February 15, 2011

      Warning Signals about the "Robotic Moment"

      Sherry Turkle, the Director of MIT’s Initiative on Technology and Self, has become deeply pessimistic about our digital future. In her controversial new book, Alone Together, Turkle argues that the development of emotionally sympathetic robots like Tamagotchis and Furbies means that the “robotic moment” has arrived for the human race.
      Over the last 15 years Turkle has studied the human robot relation with a broad cross section of children, adults and old people. She found out that, people turned to robots as a substitute for human interaction, caused by a sense of disappointment with each other. Robots are used by lonely, isolated human beings as lovers, best friends and caregivers. She is worried about interaction that makes humans feel that robots care, when they only emulate emotions. She is worried about the idea to use of social robots for child and elderly care, that could undermine human relations and dehumanize our welfare system.
      See video interview at TechCrunch.

      US$ 377 million in Next-Generation Robotics and Manufacturing Research

      US President Barack Obama has unveiled his 2012 budget, describing the proposal as a "down payment" on future cuts to the US budget deficit.
      Of the $148 billion for R&D $ 377 million are aimed to "lay the groundwork for the Industries and Jobs of the Future and a Renaissance in American Manufacturing". The Administration proposes specifically $30 million in next generation robotics, $35 million for a nanotechnology manufacturing initiative, and $96 million for an interdisciplinary program aimed at eventually replacing current computer chip technologies.

      $ 30 million National Robotics Initiative (NRI)
      NSF will work with NASA, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide U.S. leadership in science and engineering research and education aimed at the development of next-generation robots that that work alongside, or even cooperatively, with people. These robots could participate in manufacturing, space and undersea exploration, healthcare and rehabilitation, military and homeland surveillance and security, education and training, and safe driving.

      All three of these initiatives involve multiple agencies and critical partnerships with the private sector. The Administration also proposes an additional $87 million in advanced manufacturing activities, including expanded university-industry research partnerships and regional innovation ecosystems, clean energy manufacturing research, and new research at the intersection of biology, the physical sciences, and engineering. The Administration also proposes $117 million for “cyberinfrastructure” activities that will accelerate the pace of discovery in all research disciplines, and $12 million for a new program that will fund a suite of activities that promote greater interdisciplinary research.
      The National Science Foundation (NSF) is the key Federal grant-making agency responsible for supporting the full breadth of non-biomedical science and technology research at the Nation’s universities and colleges.  NSF accounts for approximately 20 percent of all federally-supported basic research conducted by academic institutions, and for approximately 40 percent of federally-supported non-biomedical university basic research.

      Monday, February 14, 2011

      Robotics Blog Merger 2011

      Infonaut Global Robotics Brain 2011

      IEEE Automation and robot blog BotJunkie are merging to form "the best robotics blog on the Net".

      Automaton is the IEEE Spectrum's robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, automation, mechatronics, artificial intelligence, robot kits, robot toys, and other silicon-brained contraptions.
      IEEE Spectrum is the flagship publication of the the IEEE, the world's largest technology society with 400,000 members in over 150 countries.
      Robot blog BotJunkie was started in 2007 by Evan Ackerman with the help of OhGizmo’s David Ponce.  Evan has done a great job editing almost 2000 robotics posts and gained a high ranking among robotics blogs. Blog search directory Technorati / ranks Botjunkie # 606 in authority (*) and # 899 among bloggs. Automaton ranks # 116 in authority and # 1.252 among science blogs.
      Alexa  ranks BotJunkie # 211,099 in the world according to the three-month Alexa traffic rankings, and the fraction of visits to this site referred by search engines is roughly 11%. Traffic Rank in US is " 64,789.

      Evan will collaborate with the Automaton team as a senior writer and looks now forward heading to places like China, Japan, and Europe to bring live coverage and breaking news from robotics conferences and events worldwide. Congratulations and good luck!

      (*) Technorati Authority measures a site's standing & influence in the blogosphere.

      Happy Denmark invests US$ 540 million in Welfare Robots
      In Denmarkranked the happiest population in the world, where citizens are paying some of the highest taxes in the world, the Danish government spends more on the welfare of children and elderly than any other government. As part of the Quality Reform, launched in 2008, Denmark invests appr. 540 million dollar (400 million Euro) in labor saving technologies such as ICT, cleaning, feeding and social robots in the public sector 2009-2015. Robots are needed to provide more elderly citizens with better and more effective public services and to compensate future recruiting challenges. 25 % of the public sector employees will retire within the next 10 years. As part of the annual economic agreement the Government and Local Government Denmark (KL) decided that the municipalities must account for setting free resources corresponding to 130 million Euro (increasing to 700 million Euro in 2013).

      More Service Robots for Better Public Service Provision

      The Danish strategy aims at making the public sector more effective and spend more money on service provision by spending less money on administration, purchasing and energy, reducing absence due to illness and using more labor saving technologies and better work procedures. Labor saving technologies can set free resources to more care for e.g. the elderly. Public employees can with the same work intensity provide more service to the citizens by using better and more advanced tools and aids, having excellent work flow systems and case management systems and organizing the work procedures better.

      See also:
      Denmark invests € 4,5 Million in Therapeutic Robots from Japan
      Danish Centre for Robot Technology expands
      Denmark first with Social Robot Drivers License
      First Danish Geminoid

      Robots@Future en Seine 2011

      Futur en Seine is the festival for digital life and creativity, an international biennial held in Paris and the Paris Region. The coming edition shall take place from the 17th to the 26th of June 2011.

      • Gostai will demonstrate Jazz Connect, a project that enables trade fair visitors to avoid highly CO2 emitting journeys by making them digitally present via telepresence robots, which move around and communicate with exhibitors.
      • Strate Collège Designers with partners Le CUBE and Le CRIIF will demonstrate a range of robotic urban furniture that interacts with its surroundings.

      Futur en Seine 2009 Teaser with english subs
      Uploaded by Cap_Digital. - Technology reviews and science news videos.
      Futur en Seine 2011 is open to contributions from the worldwide digital community: take part in the festival by answering one of the 4 calls for participation launched by Cap Digital!

      Whether you’re a company, research lab, school, institution, or artist, you can apply before the 1st of March at 12:00 (GMT+1).

      Saturday, February 12, 2011

      European Robot Companions for Citizens accepted to negotiation

      The CA-RoboCom pilot, aimed at the design of the FET Flagship Initiative on "Robot Companions for Citizens", was evaluated positively and invited to negotiation. The selection process of the CAs that will be funded was very severe: 23 CA proposals were submitted and 6 were selected and invited to negotiation. The negotiation with the invited CA proposals will take place in Brussels on February 28.
      If the negotiation will be successful the CA-RoboCom will be funded, and will start  officially on May 1, 2011 (duration 1 year).

      Currently, the initiative is supported by a very large and growing  community, involving more than 90 experts  across academy and industry of 15 different European countries, and 10 interdisciplinary organizations, involving networks, clusters of excellence and technological platforms.

      American Robotics Network - Relaunched

      Twelve years after the founding of the European Robotics Network, EURON and five years after the "Science and Technology Challenges for Roboticsworkshop 2006, where Prof. George Bekey, USC, proposed an American Robotics Network, AMERON , the idea of an American Robotics Network, AMRON, has been re-launched by former EURON founding Chairman (1999-2006) Henrik Christensen, now KUKA Chair of Robotics and a Professor of Computing with the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta since 2007. Christensen started EURON in 1999, when professor at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. He has lead and participated in a large number of EU projects and also served as the research coordinator of ECVision (2000-2004).
      In 2007 he left Europe and moved to Georgia Tech where he transfered his EURON knowledge into the CCC initiative on US Robotics. He coordinated the U.S. robotics elite in developing an US national roadmap for robotics, that was finally presented to Congress in May 2009.
      Christensen has now re-launched the idea of an American Robotics Network (AMRON), aimed to coordinate research, technology transfer, educational efforts and robotics PR. If European outsider Christensen can convince the U.S. robotics community of the advantages with an AMRON remains to be seen.

      The EURON community, founded in 2001 with funds from the 5th Framework Programme of  the European Commission, has about 225 member institutes all over Europe including associated countries such as Turkey, Israel or Russia. The goal of the network is to stimulate and promote research, education and technology transfer around robotics in Europe. It also serves as a central contact point to the European Commission, mainly to prepare roadmaps and facilitate the access of members to funding proposals in the area of robotics research.
      EURON has been successfull in establishing robotics as a strategic technology platform on the European research agenda and promoting robotics projects valued more than 700 million Euro in funding.
      The latest success of the EURON community is the CA-RoboCom pilot, aimed at the design of the FET Flagship Initiative on "Robot Companions for Citizens". It was evaluated positively and invited to negotiation. The selection process of the CAs that will be funded was very severe: 23 CA proposals were submitted and 6 were selected and invited to negotiation. The negotiation with the invited CA proposals will take place in Brussels on February 28. If the negotiation will be successful the CA-RoboCom will be funded, and will start  officially on May 1, 2011 (duration 1 year).
      CA: Coordination Action
      FET: Future and Emerging Technologies 

      Engelberger Robotics Award 2011 Winners

      The Engelberger Robotics Award, the industry’s highest honor, will be presented to Åke Lindqvist and Henrik Christensen during a special dinner ceremony on Tuesday, March 22 at the InterContintental Hotel in Chicago during Automate 2011/42nd International Symposium on Robotics.

      Åke Lindqvist wins the 2011 Engelberger Award for Leadership.  Lindqvist spent 37 years in the industry until his recent retirement from ABB Robotics (formerly ASEA).  During his career at ABB he held several senior positions at the ABB Robotics headquarters in Sweden and North America, and most recently as Vice President and member of the ABB Robotics Products Global Management Team as head of Automotive Global Product Sales. Åke Lindqvist is also president of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). 

      Henrik Christensen wins the 2011 Engelberger Award for Education.  Christensen is currently the KUKA Chair of Robotics and a Professor of Computing with the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.  He also serves as the Director of the Center for Robotics and Intelligent Machines. He is well known globally for his roles as the Founding Chair of the European Robotics Research Network (EURON) and for being the driving force behind the recent Roadmap for US Robotics.
      Academic profile 1988-2010:
      Publications: 206  |  Citations: 1422  |  G-Index: 27  |  H-Index: 19.
      Interest: Artificial Intelligence, Computer Vision, Machine Learning & Pattern Recognition. Collaborated with  193 co-authors, from 1988 to 2010

      The awards, sponsored by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group, are named after Joseph F. Engelberger, known throughout the world as “the father of robotics.”  Each recipient will be presented a commemorative medallion and a $5000 honorarium by RIA.  Launched in 1977, 113 industry leaders from 16 nations have now been selected for this honor.

      Friday, February 11, 2011

      iRobot 2010 revenue up +34%

      2010 revenue increased 34% to $401 million for the full year, while adjusted EBITDA more than doubled to $49 million or 12% of revenue. iRobots international home robot revenues grew 66% to $151 million. 
      iRobot continued to focus on strengthening the balance sheet resulted in year-end cash and investments of $122 million, up 59% from $77 million a year ago. 
      in 2011 iRobot plans to develop high-quality robots for multibillion-dollar automated home maintenance and remote presence markets.
      iRobot's intellectual property is protected by more than 100 defensible worldwide patents that we will continue to defend should we detect infringement. Likewise, our brands are protected by 18 trademark registrations in the United States and more than 65 trademarks internationally. 
      For fiscal year 2011 management expects revenue of $450 - $465 million and earnings per share of $0.90 - $1.0. 
      (Source: iRobotiRobot CEO Q4 2010 Results - Earnings Call Transcript)

      Tuesday, February 08, 2011

      Call for Participation - IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Study Groups

      The IEEE Robotics and Automation Society’s Standing Committee for Standards Activities is seeking participants for two study groups that have been formed. Information on the goals of the study groups can be found below.

      Map Data Representation and Fundamental Data Types
      This Study Group aims to develop a consensus on the needs for common representation for robot map data, including metric, topological, and semantic maps. The Study Group will investigate the potential for standardizing fundamental data types for mapping and study existing map data representations from other SDOs including the OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) and the ISO. As part of its work, it will determine how detailed the standardized data types used in map representation need to be. The study group
      will set up a long-term roadmap for developing specifications for map data representation and discuss how to represent, encode, and exchange map data for robot navigation.
      The leads for this Study Group are Wonpil Yu (Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, Korea) and Geoffrey Biggs (National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan).

      Glossary/Ontology for Robotics and Automation
      The objective of this Study Group is to identify, develop, and document salient terms and their definition so that they can serve as a common reference for the robotics and automation community. A core issue that will be addressed as part of this effort is how to represent the definition of the terms. Unlike previous efforts which have attempted to perform similar activities in more specific domains, this study group will take a more all-encompassing approach, focusing on terms that relate not only to the more traditional mobile robotics domain (e.g., service robotics, healthcare robotics, military robotics) but extending it into the automation field which
      could include terms related to domains such as automated manufacturing shop floor. The exact scope of this effort and the domains that will be addressed will be one of the first orders of business of this study group.
      The leads for this Study Group are Craig Schlenoff and Hui-Min Huang (National Institute of Standards and Technology, USA). 

      The outcome of these two study groups will lead to a project authorization request (PAR) which will initiate a standardization process within the IEEE Standards Association.
      For more information about these study groups or to express interest in joining, please contact:
      Raj Madhavan, Ph.D.
      Chair, Standing Committee for Standards Activities (SCSA)
      IEEE Robotics and Automation Society 

      First Danish Geminoid

      Denmark has become the Center of  Japanese robotics in Europe. After introduction of therapy robot PARO in Denmark 2008 and the robot suite HAL from Cyberdyne in 2010, now the first Geminiod outside Japan is developed at Aalborg University in cooperation with ATR and Kokoro. The purpose of the project led by Henrik Scharfe, Associate Professor, and Director of Center for Computer-mediated Epistemology, is to systematically investigate certain aspects of Human Robot Interaction, the novel concept of Blended Presence, and by studying cultural differences in the perception of robots.The project is intended to advance android science and philosophy, in seeking answers to fundamental questions, many of which that have also occupied the Japanese researchers. The most important questions are:
      - What is a human?
      - What is presence?
      - What is a relation?
      - What is identity?
      The Danish Geminoid will be modeled over professor Henrik Scharfe and is expected to arrive in April 2011. Pictures, videos etc about the geminoid project will be published at
      Update 2011-03-10: Check out video below for first impressions.

      The first geminoid, HI-1, was created in 2005 by Prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro of ATR and the Tokyo-based firm, Kokoro.

      Enabling Robotics Innovation: From Research to Products

      Since year 2000 about EUR 700 million have been invested in Europe by the EU, academia and industry in robotics research. Thousands of research papers have been published and increased the global robotics knowledge, but the transfer from research into innovations and new products has been more difficult and disappointing for market players and consumers. 

      The theme of the European Robotics Forum 2011 is "Enabling innovation: from research to products". The theme is inspired by last year's theme, "Bridging the gap": the discussion around that theme led to the observation that the perceived gap between academia and industry in robotics is much smaller than the broad gap between new robotics developments and "the service robot customer".
      The European Robotics Forum is a co-organisation by the networks EUROP (European Technology Robotics Platform) and EURON (European Robotics Research Network) and will take place in Vasteras, Sweden on April 6-8, 2011, hosted by Swedish Robotdalen.
      More information about the ERF can be found online.

      Global Interest in Robotics is Fading

      After some years of stagnation the search term "robot" has again shown some significant increase during 2010, mainly driven by robotics news such as
      • Robot waiters in China never lose patience
      • Robot breakdown delays New Zealand mine rescue
      • The world's first robot with conscience
      • More oil now gushing into Gulf after undersea robot bumps venting system on cap
      • Eyes flashing, robot conducts wedding in Tokyo

      But in the long run the public interest in robotics and other emerging technologies has decreased. According to Google Trends measuring the search frequency of technology terms the interest in robotics has decreased significantly since 2004. Despite billions of dollar, euro and yen invested in robotics R&D the world’s interest in robotics is fading. The Google Trends graph below shows the negative global trend for robotics and biotech.

      Friday, February 04, 2011

      RoboCup 2011 Istanbul Turkey July 4-10, 2011

      The RobotCup 2011 will be held in Istanbul, Turkey July 4-10,

      The 15th annual RoboCup International Symposium will be held in conjunction with RoboCup 2010. The Symposium represents the core meeting for presentation and discussion of scientific contributions to a variety of research areas related to all RoboCup divisions (RoboCupSoccer, RoboCupRescue, RoboCup@Home, and RoboCupJunior). Its scope encompasses, but is not restricted to, research and educational activities within the fields of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

      The First RoboCup comptetition was held August 23 - 29, 1997 at IJCAI-97 - International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, in Nagoya, Japan. 38 teams from 11 countries participated and over 5,000 spectators attended. In 2010 RoboCup was held in Singapore and attracted 500 teams from 40 countries and over 3000 participants. The graph below illustrates the successful development of RoboCup, the most ambitions robot competition in the world.

      The ultimate goal of the RoboCup Initiative is "a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players shall win the soccer game, comply with the official rule of the FIFA, against the winner of the most recent World Cup."

      New Open Access Robotics Books - free to download

      Advances in Theory and Applications of Stereo Vision
      Edited by: Asim Bhatti (*)

      ISBN 978-953-307-516-7, Hard cover, 352 pages
      Publisher: InTech
      Publication date: January 2011
      Subject: Computer Vision

      The book presents a wide range of innovative research ideas and current trends in stereo vision. (Free to download).

      Multi-Robot Systems, Trends and Development
      Edited by: Toshiyuki Yasuda (**)

      ISBN 978-953-307-425-2, Hard cover, 586 pages
      Publisher: InTech
      Publication date: January 2011
      Subject: Biomimetic Robotics

      This book is a collection of 29 excellent works and comprised of three sections: task oriented approach, bio inspired approach, and modeling/design. (Free to download)

      (*) Academic Researcher, CISR (ITRI), Deakin University
      (**) Assistant Professor, Manufacturing Systems Laboratory, Mechanical Systems Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering, Hiroshima University

      InTech is a multidisciplinary Open Access publisher of books and journals covering the fields of Science, Technology and Medicine. Since 2004, Intech has published more than 300 books with the aim of providing FREE online access to high-quality research, and helping leading academics make their work visible and accessible to diverse new audiences around the world.

      Wednesday, February 02, 2011

      Robotic Car for Blind Driver

      Image: NFB 
      The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the oldest and largest organization of blind people in the nation, announced that for the first time a blind individual has driven a street vehicle in public without the assistance of a sighted person.  Mark Anthony Riccobono, a blind executive who directs technology, research, and education programs for the organization, was behind the wheel of a Ford Escape hybrid equipped with nonvisual technology and successfully navigated 1.5 miles of the road course section of the famed track at the Daytona International Speedway.

      The NFB Blind Driver Challenge™ is a research project of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute—the only research and training facility on blindness operated by the blind.  The Jernigan Institute challenged universities, technology developers, and other interested innovators to establish NFB Blind Driver Challenge™ (BDC) teams, in collaboration with the NFB, to build interface technologies that will empower blind people to drive a car independently.  The purpose of the NFB Blind Driver Challenge™ is to stimulate the development of nonvisual interface technology.  The Virginia Tech/TORC NFB BDC team, under the direction of Dr. Dennis Hong, director of the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech., is the only team that has accepted the challenge.  The team uses the ByWire XGV™ developed by TORC technologies as the research platform for the development and testing of the nonvisual interface technologies that allow a blind person to drive.