Robotland Bookstore

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ASIMO at Tokyo Motor Show 2011

At the Honda press conference Nov 30, 2011 in Tokyo ASIMO demonstrated its latest capabilities by using his arms and multi-fingered hands to open a lid, pouring water into a cup and serving it to the Honda CEO Takanobu Ito.  
ASIMO opens a lid and pours water.
ASIMO is serving a drink to CEO Ito. 

Check out the end of video here

Kobot - a new mobilty concept robot vehicle

Japanese robot company Tmsuk and electronic manufacturer Kowa Co. Ltd. have developed an new electric concept eco-car called "Kobot".  Three different models of the  fold-able robot scooter controlled by a smart phone wowed visitors to the 42th Tokyo Motor Show 2011.

The Kobot is a three-wheel scooter with just one seat and can drive 30 km/h. It can be packed away after use in a space of around one square meter.  The developer Kowa Tmsuk hopes the electrically-powered vehicle will be perfect for navigating crowded city streets, without adding to air pollution. The vehicles may be ready for the market Q4 in 2013.

Preview the video below for a first impression.
Via kmoriyama

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Robots for cave exploration on Mars and Moon

CMU robot for subterranean mapping
NASA has selected Astrobotic Technology Inc. for a contract to develop robotic teams to explore extensive caves on Mars, the Moon, and other planetary destinations. Astrobotic will develop robots that cooperate to overcome the challenges of underground planetary missions: no light for solar power, radio communications blocked by rock, and mobility challenged by rough terrain. Through a subcontract to Carnegie Mellon University, the research will build on multi-robot and subterranean robot research pioneered at CMU to improve capabilities and reduce risk of failure relative to single-robot missions.
The lunar rover expedition being created by Astrobotic Technology and Carnegie Mellon University has been selected by Popular Science magazine as one the 100 best innovations of the year. The December issue named Astrobotic and its founder Dr. William “Red” Whittaker as the “Leader of the New Moon Race.” 
A spin-out from Carnegie Mellon University, Astrobotic delivers payloads and collects data for space agencies, aerospace corporations and academic researchers. The first expedition in 2014-15 will carry scientific instruments, engineering experiments and sample components that space agencies and companies want to test in the lunar environment.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Haptic robot guides blind wheelchair driver

Haptic robot guides blind wheelchair driver

Successful first test drive of “sighted” wheelchair
Research on an electric wheelchair that can sense it´s environment and transmit information to a person who is visually impaired, has been tested at Luleå University of Technology, Sweden. Daniel Innala Ahlmark, a prospective graduate student in the research project, and himself visually impaired, dared to make the first public test.
The wheelchair has a joystick for steering and a haptic robot that acts as a virtual white cane. With the help of a laser scanner a simplified 3D map is created of the wheelchair surroundings. The laser scanner uses Time-of-flight technique. The 3D map is transferred to the haptic robot so that a visually impaired wheelchair driver can "feel or see" obstacles such as open doors or oncoming people, and navigate past them.
The “sighted” wheelchair has been developed by Kalevi Hyyppä, a professor at Luleå University of Technology and his research team at the LTU division EISLAB. The other members of the research team are prospective Ph.D. student Daniel Innala Ahlmark, assistant professor Håkan Fredriksson and Ph.D. student Fredrik Broström.  

Japanese Robots like Denmark

Japanese Panasonic and the Danish CareLab at DTI Centre for Robot Technology in Odense have recently presented the latest version of Panasonic's robotics bed, designed for people who have limited mobility and need an extra level of independence. Panasonic has collaborated with Danish robotexperts to optimize the usability of this innovative robotic device. The expertise of the Danish experts has helped Panasonic to get access to professional environments in nursing homes, in hospitals, in municipals and research institutes in Denmark, and to get better insight in real user needs and technical requirements. This gives Panasonic a competitive advantage to reduce time to market and Denmark access to state-of-the-art robotics in real case environments. 

Denmark the ideal test market for robots

Earlier this year Japanese robot producer tmsuk inaugurates a new Danish R&D company to strengthen its global position by developing and testing new robotic products in the progressive, Danish health sector. According to tmsuk CEO Yoichi Takamoto Denmark is ideal for user driven development and testing of prototypes due to entrepreneurial and open mindset that dominates the entire Danish society. The swift adaptation of new technology on all levels is very important in robotics business, as are the smooth procedures for obtaining public safety certificates like CE marking. Moreover the public sector in Denmark supports research and development by engaging in public-private partnerships and giving financial support to promising innovative projects.
The first project tmsuk is planning to start in Denmark is to carry out social testing of the care robot Roberior. Originally launched in 2005 as a home security robot with digital camera, infrared sensors and videophone capability to notify the user of home intruders, now the intention with Roberior is to increase the feeling of security for elderly by assuring that they can easily and at any time get in touch with care takers or family. For that purpose, tmsuk will first study the users’ needs, lifestyle and challenges in operating the first prototype, and will then use this knowledge to improve the design and functionality. A new prototype will eventually be tested in senior citizens’ private homes and in nursing homes. Tmsuk expects to have a final version of Roberior ready for mass production by the end of 2012.

Robotland Denmark
In the last years Denmark has been promoted successfully in Japan as the ideal "Robotland"  "a small, highly integrated and homogenous society, with consumers who are quick at adapting new technologies also contributes to making Denmark the world’s best test market." The Danish robotics industry is described as user driven and very innovative in terms of the implementation of robot solutions for complex processes. Additionally, Danish users and decision makers in all sectors are very open to new technology, making Denmark a unique location for testing next generation technologies.
One-stop shop certification

Japanese companies are attracted by easy approval procedure and a ‘one-stop shop’ at the Danish DGMNB certifying authorities concerning welfare technology. The Danish medical authorities are the fastest in the EU to CE approve medical products. And more importantly, the Danish medical market is publicly regulated with equal access for all approved players, presenting foreign companies a great chance to access the market.

Open minded Denmark has attracted world leading Japanese care robotics companies such as Intelligent-system (Paro) and exoskeleton developer Cyberdyne

European Robotics Week 2011

Today is the start of the first European Robotics Week. From 28th of November to 4th of December 2011, over 130 organisations in 19 European countries organise over 350 robotics related activities across Europe, highlighting and promoting the growing importance of European robotics in a wide variety of application areas. The week’s aim is also to inspire students of all ages while building their interest in technology and innovation.  

European Robotics Remote Labs - online viewing of activities
More than 45 European robotics labs participate in the recently opened videoportal to show either pre-recorded videos or live-streaming lab activities. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New and Emerging Technologies in Assistive Robotics

Assistive robotics

Robot Meeting at Israeli parliament, Knesset

Robots at Knesset 2011/ISRA
Robotics has been identified as an strategic technology for Israel by the Israeli government, that has initiated a national program to develop the robotics industry in Israel. Earlier this year members of the government, industry leaders and leaders from academia came together to discuss trends, demand and opportunities for Israeli robotics. A collection of  mobile consumer and service robots was exhibited for the delegates during the meeting session. Among topics discussed at the meeting was the establishment of a National Institute of Robotics. 
New Robotics Network
One outcome of this meeting was the establishment of the Israeli Robotics Association (ISRA) including senior members of the Israeli robotics community from industry and academia. The aim of ISRA is to promote robotics as a field of national priority and to foster a viable robotics industry in Israel. 
Israeli Robotics Industry 
Some of the leading robotics companies in Israel are listed below. Click image for enlargement.
IL robotics companies /GRB 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Korean Prison Guard Robots in Pohang Pilot

Prison Guard Robot/AFC
The Korean Herald reports that the the Ministry of Knowledge Economy has funded the development of three prison guard robots for night duty. The robots will be piloted at a correctional facility in Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province in March 2012.

The robots are being developed by the Asian Forum for Corrections (AFC) and the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute.  Professor Lee Baik-Chul of Kyonggi University, who led the design process and heads the AFC, said it was intended to let human guards focus more on correction and rehabilitation efforts.

The robots will be 150 centimeters high, and weigh 70 kilograms and will move on four wheels at walking speed, and will be fitted with video surveillance equipment. The robots will also feature equipment that allows them to recognize unusual behavior such as suicide attempts and violence, and to notify human guards in the control center.
The robots will also have a system allowing the inmates and guards in the control center to communicate with each other. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

US$100.000 Prize in Open UAV Innovation Challenge

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic (SSC Atlantic) has started UAVForge, a crowdsourcing project to design, build and manufacture advanced small unmanned air vehicle (UAV) systems. The goal of this project is to facilitate the exchange of ideas among a loosely connected international community united through common interests and inspired by innovation and creative thought.

Top teams will be invited to a competition fly-off where the winning team will receive a $100,000 prize, a subcontract with a manufacturer to produce a limited number of systems, and an invitation to demonstrate the winning UAV design solution in an exclusive operational military demonstration.
The UAV Challenge is guided by crowdsourcing. UAVForge provides teams with the virtual environment and tools necessary to collaborate independent of geographic location, education, profession, or experience. Individuals, ad hoc teams or any other formative organizations are encouraged to submit innovative ideas, designs, algorithms, materials, etc. where other members of the crowd can respond, vote, comment and contribute.

Roboexotica! Festival for Cocktail Robotics

Roboexotica! is the leading annual festival for Cocktail Robotics that will take place Dec 1-4  in Vienna, Austria. The festival started in 1999 and is a combination of exploration of cutting edge technology, art installation, and bacchanal. Scientists, artists and cocktail fans meet to discuss and experience the role of Cocktail Robotics as an index for the integration of technological innovations into the human Lebenswelt. It is also an opportunity to discuss the increasing occurrence of radical hedonism in man-machine communication. 
The 2011 symposium entitled "Out of Control" will focus on issues like how can we redefine our relationship with the technological defying the principle of the user manual in which 'successful technology' presents itself? How can we position technicity as a value in itself? And to what extent can technology be what it wants to be without being able to want anything? To what extent remains technology a (perhaps distorted?) self-portrait of man. And how could this self-image of man in technology be corrected in a way as to enable humanity to include their contradictions instead of externalizing them as a technological menace?
Ragnarhof, Vienna, AT

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Agro Robotics in Europe

QUAD-AV /Claas

In the future autonomous vehicles will gain ground in agriculture and increase efficiency and productivity. That is the vision of the European ICT AGRI project QUAD-AV (Ambient Awareness for Autonomous Agricultural Vehicles). The project is funded by the Danish Food Industry Agency under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries in cooperation with the Danish Technological Institute, the German Fraunhofer, the French Cemagref, the Italian University of Salento and the German tractor and harvester manufacturer Claas.

Autonomous mobile agro robots need to operate safely, which means they must be provided with the ability to perceive and interpret the elements of danger in the concerned environment. The QUAD-AV project focuses on developing sensors and methods for data processing, allowing vehicles to become aware of their surroundings by detecting obstacles such as differences in the landscape, physical installations on the field and humans and animals that are present in the environment.

ICT-AGRI is a cross-thematic ERA-NET spanning three FP7 themes: Agriculture and food supply; Environment and climate; and Information and Communication Technology. The overall goal of ICT-AGRI is to strengthen the European Research Area and develop a common European research agenda concerning ICT and robotics in agriculture. ICT-AGRI has 18 partners and 14 observers from 21 countries. It was initiated on 1 May 2009 and runs until 31 July 2013.

4 Million new Robotics Jobs in 2016?

The International Federation of Robotics, IFR, recently announced "robotics will be a major driver for global job creation over the next five years." IFR refers to the 70 page study "Positive Impact of Industrial Robots on Employment" (February 2011) conducted by London based market research firm Metra Martech, which has analysed economic data of Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, Korea, and the US, which are considered to be representative of the global economy, and then combined with robot use data provided by IFR. According to the study one million industrial robots currently in operation have been directly responsible for the creation of close to three million jobs.
Future Predictions
A growth in robot use over the next five years might result in the creation of 700.000 to one million new jobs around the world in such industries as consumer electronics, food, solar and wind power, and advanced battery manufacturing. In additional to the million jobs expected to be directly created by the increased use of robotics.  Future robotics growth is expected to come from the next generation service robots industry, especially healthcare, where an aging population will require support services for which human caregivers will be too few in number to provide, says the report. Robots will likewise play an important role in transportation and in the provision of home services, as well as help protect homes and offices, secure borders, and monitor the environment in both routine and emergency operations.

1 Million Robots in China 2015
According to the IFR/Metra Martech study China has a total manufacturing workforce of about 34 million people (some claim 100 million). About 32-50.000 industrial robots are in operation, which means 9 robots per 10.000 employees. In comparison USA has 110 robots per 10.000 manufacturing workers, while Japan has 361 robots per 10.000 manufacturing workers.  If China wants to come up to Japanese level about 1,2 million industrial robots will be required.
Earlier this year the Taiwanese Foxconn Technology Group, a subsidy of the Hon Hai Precision Industries Ltd., and the largest original equipment manufacture (OEM) electronics company in Taiwan announced plans to replace hundreds of employees with “one million robots” over the next three years to cut rising labor expenses and improve efficiency.  

Applying the IFR study mathematics to Foxconn's robotics plans three million more new jobs have to be added to the one million new jobs predicted by IFR.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

US Ground Robotics Vision 2011


The US doctrine of defending "freedom in all the world” (George Bush 2005) demands a professional and expensive military.  Navy and Air Force are capital-intensive, Army and Marines are manpower-intensive, and
manpower is increasingly expensive, especially
health care. Shrinking the Army and Marines is an obvious way to reduce defense expenditures. Robots might one day replace soldiers and Marines, but not in the near future according to Rob Maline, Enterprise Director, Joint Ground Robotics. Experiences in war zones have proven that robotics can satisfy critical operational needs, but more research and development will be needed. The US military has only just begun to understand how to leverage unmanned systems in the joint battle space. In future warfare robots will have much more to do. Robots allow soldiers presence in hostile environments at reduced risk of exposure and loss of life and limb. Requirements under development call for doing the same things soldiers normally do, only with unmanned systems such as Counter-IED, autonomous convoy OPS, EOD missions. There are plans to do more than just extend the reach/sight of US soldiers but to employ robots as "Teammates/Co-workers/Co-inhabitants".

The US Department of Defense (DoD) recently published its Ground Robotics Vision of establishing an integrated manned/unmanned force that strengthens the United States as the world's preeminent land power. To achieve this vision, there are four main goals that need to be achieved: 1. Focused Technology, 2. Balanced Requirements, 3. Compelling Return on Investment (ROI) and 4. Streamlined Acquisition.

To speed up the creation and deployment of ground robotics technology for the Defense Department and other government organizations the Robotics Technology Consortium (RTC) , a non-profit industry organisation was established in 2008 and consists today of about 200 large and small commercial companies, academic institutions, and non-profit organizations, both traditional and non-traditional.  At the annual  NDIA Ground Robotics Capabilities Conference & Exhibition industry and government meet to identifying the technologies that will be able to meet the future needs of US  defense. Check the video below for en short insight in topics, trends and solutions.  

Ground Robotics Capabilities Conference & Exhibition 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Winners of the 1st Robie Awards 2011

The winners of the 1st annual ROBIE Awards have been announced during the RoboBusiness Leadership Summit, November 2-3, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. The award winners have been selected based on the quality of the entrant's submission and been judged by a panel of experts, including the Robotics Trends' editorial staff, advisory board and industry experts.

The most noteworthy robotics products 2011 
 Industrial & service robotics

Consumer Robotics

Educational Robotics 

The most noteworthy companies 2011
  • Boeing Company develops the SolarEagle, a new class of unmanned  aerial vehicles
  • Comau supplies integrated manufacturing systems
  • Energid Technologies Corporation developed next-generation robot prototype for heat exchanger inspection in nuclear power plants. The robot was created for use in an inspection system by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
  • EYESHOTS Consortium develops an advanced three-dimensional visual system synchronized with robotic arms which could allow robots to observe and be aware of their surroundings.
  • International Robotics, Inc. develops specially designed communication robots for schools, hospitals and clinics to assist special needs individuals.
  • QinetiQ North America provided military grade unmanned ground vehicles training, service and support to Tokyo Electric Power Company emergency response workers at the damaged Fukushima Nuclear Plant following the great earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
  • SEEGRID develops vision-guided robotic industrial trucks for material handling in manufacturing and distribution environments. 
  • Texas A&M Center for RobotAssisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) is engaged in improving  disaster preparedness, prevention, response, and  recovery through the development and adoption of robots and related technologies. 
  • U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the University of Michigan 
  • will conduct a road safety field trial in using innovative technology equipment in everyday vehicles in a real-time environment. It also represents a first, tentative step towards self driving cars.
  • Willow Garage develops hardware and open source software for personal robotics applications. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Google Robots - Here They come!

What are the top keywords on Google´s future radar screen?  Well, some might be "intelligent machines", "robots" and "ambient intelligence".  New York Times reports about Google's "top-secret lab X" in an undisclosed Bay Area location where robots run free. Google X is a think tank where top researchers imagine the future invaded by intelligent machines ordering groceries via Internet, driving people and goods without driver, taking over tasks at home, office and future factories. Google's co-founder Sergey Brin is said to be involved in many X-lab´s projects including "web of things" applications such as remote garden planter, remote controlled coffee pots and intelligent lightning systems.
Robotic Brain Pool
The brain pool behind the X-lab is including people hired from MIT, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Microsoft and Nokia Labs. Google X lab has attracted top researchers from Stanford like robotics experts AI professor Sebastian Thrun and professor Andrew Ng, and HCI and Kinect expert Johnny Chung Lee from Microsoft.
Thrun is one of the early pioneers of probabilistic robotics and his team won the DARPA Grand Challenge and placed second in the DARPA Urban Challenge.
Ng is expert in integrating tools from all the diverse areas of AI, to build a useful, general purpose home assistant robot.
Lee is engaged in rapid evaluation (RE), an intensive, team-based, program-focused investigation that uses multiple methods of data collection; RE has an iterative process for collection and analysis; and relies on community participation in order to quickly develop a holistic understanding of a program from both an insider’s and an outsider’s perspective.

The $500 Do-it-Yourself Telepresence Robot
Rapid evaluator Lee has already demonstrated his robotic and entrepreneurial mindset by building a low cost telepresence chat robot that he can use to drive around the house remotely. The robot costs $ 500 including an iRobot Create which costs around $250 (incl. battery, charger, and USB serial cable) and a netbook which costs $250 as well.  Check out the video below how to build it by yourself.

A more expensive robotic solution is the driverless Google robotic car.
Google Robotic Car
This  project was unveiled by Google last year demonstrating the Google driverless car racking up over 140,000 miles in California tests alone. In the future fleets of robots could assist Google with collecting information, replacing the humans that photograph streets for Google Maps. Google is said to be considering the manufacture of its driverless cars in the United States. Check out Sebastian Thrun´s TED talk about Google Car.

Google Robot to the Moon
Google is not only driving around on earth but also targeting the moon. As a sponsor of the The Google Lunar X PRIZE ( GLXP), a space competition organized by the X Prize Foundation, Google will pay the winner $30 million. It was announced at the Wired Nextfest on 13 September 2007. The challenge calls for privately-funded spaceflight teams to compete in successfully launching, landing, and then traveling across the surface of the Moon with a robot, while also sending back to Earth specified images and other data.

Putting together these robotic examples might give some insights about Google´s future vision and business ambitions to become the world´s robotic leader. Google has resources to acquire what is needed to stay ahead. In 2011 Google has spent US$1.4 billion in acquiring more companies than any other year in its history. With US$10.6-billion in cash Google has financial strength to build its own robotic roadmap to Robotland.

European Robotics Week 2011 - Video Link

The first ever European Robotics Week will be held  28th of November to 4th of December 2011.
Over 340 robotics related events throughout Europe are planned by 125 participating organisations from 17 European countries.
For more information see events calender
Many robotics labs will also display their activities via remote videolink.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Telepresence Robot Avatar with Sensory Feedback

Researchers at Tachi Lab, a leading laboratory in Virtual Reality and Telexistence, at Keio University, Japan have developed  Telesar V, a telepresence robot, that translates movements into the motions of a robot while giving sensory feedback from its eyes and hands.

The user wears a pair of VR goggles that control the robot’s head and see through its eyes. A pair of gloves control the robot’s hands, but, more impressively, also transmit force and temperature data from the robot’s sensors to the user’s skin. The Telesar V has a body, arms and hands (no legs as of yet). The robot can almost move as freely as a normal human, with 7 degrees of freedom for the body, 8 for the head, 7 for the arm joints and 15 for the hands. The ultimate goal is to create a robotic avatar, which enables you to do everything you do with your body identically with your remote robotic self.
TELEsarPhone at World Expo 2005
Professor Tachi has been working on telepresence robots since the 1980s based on his vision to "to free people from time and space constraints" with help of a remote controlled robot that can transmit sight, hearing and even touch.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Robotic Suit for Japanese Nuclear Workers

Japanese Cyberdyne, based northeast of Tokyo, developer of the exoskeleton robot suit, HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) on Monday unveiled a model that could help nuclear workers  weighed down by heavy anti-radiation vests in contaminated zones. Cyberdyne demonstrated an upgraded version of the robot suit, that can be worn under anti-radiation tungsten vests as heavy as 60 kilograms.

HAL gives power to its wearer by anticipating and supporting the user's body movements using sensors monitoring electric signals sent from the brain to the muscles.
The robot suit is powered by a lithium-ion battery that lasts about 1.5 hours.

More than 2,000 employees of TEPCO and other companies are working at the plant on weekdays with the number falling on weekends, according to the plant operator.

According to a OECD-NEA  report about the situation at Fukushima the workers on site are the population most highly at risk from radiation effects, due to both immediate determinsitc effects from extremely high exposures, and long-term stochastic (cancer-inducing) effects from smaller doses. Under normal working conditions, any worker who is exposed to radiation as part of his or her job is allowed no more than 100 mSv of exposure over a five-year period, with exposure in no single year exceeding 50 mSv. In emerging situations, however, this legal dose limit is relaxed for the cases of workers who attempt to save lives or who are working to prevent large collective doses from occurring. So far approximately 2400 workers have been exposed as a result of recovery work at the Fukushima plant.

Robot Suit at Japanese hospitals
Japanese Cyberdyn has leased the lower-limb version of its battery-powered robot suit to 113 hospitals, welfare and other facilities by the end of October 2011.

"Robot Suit HAL" is used in many locations throughout Japan
 (as of October, 2011)

Talking Robot Heads

Researcher Takaaki Kura Tate and his team at the CoTeSys Central Robotics Laboratory in Munich, Germany have developed a life-size talking head robotic system, ``Mask-bot'', as a platform to support and accelerate human-robot communication research. The ``Mask-bot'' output hardware consists of  a semi-transparent plain mask, a portable LED projector mounted behind the mask, a fish-eye conversion lens attached to the projector, and a pan-tilt unit and a mounting base. The system projects calibrated 3D face animation onto the mask and it becomes a life-size talking head in real space as opposed to 2D flat screen space or stereo pseudo-3D screen space. OpenHRI were used to add speech recognition and synthesis capability to the system.

Takaaki Kura Tate developed an animation engine for Talking Heads that match different phonemes with a specific facial expression. Software for synthetic emotions helps to show happy, angry or sad faces. A text-to-speech program can translate written text in English, Japanese and German-to-speech. The user can choose male or female voice, weak or strong voice, happy or sad, each with key presses. It will simply be a two-dimensional image of the person occuring in the Machine-bot. The image is projected through a fish-eye objectiv only 12 cm from the mask. The light is so strong that his face lit up in a daylight-lit rooms. In an upcoming project, Mask-bot 2, the projector and computer fit inside a human-like robot. This might be the next step closer to a robot that can function as a social human-like avatar companion for social interaction.

Robotic Avatars 
Japanese roboticist professor Hiroshi Ishiguro from Osaka University, well known for his human like Geminoids, surprised in 2010 with a minimalistic telepresence robot, sized as a small child, with soft torso, a bald head, a doll-like face, and stumps in place of limbs. The idea behind this strange robotic creature called  Telenoid was to create a teleoperated robot that can be female or male, an adult or a youngster, that can be easily transferred, making it suitable for a wide-range of users.

New ASIMO jumps into the Future!

Honda has demonstrated a brand new version of its ASIMO humanoid robot newly equipped with the world’s first* autonomous behavior control technology. With a further advance in autonomy, the all-new ASIMO can now continue moving without being controlled by an operator. Moreover, with significantly improved intelligence and the physical ability to adapt to situations, ASIMO took another step closer to practical use in an office or a public space where many people come and go.
Below the first videos published by kmoriyama.
ASIMO running 9 km/h (5.6 miles per hour), compared to 6 km/h for previous model

ASIMO walking over an uneven surface

ASIMO jumping on one leg

ASIMO grabbing a water bottle, opening the top and pouring the drink into a cup

ASIMO's hands are dexterous enough (with independent finger control) to perform sign language. By combining tactile and visual sensors, ASIMO can recognize objects and handle them appropriately, such as taking caps off of bottles and pouring liquid into paper cups without crushing them.
New Honda Robotics Team
Honda newly established a collective term, Honda Robotics, and a new  logo to represent Honda’s robotics technologies and application products created through its research and development of humanoid robot represented by ASIMO.
Honda takes the Lead! 
In September 2010 Chief engineer Satoshi Shigemi, project leader of the ASIMO development, Honda R&D Co., Ltd told Robotland, that Honda so far has only reached about 10 percent of its technological targets for commercial humanoid robots. Much more research and development is needed before humanoids can be sold on consumer markets. Many issues such as safety, reliability, user friendliness are critical, human-robot interaction has to be considered carefully, even power supply is critical. Honda is focusing on human-robot interaction research to examine the diverse levels of robot acceptance and interaction around the world. The aim of this research is to better understand what the ideal interaction and communication between people and humanoid robots ought to be in the future. People need to be able to comfortably communicate with the robot so that it can react properly to their commands and carry out their wished when assistance is needed. In his opinion consumer robotics is still in its infancy and it will take many years until affordable partner robots will be available on the market.
The new ASIMO is a great step into the future and more great steps will follow.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Robots inside Fukushima Meltdown Plant

iRobot PackBot at Unit 3, Fukushima 
Unique video sequences, authorized by Tokyo Electrical Company (TEPCO), have been published by Japanese Robonable showing U.S. military robots operating inside Unite 3 reactor building at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The iRobot PackBots  are preparing for the establishment of a system to reduce gas pressure in the reactor containment vessel. A similar system had been installed in Unit 1 and Unit 2 of the damaged nuclear reactor leading to reduction of emissions of radioactive material. Referring to an anonymous Japanese blogger, who has worked as one of the lead robot operators, IEEE Spectrum blog reported in August that the robots have performed remarkably well at Fukushima, even after repeated jobs in high-radiation environments, which damage electronics.
Japanese Robot Quince
The most advanced Japanese inspection robot Quince has been used since July 2011 for missions inside the reactor building. The video below shows Quince operating inside Unite 2 of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Unveiled in April 2010 by the Chiba Institute of Technology, Tohoku University, and IRS, Quince consists of a main body incorporating two wide crawler belts, and four free-moving pairs of wheels that extend like arms from the corners. Making full use of these body parts, the adeptly maneuvers its way around all kinds of terrain, from stairs to rubble.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Human-like Walking Robot HRP-4C

Japanese researchers at AIST Humanoid Research Group have succeeded in making a humanoid robot walk like a human being. The HRP-4C Miim robot stretches her knees up/down, the single-toe supporting realizes longer strides, and she mimics the swing motion of human legs. HRP-4C was first shown to the public in March, 2009. The primary use of this robot was entertainment, such as acting as master of ceremonies at an event or as a model in a fashion show. HRP-4C had already been used in such events in an effort to clarify its usefulness for entertainment purposes. Technical detail is presented in "Human-Like Walking with Toe Supporting for Humanoids," by Kanako Miura, Mitsuharu Morisawa, Fumio Kanehiro, Shuuji Kajita, Kenji Kaneko, and Kazuhito Yokoi, Proc. 2011 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Silver Market Opportunity: Care Robotics in Japan 2011

The global market of products and services for people 55+, so-called "Silver Market" is expected to grow rapidly in the coming decades. In Japan life expectancy at birth is now over 82, making it among the highest in the world,” notes Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, in his book The Glittering Silver Market: The Rise of Elderly Consumers in Asia.
In 2005, Japan’s population started shrinking for the first time and with it its labor force. By 2015, one fourth of the Japanese society will be older than 65 years, for 2025 forecasts expect even one third of them being as old.
The $ 1.9 Trillion Asian Silver Market
Increasing in number and share of the total population while at the same time being relatively well-off, this market segment can be seen as very attractive and promising, although still very underdeveloped in terms of product and service offerings.
For affluent countries in Asia – Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia – spending by elderly consumers is estimated to reach $1.5 trillion by 2015, with another $430 billion to be spent by elderly households in developing Asian countries, according to Hedrick-Wong.
Market Signals from Japan
Care-O-bot® 3 – Mobile Robot Assistant,
IPA, Stuttgart
The Fraunhofer Institute and the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Japan is supporting an open and free workshop on "Care Robotics in the Aging Society - Integrating Users, Developers and Technology" at the German Institute for Japanese Studies (DIJ) Tokyo, Japan. The aim of this workshop is to bring together German and Japanese experts on the aging society and care robotics to discuss pressing issues in the development and deployment of robotic devices. A special focus will be placed on the man-machine interaction and the perspective of the user.
Prof. Dr. Takashi Komeda, Vice President, Shibaura Institute of Technology will talk about the Evolution in Care Robotics from an International Perspective.
 Dr. Diego Compagna, University of Duisburg-Essen and project Leader WiMi-Care, will present insights about Robot-User Interaction within User-orientated development from the WiMi- Care research Project in Germany.
 Prof. Dr. Takashi Nakajima, Deputy Director, Niigata National Hospital will talk about IIssues in Testing Care Robotic Devices in the Field: Using HAL in a Japanese Hospital
 Dr. Yoshihiro Fujita, C&C Innovation Research Laboratories, NEC Corporation, will talk about "Developing Care Robotic Devices: Results from an Experiment for Motivating Elderly People with Robot Guided Interaction."
New Robot Suit Industry

Earlier this year at the International Forum on Cybernics 2011 the topic "Robot Suit for the Future - Toward a Vibrant Society with Long and Healthy Lives -" gathered more than 500 participants to discuss leading edge of human-assistive technology. Topics included how to take full avantage of 'Cybernics' to support the Long-Lived and Healthy Society, modular playware for prevention and rehabilitation, novel mechatronic components for wearable exoskeletons, social issues of long and healthy lives. State-of-the-art technology ROBOT SUIT HAL was demonstrated and promoted by the Center of Cybernics Research (CCR). Check out the video below.

Cybernics is a new domain of interdisciplinary academic field of human-assistive technology to enhance, strengthen, and support human's cognitive and and physical functions.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

11 Million Euro for Safe Robots in 2015


2015 may be the year when European robots will be safe enough to leave their labs in search for new jobs in manufacturing, hospitals and home care. 

Safety is one of the most critical issues in human-robot interaction. As long as there is a risk that an industrial or household robot action can hurt or even kill a human, robots may not be released to act in public or private environments. To find out what is needed to overcome these saftey proplem leading researchers from France, Germany and Italy have started the four year European Collaborative Project FP7, SAPHARI, funded by the EU with 8 million Euro, to develope robots that will become safe and autonomous in physical interaction with humans. The researchers plan to equip robots with capabilities to react to human actions or even take the initiative to interact in a situation‐dependent manner relying on sensor based decisions and background knowledge.

The project will focuse on two industrial use cases that explicitly contain deliberate physical interaction between a human and a robot co‐worker, as well as on professional service scenarios in hospitals, in which medical staff and an assisting robot interact closely during daily work. These prototypical applications will pave the way towards new and emerging markets, not only in industry and professional services, but possibly also in household robots, advanced prostheses and rehabilitation devices, teleoperation, and robotic surgery. Generally, results of this project are expected to strongly impact all applications where interactive robots can assist humans and release them from dangerous or routine tasks.

Robotic Paradigm Shift
The project is aimed to perform a fundamental paradigm shift in robot development in the sense that the human will be placed at the centre of the entire design. The project will take a big step further along the human-centered roadmap by addressing all essential aspects of safe, intuitive physical interaction between humans and complex, human-like robotic systems in a strongly interconnected manner.Additional information can be found in the project web site

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

New Assistive Partner Robots from Toyota

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) has demonstrated at its vehicle display space and theme park Mega Web a number of new robots developed to provide support in nursing and healthcare.  The robots form part of the Toyota Partner Robot series, which is being developed to assist humans in their everyday activities. 
TMC considers Partner Robots to be useful in four fields: nursing and healthcare, short-distance personal transport, manufacturing and domestic duties.  TMC is developing technology that cooperates with humans, including devices that assist in the loading and moving of heavy components in factories, in addition to automated technology that enables autonomous tool operation. 

New Nursing and Healthcare Robots
The four new types of assisitive robots are aimed for commercialization from 2013. 
The Independent Walking Assist (IWA) is supporting independent walking for people whose ability to walk has been impaired by leg paralysis or other causes. The IWA setects the intention to walk using a thigh-position control sensor and a foot load sensor and then helps the knee swing forward as the leg is brought forward. It provides reliable support when the weight of the body is supported by the knee.

The Walking Training Assist (WTA) is supporting return to natural walking from early training stages for people with impaired walking

The Balance Training Assist (BTA) is can be used to support balance function training for people whose ability to maintain balance is impaired. A two-wheeled robot used in a standing position can be used to play three games—tennis, soccer and basketball. It provides balance training by moving the people in the game (in tandem with the movements of the training individual) according to a shift in body weight to the front, back, left and right. This assistive device is aimed to facilitate enjoyable training.

The Patient Transfer Assist (PTA) robot is aimed to reduce the heavy physical burden of moving patients required in caretaking. THe PTA is a combination of weight-supporting arms and a mobile platform. The arms are shaped to easily accommodate patients, and are equipped with compact, precise control functions to provide gentle transport similar to being carried by a person. This device is designed for easy use by both caregivers and care recipients. Check out the demovideo below.

Robotland Price Watch Nov 2011

Floor cleaning robots are offered at the U.S. market in the price range US$ 199.99 to 599.99. Amazon offers the automated floor sweeper Mind 4200 for US$ 178,54, which is US$ 21,45 lower than Minds webshop price. Below some data from some US webshops. Click image for larger view. 

If you are interested in more detailed market surveys and trend reports please contact Robotland.

U.S. Robot Cleaner Holiday Sales Race has started

While market leader iRobot continues expaning its home robot sales abroad, competitor Evolution Robotics rolls out its Mint™ Automatic Floor Cleaning product line by expanding its U.S. national retail distribution network. The robotic floor cleaners will now be available at nearly 6000 additional U.S. retail locations including Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Target and Walmart, and online at

Amazon sells Mint for $178.54, claiming a list price of $249.99. But Mint offers the Mint 4200 at its webshop for $199.00. BB&B sells Mint also for $199.99.
BestBuy sells MintPlus 5200 for $329.99, claiming a list price of $429.99. But the Mint webshop price is already lowered to $299.99.

Mint cleaning needs Mint® Automatic Floor Cleaner Microfiber Sweeping & Mopping Cloths (3-Pack) sells for $ 16.70 at Amazon or $19.99 at Mint Webshop or BB&B.

Mint Automatic Floor Cleaner and Mint Plus automatically sweep and mop hard surface floors using popular cleaning cloths, such as Swiffer® brand Dry and Wet Cloths and other similar products. Mint Plus was released in fall 2011 and features several upgrades including the Pro-Clean System, faster recharge and a battery life of up to four hours.  The Pro-Clean System mop includes a special Reservoir Cleaning Pad which dispenses liquid throughout the cleaning cycle, continually refreshing the Pro Clean microfiber cloth with fresh fluid. The fluid reserve keeps the cloth damp so Mint Plus can mop up to 350 square feet in a single cleaning cycle. Check out the promotion video below.