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Monday, April 25, 2011

Great robotics: Fund Raising Robot from UK

Credit: Tim Pryde
Tim Pryde, a product design student in Dundee, UK, has developed a small robot called DON-8r (pronounced “donator“) for fund-raising. The robot travels through public spaces relying upon coin donations from passers-by to keep it moving. Each donation not only helps to power DON-8r but also goes directly towards supporting a chosen charity. Inspired by the increasingly negative attitude that many people have towards on-the-street charity workers, DON-8r raises money through encouraging playful and empathetic support from strangers and passers-by. DON-8r has recently been wowing shoppers in Dundee, Scotland raising both money and awareness for Dundee Science Centre. Designed to be re-branded to suit different charities, DON-8r provides a unique platform for charities to engage with members of the public in a fun and memorable manner. Check out video below.

(Source: Tim Pride via Rickard Ahlstom)

Undersea search robots in Japan

Credit: Seabotix SARbot

Kyodo News reports that undersea robots fail to locate any bodies during search in Pacific coastal waters off northeastern Japan in five days of operations. The undersea robots, equipped with sonar and camera devices, were used to conduct searches in waters where it is dangerous for divers in response to requests from the town of Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture and the city of Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture, said Satoshi Tadokoro, who heads the International Rescue System Institute.

The robots, one made in Japan and the other in the United States, were able to find a sunken car and checked to see whether there were any bodies inside.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Underwater Robots to Help Japan Recovery

A team of experts and four state-of-the-art small underwater vehicles led by Texas A&M with funding from the National Science Foundation will be working with their Japanese counterparts to help with inspect damaged bridges, docks, and pipelines, as well as with victim recovery.  Restoration of utilities, transportation, and shipping typically depend on inspections by manual divers, who must work in murky waters and in fear of debris being washed into them by the high currents.  Advanced underwater vehicles have been used in the aftermath of Hurricanes Wilma and Ike and the Haiti Earthquake, but little is understood about how these robots can be used for disasters or how they can be designed to be more effective. In order to learn more about these technologies while helping local townships, the International Rescue Systems (IRS) institute in Japan invited the team to assist with an intense five-day effort from April 19-23 around Sendai and Minami-sanriku-cho.

The robots vary in size from the tiny football-sized AC-ROV to the suitcase-sized Seamor, making them easy to transport to the ravaged coastline around Sendai. Three of the robots carry specialized sonars that can see through muddy water and one, the Seabotix SARbot, has a gripper designed especially for rescuing victims trapped underwater.  All of the robots have a tether to allow the operators to see and control the vehicles in real time.

The five person team consists of industry experts from AEOS and Seabotix and researchers from Texas A&M and the University of South Florida’s Center for Ocean Technology. The team is being led by Prof. Robin Murphy, director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) at Texas A&M University, and Dr. Eric Steimle from AEOS, a  Florida start-up company specializing in marine environmental monitoring.  The team members are donating their time and equipment through the CRASAR humanitarian Roboticists Without Borders program. CRASAR is the leading organization in the world and has deployed land, sea, and aerial robots to 11 previous disasters including the 9/11 World Trade Center Collapse and Hurricane Katrina.

Robots entered Fukushima Nuclear Pant

As predicted here at Robotland on March 16 robots are now taking over the Fukushima Daiichi Plant. 
Credit: TEPCO/Cryptome
Surprisingly first one month after the magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) began using unmanned heavy equipment to remove radioactive rubble at the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Hydrogen explosions blew off the ceilings and walls of the Number One and Number Three reactor buildings. The debris is emitting hundreds of millisieverts of radiation per hour in some places, hindering the restoration work. TEPCO started using remote-controlled power shovels and bulldozers to remove the rubble on Sunday April 10. Operators used cameras attached to the equipment as well as 6 fixed cameras at the site to carry out the work from hundreds of meters away.

iRobot Packbot
On April 17 two robots of American company iRobot Corp. were sent into reactor buildings to check whether humans can reenter them found radiation levels as high as 49 millisieverts per hour inside the No. 1 unit, and up to 57 millisieverts in the No. 3 unit, according to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. The cumulative maximum level for nuclear workers was raised to 250 millisieverts from 100 millisieverts by Japan’s health ministry on March 15. Exposure totaling 100 millisieverts over a year is the lowest level at which any increase in cancer is evident, according to the World Nuclear Association in London. Check out the video below.

Robotic Scouts of America

Boy Scout Robotics
The Robotics merit badge is part of the Boy Scouts of America´s (BSA) new curriculum emphasis on STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. The BSA focus on STEM takes a fun, adventurous approach to helping Scouts develop critical skills that are relevant and needed in today’s competitive world. The new merit badge is one of 31 STEM-related merit badges that Scouts can earn.
“The Robotics merit badge is an example of how Scouting remains true to its roots to help young people be prepared,” said BSA Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca. “While the guiding principles of Scouting - service to others, leadership, personal achievement, and respect for the outdoors - will never change, we continue to adapt programs to prepare young people for success in all areas of life.”
This merit badge involved approximately 14 months of development and input from more than 150 youth members, leaders, and industry professionals from across the nation. Earning the Robotics merit badge requires a Scout to understand how robots move (actuators), how they sense the environment (sensors), and how they understand what to do (programming). Scouts will spend approximately 14 hours meeting the requirements of this merit badge, including that they design a robot and demonstrate how it works. The BSA anticipates more than 10,000 Robotics merit badges will be earned in its first year.


The robotics merit badge program is supported by AUVSI Foundation, Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy, Carnegie Science Center, Roboworld, iRobot Corporation, LEGO Education North America, Museum of Science, Boston, NASA, National Electronics Museum, National Robotics Week, Robotics Education and Competition Foundation, University of Texas-Dallas, Science and Engineering Education Center, VEX Robotics, Inc.

Girl Scout Robotics

Sadly the 2.3 million Girl Scout of the USA (GSUSA) members are not part of the new boy scouts robotics STEM program but have to manage their own robotics program.

Girl Scouts started a partnership with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 2008 to encourage more girls into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers, and gender equity. In 2009 six Girl Scout teams from around the country participated in the 2009 FIRST Robotics World Championship. The partnership is made possible through support from the Motorola Foundation.

In 2011 the GENIUS robotics team from the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, a team of six girls, ages 12-13, was the first all girls team to win 1st place at the Georgia State FIRST LEGO League Tournament. GENIUS was one of 80 teams invited to participate in the FIRST World Festival in St. Louis in April 2011.  GENIUS chose to help out their friend, Quinn, a 10 year old boy who uses a wheelchair due to a neuromuscular disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Quinn had trouble seeing behind his wheelchair, making it difficult to backup. The team developed a backup system for Quinn’s chair using a camera and monitor. The girls raised money and worked with engineers from Georgia Tech, to install the camera system on Quinn’s wheelchair. The girls are planning to install another backup system on the wheelchair of a fellow Girl Scout.
Girl scouts that participate in FIRST LEGO League (FLL) are eligible to earn the Girl Scout Robotics Participation Patch

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Celebrating US Robotics 2011

NRW 2011 Events
The second annual National Robotics Week, April 9-17, is aimed to increasing public awareness of the growing importance of robot technology and the tremendous social and cultural impact that it will have on the future of how people will live, work and play worldwide. Key academic and industry influencers lead joint effort celebrating the United States’ role as a leader in robotics technology; introduce regional events and activities to allow the public to “Experience the Possibilities”
Online Events
The IEEE Computer Society hosts events inside of the virtual world of Second Life. Various events are scheduled including in-world presentations, tours of virtual robotics and AI applications, game engine AI applications, advanced bots, training & simulation robots, large scale bot culture communities, robotic machines, virtual learning centers, a robot hunt, and a week-long virtual robot building competition with prizes. Hands-on classes related to building and scripting robots, and Artificial Intelligence Markup Language (AIML) basics will be taught inworld.
Open House Events and demonstrations
RoMeLa, Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech will host an open house event!
The Museum of Science and Industry will host a Robot Block Party during museum hours.
The AUVSI Foundation will host a demonstration of student-built ground robots on the National Mall, in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC

Robot Competions
RoboGames 2011 is the olympics of robots - The 8th annual International RoboGames features over 500 robots from over 30 countries competing in 70 events: combat robots, fire-fighters, LEGO bots, hockey bots, walking humanoids, soccer bots, sumo bots, and even androids that do kung-fu. 

Friday, April 08, 2011

IFR expects growth for Industrial Robotics

The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) reported a shipment of 115,000 industrial robots which means that the number of units sold worldwide almost doubled compared to the very weak year 2009.
The prospects for 2011 and beyond are promising as the robotics industry benefits from the increasing demand for automation especially in the Asian growing markets with China on the top. Before the natural disaster in Japan IFR expected a further increase of robot sales between 10% and 15%  in 2011 which would bring a new peak level of about 130,000 sold units within reach. Between 2012 and 2014 a moderate annual growth rate of 5% (in average) is more likely. A revised IFR prognosis that takes into account substantial earthquake effects on the Japanese economy expects that the growth rate for 2011 will be less than 15% and that the growth rate for 2012 will be above 5%. The shortage of energy in Japan and the partly destruction of production sites in certain areas of Japan will very likely lead to a shortage of components for robots for the Japanese market but also for the export markets. This will lead to a further prolongation of delivery times for robots.

Winner of the Georges Giralt PhD Award 2011

The 2011 Georges Giralt PhD Award was won by Mario Prats from Robotic Intelligence Laboratory at Universitat Jaume I. , with a thesis entitled "Robot Physical Interaction through the combination of Vision, Tactile and Force Feedback. Applications to Assistive Robotics."
Dr. Prats is a robotics researcher at the Jaume-I Universit, Castellón, Spain. He received his Ph.D in Computer Science Engineering from the Jaume-I University in 2009. His research is to advance towards more autonomous, robust and versatile robotic manipulation. He received Robotdalen International Scientific Award Honorable Mention 2009 and was finalist of the CEA-GTRob award to the best PhD thesis on Robotics.
CONGRATULATIONS to the winner!

The other finalists were
Radu Bogdan Rusu, Willow Garage. His thesis is entitled "Semantic 3D Object Maps for Everyday Manipulation in Human Living Environments."
Dr. Rusu is a Research Scientist at Willow Garage. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Technische Universität München (TUM), Germany in 2009 with summa cum laude. He is currently the maintainer of PCL (Point Cloud Library), a project that aims at providing a comprehensive collection of point cloud/geometry processing algorithms.

Michaël Van Damme, Vrije Universiteit Brussel. His thesis is entitled "Towards Safe Control of a Compliant Manipulator Powered by Pneumatic Muscles."
Dr. van Damme is researcher and teaching assistant at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel since 2003. The focus of his research is the use of a robotic assistive device in direct contact with an operator.
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The Georges Giralt PhD Award is an annual award given by EURON for the best PhD thesis in Europe. The aim is to encourage high-quality work amongst young researchers in their first research period. The prize consists of a diploma and, in addition, the authors of all short-listed theses are offered an opportunity to publish their thesis as a monograph with Springer.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

European Robotics Forum 2011 Workshop: Promoting European Robotics

Promoting European Robotics – plans, ideas and projects 
The objective of the workshop is to discuss how to bring the current robotics technology and the reality of robotics to the forefront. The general public needs to get educated and gain awareness about the possibilities and opportunities provided by robotics.

Wolfgang Heller will present Global Robotics Brain 2.0, a new tool for robotics intelligence and promotion. Started in 2005 Global Robotics Brain is one of the world’s largest mind maps about robotics and a unique entry to the world of robotics for students, researchers and industry. It provides a new and comprehensive overview of robotics R&D, industry and media in more than 50 countries. Plans for version 3.0 will be presented.



Monday, April 04, 2011

First Geminoid Summit 2011

Credit: Geminoid DK
In March 2011 the first ever summit of three Geminoids was organized at the ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories in Osaka, Japan. 

It was part of a joint-venture between ATR and
Geminoid Lab Denmark, the first Geminoid Lab outside Japan, located at Aalborg University. The lab will be the home of a gemonoid, a human-like robot, modeled over the director of AAU's Center for Computer-mediated Epistemology, Associate Professor, Henrik Scharfe.The purpose of the lab is to systematically investigate certain aspects of Human Robot Interaction. Geminoid|DK 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 researchers intend to pursue these questions while looking at areas such as emotional affordances in HRI, the novel concept of Blended Presence, and by studying cultural differences in the perception of robots.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

UAV takes High Resolution Images above Damaged Nuclear Power Plant

Credit: Air Photo Service Co. Ltd., Japan
Air Photo Service Co. Ltd., Japan has flown with an aerial photo drone over Fukushima power plant and shot images and video of the damaged reactors.The image shows the damaged reactor building with the red Putzmeister remote controlled concrete pump on the right side.






A2 sends: High quality, detailed video of the plant shot on 24 March 2011:


April 2, 2011 photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), leaking radioactive contaminated water drain through crack of a maintenance pit, right, into the sea, near the Unit 2 reactor of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear nuclear power plant in Okumamachi, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (Tokyo Electric Power Co.) 


Trend Report 2011: From Battlefield to Safe Urban Transport

Credit: Google Car
Robotland Robotics Trend Report 2011
Robotics has developed from science fiction into a strategic technology to revitalize industries, secure welfare and develop society. In recent years new robotics visions and roadmaps have been developed by leading roboticists proposing new concepts such as Japanese "Humanoid Servants", Korean "Ubiquitous Robotic Companions", European "Soft, Sentient Robot Companions for Citizens", or American "Unmanned Robotic Army".

In a serie of reports Robotland will describe some global robotics trends to create awareness and insights that might affect markets, industry and society in the near future. 

Battlefield Robotics
Military applications account for a growing number of robot installations. The U.S. and much of the rest of the world are betting big on the role of aerial drones. Especially in the United States the U.S. military has set clear goals on the capabilities of future unmanned systems. When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, it had just a handful of drones. Today, U.S. forces have around 7,000 unmanned vehicles in the air and an additional 12,000 on the ground, used for tasks including reconnaissance, airstrikes and bomb disposal. In 2009, for the first time, the U.S. Air Force trained more "pilots" for unmanned aircraft than for manned fighters and bombers.
This development leads also to concerns and debate about the use of robots on the battlefield. Almost 50 countries either already have or are developing war robots. Some researchers fear 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.  Last year a group of researchers already called the international community to urgently commence a discussion about an arms control regime to reduce the threat posed by these systems. 

Unmanned Ground Vehicles for Safer Trafic
How applications for many military-derived robots can be transferred into civil applications is another issue. For example, UAVs for police and coastguard use are natural successors to military UAVs. The first promising examples of unmanned technology application on civil ground are the Google car, a visionary step from cyberspace into robotspace, and the European OFAV project, driving a van 13.000 km from Italy to Shanghai. It shows that it is possible to move people and goods in real life conditions with virtually no human intervention. The demand of greener and safer transport systems may be a strong driving force for further development of driverless vehicles. But many technical, and also legal, ethical and social issues have to be solved before the driverless fleet will arrive next to your door.
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Robotland  is watching and mindmapping global robotics trends continuously and systematically to identify disruptive innovations, market trends, business blind spots, market barriers and new investment opportunities in more than 60 countries.  Robotlands Global Robotics Brain has recently been featured of IEEE Spectrum Automaton