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Saturday, March 31, 2012

iRobot in Search of Director of Ecommerce

iRobot headquarter, Bedford, MA
iRobot, the global leader in consumer robotics, is seeking a Director of Ecommerce to lead its consumer ecommerce business and develop its multichannel strategy. The Director of Ecommerce will be a key leader on the Marketing Management team reporting to the Vice President of Marketing. As key leader the candidate will need to be an inspirational, collaborative leader adept at leading through influence. He/she will serve as a critical change agent, providing insights that drive new ideas. Our ideal candidate will have the ability to innovate and execute simultaneously to drive near-term results while also developing a long-term vision for the iRobot ecommerce business.
Reponsibilities: full P&L responsibilities, driving revenue and gross margin growth, managing forecasts and inventory within budget and optimizing expenses to deliver the bottom-line for the eCommerce and other direct channels. More details here.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Record Industrial Robot Sales 2011

International Robotics Federation, IFR, estimates sales of industrial robots in 2011 has increased by 30 percent to about 150,000 units. Shinsuke Sakakibara, IFR President, said  investments in robot automation again surged in all regions. Robot suppliers reported a considerable increase of demand from automotive and general industry. 
German Kuka Robotics reports a 40 percent sales increase in 2011 for the robotics division. China was the most rapidly growing robot market. In 2011, the demand increased  considerably among all manufacturing industries after 2010 when the automotive industry was the main driver of the growth. Global mega trends like sustainability, increasing industrialization and the demographic shift will boost the robotics industry in the next years. 
The Chinese robot market is currently growing at an annual rate of about 30 percent with the automotive industry as the main driver. China will take the lead among industrialized countries with projected sales of 30.000 units in 2014. Kuka  plans to expand its robot assembly facilities in China to increase capacity to 5000 units before the end of 2012.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Firefighting Robots Onboard 2013

Firefighting robot
Credit: Virginia Tech
Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, NRL, Virginia Tech and University of Pennsylvania have formed an interdisciplinary team to develop a humanoid robot that could fight fires on the next generation of combatants. They plan to test the firefighting robot in a realistic firefighting environment onboard the ex-USS Shadwell in late September 2013. A humanoid-type robot was chosen because it was deemed best suited to operate within the confines of an environment that was designed for human mobility and offered opportunity for other potential warfighting applications within the Navy and Marine Corps. The firefighting robot, called the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR), is being designed to move autonomously throughout the ship, interact with people, and fight fires, handling many of the dangerous firefighting tasks that are normally performed by humans. The humanoid robot should be able to maneuver well in the narrow passages and ladderways that are unique to a ship and challenging for most older, simpler robots to navigate.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Amazon to Acquire Kiva Systems, Inc for $775 Million just announced an agreement to pay $775 million in cash to acquire Kiva Systems Inc., a maker of automation technology for fulfillment centers. Kiva makes robotic vehicles that zip around warehouses to deliver packages and other materials to workers, controlled by smart software designed to make distribution centers run more efficiently. Under the terms of the agreement, which has been approved by Kiva’s stockholders, Amazon will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Kiva for approximately $775 million in cash, as adjusted for the assumption of options and other items. Subject to various closing conditions, the acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of 2012.
Kiva’s robots today are processing millions of orders a year in retailers’ warehouses across the United States, the UK, and Europe, quietly driving Kiva’s startling 80 percent annual growth. On the distant horizon is a plan to bring Kiva’s approach to the manufacturing sector.

Robotic Arm wins European Tech Transfer Award 2012

Prof. Robert Riener, Tobias Nef and Alexander Duschau-Wicke, ETH Zurich win the first prize of the 2012 euRobotic Technology Transfer Award for their development and commercialization of "ARMin: Robot-Assisted Neurorehabilitation of the Arm". The prize was delivered at the award ceremony of the European Robotics Forum that took place in Odense, Denmark, March 6-8.
ARMin is a robot-assisted arm training system that enables patients who have suffered from strokes or spinal cord injuries to put in the kind of intensive therapy required for the brain to recover critical functions. ARMin has been extensively tested with patients at University Hospital Balgrist in Zurich, Switzerland.
Swiss company Hocoma, the leader in robotic rehabilitation therapy for neurological movement disorders,  offers the ARMin system branded as ArmeoPower, the world’s first commercially available robotic arm exoskeleton for neurorehabilitation. The Armeo®Power is a rehabilitative exercise device that allows early rehabilitation of motor abilities and provides intelligent arm support in a large 3D workspace. As a part of the sustainable Armeo Therapy Concept, the ArmeoPower is designed for individuals who have suffered strokes, traumatic brain injuries or other neurological disorders resulting in hand and arm impairment.
The system has extended Hocoma’s well-established Armeo Therapy Concept that improves the efficiency of therapy treatments because the exercises are self-initiated, self-directed, functional and intense. Even severely impaired patients can practice independently, without the constant presence of a therapist, allowing patients to exploit their full potential for recovery.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Floor Washing Robot for US$ 499

iRobot, the market leader in floor cleaning robots, has launched the Scooba 390 floor washing robot, a replacement for the Scooba 380. The new Scooba is an upgrade of the 380 with a simplified design and 30 % better battery life thanks to "Extended Power Life Management. The robot can clean up to 42 square meters per run. Scooba sweeps up loose crumbs, sand and dirt to prep the floor before it washes, scrubs and squeegees the floor.
iRobot's Scooba 390 is on sale now for US $499, the same price as the Scooba 380 that it replaces.
International models of the Scooba floor washing robots will be available online and from select retailers in EMEA and Latin America starting in April, and in the United Kingdom this summer. Check out the promo video below.

iRobot offers also a special Scooba Hard Floor Cleaner, an effective, economical and safe cleaning solution formulated for the Scooba Floor Washing Robot. Scooba Hard Floor Cleaner uses pure vegetable-based enzymes to break down grease, food particles and dirt into oxygen, carbon and other all natural elements that readily integrate with the environment, instead of polluting it. Effective on all sealed hard floors, including wood. One 16-oz bottle highly concentrated cleaner equals 64 uses per bottle and costs US$ $12.99

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Softbank invests US$ 150 M in Robotics

The Financial Times is reporting that Japanese telecom company Softbank has invested about US$100 million for a majority stake in Aldebaran Robotics, the French maker of the popular NAO humanoid robot. According to the Times article, Softbank purchased over an “80 per cent stake in the business, and will invest another $40m to $50m to accelerate development. Softbank bought out existing shareholders in the company, including Intel Capital, CDC Innovation, iSource and Crédit Agricole Private Equity.”  Last summer Intel had invested some $13m in the company.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

One-year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake

Source: Reuters
Robotland would like to show its deepest regret over the loss of people by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and tsunami and offer sincere condolence to their families, friends and colleagues, and express a word of solidarity to those who are suffering from the disaster. Many people are still forced to live restricted lifes searching for a more hopeful future. Many difficulties lie also ahead in the process of recovery and reconstruction. 
Robotland will continue to investigate and report about development of disaster and rescue robots in Japan and other parts of the world.   

Friday, March 09, 2012

Eating Robot for Sale

Swedish start-up company Bestic has developed an eating assistive device that helps elderly people with limited arm functions to enjoy their meal in their own pace and on own conditions. It is up to the user to control the assistive device and decide what parts of the meal to eat and when to eat them. Developed since 2004 the new eating robot is now ready for sale. Production has kicked off and 50 Bestic devices are now available for eager customers. In May the company Bestic AB is one of the main sponsors for the COTEC Congress of Occupational Therapy, a European conference taking place in Stockholm. An excellent opportunity to make new business contacts before launching Bestic in new countries.
Check out the video below for a Chinese Future Vision.

Hitachi Office Robot Rolls 6 km/h

Japanese Hitachi has developed EMIEW2 as part of Hitachi's efforts to create a service robot with diverse communication functions that could safely coexist with humans while conducting necessary services. EMIEW2 was designed to a compact height of 80 cm and a portable weight of 14kg. Further, to enable harmonious interaction while working with people, EMIEW2 is able to travel at the same speed as humans as well as stop stably. The 2-wheel 6km/hr high speed feature developed for EMIEW1 is retained in a two 2-wheel mechanism, which enables agile 2-wheel movement, and a wheeled-leg type mechanism was developed to get over floor level differences in the office. Check out the video below for an office run demo.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Telepresence Robot from Singapore

Singapore-based start-up company Ctrl Work has developed an affordable telepresence platform, called  the Puppet, that can be controlled over the Internet, enabling the user to extend presence actively in a distant location. The company claims that setting up the Puppet's connection is intuitive and can be done with minimal fuss. The Puppet can be controlled remotely via a Windows PC, Mac, or Linux machine.
Telemedicine is one of the key areas that the company is pursuing with the Puppet. The focus is in geriatric care due to the rapidly growing pool of seniors who need medical monitoring and attention.
The platform is similar to the iRobot AVA platform using a tablet computer for interaction and communication.

iRobot lands $1.5M military contract

iRobot has received a $1.5 million order, funded by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), for more than 100 of the company’s model 110 FirstLook™ robots. Since its introduction last year, the iRobot 110 FirstLook has undergone extensive testing and demonstrations with the customer. All robots under this order have been delivered and will take part in an operational assessment this spring.
FirstLook is a small, light and throwable robot. It is ideal for a wide range of infantry and special operations missions, including building clearing, raids and other close-in scenarios. With four built-in cameras, FirstLook provides multi-direction situational awareness while keeping the operator out of harm’s way.
FirstLook possesses a unique set of capabilities. While it weighs just five pounds, it is robust enough to survive 15-foot drops, overcomes obstacles as high as seven inches and automatically self-rights when flipped over. Future capabilities include two-way audio communication and digital mesh networking, which will allow multiple robots to relay radio communications over greater distances.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Flying Robotic Orchestra

Flying robot quadrotors perform the James Bond Theme by playing various instruments including the keyboard, drums and maracas, a cymbal, and the debut of an adapted guitar built from a couch frame. Vijay Kumar, at GRASP lab presented some of this groundbreaking work at the TED2012. Check out the innovative music video below.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Autonomous Robot Arm with 93% success rate

DARPA's Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM) program is developing software to perform human-level tasks quickly and with minimal direction. The DARPA-supplied robot was built using commercial components that include an arm, hand, neck, and head sensors. During rigorous testing in November 2011, the best team achieved 93% success in grasping modeled and unmodeled objects. The ARM program has entered its second phase, where focus turns to complex bimanual manipulation scenarios
Check out the video below showing the ARM robot performing 18 grasping and manipulation tasks using vision, force, and tactile sensing with full autonomy -- no active human control.