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Saturday, April 28, 2012

iRobot 1Q Profit Drop

Consumer robotics market leader iRobot reports drop in 1Q profit and disappointing earnings outlook for 2Q, full 2012. For the first quarter that ended March 31, net income was $653,000 compared with $7.5 million a year earlier. Revenue fell to $97.8 million from $106.3 million a year ago.
iRobot reported a 20 percent increase in sales for its home-products division, which includes the Roomba vacuum cleaner and Scooba floor washer. The company hopes home sales will account for three-fourths of its revenue for the full year. But the company said funding delays will continue to hurt sales for the defense business in the second quarter. In the second quarter iRobot expects  revenue of $102 million to $112 million. The full year revenue is forecasted at $465 million to $485 million.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Japanese Telepresence Robots

Japanese Robonable reports about a demonstration using a cellphone-type android called Elfoid. The video below shows a man using an Elfoid to communicate with a women sitting in fron of a computer screen.

The Elfoid was developed in 2010 by Japanese roboticist prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro, Osaka university.  The idea was to develop an innovative communication medium that allows individuals in remote locations to converse in such a way that they feel each other's presence. The term Elfoid is a new term coined from a word "elf" and the Latin postfix -oides which indicates similarity, as Humanoid.
Presence Transfer with Hugvie 
Credit: ATR/Ishiguro
Hugging and holding a soft robot during an interaction is an effective way for strongly feeling the existence of a partner. The recently developed "Hugvie" is an epoch-making communication medium that can strongly transfer the presence of an interaction partner despite its simple shape. Hugvie, is a "hug pillow" type of communication media for talking in a hugging state. Its body is mainly a cushion that is formed similar to earlier Telenoid and Elfoid to effectively convey a sense of human existence. While holding it close to body, users speak to people in far locations through their cellphones inserted into a pocket in its head. Moreover, it is equipped with a vibrator inside that generates vibration for reproduction of heartbeats that can effectively convey the human likeness and human emotions. These heartbeat vibrations that vary in synchronization with the partner's tone, strengthen the presence feeling originated by voice.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Indo-Israel Robotics Cooperation

In March 2012 the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and National Committee on Robotics and Automation organized a mission to Israel with the purpose of strengthening Indo-Israeli collaboration on robotics and automation. During the mission, an Expression of Interest was signed between Chairman of CII National Committee on Robotics Mr. Deep Kapuria and Chairman of the Israeli Robotics Association (IROB), Prof. Zvi Shiller. The main objective of the EOI is to promote the robotics sector in both India and Israel in order to enhance competitiveness; protect business interest and facilitate market access for products, services and projects.
Robotics in Israel
Credit: IAI/Elbit, G-Nius Unmanned Ground System 
Israel is one of the leading robotics nations in the world based on a strong commitment and high investment in science and technology.  Israel has become a hotbed of robotic technologies. Its academics are mastering both the mind and body of robotics for solutions in security and defense, medical devices and agriculture. The innovation starts at Israeli universities and ends with commercialized products such as SpineAssist, the new x-ray and CT scan guide manufactured by Mazor Robotics. Israel robotics also includes pool cleaning robots and agriculture robots that know where to spray fertilizers on a farmer's fields.
Israel is also leading the development of an army of robotic fighting machines that offers a window onto the potential future of warfare. See also Robotland report about Robotics in Israel.
Robotics in India
The Indian Desi robot, AcYut-II Team 2009
India has started to explore robotics as an strategic technology for the future. Today about 60% of the robotics application in India is in Auto and Auto Component Sector. The Indian government is promoting robotics to expand application by surgeons and for routine usage such as reminding the elderly to have their medicines. The number of institutions imparting courses related to robotics design is still limited in India. There’s an acute shortage of skilled man power in specialised areas, especially in the robotics and intelligent systems industry. Robotics, as an educational tool is still in a concept stage.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

$10 Million Robot Ad Campaign

iRobot Corp. has started a $10 million advertising campaign, to promote its consumer line of robots, the Boston Globe reports. The campaign was developed by designed Boston ad agency Mullen, including a spot featuring human “robot” dancers, dancing with the Roomba, a robotic home floor vacuum. The campaign includes two TV spots, web and print advertising.

iRobot is also tying in a global YouTube competition with the national ad campaign. Dubbing it an “Robolution,” iRobot has created a branded YouTube channel to promote a robot dance contest.

iRobot has been looking for new sources of revenue to offset declining Pentagon spending on military robots, as the U.S. has drawn down forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

DARPA $2 Million Disaster Robot Challenge

Credit: DARPA
DARPA plans to offer a $2 million prize to whomever can help push the state-of-the-art in robotics beyond today’s capabilities in support of the DoD’s disaster recovery mission.

DARPA’s Robotics Challenge will launch in October 2012.  Teams are sought to compete in challenges involving staged disaster-response scenarios in which robots will have to successfully navigate a series of physical tasks corresponding to anticipated, real-world disaster-response requirements.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

DARPA Robotics Challenge 2012

Boston Dynamics is adapting the PETMAN Robot platform for use by the DARPA Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M#) and Robotics Challenge programs. The video shows versions of DARPA and Boston Dynamics robots climbing stairs, walking on a treadmill and doing pushups.

The modified PETMAN platform is expected to be used as government-funded equipment (GFE) for performers in Tracks B and C of the DARPA Robotics Challenge. The GFE Platform is expected to have two arms, two legs, a torso and a head, and will be physically capable of performing all of the tasks required for the disaster response scenarios scheduled in the Challenge. However, despite the appearance of the robots in the video, the Challenge is decidedly not exclusive to humanoid robot solutions. Any designs are welcome provided they are compatible with shared human-robot environments, compatible with human tools, and compatible with human operators so that a human without expertise in robotics can give commands and confidently anticipate the response. 

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Third Annual National Robotics Week 2012

National Robotics Week recognizes robotics technology as a pillar of 21st century American innovation, highlights its growing importance in a wide variety of application areas, and emphasizes its ability to inspire technology education.

Celebrating U.S. innovation in robotics, the third annual National Robotics Week will take place April 7 - 15.  Designed to get students excited about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), National Robotics Week serves to increase public awareness about the growing importance of robots in education, industry and the future of the U.S. economy.
Breaking new ground for national participation, more than 135 regional events and activities geared toward K-12 students are planned in all 50 states put on by robotics companies, universities and organizations throughout the country. Each event offer opportunities for the public to interact with robots in hands-on learning environments. Panel discussions, robotics competitions, introductory courses on robotics for kids, educational workshops for businesses, robot demonstrations and tours of innovative labs provide networking opportunities and expose all to the excitement of robotics.

Did da Vinci Robot kill 24-year-old Woman?

Credit: Intuitve Surgical
Intuitive Surgical, the world leader in medical robotics, was recently sued in New York for death arising out of use of its da Vinci Robot. In his complaint, filed by the firm of Rheingold, Valet, Rheingold, McCartney & Giuffra LLP of New York City, Gilmore McCalla asserts that when his 24-year-old daughter was having a hysterectomy in a Bronx hospital in August 2010, the robot caused burns to an artery and her intestines, which led to her death two weeks later. The complaint alleges design flaws in the da Vinci robot, including un-insulated surgical arms and use of electrical current which can jump to healthy internal organs and tissue. It also alleges that physicians are not properly trained on the device, and that Intuitive Surgery has failed to run randomized tests as to complications with its robot. The McCalla complaint, filed in the federal court in New York City on April 4, 2012, 12civ2597, also asserts that the manufacturer has suppressed reports of complications, and has oversold the merits of its da Vinci robot to hospitals considering buying it. The machine costs of upwards of $2 million to purchase and then has a sizeable annual maintenance cost.

Intuitive Surgical, Inc. founded 1995 designs, manufactures, and markets da Vinci surgical systems for various surgical procedures, including urologic, gynecologic, cardiothoracic, general, and head and neck surgeries. Approximately 360,000 da Vinci® procedures were performed in 2011 (+29%) at the 2,132 da Vinci® Systems installed world wide as of end 2011.
Total revenue grew to $1 billion 757 million, up 24% over 2010. Recurring revenue grew to $980 million, up 30% and comprised 56% of total revenue. The company generated $831 million in operating profit before non-cash stock compensation expense, up 24% from last year.
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