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Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Robot Info Service

Robohub is a new Robot Info Service produced by the Robot Podcast Association, a Non-Profit based in Zurich, Switzerland and dedicated to providing free, high quality information for the robotics community and the general public. Robohub mission is to bring together leading communicators in robotics research, start-ups, business, and education from around the world. Content is broadly organized into four sections:
  • News: The latest scientific and business breakthroughs.
  • Views: Expert views, opinions, editorials, and discussion.
  • Talk: Audio interviews with leading roboticists.
  • Learn: Tutorials, micro-lectures, and educational, hands-on learning materials.
Robohub is supported with funds from the Swiss National Science Foundation, grant number 139912.

$ 16k for Beam Telepresence System

Palo Alto based startup company Suitable Technologies, a spin-off of the Willow Garage research lab, has developed Beam Remote Presence System (RPS) aimed to connect people separated by distance in the most natural way possible. The Beam RPS consists of three components: the Beam Remote Presence Device (RPD), the Beam Client and the Beam Dock.

The battery powers the Beam for up to eight hours of active use and has the ability to drive at human walking speed – with a top speed of 1.5 meters per second. Beam stands 62" tall, weighs 95 pounds, and has a 17" screen, enabling the pilot's face to be seen at human size. Seamless connectivity is provided by 4 Wi-Fi radios (2.4/5 GHz) and proprietary algorithms to smoothly handle transitions between access points. Beam has two HD cameras to provide a wide field of view, both vertically and horizontally; a six-microphone array for spatialized audio, background noise reduction, and echo cancellation; a sophisticated speaker system in order to be heard in noisy environments; and LED lamps to enable operation in low light.
The Beam Client connects to the Beam RPD and provides integrated controls for driving, video, and audio. The client is available for download as an installer on both Windows and Mac OS X.
The third component is the Beam Dock, which charges the RPD's battery. The driver maneuvers the RPD directly into the dock without any local intervention to connect to the power source.

Pricing for the Beam RPS begins at $16,000 for the Beam RPD and $950 for the Beam Dock. The Beam Remote Presence System is available immediately for pre-order and will begin shipping in November 2012.
Check out the demovideo below.

New Toyota Partner Robot

Toyota Motor Company (TMC) has demonstrated the new type of partner robot. The Human Support Robot (HSR) prototype at the the 39th International Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition 2012, at the Tokyo International Exhibition Center in Koto Ward, Tokyo. 
The new robot has a weight of 32 kg and a body diameter of 370 mm. The body height ranges from 830 mm to 1330 mm. The robot has one arm with a length of 775 mm and can carry objects up to 1,2 kg and and upp to 130 mm wide. The maximum speed is 3 km/h.   
The HSR prototype was developed in cooperation with the Japan Service Dog Association to identify the needs and desires of individuals with limited limb mobility, and developed functions focused around picking up dropped objects, retrieving items, and communicating with family members and caregivers. 
Check out the latest Youtube videos published by Kazumichi Moriyama. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Robots or Immigrants in Shrinking Japan

Who will take over future jobs and welfare services in a shrinking Japan, immigrants or robots?  According to a projection of the overall size and the age breakdown of the future population in Japan of the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, set up by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 1996, the Japanese population will shrink over the next 100 years from 127,7 million people in 2005 to 44,59 million people in 2105. This projection is based on information from the Census, vital statistics, as well as research developed from various national representative surveys on population and social security problems conducted at the Institute.

The trend toward an aging society with a decreasing birthrate is expected to accelerate. Trends also show changes in family composition (increases in nuclear families, households with elderly persons only, single-parent households), changes in employment structure (increase of employees), women’s social advancement, and urbanization of population. In light of these changes, social support for the elderly, families, persons with disability, and the unemployed is becoming increasingly important.

Immigrants or Robots

The low birth rate there means foreign workers need to be recruited but there is a widespread opposition to immigration in the country as many Japanese value an ethnically homogenous society.
On the question of how widely Japan should open its domestic labor market to foreign workers, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stated in 2005, "If [the foreign labor] exceeds a certain level, it is bound to cause a clash. It is necessary to consider measures to prevent it and then admit foreign workers as necessary. Just because there is a labor shortage does not mean we should readily allow [foreign workers] to come in.

According to the Economist around 2 million foreigners live legally in Japan. The justice ministry counted 91,778 illegal residents in 2010, but the number, boosted by cheap Chinese labourers, may well be much higher.

As an alternative to immigrant workers robots are expected to take over many industrial and welfare jobs. According to the Machine Industry Memorial Foundation robots could fill the jobs of 3.5 million people by 2025 , ranging from micro-sized capsules that detect lesions to high-tech vacuum cleaners.

In the agriculture and forestry sector, 450,000 jobs could be held by robots if harvesting and pruning robots spread widely. In services such as cleaning and delivery, robots could do the jobs of 1.41 million people.

Rather than each robot replacing one person, the foundation expects that robots could make time for people to focus on more important things. Japan could save 2.1 trillion yen ($21 billion) of elderly insurance payments in 2025 by using robots that monitor the health of older people, so they don't have to rely on human nursing care.
Japanese automobile companies Honda and Toyota are heavily investing in new robotics technology to develop intelligent machines that in the future can support industry and service sector in the human shrinking society.
Japanese Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) will present a new human support robot (HSR) prototype at the 39th International Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition 2012, at the Tokyo International Exhibition Center in Koto Ward, Tokyo, from September 26 through 28. The robot is aimed to assist independent home living for persons with limited arm or leg mobility.  The prototype is an addition to the Toyota Partner Robot series and Assist Robot series that TMC is developing to assist people in their everyday activities.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New Toyota Human Support Robot

Credit: TMC, HSR 2012
Toyota Motor Corp. has announced a new human support robot (HSR) prototype to assist independent home living for persons with limited arm or leg mobility. The prototype robot is an addition to the Toyota Partner Robot series that TMC is developing to assist people in their everyday activities.
The HSR—operable by voice command or by tablet PC—has a highly maneuverable, compact, and lightweight cylindrical body with a folding arm that enables it to pick up objects off the floor, suction up thin objects, retrieve objects from high locations, open curtains, and perform other household tasks.  Furthermore, the moving parts of the body and arm do not generate large amounts of force, thus ensuring user safety and peace of mind.prototype home robot to help residents who cannot easily walk, bend or pick things up. Aiming to improve quality of life, TMC has developed the HSR prototype in cooperation with the Japan Service Dog Association to identify the needs and desires of individuals with limited limb mobility, and developed functions focused around picking up dropped objects, retrieving items, and communicating with family members and caregivers.  In 2011, TMC conducted in-home trials using the robot with individuals with limb disabilities in cooperation with the Foundation for Yokohama Rehabilitation Service and incorporated user feedback into development.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

US Industrial Renaissance with Baxter Robot

Credit: Rethink Robotics
After years of rumors US company Rethink Robotics has presented its new generation industrial robot Baxter. Founder, Chairman and CTO Rodney Brooks will help US  manufacturers to improve efficiency, increase productivity and reduce their need for offshoring. His robotic dream is to re-vitalize and revolutionize Made in USA robotics and manufacturing.
He has recently criticized Japanese robotics as fantasy engineering and demonstrating wind up toys. His refers to the fact that Japan needed help from USA to inspect the damaged nuclear power plants in Fukushima with robots from iRobot. In Brooks opinion robot videos very often don´t tell whether capablity is robust capability. Lab demos often make many non-obvious simplifying assumptions that researchers often are unaware of themselves.

According to Brooks a new generation of versatile and affordable robots is needed to cope with non-attractiveness of many service jobs, rehabilitation and assistance of elderly people, the need for more productivity to compete globally. The new robot Baxter has capabilites that allow ordinary people to directly control and "program" this sophisticated robot. Brooks believes that Baxter will change the nature of robots and how they are used.

Monday, September 17, 2012

iRobot Acquires Competitor Evolution Robotics for $74 million

iRobot Corp. today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held Evolution Robotics, Inc. (ER), developer of Mint® and Mint® Plus automatic floor cleaning robots, based in Pasadena, California, for $74 million.
Credit: Evolution Robotics, Mint
Evolution Robotics was founded as an operating company of Idealab, a creator and operator of technology businesses, and has been funded by Vodafone Ventures Ltd, CMEA Ventures and Shea Ventures.

Evolution Robotics develops state-of-the-art robotics solutions, and partners with original equipment manufacturers to integrate those technologies into new and more intelligent products. The line of products for businesses include: NorthStar® — a low-cost, hardware and software localization solution that enables mobile devices to navigate more intelligently in indoor environments. The NorthStar system brings advanced localization performance at costs suitable for the consumer products industry.
ERSP® — a complete software development platform for organizations with their own engineering teams. Available for Linux or Windows, ERSP provides core infrastructure, computer vision (based on ViPR® technology), complete autonomous navigation with vSLAM® and human-robot interaction modules.

ER will contribute with an estimated net revenue of $4-6M in Q4 2012 and $22-24M in 2013. ER domestic revenue is expected to be 97% of 2012 sales. International sales to date are limited. 65% of ER's 2012 revenue comes from current iRobot domestic accounts. ER currently utilizes 2 contract manufacturers in China.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rethink Robotics Release September 18th

Boston based Rethink Robotics, founded in 2008 by well known roboticist Rodney Brooks, a co-founder of iRobot and former Director of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, will unveil its first robot on Tuesday September 18th. The company has raised $57 million in venture capital so far, to develop a new generation of inexpensive and user friendly robots to improve productivity in manufacturing environments. According to rumours the single-armed robot will sell for about $5,000 - $15,000, be on a rolling base, be trainable without programming, and have sensors which enable it to work safely with humans.
See also Robotland report of December 2010 about the companies research roots.
Update! Check out the demo video below of the new dual arm factory robot BAXTER that cost $22,000.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

iRobot Telemedicine Demo

According to a report by Companies & Markets the global telemedicine monitoring market in 2011 reached a value of $736 million and is poised to increase to $2.5 billion by 2018.
iRobot CEO Colin Angel recently demonstrated at the 10 year anniversary of iRobot in Japan the new RP-VITA wireless robot developed by iRobot and InTouch Health. The RP-VITA wireless robot is able to capture and send real-time clinical data and also allows physicians to remotely monitor patients. Angel used a tablet communicating with an engineer at a demo center and navigating the telerobot.
For the hospital market, the robot improves patient care by ensuring the physician is in the right place at the right time and has access to the necessary clinical information to take immediate action.
Telemedicine is a new market opportunity for iRobot. In 2009 iRobot established a healthcare business unit, aimed at exploring the potential of robotics as an assistive technology. In 2012 iRobot announced a $6 million investment and expanded partnership with InTouch Health,  a privately held robotics technology company based in Santa Barbara, California. 
Check out the demo video below.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

KUKA Infographics about Robots in USA

German robot manufacturer KUKA has published an interesting infographics about robots bringing back jobs to USA. Check out some robotics facts and figures below.

Robots And Automation Bring Jobs Back To The U.S.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Robotic Sprint World Record: 45,5 km/h (18 mph)

The cheetah is known as the world’s fastest animal, able to accelerate from 0-60 mph in less than 3 seconds. The fastest cheetah was timed to run approximately 200 meters in 7 seconds, equivalent to 29 meters per second or 64 mph (113 kmh).

Usain Bolt holds the world records for the fastest 100 meter and 200 meter race times. Bolt ran the 100 meter race in 9.58 seconds, and the 200 meter race in 19.19 seconds, significantly slower than the cheetah at 23 mph (37 kmh). According to the International Association of Athletics Federations, Bolt set the world speed record for a human in 2009 when he reached a peak speed of 27.78 mph for a 20-meter split during the 100-meter sprint.

DARPA's four-legged Cheetah robot recently reached a top speed of 45.5 kmh, slightly faster than the legendary sprinter Usain Bolt which peaked at 44.7 kmh. Cheetah was recently clocked at 28.3 mph for a 20-meter split. The Cheetah had a slight advantage over Bolt as it ran on a treadmill, the equivalent of a 28.3 mph tail wind, but most of the power Cheetah used was to swing its legs fast enough, not to propel itself forward.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Chinese Domestic Robots

Credit: Ecovac, Famibot
At the International Consumer Electronics fair IFA 2012 in Berlin, Germany, Chinese robot company  Ecovacs presented new series of domestic Service Robots.

Famibot is a companion robot to control household appliances through a cell phone via 3G or WiFi. Famibot owners can see what is happening at their home, monitoring various functions, i.e. to turn ON/OFF air-conditioner, lights etc.

Winbot 7 series is a robotic windows cleaner which can clean safely frame or frameless glass efficiently. It combines wet and dry cleaning using a zigzag pattern ensuring maximum coverage of the area without repetition. Winbot 7's bumper and side roller keep the unit ans window protected and reduce friction. Equipped with ant-slip drive treads and two powerful motors the winbot is absolutely flexible and agile.