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Friday, December 20, 2013

Rethink Robotics laid off 21 jobbs

Credit: Rethink Robotics
Boston based industrial robot start-up Rethink Robotics faces problems to bring back more industry jobs to America.
According to The Boston Globe robot company Rethink Robotics has laid off 21 jobs from their staff of approximately 90 employees. Vice president of product development Elaine Chen has also departed the company.
The company will focus with a smaller team on the most receptive market segments since the launch of the two-handed robot Baxter in September 2012, including plastics manufacturing, consumer goods, and warehousing and logistics, CEO Scott Eckert explained for The Boston Globe.
Rethink Robotics has so far raised about $75 million in venture capital, much of it from local firms like Charles River Ventures, Sigma Partners, and Highland Capital Partners.

German KUKA intents to buy 51 % stake in Reis Robotics

Credit: KUKA
According to a recent press release from German KUKA, one of the world's largest suppliers of robotics and automated assembly lines, the company has signed a letter of intent outlining its intention to acquire an interest in Reis Robotics. KUKA proposes to purchase a 51-percent stake in Reis Robotics with an option to acquire additional shares. The Reis family is currently the company' sole owner and will retain a 49-percent share upon deal closing. The parties have agreed not to disclose other details about the transaction, which is subject to approval by the antitrust authorities.
Credit: Reis Robotics
Reis Robotics is a technology leading robotics specialist and systems integrator. Reis Group Holding GmbH, headquartered in Obernburg am Main, conducts business internationally and is the market leader in automation systems that include both Reis and other manufacturers' robots. Reis Robotics designs and supplies complete automation systems from a single source and is currently one of the key integrators of large, complex automation systems in all leading industrial sectors. Its broad product portfolio consists of specialty robots and many automation components for welding, laser processing and casting systems. The company's growth since 1957 is based on its expertise in planning, designing and building turnkey automation systems. Based on its experience with a wide variety of industrial processes (conventional and laser welding/cutting, casting, handling, coating, assembling, etc.), Reis also offers the services required to offer automation solutions in these sectors.

Friday, November 08, 2013

The ROBO-STOX™ Global Robotics and Automation Index

Next Tuesday, Nov. 12th, a robot will ring the closing bell for the NASDAQ stock exchange celebrating a brand new robotics industry ETF (a mutual fund that is traded on a stock exchange). The ETF, ticker symbol ROBO, is predicated on an index licensed from Robo-Stox™ LLC 
Robo-Stox is promoted as the world's first benchmark index tracking robotics and automation companies, with 77 stocks from companies around the world included in the fund. The fund has assets of $2.5 million and a management fee of 0.95 percent. About 40 percent of the 77 companies in the index are industry bellwether manufacturers such as iRobot, ABB, Intuitive Surgical, and Yaskawa Electric. For a complete list please click here

Thursday, November 07, 2013

MOSS - The Dynamic Robot Construction Kit

MOSS is a brand new robot construction system from Modular Robotics. It was designed, prototyped and engineered over the last two and a half years. Building with MOSS is incredibly fun and easy thanks to an intuitive, magnetic construction system. With MOSS there is no need for coding or wiring any construction. The power and data are sent through an elegant single button contact, while the ground passes through the steel spheres.MOSS uses over-molded neodymium, "rare earth," magnets and carbon steel ball bearings to build a wide variety of constructions. The tactile click of building with MOSS is enough to keep you entertained for hours. For more information please visit the Moss Kickstarter website.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Transport, logistics and office jobs under threat

According to a research study from Oxford Martin School nearly half of US jobs could be susceptible to computerisation over the next two decades. 
The study, a collaboration between Dr Carl Benedikt Frey (Oxford Martin School) and Dr Michael A. Osborne (Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford), found that jobs in transportation, logistics, as well as office and administrative support, are at “high risk” of automation. More surprisingly, occupations within the service industry are also highly susceptible, despite recent job growth in this sector.
The study examined over 700 detailed occupation types, noting the types of tasks workers perform and the skills required. By weighting these factors, as well as the engineering obstacles currently preventing computerisation, the researchers assessed the degree to which these occupations may be automated in the coming decades.

Monday, October 28, 2013

UBR-1 $35k mobile robot released

Unbounded Robotics, a spinoff of Willow Garage, recently debuted its first machine, UBR-1, a head and multi-jointed robotic arm on wheels that runs on the open-source Robot Operating System, or ROS. The startup hopes UBR-1 will support the development of further applications for dexterous, mobile robots.
At $35,000, the robot is certainly accessible to institutions and startups, its intended audiences.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

3 million Euro grant for socially intelligent robotics research

Credit: Giraff Technologies
The Informatics Institute at the University of Amsterdam will be coordinating a new FP7 project to develop a socially intelligent telepresence robot system. A total grant of €3 million is awarded by the European Commission to this project. The project is titled TERESA (Telepresence Reinforcement-Learning Social Agent) and led by dr. Shimon Whiteson, aims to develop a socially intelligent telepresence robot system, in which a human controller remotely interacts with people by guiding a remotely located robot. The TERESA  system will automatically navigate among groups of people in a socially appropriate way and display socially appropriate body language when interacting with people around it. This new system will be used to help elderly people maintain social interaction by remotely participating in activities in elderly day centres when, due to illness or physical immobility, they are unable to physically attend. The robotic platform will be delivered by Giraff Technologies.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Robotic suite for factory workers

The Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO is partner in the Robo-Mate project, starting in September 2013. Together with 11 European partners this research project aims at designing a human-guided exoskeleton to improve work safety and enhance productivity in the industrial environment. According to the Work Foundation Alliance (UK), as many as 44 million workers in the European Union are affected by work-place related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), representing a total annual cost of more than 240 billion Euros.
The goal of the project is to develop a user-friendly intelligent cooperative light weight wearable human-robotic exoskeleton for manual handling work. Direct physical interaction using haptic technologies will be combined with perception enhancement using cognitive science programming paradigms to drive the exoskeleton, thus not requiring any programming skills from its users. Robo-Mate shall increase both efficiency and safety of manual production processes in industrial environments. This shall increase the productivity of companies and lower the currently high costs induced by musculoskeletal disorders. The Centro Ricerche Fiat (CRF) will test the exoskeleton in their lab and on the Fiat shop floor to demonstrate the benefits of the device.
Funded with €4.5 million by the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development of the European Union (FP7), the 3-year project will be led by Prof. Dr. Hans Wernher van de Venn, Zurich University of Applied Science (ZHAW), and managed by accelopment AG in Switzerland

Milking robots improve working conditions but decrease profit

Credit: SLU, milking robot 
The first automatic milking system (AMS) was installed in the Netherlands in 1992 and came to Sweden in 1998. In 2009 there were about 8000 farms worldwide using AMS and 28 per cent of the Swedish cows were milked in an AMS at the end of 2011.

A new study of Swedish agro researchers Karin Bergman and Ewa Rabinowicz at Agrifood Economic Centre in Lund, Sweden, comprising adopters and non-adopters of an automatic milking system (AMS) in Sweden, shows that farmers report non-profit-related reasons as the most important for the decision to adopt an AMS, whereas profit-related reasons are the most important for the decision not to adopt the AMS. Despite problems with profitability, over 90 per cent of the AMS farmers would recommend the AMS to other milk producers. A probit estimation of the probability of investing in an AMS finds positive effects of the social network, positive beliefs of future profitability and existence of a successor, and negative effects of age, experience, education, share of tenured land and regular use of advisors. According to the Swedish researchers only 18 per cent of Swedish farmers reported increased profitability, whereas 32 per cent reported decreased profitability. But 36 per cent reported an increase in the production of milk per cow. Hence, there is some ambiguity concerning the efficiency of this new technology. One should also keep in mind that this study only covers 16 per cent of all Swedish milk producers and that there could be some bias in the results.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hight speed 3D printed robot crawler

Researchers at UC Berkeley’s Biomimetic Millisystems Lab have introduced a new high speed 3D printed robot designed to be flexible enough to manoeuver under a door. The segmented robot named the Sprawl Tuned Autonoumous Robot (STAR),  has two natural positions: in its default posture, its body is raised between two ski-like legs, giving it a higher profile. When it encounters a tight passage, however, it spreads its legs to flatten its body and scoot under the door with a series of fan-like feet. Check the video below.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Packrobot - a new parcel delivery solution

PackRobot is a new self-service parcel delivery solution, which uses the latest technology and is the most cost-efficient model on the market. The PackRobot, developed by Estonian Cleveron can be implemented both indoors and outdoors. PackRobot uses a 3D lift system to deliver parcels from different sections in the machine to one sliding door. The one door system brings out the best ergonomics – all activities are done in one place so that customers and couriers don’t have to move around. The door is located at optimal height for all customers - including children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
The PackRobot includes a multiload system for couriers, which enables to insert similar size parcels into different slots at the same time, thus making the loading system much faster and easier. PackRobot makes the best use of limited floor space (only 2,2 m2 needed) and uses the height for its advantage. The client can determine the number and size of the slots in the machine and change them in the course of operation. The PackRobot is easily expandable and can fit up to 720 parcels.
Watch the promo video below.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

New Canadian Field Robotics Network

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The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada has established a new Canadian Field Robotics Network (NCFRN), led by McGill University Computer Science professor Gregory Dudek. The NCFRN brings together academic, government, and industrial researchers in the area of field robotics, to develop the science and technologies to eventually allow teams of heterogeneous robots (on land, in the air, on the surface of or under water) to work collaboratively in outdoor environments, and to communicate critical information to humans who operate them or use them.
The NCFRN provides the national framework for 11 researchers from 8 renowned Canadian universities as well as 11 industrial partners and 3 government agencies to combine their skills and expertise. This network of people and organizations will allow them to make better progress and compete more effectively internationally. The network addresses basic questions in robotics science and the technologies developed by the NCFRN will help address Canadian problems such as our monitoring and maintaining the state of our environmental heritage, patrolling borders (e.g. in the Arctic), dealing with environmental disasters (e.g. oil spills and nuclear accidents), or improving the quality of life of senior citizens.

Monday, June 10, 2013

iRobot Launches Ava™ 500 Video Collaboration Robot with Cisco TelePresence

iRobot Corp. (NASDAQ: IRBT), a leader in delivering robotic technology-based solutions, announced the company has signed a joint marketing agreement and is working in close alliance with Cisco to bring the enterprise-grade iRobot Ava 500 video collaboration robot to market.
Ava 500 is based on iRobot’s autonomous navigation and Cisco’s TelePresence to enable people working off-site to participate in meetings and presentations where movement and location spontaneity are important. The new robot is also designed to enable mobile visual access to manufacturing facilities, laboratories, customer experience centers and other remote facilities in a supply chain.

Unique features

According to iRobot the Ava 500 employs “autonomous navigation,” which means there is no need to “drive” the robot, so it requires little training to operate and the user is free to concentrate on the task at hand. iRobot’s mobile robotics platform maps its own environment so it can intelligently and safely self-navigate busy, real-world enterprise environments like offices, manufacturing floors and laboratories without bumping into people or objects.
Ava 500 uses both the Cisco TelePresence EX60 personal unit and Cisco Aironet 1600 Series wireless access points to enable enterprise-grade security and interoperability in any standards-based video collaboration environment.
Ava 500 is targeted for availability from select Cisco partners in early calendar year 2014.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Rethink Robotics: Made in U.S.A.

At the ongoing IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, ICRA 2013 in Karlsruhe, Germany, plenary talks are live webcasted, making it easy for everyone to listen to some of the worlds most famous roboticists. One of these is professor Rodney Brooks, founder, chairman, and CTO of Rethink Robotics, Inc. who gave a talk entitled "A new class of industrial robot."
Brooks,former director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab,  starts with explaining why robots are now ready to take off. The main reasons are because computers and sensors have gotten exponentially cheaper for the last 50 years, but also because research in computer vision and in simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) have made major strides in the last 10 years. Further more certain tasks robots have passed a usability that makes them useful to untrained people. Then he reviews his insights from consumer and military robotics at iRobot and explains the displacement of "low cost" US manufacturing since WW2 to Asia and why reshoring makes sense. Brooks argues that reshoring helps manufacturers to develop more responsive, short supply chains, brings innovation closer to manufacturing and reduces intellectual property and regulatory compliance risk. He also claims that productivity beats cheap labor and higher transportation costs can be avoided
With the new generation industrial robots, Brooks and his company will redefine how small, mid-size and large domestic manufacturers use automation to compete with manufacturers in low-cost regions of the world.  His latest dual-armed robot, Baxter, Made in USA, is capable of applying common sense behavior to manufacturing environments and safe enough to work shoulder-to-shoulder with people.  Brooks claims that Baxter is the first mass-produced sentient robot that works with people and helps them to be more productive. The $22k robot can be easily integrated into existing manufacturing workflow and can be instantly useful. By introducing robots into places that have not been automated before manufacturers can become more efficient, workers become more productive, and jobs be kept from migrating overseas.  Brooks promotes Baxter as a robot ready to be used on the factory floor in less than one hour. No programming expertise is required because the robot can be trained like a human worker The robot can perform a wide range of simple tasks, adapts automatically to changes in its environment and can work safely side-by-side with humans.  The robot is designed to be manufacturable with support of a distributed supply chain with specialist for different robot modules. Testing and calibration is integrated throughout the supply chain and computation is used to replace precision of manufacturing. The result is an inexpensive  user friendly, adaptive, safe robot for small and medium-seized companies. 
Rethink Robotics is funded ($62 million) by Charles River Ventures, Highland Capital Partners, Sigma Partners, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Bezos Expeditions, the personal investment company of Jeff Bezos.

Friday, May 03, 2013

KUKA Innovation in Mobile Manipulation Award

Credit: Kuka AG
German KUKA, one of the world's leading suppliers of robotics, has announced the KUKA Innovation in Mobile Manipulation Award  intended to accelerate the pace of innovation in the field of mobile manipulation at large and to better prepare technology transfers from academia and research to industry.
Applicants for the award have to demonstrate an innovative robotic application or component in the field of mobile manipulation in real operation in a realistic working environment. To ensure equal conditions and a fair and direct comparison, the application or component shall be demonstrated on, or in conjunction with, a KUKA youBot. The KUKA youBot is an open-source software controlled mobile manipulator with an omni-directional base and a five-degree-of-freedom robot arm, which is about to become a reference platform for research and education in mobile manipulation.
Teams, which have an innovative and viable idea, but do not have access to the KUKA youBot mobile manipulation hardware may ask for sponsorship. Deadline for registration for the competition leading to the award is 15.06.2013. Competitors will be evaluated by a jury of renowned experts in mobile manipulation. The selected finalists will present their solutions not only to the jury, but also to KUKA
management and to the expert public at the leading international robotics trade show Automatica 2014, where the award ceremony will take place.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Kinematics - Next generation robotic creativity tool

The future of robotics will be driven by next generation kids exploring the world with digital and robotic tools such as iPhone, iPad and Lego Mindstorm.
A new highly creative modular robotic system, Kinematics, invented and developed by German product designer Leonhard Oschütz, allows a wide range of applications. It is possible to construct models based on bionics as well as autonomously moving vehicles – anything is possible.
Kinematics for kids is a modular robotic construction kit, consisting of kinetic modules and adaptor blocks, which can be connected freely and without the use of cables. Kinematics is suitable for children from the age of 5 years and upwards, and with no computer skills being necessary, they may build interactive robots which have the ability to move. Exploring and playing with the Kinematic Blocks introduces children to the world of mechanics, sensors and renewable energy. The construction kit is a highly entertaining and useful teaching tool with an intuitive interface. The adaptor blocks enable Kinematics to be connected to other leading
construction kits.
Check out the video below for a short introduction.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

iRobot shipped 421.000 home robot units in Q1, 2013

Credit: iRobot
iRobot Corp., the leader in home consumer robotics, has shipped 421.000 home robot units in the first quarter of 2013, compared with 392.000 for the same quarter one year ago, according to data released today.
The average gross selling price for a home robot unit was $230 or $16 higher than in Q1 2012.

Domestic Home Robot revenue of $92.7, a  growth of 44 percent, drove a 14 percent year-over-year increase in quarterly Home Robot revenue. International Home Robot revenue of $61.3 million comprised 66 percent of total Home Robot Q1 2013 revenue.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Who will drive 2,5 billion vehicles in 2050?

The first motor truck was built in 1896 by the German automotive pioneer Gottlieb Daimler. Since then the number of global registrations of cars and commercial vehicles jumped to 1 billion.
According to the IAE World Energy Outlook 2012, some 1.7 billion vehicles are expected to be on the roads in 2035 and the 2012 Transport Outlook of the OECD's International Transport Forum forecasts that the number of cars worldwide could reach 2,5 billion by 2050.
So far motor vehicles have to be operated by licensed human drivers. In 2011, there were nearly 210 million licensed drivers and 242 million vehicles in the United States. An estimated 60% of the European Union’s population holds a valid driving licence, around 300 million citizens.
Credit: U.S. DOT

Vehicle driving accidents

The cost of human driving is high including the risks and effects of traffic accidents. Worldwide it was estimated in 2004 that 1.2 million people were killed (2.2% of all deaths) and 50 million more were injured in motor vehicle collisions. India recorded 105,000 traffic deaths in a year, followed by China with over 96,000 deaths.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) motor vehicle crashes killed more than 33,000 people and injured over 2.2 million others in the U.S. in 2009. In 2011, 32,310 people died in motor vehicle crashes, down 1.7 percent from 2010.

Economic costs of motor vehicle accidents: $500 billion

The global economic cost of motor vehicle accidents was estimated at $518 billion per year in 2003 with $100 billion of that occurring in developing countries.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in 2010 that the cost of medical care and productivity losses associated with motor vehicle crash injuries was over $99 billion, or nearly $500, for each licensed driver in the U.S.. Based on data from 2005, every 10 seconds an American is treated in an emergency department for crash-related injuries.
Over 95% of motor vehicle accidents involve some degree of driver behavior, usually the primary cause. Most accidents are caused by excessive speed or aggressive driver behavior. According to Mark Edwards, director of Traffic Safety at the American Automobile Association somewhere between 25-50 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in the USA have driver distraction as their root cause.
According to FBI data over 1.41 million drivers were arrested in 2010 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.

U.S. professional driver costs: $ 122 billion

The total cost of wages of about 3,8 million professional drivers in the U.S. including truck drivers, delivery truck drivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, subway and streetcar operators is about $ 122 billion, based on 2010 average wages. Replacing millions of human drivers by intelligent unmanned vehicles is a future vision driven by military and industry players to safe human life and operating costs.

A driverless future?

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) predicted that up to 75 per cent of cars on the road in 2040 will be of the driver-less variety. Beyond that, the group suggested that driving infrastructure and attitudes may change once autonomous cars become the norm.
Credit: NHTSA, Connected vehicles
According to the Texas Transportation Institute, American drivers spent 4.8 billion hours stuck in traffic in 2010—the equivalent of nearly one full work week for every traveler on our roadways each year. Connected vehicle technology could enable drivers and transportation system operators to make smart choices to reduce travel delay. 

Autonomous cars 2011
In June 2011, the state of Nevada was the first jurisdiction in the United States to pass a law concerning the operation of autonomous cars. The Nevada law went into effect on March 1, 2012, and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles issued the first license for a self-driven car in May 2012. The license was issued to a Toyota Prius modified with Google's experimental driver-less technology. So far three U.S. states have passed laws permitting driver-less cars, as of September 2012: Nevada, Florida and California.

Unmanned Truck Operators 

Credit: BLS, heavy and tractor-trailer truck driver
Delivery drivers and driver/sales workers 
Transportation of goods and people might be change dramatically with introduction of unmanned cars and trucks and replacing millions of driver jobs by operators controlling  vehicles remotely from their home bases.

One driving force for unmanned vehicles is the challenge to fill and even harder to keep filled truck driver positions in the U.S. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the demand for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers is increasing, up from the 1,6 million truck drivers on the road in 2010.
Truck drivers wanted! 
Employment is projected to grow 21 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. As the economy grows, the demand for goods will increase, and more truck drivers will be needed to keep supply chains moving. But despite a median pay in 2010 of $37,770 per year or $18.16 per hour, few people want to drive a truck, according to a CNN Money report July 2012. Cost for a commercial driver's license of about $6,000 and the long-haul trucker lifestyle are mentioned as the biggest hurdles.

Delivery Truck Drivers and Driver/Sales Workers 
Another group with a physically demanding job are the 1,2 million delivery truck drivers and driver/sales workers who pick up, transport, and drop off packages within a small region or urban area.  Most of the time, they transport merchandise from a distribution center to businesses and households.  When loading and unloading cargo, drivers do a lot of lifting, carrying, and walking. The median annual wage of light truck or delivery services drivers was $28,630 in May 2010.
Job Outlook
Employment of light truck or delivery services drivers and driver/sales workers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Improved routing through GPS technology can make truck drivers more productive, which may limit the need for more drivers.

Bus- and taxi drivers
In the U.S. about 647,200 bus drivers and about 239,900 taxi drivers transport people between a variety of places including work, school, shopping, and across state borders.
Driving through heavy traffic or dealing with unruly passengers can be stressful for bus drivers. About 54 percent of all bus drivers worked full time in 2010, and 39 percent worked part time. The rest had variable schedules.
Driving for long periods of time, especially in heavy traffic, can be stressful for taxi drivers and chauffeurs. In 2010, 31 percent of taxi drivers and chauffeurs were self-employed. The median annual wage of taxi drivers and chauffeurs was $22,440 in May 2010
Employment of bus drivers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Job opportunities should be favorable, especially for school bus drivers as school enrollment grows. Employment of taxi drivers and chauffeurs is projected to grow 20 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations. This will be driven by an increase in public transport systems.

Will unmanned vehicles create new human jobs?

According to a new study of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI),  the world's largest non-profit organization promoting robotics and unmanned systems, the unmanned aircraft industry is poised to create more than 70,000 new American jobs in the first three years following the integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into U.S. national airspace system (NAS). Integration is scheduled to take place in 2015. Beyond the first three years, the study projects that more than 100,000 new jobs will be created by 2025.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

U.S. National Robotics Week 2013

The third annual National Robotics Week is a nation wide robotic event recognizing robotics technology as a pillar of 21st century American innovation, highlighting its growing importance in a wide variety of application areas, and emphasizing its ability to inspire technology education. More than 125 robotics-based events, demonstrations and workshops are planned in 50 states to inspire the next generation of innovators in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Check out the NRW Facebook page.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Robots take over e-commerce warehouse jobs

Swisslog, a global supplier of integrated logistics solutions headquartered in Buchs/Aarau, Switzerland, is providing highly efficient robotic goods-to-person solution for e-commerce. The Click&Pick system uses a fleet of robots instead of fixed aisle cranes or shuttles. Any robot can reach any product and deliver it to any workstation. The robots are designed with simplicity in mind, resulting in a highly reliable machine with very low operating costs. 
Swisslog’s Click&Pick high-speed workstations can achieve over 1000 picks per hour per person and eliminate all walking within the warehouse and can reduce the ‘status quo’ labor force by more than half! Click&Pick’s lightning fast operation allows cycle times, from customer order thru picking to shipment, as low as 20 minutes. This makes Click&Pick an attractive order fulfillment solution for the quickly growing e-commerce market. 
Check out the video below for a demo.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Quadcopter Dance Enseble

Credit: AEC
The Quadcopter Dance Ensemble is the hottest international sensation in professional event & show business. It’s a swarm of up to 50 LED-equipped quadcopters that fly in formation and perform cool feats of airborne choreography. The accompanying lighting and sound effects create an extraordinary aesthetic experience. The Quadcopter Dance Ensemble was one of the featured attractions at the 2012 voestalpine Klangwolke. An audience of 90,000+ gathered along the Danube in Linz to witness a world record: the first outdoor flight by a formation of 50 quadcopters. The Quadcopter Dance Ensemble can be booked for shows, product presentations and events. Check out the video below for a demo show. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Robots replace migrant workers and save U.S. famers

Credit: NREC/CMU
According to the new, updated Roadmap for U.S. Robotics 2013, new robot applications for crop spraying, harvesting, and picking offer the promise of reduced costs, increased safety, greater yields, increased operational flexibility, including nighttime operations, and reduced use of chemicals.

Robotic farms of the future

The the world’s largest robotics research and development organization, the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC), an operating unit within Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute (RI), is envisioning and developing new concepts for robotic farms for the future.
In the fully-automated Farm of the Future, dedicated robots will take on the tough farming jobs that once could be done only by people. Farmers will supervise robots in their daily tasks, but won’t need to directly operate them. In more than 20 years NREC has demonstrated autonomous agricultural equipment for field and specialty crop applications. Recent work with strawberry sorters, and the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative support the development of advanced harvesting and manipulation, crop sorting with machine vision, and disease detection and monitoring.

Robots can replace migrant workers

According to NREC the U.S. ornamental horticulture is an $11 billion dollar a year industry tied to a dwindling migrant work force. Unskilled seasonal labor is becoming more costly and harder to find, but it is still needed several times a year to move potted plants to and from fields and sheds.
Autonomous and semi-autonomous robotic systems for moving containerized plants to and from the field can handled the task of picking up, moving, and setting down multiple containers at the same time.  The NREC prototype and field tested systems were designed to handle 35,000 containers per 8-hour day with one or two operators. This reduces the horticulture industry's reliance on manual labor, increases nursery productivity, improves field safety, and reduces plant handling costs.

Robots can save American family farmers

NREC believes that applying the power of robotics to completely automate common farming tasks will help American family farmers to significantly lower their operating costs, reduce their need for labor, and increase their efficiency and yields. It will allow American agriculture to remain competitive worldwide. It will enable small farms (like most of Pennsylvania’s farms) to compete globally. It will also help farmers to satisfy the growing demand for locally-produced food. This can mean the difference between a viable family farm and yet another subdivision.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

€100 million for French robotics

Wired UK reports that the French robotic scene is to receive a serious financial boost, with 250 companies receiving a total of €100 million (£85 million) in funding. Addressing the European Robotics Forum in Lyon, France's minister for industrial renewal Arnaud Montebourg stated that the new funds will help make up for "lost competitiveness" in the French robotics sector, and would see the nation become an industry leader by 2020.
Bruno Bonnell, ex Atari CEO, founder of French Federation of service robots SYROBO and actual CEO of Robopolis launched a 60 million Euro (80 million USD) investment fund named Robolution Capital in 2012 to support the development of Robotics in Europe. It was the First European investment fund dedicated to service robot and will invest in 30 startups, ranging from 300,000 to $3 million for each. The fund is supported by Orkos Capital and CDC Enterprises, a public group and long term investor serving general interest and the economic development of the country.

Robots on Tour 2013

Highlights from the 2013 Robots on Tour Congress held in Zürich on March 08-09, 2013, by Ars Electronica. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Military robots overview

This is an overview of leading manufacturers of military robots including, Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs), Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USVs), Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUVs), compiled in March 2013 from the Global Robotics Brain. 
Click the image to enlarge. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Humanitarian Demining Robotic Toolbox

According to the 14th annual Landmine Monitor 2012 report, published by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), a total of 4,286 new casualties from landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) were recorded in 2011. At least 1,320 people were killed and another 2,907 people were injured. The 2011 figure is similar to the number of casualties identified in 2009 and 2010, or approximately 11-12 casualties per day. The annual incidence rate is about a third of what it was one decade ago, when there were at least 32 casualties per day.

Robotic Toolbox for Humanitarian Demining 

Humanitarian Demining is a thorough, time-intensive process that seeks to locate all mines so that the land or sea area may be safely returned to normal use. The TIRAMISU project co-funded by the EU with € 14.9 million started in 2012 with the goal to provide the Mine Action community with a toolbox to assist in addressing the many issues related to Humanitarian Demining and thus promoting peace, national and regional security, conflict prevention, social and economic rehabilitation and post-conflict reconstruction. The TIRAMISU consortium, composed of 24 partners representing 11 European countries, is developing a series of cost-effective toolbox including tools to detect mines, submunitions or explosives at close range with remotely controlled Micro (Unmanned) Aerial Vehicles (MAV/UAV), remote controled ground platforms (UGV) or flying biosensors (honeybees).
For more information about the project, please visit the project website.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Library robotics at Stockholm Public Library

At the Stockholm Public Library a new robotics library system from Danish Lyngsoe Systems is sorting up to 2500 items per hour. The library robot SortMate has been installed last year to take care a wide variety of library materials, which each year is returned after lending. It can handle hard bound or soft bound books, books with enclosures, magazines and periodicals, CD’s, DVD’s, audiotapes and videos (single or collection). 
Lyngsoe Systems is one of the worlds' leading software developers and systems integrators of logistics solutions for a wide range of complex logistics chain environments. Lyngsoe provides complete library automation solutions, including RFID and barcode-to-RFID conversions, LMS integration and security systems. 

Credit: Lyngoe Systems and NyTeknik

RoCKIn Robot Challenge

Credit: RoCKIn
RoCKIn is a new EU project co-funded by the EU with €1,7 million that will be run over the next three years, consisting of robot competitions, symposiums, educational RoCKIn camps and technology transfer workshops. The mission of this project is to act as a catalyst for smarter, more dependable robots.
RoCKIn@Home and RoCKIn@Work) which will run concurrently in two competition events (in 2014 and 2015), and three education camps (2013, 2014, 2015) to introduce selected students to the details of RoCKIn competitions. The challenges were selected due to their high relevance and impact on
Europe's societal and industrial needs.
The first introductory camp will take place from 28 June to 1 July 2013 during this year's RoboCup in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The Camp will give an introduction to the new RoCKIn competitions and look at the current status of RoboCup@Home and RoboCup@Work, with the ultimate aim of facilitating the entry of new teams into RoCKIn@Home and RoCKIn@Work. Activities include lectures and participation in the RoboCup symposium.
Students and researchers from the EU, who have an interest in entering the RoCKIn@Home and RoCKIn@work competitions, are all invited to apply for RoCKIn Camp 2013.
For more information please visit the RoCKIn website.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

New general manager of iRobot Home Robots

iRobot has announced that Christian Cerda has joined the company to lead its home robot business unit. He will report directly to Jeff Beck, iRobot’s chief operating officer. Cerda served as General Manager of the Home Depot at Whirlpool Corporation, where he held a number of roles across their global footprint and was responsible for sales, marketing, brand communications, product development and operations. Prior to Whirlpool, Cerda held senior roles at The Boston Consulting Group and Procter and Gamble. Cerda holds a B.S. in Computer Engineering from Universidad Simon Bolivar and an MBA from the Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Robotics market value forecast value 2018

In a new research study by BCC Research, "Robotics: Technologies and Global Markets," the market for whole robots, robot parts, robot software, and related safety materials now approaches $22 billion. The report forecasts a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.9% between 2013 and 2018, when it's expected to surpass $29 billion.
According to the report, the bulk of the growth in the European Union is anticipated to be concentrated in the latter part of the forecast period, when robotic development initiatives now being undertaken on an EU-wide basis will result in commercialized products. The distribution of growth among different types of robots also reflects a profoundly different approach in the EU toward encouraging the development of the industry than that in the North American market. The chief difference is an EU-wide emphasis on creating a new class of robots that can safely work in near proximity to humans and safely perform personal-care tasks that will be increasingly required as the European population ages.

For more information about the report, please visit the report website.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

U.S. Army orders micro unmanned ground vehicles

Credit: iRobot, FirstLook 110
U.S. Department of Defense, DOD, has recently announced two awards of micro unmanned ground vehicle contracts.
iRobot Corp., Bedford, Mass., was awarded with a $14,4 firm-fixed-price contract to deliver  iRobot 110 FirstLook robotic systems, spare part kits and robot accessories.
The iRobot 110 FirstLook is a small, light, throwable robot that provides hasty situational awareness, performs persistent observation and investigates confined spaces. The robot weighs about 5 pounds, is 10 inches long, 9 inches wide and 4 inches tall. According to iRobot specifications the throwable robot can survive 16-foot drops onto concrete and is waterproof to 3 feet. The robot climbs steps up to 7 inches high, overcomes curbs and other obstacles, turns in place and self-rights when flipped over. The robot gets more than 6 hours of runtime on a typical mission and uses IR illumination to enhance low light and no light operations.
Work will be performed in Bedford, with an estimated completion date of Aug. 20, 2013.
The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-13-C-0124).

Credit: QinetiQ, Dragon Runner 10
QinetiQ North America Inc., Waltham, Mass., was awarded a $12,9 firm-fixed-price contract to deliver Dragon Runner-10 robotic systems and associated spare parts for system sustainment.
The Dragon Runner 10 (DR-10) Micro Unmanned Ground Vehicle (MUGV) is a lightweight, compact, multi-mission remote platform developed for supporting small unit dismounted operations.
Work will be performed in Waltham and Franklin, Mass., and Pittsburgh, Pa., with an estimated completion date of Aug. 25, 2013.
The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity

Friday, March 01, 2013

Third EvAAL companion robot competition

Credit: EvAAL, Peccioli Living Lab 
EvAAL, an initiative supported by the AALOA community and organised by the universAAL project aims at bringing together academic and industrial research communities to work together on challenging open problems in Ambient Assisted Living (AAL), with the purpose of evaluating different approaches to AAL and envisioning new research opportunities.
During the competitions data sets in realistic environments (the living labs) are collected, which will be useful as benchmarks to researcher communities for the simulation and test of their solutions.
The competition is composed of three tracks and a final workshop. Track 3 on Companion Robots for AAL, will be held on 15-19 July 2013 at DomoCasa Lab in Pisa, IT
For more information visit the EvAAL website.

Patent Watch: NEC Child-care robot

Japanese NEC Corporation has received a patent for a "Child-care robot and a method of controlling the robot" (U.S. Pat 8376803)

The patent describes "a child-care robot for use in a nursery school associates child behavior patterns with corresponding robot action patterns, and acquires a child behavior pattern when a child behaves in a specified pattern. The robot selects one of the robot action patterns, which is associated with the acquired child behavior pattern, and performs the selected robot action pattern. Additionally, the robot associates child identifiers with parent identifiers, and receives an inquiry message from a remote terminal indicating a parent identifier. The robot detects one of the child identifiers, which is associated with the parent identifier of the inquiry message, acquires an image or a voice of a child identified by the detected child identifier, and transmits the acquired image or voice to the remote terminal. The robot further moves in search of a child, measures the temperature of the child, and associates the temperature with time of day at which it was measured."

NEC Corporation started in 1997 to investigate the "relationship between people and robots. The Communication robot PaPeRo, a research prototype robot, has been extensively tested in kindergartens and care facilities over the years. PaPeRo could be used to control home appliances, allow parents to keep an eye on their children through a real-time cellphone video feed, and access the internet to read emails or rss feeds. NEC envisions PaPeRo as a teacher’s assistant to help motivate kids, and play games and quizzes. Since 2009 NEC has also been leasing the PaPeRo R500 for enterprises aimed at testing the market.

Global safety certificate on nursing-care robot HAL

Credit: Infonaut, Cyberdyne HAL
The Hybrid Assistive Limb, HAL, a power-assisted pair of legs developed by Japanese robot maker Cyberdyne has has become the first nursing-care robot certified on a draft version of an international safety standard for personal robots to be issued as an international standard in the summer of 2013, according to the Japanese Ministry for the Economy, Trade and Industry, METI
Based on the results of the "Project for Practical Application of Service Robots" conducted by NEDO, the Japan Quality Assurance Organization (JQA) will grant certification based on the international safety standards for service robots (ISO/DIS13482) and issue a certificate to the "Robot Suit HAL® for well-being," 
Cyberdyne, based in Tsukuba, northeast of Tokyo, has so far leased some 330 suits to 150 hospitals, welfare and other facilities in Japan since 2010, at 178,000 yen ($1,950) per suit per year.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Credit: KUKA youBot Store
German KUKA youBot Store has announced a new initiative to promote education in mobile manipulation. Research groups and labs in universities and public research facilities are invited to organize an one-week programming marathon ("hackathon") for under-graduate or graduate students around mobile manipulation at large.
Participants will get a KUKA youBot on a loan basis *free of cost* for a period of four weeks. They will only have to cover the cost for shipping and insurance of the youBot and for hosting a group of students in their labs.

The youBot HACKATHONS organized in Germany during the second European Robotics Week in 2012 attracted around 40 undergraduate students at hackathons at the Bonn-Rhine-Sieg University of Applied Science,  at the Institute for Software & Systems Engineering, Augsburg University and at the Bundeswehr University in Munich.

For more information about the project, please visit the KUKA youBot store website

Nuke plant decommissioning robots wanted

Credit: TEPCO Fukushima Dai-ichi
The Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc. (MRI) invites the global robotics community to upgrade and to develop a technical catalog about robotic technologies to move and investigate inside nuclear reactor buildings, namely
1) a flight technology to enable access to the top floor of the nuclear reactor building and
2) a technology to move around and conduct investigations under water in a flooded reactor building.
MRI is entrusted from the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy in conducting Machine/Equipment Development for Decommissioning the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Planth.

40 years of decommissioning

On December 21, 2011, Government-TEPCO Council on Mid and Long Term Response for Decommissioning adopted "Mid-to-Long-Term Roadmap towards the Decommissioning of Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Units 1-4, TEPCO." The roadmap indicates three phase approach towards 40 years decommissioning period.

Japanese decommissioning robots

Credit: fuRo, Sakura
The Sakura remote-controlled transfer robot, developed by the Chiba Institute of Technology, is the latest version in a line of disaster response robots, and has been designed so it can enter and survey the basements of the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor buildings. It is specifically designed to collect information in underground facilities, where surveys are considered most difficult. The underground portion of the nuclear reactor building has severe conditions not seen in the above ground portion. There, a robot needs to have high mobility and be able to withstand high radiation levels.

Credit: fuRo, Quince
Quince is a rescue robot designed for CBRNE disasters – situations involving Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive hazards. It was developed to perform on-site surveys on behalf of humans, such as fire-fighters. Hypothetical disasters include accidents at plants handling toxic substances, leaks of hazardous chemicals from chemical plants, explosions, and acts of terror like the notorious subway sarin incident. Risks are particularly high in enclosed spaces (underground and inside buildings), and expectations are high for robots as they will protect officers from secondary disasters. 
Quince surveyed the inside of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant whose damages were caused by the East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. Quince, with modifications for operations at nuclear power plants, has photographed the details of the buildings of the power plant, created radiation dose maps, and sampled radioactive materials floating in the air. It has been helping to reduce the radiation dose of on-site workers and to shorten the work period.

Toshiba tetrapod

In November 2012 Toshiba Corporation unveiled a new tetrapod robot able to carry out investigative and recovery work in locations that are too risky for people to enter, such as Tokyo Electric Power Plant Fukushima No.1 Nuclear power plant. 
The new robot integrates a camera and dosimeter and can investigate the condition of nuclear power plants by remote-controlled operation. The multiple joints of its legs are controlled by a dedicated movement algorithm that enables the robot to walk on uneven surfaces, avoid obstacles and climb stairs, securing access into areas that is challenging to be reached by wheeled robots or crawlers. The robot also has a folding arm that can release a companion smaller robot that mounts a second camera. This can be launched from the main robot and positioned to take images of narrow places and any equipment behind them, and tubes and other places that are too small for the robot to enter. It is connected to the main robot by a cable.

Mitsubishi MEISTeR

Credit: MHI Meister

In December 2012 Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) has unveiled a prototype of the "MEISTeR (Maintenance Equipment Integrated System of Telecontrol Robot)," a two-armed robot to assist recovery work after disasters or severe accidents by performing light-duty tasks in areas inaccessible by humans. By changing its arms' attachment tools, the robot can perform various tasks such as carrying objects, drilling and opening/closing of valves. Going forward MHI will strive for further improvements and explore demand for broad applications of the robot in crisis management.

See also

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

UK stop the killer robots campaign

Lägg till bildtext
A new global campaign to persuade nations to ban “killer robots” before they reach the production stage is to be launched in the UK by a group of academics, pressure groups and Nobel peace prize laureates. The Stop the Killer Robots campaign will be launched in April at the House of Commons and includes many of the groups that successfully campaigned to have international action taken against cluster bombs and landmines. They hope to get a similar global treaty against autonomous weapons.

Robot warfare and autonomous weapons, the next step from unmanned drones, are already being worked on by scientists and will be available within the decade, said Dr Noel Sharkey, a leading robotics and artificial intelligence expert and professor at Sheffield University. He believes that development of the weapons is taking place in an effectively unregulated environment, with little attention being paid to moral implications and international law.

According to the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, ICRAC, almost 50 countries either already have or are developing war robots. The committee fears 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.
The German Institute for International and Security Affairs SWP, has recently expressed concerns about  the trend towards automated combat in the report "Combat Drones – Killing Drones. A Plea against Flying Robots".

In November 2012 Human Right Watch published "Losing Humanity", a 50-page report outlining concerns about fully autonomous weapons, which would inherently lack human qualities that provide legal and non-legal checks on the killing of civilians. In addition, the obstacles to holding anyone accountable for harm caused by the weapons would weaken the law’s power to deter future violations.

Big brother's drone eyes  

A PBS' "Nova" program on January 23, entitled "Rise of the Drones," featured Dr. John Antoniades, technical group director for ISR Exploitation Technologies in the Technology Solutions business area. The show explored the cutting edge technologies that are writing a new chapter in aviation history, including ARGUS-IS, or the Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System, which flies aboard an unmanned helicopter. Developed collaboratively by Technology Solutions and ISR Solutions, this 1.8-Gigapixel camera has the most powerful real-time, high-resolution video sensor, enabling unprecedented capability in finding, tracking and monitoring events in real time.

European Space Agency robotic competition

Credit: ESA
Registration is open for ESA’s first robotic competition on a mock-up of the International Space Station. The competition combines do-it-yourself and gaming skills in a robotic race to unload, carry and store cargo.
The European Space Agency, ESA, invites school students aged 11-19, after-school programmes and robotics groups to participate in a new space robotics  competition which will involve multiple interactions with ESA robtics experts in the form of live video conferencing and video/document submissions.
This summer, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano will fly to the ISS for a 6 month mission called Volare.  ESA have arranged an education programme around this mission because of the large amount of robotic activities during this mission (e.g. Robotic arm operations grappling cargo vehicles or manipulating astronauts during extra-vehicular activities (EVA), Automated Transport Vehicle approach).
The finalists will be welcomed at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESA/ESTEC) in the Netherlands to demonstrate their robots on a miniture version of the ISS.  Included in the finals is a chance to speak to Luca Parmitano live from the International Space Station.  Amongst the prizes
for the competition winners is a trip to the European Space Operations Centre (ESA/ESOC) in Darmstad to witness a robotics operation live on the ISS at a convenient time.

For more information about the project, please visit the website.

New CEO restructs Adept Technology

Adept Technology, a global provider of intelligent robots and autonomous mobile solutions and services, has announced that its Board of Directors has appointed Rob Cain as President and Chief Executive Officer succeeding John Dulchinos, who has resigned as President and Chief Executive Officer and as a director of the Company.
Credit: HCP, Rob Cain
Rob Cain, a operating partner at Hale Capital, has been working with Adept over the past several months in an advisory capacity, and has been a primary architect of the restructuring plan adopted by the company. As new CEO he will lead the corporate vision towards an increased emphasis on profitable growth in both its traditional markets and the new exciting mobile business, the company said.
Rob Cain is an Operating Partner of HCP and currently served as Chief Operating Officer of Telanetix Inc. Prior to joining HCP, Rob served as a board member and Senior Vice President of Operations at Avure Technologies, a division of Flow Corporation. At Avure, Rob and his team accomplished a successful turnaround by instilling a culture of execution and accountability in a unionized environment, while finding ways to outperform competitors worldwide. 

Share price comparison Adept, iRobot 2005-2013 
Adept Technology financial results for its fiscal 2013 second quarter ended December 29, 2012 reflect weaknesses in strategy and business performance. Revenue for the second quarter of fiscal 2013 was $10.8 million, below $15.2 million in revenue for the second quarter of fiscal 2012, and slightly below $11.4 million in revenue for the previous first quarter of fiscal 2013. Adept reported a GAAP net loss of $5.2 million, or $0.49 per share in the second quarter of fiscal 2013, compared to a net loss of $1.2 million, or $0.13 per share in the second quarter of fiscal 2012, and a net loss of $3.1 million, or $0.29 per share in the first quarter of fiscal 2013.