Rise of the Robots

If manufacturers are going to flourish in America, they’ll need to buy a lot more robots. Here are six ways to play this hot trend. Jack Hough for Barron's:  For long-term investors, robots could be one key to securing healthy corporate profit growth, and stock returns, even as wages rise. There are specific opportunities, too. Japan’s Fanuc (ticker: 6954.Japan) is far and away the U.S. market leader in industrial robots, and it’s quickly ramping up production. Its shares have been outperforming, and they could offer 20% more upside over the next year. Germany’s Kuka (KU2.Germany), which sold a majority stake last year to China’s appliance giant, Midea Group (000333.China), has similar return potential. Other stocks with high exposure to industrial robotics and factory automation include Rockwell Automation (ROK), Switzerland’s ABB(ABB), and Yaskawa Electric (6506.Japan). And for one-stop shoppers, there’s the Robo Global Robotics & Automation Index exchange-traded fund (ROBO), which tracks 85 stocks, charges annual expenses of 0.95%, and has returned 37% over the past year.   Cont'd...

Brain-controlled robots

CSAIL system enables people to correct robot mistakes using brain signals. Adam Conner-Simons via MIT News:  For robots to do what we want, they need to understand us. Too often, this means having to meet them halfway: teaching them the intricacies of human language, for example, or giving them explicit commands for very specific tasks. But what if we could develop robots that were a more natural extension of us and that could actually do whatever we are thinking? A team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Boston University is working on this problem, creating a feedback system that lets people correct robot mistakes instantly with nothing more than their brains.   Cont'd...

Table tennis playing robot breaks world record - Japan Tour

Developed by Omron Corporation, FORPHEUS (Future Omron Robotics Technology for Exploring Possibility of Harmonized aUtomation with Sinic Theoretics) has officially been given the Guinness World Records title for being the First robot table tennis tutor for its unique technological intelligence and educational capabilities.   According to the project's lead developer Taku Oya, the goal of FORPHEUS was to harmonise humans and robots, by way of teaching the game of table tennis to human players. 

Cobalt Robotics Introduces a (Mostly) Autonomous Mobile Security Robot

Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum:  Today, Cobalt Robotics (a startup based in Palo Alto, Calif.) is announcing an autonomous mobile robot designed for indoor security applications that can “work alongside human guards to provide better security than people can do alone.” The key realization here is that security guards spend the vast majority of their time doing almost nothing, and even in a worst case scenario (like someone trying to break in, or a fire or other serious problem), their primary responsibility is making the right phone call as quickly as possible as opposed to dealing with the situation directly.   Full article:

Dyson backs Britain plc with $2.5bn AI and robotics investment

Andrew Orlowski for The Register:  Britain's most successful engineer Sir James Dyson is taking on Google and Facebook with a $2.5bn investment to turn the former RAF base at Hullavington near Malmesbury into a research campus for robotics, AI, and other advanced technology, including batteries and vision systems. The size of the planned facility dwarfs the existing HQ.  The investment marks both a change of direction for Dyson, which will now begin to challenge US data giants in the race to find practical implementations of AI, and expresses a vote of confidence in a post-EU British economy. The founder recently hinted that it was examining how to incorporate pattern recognition and decision making into its 360 Eye robot vacuum cleaner.   Cont'd...

Introducing Handle from Boston Dynamics

Handle is a research robot that stands 6.5 ft tall, travels at 9 mph and jumps 4​ ​feet vertically. ​It uses electric power to operate both electric and hydraulic actuators, with a range of about 15 miles on one battery charge. ​​​ Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles​ found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds.

How drones are helping design the solar power plants of the future

Katie Fehrenbacher for T he Guardian:   At the edge of a plot of muddy farmland, a few miles down the road from the University of California at Davis, an engineer takes a few quick steps across crop rows and lets go of a three-foot drone. Within seconds, the device – which weighs less than 2lbs and carries a powerful camera – ascends hundreds of feet into the cold, clear, blue sky and begins to snap detailed photos of the ground far below, including a long row of large solar panels mounted on steel poles. This flight is just a test, demonstrated by Kingsley Chen, the drone fleet coordinator for SunPower at the solar company’s research and development center, which is under construction and about a two-hour drive northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area. The drone will enable SunPower to survey a wide region and help design a solar power farm that can fit more solar panels on a piece of land, more quickly and for lower costs than it previously could.   Con'td...

Tech firms keep expanding 'Robotics Row,' Pittsburgh's mini Silicon Valley

Aaron Aupperlee for TribLive:  Advancements in robotics, autonomous manufacturing, self-driving cars and more are taking place in the former warehouses, factories and foundries of Pittsburgh's Strip District and Lawrenceville neighborhoods. Argo AI, an self-driving car startup partnering with Ford, became the latest to join Robotics Row, a string of technology companies setting up shop along the Allegheny River. The company announced Thursday it would base its headquarters in the Strip District. "We see the Strip District as a mini Silicon Valley," Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky told the Tribune-Review. "In my mind, that is the future of the tech hub in Pittsburgh." At least 20 companies and organizations working on robotics and autonomous technologies call the three-mile stretch of riverfront home.  Cont'd...

ST Robotics Offers New Super-Fast Robot Arm

T he ST R17HS uses state-of-the-art brushless servomotors and boasts an effective reach of 750mm, a repeatability of 0.2 mm and a maximum speed after acceleration of 480 deg/sec in the robot's waist, elbow, hand and wrist, with a shoulder speed of 300 deg/sec.  "The R17HS is the result of years of development that puts us ahead of the field," said David Sands, President and CEO of ST Robotics. "Customers are finding it useful for high throughput production as well as testing applications requiring fast motion of test devices."    Full Press Release:

How a College Kid Made His Honda Civic Self-Driving for $700

Tom Simonite for MIT Technology Review:  Brevan Jorgenson’s grandma kept her cool when he took her for a nighttime spin in the Honda Civic he’s modified to drive itself on the highway. A homemade device in place of the rear-view mirror can control the brakes, accelerator, and steering, and it uses a camera to identify road markings and other cars. “She wasn’t really flabbergasted—I think because she’s seen so much from technology by now,” says Jorgenson, a senior at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Others are more wary of the system, which he built using plans and software downloaded from the Internet, plus about $700 in parts. Jorgenson says the fact that he closely supervises his homebrew autopilot hasn’t convinced his girlfriend to trust the gadget’s driving. “She’s worried it’s going to crash the car,” he says.   Cont'd...

NXT Robotics Unveils Rugged All-Terrain, All-Weather Outdoor Security Robot

SAN DIEGO, CA--(Marketwired - February 21, 2017) - Mobile robotics are playing an increasingly important role in the security of our borders, military facilities, and even power plants. To meet this growing demand, San Diego-based NXT Robotics has developed Scorpion, a rugged all-terrain and all-weather outdoor security robot designed to provide organizations with round-the- clock physical security monitoring and reporting capabilities. NXT Robotics, known for its advanced mobile security patrol platform, will debut Scorpion at West 2017 at the San Diego Convention Center, Feb. 21-23 (Booth 1208). Scorpion is an autonomous security patrol that lowers costs while maximizing physical security surveillance capabilities. Scorpion is designed for places such as military facilities, power plants, borders, parking structures, farms and ranches, and seaports. Scorpion's rugged outdoor design, multi-camera use, video capture and rich sensor payload helps secure assets and ensure public safety while navigating challenging environments.  Cont'd...

Rise of Robots: Boon for Companies, Tax Headache for Lawmakers

Linda A. Thompson for Bloomberg News Agency:  European lawmakers are grappling for answers to a question that until recently seemed like the stuff of science fiction: If robots take our jobs, who will pay taxes? In an age of unprecedented technological change occurring at a faster rate than the Industrial Revolution, concerns over the growing robotization and automation of work have prompted fears about mass unemployment and plummeting tax revenue in the near future, pitting companies and robotics manufacturers against lawmakers and worker advocates. The issue is taking on new urgency ahead of a Feb. 16 vote before the EU Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee on whether to create a robotics agency to deliberate on tax and liability issues.   Cont'd...

Six-legged robots faster than nature-inspired gait

Science Daily:  When vertebrates run, their legs exhibit minimal contact with the ground. But insects are different. These six-legged creatures run fastest using a three-legged, or "tripod" gait where they have three legs on the ground at all times -- two on one side of their body and one on the other. The tripod gait has long inspired engineers who design six-legged robots, but is it necessarily the fastest and most efficient way for bio-inspired robots to move on the ground? Researchers at EPFL and UNIL revealed that there is in fact a faster way for robots to locomote on flat ground, provided they don't have the adhesive pads used by insects to climb walls and ceilings. This suggests designers of insect-inspired robots should make a break with the tripod-gait paradigm and instead consider other possibilities including a new locomotor strategy denoted as the "bipod" gait. The researchers' findings are published in Nature Communications.   Cont'd...

EU wants ethical standards for robotics

Members of the European Parliament on Thursday urged the European Commission to propose rules on robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) with a view to fully exploiting their economic potential and guaranteeing a standard level of safety and security. Parliamentarians noted that regulatory standards for the use of robots were currently being planned in several nations. They argued that the EU needed to take the lead on setting such standards so as not to be forced to follow those set by third countries. They also emphasized that draft legislation was urgently required to clarify liability issues, especially for the use of self-driving cars. MEPs suggested a mandatory insurance scheme and a supplementary fund "to ensure that victims of accidents involving driverless cars are fully compensated."   Cont'd...

Exhibition Charts 500 Years of Evolution of Robots

Lynne ODonnell for Sci-Tech Today:  Inspired by his belief that human beings are essentially terrified of robots, Ben Russell set about charting the evolution of automatons for an exhibition he hopes will force people to think about how androids and other robotic forms can enhance their lives. Robots, says Russell, have been with us for centuries -- as "Robots," his exhibit opening Wednesday at London's Science Museum, shows. From a 15th century Spanish clockwork monk who kisses his rosary and beats his breast in contrition, to a Japanese "childoid" newsreader, created in 2014 with lifelike facial expressions, the exhibition tracks the development of robotics and mankind's obsession with replicating itself.   Cont'd...

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