Two Different Approaches to Spawn Robotics - One Common Thread

Sometimes a company is founded because it stumbles upon a niche that it can fill better than any other company. Such a company is RE2 (Robotics Engineering Excellence). Founded by Jorgen Pedersen as a contract engineering house to fill a need for unmanned systems engineering expertise within Carnegie Mellon's National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC), RE2 now provides mobile manipulation systems for defense and safety.

New AlphaDog Field Testing Footage

New footage of AlphaDog, the DARPA Legged Squad Support System (LS3) originally designed by Boston Dynamics. The goal of the LS3 program is to demonstrate that a legged robot can unburden dismounted squad members by carrying their gear, autonomously following them through rugged terrain, and interpreting verbal and visual commands.

QBotix Solar Tracking System

From todays press release: QBotix today unveiled the QBotix Tracking System™ (QTS), a comprehensive dual-axis tracking system that employs rugged, intelligent and mobile robots to dynamically operate solar power plants and maximize energy output. The solar panels are installed on QBotix designed mounting systems that don't have any individual motors and are optimized for cost, strength, durability and installation simplicity. The robots travel on a track and adjust each mounting system to optimally face the sun in succession. Each robot replaces hundreds of individual motors and controllers found on conventional tracking systems. The embedded intelligence and data communication capabilities of each autonomous robot optimize power plant performance and enables detailed operational knowledge at an unprecedented level. QTS is now available for commercial deployments.  

Fearful Symmetry

Video of artist Ruairi Glynn's glowing tetrahedron robot exhibit from Tate Modern in London. Fearful Symmetry at Tate Tanks - teaser from Ruairi Glynn on Vimeo .

Growing a Language, by Guy Steele

A 1998 presentation by computer scientist Guy Steele, co-designer of the Scheme programming language. If you are at all interested in computer language design and theory you owe it to yourself to watch at least the first 10 minutes of the video. It might be the "Sixth Sense" of computer language design presentations.

Disney's 'Physical Face Cloning'

Disney Research released info on research they've been doing for simulating, and fabricating synthetic skin for an animatronics character that mimics the face of a given subject and its expressions. The process starts with measuring the elastic properties of a material used to manufacture synthetic soft tissue. Given these measurements they use physics-based simulation to predict the behavior of a face when it is driven by the underlying robotic actuation. Next, we capture 3D facial expressions for a given target subject.

Future Concepts and the ExoHand

Festo's ExoHand is an exoskeleton that can be worn like a glove, combining smart features invented by the engineers with the smart and flexible solutions from nature. The fingers can be actively moved and their strength amplified; the operator's hand movements are registered and transmitted to the robotic hand in real time.

Our Ongoing OpenCV Resource

Here are several educational resources to help you learn about OpenCV (Open Source Computer Vision Library)

Autonomous Mobile Robots

ADAM AMRs mimic human behavior. In a textbook example of lean manufacturing, ADAM is designed to predictably and instantaneously react to the electronic request of the machines for service, delivering what the production cell wants in the exact time and quantity it wants, connecting islands of automation for optimal efficiency.

Robotic Integration For Assisted Movement

Powered exoskeletons have the potential to change battlefield technology forever. Paraplegic patients may leverage new technologies to walk again. Future exoskeletons will better integrate with humans, blurring the line between man and machine.

Industrial Robots with Image Processing in the Photovoltaic Industry

A 'seeing' robot can flexibly pick up, recognize and measure wafers, solar cells and even whole modules and then place the gripped objects with great precision and speed.

Minimalist Telepresence Robots

Double Robotics' new robot is a two wheeled adjustable height telepresence based on the iPad.  A retractable kickstands will automatically deploy to conserve power when you are not moving around and the internal battery is capable of powering the robot for 8 hours of normal use. Navigation is controlled by included iPad software and the company hopes to ship the first batch in December for $1,999.

Point Grey Adds 120 FPS VGA Models to World's Smallest GigE Camera Line

Point Grey announces FL3-GE-03S1 GigE Vision digital camera, which delivers VGA resolution at 120 FPS in a low-cost, ultra-compact, GigE package. The FL3-GE-03S1 features Sony's ICX618 CCD sensor with EXview global shutter architecture to maximize quantum efficiency and near IR response. The camera operates at 120 FPS in full 648 x 488 resolution and even faster in smaller regions of interest. The Flea3 measures just 29 x 29 x30 mm and with an aluminum casting enclosure weighs 38 grams without optics. This combination of speed, sensitivity, size, and low cost make these models ideal for machine vision applications and perfect for analog camera replacement. It has an 8-pin opto-isolated GPIO for industrial triggering and strobe output; 1 MB non-volatile flash memory for user data storage; and on-camera frame buffer for retransmitting images. It complies with version 1.2 of the GigE Vision specification, which allows the camera to work seamlessly with software from Cognex, Mathworks, Matrox, MVTec, and NI, as well as with Point Grey's own FlyCapture SDK. The Flea3 FL3-GE-03S1C (color) and Flea3 FL3-GE-03S1M (monochrome) models are list priced at USD $495

A New Programming Language For Image-processing Algorithms

Halide is a new programming language designed to make it easier to write high-performance image processing code on modern machines. Its current front end is an embedding in C++. Hardware targets include x86-64/SSE, ARM v7/NEON, and CUDA. Created by researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) Halide was used to rewrite several common image-processing algorithms whose performance had already been optimized by seasoned programmers. The Halide versions were typically about one-third as long but offered significant performance gains — two-, three-, or even six-fold speedups. In one instance, the Halide program was actually longer than the original — but the speedup was 70-fold. The paper is available here  and the source will be posted within the next couple of days on github and the projects home here .

North American Robotics Industry Posts Best Quarter Ever

From Robotic Industries Association: North American robotics companies sold more industrial robots in the second quarter of 2012 than any previous quarter in history, according to new statistics released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry's trade group.  A total of 5,556 robots valued at $403.1 million were sold to North American companies, a jump of 14% in units and 28% in dollars over the same quarter in 2011. Orders in the first half of 2012 totaled 10,652 robots valued at $747 million, increases of 20% in units and 29% in dollars over the same period last year.  "Obviously, we're thrilled about the great results so far this year," said Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA. The strong sales reflect increased demand for robotics in industries such as automotive, plastics & rubber, and metals. However, as the economy slows, it's not clear that these numbers will remain as strong heading forward."  Orders for spot welding robots, used primarily in automotive solutions, jumped 68% in the first half of 2012. Other big jumps were seen in coating & dispensing (+42%), arc welding (+20%), and assembly (+19%). Material removal orders, a smaller application area, rose 364 percent.  Automotive related orders accounted for 65% of units and 64% of dollars in the first half of 2012. This represents sharp gains of 44% in units and 56% in dollars over the opening half of 2011.  "It's great that the auto related numbers continue to post huge gains, but as we know, automotive industry purchases are cyclical," Burnstein explained. "However, we were disappointed to see non-automotive related orders fall eight percent in units and one percent in dollars in the first half of the year, with even sharper declines in the second quarter alone."  RIA estimates that some 220,000 robots are now used in the United States, placing the US second only to Japan in robot use. 

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