By Will Knight for MIT Technology Review: The robots didn’t really take over in 2015, but at times it felt as if that might be where we’re headed.
There were signs that machines will soon take over manual work that currently requires human skill. Early in the year details emerged of a contest organized by Amazon to help robots do more work inside its vast product fulfillment centers.
The Amazon Picking challenge, as the event was called, was held at a prominent robotics conference later in the year. Teams competed for a $25,000 prize by designing a robot to identify and grasp items from one of Amazon’s storage shelves as quickly as possible (the winner picked and packed 10 items in 20 minutes). This might seem a trivial task for human workers, but figuring out how to grasp different objects arranged haphazardly on shelves in a real warehouse is still a formidable challenge for robot-kind. Cont'd...
Richard Mahoney for TechCrunch: As 2016 approaches, robotics is poised to traverse from a narrow set of industrial and military use cases to broader market applications that include commercial drones, telepresence robots, delivery robots and, of course, mobile vacuum cleaners.
But, are robots ready to be a part of our daily life?
Gill Pratt, a visionary who served as a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and oversaw the DARPA Robotics Challenge, postulated earlier this year that robotics might soon be headed for a “Cambrian Explosion.”
The term refers to a period of time roughly half a billion years ago when the numbers and diversity of animals became critical to evolution. Pratt offered that technology developments are ushering in a similar upsurge in the diversification and applicability of robotics. Cont'd...
BY GERRY SHIH for Reuters: In a cavernous showroom on the outskirts of this port city in northeastern China, softly whirring lathes and svelte robot arms represent Dalian Machine Tools Group's (DMTG) vision of an automated future for Chinese manufacturing.
On closer inspection, however, most of the machines' control panels bear the logos of Japan's FANUC Corp or the German conglomerate Siemens.
The imported control systems in DMTG's products – used in the assembly of everything from smartphones to cement trucks – are symbolic of the technology gap between Chinese and foreign industrial automation firms, just one of several challenges facing China's ambition to nurture a national robotics industry.
Chinese robotics firms are also grappling with a weakening economy and slumping automotive sector, and industry insiders already predict a market bubble just three years after the central government issued policies to spur robotics development.
"Last year everybody thought they could produce a robot," said Alan Lee, director of Asia sales and business development at Boston-based Rethink Robotics. "When you have market saturation you'll have filtering and M&A. These guys will be the first layer to suffer."
It is a storyline familiar from other new industries such as solar panels: Beijing's policies and subsides trigger a wave of low-margin, low-cost contenders to rush into the market, where, with no meaningful technology of their own, they struggle to compete on price alone. Cont'd...
MIT researchers have designed a human-machine interface that allows an exoskeleton-wearing human operator to control the movements and balance of a bipedal robot.
The technology could allow robots to be deployed to a disaster site, where the robot would explore the area, guided by a human operator from a remote location.
"We'd eventually have someone wearing a full-body suit and goggles, so he can feel and see everything the robot does, and vice versa," said PhD student Joao Ramos of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Mechanical Engineering.
"We plan to have the robot walk as a quadruped, then stand up on two feet to do difficult manipulation tasks such as open a door or clear an obstacle," Ramos said. Cont'd...
2015 Festo Bionic Learning Network Developments Run the Gamut from Robotic Ants to a Flexible Gripper Inspired by a Chameleon's Tongue
Factories of the future: Transforming Industry Through Robotics Brings the Hope of a More Human Relationship to Work
Innovators offered chance to develop their ideas with world leading robotics manufacturer ABB Robotics
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