Segway's 'mobility robot platform' to begin mass production

Liu Zheng for China Daily:  A China-made mobile robot is set to begin mass production for consumers later this year.

Ninebot (Beijing) Tech Co Ltd, backed by Smartphone maker Xiaomi, unveiled its self-balancing two-wheeled robot on Thursday in Beijing.

Named "Loomo", the robot was transformed from the Ninebot Mini series scooter, which was first launched in October 2015, months after the company made an announcement to acquire the 12-year-old US-based balancing-scooter pioneer Segway Inc, and became one of the largest patent holders in the industry.

The acquisition followed an $80 million investment in Ninebot by Xiaomi, Sequoia Capital and other investors.  Cont'd...

Artificial fingertip that 'feels' wins international robotics competition

Phys.org:  An open-source 3D-printed fingertip that can 'feel' in a similar way to the human sense of touch has won an international Soft Robotics competition for its contribution to soft robotics research.

Pushing the boundaries of soft robotics, the open-source tactile fingertip, known as TacTip, is a 3D-printed tactile sensor that has been developed by the Tactile Robotics Team from Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL).

The fingertip meets the need for a cheap, robust, versatile tactile sensor to give robots an artificial sense of touch. The sensor has a unique design in which a webcam is mounted inside a 3D-printed soft fingertip to track internal pins that act like touch receptors inside our own fingertips, making it cheap to build and highly customisable.  Cont'd...

CTRL The Robot. A modern industrial robot for the desktop.

Via Yahoo Finance:  This robot arm is a fraction of the price of similar robots you might see in factories.  It’s called CTRL and was developed by Robotics Evolved to be an affordable robot arm.

Unveiled at CES 2017, this desktop-sized robot arm aims to make robotics more accessible to the masses.  The device is open-source and can be run on the programming language of the user’s choosing.  For those unfamiliar with code, CTRL can also learn to replicate movements when manipulated by hand.

CTRL is currently equipped with a gripping tool but the company plans to expand attachment offerings to include options like spray nozzles and engraving tools.

Robotics Evolved is currently seeking funding through a Kickstarter campaign and you can reserve your very own CTRL robot arm for just over $500.  Kickstarter page:

Robotics, Trump and Brexit turn up the heat amid the snow of Davos

Graeme Wearden for The Guardian:  The “fourth industrial revolution” will once again be a key theme at this year’s Davos, where the focus will be on the problems created by technologies such as smart robots and driverless cars. The WEF will examine whether the loss to these innovations of millions of jobs is undermining social cohesion and contributing to the rise of populist parties.

Davos will also consider whether increased use of artificial intelligence and the “internet of things” are laying firms open to a new wave of cyberthreats and security beaches. This area of technology has until now been only lightly regulated; is the world ready to hand more decision-making powers to machines?  Full article:

Robots: Legal Affairs Committee calls for EU-wide rules

EU Parliament News:  EU rules for the fast-evolving field of robotics, to settle issues such as compliance with ethical standards and liability for accidents involving driverless cars, should be put forward by the EU Commission, urged the Legal Affairs Committee on Thursday.

Rapporteur Mady Delvaux (S&D, LU) said: “A growing number of areas of our daily lives are increasingly affected by robotics. In order to address this reality and to ensure that robots are and will remain in the service of humans, we urgently need to create a robust European legal framework”. Her report, approved by 17 votes to 2, with 2 abstentions, looks at robotics-related issues such as liability, safety and changes in the labour market.

MEPs stress that EU-wide rules are needed to fully exploit the economic potential of robotics and artificial intelligence and guarantee a standard level of safety and security. The EU needs to take the lead on regulatory standards, so as not to be forced to follow those set by third states, argues the report.  Full Release:

The 'intelligent' robot companion that plays chess as a hobby, serves coffee and learns from its own experiences

The Daily Mail:  A robot developed by engineers in Taiwan can pour coffee and move chess pieces on a board against an opponent - but he's looking for a real job.

The robot spent last week playing games against opponents at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  It was displaying what developers call an 'intelligent vision system' which can see its environment and act with greater precision than its peers.

With this enhanced vision, the robot can perform variety of tasks for service and manufacturing, and can also learn on the job with artificial intelligence.  Playing chess is just a hobby showcasing the robot's visual acuity - such as the ability to distinguish between different chessmen- and dexterity in gripping and moving objects.  Cont'd...

Why Robotics Will Change Agriculture

Rob Trice & Seana Day via Forbes:  Last month as our Mixing Bowl colleagues Michael Rose and An Wang were interviewing Sonny Ranaswamy of the USDA’s NIFA to better understand current US food and agriculture labor issues, we were representing The Mixing Bowl in discussions on potential solutions to food production labor issues through automation and robotics.

At this year’s RoboUniverse event in San Diego there was a full-day track on December 14th dedicated to the application of robotics to agriculture. The industry track, pulled together in great part by Nathan Dorn, CEO of Food Origins and an Advisor to The Mixing Bowl, featured a knowledgeable group of automation/robotics experts and food producers who drew on their experience to define the opportunities and sharpen focus on the challenges. Nathan authored a detailed summary of the day in a post on Agfunder.

Our conclusion is that there is no denying that we are still in the early days of adoption of robotics in agriculture.  Cont'd...

4 of the Coolest New Robots at CES

Sarah Solomon for The Street:  CES has kicked into high gear in Vegas this week, and companies are betting on the future of home robot companions as well as robots to entertain and teach your kids. While many of these robots perform the same smart home control functions, they have varying personalities and abilities that you can pick and choose from based on your existing home capabilities and preferences.

Here are four show-stoppers impressing those at CES. The LG Hub Robot May Soon Be Your New Housekeeper... Cont'd.

Google Tasks Robots with Learning Skills from One Another via Cloud Robotics

Steve Arar for All About Circuits:  Humans use language to tap into the knowledge of others and learn skills faster. This helps us hone our intuition and go through our daily activities more efficiently. Inspired by this, Google Research, DeepMind (its UK artificial intelligence lab), and Google X have decided to allow their robots share their experiences. Sharing the learning process among multiple robots, the research team has considerably expedited general-purpose skill acquisition of robots. 

Using an artificial neural network, we can teach a robot to achieve a goal by analyzing the result of its previous experiences. At first, the robot may seem to act randomly simply working based on trial and error. However, it examines the result of each trial and, if satisfactory, focuses on similar experiments during the next trials. Making a connection between each experience and the obtained result, the robot would be able to gradually make better choices.  Cont'd...

Mining 24 Hours a Day with Robots

Tom Simonite for MIT Technology Review:  Each of these trucks is the size of a small two-story house. None has a driver or anyone else on board.

Mining company Rio Tinto has 73 of these titans hauling iron ore 24 hours a day at four mines in Australia’s Mars-red northwest corner. At this one, known as West Angelas, the vehicles work alongside robotic rock drilling rigs. The company is also upgrading the locomotives that haul ore hundreds of miles to port—the upgrades will allow the trains to drive themselves, and be loaded and unloaded automatically.

Rio Tinto intends its automated operations in Australia to preview a more efficient future for all of its mines—one that will also reduce the need for human miners. The rising capabilities and falling costs of robotics technology are allowing mining and oil companies to reimagine the dirty, dangerous business of getting resources out of the ground.  Cont'd...

Amazon patents system to defend drones against hackers, jammers … and arrows

Alan Boyle for GeekWire:  If there are any Robin Hoods out there who are thinking about shooting down drones while they’re making deliveries, Amazon has a patented plan to stop you.

The patent, filed in 2014 but published just last week, lays out countermeasures for potential threats ranging from computer hacking to lightning flashes to bows and arrows.

If nothing else, the 33-page application illustrates how many things could possibly go wrong with an autonomous navigation system for unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

The “compromise system” that Amazon’s engineers propose relies on an array of sensors to orient the drone based on the sun’s position in the sky, if need be. That’s in case the drone gets confused by, say, lightning or a muzzle flash.  Cont'd...

The Aggressively Flying Quadrotor

Steve Arar for All About Circuits:  Recently, Vijay Kumar’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania in cooperation with researchers from Qualcomm has unveiled a quadrotor which can fly aggressively through a window. You may think that you have seen similar robots before; however, there is a big difference between previously designed robots and this new technology.

Generally, to exhibit challenging maneuvers, a quadrotor depends on an array of cameras mounted on the walls and some external processors. The image captured by the cameras is processed and the outcome is delivered to the robot. The computer can issue precise commands and the only thing that the robot needs to do is to follow the orders. However, the new robot performs both the image capturing and processing onboard.

The quadrotor carries an IMU, a Qualcomm Snapdragon, and Hexagon DSP. With the onboard sensors and processors, the robot is able to perform localization, state estimation, and path planning autonomously.  Cont'd...

Robotics Veteran Raises Venture Capital to Build Exoskeleton

Alistair Blair for Bloomberg Technology:  The word "robot" conjures images of bulky, metal humanoid objects moving awkwardly. Robotics veteran Rich Mahoney is trying to change that perception by creating a robotic exoskeleton people can wear.

After more than seven years running a robotics group at Silicon Valley research institution SRI International, Mahoney left about a year ago to form a startup called Superflex. On Tuesday, the company said it raised $9.6 million from investors including Japanese venture capital group Global Brain and Horizons Ventures, the VC fund of Asian billionaire Li Ka-shing.

Superflex is developing a lightweight suit with electric "muscles" that help the elderly and other less-mobile people move around. The system, which will look a bit like a unitard, is designed to provide the wearer with extra strength to get up from a chair or stand for longer. The device has thin actuators built in that use battery power to contract at the same time as people's real muscles.  Cont'd...

A Robotics ETF Tries to Find its Way

Brenton Garen for ETF Trends:  This year has seen another crowded field of new exchange traded funds come to market and within that group are plenty of niche funds, indicating that ETF issuers continue to slice and dice investment ideas into increasingly fine fund packages.

The Global X Robotics & Artificial Intelligence Thematic ETF (NasdaqGM: BOTZ) is one of those niche funds. BOTZ provides exposure to companies involved in the adoption and utilization of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), including those involved with industrial manufacturing, medicine, autonomous vehicles, and other applications.

BOTZ follows the Indxx Global Robotics & Artificial Intelligence Thematic Index. The ETF, which debuted in September with the Global X FinTech Thematic ETF (NasdaqGM: FINX) and the Global X Internet of Things Thematic ETF (NasdaqGM: SNSR), holds 28 stocks with an average market cap of $8.8 billion, putting the ETF in mid-cap territory.  Cont'd...

Engineers Devise New Method to Heighten Senses of Soft Robot

Written by AZoRobotics:  Most robots achieve grasping and tactile sensing through motorized means, which can be excessively bulky and rigid. A Cornell group has devised a way for a soft robot to feel its surroundings internally, in much the same way humans do.

A group led by Robert Shepherd, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and principal investigator of Organic Robotics Lab, has published a paper describing how stretchable optical waveguides act as curvature, elongation and force sensors in a soft robotic hand.

Doctoral student Huichan Zhao is lead author of “Optoelectronically Innervated Soft Prosthetic Hand via Stretchable Optical Waveguides,” which is featured in the debut edition of Science Robotics. The paper published Dec. 6; also contributing were doctoral students Kevin O’Brien and Shuo Li, both of Shepherd’s lab.  Cont'd...

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