Interactive Video Annotation Tool for Computer Vision Research

From University of California, Irvine:

VATIC is a free, online, interactive video annotation tool for computer vision research that crowdsources work to Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Our tool makes it easy to build massive, affordable video data sets and can be deployed on a cloud. After three years of research, vatic is now used by labs around the world to annotate the next generation of data sets.

Features

  • Crowdsource video annotation to Mechanical Turk
  • Automatic quality assurance for good annotations
  • Complex payment schedules and bonuses
  • One-click worker compensation
  • Optimized interface for video annotation
  • Offline mode for expert annotator use (no MTurk)

(site) (github)

Cyberworks Robotics Announces Re-Entry into Industry it Created 30 Years Earlier

Great Rock Development's (OTC: GROC) wholly owned subsidiary Cyberworks Robotics announces a return to the Robotic Industrial Cleaning market.   

As the world's oldest autonomous mobile robotics engineering company, with over 30 years of pioneering experience, Cyberworks has again revolutionized autonomous robotic vision and guidance systems, this time redefining the way industrial space will be cleaned.  

"We were the pioneers in this massive market decades ago" explained Vivek Burhanpurkar, President of Great Rock. "Some 25 years ago Cyberworks worked with major companies in this industry to manufacture and sell Autonomous Robots for Industrial cleaning" added Burhanpukar. In the United States alone, commercial cleaning is a $25 billion dollar a year "invisible niche industry" where 50% of costs are attributable to labor. Said Burhanpurkar, "We are not interested in the consumer market where products like Roomba dominate. The industrial market is a totally different animal and we know the major multinational players within it."

"We created this market, in partnership with leading industrial companies, when we developed the world's first industrial robotic sweeper and the technology we have today is once again years ahead of the competition. Industry participants will now be able to retro-fit the Cyberworks Guidance System into existing fielded equipment, creating an inexpensive robotics machine" explained Burhanpurkar.  Full Press Release:

Driverless Taxi Experiment to Start in Japan

By JUN HONGO for The Wall Street Journal: Japan’s cabinet office, Kanagawa prefecture and Robot Taxi Inc. on Thursday said they will start experimenting with unmanned taxi service beginning in 2016. The service will be offered for approximately 50 people in Kanagawa prefecture, just south of Tokyo, with the auto-driving car carrying them from their homes to local grocery stores.

According to the project organizers, the cabs will drive a distance of about three kilometers (two miles), and part of the course will be on major avenues in the city. Crew members will be aboard the car during the experiment in case there is a need to avoid accidents.

Robot Taxi Inc., a joint venture between mobile Internet company DeNA Co. and vehicle technology developer ZMP Inc., is aiming to commercialize its driverless transportation service by 2020. The company says it will seek to offer unmanned cabs to users including travelers from overseas and locals in areas where buses and trains are not available.  Cont'd...

Bigger, Better, Stronger 6DOF Platforms Using AMC1280USB Controller

From Thanos 6DOF Motion Simulator Electronics blog:

Lately we see more and better DIY 6DOF platforms being build. The community is growing strong and the interest in 6DOF systems is bigger than ever. Its the only way to provide full immersion for motion simulation at the moment, that combined with other new technologies like the oculus rift or fully enclosed detailed cockpits can really make the difference. The times that desktop racers or flight enthusiasts were enjoying their simulation games or training for the real thing is past without return. Even older motion systems that provide 2DOF (seat movers) or 3DOF platforms are now the past, offering too little to the immersion of gaming... (more projects)

 

Cisco Teams Up with Robotics Firm Fanuc for IoT

by Zacks Equity Research:  Technology giant and Dow component Cisco Systems, Inc. recently entered into a strategic alliance with a robotics company Fanuc America, thereby stepping up its efforts to make itself a key player in the Internet of Things (IoT) space. 

Per the alliance, Fanuc and Cisco have built an IoT system that enables Fanuc to monitor every robot on the factory floor. This way it can be determined whether a robot is likely to fail, so that a service technician can fix the equipment before it stops working.

This could save companies hundreds of dollars of fixing cost. Per Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, downtime for these robots can cost a business $16,000 per minute. Therefore, the new system that offers predictive maintenance can be a big thing for some operations.

The companies are currently testing the system in a channel that comprises around 1,800 robots and includes Fanuc customer, GM. In this testing period, Fanuc says its customer has saved $38 million. Fanus has plans to expand the system to 2,500 robots by the end of the year. Cont'd...

Google robotics to become a separate entity under Alphabet?

By tech2 News Staff:  Earlier this year, Google had released an interesting video of Spot, a 160-pound dog robot navigating an office and then heading outside on its own. It is a smaller version of the Big Dog that first popped its head when Google acquired Boston Company. As the new changes come into effect, Boston Company is now Alphabet-owned and not a part of Google.

It will continue to build robots, and falls under Google X Projects (for now), a subsidiary of Alphabet. The other subsidiaries include Google, Nest Labs, Google X, Calico, Google Ventures, Google Capital and Google Life Sciences.

A new report says that the “company will create a separate division for robotics within the renamed umbrella entity Alphabet”, citing a person related to the matter. Google has acquired roughly eight companies related to robotics including military grade robotics company Boston Dynamics. It will likely allow Boston Dynamics to operate with some independence.  Cont'd...

Magic: The Gathering Is Turing Complete

From Alex Churchill:

In the discussion on this site I assemble a Universal Turing Machine from Magic: the Gathering cards.

But doesn't Magic involve the players making lots of choices?

Normally, yes, it does. But occasionally in normal gameplay you get a sequence of three or four events in a row that are forced to happen by the cards and the rules of the game. The machine below just extends this idea to millions of forced choices in a row.

The idea of my Magic Turing machine is that the players do nothing at all, except when the game offers them a choice.

Once the in-game "machine" has started, processing continues without requiring any choices from the players, with one category of exceptions: Some of the cards in the machine say "You may [do X]. If you do, [Y happens]." In these cases, the machine arranges that the players will be able to do X, in precisely one way. It just requires the players to always choose to take the game up on any options they're offered... (cont'd)

Advances in farming robotics could address shortage in agricultural workers

By Steve Brachmann for IPWatchDog:  More and more, the agricultural world is looking towards the mechanization of labor processes through robotics as a way of potentially increasing their productivity. Robotics was identified as a sector of investment growth in agricultural tech by an April 2014 white paper on agriculture technologies published by the entrepreneurship and education non-profit Kauffman Foundation. Robotics is a regular focus of ours here on IPWatchdog, most recently visited in our coverage of the incredible advancements in walking and jumping robotics pioneered by Boston Dynamics, a Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) subsidiary. With American farmers already heavily involved in the regulatory conversation involving the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, we thought that it would be interesting to delve into the world of farming robotics and see the recent advances in that particular field.

It’s important to understand first that the robotics being developed for commercial use on farms won’t be stand-alone humanoid units ranging through fields to pick crops. Any piece of hardware implementing an algorithm which automates some of the manual work of farming falls under this heading. One good example of this is the LettuceBot, a precision thinning technology which works to visually characterize plants in a lettuce row, identify which plants to keep and eliminating unwanted plants to optimize yield. The unit doesn’t move by itself but is guided along by a tractor instead. The technology has been developed by Blue River Technology of Sunnyvale, CA, a company which has attracted $13 million in investment between 2011 and 2014 to commercialize this product. The LettuceBot’s creators hope toprovide the technology as a third-party service to farm owners before manufacturing the unit for commercial sale.  Cont'd...

euRathlon 2015 Challenge

Sixth day of euRathlon 2015 - euRathlon 2015 Grand Challenge - Part 2
25 September 2015, Piombino, Italy.

View euRathlon 2015 Grand Challenge - Part 1. Day Five

View euRathlon 2015 Challenge: Two-domain Scenarios. Day Four.

View euRathlon 2015 Challenge: Two Domain Trials - Day Three

View euRathlon 2015 Challenge: Single Domain Trials - Day Two

View euRathlon 2015 Challenge: Single-domain trials - Day One

Technology gap gives foreign firms the edge in China robot wars

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...

Building a Rope Bridge With Flying Machines

 

From Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering at ETH Zurich:

The Aerial Construction project is a collaboration between the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control and the Chair of Architecture and Digital Fabrication. The objective is to investigate and develop methods and techniques for robotic aerial construction... (project homepage)

 

OMRON to Acquire U.S. Based Adept Technology

OMRON plans to acquire 100% of the outstanding shares of Adept common stock through an all cash tender offer followed by a second-step merger. OMRON will offer Adept investors $13.00 per share of Adept common stock, which represents a 63% premium over the closing price for Adept's common stock on September 15, 2015. This values Adept at approximately $200 million. OMRON will fund the tender offer through cash on hand. 

Commenting on the acquisition, Yutaka Miyanaga, OMRON Industrial Automation Business Company President, said, "We are delighted Adept Technology, a world leader in robotics, has agreed to join OMRON. This acquisition is part of our strategy to enhance our automation technology and position us for long term growth. Robotics will elevate our offering of advanced automation." 

Rob Cain, President and Chief Executive Officer of Adept, added, "We are excited about the opportunity to join OMRON, a global leader in automation. Together, our products will offer new innovative solutions to customers all around the globe." 

Full Press Release:

WowWee brings expensive university bots to store shelves

By Corinne Iozzio for Scientific American:  Hong Kong–based WowWee's success stems from bringing university research projects to life that might otherwise languish in the prototype stage. A licensing agreement with the Flow Control and Coordinated Robotics Labs at the University of California, San Diego, for example, provides WowWee with access to patents and the labs with a healthy cash infusion. The collaboration has already netted a series of toy robots that balance like Segways. More recently, the avionics lab at Concordia University in Montreal began working with the company to perfect flight algorithms for a four-rotor drone. Next, chief technology officer Davin Sufer says he has his eye on the Georgia Institute of Technology and its work with swarming behaviors, which would allow a group of robots to function in tandem.

In the case of Switchbot, WowWee adapted a locomotion system developed in part by former U.C. San Diego student Nick Morozovsky. The robot moves on tank-tread legs either horizontally to navigate uneven terrain or on end to stand and scoot fully upright. Morozovsky built his prototype with off-the-shelf parts, including a set of $50 motors. The motors were a compromise; each one had the size and torque he wanted but not the speed. Over the past few years he has worked with WowWee to customize a motor with the exact parameters needed and to cut the final cost of the part down to single digits.

That back and forth yields low-cost, mass-producible parts, which means university-level robotics could become available to everyday people. “One of the reasons I went into mechanical engineering was so I could create real things that have a direct impact,” Morozovsky says. “I didn't expect that to necessarily happen in the process of grad school.”  Cont'd...

7Bot: $300 6-axis Aluminum Desktop Robot Arm

From 7Bot's Kickstarter campaign:

In 2014, two of us co-founded project uArm with other two makers. There we received a lot of feedback from our Angel backers:

  • More axis for more powerful applications, and more controlling dimensions (force control, speed control and flexible-joint).
  • More rugged material rather than Acrylic, muscular servos hardly to be burned out. 
  • More intelligent API. Better inverse kinematics and path planning algorithms to make the movement more precise and smooth. 
  • More accessories and various of end-effectors.

Our custom servos with precise position feedback allow you to quickly set it up and operate in teaching mode without any codes. In this mode, you can simply drag each joint of the robot to a serious of desired way points. The movements will be recorded, and could be replayed in an optimized path. 

A multi-platform supported 3D visualization application will be provided for you to manipulate the 7Bot Arm intuitively. With our 3D visualization application, you can easily set and read the position of each joint separately with real-time graphic interface.

 

If you have two 7Bot Arms, you can build this amazing Humanoid robot -7Bot Arm Dual:

Estimated shipping date is January 2015... (7Bot's Kickstarter campaign)

5 Robotics Stocks to Watch

Chad Fraser for The Street:  Soon, robots could be doing much more than just vacuuming your house or assembling your next car-they could also invade your investment portfolio. If you're looking for the industry's fastest growth, you'll want to pay particular attention to what's happening on the consumer/office side, where sales are set to grow at a 17% compound annual rate between 2014 and 2019, according to a May report from Business Insider -- seven times quicker than the industrial-robot market. In addition, a number of radical new applications for robotics are emerging in the medical and defense markets, as outlined in this presentation from Investing Daily.

Even though the automation trend is clearly set, there still aren't many pure ways for investors to play it. But that doesn't mean there are no intriguing options out there. Here are five robot makers to keep on your radar screen:

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