Ford, U-M Accelerate Autonomous Vehicle Research with Ford Researchers In-House at New Robotics Lab on U-M Campus

Ford and the University of Michigan today announce they are teaming up to accelerate autonomous vehicle research and development with a first-ever arrangement that embeds Ford researchers and engineers into a new state-of-the-art robotics laboratory on U-M's Ann Arbor campus.  While the new robotics laboratory opens in 2020, by the end of this year Ford will move a dozen researchers into the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC).  The announcement is the latest in a series of actions by Ford as it moves toward having fully autonomous SAE-defined level 4-capable vehicles available for high-volume commercial use in 2021. Autonomous vehicles are part of Ford's expansion to be an auto and a mobility company.    Full Press Release:  

Big Picture Processes Impact Efficient Lineside Delivery

The self-driving vehicle (SDV) using an autonomous guidance system breaks free of magnetic strips and pre-programmed routes.

Canada Is Using Lasers and Robots to Study a Mysterious Curling 'Frankenbroom'

From Martin Smith at Vice:   Inside a slightly shabby building on the outskirts of of Kemptville, near Ottawa, the World Curling Federation (WCF) has gathered a world-class team of scientists and premier curling talent to unravel a scientific mystery that is rattling the foundations of curling. At stake is nothing less than the future of one of the world’s oldest team sports. The aim of the tests at the so-called World Sweeping Summit, which runs from Wednesday to Friday, is to understand how controversial new brush heads—some have dubbed them ‘Frankenbrooms’—and new sweeping techniques are able to manipulate the trajectory of curling stones in radically unprecedented ways... (full story)   (supplemental video related to the "great" curling stone controversy of 1870)

Robophysics: Robots in Motion

Researchers are investigating the core fundamentals of locomotion as it exists in nature and as it applies to the movement of robotic systems. Great strides have been made in giving motion to robots, but we have a long way to go to have robots duplicate biological life.

Super Smart Society: Society 5.0

In order to get along with other nations and proffer solutions to Japan's ageing societal problems, Japanese companies and all other stakeholders are developing a policy involving the use of robots, IOT and AI.

Swarms of Robots Manage to Not Run Into Each Other

Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum:  At Georgia Tech, Li Wang and professors Aaron D. Ames and Magnus Egerstedt have been developing ways to allow infinitely large teams of mobile robots to move around each other without colliding, and also without getting in each other’s way. This is very important for people like me, who have 37Roombas at home, but also for anyone imagining a future where roads are packed with autonomous cars. The fundamental issue here is robot paranoia. When robots move around, they typically maintain a sensor-based “panic zone” for safety, and if anything enters that space, they panic, and stop moving. If you have only two robots moving around, they can keep clear of one another, but as the number of robots increases, the odds that two “panic zones” will intersect also increases, to the point where they overlap and you just end up with a completely paralyzing global robot freakout. Or as the Georgia Tech researchers put it (in a much fancier way), “as the number of robots and the complexity of the task increases, it becomes increasingly difficult to design one single controller that simultaneously achieves multiple objectives, e.g., forming shapes, collision avoidance, and connectivity maintenance.”  Cont'd...

LG Electronics To "Aggressively Invest" In Robotics

Joshua Swingle for Android Headlines:  LG is certainly no stranger when it comes to robotics and smart appliances, but until now, such products have had limited use. With the company’s latest announcement, this will change. The electronics giant has confirmed that it’s currently investing a lot of resources into robots in the hope of capitalizing on advanced AI, which could eventually be implemented into products that combine hardware with artificial intelligence in order to work with smart home appliances as well as to develop machines that could perform everyday tasks. “We will prepare for the future by aggressively investing in smart home, robots and key components and strengthen the home appliances business’s capabilities,” said Jo Seung-jin, head of LG’s appliances business. As of now, there’s no time frame for when we’ll see the results of these investments on the shelves, but LG already has plans for products that will work with air conditioners and washing machines, though combining AI with self-driving cars is also something the company is researching. Although such plans aren’t exactly detailed, the investment does hint at a change in the way LG is treating robotics. Up until now, the company has only experimented with products of limited use, but the new change in focus hints at robotics becoming one of LG’s main focus points, meaning that, for consumers, having a robot in their homes could become the norm. Currently, LG has not confirmed the amount of money it plans to invest in robotics.   Cont'd...

18 Questions to Ask Your AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) Vendor:
Part 2

With so many AGV solutions on the market, it can be difficult to tell which AGV is right for your application and facility. Before investing in automation, ask your AGV vendor these important questions about install times, safety standards and the team you'll be working with.

Sony company chief hints at company's plans to head into robotics and AI

SHIVALI BEST FOR MAILONLINE:  While Sony is currently one of the leading producers of smartphones, cameras and home entertainment systems, the company may soon be heading into the realm of robotics and AI. On Thursday, Kazuo Hirai, CEO of the Tokyo-based company, took to the stage at the IFA electronics show in Berlin to discuss the firm's newest products.He said that Sony was keen to explore new areas of technology, and that artificial intelligence and robotics were part of that. The move towards robotics and AI is part of Sony's 'last one inch' mantra, that refers to getting products close to consumers.  Mr Hirai said: 'I think the combination of 'the last one inch' - things that you hold in your hand to access or upload information, entertainment and so on - combined with AI and robotics is the area that is going to be a future growth area in a big way for Sony.   Cont'd...

The ABC of RPA, Part 10: At What Point Should I Also Consider Bringing Artificial Intelligence Into The Office Environment?

Once a number of robots have been successfully implemented within your internal team and your process experts have a thorough understanding of how these robots have impacted the operating environment - then you can progress to artificial intelligence.

The First Autonomous, Entirely Soft Robot

From Leah Burrows and Harvard:   A team of Harvard University researchers with expertise in 3-D printing, mechanical engineering, and microfluidics has demonstrated the first autonomous, untethered, entirely soft robot. This small, 3-D-printed robot — nicknamed the “octobot” — could pave the way for a new generation of such machines... ...Through our hybrid assembly approach, we were able to 3-D print each of the functional components required within the soft robot body, including the fuel storage, power, and actuation, in a rapid manner,” said Lewis. “The octobot is a simple embodiment designed to demonstrate our integrated design and additive fabrication strategy for embedding autonomous functionality.”... (full article)  

Dexmo Robotics has created a mechanical exoskeleton glove for VR use

Julia Alexander for Polygon:  With HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets, the first wave of mainstream, consumer VR has officially arrived, and with it, comes the question of how to constantly better the experience for those using it. As it stands right now, those who want to use devices like the Vive or Rift must do so with controllers; the Rift uses an Xbox One controller while the Vive comes with its own dedicated peripheral. Both are functional and serve their purpose, but they come with certain limitations when trying to achieve the ideal VR experience. Now, Dexmo Robotics has unveiled what it thinks will solve some of those frustrations: a mechanical exoskeleton glove that can be paired with VR headsets. The glove, which can be seen in the video above, provides 11 degrees of freedom for movement, and the company touts the fact that each finger comes with a pressured sensor. Essentially, if you're playing a first-person shooter, you'll be able to feel the in-game gun's trigger bring squeezed as well as the recoil.   Full Article:

The ABC of RPA, Part 9: How Do I Measure Performance of a Robot Versus Humans?

If a robot gets a company's product out the door one or two days sooner, that equates to revenue, and thus cash, in the door one or two days sooner.

AMAZON HAS BEGUN TESTING DRONES AT THIS ENGLISH FARM

Kelsey D. Atherton for Popular Science:  Flying machines are hard secrets to keep. By their very nature, they soar into the heavens, above the heads of those below. America's military tends to keep its secret planes secret by only flying them in vast swathes of empty desert, until they’re ready for public debut. But that’s not really an option for Amazon, which is testing delivery drones in the United Kingdom (while it attempts to weave its way through U.S. regulations). So where, exactly, are Amazon drones flying? A field eight miles south of Cambridge named “Worsted Lodge.” No, really. In a thorough photo-essay at Business Insider, reporter Sam Shead pinpoints and explores the site and the field, until turned away by a security guard.   Cont'd...

Robot Octopus Points the Way to Soft Robotics With Eight Wiggly Arms

Cecilia Laschi for IEEE Spectrum:  The sun was sparkling on the Mediterranean Sea on the afternoon when a graduate student from my lab tossed our prize robot into the water for the first time. I watched nervously as our electronic creation sank beneath the waves. But the bot didn’t falter: When we gave it the command to swim, it filled its expandable mantle with water, then jetted out the fluid to shoot forward. When we ordered it to crawl, it stiffened its eight floppy arms in sequence to push itself along the sandy bottom and over scattered rocks. And when we instructed it to explore a tight space beneath the dock, the robot inserted its soft body into the narrow gap without difficulty. As a professor at the BioRobotics Institute at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, in Pisa, Italy, I lead a team investigating soft robotics. This relatively new field of research has the potential to upend our ideas about what robots are capable of and where they can be useful. I chose to build robots that mimic the form of the octopus for two reasons. First, because they’re well suited to demonstrate the many advantages that come when a machine can flex and squish as needed. Also, it’s an excellent engineering challenge: An octopus with eight wiggly arms, which must work together in the face of complex hydrodynamic forces, is very difficult to design and control.   Cont'd...

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