Google's developing its own version of the Laws of Robotics

Graham Templeton for ExtremeTech:  Google’s artificial intelligence researchers are starting to have to code around their own code, writing patches that limit a robot’s abilities so that it continues to develop down the path desired by the researchers — not by the robot itself. It’s the beginning of a long-term trend in robotics and AI in general: once we’ve put in all this work to increase the insight of an artificial intelligence, how can we make sure that insight will only be applied in the ways we would like? That’s why researchers from Google’s DeepMind and the Future of Humanity Institute have published a paper outlining a software “killswitch” they claim can stop those instances of learning that could make an AI less useful — or, in the future, less safe. It’s really less a killswitch than a blind spot, removing from the AI the ability to learn the wrong lessons.   Cont'd...

Vyo Is a Fascinating and Unique Take on Social Domestic Robots

Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum:   A group of researchers including Michal Luria, Guy Hoffman, Benny Megidish, Oren Zuckerman, Roberto Aimi, and Sung Park from IDC Herzliya, Cornell, and SK Telecom have developed a prototype social robot called Vyo. Vyo is “a personal assistant serving as a centralized interface for smart home devices.” Nothing new there, but what sets Vyo apart is how you interact with it: it combines non-anthropomorphic design with anthropomorphic expressiveness and a tactile object-based control system into a social robot that’s totally, adorably different. But is it practical?   Full Article:

Sushi Robots and Vending-Machine Pizza Will Reinvent the Automat

Leslie Patton  for Bloomberg:  Decades from now, historians may look back on 2016 as the year Earthlings ate pizza from vending machines, bought burritos from a box in New York’s Grand Central Terminal and devoured sushi rolled by robots. “Automation is coming whether we want it to come or not,” said Andy Puzder, chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc., which owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast-food chains. “It’s everywhere. It’s in everything.” At a time when more consumers are embracing hand-made artisanal foods, 24/7 Pizza Box, Burritobox and Sushi Station are headed in the other direction. Vending-machine pizza will start popping up in Florida later this year and chipotle-chicken burritos, accompanied by guacamole and salsa, can now be ordered from an automated box. Sushi-making robots from Japan are already operating in U.S. restaurants and university cafeterias.   Cont'd...

New Muscle-Inspired Actuators Hold Potential to Build Safer, Soft-Bodied Robots

Robots should be safer and softer in order to make them more cooperative and execute tasks in close contact with humans. George Whitesides, Ph.D., a Core Faculty member at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology in Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), along with his team, has created a new actuator that moves like human skeletal muscles by using vacuum power for automating soft, rubber beams. These actuators are soft and shock absorbing similar to real muscles, and do not pose any danger to their surroundings or the human beings working along with them or the future robots containing them. This study was published in the June 1 issue of the Advanced Materials Technologies journal.  Cont'd...

Robot wars: Boston Dynamics fell out with Google over humanoid Atlas

Mary-Ann Russon for International Business Times:  When former Boston Dynamics employees released video of humanoid robot Atlas – walking unassisted over difficult terrain, such as rocks and snow – Google was reportedly displeased; despite the research receiving high praise from roboticists while wowing the public. And the real reason Google is selling off Boston Dynamics is, by and large, due to insiders telling Tech Insider that the robotics firm was unwilling to fall in line with the internet giant's vision of a consumer robot for the home. Google reportedly envisioned the firm as one of nine in a division called Replicant. Initially, under the guidance of Android co-founder Andy Rubin, the firms would continue with existing research and Google would see what ideas and innovations they came up with.   Cont'd...

Chrysalix partners with Dutch RoboValley on €100 million robotics fund

Terry Dawes for Cantech Letter:  Vancouver-based Chrysalix Venture Capital has announced a €100 million fund aimed at driving the global robotics revolution, in partnership withRoboValley, a centre for robotics commercialization based at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. The RoboValley Fund is Chrysalix’s first robotics fund, and will concentrate on disbursing seed and Series A rounds of funding to early-stage companies developing component technology, intelligent software, and other breakthrough robotics technologies. “Robotics is predicted to be the next big step in the digital revolution having an unprecedented impact on the way that we live, and provides an answer to some of the grand challenges of the 21st Century,” said RoboValley managing director Arie van den Ende. “Together with Chrysalix long-standing expertise in commercializing early stage industrial innovations, the RoboValley Fund will bring much needed capital and accelerated paths to market for our most promising next generation robotics technologies.”   Cont'd...

OpenAI Gym Beta

From the OpenAI team: We're releasing the public beta of  OpenAI Gym , a toolkit for developing and comparing  reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms. It consists of a growing suite of environments  (from  simulated robots  to  Atari  games), and a site for  comparing and reproducing  results. OpenAI Gym is compatible with algorithms written in any framework, such as Tensorflow  and  Theano . The environments are written in Python, but we'll soon make them easy to use from any language. We originally built OpenAI Gym as a tool to accelerate our own RL research. We hope it will be just as useful for the broader community.   Getting started:   If you'd like to dive in right away, you can work through our  tutorial ...  (full intro post)

Tether free actuator hailed as soft robotics breakthrough

Jon Excell for The Engineer:  Designed by a team at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, the new device is claimed to have considerable advantages over existing pneumatically-powered soft actuators as it doesn’t require a tether. The device consists of a dielectric elastomer actuator (DEA): a membrane made of hyperelastic material like a latex balloon, with flexible (or ‘compliant’) electrodes attached to each side. The stretching of the membrane is regulated by means of an electric field between the electrodes, as the electrodes attract each other and squeeze the membrane when voltage is applied. By attaching multiple such membranes, the place of deformation can be shifted controllably in the system. Air is displaced between two chambers. The membrane material has two stable states. In other words, it can have two different volume configurations at a given pressure without the need to minimize the larger volume. Thanks to this bi-stable state, the researchers are able to move air between a more highly inflated chamber and a less inflated one. They do this by applying an electric current to the membrane of the smaller chamber which responds by stretching and sucking air out of the other bubble.   Cont'd...

Real-time behaviour synthesis for dynamic Hand-Manipulation

From Vikash Kumar at University of Washington: Dexterous hand manipulation is one of the most complex types of biological movement, and has proven very difficult to replicate in robots. The usual approaches to robotic control - following pre-defined trajectories or planning online with reduced models - are both inapplicable. Dexterous manipulation is so sensitive to small variations in contact force and object location that it seems to require online planning without any simplifications. Here we demonstrate for the first time online planning (or model-predictive control) with a full physics model of a humanoid hand, with 28 degrees of freedom and 48 pneumatic actuators. We augment the actuation space with motor synergies which speed up optimization without removing flexibility. Most of our results are in simulation, showing nonprehensile object manipulation as well as typing. In both cases the input to the system is a high level task description, while all details of the hand movement emerge online from fully automated numerical optimization. We also show preliminary results on a hardware platform we have developed "ADROIT" - a ShadowHand skeleton equipped with faster and more compliant actuation... (website)

Mapping And Navigating With An Intel RealSense R200 Camera

In our latest demonstration, Archie provides an overview of the R200 sensor and shows how it can integrate seamlessly with ROS and a TurtleBot to accurately map and navigate an environment.

Ingestible origami robot

MIT News via Larry Hardesty for RoboHub:  In experiments involving a simulation of the human esophagus and stomach, researchers at MIT, the University of Sheffield, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology have demonstrated a tiny origami robot that can unfold itself from a swallowed capsule and, steered by external magnetic fields, crawl across the stomach wall to remove a swallowed button battery or patch a wound. The new work, which the researchers are presenting this week at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, builds on a long sequence of papers on origamirobots from the research group of Daniela Rus, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.   Cont'd...

Scientists develop bee model that will impact the development of aerial robotics

Phys.org:  Scientists have built a computer model that shows how bees use vision to detect the movement of the world around them and avoid crashing. This research, published in PLOS Computational Biology, is an important step in understanding how the bee brain processes the visual world and will aid the development of robotics. The study led by Alexander Cope and his coauthors at the University of Sheffield shows how bees estimate the speed of motion, or optic flow, of the visual world around them and use this to control their flight. The model is based on Honeybees as they are excellent navigators and explorers, and use vision extensively in these tasks, despite having a brain of only one million neurons (in comparison to the human brain's 100 billion). The model shows how bees are capable of navigating complex environments by using a simple extension to the known neural circuits, within the environment of a virtual world. The model then reproduces the detailed behaviour of real bees by using optic flow to fly down a corridor, and also matches up with how their neurons respond.   Cont'd...

Billions Are Being Invested in a Robot That Americans Don't Want

Keith Naughton for Bloomberg Technology:  Brian Lesko and Dan Sherman hate the idea of driverless cars, but for very different reasons.  Lesko, 46, a business-development executive in Atlanta, doesn’t trust a robot to keep him out of harm’s way. “It scares the bejeebers out of me,” he says. Sherman, 21, a mechanical-engineering student at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, trusts the technology and sees these vehicles eventually taking over the road. But he dreads the change because his passion is working on cars to make them faster. “It’s something I’ve loved to do my entire life and it’s kind of on its way out,” he says. “That’s the sad truth.” The driverless revolution is racing forward, as inventors overcome technical challenges such as navigating at night and regulators craft new rules. Yet the rush to robot cars faces a big roadblock: People aren’t ready to give up the wheel. Recent surveys by J.D. Power, consulting company EY, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Canadian Automobile Association, researcher Kelley Blue Book and auto supplier Robert Bosch LLC all show that half to three-quarters of respondents don’t want anything to do with these models.   Cont'd...

The US service-sector jobs at risk from a robot revolution

Sam Fleming for Financial Times:  When Andy Puzder, chief executive of restaurant chains Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s, said in March that rising employment costs could drive the spread of automation in the fast-food sector, he tapped into a growing anxiety in the US. From touchscreen ordering systems to burger-flipping robots and self-driving trucks, automation is stalking an increasing number of professions in the country’s service sector, which employs the vast majority of the workforce. Two-fifths of US employees are in occupations where at least half their time is spent doing activities that could be automated by adapting technology already available, according to research from the McKinsey Global Institute. These include the three biggest occupations in the country: retail salespeople, store cashiers and workers preparing and serving food, collectively totalling well over 10m people. Yet evidence of human obsolescence is conspicuous by its absence in the US’s economic statistics. The country is in the midst of its longest private-sector hiring spree on record, adding 14.4m jobs over 73 straight months, and productivity grew only 1.4 per cent a year from 2007 to 2014, compared with 2.2 per cent from 1953 to 2007. Those three big occupations all grew 1-3 per cent from 2014 to 2015.  Cont'd...

Innovators offered chance to develop their ideas with world leading robotics manufacturer ABB Robotics

Full Press Release:   The IdeaHub, is once again recruiting robotics and software innovators worldwide to take on the challenge of improving the way we work and interact with the next generation of industrial robots. Working on behalf of ABB Robotics, IdeaHub will help successful applicants pitch their ideas and secure uniquely tailored support packages to maximise their venture's commercial potential, including investment, mentoring and access to cutting edge hardware.  The IdeaHub is a cross sector, open innovation platform that connects visionaries worldwide with funding and support from global corporations. In 2015 they ran their first programme for ABB Robotics, attracting over 130 applicants with 12 finalists selected for a pitch day in London, with 6 entrepreneurs receiving an offer of support. For 2016 they are partnering with ABB Robotics once again to bring more solutions to solve three core challenges in the world collaborative industrial robotics:  1.) Simplicity: How to simplify robotics  2.) Intelligence: How to enable robots to learn and apply that learning 3.) Digitalization: How smart  connectivity will enhance digital factories. 

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Personal & Service Robots - Featured Product

ST Robotics - R17HS-6, the 6-axis version of the high speed R17 variant

ST Robotics - R17HS-6, the 6-axis version of the high speed R17 variant

The 6-axis version of the R17HS high speed variant of the R17 robot is now available. As is our policy the 6th axis is an optional bolt-on module. At the same time we have made it even faster and new software eliminates shake and greatly improves repeatability as this video shows. Please see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wG0MeiJ-yE. The video would seem to imply a repeatability of 0.01mm but we are sticking with 0.2mm in the spec. The motor specialist was able to tune the motors from the other side of the pond. My first reaction when we put power on and entered the first commands was to jump back in amazement (and maybe an expletive). Tip speed is now 3m/s; that's 3 times as fast as its nearest competitor yet costs half the price. I love it when a plan comes together.