SoftBank's Pepper Robots to Staff Tokyo Cell Phone Store

BY ANGELA MOSCARITOLO for PCMAG:  SoftBank is giving its Pepper robot a new job with some big responsibilities.  The Japanese telecom giant is planning to open a cell phone store in Tokyo this spring staffed primarily by Pepper robots, according to a report from The Japan Times. About five to six Pepper robots will run the store from March 28 through April 3, and be responsible for helping customers and making sales.  "I don't know how this will turn out, but it should be a quite interesting experiment," SoftBank CEO Ken Miyauchi told the newspaper.  The robots will be able to answer questions about different cell phone options, and when someone's ready to buy, they'll even attempt to complete the sale. SoftBank does plan to have humans at the ready to handle tasks Pepper can't yet do — like checking customer IDs when drawing up a new contract.   Cont'd...


Adam Fabio for Hackaday:  [Kevin Harrington] loves robots, but hates reinventing the wheel every time he creates a new machine. He’s built BowlerStudio: A robotics development platform to combat this problem. BowlerStudio was asemifinalist in the 2015 Hackaday Prize. BowlerStudio is a soup-to-nuts platform for creating all sorts of robots. [Kevin] has integrated Computer Aided Design (CAD), 3D modeling, kinematics, machine vision, and a simulation engine complete with physics modeling into one whopper of a software package. To prove how versatile the system is, he designed a hexapod robot in the CAD portion of the program. The robot then taught itself to walk in the simulation. Once the design was 3D printed, the real robot walked right off the bread board. [Kevin] linked the hardware and software with DyIO, another of his projects. BowlerStudio is a huge boon for just about any robotics hacker, as well as educators. An entire curriculum could be created around the system. Thanks to its Java roots, BowlerStudio is also a multi-platform. [Kevin] has binaries ready to go for Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu.   Cont'd...

Experts At Davos Say Weaponized Artificial Intelligence Robots Are Dangerous

Matt Dayo for STGist:  This may sound like science fiction, or the plot of a Marvel movie, but AFP is reporting that scientists and arms experts in attendance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland have issued a dire warning saying that robots with advanced artificial intelligence (or AI robots) could one day join wars and kill many people. A former United Nations Disarmament Affairs representative, Angela Kane, has told a forum in Davos that there are many countries that don’t understand what is involved and the development of such technology is limited to a certain number of rich and advanced nations. Kane and other experts at the debate say rules must be agreed to prevent the development of these killer AI robots.  But at one point during the debate, Kane said “it may be too late.”   Cont'd...

How To Sell Robots To The Military

By and large the people you encounter in the military and Defense are smart, dedicated, and honest. They are haunted by the specter that the equipment they procure may result in the death of American servicemen. If you have a product that can save lives, then you might just have yourself a sale.

How Robots Could Make Their Way into the Classroom

Robots are effective options to increase the learning experience within the classroom setting.

A problem-solving approach IT workers should learn from robotics engineers

Greg Nichols  for ZDNet:  Google-owned Boston Dynamics got some bad news in the final days of 2015.  After years of development and intensive field trials, the Massachusetts-based robotics company learned that the U.S. Marines had decided to reject its four-legged robotic mule, Big Dog. The reason? The thing is too damn noisy for combat, where close quarters and the occasional need for stealth make excess machine noise a liability. The setback reminded me of a story another group of robotics engineers told me about the development of their breakthrough machine, a robotic exoskeleton that enables paraplegics to walk and soldiers to hump heavy packs without wearing down. It also reminded me of a powerful approach to solving problems and dealing with setbacks that I've encountered again and again reporting on robotics. Ekso Bionics, which went public in 2015, invented the first viable untethered exoskeleton, one that doesn't need to be plugged into an external power source. Their achievement rests on one engineering breakthrough in particular, and to arrive at it Ekso's engineers had to do something that's surprisingly difficult but incredibly instructive for non-engineers--they had to change the way they thought about their problem.   Cont'd...  

New Product - P-Rob 2 Second Generation of the Collaborative Robot

P-Rob 2 is an all-in-one robotic solution combining robot arm, sensor technologies and software including an embedded PC as control unit. So all that needs to be done is plug-in and run.

Robotics, reshoring, and American jobs

By Charles Orlowek for The Hill:  Good news?   Boston Consulting Group foresees more large manufacturers boosting production for the American market by adding capacity in the U.S. itself, compared with any other country.  It cites “decreasing costs and improved capabilities of advanced manufacturing technologies such as robotics."  Under this optimistic scenario, how much value would American workers add?  When robotics and other automation gets built for, and installed in American workplaces, where are jobs created?    Increasingly, these jobs are being created and sustained outside the United States, even for domestic factories.    The first industrial robots were developed and manufactured by Americans, and General Motors became the first user, in 1961.  Over recent decades, however, the domestic robot industry has declined.   A Commerce Department national security assessment from 1991 asserted that American robot manufacturers lost market share throughout the 1980s, with shipments of U.S.-manufactured robots falling by 33 percent between 1984 and 1989, despite robust domestic demand and a weak dollar.   Cont'd...

Robotics at the Distributed Intelligent Systems Lab at GE Global Research

At GE's Global Research Center, we're also looking at the next generation of robotics - drones for aerial-based surveillance and inspection, small scale crawlers for in-situ inspection, and mobile collaborative robotics for things like machine tending in our factories.

Upcoming Tradeshow, Conference & Exhibition Summary - Feb, Mar, April & May 2016

Here is a summary of what Tradeshows, Conferences & Exhibitions to look forward to in the coming months.

Looking for a few good robots

By Adam Zewe for Harvard News:  If you have a soft spot for robotics, this competition is right up your alley. The 2016 Soft Robotics Competitions offer anyone with an interest in robotics the chance to design and build their own soft robot using the resources available in the open-source Soft Robotics Toolkit. Now in its second year, the competition was developed by Conor Walsh, assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Dónal Holland, visiting lecturer in engineering sciences, as a way to encourage individuals to take advantage of the resources provided in the Soft Robotics Toolkit. The toolkit, which incorporates contributions from researchers from Harvard and other institutions, provides a set of intellectual tools that one can use to design and construct a robot using soft, flexible materials. It includes resources such as step-by-step instructions on building actuators and sensors, lists of suggested materials, and how-to fabrication videos. The ultimate goal of the competition is to encourage others to find innovative applications for soft robotics technology and continue expanding interest in this relatively new field.   Cont'd...

Lego's classroom robotics kit goes wireless

Ross Miller for The Verge:   Lego's entry-level robotics set is getting an overhaul. The brickmaker today is announcing WeDo 2.0 for elementary classrooms, which will both teach science-related concepts and, more importantly, let children build and program Lego robots. Designed to teach engineering and science, Lego Education's WeDo 2.0 kits contain about 280 Lego pieces, which also includes motion / tilt sensors and a motor. The new version eschews USB tethering for Bluetooth LE-powered "smarthub" brick that connects the sensors to a tablet or PC / Mac app. (The new version also has a more cohesive, more appealing color palette for all the bricks.) Each app includes a set of lessons, which tie in science concepts with a classic Lego construction manual. WeDo has a very simple drag-and-drop coding interface that lets students (or, to be honest, very enthusiastic adults) program basic functions. You can also, of course, just ignore the instructions entirely and build / program your own pastel robot.   Cont'd...

Japan Virtual Robotic Challenge - Fostering Innovation

Many robotic competitions in the world including DARPA and JVRC have a homogeneous goal: to significantly impact the human society by their contributions.

Space Bots & Android Waste Collectors: What's Ahead for Robotics

By Elizabeth Palermo for LiveScience:  It was a good year to be a robot. In 2015, researchers in Korea unveiled a robotic exoskeleton that users can control with their minds, a four-legged bot in China set a new world record by walking 83.28 miles (134.03 km) without stopping and 3D-printing robots in Amsterdam started work on a new steel footbridge. But these smart machines are capable of so much more. Researchers around the world are now designing and building bots that will complete more noteworthy tasks in 2016 and beyond. From exploring other planets to fighting fires at sea, here are a few skills that bots could pick up in the new year.   Full Article:  

What Robots and AI Learned in 2015

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...

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Personal & Service Robots - Featured Product

ST Robotics - K11R robot controller now available for your own robot!

ST Robotics - K11R robot controller now available for your own robot!

St Robotics is making the K11R robot controller available for any robot that uses stepping motors including the IGUS range. Providing you use low inductance motors the K11R will provide surprising power and speed from it's 55v DC supply and Gecko micro-stepping drives controlled by a fast DSP and micro-controller. The software is RoboForth II V17 embedded in the controller which together with the PC project supervisor gets your robot going within minutes. It is a text based conversational language that is so easy to use yet permits programs of great complexity when required. The kinematics are easily tailored to any size of robot and any number of axes from 3 to 6. The controller will also provide easy calibration to sensors and also reads back and compares encoders if you fit them. Speed, acceleration and rate of acceleration (3rd order) are all programmable as is emergency stop and many other features. Your positional data and programs may be saved on your PC and also in the controller's flash memory. The K11R will also control external devices such as pneumatic gripper, vacuum pickup, air cylinders and communicate with a PLC. Pricing starts at $2500. Contact ST at