Toyota Invests $1 Billion in AI and Robots, Will Open R&D Lab in Silicon Valley

By Erico Guizzo and Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum:  Today in Tokyo, Toyota announced that it is investing US $1 billion over the next five years to establish a new R&D arm headquartered in Silicon Valley and focused on artificial intelligence and robotics. The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) plans to hire hundreds of engineers to staff a main facility in Palo Alto, Calif., near Stanford University, and a second facility located near MIT in Cambridge, Mass. Former DARPA program manager Dr. Gill Pratt, an executive technical advisor at Toyota, was named CEO of TRI, which will begin operations in January. Toyota president Akio Toyoda said in a press conference that the company pursues innovation and new technologies “to make life better for our customers and society as a whole,” adding that he wanted to “work with Gill not just because he’s an amazing researcher and engineer, but because I believe his goals and motivations are the same as ours.”   Cont'd...

Skype founders invent self-driving robot that can deliver groceries for £1

By Sophie Curtis, video by Robert Midgley:  You've heard of Amazon's plan to deliver packages using drones; now a new company called Starship is promising to disrupt local delivery with the launch of a self-driving robot that can deliver groceries to customers' doors in under 30 minutes for less than £1. The Starship robot has been developed by Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis. It drives on pavements at an average speed of 4mph, and uses proprietary mapping and navigation technology to avoid crashing into obstacles, (check out the video we made).   Cont'd...  

UCSD to create robots that see, think and do

By Gary Robbins for the San Diego Union Tribune:  UC San Diego is creating a robotics institute that will develop machines that can interpret everything from subtle facial expressions to walking styles to size up what people are thinking, doing and feeling. The “See-Think-Do” technology is largely meant to anticipate and fulfill people’s everyday needs, especially the soaring number of older Americans who want to live out their lives in their own homes. Engineers envision robots that are so good at sizing up people, places and situations that they could help evacuate crowds from dangerous areas and pick through the rubble of an earthquake to look for survivors. The newly created Contextual Robotics Institute will be formally announced on Friday when some of the nation’s top scientists meet at UC San Diego to discuss the future of robotics. The campus has already lined up support from such San Diego companies as Qualcomm, which needs new markets for its computer chips, and Northrop Grumman, which develops unmanned aerial vehicles. “Our plan is to do the research and development that’s needed to realize robots of the future — robots that are safe, useful and autonomous in any environment,” said Albert Pisano, dean of UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering.   Cont'd...

How Sensorimotor Intelligence May Develop

From Institute of Science and Technology Austria: Robotic systems controlled by a neural network spontaneously develop self-organized behaviors. Researchers propose a novel learning rule in PNAS to explain the development of sensorimotor intelligence. It is fascinating to observe a robot exploring its physical possibilities and surroundings, and subsequently developing different self-taught behaviors without any instructions. In their paper (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1508400112) published on October, 26, 2015 in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), Professor Ralf Der from the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences, und Georg Martius, Postdoc and Fellow at the Institute for Science and Technology (IST Austria), demonstrate the emergence of sensorimotor intelligence in robots based on their proposed learning rule... ... To test their hypothesis, the authors use bioinspired robots consisting of a humanoid and a hexapod robot in physically realistic computer simulations. The robots receive sensory input from their bodies but are not given any form of instruction or task. What can then be observed is a rich spectrum of rhythmic behaviors of the robots as they explore various movements. Solely because of the tight coupling of environment, body, and brain (in this case an artificial neural network), the robots can obtain feedback from their situation and adapt quickly. This, together with a simple, learned self-model, allows them to develop a form of sensorimotor intelligence... ( full article ) ( paper ) ( videos and other materials )

Six-axis robotic arm called Eva, which weighs 2.3 kilograms and will cost $3,000

Suryansh Chandra claims the affordable robotic arm his company Automata is developing could lead to robots becoming as ubiquitous as desktop 3D printers. "Today, every design studio has a 3D printer," Chandra says. "Soon, we hope to get to the point where every design studio has a robotic arm." Chandra founded Automata together with Mostafa Elsayed five months ago, after they became frustrated by the expense and complexity of industrial robots while working at the research division at Zaha Hadid Architects. "If you're out to get a robot today, you'd have to spend 50 or 60 thousand dollars," Chandra explains. "Our goal is to democratise robotics through a low cost hardware platform and easy to use software." Automata's first product is a plastic six-axis robotic arm called Eva, which weighs 2.3 kilograms and will cost $3,000 (£2,000). "Unlike industrial robots that are heavy and expensive, Eva is low cost and lightweight," Chandra says. "She can pick up 750 grams when fully outstretched and about a kilogram in a more recessed position."   Cont'd...

Rob Scharff's Soft Robotics 3D-printed hand responds to human grip

Dutch Design Week 2015: Delft University of Technology graduate Rob Scharff has created a soft robotic limb that can shake hands with people. The hand was created as part of Scharff's Soft Robotics research project – which focuses on the ways robots can be integrated with more tactile materials, and so improve robot-human interactions.  Cont'd...

Leeds could become the first 'self-repairing city' with a fleet of robotic civil servants

By Chloe Olewitz for Digital Trends:  Most people don’t know a whole lot about the city of Leeds other than its distinct regional accent, but believe it or not, local Leeds University is actually known for being a pioneering research leader in the field of robotics. The university’s School of Civil Engineering has put together a key research team that is currently developing a fleet of civil service robots and drones that would effectively turn Leeds into a self-repairing city. The robotics research project is funded with £4.2M ($6.5M) of national funds, focusing on autonomous machines that would fix infrastructure issues across the city of Leeds, and perhaps, eventually, beyond. Leeds’ robot fleet will focus on robotic fixes for citywide issues like burst or damaged utility pipes, broken or nonfunctional street lights, and road fractures that disturb drivers on their way to anywhere. Three main branches of the project cover the functions of the Leeds robots: Perch and Repair; Perceive and Patch; and Fire and Forget. The Perch and Repair segment covers research into robotic drones that can land, or “perch” like birds atop tall structures like street lamps or building-mounted civil structures. The Perceive and Patch team leads research into drones that can survey popular roads or even particularly dangerous ones in order to identify and repair potholes where they exist, and in the future, even prevent them before they occur.   Cont'd...

Robot Can Pick and Sort Fruit

A robotics breakthrough by product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants is set to boost productivity across the food chain – from the field to the warehouse. It paves the way for robots to take on complex picking and sorting tasks involving irregular organic items – sorting fruit and vegetables, for example, or locating and removing specific weeds among crops in a field. “Traditional robots struggle when it comes to adapting to deal with uncertainty,” said Chris Roberts, head of industrial robotics at Cambridge Consultants. “Our innovative blend of existing technologies and novel signal processing techniques has resulted in a radical new system design that is poised to disrupt the industry.”  

Robots Learning Judo Techniques to Fall Down Without Exploding

By Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum:  The best and worst part of the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals waswatching all of those huge expensive humanoids topple over in a series of epic faceplants. Faceplants are called faceplants because you’re planting your face into the ground as a means of breaking your fall, which usually also breaks your face, among other things. This tends to happen when you’re unprepared for falling, which with most robots, is 100 percent of the time. Now researchers at Georgia Tech want to teach humanoid robots to fall more safely with techniques adapted from judo, which might protect them enough to actually be able to get up again. Falling safely (or, as safely as you can), assuming that you have very little control over the nature of your fall, is all about controlling exactly when and how your body crashes down. During a fall, your body is busy converting potential energy to kinetic energy, all of which has to go somewhere when you hit the ground. If your face hits the ground first, then that’s where all the energy goes at once, but if you can manage to contact the ground with a bunch of different parts of your body at different times on the way down, the energy will be spread out. Ideally, the energy gets spread out to the point where each individual impact doesn’t do enough damage to hurt you in a permanent sort of way.  Cont'd...

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...

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