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 Th ree 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:

Star Wars The Force Awakens BB-8 Toy Teardown

  From uBreakiFix's Youtube channel:

Soft Robotics Project Exo-Biote 3D Prints Living Movement

BY HANNAH ROSE MENDOZA for 3DPrint.com:  Soft robotics is a relatively new field of research that aims to create flexible robots that are more easily adaptable to human interaction. Often, the forms of these creations and the mechanics of their movement are inspired by a close study of nature in an effort to ‘go organic’ with machines. 3D printing with flexible filament is one way in which this integration of robot and movement is taking on a flexible aspect. For this particular installation, titled Exo-biote, the National Institute for Research in Computer and Control and the Department of Science and Visual Culture at the Imaginarium worked together, with support from Neuflize Bank, to create a robot organism that embodied the formal typologies and demonstrated the possibilities for movements in soft robots. After all, some of nature’s most amazing machines have nearly entirely soft bodies – think of the octopus, for example, able to lift, carry, walk, swim, shape change, camouflage itself, and fit through a tube no bigger than a quarter!   Cont'd...

Toyota hires robotics expert for AI push

Richard Waters for FT.com:  Toyota has hired the top robotics expert from the US defence department’s research arm and promised $50m in extra funding for artificial intelligence research, as it steps up the race between the world’s biggest carmakers to pioneer new forms of computer-assisted driving. However, the Japanese carmaker maintained on Friday that completely driverless cars were still years away, and that AI and robotics would have a more complex effect on the relationship between humans and their vehicles than Google’s experiments with “robot cars” suggest. Gill Pratt, who stepped down recently from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), will move to Silicon Valley to head Toyota’s robotics efforts, the company said. Darpa played a key role in stimulating interest in driverless cars with a competition in 2005 — the leader of the winning entry, Sebastian Thrun, who was then a professor at Stanford University, went on to found Google’s driverless car programme.   Cont'd...

Bucky Fuller Friday

Animated retelling of a Buckminster Fuller story and Ephemeralization (doing more with less):

Robotics Enter Hybrid Instruction

By Dian Schaffhauser for Campus Technology:  A doctoral program at Michigan State University has begun experimenting with the use of robots to pull on-campus and off-campus students closer together in class. The Educational Psychology and Educational Technology (EPET) doctoral program focuses on the study of human learning and development and diverse technologies supporting learning and teaching. During a spring course in 2015 all but one student participated by being present in the form of an Apple iPad affixed to a swivel robot that was stationary; one student was on a robot that could move around the classroom. As Christine Greenhow, the faculty member who led the seminar course, explained, the experiment was intended to expand beyond traditional Web presence of online students. "When you are using videoconferencing, it's very common to see all these different faces on the screen if you're here in the classroom and not really know where to look. It creates this distance between the speaker who's online and the speakers in the class," she said in a video about the project. "What if we could put online students in the classroom in a robot? How would their presence change?"   Cont'd...

Intel camera gives robots 3D vision

Bot-maker Savioke announces an open-source wrapper for Intel's RealSense Camera, adding another low-cost 3D sensing solution to the roboticist's toolkit. The wrapper will allow developers to make use of the RealSense Camera, which enables robots to sense rich three-dimensional environments. "Intel RealSense Cameras bring great low-cost depth sensing to robotics, in a platform that is widely available and easy to integrate using ROS," says Steve Cousins, CEO of Savioke. Until recently, bot makers looking to incorporate 3D sensing on the cheap have relied on a sensor made by Israeli company PrimeSense. But in late 2013 PrimeSense was acquired by Apple for $350M, an indication of just how much potential the Cupertino-based giant sees in 3D sensing technology. Since the acquisition, robot developers have been eager for a flexible and cheap depth sensor. Intel, meanwhile, is making an aggressive move into the world of robotics, and the company was thrilled to offer ROS support for RealSense. 

Robot That Copies Artist's Exact Strokes To Replicate A Painting In 3D

From the Instapainting Blog: Over the past three weeks I’ve been working on a robotic painter to research the area of mechanical artwork reproduction and automated picture to painting creation for  Instapainting.com  and the print store e-commerce platform  A Manufactory . The initial prototype was built in about 3 weeks, and currently does mechnical reproductions. The AI painting mode which will paint a photograph will follow in the next post (putting some finishing touches on it)... ...The current prototype operates on 3 dimensions: X, Y, and a Z axis for pen pressure from the Wacom tablet. The artist can control the motion from a Wacom tablet and, for the most part, it’s lag-free. Every stroke is recorded so that it can be played back. You can see both the intitial painting and the playback in the video below... ( full post )

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