Stack Exchange Teams Up With US Patent Office To Crowd Source Prior Art

The new  America Invents Act came into effect on September 16, it lets ordinary people provide feedback on patent applications. The US Patent Office and the question/answer resource Stack Exchange are teaming up to create AskPatents . AskPatents allows allows anyone to participate in the patent examination process. Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Stack Exchange: "Ask Patents is a collaborative effort, neatly tagged by keywords and classification, and searchable by patent application number. It is inspired by a research project called Peer To Patent, run out of New York Law School. That pilot project, created by Professor Beth Noveck, proved very successful at identifying prior art that the USPTO wouldn’t otherwise have known about. Citizen volunteers and other interested parties will be able to ask about applications that they think are suspicious. Others can answer, identifying possible prior art, and using our upvote/downvote feature to rate any examples of prior art that other people found. The USPTO, complying with the new law, will also provide an online system for submitting prior art. We’re also integrating with Google Patent Search, so every patent application on Google will include a link to discussion on Stack Exchange. Google has also implemented an algorithmic prior art search utility that will be helpful to site participants. On Ask Patents, participants can also ask and answer questions about the nuances of patent law or about specific patent applications. Collectively, we’re building a crowd-sourced worldwide detective agency to track down and obliterate bogus patent applications. Over time, we hope that the Patent Stack Exchange will mitigate the problems caused by rampant patent trolling. It’s not a complete fix, but it’s a good start."

Rethink Robotics releases Baxter, its Manufacturing robot

Baxter, is six feet tall, 300 pounds, and a robot. For a hulking machine, Baxter is remarkably expressive. A pair of eyes on the screen that serves as a face stare down as the robot picks up plastic components, look concerned when it makes a mistake, and direct its glance at its next task when one is finished. It's cute. But the real point of these expressions is that they let workers nearby know instantly if Baxter is performing appropriately, and they provide clues to what it is about to do next. Even more amazing, when Baxter is done with one task, a fellow worker can simply show the robot how to start another. "Almost anyone, literally, can in very short order be shown how to program it," says Chris Budnick, president of Vanguard Plastics. "It's a matter of a couple of minutes." Baxter is the first of a new generation of smarter, more adaptive industrial robots. Conventional industrial robots are expensive to program, incapable of handling even small deviations in their environment, and so dangerous that they have to be physically separated from human workers by cages. So even as robotics have become commonplace in the automotive and pharmaceutical industries, they remain impractical in many other types of manufacturing. Baxter, however, can be programmed more easily than a Tivo and can deftly respond to a toppled-over part or shifted table. And it is so safe that Baxter's developer, Rethink Robotics, which loaned Baxter to Vanguard Plastics, believes it can work seamlessly alongside its human coworkers.

New AlphaDog Field Testing Footage

New footage of AlphaDog, the DARPA Legged Squad Support System (LS3) originally designed by Boston Dynamics. The goal of the LS3 program is to demonstrate that a legged robot can unburden dismounted squad members by carrying their gear, autonomously following them through rugged terrain, and interpreting verbal and visual commands.

QBotix Solar Tracking System

From todays press release: QBotix today unveiled the QBotix Tracking System™ (QTS), a comprehensive dual-axis tracking system that employs rugged, intelligent and mobile robots to dynamically operate solar power plants and maximize energy output. The solar panels are installed on QBotix designed mounting systems that don't have any individual motors and are optimized for cost, strength, durability and installation simplicity. The robots travel on a track and adjust each mounting system to optimally face the sun in succession. Each robot replaces hundreds of individual motors and controllers found on conventional tracking systems. The embedded intelligence and data communication capabilities of each autonomous robot optimize power plant performance and enables detailed operational knowledge at an unprecedented level. QTS is now available for commercial deployments.  

Fearful Symmetry

Video of artist Ruairi Glynn's glowing tetrahedron robot exhibit from Tate Modern in London. Fearful Symmetry at Tate Tanks - teaser from Ruairi Glynn on Vimeo .

Growing a Language, by Guy Steele

A 1998 presentation by computer scientist Guy Steele, co-designer of the Scheme programming language. If you are at all interested in computer language design and theory you owe it to yourself to watch at least the first 10 minutes of the video. It might be the "Sixth Sense" of computer language design presentations.

Disney's 'Physical Face Cloning'

Disney Research released info on research they've been doing for simulating, and fabricating synthetic skin for an animatronics character that mimics the face of a given subject and its expressions. The process starts with measuring the elastic properties of a material used to manufacture synthetic soft tissue. Given these measurements they use physics-based simulation to predict the behavior of a face when it is driven by the underlying robotic actuation. Next, we capture 3D facial expressions for a given target subject.

Minimalist Telepresence Robots

Double Robotics' new robot is a two wheeled adjustable height telepresence based on the iPad.  A retractable kickstands will automatically deploy to conserve power when you are not moving around and the internal battery is capable of powering the robot for 8 hours of normal use. Navigation is controlled by included iPad software and the company hopes to ship the first batch in December for $1,999.

Point Grey Adds 120 FPS VGA Models to World's Smallest GigE Camera Line

Point Grey announces FL3-GE-03S1 GigE Vision digital camera, which delivers VGA resolution at 120 FPS in a low-cost, ultra-compact, GigE package. The FL3-GE-03S1 features Sony's ICX618 CCD sensor with EXview global shutter architecture to maximize quantum efficiency and near IR response. The camera operates at 120 FPS in full 648 x 488 resolution and even faster in smaller regions of interest. The Flea3 measures just 29 x 29 x30 mm and with an aluminum casting enclosure weighs 38 grams without optics. This combination of speed, sensitivity, size, and low cost make these models ideal for machine vision applications and perfect for analog camera replacement. It has an 8-pin opto-isolated GPIO for industrial triggering and strobe output; 1 MB non-volatile flash memory for user data storage; and on-camera frame buffer for retransmitting images. It complies with version 1.2 of the GigE Vision specification, which allows the camera to work seamlessly with software from Cognex, Mathworks, Matrox, MVTec, and NI, as well as with Point Grey's own FlyCapture SDK. The Flea3 FL3-GE-03S1C (color) and Flea3 FL3-GE-03S1M (monochrome) models are list priced at USD $495

A New Programming Language For Image-processing Algorithms

Halide is a new programming language designed to make it easier to write high-performance image processing code on modern machines. Its current front end is an embedding in C++. Hardware targets include x86-64/SSE, ARM v7/NEON, and CUDA. Created by researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) Halide was used to rewrite several common image-processing algorithms whose performance had already been optimized by seasoned programmers. The Halide versions were typically about one-third as long but offered significant performance gains — two-, three-, or even six-fold speedups. In one instance, the Halide program was actually longer than the original — but the speedup was 70-fold. The paper is available here  and the source will be posted within the next couple of days on github and the projects home here .

North American Robotics Industry Posts Best Quarter Ever

From Robotic Industries Association: North American robotics companies sold more industrial robots in the second quarter of 2012 than any previous quarter in history, according to new statistics released by Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry's trade group.  A total of 5,556 robots valued at $403.1 million were sold to North American companies, a jump of 14% in units and 28% in dollars over the same quarter in 2011. Orders in the first half of 2012 totaled 10,652 robots valued at $747 million, increases of 20% in units and 29% in dollars over the same period last year.  "Obviously, we're thrilled about the great results so far this year," said Jeff Burnstein, President of RIA. The strong sales reflect increased demand for robotics in industries such as automotive, plastics & rubber, and metals. However, as the economy slows, it's not clear that these numbers will remain as strong heading forward."  Orders for spot welding robots, used primarily in automotive solutions, jumped 68% in the first half of 2012. Other big jumps were seen in coating & dispensing (+42%), arc welding (+20%), and assembly (+19%). Material removal orders, a smaller application area, rose 364 percent.  Automotive related orders accounted for 65% of units and 64% of dollars in the first half of 2012. This represents sharp gains of 44% in units and 56% in dollars over the opening half of 2011.  "It's great that the auto related numbers continue to post huge gains, but as we know, automotive industry purchases are cyclical," Burnstein explained. "However, we were disappointed to see non-automotive related orders fall eight percent in units and one percent in dollars in the first half of the year, with even sharper declines in the second quarter alone."  RIA estimates that some 220,000 robots are now used in the United States, placing the US second only to Japan in robot use. 

Forbes: The End of Chinese Manufacturing and Rebirth of U.S. Industry

Forbes article on China's manufacturing bubble, the impact of robotics and 3d printing, and the possibility of a resurgence in US manufacturing.

IEEE Spectrum Tours iRobot's Museum Of Robots

Nancy Dussault Smith, vice president of marketing communications at iRobot, gave IEEE Spectrum a 25 minute tour of the iRobot museum and all the robots and prototypes from the companies past.

Auto Pan-Tilt Camera System For Tracking Fast Moving Objects

A team at the University of Japan have developed a camera system for tracking fast moving objects automatically and accurately without motion prediction. The example video shown on their website demonstrates the camera tracking a ping pong game. Even a high-speed object like a bouncing pingpong ball in play can be tracked at the center due to a high-speed optical gaze controller Saccade Mirror and a 1000-fps high-speed vision. The Saccade Mirror controls a camera's gazing direction not by moving the camera itself but by rotating two-axis small galvanometer mirrors. It takes no more than 3.5 ms even if it controls the gaze by 60 deg, the widest angle, for both pan and tilt. The newest prototype system accesses a Full HD image quality for an actual broadcasting service.

XBee Customizable Handheld Controller

Quantum Robotics is looking for funding on Kickstarter for two XBee based controller. They already reached their goal of $7,000 but you can still contribute and get a first run controller. Q4 Controller 32 Channels 4 Gimbals Joysticks (Horizontal, Vertical, & Push-button control) 4 (10K Ohm Linear) Potentiometer Dial Controls 10 Push-buttons 6 Toggle Switch Controls 1 Power On/Off Toggle Micro SD Card Slot 2x20 Serial LCD Power requirements: 6-9 VDC (2S 500mAh Lipo or 9V battery Q2 Controller 24 Channels 2 RC Gimbals (Horizontal & Vertical control) 4 (10K Ohm Linear) Potentiometer Dial Controls 10 Push-buttons 6 Toggle Switch Controls 1 Power On/Off Toggle Micro SD Card Slot 2x20 Serial LCD Power requirements: 6-9 VDC (2S 500mAh Lipo or 9V battery)  

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