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)


KUKAprc: Parametric Robot Control for Visual Programming Language Grasshopper

The International Association for Robots in Architecture has released an update to it's Grasshopper plugin: KUKA:prc.

Grasshopper is visual programming language built on top of the Rhino3D modeler. Grasshopper can be used to generate complex 3d structures procedurally by chaining together operations using its node-based IDE.

KUKA:prc enables you to program industrial robots directly out of the parametric modeling environment, including a full kinematic simulation of the robot. The generated files can be executed at the KUKA robot, without requiring any additional software. The new release includes several preset profiles existing KUKA robots and is free (at least for the time being) to download and test here.


An old video recently surfaced demonstrating Pantomation, a tracking system built in 1977. The system was built with some variation of the PDP and could track body movement by isolating objects held by performers and was used to drive music or live performances. Cool early stuff.

Cannes Light Show Performed By KMel Robotics

A troupe of 16 quadrotors (flying robots) dance to and manipulate sound and light at the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors' Showcase 2012.

MPU-9150 Nine-axis MotionTracking device

The MPU-9150 is a System in Package (SiP) that combines two chips: the MPU-6050, which contains a 3-axis gyroscope, 3-axis accelerometer, and an onboard Digital Motion Processor™ (DMP™) capable of processing complex 9-axis MotionFusion algorithms; and the AK8975, a 3-axis digital compass. The part’s integrated 9-axis MotionFusion algorithms access all internal sensors to gather a full set of sensor data.

For precision tracking of both fast and slow motions, the parts feature a user-programmable gyro full-scale range of ±250, ±500, ±1000, and ±2000°/sec (dps), a user-programmable accelerometer full-scale range of ±2g, ±4g, ±8g, and ±16g, and compass with a full scale range of ±1200µT.

Designworld has a video from InvenSense's CES 2012 booth demonstrating the MPU-9150.

The DIYDrones post has additional info and comments.

Official product site.

ROSCon 2012 Presentations Available Now

Willow Garage just posted Youtube videos of all the presentations at this years ROSCon. 11+ hours of great robotic content:


  • Day Two Opening Remarks (2mins[youtube]
  • Day Two Keynote: Architecting Real-time Control of Robonaut 2 using ROS and Orocos (56mins[youtube]
  • Understanding tf (38mins[youtube]
  • The current state and future of multi-master, multi-robot systems using ROS (35mins[youtube]
  • Writing Hardware Drivers (40mins[youtube] [slides]
  • Understanding the Kinect (42mins[youtube]
  • ROS on Windows (19mins[youtube]
  • The ROS wiki how to make the best use of it (19mins[youtube]
  • Measuring and Tracking Code Quality in ROS (22mins[youtube]
  • Teaching Robotics with ROS: Experiences, Suggestions, and Tales of Woe (20mins[youtube]
  • Robot Web Applications (22mins[youtube]
  • Using Open Sound Control Hardware and Software with ROS (13mins[youtube]
  • Closing Remarks (4mins[youtube]

Bosch Indego Robotic Lawnmower

IEEE Spectrum has info about a new autonomous lawnmower from the German company Bosch. Seems the only official info available at the moment is a Swedish press release but it appears the mower communicates with its docking station (and maybe GPS) allowing the unit to cut areas in ordered parallel lines rather than the chaotic back and forth paths you see from other sensor based robotic lawnmowers or vacuums. You will still have to install wire around the perimeter so the robot stay on the grass. The battery lasts 20 minutes per charge and resumes where it left of after a 90 minute charge.


The Fluid Mechanics Laboratory and the Swartz Lab at Brown University are in development of a biological inspired bat robot platform that aims to reproduce the amazing maneuverability of these flying mammals. Bats exhibit extraordinary flight capabilities that arise by virtue of a variety of unique mechanical features. These flying mammals have developed powerful muscles that provide the folding and extension of their wing-membrane during flight (morphing). The maneuverability is achieved by reproducing the flapping and morphing capabilities of their wing-skeleton structure. This structure is composed by several joints and a membrane that generates the required lift forces to fly. Each wing has 4 degrees of freedom: the shoulder has two, the elbow joint is actuated by Migamotors SMA-muscles, and the wrist is an under-actuated joint that moves as a function of the elbow. The robot morphology is alike in proportion compared to the biological counterpart (half the size): total wingspan: 50cm, humerus length: 5.5cm, and radius: 7cm. The total weight of the skeleton is 34g (including both wings). The morphing actuation mechanism attached to the humerus bone is based on smart muscles that provide elbow rotation.


More info can be found on their research site here.

TurtleBot 2 Coming Soon

ROSCon 2012 was held in St. Paul, Minnesota over the weekend. Willow Garage was showing off a prototype refresh of the TurtleBot. The biggest change is that the iRobot Create bases are being replaced by a new base designed by the South Korean company Yujin Robot. They are calling the new base Kobuki and it has a number of upgrades from the Create base. Changes include an odometry system, integrated gyroscope, large batteries, and access to all the hardware through a panel at the back of the base. Kobuki will also have the ability to use a self-charging dock that can feed power to both the base and the attached laptop make 24/7 operation possible.

The Kobuki official site.


Honda Motor Co. unveiled the new UNI-CUB personal mobility device. UNI-CUB features Honda's proprietary balance control technology and the world's first omni-directional driving wheel system (Honda Omni Traction Drive System). The technology thrown into the making of UNI-CUB comes from Honda's research into the ASIMO robot. The UNI-CUB allows the rider to control speed, move in any direction, turn and stop, all simply by shifting his or her weight. Since the rider can freely move forward, backward, side-to-side and diagonally. Starting in June 2012, Honda will jointly conduct demonstration testing of UNI-CUB with Japan's National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

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Comau’s Racer3 Robot: Beauty and Passion Meet Precision and Speed

Comau's Racer3 Robot: Beauty and Passion Meet Precision and Speed

Racer3 is a powerful, high-speed, 6-axis articulated robot featuring a payload of 3kg and a reach of just 630 mm. Built from high-strength aluminum, the newest innovation in Comau robotics is lightweight and can be easily mounted on benches, walls, ceilings or on inclined supports. The third robot within the award-winning Racer family, Racer3 is Comau's response to the growing demand for fast, cost-effective robotic automation within small to medium-sized enterprises and emerging countries. Racer3 is intended for general industry use to increase productivity and reduce overall costs by automating industrial applications. It combines field-proven technology and enhanced dexterity with a keen focus on safety, design and product aesthetics. With a streamlined design and brushed metal exterior, the new powerhouse of a robot combines beauty and speed together with absolute precision and repeatability. Primary applications include assembly, material handling, machine tending, dispensing and pick & place.