New DARPA's Pet-Proto Video

In this video, the Pet-Proto, a predecessor to DARPA's Atlas robot, is confronted with obstacles similar to those robots might face in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). To maneuver over and around the obstacles, the robot exercises capabilities including autonomous decision-making, dismounted mobility and dexterity. The DARPA Robotics Challenge will test these and other capabilities in a series of tasks that will simulate conditions in a dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environment. Teams participating in Tracks B and C of the DRC will compete for access to a modified version of the Atlas robot for use in the 2013 and 2014 live disaster-response challenge events.

Last Nights Robot Hall of Fame Inducts NAO, PackBot, BigDog and WALL-E

The Robot Hall of Fame® inducted four robots chosen for the first time by a popular vote — Aldebaran Robotics' NAO humanoid, iRobot's PackBot bomb disposal robot, Boston Dynamics' four-legged BigDog and WALL-E, the fictional robot of the namesake Pixar movie — during a ceremony tonight at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.

"More than any previous class of inductees, this group of robots selected by popular vote represents contemporary robotics — robots at the cutting edge of technology — rather than older robots of strictly historical importance," said Shirley Saldamarco, Robot Hall of Fame director and a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center. "Two of our inductees, NAO and Packbot, are commercially available and BigDog is still the focus of active research. Even our fictional honoree, WALL-E, is from a movie that's just four years old."

More than 17,000 people across every continent except Antarctica participated in the online vote in August and September. The 12 nominees on this year's ballot were chosen by a group of 107 robotics experts, industry leaders and aficionados selected by the Robot Hall of Fame (RHOF).

The RHOF, created in 2003 by Carnegie Mellon University, recognizes excellence in robotics technology. It honors both the fictional robots that inspire innovation and the real robots that embody it. In 2009, it was integrated into Carnegie Science Center's roboworld™ exhibit.

The new inductees were elected in four categories: Education & Consumer; Entertainment; Industrial & Service; and Research.

NAO was inducted in the Education & Consumer category. An autonomous, programmable, humanoid robot developed by Aldebaran Robotics in 2006, the 22-inch-tall robot is used as an education platform and in the RoboCup robot soccer Standard Platform League. Other nominees in this category were iRobot's CREATE and the VEX Robotics Design System.

In the Entertainment category, voters chose WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth Class), the lovable star of the 2008 Disney/Pixar blockbuster by the same name. In the movie, WALL-E inadvertently embarks on a space journey that ultimately decides the fate of mankind. Other nominees in this category were Rosie the maid from the cartoon series "The Jetsons" and Johnny 5 from the 1986 movie "Short Circuit."

PackBot won in the Industrial & Service category. Created by iRobot, PackBot is one of the most successful battle-tested robots in the world. It performs bomb disposal and other dangerous missions for troops and first responders. More than 4,500 units are currently on station in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was one of the first robots to enter the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant after the 2011 tsunami. The other nominees were Kiva Systems' autonomous warehouse robots and the Jason submersible from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Finally, BigDog was recognized in the Research category. This dynamically stable quadruped robot was created in 2005 by Boston Dynamics. It can traverse difficult terrain and run at 4 miles an hour while carrying 340 pounds and climbing a 35-degree incline. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has sponsored its development as a robotic pack mule to accompany soldiers in terrain too tough for conventional vehicles. Other nominees were Willow Garage's two-armed PR2 mobile robot and NASA's Robonaut.

TurtleBot 2 Available For Preorder

What's new with Turtlebot 2.0?

Improved Performance
The new and improved Turtlebot includes a factory calibrated gyro with far better performance at low rotation speeds and encoders with 1000x better resolution.  The result is a low-cost mobile robot with impressive position and velocity feedback to enhance your autonomy, navigation and mapping.

Power-ups!
The new Turtlebot has many new power features to improve user experience.  We’ve included a 19V laptop power output to keep your laptop charged longer, we’ve added more user power connectors to power more sensors, and we’ve even added an extended life battery upgrade to maximize your uptime. 

Coming Soon - A docking station is in the works to enable auto-charge and 24/7 autonomy!

Now Shipping Worldwide
One of the biggest limitations of the old Turtlebot was that it was not RoHS compliant, meaning that we were unable to ship to certain countries.  We are very pleased to announce that the new TurtleBot is 100% RoHS compliant and ready to ship worldwide.  Now Turtlebot’s only language barrier is a binary serial protocol.

Available at Clearpath Robotics for $1,149.00 and shipping December 1st.

A Robotic Wheelchair Able To Climb Steps

A demo of Chiba Institute of Technology's wheel chair concept:

"If a sensor detects a step, the robot calculates whether it can lift that leg. It can't raise its wheels right away, so the steering system at the rear makes preparatory motions to gain stability. When the wheels can be raised stably, the robot lifts its legs."

IROS 2012 Videos

Robot locomotion with continuum limbs (courtesy of IEEE Spectrum):

 

RoboBee (courtesy of Harvard University and IEEE Spectrum):

 

Robot builds ramp by randomly flinging 3,600 toothpicks (courtesy of IEEE Spectrum):

 

People tracking on RGB-D people dataset (courtesy of IASLABResearch):

IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems

This week the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems is taking place Vila Moura, Algarve, Portugal. We'll be posting all the big news as it comes. The full IROS2012 schedule is available here.

Espresso Book Machine

The Espresso Book Machine makes a perfect-bound paperback book virtually identical to the publisher’s original in a matter of minutes. The user chooses a digital file via the EspressNet software system, either at the physical EBM, or remotely via the Internet (users can also bring their own files in person: on CD’s, flash drives, etc.). The EBM uses PDF files for the book block and the cover. A high-speed Xerox 4112 Copier/Printer prints the pages of the book – the book block. The printer uses standard US letter-size (8.5” x 11”) or A4 paper stock. A high-speed Xerox 4112 Copier/Printer prints the pages of the book – the book block. The printer uses standard US letter-size (8.5” x 11”) or A4 paper stock. A rotating wheel applies a thin layer of heat-activated glue over the milled edge. The clamp then moves the book block down to the cover, which waits on the binding table. The EBM uses special pneumatics and clamps to press the cover against the spine and around the book block. This produces a traditional “perfect-bound” book.

Human Support Robot From Toyota

Toyota Motor Corporation has developed a human support robot (HSR) prototype to assist independent home living for persons with limited arm or leg mobility. Aiming to improve quality of life, Toyota has developed the HSR prototype in cooperation with the Japan Service Dog Association to identify the needs and desires of individuals with limited limb mobility, and developed functions focused around picking up dropped objects, retrieving items, and communicating with family members and caregivers. In 2011, TMC conducted in-home trials using the robot with individuals with limb disabilities in cooperation with the Foundation for Yokohama Rehabilitation Service and incorporated user feedback into development.

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.

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