Engineers Devise New Method to Heighten Senses of Soft Robot

Written by AZoRobotics:  Most robots achieve grasping and tactile sensing through motorized means, which can be excessively bulky and rigid. A Cornell group has devised a way for a soft robot to feel its surroundings internally, in much the same way humans do.

A group led by Robert Shepherd, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and principal investigator of Organic Robotics Lab, has published a paper describing how stretchable optical waveguides act as curvature, elongation and force sensors in a soft robotic hand.

Doctoral student Huichan Zhao is lead author of “Optoelectronically Innervated Soft Prosthetic Hand via Stretchable Optical Waveguides,” which is featured in the debut edition of Science Robotics. The paper published Dec. 6; also contributing were doctoral students Kevin O’Brien and Shuo Li, both of Shepherd’s lab.  Cont'd...

MIT's Modular Robotic Chain Is Whatever You Want It to Be

Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum:  As sensors, computers, actuators, and batteries decrease in size and increase in efficiency, it becomes possible to make robots much smaller without sacrificing a whole lot of capability. There’s a lower limit on usefulness, however, if you’re making a robot that needs to interact with humans or human-scale objects. You can continue to leverage shrinking components if you make robots that are modular: in other words, big robots that are made up of lots of little robots.

In some ways, it’s more complicated to do this, because if one robot is complicated, robots tend to be complicated. If you can get all of the communication and coordination figured out, though, a modular system offers tons of advantages: robots that come in any size you want, any configuration you want, and that are exceptionally easy to repair and reconfigure on the fly.

MIT’s ChainFORM is an interesting take on this idea: it’s an evolution of last year’s LineFORM multifunctional snake robot that introduces modularity to the system, letting you tear of a strip of exactly how much robot you need, and then reconfigure it to do all kinds of things.  Cont'd...

BERNSTEIN: China's insane spending on robotics is fundamentally changing capitalism

Oscar Williams-Grut for Business Insider:  Analysts at global investment manager Bernstein believe the "age of industrialization is coming to an end," with robots set to destroy manufacturing jobs globally.

That may not sound seismic. After all, the industrial revolution happened hundreds of years ago and manufacturing jobs have been the minority of all jobs in the West for decades. But Bernstein is arguing that the nature of capitalism is undergoing a fundamental change.

Analysts Michael W. Parker and Alberto Moel argue that Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, the foundational textbooks of economics, is becoming redundant because of two trends: the rise of robotics and China's modernising economy.  Cont'd...

Boeing buys Liquid Robotics to boost autonomous surveillance at sea

Alan Boyle for Geekwire:  The Boeing Co. says it has agreed to acquire Liquid Robotics, its teammate in a years-long effort to create surfboard-sized robots that can use wave power to roam the seas.

The acquisition is expected to help Boeing create military communication networks that can transmit information autonomously from the sea to satellites via Sensor Hosting Autonomous Remote Craft, or SHARCs.

Liquid Robotics was founded in 2007 and currently has about 100 employees in California and Hawaii. Once the deal is completed, the company will become a subsidiary of Boeing. The arrangement is similar to the one that applies to Insitu, a Boeing subsidiary that is headquartered in Bingen, Wash., and manufactures ScanEagle military-grade drones.  Cont'd...

 

Robots won't kill the workforce. They'll save the global economy.

Ruchir Sharma for The Washington Post:  The United Nations forecasts that the global population will rise from 7.3 billion to nearly 10 billion by 2050, a big number that often prompts warnings about overpopulation. Some have come from neo-Malthusians, who fear that population growth will outstrip the food supply, leaving a hungry planet. Others appear in the tirades of anti-immigrant populists, invoking the specter of a rising tide of humanity as cause to slam borders shut. Still others inspire a chorus of neo-Luddites, who fear that the “rise of the robots” is rapidly making human workers obsolete, a threat all the more alarming if the human population is exploding.

Before long, though, we’re more likely to treasure robots than to revile them. They may be the one thing that can protect the global economy from the dangers that lie ahead.  Cont'd...

Robotics startup Exotec raises $3.5 million to help warehouses pack and dispatch goods using mini robots

Paul Sawers for Venture Beat:  A French robotics startup has raised €3.3 million ($3.5 million) to build and grow a fleet of mobile robots that help warehouses prepare orders for delivery.

The company was founded in 2015 by former GE Healthcare software architect Renaud Heitz and BA Systèmes technical director Romain Moulin,  and Exotec Solutions (“Exotec”) robots have already been tested across a number of industries. With $3.5 million more in its coffers, the company expects to launch its first robot — called Exo — into the wild in early 2017. The most recent round was raised from 360 Capital Partners, Breega Capital, and a handful of its existing investors.

The miniature robots are being targeted at any logistics operator that relies on humans to traverse large warehouses picking items off shelves, and it promises to cut employees’ average daily distance covered from 15km to 4km per day and to “[double] the productivity” of each worker. The robots are controlled by what the company calls a “centralized intelligence system,” which liaises between the humans and the robots on the ground.  Cont'd...

Metallic glass gears make for graceful robots

Science Daily:  Throw a baseball, and you might say it's all in the wrist.  For robots, it's all in the gears.  

Gears are essential for precision robotics. They allow limbs to turn smoothly and stop on command; low-quality gears cause limbs to jerk or shake. If you're designing a robot to scoop samples or grip a ledge, the kind of gears you'll need won't come from a hardware store.

At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, technologist Douglas Hofmann and his collaborators are building a better gear. Hofmann is the lead author of two recent papers on gears made from bulk metallic glass (BMG), a specially crafted alloy with properties that make it ideal for robotics.  Cont'd...

Stanford study concludes next generation of robots won't try to kill us

Bruce Brown for DigitalTrends:  It sounds like we can all take a breath and forget about robot attacks occurring — at least anytime soon. Robots turning against their makers is a common theme in science fiction. However, there’s “no cause for concern that AI poses an imminent threat to humanity,” according to Fast Company, citing the first report from the One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence (AI100).

The Stanford University-hosted project represents a standing committee of AI scientists. The AI100 project is ongoing but will not issue reports annually — the next one will be published “in a few years.” The first report, Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030, downloadable at this link, looks at how advances in AI will make a difference in the U.S. between now and 2030. Areas of change explored by the report include transportation, healthcare, education, the workplace, and policing and public safety.  Cont'd...

Robotics entrepreneur unveils spider creation set to take gaming world by storm

David Clensy  for Bristol Post:  For Silas Adekunle, the fascination has always been about how the very best robotics learns from biology.

There is a twinkle in the eye of the 25-year-old Reach Robotics founder, as he introduces me to Mekamon – the spider-like robot with which he plans to transform the future of augmented reality gaming among techies around the world.

Silas only graduated from the University of the West of England in 2014, but is already employing 10 people in his rapidly growing tech company.  Cont'd...

A new standard in robotics

Phys.org:  On the wall of Aaron Dollar's office is a poster for R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), the 1920 Czech play that gave us the word "robot." The story ends with the nominal robots seizing control of the factory of their origin and then wiping out nearly all of humanity. Dollar, fortunately, has something more cheerful in mind for the future of human-robot relations.

He sees them as helpers in our daily lives—performing tasks like setting the table or assisting with the assembly of your new bookcase. But getting to the point where robots can work in the unstructured environment of our homes (as opposed to industrial settings) would take a major technological leap and a massive coordination of efforts from roboticists around the globe. The living room has been called the last frontier for robots—but first, the robotics community needs some standards that everyone can agree on.

Enter a suitcase-sized box containing 77 objects. It contains things like hammers, a cordless drill, a can of Spam and a nine-hole peg test. As ordinary as they may seem, these carefully curated household items could be the future of a new kind of standardization for robotics. Known as the Yale-CMU-Berkeley (YCB) Object and Model Set, the intent is to provide universal benchmarks for labs specializing in robotic manipulation and prosthetics around the world.  Cont'd...

Innovative Machine Learning Training Method Opens New Possibilities for Artificial Intelligence

From AZoRobotics:  As a result of a new machine learning algorithm formulated by engineering researchers Parham Aarabi (ECE) and Wenzhi Guo (ECE MASc 1T5) at University of Toronto, smartphones may soon be able to provide users with honest answers.

The researchers prepared an algorithm that was capable of learning directly from human instructions, instead of an existing set of examples, and surpassed conventional techniques of training neural networks by 160%.

But more astonishingly, their algorithm also surpassed its own training by 9% - it learned to identify hair in pictures with better reliability than that enabled by the training, signifying a major leap forward for artificial intelligence.  Cont'd...

Irishman's soft robotics exosuit wins major tech award

Colm Gorey for SiliconRepublic:  Irishman Conor Walsh’s soft robotics exosuit was among the award winners at the recent Rolex Awards, due to the creator’s continuing efforts to develop tech for the benefit of humanity.

Now in its 40th year, the Rolex Awards are part of an international philanthropic programme that supports new and ongoing projects by individuals taking on major challenges to benefit humankind.

Hosted last night at a public awards ceremony in Los Angeles, the awards were presented to 10 laureates – including five young laureates – that included such wide-ranging topics as opthamology and agritech.  Cont'd...

Meet the robot whisperer who trains "big, monstrous, industrial robots" to follow her every command

Charlotte Whistlecroft for DigitalSpy:  If you think you're happy with your job, Madeline Gannon will definitely make you question your life, as this woman has managed to train giant robots to do things for her.

Nope, we're not joking - the founder of the Madlab Research Studio created "big, monstrous, industrial robots" and then tamed then, and she even has a nickname to prove it: The Robot Whisperer.

Which is all pretty impressive, if not terrifying, stuff.

Speaking at the WIRED Next Generation event in London, Madeline passed on her robot-taming skills to the audience of 12-18 year olds and shared her passion for turning 6-foot-tall factory line robots into tools any human can communicate with.  Cont'd...

Care-O-bot 4 celebrates its premiere as a shopping assistant

By Fraunhofer IPA via RoboHub:  In January 2015, Fraunhofer IPA presented a prototype of the “Care-O-bot 4” service robot. The charming helper is now proving its worth in the real world. “Paul” the robot has been greeting customers in Saturn-Markt Ingolstadt since the end of October 2016 and directing them towards their desired products.

Care-O-bot 4, alias Paul, approaches Saturn customers and welcomes them to the store. If they ask him about a certain product, he accompanies the customer to the department and points them in the direction of the relevant shelf. As he indulges in small talk about the weather, or another subject, Paul turns out to be a most charming contact partner. However, he prefers to leave actual customer service to his human colleagues. Paul is able to call another member of staff for support via “Voice over IP”. Before Paul bids a fond farewell and returns to the store entrance, he still has time to ask for feedback. In this way, he discovers whether customers appreciated the interaction or not. Martin Wild, Chief Digital Officer at Media-Saturn-Holding: “With Paul, we are offering our customers the opportunity to get to know one of the most advanced robots in the world.”  Cont'd...

Relay Is a Robot Butler Coming to a Hotel Near You

Nathaniel Mott for Inverse:  Ordering room service can be a lesson in embarrassment. It could arrive right after you’ve taken off your clothes, while you’re indisposed, or while you’re in the middle of other hotel-related behavior.  Thankfully, a robot butler named Relay is here to take that embarrassment (and other inconveniences) out of hotel deliveries.

Relay is basically an autonomous locker on wheels. Guests ask for an item, a hotel worker puts the object inside Relay’s compartment, and then the robot scoots over to the guest’s room with its cargo. It then calls the guests to let them know their item is ready before heading back down to the lobby so it can recharge before its next assignment.  Cont'd...

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