UCSD to create robots that see, think and do

By Gary Robbins for the San Diego Union Tribune:  UC San Diego is creating a robotics institute that will develop machines that can interpret everything from subtle facial expressions to walking styles to size up what people are thinking, doing and feeling.

The “See-Think-Do” technology is largely meant to anticipate and fulfill people’s everyday needs, especially the soaring number of older Americans who want to live out their lives in their own homes.

Engineers envision robots that are so good at sizing up people, places and situations that they could help evacuate crowds from dangerous areas and pick through the rubble of an earthquake to look for survivors.

The newly created Contextual Robotics Institute will be formally announced on Friday when some of the nation’s top scientists meet at UC San Diego to discuss the future of robotics. The campus has already lined up support from such San Diego companies as Qualcomm, which needs new markets for its computer chips, and Northrop Grumman, which develops unmanned aerial vehicles.

“Our plan is to do the research and development that’s needed to realize robots of the future — robots that are safe, useful and autonomous in any environment,” said Albert Pisano, dean of UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering.  Cont'd...

Six-axis robotic arm called Eva, which weighs 2.3 kilograms and will cost $3,000

Suryansh Chandra claims the affordable robotic arm his company Automata is developing could lead to robots becoming as ubiquitous as desktop 3D printers.
"Today, every design studio has a 3D printer," Chandra says. "Soon, we hope to get to the point where every design studio has a robotic arm."

Chandra founded Automata together with Mostafa Elsayed five months ago, after they became frustrated by the expense and complexity of industrial robots while working at the research division at Zaha Hadid Architects.

"If you're out to get a robot today, you'd have to spend 50 or 60 thousand dollars," Chandra explains. "Our goal is to democratise robotics through a low cost hardware platform and easy to use software."

Automata's first product is a plastic six-axis robotic arm called Eva, which weighs 2.3 kilograms and will cost $3,000 (£2,000).

"Unlike industrial robots that are heavy and expensive, Eva is low cost and lightweight," Chandra says. "She can pick up 750 grams when fully outstretched and about a kilogram in a more recessed position."  Cont'd...

Rob Scharff's Soft Robotics 3D-printed hand responds to human grip

Dutch Design Week 2015: Delft University of Technology graduate Rob Scharff has created a soft robotic limb that can shake hands with people.

The hand was created as part of Scharff's Soft Robotics research project – which focuses on the ways robots can be integrated with more tactile materials, and so improve robot-human interactions.  Cont'd...

Robot Can Pick and Sort Fruit

A robotics breakthrough by product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants is set to boost productivity across the food chain – from the field to the warehouse. It paves the way for robots to take on complex picking and sorting tasks involving irregular organic items – sorting fruit and vegetables, for example, or locating and removing specific weeds among crops in a field.

“Traditional robots struggle when it comes to adapting to deal with uncertainty,” said Chris Roberts, head of industrial robotics at Cambridge Consultants. “Our innovative blend of existing technologies and novel signal processing techniques has resulted in a radical new system design that is poised to disrupt the industry.”

 

Robots Learning Judo Techniques to Fall Down Without Exploding

By Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum:  The best and worst part of the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals waswatching all of those huge expensive humanoids topple over in a series of epic faceplants. Faceplants are called faceplants because you’re planting your face into the ground as a means of breaking your fall, which usually also breaks your face, among other things. This tends to happen when you’re unprepared for falling, which with most robots, is 100 percent of the time. Now researchers at Georgia Tech want to teach humanoid robots to fall more safely with techniques adapted from judo, which might protect them enough to actually be able to get up again.

Falling safely (or, as safely as you can), assuming that you have very little control over the nature of your fall, is all about controlling exactly when and how your body crashes down. During a fall, your body is busy converting potential energy to kinetic energy, all of which has to go somewhere when you hit the ground. If your face hits the ground first, then that’s where all the energy goes at once, but if you can manage to contact the ground with a bunch of different parts of your body at different times on the way down, the energy will be spread out. Ideally, the energy gets spread out to the point where each individual impact doesn’t do enough damage to hurt you in a permanent sort of way.  Cont'd...

Cisco Teams Up with Robotics Firm Fanuc for IoT

by Zacks Equity Research:  Technology giant and Dow component Cisco Systems, Inc. recently entered into a strategic alliance with a robotics company Fanuc America, thereby stepping up its efforts to make itself a key player in the Internet of Things (IoT) space. 

Per the alliance, Fanuc and Cisco have built an IoT system that enables Fanuc to monitor every robot on the factory floor. This way it can be determined whether a robot is likely to fail, so that a service technician can fix the equipment before it stops working.

This could save companies hundreds of dollars of fixing cost. Per Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, downtime for these robots can cost a business $16,000 per minute. Therefore, the new system that offers predictive maintenance can be a big thing for some operations.

The companies are currently testing the system in a channel that comprises around 1,800 robots and includes Fanuc customer, GM. In this testing period, Fanuc says its customer has saved $38 million. Fanus has plans to expand the system to 2,500 robots by the end of the year. Cont'd...

Google robotics to become a separate entity under Alphabet?

By tech2 News Staff:  Earlier this year, Google had released an interesting video of Spot, a 160-pound dog robot navigating an office and then heading outside on its own. It is a smaller version of the Big Dog that first popped its head when Google acquired Boston Company. As the new changes come into effect, Boston Company is now Alphabet-owned and not a part of Google.

It will continue to build robots, and falls under Google X Projects (for now), a subsidiary of Alphabet. The other subsidiaries include Google, Nest Labs, Google X, Calico, Google Ventures, Google Capital and Google Life Sciences.

A new report says that the “company will create a separate division for robotics within the renamed umbrella entity Alphabet”, citing a person related to the matter. Google has acquired roughly eight companies related to robotics including military grade robotics company Boston Dynamics. It will likely allow Boston Dynamics to operate with some independence.  Cont'd...

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...

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...

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:

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:

Humanoid robot negotiates outdoor, rough terrain with ease

Boston Dynamics have developed the "Atlas" robot a highly mobility, humanoid robot designed to negotiate outdoor, rough terrain.  Here is a video showing "Atlas" courtesy euronews.

Gecko-inspired technology for 'climbing' space robots

MIT researchers have designed a human-machine interface that allows an exoskeleton-wearing human operator to control the movements and balance of a bipedal robot.

The technology could allow robots to be deployed to a disaster site, where the robot would explore the area, guided by a human operator from a remote location.

"We'd eventually have someone wearing a full-body suit and goggles, so he can feel and see everything the robot does, and vice versa," said PhD student Joao Ramos of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Mechanical Engineering.

"We plan to have the robot walk as a quadruped, then stand up on two feet to do difficult manipulation tasks such as open a door or clear an obstacle," Ramos said.  Cont'd...

Carnegie Mellon, GE Ventures bringing robotics accelerator program to Pittsburgh

By Deborah M. Todd / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:  A new accelerator program and a $20 million venture fund started by Carnegie Mellon University and GE Ventures could brand Pittsburgh as the official home of the globe’s growing robotics industry.

CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center and GE Ventures, the investment arm of Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric, have teamed up to create The Robotics Hub, an early-stage startup accelerator program designed to draw the nation’s best advanced robotics firms to Pittsburgh and to keep those started here firmly in place.

The for-profit Robotics Hub will provide funding through newly created Coal Hill Ventures and access to equipment at CMU and the NREC to chosen companies by 2016, in addition to putting their creations on a fast track toward commercialization.

“The strategy that’s most important to GE is to really get behind startups and help them scale. A lot of companies can come with the money, but what we bring is the ability to scale and the opportunity to commercialize quite quickly, said Alex Tepper, GE Ventures managing director.  Cont'd...

Robotics firm GreyOrange raises $30 million, to expand overseas

GreyOrange, a robotics firm that is in the business of automating warehouses, has raised $30 million (Rs 191.6 crore) in a round led by Tiger Global Management, with participation from existing investors Blume Ventures.
The funding, which the company says is one of the largest for robotics company globally, will be used to invest in developing new products, expand internationally into Asia Pacific, Middle East and Europe. The company says it has a 90% market share of India's warehouse automation market and it powers over 180,000 square feet of warehouse.
"We are doubling our team size globally as we steer the company and our products beyond India and into international markets," said co-founder and CEO Samay Kohli, who founded the company with Akash Gupta in 2011.
The company has two products: The Sorter and the Butler. The former is a high-speed system that consolidates orders and routes parcels. By Diwali, the company will have installed sortation capacity of 3 million parcels per day.
The second product, the Butler, is an order-picking system that is tailored for high-volume, high-mix orders characteristic of e-commerce and omni-channel logistics fulfilment.  Cont'd..
 

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