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)  

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 One Opening Remarks ( 10mins )  [youtube] Day One Keynote: ROS: Past, present, and future ( 66mins )  [part 1]   [part 2] URDF and You ( 44mins )  [youtube]   [slides] Motion Planning in ROS ( 44mins )  [youtube] Introduction to rosjava ( 39mins )  [youtube]   [slides] The Gazebo Simulator as a Development Tool in ROS ( 46mins )  [youtube]   [slides] Using ROS on Field Robotic Experiments in Remote Locations ( 20mins )  [youtube] ROS for Humanoid Robots ( 23mins )  [youtube]   [slides] “Moe” The Autonomous Lawnmower ( 18mins )  [youtube]   [slides] Lightning Talks ( 46mins )  [youtube]   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.

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