ROSCon 2012

ROSCon 2012 , the first ROS developer's conference is a weekend conference which will comprise of tech talks and tutorials that will introduce you to new ROS tools and libraries. The event takes place in St. Paul, Minnesota May 19-20, right after the 2012 IEEE international Conference on Robotics and Automation.

Xtion Pro Live

The Xtion Pro Live by ASUS is similar to Microsoft's Kinect hardware. The hardware includes a depth sensor, RGB camera and set of microphones. The device is aimed at development and is powered through the USB 2 connection rather than requiring an addition power connection like the Kinect. Its also slightly smaller than the Kinect.  I Heart Robotics has received one and they have additional information here . Currently its only available for purchase directly from ASUS and is currently on backorder.

Boston Dynamics' Bipedal Robot

PETMAN is an anthropomorphic robot for testing chemical protection clothing. Unlike previous suit testers, which had to be supported mechanically and had a limited repertoire of motion, PETMAN will balance itself and move freely; walking, crawling and doing a variety of suit-stressing calisthenics during exposure to chemical warfare agents.  

Objet260 Connex At WIRED 2011

Objet Ltd. with be demonstrating their newest 3D Printer at Wired Magazine's inaugural conference in London. The Objet260 Connex is able to use 60 different materials and it can simultaneously build 14 different materials into a single model part with a 16-micron print layer accuracy.

World's First Spherical Flying Machine

DigInfo.tv, a Tokyo-based website recently posted a video from a presentation by the Japan’s Ministry of Defense. The flying orb weighs 350 g, is 42 cm in diameter, and is made of commercially available parts costing a total of around US$1,400. The video below is from the public unveiling:

Odos Imaging 2+3D Sensor

Odos imaging's 1.3 mega­pixel 2+3D camera can capture accurate 3D images at 100 frames per second; allowing the system to capture very fast moving objects without degradation even in the brightest sunlight. Combining proprietary technology with conventional 2D image capture, an Odos imaging solution provides unambiguous 3D images at video rates from a single unit. Very short, intense pulses of invisible light are used to illuminate the scene. The high intensity of the pulse minimizes the effect of ambient light and allows for outdoor operation. These pulses are reflected by objects within the scene and are detected by the image sensor. Proprietary algorithms convert the detected pulses into a distance measurement. Simultaneously, a conventional 2D image of the scene is captured. Each pixel on the sensor provides both distance and intensity information. 

How Google's Self-Driving Car Works

IEEE Spectrum has an article explaining how Google's new  autonom ous vehicles project works. The article is based on a recent presentation that  Sebastian Thrun and Chris Urmson gave at keynote speech at the  IEEE In ternational Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems . The article can be found here .

IROS 2011 Montage

The IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems took place a few weeks ago in San Francisco. Willow Garage put together a nice montage video of some of the robots on display. Enjoy.  

A Robot Playing Jenga

Torsten Kröger of Standford programmed a robot arm to play the block stacking game Jenga in order to demonstrate the potential of multi-sensor integration in industrial manipulation. The record height the robot was able to achieve was 28 stages, that is, ten additional stages consisting of 29 blocks that were put onto the top of the original tower.  

UCSD's Switchblade Robot

Introducing Coordinated Robotics Lab of University of California San Diego's Switchblade robot . The treads provide traction over a variety of terrain, but Switchblade has some another trick up its sleeve, each tread assembly can pivot relative to the central chassis. We can use this ability to change the center of mass and climb over obstacles. Using internal sensors, we can also balance on the end of the treads and stand upright. Video from the onboard camera is streamed to a remote computer for teleoperation. The control system is robust to external disturbances and the robot will return to its original position if knocked out of the way.

Autom Available For Pre-Order

Dr. Cory Kidd's Autom is a robotic personal weight loss coach. A person records their daily diet and exercise routine on the robot's touch screen and Autom gives them vocal encouragement and feedback. Below is the promotional video and more information here.  

Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 4 Beta Available For Download

  Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 4 Beta is a freely available .NET-based programming environment for building robotics applications. It can be used by both professional and non-professional developers as well as hobbyists. Microsoft also released a  Reference Platform Design specification . Based on the reference platform Parallax.com is manufacturing a unit called Eddie which they will be shipping in October but is available for pre-order now here.

Giving Artificial Hands a Sense of Touch

One of the biggest challenges in prosthetic hand development is designing a method that would let prosthetic hands transmit haptic information — the sense of touch — to patients. Machine Design magazine has an article about Kinea Design's new approach that provides wearers with more sensory information, including contact pressure, friction, texture, and temperature. The full article can be read here.

Improvements To 3D Navigation Using Octomap And ROS

Armin Hornung made major improvements to the  OctoMap  3D mapping library. Scan insertions are now twice as fast as before for real-time map updates and tree traversals are now possible in a flexible and efficient manner using iterators. The new  ROS interface  provides conversions from most common ROS datatypes, and  Octomap server  was updated for incremental 3D mapping. Armin also worked on creating a dynamically updatable collision map for tabletop manipulation. The collider package uses OctoMap to provide map updates from laser and dense stereo sensors at a rate of about 10Hz. The complete summary is available here.

Using The Kinect As A 3D Scanner

“3D Scan 2.0″ is a project at Bergakademie Freiberg University that uses the Microsoft Kinect and a set of AR markers as a 3d scanner. Using the AR markers for positioning guides you move the Kinect camera around the object collecting point clouds that are then assembled into a solid mesh using Poisson Surface Reconstruction. Further information along with the source code is available at the project homepage.

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