5 things to know about the DARPA Robotics Competition

From Lyndsey Gilpin  for TechRepublic:  The DARPA Finals will be held in Pomona, California from June 5-6, and the robots that come out of it could make some big impacts (or take over the world). Here's a summary of what you should know.  1. It began with the desire to improve humanitarian assistance and disaster relief The Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011 was an inspiration for the competition, according to Dr. Gill Pratt, the DRC program manager. The team realized we never know what the next disaster will be, but we need technology to help us better address these types of disasters with better tools and techniques. And robots have massive potential.   "The particular part that we've chosen to focus on, here, is technology for responding during the emergency part of the disaster during the first day or two," Pratt said in a media briefing several weeks before the competition. "So this is not about, for instance, robotics for doing the restoration of the environment many, many weeks, years after the disaster, but rather the emergency response at the beginning."   Cont'd..  

Unmanned Systems Markets: Present & Future

Overall, the reports that I surveyed were upbeat, predicting exponential growth for all unmanned vehicles.

MIT Cheetah Robot Lands the Running Jump

In a leap for robotic development, the MIT researchers who built a robotic cheetah have now trained it to see and jump over hurdles as it runs - making this the first four-legged robot to run and jump over obstacles autonomously...

Amazon Picking Challenge aimed at improving warehouse robotics

By David Szondy for Gizmag:  One of the biggest events at the recent 2015 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Seattle was the first Amazon Picking Challenge, in which 31 teams from around the world competed for US$26,000 in prizes. The challenge set entrants with the real-world task of building a robot that can do the same job as an Amazon stock picker.According to Amazon Chief Technology Officer Peter Wurman, who initiated the challenge, the task of picking items off the shelf may seem simple, but it involves all domains of robotics. The robot has to capable of object and pose recognition. It must be able to plan its grasps, adjust manipulations, plan how to move, and be able to execute tasks while noticing and correcting any errors. This might suggest that the robots would need to be of a new, specialized design, but for the Picking Challenge, Amazon made no such requirement. According to one participant we talked to, the more important factors were sensors and computer modelling, so ICRA 2015 saw all sorts of robots competing, such as the general purpose Baxter and PR2, industrial arms of various sizes, and even special-built frames that move up, down, left or right to position the arm. Even the manipulators used by the various teams ranged from hooks, to hand-like graspers, and vacuum pickups.   Continue reading for competition results:

Qualcomm Announces 10 Companies Selected to Participate in the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, Powered by Techstars

Qualcomm is Jumpstarting the Next Wave of Innovation in Robotics with its Accelerator program

Interview with Mark G. Knebusch of Softing: Mainstreaming The Internet of Things

The idea of many connected devices helping better control the factory floor is not new. IoT in one sense is merely a shift to internet addressable devices versus those either addressed by proprietary means or just "dumb".

CLEARPATH ROBOTICS ANNOUNCES MOBILITY SOLUTION FOR RETHINK ROBOTICS' BAXTER ROBOT

Clearpath Robotics announced the newest member of its robot fleet: an omnidirectional development platform called Ridgeback. The mobile robot is designed to carry heavy payloads and easily integrate with a variety of manipulators and sensors. Ridgeback was unveiled as a mobile base for Rethink Robotics' Baxter research platform at ICRA 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  "Many of our customers have approached us looking for a way to use Baxter for mobile manipulation research - these customers inspired the concept of Ridgeback. The platform is designed so that Baxter can plug into Ridgeback and go," said Julian Ware, General Manager for Research Products at Clearpath Robotics. "Ridgeback includes all the ROS, visualization and simulation support needed to start doing interesting research right out of the box."  Ridgeback's rugged drivetrain and chassis is designed to move manipulators and other heavy payloads with ease. Omnidirectional wheels provide precision control for forward, lateral or twisting movements in constrained environments. Following suit of other Clearpath robots, Ridgeback is ROS-ready and designed for rapid integration of sensors and payloads; specific consideration has been made for the integration of the Baxter research platform.

April Equity Deals, Acquisitions and Chinese Funds

Money is flowing to robotics-related startup companies. Q1 saw 19 equity deals totaling $317 million, and 3 acquisitions of undetermined amounts, but money also flowed in April.

Titan Robotics announces new high-quality large-scale 3D printer called The Atlas

Founded by mechanical engineer Clay Guillory, who calls himself “a mechanical engineer by day, and a mechanical engineer by night,” Titan Robotics focuses on doing one thing and one thing very well: designing large 3D printers that are designed to last a lifetime.  Among other applications that Clay has used his 3D printing know-how towards include prosthetic hands - which started as a request from a mother whose 8-year old boy was in need of a low-cost solution. Titan Robotics’ Atlas 3D printer was named after the famous Greek god who was known for fighting alongside the Titans and then later charged to bear the weight of the heavens on his shoulders.  According to Clay, “the strength of this Greek god is an accurate depiction of the strength and size of this new 3D printer”.   With over a year in development including real-world testing in various manufacturing facilities, the Atlas has proven to be a highly-accurate 3D printer that is capable of printing large prototypes reliably over time.  According to the company, one beta user documented printing an extremely large accurate and functioning prototype with a total recorded print time of just over 200 hours.    

Paralyzed man can now use his mind to shake hands, drink beer using robotic arm

A man paralyzed by gunshot more than a decade ago can shake hands, drink beer and play "rock, paper, scissors" by controlling a robotic arm with his thoughts, researchers reported.   Two years ago, doctors in California implanted a pair of tiny chips into the brain of Erik Sorto that decoded his thoughts to move the free-standing robotic arm. The 34-year-old has been working with researchers and occupational therapists to practice and fine-tune his movements.   It's the latest attempt at creating mind-controlled prosthetics to help disabled people gain more independence. In the last decade, several people outfitted with brain implants have used their minds to control a computer cursor or steer prosthetic limbs.   Full Article:

Simulating Clearpath Robots In Maplesim

If your robotics research depends on accurate models, you may want to consider looking at MapleSim® 2015 - a high performance physical modeling and simulation tool developed by Maplesoft™.

DARPA Fast Track Program Invites Non-Traditional Roboticists to Help Bolster National Security

Robotics Fast Track foresees cost-effective development of new capabilities by engaging cutting-edge groups and individuals who traditionally have not worked with the federal government

ABB's Acquisition of Gomtec Expands Collaborative Robotics Portfolio

ABB, a leading power and automation group, announced it acquired Gomtec GmbH to expand its offering in the field of collaborative robots. The parties agreed not to disclose financial terms of the transaction. Gomtec, based near Munich, Germany, is a privately held company that develops mechatronic systems combining mechanical, electrical, telecommunications, control and computer engineering for customers in diverse industries. It has 25 employees. Gomtec's technology platform will strengthen ABB's development of a new generation of "safe-by-design" collaborative robots that can be operated outside of cages or protective fencing, expanding opportunities to deploy them in new applications.

How Will 3D Printing Revolutionize Medicine?

3-D printing could really change medical research. Important questions can be answered, saving both time and money, as 3-D-printed models give surgeons new perspectives and opportunities to practice, and patients and their families a deeper understanding of complex procedures.

A Rosy View of Smart Buildings

Smart buildings are often moving the wrong way, with more central "cloud-based" decision making, and less autonomy.

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