Tim Boreham for The Australian: According to Fastbrick Robotics chief Mike Pivac, the art of bricklaying hasn’t changed much in the past 5000 years. For brickies’ labourers in particular, it remains an unsafe and back-breaking game of messy mortar-mixing and lugging hods at height or over uneven surfaces.
Backed with seed funding from the publicly listed Brickworks, Mr Pivac and his cousin Mark have devised a robotic bricklaying machine to eliminate the drudge work. About the size of a garbage truck, the prototype Hadrian 105 unit can erect an average house in one to two days, within an accuracy of half a millimetre. That’s far more accurate than the brickies’ time-honoured string and spirit level method.
Led by Cygnet Capital, the Pivacs have been on an investor roadshow ahead of a $3 million raising and reverse IPO, via the shell of former winery owner DMY Capital. Interest has been enormous, with inquiries from as far afield as Saudi Arabia and Russia. “We had 500,000 hits on our website in just over five days,’’ Mr Pivac says. “We have had interest from 35 countries, including some outstanding big organisations.’’ Cygnet Capital director of corporate finance Darien Jagger says no other IPO has attracted as much interest. “We have fielded thousands of emails from all sorts of parties.’’ The Hadrian unit has already demonstrated end-to-end construction, without the need for human intervention.
The innovation lies not with the robotic arms, but the laser-guided system that allows the bricks to be placed accurately. “If you put this machine on a rocking boat it would lay a house on the shore correctly to an inch or two,’’ Mr Pivac said. Cont'd...
By AINSLEY O'CONNELL for FastCompany: When hobbyist drone pilot Michael Kolowich ordered his Cinestar-8 octocopter in 2013, he traveled from Boston to Montana, where it had been assembled, to pick it up. "I went up there for four days of training in how to fly it safely, how to get great shots with it, the ins and outs of the platform," he says. "It really did take that much training to get the most out of it."
How the world has changed in just two years. "Almost every serious video drone then was somewhat custom-built," he says. Now, for a fraction of what Kolowich paid, aspiring drone pilots can pick up a "serious" drone at their local Best Buy. The drone community, circa 2015, is at an inflection point, with DIY tinkering giving way to mass-market distribution.
"A year or two ago it was far more custom builds. Now you see it standardizing quite a bit," says Dan Burton, CEO and cofounder of Dronebase, an online platform for booking commercial drone services. Burton was first introduced to drones while serving in the Marines; after returning to the U.S. and attending business school, he began helping commercial drone pilots manage their financials. Dronebase, which effectively allows pilots to outsource their sales and operations, is a natural extension of that hands-on experience.
Burton describes the drone community as comprised of "very passionate hobbyists." But increasingly, the community’s creative, maker mindset is directed toward the cinematics of operating the drone camera, rather than toward the construction of the flying robot itself. Cont'd...
Toyota is accelerating development of a robot that can perform tasks in the home to help elderly and disabled people lead independent lives.
The Human Support Robot (HSR) is its response to the rising demand for long-term elderly care. The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2050, 22 per cent of the world’s population will be over 60 years old.
The HSR is compact and highly manoeuvrable, with a lightweight, cylindrical body and a folding arm. It can pick up objects off the floor, reach things down from shelves and perform a variety of other tasks.
Toyota is teaming up with a number of research bodies to set up the HSR Developers’ Community, making a combined effort to hasten development and early practical adoption of the HSR.
Artificial intelligence is not yet a substitute for human care, but the HSR will be able to be operated remotely by family and friends, with the operator’s face and voice being relayed in real-time. This will allow for genuine human interaction as the HSR goes about its work. Cont'd...
Companies are making human-like robots and they think they've stumbled on the biggest thing since the iPhone
Cadie Thompson for Business Insider: Downloading apps on your own personal robot may become as common as downloading apps on your smartphone.
Robot makers Jibo and Blue Frog Robotics are creating social robots that are aimed at living with humans and in order to entice consumers they are selling them for about the same cost as an iPhone.
Jibo’s robot called Jibo is priced at about $749 for pre-order and Blue Frog Robotics’ robot called Buddy is priced at $549.
But these companies are also promising consumers that these little live-in robots are going to become the biggest platform since Apple’s iPhone, capable of performing all kinds of functions via apps.
“It’s like the iPhone, if we want to reach the mainstream and have success we need many very interesting apps,” said Frack de Visme, the chief financial officer of Blue Frog Robotics.
“We are going to have an open system so many developers can develop and create amazing apps so that it become mainstream.” Cont'd...
The English-speaking receptionist is a vicious-looking dinosaur, and the one speaking Japanese is a female humanoid with blinking lashes.
“If you want to check in, push one,” the dinosaur says. The visitor still has to punch a button on the desk and type in information on a touch panel screen.
From the front desk to the porter that is an automated trolley taking luggage to the room, this hotel in south-western Japan, aptly called Weird Hotel, is “manned” almost totally by robots to save labour costs.
Hideo Sawada, who runs the hotel as part of an amusement park, insists using robots is not a gimmick but a serious effort to use technology and achieve efficiency. Cont'd...
BY BRIAN KRASSENSTEIN for 3DPrint.com: There are several ways one can diversify their holdings within any market. An investor could simply research which firms are out there within a particular industry, like the 3D printing industry, and invest small amounts into each by purchasing shares. The easiest way, however, would be to find a fund that’s going to do all the work for you, managed by someone who likely has more experience in the market than you do. There is currently only one main fund which concentrates their efforts primarily on the 3D printing space, the 3D Printing and Technology Fund (TDPNX), managed by CEO Alan M. Meckler, and his son John M. Meckler.
While the fund is currently down approximately 13% YTD, it has outperformed the two largest pure play 3D printing stocks, 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) and Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS), significantly. 3D Systems is down over 44% on the year, and Stratasys down a staggering 58.5%.
Today the fund is making a major change, one that the Mecklers feel should increase opportunity for investors. Up until this point, the fund allocated at least 80% of their capital to what they defined as ‘3D printing companies’ and ‘technology companies’. Today this changed, along with the fund’s official name. The fund’s new name will now be ‘3D Printing, Robotics and Technology Fund,’ while going forward 80% of their capital will now be allocated to what they define as ‘3D printing companies,’ ‘robotics companies’ and ‘technology companies.’ Cont'd...
From Michael Porter at Clemson University:
Seahorse tails are organized into square prisms surrounded by bony plates that are connected by joints. Many other creatures, ranging from New World monkeys to rodents, have cylindrical tails.
Researchers wanted to know whether the square-prism shape gives seahorse tails a functional advantage.
To find out, the team created a 3D-printed model that mimicked the square prism of a seahorse tail and a hypothetical version that was cylindrical. Then researchers whacked the models with a rubber mallet and twisted and bent them.
Researchers found that the square prototype was stiffer, stronger and more resilient than the circular one when crushed. The square prototype was about half as able to twist, a restriction that could prevent damage to the seahorse and give it better control when it grabs things.
Both prototypes could bend about 90 degrees, although the cylindrical version was slightly less restricted... (cont'd)
by Patrick Davison, Director of Standards Development, Robotic Industries Association: Last week, an unfortunate fatality involving an industrial robot and a worker occurred at a Volkswagen plant in Baunatal, Germany. The Robotic Industries Association (RIA) and its member companies express its deepest sympathies to the victim’s family, friends, and colleagues.
According to news sources, the worker was part of a contracting crew responsible for setting up the robot, and was working inside the safeguarded space when the incident occurred. A second member of the contracting crew was standing outside of the safeguarded space and was not harmed.
The international media response to the incident was aggressive, swift, and expounded on topics that were not relevant to the incident. AWashington Post article referenced the dangers of Artificial Intelligence and posed the question, “Should the world kill killer robots before it’s too late?” In another story, a Financial Times journalist with a name similar to a popular character in The Terminator franchise started a social media frenzy with a tweet. A video from Ireland expounds on random tweets regarding the incident with backdrop footage of the Honda ASIMO robot and manual automotive operations. Also, according to this article on an automotive news and gossip site, a Times of India article posted a photo of a gun-wielding toy robot beside the story. Cont'd...
By TIMOTHY AEPPEL and MARK MAGNIER for WSJ.com - Having devoured many of the world’s factory jobs, China is now handing them over to robots.
China already ranks as the world’s largest market for robotic machines. Sales last year grew 54% from a year earlier, and the boom shows every sign of increasing. China is projected to have more installed industrial robots than any other country by next year, according to the International Federation of Robotics.
China’s emergence as an automation hub contradicts many assumptions about robots and the global economy.
Economists often view automation as a way for advanced economies to keep industries that might otherwise move offshore, or even to win them back through reshoring, since the focus is on ways to reduce costly labor. That motivation hasn’t gone away. But increasingly, robots are taking over work in developing countries, reducing the potential job creation associated with building new factories in the frontier markets of Asia, Africa or Latin America. Cont'd...
Manny Salvacion for YIBADA: Robotics education and its important application in engineering has reportedly taken off in China over the past years, as robots have become increasingly popular among people, the China Daily reported.
Liang Yujun, head of the science education department at Beijing Youth Center, said that there are nearly 300 primary and middle schools in Beijing offering robotics-related curricula and activities now.
Liang is in charge of robotics education in the capital and also the general referee of the national youth robotics activity. According to Liang, only about 20 schools had such curricula and activities in the early 2000s.
The report said that about 3,000 registrants from 160 schools and extracurricular teams participated in the 2014 Beijing Student Robotic Intelligence Competition.
"We have to hold the competition in one of the city's largest sports fields now, which can accommodate the increasing number of players," said Liu Yi, who is charge of running the competition at the Youth Center in Haidian District.
Liu said that the competition, which began in 2012, reflects the dramatic growth of robotics education in the country. Cont'd...
By Hitesh Raj Bhagat, ET Bureau: This cute little fella is the mBot — a do-it-yourself educational robot kit from robotics experts Makeblock. Built around the Arduino open-source platform, it's designed to induct kids into the fields of robotics and programming. The company chose to build around the concept of STEM education: science, technology, engineering & mathematics. Specifically, it helps children get an early start into these disciplines. There are two versions of the mBot: a Bluetooth version for home use 2.4Ghz WiFi version, which is designed for classroom use.
The company took to Kickstarter to generate funds for mBot and promised one unit for $49 (plus shipping). From a modest $20,000 goal, a staggering $285,463 was raised during the campaign. Now, you can buy a kit from Makeblock's website. Coming back to the mBot, everything that you need to build it is in the box — in a nutshell, you need to assemble it using the precise instructions provided and add batteries. There are 45 pieces and it's easy to put them together in about 15 minutes. It's neatly packaged and consists of very high quality materials — including some attractive anodised aluminium parts in your choice of pink or blue. Every little part that you need — from the main Arduino board, DC motors, to each screw, cable and even a set of tools — is in the box. It comes pre-programmed but it's also designed to be tinkered with. Parent of pre-teens might be familiar with Scratch — a free, graphicalbased programming language developed by MIT Media Lab. Well, Makeblock has built their own version for this and called it mBlock (it's based on Scratch 2.0 and free to download from their website). The idea behind mBlock is that younger children can start out with graphical programming and move on to text-based programming as they become more advanced. Cont'd...
As a hot wind shifted north and drove the flames toward Onyx Peak east of Big Bear Lake, fire crews deployed to save homes scattered among brittle-dry pines — waiting for help from a DC-10 laden with 10,800 gallons of retardant.
It never came. Shortly before 6 p.m. on Wednesday, an incident commander on the ground spotted a hobby drone buzzing near the drop site at 11,000 feet. The air tanker had to turn back, as did two smaller planes following it.
“These folks who are handling these drones, I have to assume they have no idea what they're doing,” Chon Bribiescas, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, said Thursday. “They not only endangered the folks on the ground, but they endanger the pilots.”
Officials fighting the Lake fire in the San Bernardino Mountains scrambled to warn the public that it is illegal and dangerous to fly drones in restricted airspace around a fire. Unmanned aircraft are particularly hazardous because authorities have no idea who is controlling them or how they might maneuver. Cont'd...
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has announced the launch of a new robotics network that aims to foster academic and industry collaboration.
The UK Robotics and Autonomous Systems Network (UK-RAS Network) will have a strong academic foundation, with a number of universities acting as founding members. According to the EPSRC, the network has already received strong support from major industrial partners, as well as from professional bodies such as Royal Academy of Engineering, IET, and The Institute of Mechanical Engineers.
Globally, the market for service and industrial robots is estimated to reach $59.5 billion by 2020. A primary aim of the network will be to bring the UK’s academic capabilities under national coordination, fuelling innovation in the robotics sector and taking advantage of the growth in the industry. Cont'd...
The initial batch of Pepper robots developed by Japanese mobile carrier SoftBank Corp and manufactured by Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group sold out in one minute on the first day it went on sale in Japan.
The 1,000 Pepper robots available for purchase in June sold out in 60 seconds when online orders started at 10 am on Saturday, according to a statement from SoftBank Robotics Corp, a robotics venture formed by SoftBank, Foxconn and Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba Group.
Orders are no longer being taken and additional sales of Pepper, which sells for 198,000 yen (US$1,625), are scheduled to be announced on SoftBank's website in July.
In addition to Pepper's emotion recognition functions, the robot generates emotions autonomously by processing information from its cameras, touch sensors, accelerometer and other sensors within its "endocrine-type multi-layer neural network," SoftBank said.
By Thomas Black for Bloomberg Business: Startup drone makers are finding record amounts of funding as venture capitalists prowl for early winners in what may become an $82 billion industry.
From Silicon Valley to New York, firms including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Lightspeed Venture Partners and ff Venture Capital are lining up behind unmanned aerial vehicle companies. Google Inc., General Electric Co. and Qualcomm Inc. also are jumping in with cash.
“Everybody wants to invest in drones because they’re seeing not only the potential but actual results right now,” said Jon Ollwerther, vice president of marketing and operations at drone builder AeroCine, which operates from a waterfront Brooklyn warehouse with a view of the Statue of Liberty. “We have said no to money.”
There’s more than ever to go around. Investors have pumped $210 million into businesses like SZ DJI Technology Co. and DroneDeploy so far in 2015, almost double the total for all of last year, according to data compiler CrunchBase. The pace has quickened as U.S. regulators grant more exemptions for limited commercial operations, reassuring financial backers that they’ll see a payoff from their support. Cont'd...
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