Tech firms keep expanding 'Robotics Row,' Pittsburgh's mini Silicon Valley

Aaron Aupperlee for TribLive:  Advancements in robotics, autonomous manufacturing, self-driving cars and more are taking place in the former warehouses, factories and foundries of Pittsburgh's Strip District and Lawrenceville neighborhoods.

Argo AI, an self-driving car startup partnering with Ford, became the latest to join Robotics Row, a string of technology companies setting up shop along the Allegheny River.

The company announced Thursday it would base its headquarters in the Strip District.

"We see the Strip District as a mini Silicon Valley," Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky told the Tribune-Review. "In my mind, that is the future of the tech hub in Pittsburgh."

At least 20 companies and organizations working on robotics and autonomous technologies call the three-mile stretch of riverfront home. Cont'd...

ST Robotics Offers New Super-Fast Robot Arm

The ST R17HS uses state-of-the-art brushless servomotors and boasts an effective reach of 750mm, a repeatability of 0.2 mm and a maximum speed after acceleration of 480 deg/sec in the robot's waist, elbow, hand and wrist, with a shoulder speed of 300 deg/sec. 
"The R17HS is the result of years of development that puts us ahead of the field," said David Sands, President and CEO of ST Robotics. "Customers are finding it useful for high throughput production as well as testing applications requiring fast motion of test devices."   Full Press Release:

How a College Kid Made His Honda Civic Self-Driving for $700

Tom Simonite for MIT Technology Review:  Brevan Jorgenson’s grandma kept her cool when he took her for a nighttime spin in the Honda Civic he’s modified to drive itself on the highway. A homemade device in place of the rear-view mirror can control the brakes, accelerator, and steering, and it uses a camera to identify road markings and other cars.

“She wasn’t really flabbergasted—I think because she’s seen so much from technology by now,” says Jorgenson, a senior at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Others are more wary of the system, which he built using plans and software downloaded from the Internet, plus about $700 in parts. Jorgenson says the fact that he closely supervises his homebrew autopilot hasn’t convinced his girlfriend to trust the gadget’s driving. “She’s worried it’s going to crash the car,” he says.  Cont'd...

NXT Robotics Unveils Rugged All-Terrain, All-Weather Outdoor Security Robot

SAN DIEGO, CA--(Marketwired - February 21, 2017) - Mobile robotics are playing an increasingly important role in the security of our borders, military facilities, and even power plants. To meet this growing demand, San Diego-based NXT Robotics has developed Scorpion, a rugged all-terrain and all-weather outdoor security robot designed to provide organizations with round-the- clock physical security monitoring and reporting capabilities.

NXT Robotics, known for its advanced mobile security patrol platform, will debut Scorpion at West 2017 at the San Diego Convention Center, Feb. 21-23 (Booth 1208). Scorpion is an autonomous security patrol that lowers costs while maximizing physical security surveillance capabilities. Scorpion is designed for places such as military facilities, power plants, borders, parking structures, farms and ranches, and seaports.

Scorpion's rugged outdoor design, multi-camera use, video capture and rich sensor payload helps secure assets and ensure public safety while navigating challenging environments. Cont'd...

Rise of Robots: Boon for Companies, Tax Headache for Lawmakers

Linda A. Thompson for Bloomberg News Agency:  European lawmakers are grappling for answers to a question that until recently seemed like the stuff of science fiction: If robots take our jobs, who will pay taxes?

In an age of unprecedented technological change occurring at a faster rate than the Industrial Revolution, concerns over the growing robotization and automation of work have prompted fears about mass unemployment and plummeting tax revenue in the near future, pitting companies and robotics manufacturers against lawmakers and worker advocates.

The issue is taking on new urgency ahead of a Feb. 16 vote before the EU Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee on whether to create a robotics agency to deliberate on tax and liability issues.  Cont'd...

Six-legged robots faster than nature-inspired gait

Science Daily:  When vertebrates run, their legs exhibit minimal contact with the ground. But insects are different. These six-legged creatures run fastest using a three-legged, or "tripod" gait where they have three legs on the ground at all times -- two on one side of their body and one on the other. The tripod gait has long inspired engineers who design six-legged robots, but is it necessarily the fastest and most efficient way for bio-inspired robots to move on the ground?

Researchers at EPFL and UNIL revealed that there is in fact a faster way for robots to locomote on flat ground, provided they don't have the adhesive pads used by insects to climb walls and ceilings. This suggests designers of insect-inspired robots should make a break with the tripod-gait paradigm and instead consider other possibilities including a new locomotor strategy denoted as the "bipod" gait. The researchers' findings are published in Nature Communications.  Cont'd...

EU wants ethical standards for robotics

Members of the European Parliament on Thursday urged the European Commission to propose rules on robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) with a view to fully exploiting their economic potential and guaranteeing a standard level of safety and security.

Parliamentarians noted that regulatory standards for the use of robots were currently being planned in several nations. They argued that the EU needed to take the lead on setting such standards so as not to be forced to follow those set by third countries.

They also emphasized that draft legislation was urgently required to clarify liability issues, especially for the use of self-driving cars. MEPs suggested a mandatory insurance scheme and a supplementary fund "to ensure that victims of accidents involving driverless cars are fully compensated."  Cont'd...

Exhibition Charts 500 Years of Evolution of Robots

Lynne ODonnell for Sci-Tech Today:  Inspired by his belief that human beings are essentially terrified of robots, Ben Russell set about charting the evolution of automatons for an exhibition he hopes will force people to think about how androids and other robotic forms can enhance their lives.

Robots, says Russell, have been with us for centuries -- as "Robots," his exhibit opening Wednesday at London's Science Museum, shows.

From a 15th century Spanish clockwork monk who kisses his rosary and beats his breast in contrition, to a Japanese "childoid" newsreader, created in 2014 with lifelike facial expressions, the exhibition tracks the development of robotics and mankind's obsession with replicating itself.  Cont'd...

What went seriously wrong with Lily Robotics

Kayla Matthews for VentureBeat:  Lying in general is a bad idea, but lying to your would-be customers is an especially awful thing to do. That’s the lesson allegedly being learned by Lily Robotics, which, at the end of January, was raided by San Francisco police as part of a potential criminal investigation.

Let’s back up. Why is the SFPD raiding the headquarters of a robotics company? It’s been a long, strange road, but let’s go back to the beginning.

In 2016, Lily Robotics took more than 60,000 preorders for an upcoming product — preorders valued at more than $34 million. Naturally, these customers expected the product to be delivered within the specified time frame and to work as depicted in the company’s promotional videos.  Cont'd...

Ford invests $1B in robotics startup in driverless car quest

Ford Motor Company announces it is investing $1 billion during the next five years in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company, to develop a virtual driver system for the automaker's autonomous vehicle coming in 2021 - and for potential license to other companies. 

Founded by former Google and Uber leaders, Argo AI is bringing together some of the most experienced roboticists and engineers working in autonomy from inside and outside of Ford. The team of experts in robotics and artificial intelligence is led by Argo AI founders Bryan Salesky, company CEO, and Peter Rander, company COO. Both are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and former leaders on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively. 
"The next decade will be defined by the automation of the automobile, and autonomous vehicles will have as significant an impact on society as Ford's moving assembly line did 100 years ago," said Ford President and CEO Mark Fields.  Full Press Release:

Trump's freeze on new regulation means that we won't get drone delivery anytime soon

April Glaser for RECODE:  When President Trump signed an executive order last week requiring two federal regulations to be rescinded for every new one passed, he simultaneously put the brakes on the future of drone delivery in the United States.

While many industries see the prospect of less regulation as positive, the nascent drone industry actually needs regulations in order to grow.

The reason drones need regulations is that in 2014, the National Transportation Safety Board classified drones as aircraft, which means drones need to abide by FAA regulations in order to fly. The problem is that many drone regulations don’t yet exist, and the FAA will have a hard time killing existing rules to make room for new ones.

“If regulations for unmanned aircraft are held up or are stripped away, there’s actually no way for drones to access the airspace,” said Gregory McNeal, co-founder of Airmap, a drone mapping company.  Cont'd...

Raspberry Pi-powered arm: This kit aims to make robotics simple enough for kids

Nick Heath for TechRepublic:  Think it's tricky to build and program a robot arm? Think again.

Powered by the Raspberry Pi, the MeArm Pi is a robot arm designed to be simple enough that kids aged 11+ can build and program it.

The lightweight plastic arm, which can pick up small objects such as Lego bricks, comes as a kit that keeps the number of screws to a minimum and is relatively straightforward to assemble using the included hex keys. It can be controlled via the Pi, either using joysticks attached to the included Pi HAT add-on board or by programming it from the Pi.  Cont'd...

Rethink Robotics Releases Intera 5: A New Approach to Automation

Rethink Robotics announced Intera® 5, a first-of-its-kind software platform that connects everything from a single robot controller, extending the smart, flexible power of Rethink Robotics' Sawyer™ to the entire work cell and simplifying automation with unparalleled ease of deployment. 
Built on the backbone of the industry's best train-by-demonstration software that powers the world's fastest-to-deploy robots, Intera 5 is paving the way for connected manufacturing environments and helping companies build factories of the future. Intera 5 fundamentally changes the need for integration, making it substantially easier and more affordable, allowing manufacturers to deploy full work cell automation in a matter of hours, not weeks. 
Intera 5 is much more than the latest version of Rethink Robotics' software; it's a new way to approach automation that allows manufacturers to control the robots, orchestrate the work cell and collect data.   Full Press Release:

Inside Amazon's robot-run supermarket that needs just 3 human workers

Josh Kosman for NY Post:  If you’re a robot stealing somebody’s job, it’s best to stay hidden.

That’s what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos appears to be thinking, as his Seattle-based web giant has contemplated a two-story, automated grocery store in which a staff of robots on the floor upstairs grabs and bags items for shoppers below.

The ground level of the futuristic prototype — a supermarket-sized version of its recently unveiled “Amazon Go” convenience store, with a bigger layout that could span anywhere between 10,000 and 40,000 square feet — would be devoted to goods that shoppers typically like to touch, sources briefed on the plans told The Post.  Cont'd...

Robotics-focused ETFs see big gains, Trump could hasten trend

Ryan Vlastelica for MarketWatch:  If robots are taking jobs, should you invest in the robot makers?

That’s the argument behind a pair of outperforming exchange-traded funds that track the robotics industry, which could continue seeing strong growth as more positions get automated by machines or algorithms.

In a Jan. 23 note, UBS named automation and robotics as one of the two areas of technological innovation that would drive productivity over the coming decade, along with the digital data industry.

“Both have the potential to profoundly transform the structure of our economy, disrupt existing business models, but also create substantial growth opportunities for those well-positioned to participate,” the firm wrote, singling out the ROBO Global Robotics & Automation Index ETF ROBO, +0.59%  as a fund that would benefit from this trend, with the investment time horizon of a decade.  Cont'd...

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