25 teams prepare for 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals

By David Szondy for Gizmag:  On June 5 and 6, the 2015 DARPA Robotic Challenge (DRC) Finals will take place at Fairplex in Pomona, California. Open to the public, it will see 25 international teams compete for US$3.5 million in prizes as part of an effort to develop robots for disaster relief. Here's what to expect. This year's challenge will see 25 teams competing. Half of the teams are from the United States, five are from Japan, three from Korea, two from Germany, one from Italy, one from Hong Kong, and one from the People’s Republic of China. They will be vying for a US$3.5 million total of prizes; including a $2 million first prize, a $1 million second prize, and a $500,000 third prize. The robots will be of a wide variety with some humanoid, some four-legged, and some tracked, but all will need to operate free of external power, mechanical support, and limited communications with their controllers. The basic idea behind DRC 2015 is to make things much harder for the robots than previously.

Stephen Hawking fears robots could take over in 100 years

By Sharon Gaudin for ComputerWorld:  Worried that one day we'll have robot overlords? You're in good company. Reknowned physicist, cosmologist and author of A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking said this week that robots, powered by artificial intelligence (A.I.), could overtake humans in the next 100 years. Speaking at the Zeitgeist conference in London, Hawking said: "Computers will overtake humans with AI at some within the next 100 years. When that happens, we need to make sure the computers have goals aligned with ours," according to a report in Geek. This isn't the first time Hawking has spoken about the threat that comes along with machine learning, A.I. and robotics. In December, Hawking said, "the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race."

The 7 Best Cities For Robotics Right Now

RoboUniverse, robotics’ annual meeting of the minds, is rolling out in New York City this week—and in the keynote address today, we learned where the best robotics work in the world is happening. In it, he shared a list of world cities that are pretty much killing it in the robotics sphere. The innovation centers are, in no particular order: 1.  Boston 2.  Pittsburgh 3.  San Jose/San Francisco (Silicon Valley) 4.  Tokyo 5.  Osaka 6.  Seoul 7.  Munich What determined this list? Kara said that robot innovation centers all share proximity to “excellent universities,” and regularly contribute to robotics R&D. It’s also hard to deny each location’s contributions to robotics so far: Silicon Valley and Tokyo are gimmes, but not everyone might be aware of the others.

'First heavy-duty collaborative robot' can lift 35kg

Fanuc claims that it is the first robot manufacturer to produce a heavy-duty robot designed to work safely alongside humans. Its CR-35iA robot can perform tasks involving payloads of up to 35kg without needing the protective guards and fences that have previously been needed for robots with similar lifting capacities. Although there are already several other collaborative robots on the market, most are designed for much lower payloads. The new robot will stop automatically if it touches a human operator. A soft covering material also reduces the force of any impacts and prevents human operators from being pinched by the mechanism. And if the robot comes too close to an operator, they can simply push it away. The covering has a green colour to distinguish it from Fanuc’s usual yellow robots. The six-axis robot is designed for duties such as transferring heavy workpieces or assembling parts. By avoiding the need for safety barriers, it is claimed to improve production efficiencies and allow higher levels of automation.  

Kickstarted at $3M, How Tiko is Set to Be the Best and Cheapest 3D Printer

Sage Lazzaro for The Observer:  When we last talked with the folks from Makerbot, we discussed how 3D printers will soon be household appliances as common as microwaves, vacuums and well, regular printers. But they agreed that certain design and affordability standards need to be met first. Little did we know, a 3D printer set to meet those standards was being developed in Toronto as we spoke.   We’re talking about Tiko, the meticulously designed and shockingly affordable “unibody” 3D printer that’s had the industry’s experts and publications buzzing. The $179 3D printer surpassed its Kickstarter goal of $100,000 in three hours and finished up its campaign last Friday with a total of just under $3 million in pledges.   Tiko looks nothing like any 3D printer you’ve seen before. While most have a multipart frame, Tiko’s frame is one piece with three sets of arms that move in unison, essentially eliminating issues of misalignment or inaccurate prints associated with other products. The New York Observer spoke with Tiko founder and CEO Matt Gajkowski, who explained that Tiko’s unique design is actually essential to its affordability.   Cont'd...

Building Enthusiasm for Construction Robotics

Vicki Speed for Inside Unmanned Systems:  It would seem that robotic systems could provide an extra measure of safety, as well as a higher level of efficiency and machine-consistent quality. Yet, to date, the use of robotic systems on construction jobsites has been minimal.  The building industry, however, is looking with fresh eyes at robots—including at least three new systems expected to be available this year—with a focus on near-term efficiencies that make investment in the systems make sense. Demolition Days Among the first fully-realized applications of robots in the construction environment are those used to support work that comes at the end of a structure’s life, namely demolition. In fact, remotely operated demolition robots have been around for more than a decade. Robotic Building Blocks The short answer is, ‘Yes.’ There are robotic systems in development around the world that can lay bricks, set tile or finish concrete floors. Bionic Builders? While not autonomous systems, robotic exoskeletons, those high-tech wearable suits seen in futuristic movies that help mere mortals defend Earth against other beings, could be a very real part of tomorrow’s jobsite and a possible precursor to autonomous robots in the field.

Microsoft HoloLens gets real with robotics, surgery, architecture

Jared Newman for PCWorld:  At the 2015 Build conference, Microsoft tried to prove that HoloLens is more than just a neat gimmick.   The company showed off several new demos for its “mixed reality” headset, which can map digital imagery onto the user’s physical surroundings. While previous demos had focused on fun ideas like a virtual Mars walk and a living room-sized version of Minecraft, the Build presentation emphasized real-world applications for businesses and education.   For instance, Microsoft showed how architects could use HoloLens to interact with 3D models, laid out virtually in front of them on a table. They might also be able to examine aspects of a building site at full scale, with virtual beams and walls rendered before their eyes.   Not all the presentations were so serious. Microsoft also showed off an actual robot whose controls appeared in the virtual space above the robot’s head. Users could then create a movement pattern for the robot by tapping on the ground. Another demo showed how users could create their own personal screens that followed them around in real space.

Festo BionicANTs and eMotionButterflies

From Festo Bionic: With the bionic butterflies, for the first time Festo combines the ultralight construction of artificial insects with collision-free flying behaviour in a collective. For coordination purposes, the eMotionButterflies make use of a guidance and monitoring system, which could be used in the networked factory of the future... ( additional info ) Like their natural role models, the BionicANTs work together under clear rules. They communicate with each other and coordinate their actions and movements among each other. The artificial ants thus demonstrate how autonomous individual components can solve a complex task together working as an overall networked system... ( additional info )

What You Wanted To Know About AI

Run down of the state of AI from FastML: Let’s take a look at how advanced we are, really. Two representative and well known examples of the current state of the art are: Automatic image annotation using a combination of convolutional and recurrent neural networks DeepMind’s deep reinforcement learning for playing Atari games ( cont'd at FastML )

Runt Rover Robot Kits from Actobotics

From Servocity:  Simply mount your electronics using our innovative multi-board mounts that are compatible with a variety of micro-controllers; such as Raspberry Pi, Arduino and the SparkFun Redboard. The Runt Rovers™ are perfect for beginning light programming and educational applications... ( Servocity available options )

Robotnik's Mobile Manipulator RB-1

From Smashing Robotics: Spanish company Robotnik introduced earlier this week their very own RB-1 mobile manipulator. The robot is designed for indoor use in household as well as professional environments, and is brought to life by using well known Dynamixel Pro series servo actuators which add up to 13 degrees of freedom (DOF), depending on variant. It is well suited for remote manipulation or human assistance applications and can be fully autonomous or manually controlled... ( full article ) ( datasheet )

Beating Super Hexagon With Computer Vision

Two great examples of using Computer Vision to beat Super Hexagon. Super Hexagon is a really hard game. The goal of Super Hexagon is to control a small triangle which circles around a central hexagon (which occasionally collapses into a pentagon or square in the hexagon and hyper hexagon difficulty) attempting to avoid contact with incoming "walls".  First example from Valentin Trimaille's Super Hexagon bot: Ray Casting Wall Detection The point is that a bot for this game makes a really nice image processing project to start learning OpenCV: simple shapes but lots of human disturbing effects, fast-paced game meaning real-time is required, very simple controls: rotate CW or CCW... ( full article ) Second example from Shaun LeBron's  Super Hexagon Unwrapper: This project is written in Python. It employs Computer Vision algorithms provided by SimpleCV to establish a reference frame in the image. Then it warps (or "unwraps") the image based on that reference frame, using OpenGL fragment shaders... ( github code ) ( full explanation )

Proposed FAA Commercial UAS Rules

From IEEE Spectrum: Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg). Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the operator or visual observer. At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses. Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation. Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official sunset, local time). Must yield right-of-way to other aircraft, manned or unmanned. May use visual observer (VO) but not required. First-person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways. Maximum airspeed of 100 mph (87 knots). Maximum altitude of 500 feet above ground level... (full article)

ReWalk Robotics Hopes to Raise $50M in IPO

From Boston Herald: A company with U.S. headquarters in Marlborough that was recently awarded FDA approval to sell its robotic exoskeletons for paraplegics plans to raise $50 million in an IPO this week, possibly on Friday. Israeli-based ReWalk Robotics is planning to sell 3.5 million shares for between $14 and $16 each, which puts it at the low end of the 13 local health care companies which have gone public since the beginning of the year, more than any other year in history. Most of those have been biotech companies, however, making ReWalk the first robotics-focused company to do so in at least a couple of years... ( cont'd )

REMUS SharkCam: The Hunter and the Hunted

From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Vimeo page: In 2013, a team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution took a specially equipped REMUS "SharkCam" underwater vehicle to Guadalupe Island in Mexico to film great white sharks in the wild. They captured more than they bargained for. Additional article in  Oceanus Magazine.

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