SCHAFT Unveils Awesome New Bipedal Robot at Japan Conference

From Evan Ackerman at IEEE Spectrum:   Right now, the New Economic Summit (NEST) 2016 conference is going on in Tokyo, Japan. One of the keynote speakers is Andy Rubin. Rubin was in charge of Google’s robotics program in 2013, when the company (now Alphabet) acquired a fistful of some of the most capable and interesting robotics companies in the world. One of those companies was SCHAFT, which originated at the JSK Robotics Laboratory at the University of Tokyo... ... SCHAFT co-founder and CEO Yuto Nakanishi climbed onstage to introduce his company’s new bipedal robot. He explains that the robot can climb stairs, carry a 60-kg payload, and step on a pipe and keep its balance. It can also move in tight spaces, and the video shows the robot climbing a narrow staircase by positioning its legs behind its body (1:22). In a curious part of the demo (1:36), the robot is shown cleaning a set of stairs with a spinning brush and what appears to be a vacuum attached to its feet... ( article )

Robots Helping Grads Get Jobs

Not many students can claim they have hands-on experience with automation and robotics going into an interview. Looking at the question with a macro lens, our students are offered job opportunities on being well-rounded, even at the sophomore-level when many accept summer/semester-long internships.

Efficient 3D Object Segmentation from Densely Sampled Light Fields with Applications to 3D Reconstruction

From Kaan Yücer, Alexander Sorkine-Hornung, Oliver Wang, Olga Sorkine-Hornung: Precise object segmentation in image data is a fundamental problem with various applications, including 3D object reconstruction. We present an efficient algorithm to automatically segment a static foreground object from highly cluttered background in light fields. A key insight and contribution of our paper is that a significant increase of the available input data can enable the design of novel, highly efficient approaches. In particular, the central idea of our method is to exploit high spatio-angular sampling on the order of thousands of input frames, e.g. captured as a hand-held video, such that new structures are revealed due to the increased coherence in the data. We first show how purely local gradient information contained in slices of such a dense light field can be combined with information about the camera trajectory to make efficient estimates of the foreground and background. These estimates are then propagated to textureless regions using edge-aware filtering in the epipolar volume. Finally, we enforce global consistency in a gathering step to derive a precise object segmentation both in 2D and 3D space, which captures fine geometric details even in very cluttered scenes. The design of each of these steps is motivated by efficiency and scalability, allowing us to handle large, real-world video datasets on a standard desktop computer... ( paper )

Man Vs Machine

The result of this rung-in change is intended to be that man and machine respectively do what they can do best. The weaknesses of one are compensated for by the strengths of the other.

My Business and Marketing Tips for Robot Integrators

Although I mention "robot integrator" in the title specifically, these principles can be applied to any business within the industry, including: Custom Machine Builders, Controls Integrators, Engineering Companies and more.

Cafe X Robotic Barista

From LAUNCH Festival 2016:   CafeX unveils fully automated robotic cafe at Launch Festival; companion iOS & Android app will allow users to order drinks prior to arrival; works w/ local coffee growers in ea mkt; cafe is ~60 sq ft & is open 24 hrs/day.  

The Changing Role of Robotics in Materials Handling: Industrial Journalist Thomas R. Cutler Interviews Steven Hogg of Bastian Robotics

Short-term, robotic integration will continue to grow as companies continue to establish automation plans, and long-term, robotic automation will be a standard in every facility. This will be a requirement for companies to compete in the global marketplace.

Autonomous Driving Systems

Combining on-vehicle sensor data with high resolution maps adds another safety level to the autonomous driving system. The automotive industry is looking to its partners and suppliers as they develop HD maps.

Robotic Cooks, Servers and Noodle-cutting Devices

In many places in China and Japan - and now in Southern California - Chinese cooking, serving and noodle-cutting robots are entertaining customers and helping out in the kitchen.

OpenROV Trident Pre-orders

From OpenROV: OpenROV Trident Features: Depth: Capable of 100m (will ship with a 25m  tether - longer tethers will be sold separately) Mass: 2.9 kg Top Speed: 2 m/s Run Time: 3 hours Connectivity The data connection to Trident is a major evolution from the connection setup of the original OpenROV kit. It uses a neutrally buoyant tether to communicate to a towable buoy on the surface (radio waves don't travel well in water) and the buoy connects to the pilot using a long range WiFi signal. Using a wireless towable buoy greatly increases the practical range of the vehicle while doing transects and search patterns since a physical connection between the vehicle and the pilot doesn't need to be maintained. You can connect to the buoy and control Trident using a tablet or laptop from a boat or from the shore... ( preorder $1,199.00 )  

America, Regulate Drones Now or Get Left Behind

Missy Cummings for Wired:  Drones are a big business and getting bigger, a reality that comes with both economic opportunities and risks. The UAV market is set to jump from $5.2 billion in 2013 to $11.6 billion in 2023. Opportunities for delivery services, cinematography, and even flying cell towers could introduce thousands of jobs and reinvigorate an ailing aerospace market. At the same time, drone sales to hobbyists have exploded. Registered drone operators in the US now outnumber registered manned aircraft. In tandem with that growth, close calls with commercial aircraft have more than doubled in the past two years. An analysis of FAA reports by Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone counts 28 instances in which pilots changed course in order to avoid a collision.   Cont'd...

Robotics expert: Self-driving cars not ready for deployment

Joan Lowy for  Self-driving cars are "absolutely not" ready for widespread deployment despite a rush to put them on the road, a robotics expert warned Tuesday. The cars aren't yet able to handle bad weather, including standing water, drizzling rain, sudden downpours and snow, Missy Cummings, director of Duke University's robotics program, told the Senate commerce committee. And they certainly aren't equipped to follow the directions of a police officer, she said. While enthusiastic about research into self-driving cars, "I am decidedly less optimistic about what I perceive to be a rush to field systems that are absolutely not ready for widespread deployment, and certainly not ready for humans to be completely taken out of the driver's seat," Cummings said. It's relatively easy for hackers to take control of the GPS navigation systems of self-driving cars, Cummings said. "It is feasible that people could commandeer self-driving vehicles ... to do their bidding, which could be malicious or simply just for the thrill of it," she said, adding that privacy of personal data is another concern.   Cont'd...

I Sing the Body Electric

Prosthetic technology is advancing rapidly, but not without sticking points.

Image Processing 101

Sher Minn Chong wrote a good introductory to image processing in Python: In this article, I will go through some basic building blocks of image processing, and share some code and approaches to basic how-tos. All code written is in Python and uses  OpenCV , a powerful image processing and computer vision library... ... When we’re trying to gather information about an image, we’ll first need to break it up into the features we are interested in. This is called segmentation. Image segmentation is the process representing an image in segments to make it more meaningful for easier to analyze3. Thresholding One of the simplest ways of segmenting an image isthresholding. The basic idea of thresholding is to replace each pixel in an image with a white pixel if a channel value of that pixel exceeds a certain threshold... ( full tutorial ) ( iPython Notebook )

User Case Study: MapleSim Used To Speed Up Development Of High-fidelity Robotic Manipulator Models

Using MapleSim, engineers created multiple models of robotic manipulator in time previously required to create just one model.

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• Vacuum generation that's 100% electrical; • Integrated intelligence for energy and process control; • Extensive communication options through IO-Link interface; Schmalz already offers a large range of solutions that can optimize handling process from single components such as vacuum generators to complete gripping systems. Particularly when used in autonomous warehouse, conventional vacuum generation with compressed air reaches its limits. Compressed air often is unavailable in warehouses. Schmalz therefore is introducing a new technology development: a gripper with vacuum generation that does not use compressed air. The vacuum is generated 100% electrically. This makes the gripper both energy efficient and mobile. At the same time, warehouses need systems with integrated intelligence to deliver information and learn. This enables the use of mobile and self-sufficient robots, which pick production order at various locations in the warehouse. Furthermore, Schmalz provides various modular connection options from its wide range of end effectors in order to handle different products reliably and safely.