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".

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.

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.

Upcoming Tradeshow, Conference & Exhibition Summary - June, July, August 2015

Here is a summary of what Tradeshows, Conferences & Exhibitions to look forward to in the coming months.

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."

Video - Axium's Robotic Rotary Welder for Zeta Tank

This cell is divided into 4 stations: A manual loading/unloading station and three process stations where tank openings are cut and numerous components welded on.

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Schmalz Technology Development - Vacuum Generation without Compressed Air – Flexible and Intelligent

Schmalz Technology Development - Vacuum Generation without Compressed Air - Flexible and Intelligent

• 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.