Dr. Mark W. Spong Receives Pioneer in Robotics and Automation Award

IEEE Robotics and Automation Society have awarded the 2011 Pioneer in Robotics and Automation Award to Dr. Mark W. Spong for his innovative contribution to the field of robotics. The Pioneer Award was aimed at honoring persons who have explored new areas of engineering, development or research that played a major role in the growth of robotics and automation. The society selected Spong for his original contributions in the field of robotic control and teleoperators. He has also made significant contributions in the field of robotics education. Spong has authored and co- authored numerous research papers in the robotics field. Californias Jet Propulsion Laboratory and New Mexicos Sandia National Labs have utilized systems based on the theoretical fundamentals of robot control established by Spong. The results of his work over the past 30 years have been applied in systems used by R&D facilities and companies worldwide.

MIT Wants Robot Servants to Flexibly Juggle Chores

Rosie the robot maid may not remain a 'Jetsons' fantasy for too much longer. MIT computer scientists have honed a decision-making process that may help robots juggle diverse chores such as preparing dinner or loading laundry into the washing machine. That means getting robots to do advance planning to accomplish their goals, but not planning out each step in such detail as to leave robots without room for flexibility. It's similar to how humans know how to get to the airport early and check in to board a plane, but don't plan their exact walking routes through the airport. "Were introducing a hierarchy and being aggressive about breaking things up into manageable chunks," said Tomas Lozano-Prez, co-director of MITs Center for Robotics. The MIT approach creates a rough timeline of what robots may need to do, but plans detailed moves for only the first few steps. That may not be as efficient as a robot that follows a set of detailed commands like a choreographed ballet to tackle the household chores, but it allows for the unknowns

Robot to throw first pitch at Phillies game

PhillieBot for Cy Young? It's unlikely. But the one-armed, three-wheeled robot, designed by engineers at the University of Pennsylvania, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday's game between the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers as part of Science Day festivities at Citizens Bank Park, said Evan Lerner, a spokesman for Penn's engineering school. The pitching robot has been in the makings for a month and a half as Penn engineers Jordan Brindza and Jamie Gewirtz assembled parts and wrote software in their spare time, Lerner said. They started with a Segway, gave it a robotic arm and added a third wheel. They also gave it a pneumatic cylinder, which delivers a burst of compressed carbon dioxide to power the pitch. The robot's computer brain can be tweaked to change pitch velocity and trajectory. On Monday, Brindza and Gewirtz took PhillieBot out to the mound for its final test, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. After the press of a button, the robot's mechanical arm reared back and then moved toward home plate; at the top of its delivery, it flicked its mechanical "wrist" and shot the ball forward. The ball appeared to be traveling no more than 30 or 40 miles an hour, the Inquirer reported. But that was by design, since the Phillies didn't want the pitch approaching Major League speeds.

Robots Enter Fukushima Reactors, Detect High Radiation

The Associated Press is reporting that two PackBot ground robots from iRobot have entered Unit 1 and Unit 3 of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant and performed readings of temperature, oxygen levels, and radioactivity. The data from the robots, the first measurements inside the reactors in more than a month since a massive earthquake and tsunami damaged the plant, revealed high levels of radioactivity -- too high for humans to access the facilities. The remote-controlled robots entered the two reactors over the weekend. Details of the mission -- such as what areas of the reactors the robots inspected and from where they were operated -- are still scarce, but Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the plant's operator, said that the robots opened and closed "double doors and conducted surveys of the situation" inside the buildings.

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