Linux Becomming Robot OS of Choice

Posted 6 Dec 2003 at 17:56 UTC by The Swirling Brain Share This

Tech News World is saying that Japan's robot developers are going Linux. Japan seems to be hot place for robots and Japan is using Linux for their robots. Probably because Japan isn't scared of the mean old robots like other countries may be and probably because they need someone to take care of their elderly. These Japanese robots need an OS, and what's becomming the defacto standard is Linux. Although Windows is working other venues such as speech recognition and such, it seems Linux already has a shoe in for robots in Japan.

Linux and Stability, posted 6 Dec 2003 at 18:29 UTC by kelaar » (Master)

It seems a no-brainer to use Linux over windows for robotics -- it's more stable, and has a greater support base through the open-source community. Why develop something that requires buggy, expensive software when you can use something that's stable, free, and has many many helpful users?

How Japan became the robot kingdom, posted 6 Dec 2003 at 18:45 UTC by Frank McNeill » (Apprentice)

This is from an interview by somebody from Red Herring with Joseph Engelberger several years ago while Engelberger was trying to get funding to manufacture robotic nurses

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto

Joseph Engelberger, the father of industrial robotics, on the state of the industry.

The biochemist-turned-science-fiction-writer Isaac Asimov is celebrated for having written more than 220 books in his lifetime, but his greatest accomplishment might have been his indirect jump-start of the robotics industry. While he was writing stories of mobile robots and mechanical men in the early '50s, his fellow Columbia University alum Joseph Engelberger, an aerospace engineer who enjoyed Mr. Asimov's books, was setting about making the fiction a reality.

A chance meeting with a man named George Devol strengthened Mr. Engelberger's resolve. Mr. Devol somewhat mysteriously held a patent to a mechanism for which he had determined no use. It was called programmable manipulation, and Mr. Engelberger quickly procured it, engineering what he calls a "hydraulically powered robot that looked like a cannon on a base, with a big movable boom, two barrels flanking it, and a wrist and hand at its end." The artillery-like contraption was designed to replace workers employed in hazardous factory tasks like die casting and spot welding, and around it Mr. Engelberger and Mr. Devol founded the first industrial robotics company, Unimation.

It was almost like a story by Mr. Asimov himself. Indeed, it was a bit too futuristic for American industry, says Mr. Engelberger, who is often called the father of industrial robotics. We reached him at the Danbury, Connecticut, offices of his present robotics company, HelpMate Robotics, to talk about his past, his future, and the robotics industry's outlook.

The Herring: Japanese companies almost completely dominate the robotics industry today. How did American companies lose the design lead you created several decades ago? Engelberger: Americans were too worried about next quarter's earnings to invest in the concept. The Japanese were capable of making long-range plans. They said, "I wonder how significant robotics will be three to five years from now." Keep in mind too that Japan is a monolithic society; they'd rather employ robots than hire cheap labor from outside their country. Plus, there was a already a warm feeling in Japan toward robots, which were all over their TV shows and films.

The Herring: So the U.S. showed no interest in robotics? Engelberge: I'll put it this way -- Japanese executives formed a robotics industry association almost immediately following my first visit to the country; the first three chairmen were from Hitachi , Kawasaki , and Mitsubishi . In the U.S. I had previously approached General Electric , General Motors , and Ford , saying, "Please, would you give us a senior executive to be the chairman of a new association? Just to lend a name?" But no one would participate.

The Herring: Is it too late for the United States to rebound in this industry? Engelberger: Well, Japan owns 70 percent of the market, and that's because of its continued dedication to implementing and improving the utility of robots. To this day the U.S. still hasn't shown the same degree of interest; in fact, the robotics business here is largely made up of divisions of Japanese companies. I know of only one independent industrial robotics company in the States.

The Herring: Not Unimation? Engelberger: No, Adept Technology in San Jose. We sold off Unimation in 1983 to our investors, who by that time had a much larger stake in it than George and I. At that point, I bought a big sailboat and set off for a while.

The Herring: But you returned to the business -- only this time your company is focusing on service robots, rather than on the industrial robots Unimation produced. Why? Engelberger: Industrial robots are used in manufacturing. Service robots have the same capabilities but are used for service jobs.

I wasn't about to go head-to-head with the Japanese in spot welding, so I created a robotic hospital courier to transport medical records, drugs, and so forth to keep institutions from wasting the time of skilled workers.

The Herring: What do you envision beyond courier robots? Engelberger: Asimov always said a robot will be an analogue of a human. We're creating a robot now to serve as a companion to older people that will use voice recognition, tactile sensing, stereo vision, and navigation using ultrasound. When it's completed, it will be able to fetch and carry, cook, have conversational gambits...

The Herring: Gambits? Engelberger: If the patient forgets a luncheon appointment, the companion robot could respond, "Don't you remember? We're having lunch at Johnny's today."

The Herring: The idea sounds a bit impersonal, don't you think? Engelberger: When you consider how difficult it is to find a compassionate caretaker willing to put up with a cantankerous old person, a thick-skinned robot starts sounding like a great idea.

Don't hold your breath waiting for a robotic nurse to take care of you. A west coast hospital supply company bought Engelberger out a couple of years ago and cancelled the nurse project.

Not just robots, posted 7 Dec 2003 at 00:11 UTC by steve » (Master)

Most of the serious robots I've seen in the last couple of years are Linux-based. Not just in Japan but here in the US.

And Linux is slowing displacing Windows and other proprietary OS software in phones, set-top boxes, appliances, autos, you-name-it. It long ago surpassed Windows in the server market and is now #2 for desktops (ahead of MacOS but still a good way behind Windows, which holds the #1 spot). It's also taking a larger and larger share of the Super Computer market. A lot of the top 500 fastest computers in the world are Linux clusters.

See more of the latest robot news!

Recent blogs

30 Sep 2017 evilrobots (Observer)
10 Jun 2017 wedesoft (Master)
9 Jun 2017 mwaibel (Master)
25 May 2017 AI4U (Observer)
25 Feb 2017 steve (Master)
16 Aug 2016 Flanneltron (Journeyer)
27 Jun 2016 Petar.Kormushev (Master)
2 May 2016 motters (Master)
10 Sep 2015 svo (Master)
14 Nov 2014 Sergey Popov (Apprentice)
Share this page