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Robot Builders Forming Hackerspace in Dallas

Posted 19 Feb 2010 at 22:23 UTC by steve

The Dallas Personal Robotics Group (DPRG), one of the oldest robot hobbyist groups in the world, is forming a hackerspace in Dallas, Texas. For the last seven years, the DPRG was based in the Garland, Texas warehouse pictured above but, in 2009, the building changed hands and the DPRG found itself out of a home. Based on the success of hackerspaces in other parts of the world, the DPRG decided the time is right to start one Dallas. For those not familiar with the idea, a hackerspace is a shared community workshop supported by a membership fee that helps cover rent, tools, and other expenses. The DPRG is a 501(c)(3) as well and will be soliciting grants and donations to help cover startup costs. Membership is open to all types of makers, hackers, and creators in the community and there is already a wide range of interests that include robots (of course!), CNC, welding, photography, hydroponics, vacuforming, and ham radio, to name just a few. The DPRG hopes to find someone willing to donate land and a suitable building but will lease temporary space if needed to have things up and running sometime in March. So, if you're in Dallas, join up and help out. Even if you're not local, they're accepting donations from like-minded folks, so throw a few dollars their way if you can.

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Robots: AUV Missions

Posted 18 Feb 2010 at 15:30 UTC by mwaibel

The latest episode of the Robots podcast reports on two Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) projects. In a first interview Oscar Schofield from Rutgers University in the US explains how underwater gliders can spend months at a time at sea and describes the first AUV mission to successfully cross the Atlantic (for a Hollywood account of the mission have a look at the above video). Our second guest Mark Moline is Professor at the Biological Sciences Department and member of the Center for Coastal Marine Sciences at Cal Poly State in California. Moline reports on a month-long mission using AUVs for underwater exploration in the Arctic Winter resulting in some surprising findings. Read on or tune in!

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Robots: Quadrotors

Posted 18 Feb 2010 at 14:50 UTC by mwaibel

A couple of weeks ago the Robots podcast had a chat with Joshua Portlock from Cyber Technology in Perth, Australia. Cyber Technology is one of a rapidly increasing number of companies that offer electric quad-rotor UAVs. Unlike other similar platforms, their CyberQuad uses ducted fans to shroud the rotor blades for added safety and efficiency and has some advanced autonomous abilities. In the interview Portlock talks about a variety of fixed and rotating wing platforms and shares some of his insights into quad-rotor technology. In the second part of this episode Robots launches a quest to find a good definition for all the robots covered in the show, from molecular robots to smart houses, humanoids or flying crawling and jumping robots. Read on or directly tune in!

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Artificial Ankle Recycles Energy, Restores Function

Posted 17 Feb 2010 at 15:43 UTC (updated 17 Feb 2010 at 17:07 UTC) by Rog-a-matic

A microprocessor-controlled artificial foot can capture part of the energy normally dissipated during walking motion and recycle it to aid walking according to researchers at Delft University and University of Michigan. A conventional prosthesis can increase energy expenditure by 23% over healthy walking, but this new device can reduce that cost to 14% resulting in a much more natural walking style with much less effort. Energy is captured passively using a spring, then a pair of micromotors controlled by a microprocessor releases the energy at the optimum time, then resets the device for the next step. A small battery powers the active components.

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Super Fast Rubix Cube-Solving Robot

Posted 16 Feb 2010 at 16:01 UTC by Rog-a-matic

We've covered Rubix Cube solvers before (#1, #2, #3), but CubeStormer is pure fixed-automation bliss. It can solve any combination of 3^3 cube in less that 12 seconds flat. CubeStormer is built using LEGO Mindstorms RCX along with some serious engineering in both the hardware and software departments.

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Medical Robotics

Patients Requesting Robotic Surgery

Posted 14 Feb 2010 at 23:12 UTC by Rog-a-matic

Patients needing delicate surgery for prostate cancer treatment are requesting robotic assistance in increasing numbers in spite of unclear advantages and uncertain outcomes. One in six American men develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. Eight years ago, about 5,000 American men had the surgery using a robot, in 2009 that number had jumped to 73,000 - 86% of total surgeries performed. Dr. Cadeddu, a urologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas is hearing patients ask specifically for robotic assistance regularly. It's not clear whether patients are doing in-depth research themselves or are simply being swayed by marketing of the latest technology. While the robotic machinery is pricey and training time-consuming, it's thought by many surgeons and researchers that the results will prove worth it all. It might take more time to tell for certain on this one.

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Texas Alpha Telepresence Robots in Production

Posted 13 Feb 2010 at 16:31 UTC by Rog-a-matic

An initial batch of Texas Alpha (TA) telepresence robots is in the works at Willow Garage. Built using some of the PR2 Robot's technology, TA will be a test platform for Human-Robot interaction studies, networking research, mobility testing, and to polish its use as a telepresence platform for the masses. Someday, in addition to going to the office, or telecommuting, you may have a third - telepresence.

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Cleatus Robot Toys Seized for Lead Contamination

Posted 7 Feb 2010 at 22:48 UTC by Rog-a-matic

Border Protection officers and officials from the Consumer Product Safety Commission seized two containers full of FOX Sports Cleatus Robot action figures at a Seattle port in January. The Chinese-made toys, valued at almost $100K, were found to have unacceptable levels of lead in violation of the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

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Commercial Robotics

Swisslog SpeciMinder and RoboCourier Robots

Posted 3 Feb 2010 at 23:46 UTC by steve

Swisslog Healthcare announced they will be making available two new robots to hospitals, the SpeciMinder and RoboCourier. The robots are made for Swisslog by CCS Robotics and are based on the MobileRobots MT400 bases and Motivity autonomy technology. The Swisslog press release explains what the robots are for:

SpeciMinder is designed exclusively for INTRA-departmental materials transport. For example, a large one-floor laboratory or pharmacy in which several workers frequently move goods among multiple workstations is an ideal environment for SpeciMinder. RoboCourier will be available later this year and is designed for INTER-departmental materials transport. Like SpeciMinder, RoboCourier will be able to interface with doors, but it will have the added capability of interfacing with elevators and navigating hallways. This capability will allow RoboCourier to navigate multiple floors within a hospital, meaning it can transport materials from one department to another.

For more, see the Swisslog press release. If you'd like all the hardware details on the base, check out the MobileRobots MT400 Technical specifications.

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Medical Robotics

Bacteria Turn Microgears

Posted 30 Jan 2010 at 00:15 UTC by Rog-a-matic

Researchers from Argonne National Lab and elsewhere are finding ways to use the motion of swimming bacteria to move very tiny gears. The gear's shape directs a group of unsuspecting bacteria in such a way as to cause rotary motion. This motion can then be used to power tiny mechanical systems - possibly medical devices or maybe even tiny robots. Speed of the gears can be controlled by modulating the oxygen level within the suspension fluid - since bacteria love o2, feeding them more increases the speed while cutting off the supply stops motion.

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