Ioannis K. Erripis from the Robots Podcast
reports on a new hand developed at the Institute
of Robotics and Mechatronics
at Germany's Aerospace Centre DLR.
It combines accurate object manipulation, robustness and strength in a
quite compact and light package. The robotic hand is inspired by the
human one although anatomic fidelity isn't the main objective. It can
handle small and fragile objects but it is also able to exert forces of
30 newton at the fingertips. It is also able to survive a baseball bat
hit (an impact with a 66 g acceleration - see video)
while being relatively compact and light. The key of these hands'
amazing ability lies in its operating principle and its clever inner
workings: The fingers are held and operated by a web of 38 tendons made
from a very strong polyethylene fiber. The hand will be a part of a
complete two-arm torso and researches are focusing on grasping and
manipulations strategies and two-arms coordination. More details on the
mechanics after the jump.
RobotGrrl is hosting a live
streaming Internet video program at 8pm EST Thursday nights called Robot Party. The 30
minute stream includes cool DiY demonstrations, Robot Roll Call, and the
minute hack. RobotGrrl will take your questions and comments afterwards
on Freednode IRC channel #FMCG. RobotGrrl tells us the
only thing Robot Party lacks is a cohost:
Maybe you can mention that I am looking for a cohost? I think having a
cohost would be less boring. The person just has to be available at that
time slot- and they have to have Skype :) They should also be
enthusiastic about robots!!!
The next episode of Robot Party is coming up Thursday at 8pm EST, so
check it out.
Vehicle platooning, where a convoy of vehicles follows a professional
driver in a lead vehicle by adjusting its movements to the distance,
speed, and the direction of the car in front, has advanced in great
strides (see our previous
post from 2005). Following much work in simulation, researchers of
the European project Safe Road
Trains for the Environment or SARTRE have now achieved a key
milestone by performing a real-world demonstration of an autonomous car
following a human-driven test vehicle in highway conditions. For more
details, have a look at the SARTRE
webpage and this SARTRE
Researchers at the Institute of Neuroinformatics in Zurich are using
their Silicon Retina (Website down due to disk crash) to perform a
balancing trick normally reserved for biological systems.
Balancing a pole is one thing, but
a tiny pencil is quite another due to the computational speed
required, specifically the image processing part.
Inspired by the human eye and visual cortex, the team is using a vision
system that focuses on individual pixels to produce data quickly that,
in turn, controls the motors that moves the base of the pencil.
Watch the fascinating video
Modeled after the Black Ghost Knifefish using computational fluid
Researchers at Northwestern University are
exploring an interesting form of locomotion that could be useful for
underwater robotic propulsion.
Using precise control of counter-propagating waves along undulating fins
just like the fish of the Amazon Basin rivers, the robot can control
movement in 3d space.
You may have noticed a new menu item on the site this month: Podcasts.
We're going to be working a little more closely with our friends at the Robots Podcast this year to
share news back and forth in ways that will benefit our readers as well
as their listeners. We've been carrying the release announcements for
the podcast for some time but if you still haven't listened to one yet,
go check it out right now!
In other news, Billy McCafferty let us know about his new blog, SharpRobotica.com, which will focus
on the software side of robotics. I also have a couple of Swirling Brain
stories that piled up during the holidays: an ubergizmo
story on Aldebaran Robotics newer, bigger Romeo humanoid robot; and an
story with photos and trailers from Real Steel, a new robot movie.
Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report? Send 'em our way please. And don't
forget to follow us on
In its latest episode, the Robots
Podcast interviews Joe Jones,
co-founder of Harvest Automation, the first employee of iRobot, and inventor of the Roomba (together with another
Harvest Automation cofounder, Paul Sandin). Jones shares his deep
insight into robotics in both academia and business and explains how his
startup is the next logical step after the Roomba - and taps into a
potentially huge market for autonomous robots. Read
on or tune
Are you working on combing 3D sensor technology with the Willow
Garage open source Robot Operating
System? It's not too late to get in
on the Willow Garage ROS 3D contest. Our friends at Willow Garage sent
us these details:
December was such a busy month at Willow Garage I didn't get a chance to
let you know about the ROS 3D Contest. Willow Garage is offering $8,000
in prizes for participants that combine an RGB-D sensor (e.g. Kinect,
PSDK5.0) with ROS to produce something new, interesting, and fun. The
contest ends on January 23. The combination of ROS and Kinect has proved
very interesting. Kinect news coming out of CES might dominate the
headlines for the next week or so, but it's worth thinking about how
Kinect is catalyzing the open source world.
I will argue that this lack of proper definitions is the main reason why
the field of research in Artificial Intelligence (and some of its
subfields like Cognitive Robotics, e.g.) has been
derailed for the last 60 years. <...> There are more than 130
definitions of Data - Information - Knowledge notions. There are more
than 75 definitions of Intelligence.
This lack of agreement on what we're all trying to build is something
I and others have complained about numerous times over the years. Diamant
tries to push things forward with some new definitions that include
ideas from Solomonoff, Kolmogorov, and Chaitin dating back to the 1960s.
He goes on to show a possible interrelation of physical and semantic
information and concludes that semantic information is a mutual
agreement between members of a group and cannot be accessible outside of
that group. Rather than thinking of robotics as a data-processing
computational task, we should be thinking along the lines of
incorporating robots into our group of shared semantic information. For
more, check out Diamant's other
papers on Vision, AI, and robotics.
Selecting these components is not a trivial endeavor. Make
them too big and your switching frequency is too slow, with a high pitch
squaling noise making your life miserable. Make them too small, and the
switching losses increase, removing total power dissipation capability
from the H Bridge’s power FETs. We need to match these values as close
as possible to the optimal set of parameters in order to maximize our
Fortunately, Jose's blog
post goes on to provide some helpful notes on selecting the R
C values you'll need. He explains in detail how the current regulation
engine works and how to compute the TBLANK and ITRIP parameters. He's
got plenty of schematics and diagrams too. Jose should know what he's
talking about because he's designed a stepper
controller based on the DRV8811.
In its latest episode, the Robots
Podcast interviews science fiction author Greg Bear. Over the years, Bear has
been awarded two Hugos and five Nebula awards and
has been called the "Best working writer of hard science fiction" by
"The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Science Fiction". In the interview, Bear
discusses how robots can double as mirrors for the human condition and
the moral issues of delegating more and more responsibilities to AIs. He
then dives into Isaac Asimov’s
work, sharing some of his insights after writing a sequel to the Foundation
series. For more on Greg Bear, including a short promo clip of his
latest book HULL ZERO
on or directly tune
in to the interview.
It's well passed time for us to post our annual countdown of the top
10 Christmas gift ideas for robot geeks. There are still a few shopping
days left, so it's not too late to get out there and buy some robot
gifts for all your loved ones. All your loved ones are robot geeks,
right? No? Well I'm sure some of them are and we're here to tell what
sort of cool swag they'd like to find under the Christmas tree this
year. As always, the robots.net founding editors, steve, Rog-a-Matic, and The Swirling
Brain put their heads together and came up with a list of cool robot
gift ideas. Using no particularly empirical method, we determined what
the top 10 were and present them below. Read on and have a Merry Robot
Posted 6 Dec 2010 at 17:12 UTC (updated 6 Dec 2010 at 21:20 UTC) by steve
There's been a lot of activity in robotic music in the last couple of
years, perhaps inspired by
Pat Metheny's interest in bringing back the
collection of robotically actuated instruments known as an Orchestrion.
The Trons are a robot band from New
Zealand who apply the principle of the orchestrion to their own brand of
rock music. Greg Locke wrote to tell us about The Trons:
I run a robot rock band in New Zealand called the Trons.
They have been going about 3 years now and have played over 80 live
shows, mainly in NZ but also including two trips to Europe. All the
songs are original and all instruments are played by the robots. The
robots are built mainly from junk and salvaged electronics, with a bit
of hi tech stuff to make sure the timing is all OK. They play gigs like
normal human bands, usually doing a
30 or 40 minute set. Audiences dance, clap, sit and watch, or sometimes
even stage dive.
Hit the read more link to see another video of the group performing
Sister Robot, their first hit. The
Trons have released an album that's available
on itunes or as a
CD/DVD. If you want to see more photos of the robot band, check out
“We found ourselves standing outside the auto shop waiting to get
October 21st. Three times previously, Principal Shay James refused to
let us have our robot for the OMSI display on October 23. Finally, James
allowed us to remove the robot only. All of our computers, parts, and
tools are still locked in the auto shop.”
It appears we will lose $3,540 from Intel and another $3500 from the
grant money that came through FIRST – M.J. Murdock, Oregon Community
fund. <...> The school seized all of our property – 7 years
tools, equipment, building materials and computers and kept it from us
for the last 31 days. We find out on Monday what they will let us have
back. This has kept us from doing Girls Generation, Bunny Bots, and a
second regional. It has also cost us half of our new members because of
the instability and uncertainty.
The school claims none of its 100 staff members are willing to act as
"advisor" for the group. The principal declined to be interviewed for
The Bee's article and according to Rebecca LohKamp, "In all the years
we’ve been there, a Principal has never come to see us". This apparent
lack of interest was confirmed by the school's business manager who told
the paper that the robotics team would conflict with
plans for a more academic, classroom-based, "smaller scale" robotics
We'd bet if this were the football team rather than a club that
promotes educational activities, the school administration wouldn't have
any problem finding the resources to support them. But until Shay James
and the other bureaucrats get a clue, might we suggest
that local robot clubs around the country get in touch with Team 1432 and ask how they can help out?
One thing that might help is if a 501(c)(3) group could become their
fiscal sponsor and help them recover some of their funds from the
school. And it probably wouldn't hurt to let the Franklin
High School staff or the Portland
Public School system know what you think.
Update: The latest update on the team's website
clears up a few things from The Bee article. They confirm there
were at least 5 teachers willing to act as advisor but school staff
"talked them out of it". The school now claims it has returned most of
the team's money to the donors.
Posted 24 Nov 2010 at 19:42 UTC (updated 29 Nov 2010 at 16:49 UTC) by steve
Thanksgiving is the time when all robots give thanks for Black Friday
sales on components needed to make more robots. We want to do our part
to help you bring more robots into the world, so here's a list of the
best places to get your Black Friday robot bargains in 2010. Like last
year Pololu is
offering some of the best Black Friday deals around:
Starting this Thursday, November 25th, 2010, Pololu is offering huge
discounts (up to 60% off) off selected products, including the Pololu
3pi Robot, Maestro Servo Controllers, Simple Motor Controllers, sensors,
has added a Black Friday Sale. Alex from Trossen Robotics writes,
We’ve had our
heads buried with developing a new product line and forgot that Black
Friday and Cyber Monday is this weekend, lol. We
just blogged about a quick sale we put together. Customers get 10%
off their entire order by entering “cyber10” in the coupon
Update 2: While I was home stuffing myself with Turkey and
dressing, Barry from Robot Add-ons emailed to let us know you can get
15% off Roomba parts and accessories by using the code "robotnet15off"
during checkout at Robot
Add-Ons. There's still time left to get some Cyber Monday bargains.
Former Royal Air Force officer Tony Sale built a 6-foot-tall humanoid
robot from scraps of a crashed bomber back in 1950.
Now, decades later, Mr. Sale has retrieved the walking robot from storage.
George, as he is named, was built way before computers were affordable
and small enough, so he's remotely controlled.
All it took was new batteries and some oil to bring George to life after
standing quietly in the garage for 45 years.
George the robot has been donated to the National Museum of Computing at
Bletchley Park which he helped found.