It's been a while since we've heard from Rodney Brooks, so we were pleased to hear from Robotdalen communications manager, Jessica Karlsson, about a recent keynote presentation he gave at their event.
Robotdalen is a Swedish robotics cluster enabling commercial success of new ideas and research within robotics and automation. On February 9 we arranged the event Robotics Innovation Challenge. One of the key note speakers at the event was Rodney Brooks, one of the world's foremost roboticists and founder of the robot companies iRobot and Heartland Robotics.
It's a short video but packed with good stuff. He discusses why the world needs robots. He offers advice to academics on adapting from expensive, one-off research to the turn-key, mass produced robot technologies that attract venture capital. He suggests robots today are about where the PC was in 1973, right on the verge of taking off. He points out that talking to venture capitalists about "killer apps" when discussing a robot business plan may not be a good idea. He gives a quick overview of the 14 failed business models iRobot went through before it was successful. And he offers the advice that historically in robotics, the intuitive solution is almost always wrong. You can see more video from the conference on the Robotdalen YouTube channel.
This is the first video showing the ‘Cheetah’ robot, created by Boston Dynamics under DARPA’s M3 (maximum mobility and manipulation) program. The robot broke the previous speed record for legged robots by demonstrating its ability to run at a speed of 18mph (~30km/h). The robot uses flexible legs that provide it with the fast reaction time necessary to follow the terrain at such speed and the record-breaking performance was displayed on a treadmill with the robot powered by an external hydraulic pump. The patterns used for its motion are similar to those of fast-running animals in nature. It certainly looks less imposing than the preview released before and although it is inspired by its nature analogs its legs are quite dissimilar in structure. A prosthetic leg also named 'Cheetah' performs under the same principal by flexing and un-flexing its back at every step in order to quickly react to fast running. Athletes are using it with great results. DARPA’s ‘cheetah’ is expecting to run without an external power source later this year. For more information you can read the full press release here.
The blog Homo Artificialis has posted a three-part series on the potential for creating artificial bodies into which human minds might be transfered. The series begins with Russian media entrepreneur Dmitry Itskov discussing a stepwise approach, then continues with MIT Professor of Computational Neuroscience, Sebastian Seung talking about his work mapping the neurons in a human brain and the connections between them. Finally, Henry Markram of the Blue Brain Project explains his efforts to create a computer model of the human brain.
University of Pennsylvania's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab has a cool video of Quadrotor robotic copters playing various instruments to the tune of the James Bond Theme Song! To accomplish this the quadrotors have little reflectors and room has infrared lights and cameras to track their movements. The tracking information is then relayed wirelessly back to the quadrotors to help time and position them. So in essence the entire room and the quadrotors are the robot. Enjoy the video!
Hizook has been tracking VC investment in robotics firms for about two years, and has a list of the top companies for 2011, as determined by the scale of the capital infusions they've received. Topping the list, at $43 Million (US), is Restoration Robotics, which makes robots that automate the process of hair follicle harvesting for use in hair transplantation. (Currently implantation is still done manually.)
DARPA's Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM) program is developing software to perform human-level tasks quickly and with minimal direction. The robotic arm in the video was built from commercial components and performs the tasks shown using vision, force, and tactile sensing, without active human control.
In one of the most impressive TED talks, Professor Vijay Kumar from GRASP Lab of University of Pennsylvania explains the dynamics of flying quadcopters robots. He show some of the already viral videos produced by the lab and explains some of the math that make them possible concluding with an extraordinary musical performance! - via DIYdrones.
The ‘Robot Survival Game’ is a non-destructive robot fighting competition that started 2 years ago in Japan and a few days ago took place for the 10th time. It involves biped, multi-legged, tracked or wheeled robots (or any combination of sorts) that compete in a several scenarios (similar to team games like paintball) ex ‘eliminating’ each other, reach a flag etc. The robots are usually remotely controlled via a camera and the operators may be nearby or even in another city. They also have a toy gun for fighting but they ‘destroy’ each other in a very clever simulated way. Each robot carries a small container made from fragile aluminum foil. A light sensor inside the container is kept in the dark unless a bullet from an opponent punches a hole in it. Then the light sensor detects it and it acts as a kill switch and the robot is ‘dead’. It is a smart way of keeping the entertainment (and the drama!) high without destroying the actual robot. You can find much more information and a lot more videos at IKETOMU’s blog.
This image is not cgi or a miniature; it is a real mountain slope where artist Sonja Hinrichsen created this beautiful pattern simply by walking in circles. The robotic perspective of this concept is the way the photos and the video were shot, not by a helicopter but by a small (but quite expensive) octocopter by video production company steamboat aerials. The Cinestar8 costs around 10k $ but it can carry the ~400gr camera while being stable enough to produce this result. The video is similar to that of a hugely expensive helicopter shot or even better considering the lack of downwash a helicopter creates. This video is already very popular but almost no-one cares how it was shot, most people focus on the art-concept (reasonably so), maybe drone filming is starting to become quite mainstream. You can enjoy the full scale of it at this video on vimeo and you can find high-resolution aerial images here.
Posted 21 Feb 2012 at 14:10 UTC (updated 21 Feb 2012 at 14:21 UTC) by IKE_RobotsPodcast
Hercule is the name of this robotic exoskeleton developed by RB3D, a French engineering company, under the steering and funding of DGA, the French ministry of defense. Hercule doesn’t need any special training or knowledge skills, the person that wears it just performs his or her usual tasks and the exoskeleton provides the additional support and strength. It is electrically powered (unlike some other similar concepts that used 2 stroke internal combustion engines) and its battery life is about 20km at a moving speed of km/h (a regular walking pace) with the capacity of carrying 100kg. It can be used by the military (silent operation will be quite important) but civilian applications are equally important. Fire fighting, construction, logistics and even medical applications are possible. You can find more on this pdf brochure (2nd page in English) and in this article (in French). (via Innorobo)
Harvard's Microrobotics Lab has created a new Pop-up Origami style of fabrication for their winged microbots. A carrier is first made out of several layers of carbon fiber, brass, and thin flexible plastic. Then, using fabrication techniques such as laser etching, a design forms and then it is popped into place in sort of a pop-up book and Origami fashion. The robot is then tack soldered to lock the design into place and then laser cut and removed from the carrier material. The Mobee or Monolithic Bee is a very tiny robot at about the size of a Quarter. The video shows this unique assembly process and the finalized Mobee's wings being tested at 1Hz and 30Hz. A must-see very impressive manufacture of winged microbots!
I imagine a brilliant scientist somewhere was thinking of what he could do one day and came up with: I think I'll make a robot that runs on human excrement, then craps into a litter box. And there you have it, the EcoBot-III. Thanks to funding from Bill and Melinda Gates, you know of Microsoft, researchers at Bristol Robotics Laboratory gave EcoBot-III sensors to move itself towards food, water or light which it consumes and then poops out the waste. Like don't stand in the light, swim or smell tasty. Previous versions ran on other bio material like dead flies or sugar which were processed through the MFC or Microbial Fuel Cell which uses e-coli bacteria to turn the bio matter into electricity. The software and sensors monitor the digestive system and can wirelessly report on its surroundings.
Posted 7 Feb 2012 at 21:52 UTC (updated 8 Feb 2012 at 00:59 UTC) by IKE_RobotsPodcast
The famous ‘Big Dog’, a quadruped robot with a characteristic life-like appearance evolved into the new Legged Squad Support System (LS3), which recently underwent its first outdoor test. The new LS3 like its predecessor is a highly mobile, semi-autonomous legged robot. It use vision sensors (DARPA calls them ‘eyes’) to follow a person and also to map its path while avoiding or navigating over obstacles like rocks, trees etc. Over the next 18 months it will be tested thoroughly in order to be able to operate along a squad of Marines or soldiers. LS3 should carry 400lbs of cargo on a 20 mile trek in 24h without refuel. It could follow a specific person, track people, objects and the terrain in front of it while creating its own course. Along with its vision sensors, “hearing” technology will be added enabling soldiers to address it and command it with simple orders like “stop”, “sit” etc. The end result will be similar to a clever robot mule that will follow and obey to simple commands. You can find more info in DARPA’s press release and at the website of Boston Dynamics.