Monday afternoon Amazon and Kiva Systems announced that the companies had reached an agreement whereby Amazon will acquire Kiva Systems for approximately $775 Million in cash, with the deal expected to close next quarter. Kiva Systems produces robotic material handling equipment that brings warehouse inventory to the people who fill orders rather than making them walk the warehouse to find it, as depicted in the above video. Amazon's own warehouse operations have been rapidly expanding, and the company is expected to make good use of Kiva's technology in-house, as well as continuing to offer it to others.
DARPA Deputy Director Daniel Kaufman discusses the exposure of supposedly secure networks and the Cyber Analytical Framework, which aims to dramatically improve their security. His manner is refreshingly straightforward. The slides for his presentation are here.
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!