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Military Robotics

EFF Warns of Police Drone Privacy Concerns

Posted 22 May 2012 at 23:03 UTC (updated 22 May 2012 at 23:03 UTC) by steve

The EFF has issued an appeal to local governments to institute privacy protections against the misuse of drones by local law enforcement agencies. The FAA's initial rules for allowing flying robots into the National Airspace System were announced on 14 May. Many law enforcement agencies are already obtaining and flying drones but they're not likely to volunteer that information. It took an EFF Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to make the FAA release the list of who has been approved to fly spy drones over US cities. When local newspapers in Seattle found out from the EFF that police had purchased two drones and made survellience plans without informing the City Council, the Washington ACLU called for the city to develop policies to safeguard privacy and free speech rights. The police backed down

"With drones - and the privacy questions they raise - thrown into the public spotlight in that way, a contrite assistant police chief appeared before the Seattle City Council this week to assure city leaders and the public that the drones would not be deployed until written policies for their use are in place. He promised that police would work with the ACLU and others in the community to draft them."

There is also a safety concern as increasingly massive robots are flying over heavily populated areas. At least one police department crashed their shiny new $300k surveillance drone into their own SWAT vehicle during a test flight. There's no disputing the legitimate uses of domestic flying robots by government agencies, including first response to accident scenes, search and rescue, agricultural uses, forest fire monitoring. But concerns are being raised over the increasing militarization of US police departments and increasing abuses of power. If city-level governments refuse to address privacy concerns, will it fall to private individuals to launch their own UAVs to watch the watchers? Find out if your local police have already deployed flying robots to spy on you by checking the EFF's Domestic Drone Authorization map.

CC BY-SA licensed image from flickr user Marion Doss

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TurtleBot 2 at ROSCon

Posted 21 May 2012 at 15:38 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

This video introduces TurtleBot 2, which was shown this past weekend at ROSCon 2012. TurtleBot 2, built around an iClebo Kobuki from Korean firm Yujin Robot, improves upon the original from Willow Garage. (Note that Sam Park, Executive Vice President of Yujin Robot, recently joined Brian Gerkey, Director of Open Source Development at Willow Garage, on the board of directors for the Open Source Robotics Foundation.)

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Exhibits at ICRA 2012

Posted 21 May 2012 at 14:39 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

The above video, posted to IEEE Spectrum's YouTube channel, shows a sampling of the exhibits that were there to be seen at ICRA 2012 (May 14-18), with a few scenes taken from the robot's point of view. Rated G for Good Fun!

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Robots Podcast #104: Paolo Dario

Posted 21 May 2012 at 00:24 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

image from Robot Companions website

In an interview conducted while attending Robotdalen, Professor Paolo Dario outlines three waves of innovation in robotics, predicting that the coming third wave will be characterized by interdisciplinary efforts and robots that both contribute to and depend heavily upon the ambient intelligence of ubiquitous networks. Having received his graduate degree in engineering from the University of Pisa, Professor Dario, in 1989, founded the Advanced Robotics Technology and Systems (ARTS) Lab. He is also coordinator of the Center for Research in Microengineering (CRIM Lab), and affiliated with the Biorobotics Institute, which encompasses both, within the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, also in Pisa. He is a past President of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, and the first european to hold this position. Looking forward, Prof. Dario is coordinator of the Robot Companions for Citizens (RCC) project, which is one of six candidates to become a FET Flagship Initiative. The essential characteristic of a robotic companion seems to be reciprocal empathy between the robot and the humans in its environment.

Read On or Tune In

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Open Source Robotics Foundation Announced

Posted 17 May 2012 at 18:18 UTC (updated 19 May 2012 at 16:36 UTC) by John_RobotsPodcast


Announced via the Willow Garage website, the Open Source Robotics Foundation, Inc. (OSRF) is an independent non-profit organization founded by members of the global robotics community. Its mission is to support the development, distribution, and adoption of open source software for use in robotics research, education, and product development. OSRF's board of directors includes Professor Wolfram Burgard of the University of Freiburg, Ryan Gariepy, CTO of Clearpath Robotics, Brian Gerkey, Director of Open Source Development at Willow Garage, Helen Greiner, a co-founder of iRobot and currently CEO of CyPhyWorks, and Sam Park, Executive Vice President of Yujin Robot. Initially sponsored projects include the Robot Operating System (ROS), and Gazebo, a 3D multi-robot simulator with dynamics. Gazebo has been chosen by DARPA as the simulation platform for its recently announced robotics challenge for (humanoid) disaster robots.

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Medical Robotics

Paralyzed Woman Finishes London Marathon

Posted 17 May 2012 at 16:52 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

While it took her 16 days to do it, Claire Lomas, who lost use of her legs in a 2007 accident, finished the London Marathon with the aid of a ReWalk powered exoskeleton from Argo Medical Technologies.

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Aquatic Robotics

Berkley Sends 100 Robots Down River

Posted 16 May 2012 at 19:48 UTC by steve

Berkley's Floating Sensor Network project launched 100 floating robots equipped with GPS-enabled smartphones down the Sacramento River on May 9. The launch was designed to test a new generation of water monitoring technologies. The 12 inch robots, called Drifters, are designed to provide real-time, high-resolution data of hard-to-map waterways. One of many possible uses is locating breeches in levee systems quickly enough to allow repair, before erosion destroys the levee. Other uses include identifying contaminants. Andrew Tinka, lead graduate student on the project notes:

“If something spills in the water, if there’s a contaminant, you need to know where it is now, you need to know where it’s going, you need to know where it will be later on. The Floating Sensor Network project can help by tracking water flow at a level of detail not currently possible.”

Deploying the robots is as simple as throwing them into the water from boats, docks, or helicopters. Each robot has a buoyancy control system, differential drive, GPS, compass, depth sensor, salinity sensor, Zigbee and GSM radios, and 72 hours of power from a lithium battery. The open source control system is written entirely in Python and runs on top of Linux. The project is headed by Alexandre Bayen of the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS). For more details see the Berkley news release. The project has also released quite a few technical reports and papers describing the developments that went into designing the drifter robots. You can also check several videos of the robots in action.

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Commercial Robotics

How to pick Robotics Stocks and what to avoid.

Posted 15 May 2012 at 16:40 UTC by IKE_RobotsPodcast

We usually forget that apart from an exciting research field, robotics is also a huge industry. Frank Tobe, Editor and Publisher of The Robot Report describe the robotics stock exchange map from an investor’s perspective. There are numerous companies that are currently active on robotics but only a fraction of them rely heavily on that sector, most of these stocks are influenced by other trends. There are also newly formed companies that aspire to cash in on the hype that surrounds robotics as an exotic and innovative sector without providing evidence that they are a viable and healthy investment. You can read more about robotics stocks in the article from everything-robotic.com and also in the Robot Report.

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Commercial Robotics

ABB Video Tour of Hannover Fair

Posted 7 May 2012 at 17:05 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

If you're unfamiliar with Hannover Messe (Hannover Fair), the above video from ABB is probably worth the time it takes you to watch it. It's mainly in German, with English subtitles, and is more about the fair itself than about ABB's presence there. It may even make you want to put Hannover Messe 2013 on your calendar (link downloads ICS file).

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Random Robot Roundup

Posted 4 May 2012 at 18:50 UTC by steve

Allison Kirk tells us about a new robot website: "TelepresenceRobots.com just launched its website to give businesses, hospitals and schools more information on telepresence robots and to assist them in choosing the best robot to fit their specific needs". The May edition of the robot competition list is out. Our friends over at Plasticpals.com let us know about a new post on the Russian space agency's answer to NASA's Robonaut. Did you check out our photo gallery of the 2012 VEX World Championship? Out of the The Swirling Brain come two robot news stories: first is a news release from Purdue on new research that let's robots see in 3-D with simulated, human-like visual perception. Be sure to check out the YouTube video. Then there's Smartinversion, a sort of flying, helium-filled geometric jellyfish robot that floats through the air by constantly inverting its shape. 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 twitter.

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