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Interviews

Robots Podcast #107: Mary-Anne Williams

Posted 30 Jun 2012 at 17:41 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

photo of Prof. Mary-Anne Williams with PR2

Professor Mary-Anne Williams came to robotics through RoboCup. Her background began in computer science, from which she moved to AI, with a primary interest in knowledge representation and reasoning, having done some work in belief revision (how to update a knowledge base when you receive new or contradictory information). In 2001, she attended the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI), with which RoboCup was co-located, and was captivated by the Sony AIBO (then used as players in RoboCup soccer). She was also impressed with how much progress there'd been since the first RobotCup, a few years earlier. Returning to Australia, she wanted to see her belief revision algorithms running on a robot, thinking they might improve performance. However, the only way to get an AIBO in 2001 was to actually start a soccer team, so that's what she did. That team placed third the following year and won the competition in 2004. Ms. Williams is a Research Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia. She is also Director of the Innovation and Enterprise Research Laboratory (a.k.a. The Magic Lab), which has come under the umbrella of Quantum Computation & Intelligent Systems at UTS. Her work focuses on cognitive models of decision making and behaviour in complex and dynamic environments, including applications in mobile robotics. In this interview, she talks about her work, her involvement with the International Conference in Social Robotics and the PR2 robot.

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Announcements

SoftWear Automation Awarded $1.25 Million DARPA Contract

Posted 29 Jun 2012 at 17:05 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

SoftWear Automation, the latest in a string of ventures founded by Steve Dickerson - a retired Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Professor Emeritus at Georgia Institute of Technology - and nurtured by Georgia Tech's startup accelerator, the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), has been awarded a contract for $1.25 Million, by DARPA, to develop automated sewing work-cells, that the company hopes will reinvigorate the domestic garment industry and DARPA hopes will shorten the time from requisition to delivery while lowering costs, as well as reducing reliance on foreign suppliers. (The Department of Defense currently spends about $4 Billion per year on uniforms.) Part of that $1.25 Million will go to Georgia Tech, which is expected to provide considerable support for the development of the technology. The idea for SoftWear Automation began when, in 2007, Professor Dickerson was asked to participate in a seminar on the future of robotics. Danger Room provides perspective, and Gizmag has both more detail and a small gallery of conceptual hardware prototypes.

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Entertainment

Tovbot's Shimi at Google I/O

Posted 29 Jun 2012 at 15:39 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Tovbot's Shimi made its first public appearance two days ago at Google I/O, where not just one but three Shimis performed in perfect coordination. Tovbot was formed earlier this year by a group of robot researchers and entrepreneurs hailing from Georgia Tech, IDC in Israel, and MIT Media Lab. [Their] goal is to foster a new paradigm of personal robots - robots that don't just clean your floors or your pool, but also interact with you on a personal, almost human level. According to a news item on Georgia Tech's website, Shimi, a musical companion developed by Georgia Tech’s Center for Music Technology, recommends songs, dances to the beat and keeps the music pumping based on listener feedback. Automaton has more detail.

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Competitions

10th Annual Field Robot Event Underway

Posted 28 Jun 2012 at 15:48 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

This year's Field Robot Event (FRE 2012) began today and runs through Saturday. I will bring together what reports I am able to find once the dust settles, but meanwhile you can view videos from past years' events by entering "Field Robot Event" in YouTube's search field.

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Entertainment

Quadrotor Light Show

Posted 27 Jun 2012 at 04:55 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

This video is a performance piece incorporating a troupe of 16 quadrotors. It's a very nice way to spend a few minutes.

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Sensors

USC Researchers Make SynTouch BioTac Perform

Posted 21 Jun 2012 at 17:10 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Researchers at the University of Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering have succeeded in making an artificial fingertip outperform humans in identifying a range of textures. That fingertip, the BioTac® from SynTouch LLC, is a molded elastomeric sleeve with a fingerprint-like pattern on the outside and sensors on the inside, filled with a conductive fluid. What the USC researchers have done is to develop algorithms for interpreting the data produced by the fingertip and for optimizing the movement of the robotic arm or hand on which it is mounted to most efficiently produce useful data. Their findings have been published in Frontiers in Neurorobotics. SynTouch LLC, founded in 2008, is a start-up technology business that develops and manufactures tactile sensors for mechatronic systems. BioTac® sensors are available as an evaluation kit, and also as kits for the BarrettHand and the Shadow hand.

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Robots

2012 Field Robot Event June 28th - 30th

Posted 16 Jun 2012 at 21:37 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

This will be the 10th edition of the Field Robot Event. Organized by Fontys University of Applied Sciences and Wageningen UR (University & Research), it will be held in Venlo, The Netherlands, on the grounds of Floriade 2012.

(PDF of slides from above presentation video about the 2012 Field Robot Event)

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Interviews

Robots Podcast #106: Swiss Robotics

Posted 16 Jun 2012 at 20:24 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Dario Floreano

In this episode Robots Podcast talks with Dario Floreano about his new role as director of the Swiss National Center of Competence for Research (NCCR) in Robotics which brings together leading experts in the field working at Swiss institutions, including EPFL, ETH Zurich, the University of Zurich, and Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IDSIA). NCCR Robotics was launched in December 2010 and will run for up to twelve years. The center aims to develop human­-oriented robots that assist people in their daily lives and improve their quality of life. Their research is currently organized into five projects that they hope will result in new design principles, approaches, and technologies required for the conception and design of human-oriented robots, the materials and components they are made of, and the control methods that enable them to interface and operate with humans. Floreano also shares the latest developments from his Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at EPFL, including flying robots that physically interact with their environment (see previous post) and soft “cells” that can assemble in air.

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Robots

EPFL Aerial Crash Recovery

Posted 15 Jun 2012 at 16:41 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Researchers at EPFL, in Switzerland, have developed an aerial system which absorbs the energy of low-speed collisions, rights itself, and resumes flying.

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Hardware

Three-fingered Hand With One Actuator

Posted 15 Jun 2012 at 16:20 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Japanese company DOUBLE Research and Development has developed a three-fingered robotic hand using a single pressure sensor and a single actuator. The linkage through which the fingers are attached to their mount automatically equalizes the pressure applied by each.

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