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Random Robot Roundup

Posted 12 Jul 2012 at 20:26 UTC by steve

We're overdue for another roundup of news from the editor's inbox! Reader Bill Rogers sent a link to a recent CNN story on the Uncanny Valley and how the brain copes with conflicting information. Yuval Haimovits let us know about the latest research on thought-controlled robot avatars. Our friends over the plastic pals blog sent links to stories on the newest Chinese humanoid robot, news on the TeenSize-OP robot from Robotis, and a strange toe-tapping robot named Shimi powered by an Android phone (see also our story on Shimi). Long-time reader Guy Posey wrote to let us know about his new e-book titled, ELI-C, a novel with robots, cyborgs, even a "mysterious sorcerer". Check it out! Author Joe Tripician let us know about his new science fiction book, Immortality Wars, which takes on the Singularity along with nanotechnology and mind uploading. 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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Robots

Hizook on Video Ethics in Robotics Research

Posted 8 Jul 2012 at 23:14 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Last Monday (July 2nd), Hizook posted a thoughtful piece, Being Honest in Robot Videos: Motion Capture, Speedup Rates, and Teleoperation, which covers even more ground than its title suggests. The article doesn't take issue with unrealistic portrayals of robots in movies, nor with robots built as art or robot performances. Rather it calls into question what might be termed misrepresentation in videos depicting research robots, due to missing or inadequate notice of certain conditions, resulting in the creation of a false impression regarding the current state of the art and unrealistic expectations for the near future in the minds of the general public, undermining support for needed research on the premise that it's already been done. The article touches on the use of external localization and motion planning systems (as opposed to accomplishing the same feats entirely with on-board sensors and processors), the distinction between teleoperation, scripting, and autonomous operation, time compression (making the robot appear to be moving faster than it really is), and tethering (for physical support, for power, and/or for low-latency, high-bandwidth communications), and suggests some best practices for providing notice of each. The comments which follow the article are also worth reading.

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Tools

3D Printing Blood Vessels and Metal

Posted 8 Jul 2012 at 21:52 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Above, researchers at UPenn and MIT print blood vessels, using sugar. Once the sugar hardens, cells suspended in gel are added. Once the gel solidifies, the sugar is dissolved and removed. After the break, another video shows a process where powdered stainless steel is printed using a binder (weak glue), then infused with bronze.

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Space Robotics

Curiosity Update with Scott Maxwell

Posted 8 Jul 2012 at 17:51 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Would you like to watch Curiosity pile up sand behind its wheels as it struggles up a slope, this video is about as close as you're likely to get, at least until Curiosity actually lands on Mars. For more, check out the JPLnews channel on YouTube.

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Medical Robotics

Mahoro Performs Dangerous Lab Work

Posted 8 Jul 2012 at 02:11 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

A two-armed robot, called Mahoro, jointly developed by Japan's National Institute of Advanced Science and Technology (AIST) and Yaskawa Electric Corporation, and marketed by Nikkyo Technos, Co., Ltd., already being used in labs at pharmaceutical companies and universities, is both faster and more precise than veteran laboratory technicians performing the same repetitive tasks. Using the robot to handle hazardous materials also reduces risk to laboratory personnel. DigInfo TV has more detail.

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Competitions

2012 Boca Bearing Innovation Contest

Posted 6 Jul 2012 at 16:51 UTC by John_RobotsPodcast

Direct from their website...

To celebrate their 25th year in business the Boca Bearing Company is giving away over $20,000 in cash and prizes as part of their 2012 Boca Bearing Innovation Contest. Winners will be chosen based on a video submission of their innovative mechanical project that utilizes ball bearings, roller bearings, linear bearings or any form of full ceramic or ceramic hybrid bearings anywhere in the application.

One finalist will be chosen by the voting public each month in 2012 to win an iPad2 ($500 value each). The Grand Prize winner and two Runner Ups will be chosen by Boca Bearings from the monthly finalists. The two Runner Up Finalists will each win their own 3D Printer from Makerbot Industries ($2500 value each). The Grand Prize winner will receive a check for $10,000.

The Boca Bearing Company believes in supporting those individuals or companies with a focus on Art, Science, Technology, Engineering & Math. These are the creative people that push the limits of new technology and will be the drivers of our future economy.
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Competitions

Field Robot Event 2012 in Video

Posted 5 Jul 2012 at 01:38 UTC (updated 5 Jul 2012 at 01:43 UTC) by John_RobotsPodcast

The first video in this playlist is a presentation given last year at the announcement of the event. The rest were taken at the event itself, and show the nature of the competition as well as something of the level of sophistication of the competitors.

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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.

Read On or Tune In

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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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