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Robot News Roundup-April 14th 2013

14 Apr

Want to know where it’s all heading?

Read this ‘roadmap’ from the U.S. Congress. At 137 pages, it’s not light reading; but, it does shine light on where it’s all planned to be at in 5, 10, 15 years and beyond. It’s fascinating, if somewhat tedious at times.

Humanoid robot from India.

Not to be outdone, this is the first piece of robot news I’ve come across from India, since I started this blog a few weeks back. Programmed to play the ‘rock-scissor’ game, its creator sees the small humanoid as a means to investigate how robots can assist humans.

A new book – Robot Futures – from MIT professor

Everybody of course has an opinion about what robots are. Sure, they are machines, but this professor of robotics thinks they are “a new species”. Well, I’m not prepared to accept that – yet. Are you?

A humanoid robot with positive attitude

From an Italian project team, here’s an interesting and detailed look at a bipedal robot designed to be fully compliant with humans i.e. it won’t harm anything or anybody in a collision or physical encounter. Makes you feel better about companies that take that sort of care and concern with the impact of robotics in society, don’t you think?

Take in a slide show about some of the latest humanoid robots

From the cute and cuddly, I guess, to the more practical, get used to seeing robots like these more often in the news and on TV. I’m waiting for one that can act as my 24/7 servant. But, how long will I have to wait…?

A robot’s got to know its limitations

And while on the topic of mundane house work, read this piece about the difficulties in the home and discusses the complexity of the task to get a robot to even do such a job. Thankfully, the software – and hardware – will develop over time to surmount most problems. In my opinion, though, just remember that Murphy’s First Law lurks about all the time.

Robot News Roundup-March 31st, 2013

31 Mar

Romance for robots?

It seems a mite premature to me, but this Japanese university at Osaka is suggesting there is a need to manufacture a perfect android (PA) to function as a romantic partner. In this report, the PA is ‘female’ – in looks, that is (whether there is a need for the ‘male’ variety is not disclosed). This is probably a strange idea for many in the West, but as the chief engineer of the project says, “In Japan, we believe that everything has a soul and therefore we don’t hesitate to create human-like robots.”

To be fair to the chief engineer, the reason for such development is, essentially, to “to learn more about the human race.” Still, it takes all kinds to make a world, I guess…

The complete robot – or is it?

 DLR Robotics of Germany is very much in the business of developing full bipedal mobility for robots. So the company’s thrust is aligned, to some extent, with some of the work of Boston Dynamics, famous for Big Dog and Atlas. Although, in the words of the director, Mr Christian Ott, “This is not intended to create a perfect walking robot, but to be a continuous source of new knowledge.” Germans are pretty good at engineering, as we all know, so this is worth watching some more.

Fully robotic self-construction with 4D printing (no, not 3D printing)

 This will knock your sox off, maybe: materials under development at MIT that self-construct (yes, you read that right). Still much in the experimental stage, this report and videos give a tantalizing look at what will be available in the near future. It’s jaw-dropping, cutting edge technology: makes you kind of want to ask, “What will they think of next?” Try this: I just wonder if that technology will, in a century or so, provide the means for robots to self-replicate easily.

That’s a speculative idea, of course; but, it’s not a pleasant thought at all, is it?

Robot News Roundup-March 25th, 2013

25 Mar

Robot-human interaction can help stroke victims

Once more, here is proof that robots will be a great boon for humanity in the medical field. Already, a primitive humanoid robot (HR) is assisting in the rehab of those with stroke related partial paralysis.

Yes, robots can learn language

If you have any doubts that robots can indeed learn language, this will help to resolve the issue. It’s a long, long way to colloquial, conversational English, for sure; but the goal is irresistible, don’t you think?

Another mover and shaker in robotics

I came across this page about Rodney Brooks, MIT professor emeritus, and now Chairman and Chief Technology Officer at Rethink Robotics. There are a number of very informative videos and interviews which provide much background in the long development of robotics. Definitely worth a view or two.

A robot helper in every home?

Right now, only few people are free from the drudge of housework. The future though holds out the promise of robot servants for the masses. The technical challenges are daunting, to say the least; but, as one of the project engineers says, “The robots are coming. Are we ready?”

Revising The Three Laws of Robotics?

Here’s a piece from 2009 with a discussion on Asimov’s laws of robotics. Two engineers at Ohio State U have proposed revisions that place more responsibility on humans when interacting with robots. I think it’s on the ball.

Robot News Roundup March 18th, 2013

18 Mar

Robots: Tomorrow’s technology is still tomorrow

Here’s an interesting and timely account from one robotics manufacturer, Willow Garage – hardly a name one would associate with robotics engineering. However, it’s been in business since 2006 and has so far produced about fifty robots, all of them large, slow moving and with limited capabilities. Most of them are now with academic or research institutions in USA, Japan and Europe.

Significantly, the programming for the PR1 and PR2 robots is contained in the company’s Robot Operating System, or ROS which is still “the most widely used open-source robotics software platform.” The core message to take away is that “a robot with human capabilities” is still very much in the future.

Japan’s Robot Renaissance (Fukushima’s Silver Lining)

It’s nice to know that robots have increasingly positive benefits for humanity. Read here how robots from iRobot in USA helped the recovery process at the Fukushima disaster of 2011.

The irony, though, is that Japan is a leader in industrial robots and humanoid exceptions like Asimo; nowhere in Japan was there a ready-made “practical and effective exploration and rescue” robotic machine. Looks like, though, that glaring lack will be changed – and probably quite swiftly.

Are Droids Taking Our Jobs?

Jobs are a pervasive issue these days and will stay that way for much of this century, in my opinion. In short, though, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’ to that question, but a qualified yes. Read here what Andrew McAfee, MIT professor, has to say to support that claim.

Robot News Roundup March 14th, 2013

14 Mar

Festo’s Extraordinary Robots That Mimic Biology II: Bionic Learning Network

Under water, on land or in the air, the robotics company Festo is producing amazing robotic machines to go anywhere, it seems. Of particular interest to me is the engineering behind the mimicking of human muscles. And, it’s just going to get better.

Army of the Future: Russian combat Robots

US military forces have been using robotics in war for years, in Iraq and Aghanistan. So, have a look to see what the Russians are doing to catch up. Might seem quite basic now, but the Russians are good at innovation. There’ll be more to come, no doubt.

World’s Top3 Humanoid Robots – Asimo vs HPR-4 vs NAO!

If you haven’t seen Asimo before, it’s worth a look. Sure, it’s specialized and suited for relatively banal tasks, but here’s the point: the engineering and software behind it could be adapted quite easily. I’d not seen the other two before, but Nao, from Aldebaran Robotics, is due for mass marketing this year. It’s a toy, of course – but what a toy!  So, I’m sure it will sell well.


Ignore the hype in this video, and just note the fluidity of movement in this over-sized machine. Then, think ahead 20 or 30 years and picture what is likely to be at that time. It could be quite scary. And, hmmm, note also Titan’s minder in the background, keeping it under control.