Guy Hoffman of MIT's Robotic Life Research group is merging robots and the art of acting by animating a robotic desk lamp named AUR with a little inspiration from a 5-axis robot arm. AUR's debut is a play at MIT's Dramashop, touted as the first step in an effort towards a fully autonomous robotic actor. Video shows the lamp following a human's lighting needs in a dimly lit room.
The Swirling Brain alerted us to a breitbart.com story about another "world's first", this time a Kyoto robotics company named Squse is claiming to have created the world's first robot hand powered by air muscles and able to do delicate tasks like handling an egg. The main visible difference between this and previous air muscle hands seems to be that Squse covered theirs with a flesh-colored glove. The UK Shadow Robot Company shipped an air muscle hand called Shadow Hand in 2005 and demonstrated prototypes as early as 2001. The Squse site has video of the hand attached to an android arm and torso. The Squse press release has some additional photos. Interestingly, there didn't seem to be any photos of the Squse hand gripping an egg but here's the Shadow Hand holding an egg.
Many of the terms dealt with by roboticists such as consciousness, emotion, and intelligences are notoriously difficult to define. Researchers Shane Legg and Marcus Hutter have put together a very interesting collection of over 70 definitions of intelligence (PDF format), creating the largest and most well-referenced such collection to date. With a little effort, I bet we could expand their list to twice the size! They've divided the list into collective definitions, psychologist's definitions, and AI researcher's definitions. Among the definers you'll find Minsky, Schank, Warwick, Lenat, Feigenbaum and other well-known AI and robotics researchers. Definitely worth a read if this is a topic you wrangle with when designing your robots.
Jamais Cascio of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies posted a new article on the future of Cyborgs in our society. He comments on several trends such as baby boomers pushing the demand for higher fidelity hearing aids and faster product development cycles. Any article on Cyborgs has to mention the huge number of amputees being generated by Bush's war in Iraq. The sheer number of amputees is driving demand for prosthetics and resulting in rapid progress. People using these new prosthetic legs expend 20% less energy walking or running than people with natural legs. One South African is running fast enough with his unpowered prosthetics to qualify for the Olympics, which has the Olympic committee worried that natural humans may not be able to compete against cyborgs in the near future. He also notes that prosthetics legs are even becoming quite fashionable on the dance floors.
A Slashdot article notes that NASA's JPL has released to the public their Coupled Layer Architecture for Robotic Autonomoy or CLARAty software. It was initially believed the software would be released under a Free Software or Open Source license, however this turned out not to be the case. The software was released under something called the "CLARAty Open Source License", which, despite the name, fails to meet either the FSF free software definition or the OSI Open Source definition. On the upside, the software can be downloaded at no cost it's possible to view at least some of the source code, and use software in non-commercial applications. Any commercial use or derived works are not allowed, however. While the closed, proprietary license is disappointing, perhaps having access to the software will facilitate the development of similar functionality in free software.
Robot B9 is one of the most famous hollywood robots of all time. Two B9 Robots were made for the Lost in Space TV series, one a fully detailed shell with space for an actor inside and the second, a less-detailed background prop. In 2003 the lesser of the two robots sold for $230,000 on eBay to a private collector. The restored, fully detailed B9 has been in the hands of Sheila Allen, wife of Lost in Space creator Irwin Allen - until now. Allen has donated the robot to NASA where it will become a "permanent resident of the Kennedy Space Center' Visitors Complex." For more, video and audio are available in NASA's weekly podcast for June 15. If you'd like your own B9, don't forget that licensed, full size B9 replicas are being produced for anyone who can plonk down $25,000.
The mailbox has been overflowing with robots news. Jimmy Atkinson writes, I just posted a how-to guide to transforming oneself into a cyborg over here at Free Geekery. Roland Piquepaille sent us links to his latest blog posts about a globetrotting robot that's been exploring the oceans of the world and a robotic arm scanning a manuscript of Homer's Iliad to help create a high-resolution, 3D, virtual book from the ancient parchment. The Swirling Brain sent us links to a Slashdot story on DARPA's LANdroid army and a TechDigest post about Roboquad spider robot. Last, there was a release announcement for the latest version of Fast Genetic Algorithm, a C++ library that provides " a simple yet powerful implementation of a general genetic algorithm, and provides many types of crossover and selection procedures." The library is Free Software licensed under the GNU LGPL. Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report here? Send 'em our way please.
I’ve come across this interesting movie clip called The Google Master Plan in Youtube quite some time ago. It’s a movie directed and produced by Ozan Halici & Jürgen Mayer for their Bachelors’s Thesis at the University of Applied Sciences Ulm, Germany. The movie basically talks about how Google can use their free services like Google [...]
Online shopping has gain its popularity all around the world nowadays with the advance of the Internet. Just like the amount of websites we can find on the Internet, there are too many online deals for us to choose from. Hence we do need a search engine which helps us to aggregate all merchant offers, [...]
I’m sure many of us are thinking of upgrading our computer operating system to the latest Windows Vista. Apart from wondering will the current computer hardware be compatible to Windows Vista, probably we are facing the dilemma of choosing which version of Windows Vista. Basically, there are 5 versions of Windows Vista to choose from, they [...]
Yellow pages is often the source for us to search for local stores and services, be it online yellow pages or printed yellow pages. I particularly like online yellow pages very much, as usually I am just a few clicks away from what I want to find in my local area. However, in many cases accurate [...]
The USC Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems published an interesting dissertation by Evan Drumwright titled "The Task Matrix: A Robot-Independent Framework for Programming Humanoids" (PDF format). In the paper, Drumwright attempts to separate humanoid robot tasks into robot-dependent and robot-independent tasks. The goal is to improve software reuse by identifying a primitive task set for humanoids that allow a broad range of higher level tasks. He also provides an example of an XML posture description language. For more, see Drumwright's Task Matrix webpage, which includes videos of simulated robots expressing various postures and movements.
Hanool Robotics' Tiro participated in the wedding of one of its designers on Sunday in Daejeon South Korea - apparently a first in robotics. Since Tiro is not an ordained robot, the civil ceremony will have to be backed up later with legal registration. Hanool also produces the Hanura-RD4, the Ottoro cleaning robot, various military and law enforcement platforms, education kits, and subsystems.
The EyeRIS platform at the Active Perception Laboratory of Boston University is being used to understand and model the tiny, simple eye movements we unknowingly use to aid vision. Small movements of the eye, along with movements of our head and body, prevent us from maintaining a static image. Since stable stimuli fade on the retina, it is thought that the movements are used to improve the signaling received by the brain and are an important part of vision processing. A proper understanding of this could lead to improvements in robotic vision sensors and processing algorithms.
A tiny article in The Portugal Resident alerted us to the June 12 opening of the Robotarium, a sort of self-contained zoo of autonomous robot plants and animals. The Robotarium is the idea of artist Leonel Moura. According to the website, "The Robotarium is a structure of metal and glass, in which a set of totally autonomous robots will start 'to live', divided in different species and with different characteristics and capabilities. Some robots have wheels and resemble small vehicles similar to the ones that currently are used in space exploration; others will be similar to bugs, small animals and plants; others will be different from any thing that can be found in nature." The Robotarium X webpage includes photos of the exhibit and the individual robots.
The Robotics Educators Conference sponsored by Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Academy will be held in Pittsburgh this August to help inform educators about current options for teaching robotics. Dick Swan will speak about ROBOTC, Professor CJ Chung of Lawrence Technological University will talk about ROBOFEST, Dr. Robert Rasmussen will present guidelines for making use of LEGO products, Professor Jeanine Meyer will show how she uses innovative ways to excite her students about programming and how she helped implement a college level robotics program, Tom Burick, inventor of PC-BOT, will showcase his creations and speak about future applications of robotics, and many more.
The Engineer Online describes a newly developed UAV that detects and tracks airborne pathogens above agricultural areas. The autonomous flying robot samples the air hundreds of meters above the ground, tracking pathogens such as the Fusarium genus of fungi, which can travel long distances at high altitudes. The autonomous robots have advantages over both manned flights and radio controlled drones. The UAV, developed by David Schmale and other researchers at the Virginia Tech Center for Autonomous Systems, can sample the air in precise patterns, often in coordinations with other UAVs working simulatneously at different altitudes. With just 75 flights, the researchers have already cataloged 500 colonies of Fusarium including 11 species not previously known to be transported this far above the Earth's surface. The research will expand to other types of pathogens, marking the begining of a field one scientist calls aerogenomics. For more details see the Virginia Tech news release or the VT Environment Innovations poster, Exploring atmospheric microbial communities with autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles.
LiveScience reports that a new NSF study on the social impact of robots reveals that the iRobot Roomba is becoming part of the families who buy it. While people sometimes noted that the Roomba wasn't ideally suited to cleaning their house, they frequently named the robots and treated them as if they had personalities. The study also revealed that pets reacted to the robots in much the same way as the humans. One cat became friends with the Roomba, sitting near it to keep it company. A geriatric dog was reported to be scared of the Roomba. One family noted that letting their daughter "adopt" the Roomba result her cleaning her room much more frequently. This research was done by Jodi Forlizzi who has done previous studies of Human-Robot interaction.
An Electronic Design article gives an overview of ZigBee technology and starts a series of hardware reivews. Many robot builders are discovering that ZibBee is an inexpensive way to get a wireless link between a robot and a computer, useful for either recording telemetry or issuing commands to the robot. There's a lot of cool hardware coming out and Electronic Design is going to be reviewing some of it, starting with a review of Daintree Networks Ethernet to ZigBee adapter. Another great source of USB-ZigBee hardware for robots not mentioned in the article is New Micro, Inc.
If you are a frequent online buyer who purchases computer stuffs and digital devices via the Internet, you don’t want to miss out this website called Dealighted! Its name doesn’t explain much of its operation. Dealighted is a free tool to help online buyers to find the best bargain for the products they are looking for! [...]
Here's another weekly dump of robot links from our news inbox. Roland Piquepaille sent a link to his latest blog post about Lord of the Rings special effects people building a robot to help save a 200-million year old reptile species. We also received a link to a YouTube video about Mr. Woo, a Chinese man who builds walking robots of all sizes; some small enough to hold in your, others big enough to ride on. Dominic Létourneau sent a link to Reddy, an emotional humanoid robot from RoboMotio. The Swirling Brain pointed out a Planetary Society story about the next generation Mars Rover, a really creepy-looking child android named CB2, and a Slashdot article about the Hubo FX-1 chairbot, a chair that's also a biped robot. VIA sent us pricing info on the Pico-ITX motherboards that we reported on a couple of months ago. Expect them to retail for $230-260 in the US. Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report here? Send 'em our way please.
According to a Reuters story (alt link), the creepy-looking Japanese humanoid robot, Kansei, generates appropriate facial expression when you talk to it. The facial expressions are based on the most common reaction that normal people have to a database of 500,000 English words. For example, hearing the word sushi makes the robot smile; hearing the words Bush or Iraq causes expressions of disgust and fear. The robot's face is equipped to generate 36 different facial expressions in many different combinations. The expressions are intended to improve human-robot interaction by mimicking normal human expressions that occur during conversations. Kansei was developed as part of a research project by Professor Takeno Jun'ichi at the Robot and Science Lab of Meiji University. For more you can read a 2005 Discovery Channel report on Kansei (PDF format). There's also a short YouTube video about Kansei. We reported on Kansei a couple of years ago when it had a smaller vocabulary
iPod’s fans have made history as Apple announced yesterday that there have been 100 million iPods sold to date, since its launch in November 2001! 100 million sold in five and a half years is incredible and there is no doubt iPod is still the pioneer in music player industry.
DARPA's Urban Challenge robot contest hasn't captured the imagination of robot builders and the news media in the same way as the more interesting Grand Challenge. The result is a lot fewer stories on the event and the teams involved. There are 53 teams who intend to participate in the contest. A CNET article offers a nice update on the contest and includes details on a few of the teams. Unlike the earlier Grand Challenge which allowed innovative robot designs, the Urban Challenge allows only stock vehicles that have been modified to be autonomous. The contest will take place on 3 November, 2007
Ever think of using a “mouse-like” device as pointing device for your TV instead of the dull TV remote control? You know, like having a cursor moving in your TV just like what we have for PC? Hillcrest Labs actually has this revolutionary pointing device for TV called HōMETM Interactive Media System.
Quoted: Hillcrest Labs’ HōMETM Interactive Media [...]
Remote computer support can be provided either via Windows Remote Assistance or software that specially designed which we have to install on our PC. As a result, there is always a hassle to install a separate software onto the PC in order to provide or receive remote assistance. To save the one who provides or receives [...]
Cost of making local and international call using phone/calling cards is quite cheap nowadays. I like to use phone cards to make international call especially when I’m traveling instead of making expensive roaming calls. There is one thing I don’t like about ordinary phone cards is that we need to remember the PIN number on [...]
The Christian Science Monitor posted an article about consumer acceptance of the increasing number of robots available in the marketplace. They predict we will be seeing more simple robots in American households but suggest potential customers suffer from unrealistic expectations and a "Frankenstein complex" that makes them fear robots. It appears that many people expect robots to have human-level intelligence. Meanwhile, Hollywood seems to have done a nice job convincing everyone that intelligent machines are evil, apparently leading many potential customers to believe their Roomba may try kill them if they don't keep an eye on it.
We reported back in 2006 on DARPA's HI-MEMS project to engineer cyborg miltary insects. The Cyborg bugs are back in the news today. The Swirling Brain sent us a link to a new post in the Infowars blog commenting on a recent Article at The Register based on an article in the UK TimesOnline from a week ago that quotes Rodney Brooks, "This is going to happen <...> A bunch of experiments have been done over the past couple of years where simple animals, such as rats and cockroaches, have been operated on and driven by joysticks, but this is the first time where the chip has been injected in the pupa stage and 'grown' inside it." The Register decribes the process succinctly as "chipping-up innocent creatures and turning them into zombie slaves under computer control." Best of all, the Times articles refers to these things as "tiny Terminators".
Even though I'm limited to English, pictures of ASTLab's robotic chip programmer completely conveys what an industrious tinkerer can create with a handful of RC servos, custom fabricated brackets, a breadboarded circuit, a vacuum pump, and what looks like a PC-based control system running a VB program. If you've got the time to wait for the 12MB download, I highly recommend viewing the video of this impressive device.
A reader submitted a link to a new PhysOrg.com story on robotic self-reproduction. The article describes research done at Cornell on self-reproducing machines. The researchers have manually designed both real and virtual self-reproducing machines to demonstrate their feasibility. They are now starting to artificially evolve self-reproducing machines. The manually designed prototypes are called molecubes and look like 10 cm cubes that can swivel and connect to other cubes. The cube-based robots are able to assemble exact duplicates of themselves. The researchers believe the key to making this work is keeping the building blocks simple, just as evolution resulted in complex biological organisms built from a repertoire of only about 20 different amino acids. In addition to self-reproduction, these robots can reconfigure at will, a feature handy on long space missions where unforseen problems might require specialized robots. For all the details, see the paper released by the researchers, "Evolved and Designed Self-Reproducing Modular Robotics" (PDF format). We've also covered some of this research in our an article last year about resilient machines.
OVIWUN UAV uses twin counter-rotating ducted fans built of lightweight materials, dual 450-watt electric motors, a high-efficiency drive train, 14 volt rechargeable battery power system, 3-axis gyro, a low-power PC104-based processor, and open-source flight control software. The vehicle is about 14" tall, weighs a tad over 6 pounds, and is capable of 40+ mph with a maximum hover ceiling of more than 3 miles. Typical battery life is about 20 minutes. It's amazing that $15k can now buy a UAV that would have costs millions only a decade ago.
Dominic Létourneau alerted us to the first software release from the ManyEars project. What does the software do? "The ManyEars project makes use of an array of microphones to perform sound source localization, tracking, and separation. It is designed to provide auditory capabilities to mobile robots, but it can equally be used for video conferencing or other applications. It is based on the FlowDesigner development environment." Microphones can make inexpensive sensors for mobile robots. If your robot doesn't sense sound yet, this might be an interesting way to add that capability. ManyEars is Free Software licensed with the GNU GPL.