Tag Archives: robot

This Robot Will Let Kids In Hospital Explore Zoos Through Virtual Reality

A community called Robots for Good has come together to help kids stuck in Great Ormond Street Hospital in London visit the zoo. If the name hasnt given it away, the project involves robots, but perhaps not in the way you might be thinking.

The group is 3D printing a life-size humanoid robot that strolls, or more accurately rolls, around London Zoo, all under the control of a child back at the hospital. But its a bit more immersive than that: The robot is hooked up to an Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headset, so children can treat the robot as an avatar and feel like theyre interacting with the animals themselves.

Much like the increasing trend for journals to provide open access papers, more and more technology is going opensource, and its thanks to this movement that this venture has been possible. It was born out of two such existing projects: Gael Langevins 3D-printed robot called InMoov and Boris Landonis Segway-style vehicle called OpenWheels. As open hardware, anyone with Internet accesscan download the blueprints for the tech and share, modify and develop them however they so wish. And thats exactly what Robots for Good has been doing.

We really saw this as a way to show people what open hardware is, Richard Hulskes, co-founder of Wevolver, the startup that initiated and is hosting the project, told IFLScience. Its available to anyone to build and contribute, but at the same time its really affordable.

Image credit: Robots for Good, courtesy of Richard Hulskes

Since the projects inception in 2012, Wevolver has been getting people together from all across the world and making sure they communicate and share their knowledge. Contributors have been keen to turn this dream into a reality, but its not just individual people chipping in: Companies have also offered their services, donating material and bringing in their expertise on virtual reality.

I think that distinguishes us asa platform. That we bring together not just hackers and geeks, but people from all different fields, said Hulskes. Not only that, but Wevolver is doing this out of their own pocket, costing the team around 3,000 ($4,500).

So far, the community has finished the torso of the robot, but there is still a long way to go. Next on the list are the wheels, which are based around the open-source Segway mentioned earlier. Sounds easy, but Segways are built for people to stand on and balance; this robot has no legs. The community is working on overcoming this hurdle by restructuring it so that it can be reliably maneuvered by a game controller, which would be operated by a remote user. There is also the fact that a robot torso plonked on a Segway looks rather ridiculous; a grammar school has offered their help with this issue bypitching 3Dprintable redesigns for the base.

At the moment, there is no way for the arms to be controlled, but Hulskes says Wevolver is now working with a pair of developers to create a pair of sensor-lined gloves so that the robots hands will replicate movements of the user. And here is another tricky part: Users will maneuver the robot using a remote control, which obviously requires hand movement, so they have to make the gloves in such a way that both operations can be performed without interfering with one another. The robots head movements are slightly easier, following those of the headset-wearing user.

Image credit: Robots for Good, courtesy of Richard Hulskes

The robot has to be fully assembled in time for a launch at the zoo next Easter, but in no way will that signal the end of this venture. My vision with this project is that we create the prototype, create the idea and then just let it go, said Hulskes. We want others to pick it up.

What I hope is that more and more people start building this robot so that kids in London can check out a robot in New York, for example. There could be a network of robots that people can check in with all across the world. This isnt just a concept, but were gonna let it go.

If a 3D printer is something youre lucky enough to own, there is nothing stopping you joining in or building your own version ofone of these robots. If youve got time to spare, itll take you a couple of months.

Currently there are about two or three hundred people building this thing at home its a huge community, Hulskes said. And theyre all giving the robots their own identities. Some people even put wigs on them. I wouldnt recommend it, they look super weird

Of course, it doesnt have to be zoos that these robots frequent. London Zoo is already thinking about what they can do next with the robot, and is hoping to deploy one or several in a wildlife park they own in Africa. Moving away from animals, Hulskes envisions them also being put in nursing homes for the elderly. Needless to say, this is the start of something very beautiful, and we cant wait to see where it goes.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/robot-will-let-kids-hospital-explore-zoos-through-virtual-reality

Chinese Workers Face Competition From Robots


One of the defining narratives of modern China has been the migration of young workers — often girls in their late teenage years — from the countryside into sprawling cities for jobs in factories. Many found work at Foxconn, which employs nearly 1 million low-wage workers to hand-assemble electronic gadgets for Apple, Nintendo, Intel, Dell, Nokia, Microsoft, Samsung and Sony.

So it was a surprise when Terry Guo, the hard-charging, 61-year-old billionaire CEO of Foxconn, said last July that the Taiwan-based manufacturing giant would add up to 1 million industrial robots to its assembly lines inside of three years.

The aim: to automate assembly of electronic devices just as companies in Japan, South Korea and the United States previously automated much of the production of automobiles.

Foxconn, one of China’s largest private employers, has long played an outsize role in China’s labor story. It has used cheap labor to attract multinational clients but now faces international scrutiny over low pay and what some see as inhumane working conditions.

“Automation is the beginning of the end of the factory girl, and that’s a good thing,” says David Wolf, a Beijing-based strategic communications and IT analyst. Wolf, who has visited many Chinese factory floors, predicts an eventual labor shift similar to “the decline of seamstresses or the secretarial pool in America.”

Since the announcement, Guo hasn’t offered more details, keeping observers guessing about whether Foxconn’s plans are real. (Through its public-relations firm, Burson-Marsteller, Foxconn declined to describe its progress.) Trade groups also haven’t seen the huge orders for industrial robots that Foxconn would need, although some experts believe the company may be developing its own robots in house.

“Guo has good reasons for not waving his flag about this too much,” says Wolf. Keeping quiet could give Foxconn a jump on competitors. What’s more, with the Chinese economy slowing down, “it is politically inadvisable to talk too much about replacing people with robots,” he says.

China’s leaders see employment as essential to maintaining a harmonious society. The imperative of creating jobs often trumps that of efficiency. For instance, Wang Mengshu, deputy chief engineer at China Railway Tunnel Group, says that labor-saving equipment isn’t always used even when it’s available. “If all the new tunnels were built with the advanced equipment, that would trim the need for the employment of about six million migrant workers,” he says. “In certain fields we don’t want to have fast development in China, in order to solve the national employment problem.”

About 300,000 Chinese workers currently live in dormitories at Foxconn’s Longhua factory complex, where Apple products are assembled. Most spend their days seated beside a conveyer belt, wearing white gowns, face masks and hairnets so that stray hairs and specks of dust won’t interfere as they perform simple but precise tasks, again and again.

Each worker focuses on a single action, like putting stickers on the front of an iPhone or packing a finished product into a box. As managers told ABC’s Nightline — which aired a rare look inside the factory in February — it takes five days and 325 steps to assemble an iPad.

Such highly structured and predictable tasks are well suited to automation, says Jamie Wang, a Taipei-based analyst for the research firm Gartner. Industrial robots, typically equipped with a movable arm, use lasers or pressure sensors to know when to start and finish a job. A robot can be operated 160 hours a week. Even assuming competition from nimble-fingered humans putting in 12-hour shifts, a single robot might replace two workers, and possibly as many as four.

Wang stresses that Foxconn can’t replace human workers right away because automating assembly lines would require rejiggering its entire manufacturing process. Larger changes in China also won’t occur overnight. Smaller Chinese factories can’t afford to invest in robotics, and factory wages are still relatively low — about $315 to $400 per month in the Pearl River Delta, according to Liu Kaiming, director of a Shenzhen-based labor organization called the Institute of Contemporary Observation.

Despite that, Foxconn isn’t the only Chinese manufacturer betting on robots. The International Federation of Robotics, based in Frankfurt, tracked a 50% jump in purchases of advanced industrial robots by Chinese manufacturers in 2011, to 22,600 units, and now predicts that China will surpass Japan as the world’s largest market in two years. It’s obvious, Wolf says, that industrial robotics “is about to get very hot in China.”

Image courtesy of iStock, loonger

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/17/industrial-robots-china-workers/

Virtual Reality Remote Controlled Robot Avatar Brushes Cat

After much sweat and toil,  has finally unveiled his complete project. Using a Microsoft Kinect, a Nintendo Wii, a treadmill, and computers, he created a quasi virtual reality remote control robot avatar. To test his project, he successfully brushes a kitty in another room with only virtual reality control.  


Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2012/01/04/virtual-reality-remote-controlled-robot-avatar-brushes-cat/

Robot Learns To Cook Watching YouTube Videos

While many of us might use YouTube to get our daily fix of adorable or hilarious cat videos, the site can also be a very useful learning platform. It has thousands of educational videos that can teach us an amazing variety of things, such as how to play the guitar, or facts about the world and universe we live in. But it’s not just people that can learn from YouTube; robots now can, too.

In a new study, a team of scientists from the University of Maryland and the Australian research center NICTA successfully taught a robot how to use tools by showing it cooking videos on YouTube, representing an important step towards the development of futuristic, self-learning helper robots. The published work will be presented soon at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence’s 29th annual conference.

The ability to learn actions from human demonstrations is critical if we want to develop service robots that can teach themselves new skills, but it’s been a major hurdle for scientists working on artificial intelligence. In particular, training robots how to manipulate objects has been very tricky since many actions can be performed in a variety of different ways. Cooking, for example, requires a huge range of manipulation actions, and it is likely that these will be required by future service robots, which is why the team chose this skill for their study.

To teach their robot, the researchers used a method of artificial intelligence training known as “deep learning,” which basically involves converting information from a variety of inputs, such as audio and image data, into commands. Key to this technique was a series of artificial neurons that were hooked up to form a network, called a convolutional neural network (CNN), which not only served as a sophisticated image recognition system, but also allowed the robot to break down the actions presented.

The researchers used a pair of CNNs in their system that performed different roles. One observed the cook in the YouTube video and identified various actions, such as a particular grasp used on an object, while the other broke down that action in order to work out how the object was being manipulated. The latter was also capable of predicting the next action that was most likely to be performed with the object.

After using data from 88 different YouTube cooking videos, which are particularly challenging due to the large variation in scenery and demonstrators, the robot was able to identify which type of grasp was used and the object being grasped. It then selected the most appropriate manipulator from a small repertoire to replicate the grasp, such as a vacuum gripper.

“We believe this preliminary integrated system raises hope towards a fully intelligent robot for manipulation tasks that can automatically enrich its own knowledge resource by “watching” recordings from the World Wide Web,” the researchers concluded.

 [via AAAI, Venture Beat, RT, Science Alert, Gizmag and Tech Times]

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/robot-learns-cook-watching-youtube-videos

Google Lunar X Prize Robot Built to Find Lunar Water


The search for water ice on the moon could be led someday by a robot armed with a 4-foot drill. With the first prototype of the lunar rover, called Polaris, comes the prospect of eventually extracting resources from the moon, asteroids or other planets through space mining.

Polaris is the robot of choice for Astrobotic Technology, one of many private teams competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize for landing robotic explorers on the moon. But Astrobotic also wants to build a lasting business out of its lunar exploration efforts by testing the technologies needed for space mining.

“This rover is a first step toward using off-Earth resources to further human exploration of our solar system,” said John Thornton, president of the Pittsburgh-based  robotics company, which unveiled the prototype Oct. 8.

Polaris is the size of a golf cart and tall enough to wield a 4-foot drill. It can move a foot per second on its 2-foot-wide wheels and carry 150 pounds (70 kilograms) of drilling equipment and science instruments. Between its heavy drill and batteries and its lightweight wheels and chassis, the robot weighs about 330 pounds (150 kilograms).

Polaris will need to withstand frigid temperatures as low as minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 173 Celsius).

The lunar rover’s power comes from solar panels designed to point toward the sun as it peeks just above the moon’s south pole.

A lack of GPS on the moon required a workaround. Astrobotic hit upon the clever idea of having the rover match whatever it sees on the surface with pictures of satellite images taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

If Polaris reaches the moon, it could be perhaps the first of many robots that scout sites for space mining operations. NASA has already begun talking with about putting its own ice-prospecting instruments on the private rover — one of nine contracts worth $3.6 million that the U.S. space agency has awarded to Astrobotic.

This article originally published at TechNewsDaily

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/11/google-lunar-x-prize-robot/

OmniCorp From RoboCop 2013 Product Line Commercial

As a clever way to market the new RoboCop reboot in 2013, fantasy company OmniCorp published this advert offering their futuristic services in our world. 

Imagine no crime and no need for police. It may sound alluring, until you realize it’s because there is a fleet of weaponized drones flying in the sky controlled by one corporation. Read more on Collider


Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2012/07/09/omnicorp-from-robocop-2013-product-line-commercial/

Smart Drone Can Autonomously Avoid Obstacles


One of the biggest issues with robotic planes or helicopters, also known as drones, is that they are not very good at avoiding obstacles on their own. In other words, they need a human pilot on the ground to prevent them from crashing. But that could change soon.

Researchers at Cornell University have developed software that, coupled with a camera and hardware that mimics a brain, helps a small drone to dodge obstacles like trees or poles.

The software makes the drone turn an image taken with its camera into a 3D model of the environment. The robotic brain can then determine which objects are obstacles and change its route accordingly. This would solve one of the biggest hurdles towards fully autonomous drones: their lack of good “sense and avoid” systems.

The lead researcher, Ashutosh Saxena, hopes to further develop the software capabilities making the drone able to calculate wind patterns and avoid moving objects, like birds.

Software like this could have huge implications for the future of drones in the U.S. as the Federal Aviation Authority prepares to implement them in the domestic aerospace before 2015. The military’s far-out research arm, DARPA, and defense giant and drone-producer Lockheed Martin are funding the research, underlining the importance that this project has in the eyes of the U.S. government and the private sector.

Watch the video above to learn more about how this software works and to see the small quadrocopter move around autonomously.

Photo courtesy of Cornell University.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/08/smart-drone-avoid-obstacles/

Cat, Duckling, Dog Play With Roomba

Texas Girly 1979 published this adorable Halloween-pet video a day after the spooky holiday, but it has just experienced a second surge of viewership online now, appearing on LaughingSquid, DListed, HuffPost, and BuzzFeed

The web has seen plenty of cats riding on Roombas before, but nothing like this. A cat, dressed as a Halloween shark, rides the robotic floor cleaner as a giddy baby duckling runs along. Finally, a witch dog appears just as the Roomba runs out of juice. 

As CthulhuSteev says, “The disappointment as the Roomba shuts off is palpable.”


Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2013/04/23/cat-duckling-dog-play-with-roomba/

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Drone Project Modeled From Incredible Images of Birds in Flight

Stanford University students are capturing incredible images of birds in mid-flight in order to study their movements, behavior, and ultimately create the ideal drone. The ultra-high-speed Phantom camera they use can shoot upwards of 3,300 frames per second at full resolution, and an amazing 650,000 at a tiny resolution, which enables the students to capture the incredibly intricate movements of a bird in flight.

Professor David Lentink, who oversees the project, says: “Our camera shoots 100 times faster than humans’ vision refresh rate. We can spread a single wing beat across 40 frames, and see incredible things.”

The purpose of studying the birds is to capture their biomechanical behavior mid-flight and apply the findings to enhance robot design. Professor Lentink explains many drones can be disrupted by a slight gust of wind, but a bird can use its wings to stay airborne. The incredibly detailed images of the birds in flight may provide the key to why robots can’t fly in the same manner.

birdy flying

With the help of the images caught on tape, the students and their supervisors are hoping to develop an ideal search-and-rescue robot, one that can adapt to an unpredictable environment and incorporate the best characteristics of each bird studied.

The Stanford researchers now want to give people the opportunity to film the birds themselves. Their project “Flight Artists” will give Bay Area birders access to Lentink’s camera.

“We’d like to pair the camera with some bird enthusiasts who might know the natural history of these birds better than us,” Lentink says. Applications to use the camera can be found on the project’s website. For more, check out the videos above and below.

All images and final video courtesy of Rivers Ingersoll

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/03/drone-project-birds/