Dec 12 2008

ROMP = fun, WROMP = danger

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ROMP–or Remotely Operated Mobile Platform–is a poor man’s version of an iRobot battlefield bot. Instead of fancy tracks and miniaturised sensors, these ROMPs seem more like sophisticated all-terrain RC cars rigged with consumer cameras. Until you meet the older brother, of course, the weaponised WROMP with its big gun on top. In the words of its creator, Chris Rogers:

[The WROMP] is a weaponised version of the Remotely Operated Mobile Platform. The operator can “drive” the vehicle and fire the weapon although it is out of visual range. WROMP can also be used for reconnaissance and bomb investigation and remote detonation

As you can see, the weapon in this case is just a paintball machine gun. Enough for me, although Chris says the platform has been designed for any use, “including remote surveillance, security patrolling and bomb investigation.” The system uses an audio/video system linked to an VR headset for control, aiming, and firing.


Dec 11 2008

Rolling Jollbot

A robot that jumps like a grasshopper and rolls like a ball has been developed by a Bath University PhD researcher.

The Jollbot can jump over obstacles and roll over terrain, meaning it could be used for space exploration or land survey work.

One of the major challenges that faces robots designed for space exploration is being able to move over rough terrain. Robots with legs are generally very complex, expensive to build and control, and encounter problems if they fall over. Wheels are a simpler solution to this, but are limited by the size of obstacles they can overcome.

To solve the problem, Rhodri Armour and his colleagues at Bath University’s Centre for Biomimetic and Natural Technologies have been looking to nature for inspiration – designing a robot that jumps obstacles in its path like an insect.

The Jollbot is shaped like a spherical cage and can roll in any direction, giving it the maneuverability of wheels without the problem of overturning or getting stuck in potholes.

The robot is also flexible and small, weighing less than a kilogram, meaning it’s not damaged when landing after jumping and is therefore less expensive than conventional exploration robots.

‘In the past, others have made robots that jump and robots that roll; but we’ve made the first robot that can do both,’ said Armour.

In nature, there are two main types of jumping: hopping, like a kangaroo, which uses its fine control and direct muscle action to propel it along; and ‘pause and leap’, like a grasshopper, which stores muscle energy in spring-like elements and rapidly releases it to make the jump.

‘We’ve made a robot that jumps in a similar way to the grasshopper, but uses electrical motors to slowly store the energy needed to leap in its springy skeleton. Before jumping, the robot squashes its spherical shape. When it is ready, it releases the stored energy all at once to jump to heights of up to half a metre,’ added Armour.

Future prototypes could include a stretchy skin covered in solar cells on the outside of the robot, so it could power itself, and robotic control sensors to enable it to sense its environment.

The components of the robot were made by rapid prototyping technology, similar to that used by the RepRap machine pioneered by the university, which builds parts by ‘printing’ layers of plastic on top of each other to produce a 3D object.

Video


Dec 10 2008

MechRC Humanoid Robot

Trossen Robotics offers the new MechRC Humanoid Robot

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This new ready-to-walk robot is a breakthrough in price to performance. High torque metal gear servos, LiPo batteries for longer run times, a fluid 3D visual software programming interface for easy custom motions, and a remote control unit are included. Everything needed to have your very own walking robot is included in this ready-to-walk kit! With over a hundred pre-installed motions and sounds you can get this robot throwing some dance floor shapes or some killer fighting moves straight from the box.

Programming the MechRC is seriously easy and thanks to the software included, all programming takes place in an animation filmstrip. Manipulate the animated robot on your PC’s screen into your chosen stance and save the move or sequence. Your robot is controlled much like a video game character so programming the ‘bot is both straightforward and fun.

Add the soundtracks, sound effects and voices of your choice from your PC’s music files and blast them out through the speaker in MechRC’s chest.

Features

  • The MechRC Robot comes pre-assembled.
  • Designed by the Transformer artist so there is a startling likeness to the Transformer form.
  • The ‘bot sports 17 servos with 180 degree movement..
  • Metal Gear Servos with 13kg-cm torque!
  • Audio can be played through the speaker in the robot’s chest.
  • More than 100 moves are pre-stored on the robot – see him throw some serious shapes fit for the dance floor or reveal his killer fighting moves.
  • An easy to use 3D visual interface is used for programming.
  • The robot is manipulated in an animation film strip making customizing seriously user-friendly.
  • IR remote control.
  • Lithium battery pack and charger.
  • MechRC Commander software CD ROM.
  • USB/Serial communications cable.
  • User Guide.
  • Requires a PC (not Mac compatible).
  • Suitable for ages 14 years+.
  • Size: 36 x 32 x 15cm.

Currently on backorder.  The kit costs $599.99.


Dec 9 2008

Winboni the window washing robot

At the touch of a button, the autonomous robot cleans the window without the help of Windex and some paper towels. Winboni, a tiny, square robot that runs on AA batteries, attaches itself to the window with a suction fan, moves across the window with powered wheels and scrubs the window clean with felt pads.

This creation is the brainchild of four MSU mechanical engineering students whose product took first place in the International Student Design Competition of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Nov. 2 in Boston. It took the students five tries and 900 hours to meet contest specifications.

“Things work differently than you think they’re going to; your assumptions might be wrong and that leads you to rebuild things over and over like five or six times,” said Emily Duszynski, a member of the award-winning team.

Duszynski, Kyle Koepf, Jonathan Luckhardt and Joshua Thomet were on the team that designed and built the window washer, which measures 5 inches long, 5 inches wide and 2 inches tall. This is the second time in 12 years that an MSU team won first place and the first time a college repeated the title.

It’s the curriculum of the mechanical engineering department at MSU that allows its students to be successful in the real world, Duszynski said.

“In the real world, in terms of engineering, you need time management skills and you have to figure out how to organize things and manage your project while learning how to deal with problems you’re not expecting,” she said. “So this project is just a miniature example of things you could run into in the real world.”

While research and development took the most amount of time for the team, choosing the name Winboni was easy – and, it came early in the design process, Duszynski said. She and the rest of the team likened the way the robot would clean a window to the way a Zamboni cleans the ice at a hockey rink.

Under the coaching of Andrew Seifert and the mechatronics consulting of mechanical engineering professor Clark Radcliffe, the MSU team competed against schools from all over the world, including Carnegie-Mellon, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Colorado State University, among others.


Dec 8 2008

Toyota trumpet playing robot to make orchestral debut

The world’s first and only trumpet-playing robot will perform for the first time with Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra during all four “Happy Holidays from the Pops” concerts December 12 -14 at Cincinnati’s historic Music Hall.

Read Release Below:

Toyota’s Trumpet Playing Robot will perform “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” from Walt Disney’s animated classic Cinderella as a solo piece. This engineering marvel will then join Maestro Kunzel and the Pops for two medleys that include such seasonal favorites as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Joy to the World,” and “Jingle Bells.”

“This is exciting for me and a first for the Pops stage,” said Erich Kunzel. “I’ve worked before with animals and children — but never with a robot!”

This high-energy extravaganza features everything one would expect from a Cincinnati Pops holiday show — singing dancing, a chorus, puppets a bell choir — but with a high-tech twist.

Standing 4 foot 9 inches, Toyota’s Trumpet Playing Robot has artificial lips which replicate the vibration of a human mouth, as well as artificial lungs. This intricate piece of engineering shows how robots can do very sophisticated functions like walking and playing a musical instrument with full dexterity.

“I’ve seen this robot in action – the audience will be amazed,’” said Mr. Kunzel. “We’re honored to be chosen by Toyota to feature this unique and interesting special guest.”

“Toyota is thrilled to showcase this innovative technology which will ultimately improve people’s quality of life in a wonderfully festive and family-friendly environment,” said Tania Saldana of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. “We are excited and honored to have our robot take the stage for the first time with the renowned Cincinnati Pops under the direction of Erich Kunzel.”

Based just south of Cincinnati in Erlanger, Kentucky, Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Inc. is a long-time supporter and community partner of the Cincinnati Pops.

Since its founding, Toyota’s corporate spirit has been “to enrich society through making things.” Based on this spirit, Toyota has been developing human-assisting partner robots as people around the globe are starting to crave better, more diversified lifestyles. These changes are particularly prominent in Japan where dwindling birth rates and a rapidly aging population are underscoring concerns regarding the need to secure a stable labor force for the future in order for its people to be able to enjoy comfortable standards of living. Toyota hopes to contribute to solving this growing problem even if in a small way.

The Toyota group has been working on industrial robots since the 1970s. Toyota Partner Robots were developed from basic technologies accumulated by various departments since the mid 1990s, with full-scale development beginning in 2000.

Partner robots will assist people in four target fields: manufacturing, medical/nursing care, housekeeping and personal mobility. Toyota believes that the technology incorporated into these partner robots will be a core technology for production and automobile manufacture in the future.

Tickets are $25-$69 (Children 6-18: $20), the Saturday Matinee features 25% off adult tickets (Children 6-18: $10) and are available by phone at (513) 381-3300 on the Internet at www.cincinnatipops.org, or in person at: CSO Box Office at Music Hall, 1241 Elm Street, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
CSO Box Office at Music Hall two hours prior to the performance.
Student Tickets for Cincinnati Pops concerts are $20 and are available the week of the concert in person at the CSO Sales Office, over the phone at 513-381-3300, online at www.cincinnatipops.org or at the Music Hall Box Office before the concert (limit two tickets per valid student ID).


Dec 7 2008

Mamoru-kun, a robot helper

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Mamoru-kun, an immobile and diminutive robot by the University of Tokyo, could tell you where you last left those keys that you lose. Developed in cooperation with Fujitsu and Toyota, Mamoru-kun measures a mere 40cm tall and weighs 3.8kg. Mamoru-kun can find an object the owner is looking for within specified areas and alerts the owner about it either via verbally through speaker or by pointing at it using its jointed arm (it has another two joints at the neck). We’re still very early on into the technology though – Mamoru-kun’s lost-item-finding powers are limited to pre-programmed items in a specified area only.

For the system to work, you’d have to input items that often get misplaced for identification later. The whole area where you need Mamoru-kun to monitor would also have to be wired with cameras connected to the robot. While these requirements are severely limiting, Mamoru-kun’s developers believe that it could provide great assistance “especially beneficial for elderly and sick persons. ” Additionally, commercialization of the technology isn’t expected until 2018.


Dec 6 2008

MEIT Robot Award 2008

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has been advancing efforts to develop technologies required for the commercialization of robots and to ensure their safety, with an eye to fostering the robot industry to become one of the leading industries in the world.

As part of such efforts, METI, together with co-organizers, presents “The Robot Award 2008” with the aim of promoting R&D and application of robotic technologies in the private sector, and promoting the creation of new markets for them. This award program was established in 2006.

From among the 65 entries submitted, eight robots were selected as First Prize-winners by the selection committee for their outstanding service this year and contribution to and potential for future market development.

Here are all winners:

Category: Service robots

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Omnibot17µ i-sobot from Takara Tomy

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“Booktime” from Nishizawa [JP], an automatic page turner

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Rice-transplanting robot from Japan’s National Agriculture and Food Research Organization

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Robotics-based engineer training solution ZMP e-nuvo from ZMP

Category: Industrial robots

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Small assembly conveyance robot XR-G from Denso Wave

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10th generation LCD glass substrate processing robot MOTOMAN-CDL 3000D from Yaskawa Electric

Category: Other robots and parts

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Hose-shaped rescue robot from Tohoku University

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Ultra-small MEMS 3-axial touch sensor chip from the University of Tokyo and Panasonic

The METI will select winners of the Grand Prize and the Venture Award for SMEs from these robots and announce them December 18.


Dec 5 2008

Rural Inventor Wu Yulu

On the outskirts of Beijing, in a small village of red-bricked farms flanked by rows of fields, lives an unlikely inventor. Wu Yulu, a 41-year-old repairman, builds robots of his own designs, using nothing but scrap and a fifth-grade education. He spends more than two-thirds of his monthly 1,000-rmb salary on an obsession that keeps him up at night and has plunged his family into debt.

Such single-minded dedication to invention is rare, and rarer still in China’s farming communities, where life usually centers around the family and the harvest. And though he has never sold a single robot, Wu won’t stop. He’s been building robots for years, he said, starting with nothing but a compulsion to see how things worked.

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“When I was 11, one day I was sitting on the doorstep, and while watching villagers passing by I suddenly came up with the idea of building a machine that walks like a man,” he told the Beijing Times.

His first robot took several years to build and could only shuffle along in small steps as it could not raise its legs.

But his designs became more and more sophisticated, and he has built robots capable of climbing walls, serving water, lighting cigarettes, playing musical instruments and writing calligraphy.

Wu, who lives near Beijing, sees all the robots as his sons, and names them according to the order in which they were invented, from Wu No.1 through to Wu No.26.

“They are all my sons, so they must bear my surname,” he said.

Out of all of his mechanical ‘sons’, Wu says he loves Wu No.25, a robot which can pull a rickshaw, the best.

Each day, Wu No.25 pulls his inventor around the local area. It can walk for up to six hours on one battery charge.

Wu says he has to sell off some of his robot collection after plunging his family into debt by spending up to two-thirds of his monthly income on his obsession.

more


Dec 4 2008

Playing Pong with HOAP-3 robot

Sylvain Calinon is a postdoctoral fellow who is working on humanoid robot and imitation learning at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland in the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory.

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This video is a demonstration of a Human-Robot Interaction application where the robot takes the role of an opponent by playing Pong against a user on an old-school arcade game. The robot is connected to the game and thus knows the current state of the game. It then uses a prediction mechanism to handle the latency due to the game and to the dynamics of the robot’s hand motion (the robot controls the game only through the joystick and buttons on the arcade game).

By knowing the position of the ball on the screen, it mimicks the visual following of this ball by turning the head appropriately through inverse kinematics. In a preliminary phase, the robot plays alone at the game to refine its skill through self-calibration.


Dec 3 2008

Gaze-controlled robot demonstrated on video

A team of researchers from the Technical University of Denmark and the IT University of Copenhagen demonstrated their gaze navigated robot at a recent Microsoft Robotics event.

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The simplicity begins with the LEGO NXT-G kit that the bot is based around, which gets paired with a webcam and a laptop that’s connected to the bot via Bluetooth, and to a desktop PC via WiFi. The PC comes into the picture with an eye-tracking system that lets folks control the robot as they watch the live feed from its webcam which, as you can see in the video after the break, appears to work remarkably well. The researchers apparently aren’t content with things just yet, however, and they’re already looking to use the system to control a wheelchair, and add some head-tracking to the mix for good mesure.