Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Internal Robotics?

... Microbots' Fantastic Voyage Through Your Clogged Arteries
"Finally, Fantastic Voyage is becoming reality — well, almost. Rather than mini Raquel Welches scuba diving through your veins, picture teeny-tiny insects. Researchers at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology are building six-legged robots small enough to skitter through your blood vessels. The critters can crawl for up to 10 days, no batteries required. Their biocompatible skeletons — made of the same stretchy stuff that's in Silly Putty — are plated with heart cells from rats. When immersed in a glucose solution, the cells beat in synchrony. With each pulse, the bot's back legs contract, pushing the bug forward at a "speed" of 100 micrometers per second (50 meters a week). Lead scientist Sukho Park believes such devices could be injected into humans to treat cardiovascular disease as early as 2020. Once inside a clogged vessel, the bot would feed off the glucose in the blood as it creeps along the length of the artery, releasing a dissolving agent to clear blockages and plaque. Sure, but how will it look in a formfitting wet suit?"
Read the article at its source:

Robot Invasion Begins: World on Brink of Immersion Into Robotically Enhanced Environment

Artificial or not, AI enhances human life
"Self-steering vacuum cleaners. Self-parking cars. Dolls responding to voice commands.
We may not be living in the world of "The Jetsons," but robots are definitely becoming a part of ordinary life. The company iRobot reports that more than 2.5 million of its home robotic products -- Roomba vacuums, Scooba floor washers, Verro swimming pool scrubbers, Looj gutter cleaners and ConnectR "Virtual Visiting Robots" -- have been sold.

This year's Toy Fair introduced an animatronic "Elmo Live" that can act out stories. And Playskool's Kota the Triceratops, a $300 life-size baby dinosaur for preschoolers, reacts to touch by moving its head, tail and horns, and gives "a friendly dino roar" when spoken to.
Then there's the first-generation Lexus LS 460 L automobile with "Advanced Parking Guidance System," which parallel-parks itself (as long as there's 6 feet of wiggle room). The LawnBott LB3500 from KA Home Robotics can be told when and where to mow from your cellphone or PDA.

In fact, the line between appliance and artificial intelligence is getting blurrier every day. According to roboticist Daniel H. Wilson, author of "How to Build a Robot Army: Tips on Defending Planet Earth Against Alien Invaders, Ninjas, and Zombies" (Bloomsbury; 176 pages; $13.95), to be classified as a robot, a machine only has have the ability to sense the environment, "think" about what to do and act in the physical world. Doing it for you

That sense-think-act closed-loop process "is a pretty broad definition," Wilson admitted in a recent phone interview. "But we are surrounded by all these machines that are making decisions without human intervention. Robots don't have to move to be robots. Instead of moving themselves, they can send commands to the real world."

By that criteria, even a smoke alarm is a type of AI -- artificial intelligence. So are your car's antilock brakes: Hit the pedal to tell the ABS system you want to slow down, and the vehicle's onboard computer takes over and does it for you. No more relying on humans to resist the urge to slam on the brakes instead of using the more effective light taps.

"In How to Build a Robot Army," Wilson takes robots that can be found today in homes or in laboratories -- "A lot of them are prototypes. I have a lot of friends that have cool projects." -- and suggests ways to turn them into allies in the fight against pop-culture villains such as zombies and great white sharks.

The tongue-in-check instructions include adding a can of gasoline to your Roomba to turn it into a roving land mine, or sending micro air drones, such as the remote-controlled FlyTech Dragonfly from Robosapien-maker Wowwee, with infrared navigational sensors added on to do overhead reconnaissance of werewolf-filled forests..."
Read Full Article @ Its Source:
Also See (from Wired News Blog):
Book Review: How to Build a Robot Army
"A couple weeks ago my GeekTeen, John, age 15, asked if he could blog a review of roboticist Daniel Wilson's two books. We checked and found Wilson had just published a new volume -- which gave me a great excuse to interview him too! He says he's gotten a lot of positive response from parents and kids (including's Chris Anderson, whose kids sent him drawings inspired by his previous book).
You can read my Times Union interview with Wilson for the next week.
And here's John's review:
You’ve all seen movies where aliens come to wreak havoc in cities or Godzilla terrorizes Tokyo,and the poor, weak humans have to fight them. But what if we had robots on our side? Almost nothing can stand up to those powerhouses (except other robots of course). But how to make an army of robots? You buy this book.
How to Build a Robot Army is written by Daniel H. Wilson, who has a degree in robotics and has written two books before this one. (How to Survive a Robot Uprising and Where’s my Jetpack?) In this book, he tells you how to build a make-shift army using Roombas, Furbys and other household robots. The first part of the book is a crash-course in robotics: how to modify them for battle, what types there are, how to put weapons on them, and more. It also explains how to upgrade humans for battle (such as suiting them with exo-skeletons or swallowing a pill infused with microbots). Next is a lesson in robot training, such as how to make a robot team and how to tame walker robots. The final section is a list of famous movie monsters (Godzilla, the Wolf Man, zombies etc.) and what robots you can send against them...."
Full article @:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Robots Take Over Warehouse Work!

Carrying the load
In an industry motivated mostly by gee-whiz factor, Bay State firms take the lead in creating robots with real-world uses
"Don't call them robots.
I made the mistake five minutes into a conversation with Kiva Systems Inc. chief executive Mick Mountz, who paused for a second, smiled, and explained:
"We're not about the robot. This company was founded to solve a business problem, and a lot of robotics companies are about a cool technology that is looking for an application."
The idea of turning a warehouse over to stout orange robots the size of an ottoman might induce anxiety in the average logistics manager, and so Mountz prefers to call the rolling machines built by his Woburn-based company "mobile drive units" (though he sometimes relents and uses the term "bots").
The theory is that the bots can make order fulfillment faster and more efficient, letting a human stuff more boxes per hour. Kiva's bots can also rearrange warehouses on the fly, moving racks of popular items closer to the workers, while consigning slow-selling items to a distant corner. So far, customers like Staples Inc., Walgreen Co., and the online shoe store have been willing to give Kiva a try.
Kiva is part of a growing cluster of Massachusetts companies that are developing a new generation of robots that can do surprising things: clean out rain gutters, swim underwater to inspect the hulls of Navy vessels, and manage warehouses. The state has more than 150 companies and research labs working on robots, according to the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, which says the figure is conservative.
"Boston and Pittsburgh both have a good number of robotics companies, but Boston has the advantage, in terms of being a larger city, and a larger investment community, " says Dan Kara, president of Robotics Trends, a Natick company that organizes the annual RoboBusiness conference; it alternates between Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Silicon Valley, Kara says, has a decent number of robotics companies, but doesn't register very high on the robotics Richter scale..."
Read the full article @ its source:

Babies Drive Robots - No Learner's Permit Required

From: The Daily Times
Babies get a license to thrive
" They don''t have licenses, and they can't even sit in the front seat of a car. But some infants already have driving experience. For the past two years, researchers from the University of Delaware have been observing babies 4- to 15-months-old "drive" a special robot outfitted with a booster seat and joystick. They hope their findings will help determine how robots can enhance the progress of infants with developmental disabilities as well as those with long-term mobility limitations.

Most of the 20 babies studied thus far have demonstrated that they understand the link between their physical actions and the robot's motions; the results from two have been published in the journal Intel Serv Robotics. If this understanding continues, the next step is to see whether the robots can accelerate the interest of slow-developing children in moving on their own.

"If you take them out of the robot, they may still have that drive inside them to move," said James C. Galloway, associate professor of physical therapy at UD. "The robot may work as a stimulus, and then they may have the possibility after a couple of times using it to have the drive to learn to crawl."

More than 43,000 American babies were enrolled in special services in 2006, either because they had or were at risk of developing a disability, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In these infants, intellectual and physical development is hindered by their inability to explore their world, said Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron, national medical director of United Cerebral Palsy, an advocacy group. Once the babies obtain that ability to explore, their ability to think and learn skyrockets.

"There's a real cognitive explosion when a child without any developmental problems starts to explore the world by crawling and walking," she said. "To me, it seems very likely that a child with a developmental disability will have the same or similar response. What a difference if they were exposed to the world more actively."..
Read the full article at its source:

Professor Klatu Uses Comic Books to Teach Robotics!!!

From: The Enquirer
Comic books help students understand robotics theory
Prof creates materials using newer software

"University of Cincinnati professor Ernie Hall has discovered the joys of using comic books in the classroom - for learning - although the professor of robotics and computer science isn't opposed to having fun either.

Using a new software, Comic Book Creator, Hall has created comic books, finding them helpful in explaining technical points for college students in his robot control class.

"It just fits perfectly with our robotics activities," said Hall, director of the Center for Robotics at UC. "In there, I have a lot of theory. The theory of control is very sophisticated, but I have to show them enough about it to make it look easy as a piece of cake. Then, they'll go out and build their own robots."

Students in the class agreed that the comic books are a hit.
It definitely spiced it up a lot," said Ben Stayton, 23, a senior in mechanical engineering. "It made it a lot more interesting."

Matt Abirached, also a 23-year-old senior mechanical engineering student, added, "It was different than our normal lecture, which is just seeing PowerPoint slides."
Comic books won't replace serious technical papers, Hall said, but he does plan to use that format more often to enhance his lectures.

"It's better than PowerPoint," he said. "It lets me spiff up my PowerPoint lectures. I have all my lectures on the computer with PowerPoint but now I see I really need to spiff them up with this, and then they would be a lot more effective, especially on hard, technical problems. I can lighten up the scene a little bit."...

Do We Have to Tip Robots? An Issue We'll Face Soon!

From: Christian Science Monitor
Robots set to overhaul service industry, jobs

In the next decade, robots will increasingly take over low-level jobs, experts say, displacing human employees.

Pittsburgh - At a mall in Osaka, Japan, lost shoppers can get directions from a robot that looks like something out of "The Jetsons." In hospitals across the US, disc-shaped robots deliver bed linens and meals to rooms. In some homes, robots are already doing a range of chores, such as vacuuming rooms and cleaning gutters. At least one company is working on a robot that works on a farm.

As a growing number of robots become capable of working alongside humans, the service industry may face a pattern all too familiar in the manufacturing sector: robots replacing humans in jobs.

"The service sector, which is a gigantic part of the employment landscape in the United States, is inevitably going to be a place where you can replace millions of people with robots that work 24/7 for less money," says futurist Marshall Brain..."
Read the full article @ its source:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Put this robot on and you're... super carpenter!

"Wearable Robotics Aid Construction Workers"
"Applied scientists and engineers at Nagayo University in Japan introduced a prototype wearable half-robotic device designed for carpentry workers. The study of carpentry workers utilizing the device in the task of fitting ceiling boards in place concludes marked reduction in muscle output force, thereby reducing arm fatigue. Further study is on going to reduce weight, size and low adjusting speed of the device. The next phase will test the overall effectiveness of the half-robot aid to workers..."

Read the full article at its source:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Anthropormorphized Autonomous Snow Plow!

From: Pink Tentacle
"Yuki-taro autonomous snowplow robot"

"The harsh winter in Niigata, Japan brings heavy snow, which can pose problems for residents — particularly the elderly — who are faced with the laborious task of clearing it from driveways and entrances. To the rescue comes Yuki-taro, an autonomous snowplow robot developed by a team of researchers from five Niigata-area organizations.
The friendly-looking Yuki-taro measures 160 x 95 x 75 cm (63 x 37 x 30 in.) and weighs 400 kg (880 lbs). Armed with GPS and a pair of video cameras embedded in its eyes, the self-guided robot seeks out snow and gobbles it up into its large mouth. Yuki-taro’s insides consist of a system that compresses the snow into hard blocks measuring 60 x 30 x 15 cm (24 x 12 x 6 in.), which Yuki-taro expels from its rear end. The blocks can then be stacked and stored until summer, when they can be used as an alternative source of refrigeration or cooling.
Yuki-taro is the result of nearly seven years of work by researchers from the Niigata Industrial Creation Organization (NICO), Research and Development, Inc. (RDI), Niigata Institute of Technology, Yamagata University and the Industrial Research Institute of Niigata Prefecture (IRI), who set out to design an environmentally-friendly robot that can operate by itself and support the elderly. In 2006, Yuki-taro received a Good Design Award in the small-to-medium sized enterprise category.
Researchers continue to work on reducing Yuki-taro’s size, weight and cost, and they hope to make it commercially available in five years at a price of less than 1 million yen ($8,300). It is unclear whether or not the researchers intend to further enhance the robot’s “cute” factor, but they might ought to consider attaching a pair of pointy ears. O-negai!"

Read article at its source: Yuki-taro autonomous snowplow robot

WIRED's "50 Best Robots Ever"

From: Wired
"The 50 Best Robots Ever"
They're exploring the deep sea and distant planets. They're saving lives in the operating room and on the battlefield. They're transforming factory floors and filmmaking. They're - oh c'mon, they're just plain cool! From Qrio to the Terminator, here are our absolute favorites (at least for now).

50. ROBONAUT Not all NASA robots drive around poking at rocks. This android will one day work alongside people on space stations. Robonaut is the same size and shape as a person in a space suit, so it can handle tasks typically performed by humans - its hands are even better articulated than an astronaut's gloved digits. The fact that it looks like Boba Fett? Lucky coincidence.
49. LEONARDO Awww, isn't it cuddly? Or maybe just creepy. MIT's Cynthia Breazeal is famous for building robots that humans have an emotional reaction to. Her newest creation, Leonardo, was bolted together in 2002 with the help of the movie monster gurus at Stan Winston Studio (their animatronics include the Terminator, the aliens in Aliens, and the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park). Leonardo can grab objects, make facial expressions and complex gestures, and even learn simple tasks (like turning lights on and off) through trial and error.
48. KITT The smooth-talking, self-driving muscle car from the early '80s TV drama Knight Rider was so cool, it even upstaged David Hasselhoff. The success of this Trans-Am helped to usher in a new genre of show with supervehicles as heroes, from Airwolf to Stealth.
47. HAL 9000Some tasks are too important to be left to humans. Just ask Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The 1968 film gave the world the ultimate all seeing, all knowing - and apparently all ego - AI villain. It set the standard for machines that can think (and kill) like us but are too powerful to control.
46. ROOMBA DISCOVERY This wasn't the first robosucker, just the first that didn't blow. In 2005, iRobot's second-generation robotic vacuum showed that domestic bots can actually work. To clean the floors, simply turn the thing on - just try not to stand around watching slack-jawed.
45. NINTENDO R.O.B.In the mid-'80s, the PC was killing the market for videogame consoles. The game industry's only hope? A robot. Nintendo packaged the Robotic Operating Buddy with the 1985 Nintendo Entertainment System. The R.O.B. didn't do much, but the gimmick helped Nintendo sneak systems onto shelves. Lo, the console market was saved.
44. SLUGBOT Meet a real-life hunter bot. Built in 2001 at the University of West England, SlugBot uses a vision sensor and an extending arm to find slugs, grab them, and drop them into an onboard trap. The idea is that one day it will deposit the slugs in its dock and use the gas from the decomposing bodies to charge its fuel cells.
43. ATTACK BOTS FROM RUNAWAY Tom Selleck got top billing, but the real stars of Michael Crichton's overlooked 1984 thriller were the spider attack drones. OK, their weapons were low tech (they sprayed acid at people), but the bug bots presaged Genghis (see #14) and similar critters in The Matrix and Steven Spielberg's Minority Report.
42. LILLIPUT TOY ROBOT Before there were real robots, there were toy robots. Among the first was Lilliput, a windup walker from the 1930s. It couldn't do much - the legs would walk, causing the arms to swing. But by the late '40s, the tin tykes had spread from Japan to the US, earning a spot in toy history alongside teddy bears and fire trucks.
41. MOBOTS What would you get if Robby the Robot got busy with a Mars rover? Probably something like the Mobots. In 1960 Hughes Aircraft unleashed these industrial machines for use in hazardous material sites - teleoperators controlled the snaking appendages. Alas, like the Spruce Goose, they weren't financially viable.
40. ELEKTRO AND SPARKO Westinghouse engineer Joseph Barnett made a splash at the 1939 World's Fair with a 7-foot, cable-controlled metal man that could walk, speak 77 words, and even smoke cigarettes (so debonair). The next year Barnett gave the hulking android a best friend: a robotic dog that seemed to bark and sit in response to Elektro's commands.
39. S-BOTS An ongoing project of the EU's Future and Emerging Technologies program, these minibuggies show strength in numbers. Each s-Bot is fully independent, but get a bunch in a room together and they'll form a chain to carry heavy payloads or bridge obstacles. Kinda like ants on roller skates … in a conga line.
38. SONY AIBOThink this is a hunk of plastic that won't fetch a tennis ball? Think again. It's actually an advanced piece of robotics that won't fetch a tennis ball. Introduced in 1999, AIBO is one of the most sophisticated toys on the market. It can find its docking station, recognize its owner's face, and respond to voice commands.
37. RB5X It hit store shelves in 1985, and this first-ever mass-produced home robot kit is still sold today. RB5X can be programmed to speak, navigate a room, and perform such simple tasks as retrieving small objects. Of course, its real claim to fame was as a sweet prize on the '80s videogame quiz show Starcade.
36. PACKBOTS From the creators of the Roomba comes a kick-ass droid for the US military. Carried on a soldier's back, it can be tossed into a building or under a car, where it will assess the situation (or maybe just be blown up). First deployed in Afghanistan in 2002, it's now on active cannon-fodder duty in Iraq.
35. THE IRON GIANT This 100-foot-tall combat machine from the 1999 movie wields an energy cannon and snacks on cars. But he really gets in gear playing hide-and-seek with a schoolboy. The giant eventually achieves robot enlightenment, realizing that he controls his own destiny (even if that means head-butting a suborbital nuclear weapon). It's a classic example of how robots - like all technologies - are neither good nor evil, just tools of circumstance.
34. OPTIMUS PRIME Robots are cool. Robots that turn into giant trucks - way cool. Robots that turn into giant trucks and command a fleet of autobots - now that could change pop culture history. Such was the impact of the Transformer when the toy line was introduced in 1984, spawning decades of TV shows, movies, and comic books.
33. THE TURK Step right up and marvel at the mechanical device that can beat you in chess. Not impressed? You would be if it were 1769. The contraption was a hoax (inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen stashed a human chess master inside), but it sparked early debates over what it means for a machine to think.
32. ABE Mars may belong to the rovers, but the oceans belong to the Autonomous Benthic Explorer. Completed in 1995 by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the first fully independent underwater scout can dive down to 15,000 feet, map thermo layers and collect water samples, then swim home on its own.
31. GM UNIMATE After bonding over their mutual love of sci-fi, engineers George Devol and Joseph Engelberger invented the industrial robot. They must have been reading very utilitarian fiction - their 1961 creation was a 4,000-pound arm that stacked sheets of hot metal. But it transformed the assembly line; a variant is still in use today.
30. THE TIN WOODMAN While technically a cyborg, the heartless lumberjack of Oz did wrestle with a common existential dilemma faced by robots: the desire to feel. (Well, that and the desire to combat rust.) Not bad for 1939. And hey, how many other robots sing and dance with Judy Garland?
29. VAUCANSON'S DUCK Back in 1739, Jacques de Vaucanson wanted to create artificial life. He settled for a mechanical duck that pooped. The machine used a weight system to quack, flap its wings, drink water, and eat grain, which it would digest mechanically and expel through an opening in its backside.
28. THE TERMINATOR Apparently robots of the future like to hit the gym. Out of a long line of assassin bots, the Terminator is the perfect blend of indestructibility and determination. With him, James Cameron personified what we really fear about robots: They'd do better without us.
27. MQ-1 PREDATOR Forget fantasy robots that kill people - here's a real robot that kills people. The US military's famed unmanned aerial vehicle became a household name in 2002 after taking flight in Afghanistan. Now armed with hellfire missiles, it no longer just monitors enemies - it blows them up, too.
26. FALSE MARIA The classic sexbot from Fritz Lang's 1927 Metropolis was one of the first mechanized humans on film. She danced topless, incited riots, and sparked duels, but what really got her off was overthrowing the ruling class. No wonder she inspired every vision of an android for the next 80 years.
25. PARTNER BALLROOM DANCING ROBOTS Some robots build cars, some explore space, some do the cha-cha-cha. In 2005, Tohoku University's Kazuhiro Kosuge debuted a series of ballroom dancing androids, complete with fancy dresses. They can predict the movements of a partner, enabling them to follow another dancer's lead. And they're klutz-proof: There are no toes to step on.
24. ELSIE AND ELMER Neuroscientist W. Grey Walter's mechanical tortoises from the 1940s were the first fully autonomous electric robots. Programmed to seek out light and to turn if they ran into an object, they could find their illuminated charging stations, even if something was in the way.
23. GORT In the 1951 flick The Day the Earth Stood Still, spaceman Klaatu and his robot Gort come to Earth to promote peace. When that doesn't work out, Gort teaches us what happens to those who eschew harmony - they die. Oh the irony that a machine must remind us of our humanity.
22. ROSSUMS' UNIVERSAL ROBOTS Czech author Karel Capek coined the term robot in his 1920 play about automaton factory workers. One problem: The characters that gave a title to all robotics weren't actually, you know, robots. They were biological creatures - more Jango Fett clones than C-3PO.
21. PERSONAL SATELLITE ASSISTANT Legs, wheels, and treads - those are for bots that can't get off the ground. NASA's Personal Satellite Assistant possesses none of these things; instead it uses small fans to propel itself through zero gravity. Perhaps as soon as 2007, these assistants will hover over an astronaut's shoulder, serving as an all-in-one PDA, videophone, and air monitor.
20. MINDSTORMS Since 1998, Mindstorms have been turning 8-year-olds into fledgling roboticists. The Lego kits come with programmable blocks that animate all manner of dinosaurs, vending machines, unmanned planes - whatever kids, or more likely their parents, can dream up.
19. R2-D2R2-D2 and C-3PO - the Abbott and Costello of space - may be the most popular robots in history, but it's the littler one that really steals the show. Sure, C-3PO could walk and speak 6 million languages, but R2-D2 proved that robots can be emotive without being humanoid and don't need to speak English to communicate.
18. HONDA'S P2Asimo? A pipsqueak. Before Honda's much-hyped biped was touring the world, there was P2, a 6-foot, 462-pound prototype. Unveiled in 1996, P2 possessed most of Asimo's walking skills - including the ability to climb stairs - making it, as Honda puts it "the first self-regulating, two-legged humanoid walking robot."
17. ALBERT HUBO Here's an idea: Stick an elastomer foam Einstein head on a robot spaceman. This 2005 collaboration between roboticist David Hanson and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology is more likely to give you nightmares than a unified field theory. But it's the best combo to date of bipedal movement and realistic facial expression.
16. ROBART III Not only does Robart III have a gun, it has a team of spider "slave" bots. Under development by the Navy since 1992, this security robot uses microwave motion detectors to search, say, a hostile building for enemies, sending out its insectoid companions to look in dark corners. Alas, its barrels hold only rubber bullets and darts.
15. WABOT AND WABOT 2In the '70s, some roboticists were building machines to make Chevettes, but researchers at Tokyo's Waseda University were building bots in man's image. In 1973, they introduced Wabot, the first full-scale programmable android. It had eyes, flailing limbs, and the ability to speak Japanese. The next rev, Wabot 2, played piano.
14. GENGHIS Creeped out by bug bots? How about bug bots that can learn? In 1988, Rodney Brooks' lab at MIT created this six-legged walker, which taught itself how to scramble over boards and other obstacles. The secret: Allow each leg to react to the environment independently and you won't need to program every complex step.
13. EDINBURGH MODULAR ARM SYSTEM Part man, part machine, all Scottish: Campbell Aird received the first complete bionic arm in 1998. Pressure sensors in the shoulder attachment detect minute fluctuations in Aird's muscles, activating motors that control the arm's movement. Eat your heart out, Lee Majors.
12. T-52 ENRYU What's better than an 11-foot-tall robot? An 11-foot-tall robot that can rip cars in half and lift 1,100-pound slabs of concrete. Japanese manufacturer Tmsuk unleashed Enryu in 2004 to help in rescue operations (think earthquakes). The best part: It's piloted from a cockpit in its belly, manga style.
11. SPEEDY Before Sonny (shown) made Asmiov's three laws of robotics known to the masses, there was Speedy, the robot in the 1942 short story Runaround that inaugurated the directives. Speedy knows not to harm humans, to obey their commands, and to protect itself, just not which rules matter most. Turns out a bot's needs come last.
10. THE STANFORD CART Grand Challenge finishers, UAVs, and even KITT from Knight Rider all owe a debt of gratitude to James Adams and Hans Moravec's Stanford Cart. In 1979, the wagon traversed a chair-filled room on its own, a landmark achievement for self-navigating vehicles. Travel time: roughly five hours.
09. DANTE II After eight volcano researchers were killed in two 1993 eruptions, robots were brought in to take the heat. The next year, Carnegie Mellon's Dante II was lowered into Alaska's steaming Mount Spurr to collect data. It fell in, but not before uploading its readings, making it the first "successful" terrestrial explorer robot.
08. DA VINCI SURGICAL SYSTEM In the future, you'll beg to be operated on by a machine. Credit Intuitive Surgical's 2000 robot, a fusion of arms, cameras, and instruments that allows doctors to slice into patients remotely. Procedures done with the da Vinci are more precise than when humans wield the scalpel - research shows there's less blood loss and quicker recovery.
07. THE MECHANICAL KNIGHT Way back in 1495, Leonardo da Vinci designed what was probably the first robot - an automated suit of armor with a windup crank. It could sit up, wave its hands, and maybe even talk. Five hundred years later, engineer Mark Rosheim used the master's schematics to build a working miniaturized version.
06. QRIO Bipedal robots that can walk up stairs seem flatfooted compared with the running, jumping, and traditional-Japanese-fan-dancing Qrio. Officially, Sony uses its state-of-the-art androids, debuted in 2003, as corporate ambassadors. But the company may one day sell them for entertainment. Works for Beck: The singer recently used all six Qrios in his video for "Hell Yes."
05. SHAKEY Developed by Stanford Research Institute International, Shakey had jerky, often nonsensical movements. But that didn't stop the 1972 robot from entering the history books as the first machine to autonomously locate objects, steer around them - and then explain its logic for doing so.
04. ROBBY THE ROBOT Few robots can trace their origins to Shakespeare. Robby, from the 1956 film Forbidden Planet, was inspired by Ariel in The Tempest. But that didn't keep Robby from leaving a legacy all his own. For decades, the very idea of a robot was synonymous with Robby's bulbous figure.
03. SPIRIT AND OPPORTUNITY Some robots sit in labs for researchers to tinker with. These two bots are on frickin' Mars. Expected to last only three months when they touched down on the Red Planet in January 2004, the rovers are still going strong two years later - each sends back 100 megabits of data a day.
02. ASTROBOY While American kids were daydreaming of Superman, Japanese tykes were worshipping at the altar of Tetsuwan Atom, aka Astroboy. First drawn in 1951, Astroboy has rocket boots, lasers that shoot from his fingertips, and, uh, an ass cannon. The lovable crime-fighting robot was an inspiration to a generation of kids -some of whom went on to become robotics researchers. He's a big reason why Japan is at the forefront of android development today. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.
And the #1 Robot of All Time Is...
01. STANLEY The Stanford Racing Team's autonomous vehicle is a modified Volkswagen Touareg that can scan any terrain and pick out a drivable course to a preset destination. Cup holders optional.

The Woz Disses Robots... :( (kind of)

"Limits to creativity"
"Steve Wozniak has given up on artificial intelligence.
"What is intelligence?" Apple's co-founder asked an audience of about 550 Thursday at the Houston area's first Up Experience conference in Stafford.
His answer? A robot that could get him a cup of coffee.
"You can come into my house and make a cup of coffee and I can go into your house and make a cup of coffee," he said. "Imagine what it would take for a robot to do that."
It would have to negotiate the home, identify the coffee machine and know how it works, he noted.
But that is not something a machine is capable of learning — at least not in his lifetime, added Wozniak, who rolled onto the stage on his ever-present Segway before delivering a rapid-fire speech on robotics, his vision of robots in classrooms and the long haul ahead for artificial intelligence.
Billed as a day of "unique perspectives from unique people," the conference also treated attendees to talks from other notables, such as inventor Ray Kurzweil, filmmaker Dan DeVivo and author Malcolm Gladwell. World traveler Lisa Ling had to cancel at the last minute because of an assignment in Africa, conference organizers said.
For a $1,000 registration fee, about 550 attendees heard talks on subjects ranging from health care and the economy to fine dining and child advocacy delivered by experts in each field.
Earlier in the day, Kurzweil predicted it wouldn't be long before computer intelligence surpassed human intelligence..."
Read the complete article at its source:

Students & Dancing Robots

From: The Chronicle of Higher Education - The Wired Campus

Video Report: Students Use Dancing Robots to Show Lighter Side of Computer Science
A robotics team at Spelman College, called the Spelbots, has programmed robot dogs to dance, in hopes of attracting new students to study computer science. The students on the team are clearly enjoying their technology education, as evidenced in our video report about the team.

The team’s coach, Andrew B. Williams, an associate professor of computer science at Spelman College, talked about the importance of attracting more women and minority students to computer science in an interview in this week’s Chronicle. —Jeffrey R. Young

Read this article at its sourece:

Here's some more dancing robots:

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Robot as Art Object... Er, The Robot as Performer... Er, The Robot as Artist

From: ZD Net
"This robot snake wants to dance with you"
"According to a short article in The Engineer Online, a two-meter high robotic snake will be shown in April 2008 at the London Science Museum. This vertical snake has been designed as an interactive sculpture. It uses sensors to react to what are doing its viewers and ‘dances’ with them. The manufacturer says the robot has 28 ‘muscles’ and 27 degrees of freedom. It also claims two technology breakthroughs: ‘the muscle actuation mechanism includes built-in air valves which enable far greater control and scope for movement; and its linear sensors are unique in the world of robotics as they are bus addressable and less susceptible to magnetic interference.’ But read more…

Here is the opening paragraph of The Engineer Online article. “A unique robotic snake developed by Plymouth-based Merlin Robotics working alongside Nottingham Trent University is to go on display at the London Science Museum’s DANA Centre. in April 2008. The vertical snake, designed to function as an interactive artwork, includes two technologies which Merlin claims are a world first.”
Here are more details picked from a Merlin Robotics news release, Two world firsts for British ‘Robosnake’ (January 18, 2008). “A ‘world first,’ the muscle actuation mechanism is breakthrough technology — the ‘muscles’ include built-in air valves which enable far greater control and scope for movement. Another world first is the snake’s absolute optical position sensors. These linear sensors are unique in the world of robotics as they are bus addressable and less susceptible to magnetic interference. These two new technologies, combined with the software, enabled the robotics experts and Nottingham Trent University to create this ‘world first’ in compliant robotics. The mechanisms will be able to be implemented into commercial applications..."

Read the full aricle 2 its sources:

Check out this video from the developer, Merlin:

A look back to see where we are @ now!

Cover of Time Magazine - December 8, 1980 - 28 years ago+

Cover Story: "The Robot Revolution"
"For good or ill, it is already transforming the way the world works
The new robots do not really look like Frankenstein's monster, or like Artoo Deetoo in Star Wars, but rather like a row of giant birds.

They poke their 9-ft.-long, rubber-sheathed necks toward the row of automobile frames. From their beaks, a blinding shower of sparks streams forth. The escape of compressed air creates a loud hissing sound. This is Chrysler's sprawling 145-acre Jefferson plant in East Detroit, where the trouble-ridden firm is building the new K-cars—the Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries—that it hopes will save its future. Once 200 welders with their masks and welding guns used to work on such an assembly line. Here there are no welders in sight; there are only 50 robots craning forward, spitting sparks. They work two shifts, and the assembly line's output has increased by almost 20% since the robots arrived earlier this year.

In a plant outside Turin, the Italian firm of Digital Electronic Automation is trying out its first new Pragma A-3000. The $110,000 robot, which has just been licensed by General Electric, is assembling a compressor valve unit from twelve separate parts. Its two arms can do totally different jobs at once. When it picks up a slightly defective gasket in its gray steel claw, it immediately senses something wrong, flicks the gasket to one side and picks up another. The Pragma produces 320 units an hour, without mistakes, and it can labor tirelessly for 24 hours a day. That makes it roughly the equivalent of ten human workers. Furthermore, it can easily be reprogrammed to assemble TV sets or electric motors or, theoretically, just about anything.
Near Golden, Colo., at the Department of Energy's Rocky Flats plant, a technician pushes a red button marked REQUEST TRANSFER. Behind a 10-in.-thick concrete wall, a pair of claws reaches out to grasp a stainless steel container filled with pink powder, then lifts it into a furnace where it is baked at 950° F until it turns into a nondescript gray button three inches in diameter. Such a button could be worth $100,000, for the job of this robot, which goes into regular operation in a few months, is transporting reprocessed plutonium, one of the most toxic substances known to man. Until now, this dangerous task has been done by men in elaborate space suits. The robot, which knows neither weariness nor boredom, also knows nothing of danger..."

Read the complete article @ its source:,9171,922173,00.html

Friday, February 1, 2008

LEGO Sumo Robots

From: WIRED Blog Network geekdad
"Report from a hardcore LEGO Sumo contest"
"GeekDad hero Steve Hassenplug, who is perhaps the best LEGO robotics builder in the world, writes in with a guest post, reporting on the Mindstorms contest he hosted at his house near Chicago last week. Over to Steve:
"I have lots of cool stuff that goes on in my basement. Just last weekend, I had an I
nternational LEGO Mindstorms Robotic Sumo Competition, with over 100 LEGO robots entered by builders from countries around the world. The judges narrowed the field to about 30 robots, which actually battled on the sumo ring over a couple days, to eventually determine a single winner.
OK, so that doesn't happen every week. But you may wonder how it happens at all. Well, it started a couple years ago when LEGO tapped me and asked if I wanted to be involved in the development of their latest robotic kit, the LEGO Mindstorms NXT. I jumped at the chance, and have been "working" with them ever sense.
Thanks to the web, I've been lucky enough to find four friends in my neighborhood (state) that are as interested (obsessed) with this hobby as I am. To explain the extent of our "interest", when people ask how many Mindstorms NXT kits I have, I usually say "More than most schools." I think between the five of us, we have more than 40 kits. Somewhere along the way, I got e-mail from someone talking about me and my "Robotics Posse". So, we have a group, and our group has a name.
One day, I was looking at the LEGO
web site where people can submit their robots, and I realized we could have a contest where people submit their robots on line, and we actually build them at my house and have a "live" competition. Well the rest of the posse, and LEGO all jumped at the idea.
So it began. The challenge was to design & build a LEGO sumo robot who's goal is to push another robot out of a 4 foot circle. Entries would be judged based on the quality of the submission, the best entries would be built and then battle for the championship. The challenge was posted on NXTLog and entries started coming in. A week before the deadline, there were 50 entries. Days before the deadline, the submission rate shot up, and when it was all done, there were over 110 entries.
I enter a lot of competitions, but this contest was a bit different from any I'd seen. In order to enter, you pretty much had show everyone exactly what you've done. There were no secrets. No hidden hardware tricks, or secret software stuff. The better the documentation, the higher the chance of being selected to reach the second round and actually compete.
The hardest part (and least fun for me) was judging the submissions, and trying to select just a few. We had to narrow the field to about 1/4 it's original size, and that eliminated many very good designs. Once we picked out the best submissions, we also picked a couple random entries. These were robots that we knew wouldn't do too well, but we wanted to give a couple lucky builders a chance to participate.
Then, we actually started building. First, we built the "Last Chance" robots, and battled them. Out of that group, one winner advanced to the "Main event" where robots were built and randomly divided into groups (pools). Each robot battled all others in their pool. The top robots advanced to the elimination round, and the losing robots were destroyed. The Robotics Posse built a total of 29 robots over a couple days.
The double-elimination round started with several good robots, and a couple lucky ones (ten robots, in all). The lucky robots were quickly eliminated, and the best rose to the top. In the end, there was one very deserving winner (shown).
My two boys (age 5 & 7) had a great time. They got to run some of the robots, but I'm not sure they really understand the scope of what they were involved in. At one point, they ran a robot designed by a 9 yr old from Italy against a robot designed by an 11 yr old from Singapore. There were robots from Australia, India, Norway, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia (not to mention the US and Canada). It was quite the world-class event.
But, for my boys it was just another day in our basement. I love being a geek dad."
Read this article @ its source:

A High Tech Teaching Assistant

"Robots Enter the Classroom"
"Some 60 Pittsburgh-area classrooms have a high-tech teaching assistant for the new school year: a robot.
This isn't your father's Roomba. For one thing, it doesn't do floors. For another, it's built of LEGOs. For a third, students build and program the robot themselves working from curricula created by engineers at the Robotics Academy at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). CMU developed the curricula to work with LEGO Education's NXT, the latest model of the MINDSTORM robot. Each robot costs about $250.
As they go step-by-step through the process, students see the real-world applications of math and science, from how geometry relates to the robot's assessing the size of the classroom, to how physical laws govern the way the robot manipulates an object. Tech smarts play a role, too, as students program the robot's actions.
The curricula—one appropriate for middle-school students, the other for high-school students—were developed with the help of Pittsburgh-area teachers, who spent time in the Robotics Academy. (The robot shop is an educational outreach of CMU's Robotics Institute; it also sponsors robotics clubs, camps, and competitions for students, and robotics training for teachers.) Teachers worked with the robots and the lesson plans, and offered their feedback.
Robin Shoop, the academy's director, was himself a public-school teacher for nearly 30 years. Shoop says the in-class use of robots encourages students to get excited about math and science—subjects in which U.S. students' test scores sorely lag behind their counterparts in other industrialized nations.
There are other schools in the U.S. and Canada where robots are used for teaching, but if there was ever a natural home for robots in the classroom, it's "Robo-burgh." So dubbed by the Wall Street Journal in 1999 for its concentration of robotics businesses, the Pittsburgh area is home to some 80 companies in the industry. And CMU is the only university in the world that grants a Ph.D. in robotics.
No word yet on whether the robots can be programmed to reshelve books."