Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Robot Bakes Cookies.. and that's just the tip of his talent iceberg!

Go to: to read about how "Mechanical engineering student Mario Bollini shows off how the Willow Garage PR2 robot can be programmed to mix the ingredients and bake cookies at MIT's Computers Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL). The robot uses a Microsoft Kinect game console to find the bowls in front of it, grab them, and then mix ingredients in a process that takes about two and a half hours. By finding out where it makes mistakes, Bollini and fellow researchers hope to improve the motion plan it sets out for the robot and learn how robots could be used for more complex tasks, such as manufacturing. This slideshow will show a sampling of robotics projects at CSAIL and other Massachusetts universities. Also see related story, "With Microsoft Kinect, MIT robots see in 3D."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Flexible Robot Crawls in Tight Spaces

"Gumby-like flexible robot crawls in tight spaces

Harvard scientists have built a new type of flexible robot that is limber enough to wiggle and worm through tight spaces.
It's the latest prototype in the growing field of soft-bodied robots. Researchers are increasingly drawing inspiration from nature to create machines that are more bendable and versatile than those made of metal.

The Harvard team, led by chemist George M. Whitesides, borrowed from squids, starfish and other animals without hard skeletons to fashion a small, four-legged rubber robot that calls to mind the clay animation character Gumby.

In recent years, scientists have been tinkering with squishy — sometimes odd-looking — robots designed to squeeze through hard-to-reach cracks after a disaster like an earthquake or navigate rough terrain in the battlefield.

"The unique ability for soft robots to deform allows them to go places that traditional rigid-body robots cannot," Matthew Walter, a roboticist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in an email.

A team from Tufts University earlier this year showed off a 4-inch caterpillar-shaped robot made of silicone rubber that can curl into a ball and propel itself forward.

The Harvard project, funded by the Pentagon's research arm, was described online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The new robot, which took two months to construct, is 5 inches long. Its four legs can be separately controlled by pumping air into the limbs, either manually or via computer. This gives the robot a range of motions including crawling and slithering.

The researchers tested the robot's flexibility by having it squirm underneath a pane of glass just three-quarters of an inch from the surface.

Scientists maneuvered the robot through the tiny gap 15 times using a combination of movements. In most cases, it took less than a minute to get from side to side.

Researchers eventually want to improve the robot's speed, but were pleased that it did not break from constant inflation and deflation.

"It was tough enough to survive," said Harvard postdoctoral fellow Robert Shepherd, adding that the robot can traverse on a variety of surfaces including felt cloth, gravel, mud and even Jell-O..."
Read the complete article at its source: 

Friday, November 25, 2011

2011 LEGO Smart Creativity Contest Winners!

Thanks to LEGO education for this program and posting these fabulous student robotics projects! LEGO Robotics is 'THE"  approach, resource set, and student activity type most perfect for STEM learning for 21st Century Learners! This LEGO education web page has links to dozens and dozens and dozens of videos of student projects

Want to get started using LEGO Robotics with your young learners? It's easier than you think! This book is for all interested in Getting Started with LEGO Robotics

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Students Use Robotics to do Underwater Archaology

FETCH ROBOT - AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle)

"Students Use Futuristic Technology to Dive Into the Past

Newswise — A new partnership between the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the Watermen’s Museum in historic Yorktown will give local students a unique opportunity to dive into Colonial history—literally.
The project, funded by a 1-year grant from the National Science Foundation, will allow the students to pilot unmanned robotic submarines in an attempt to monitor the conservation status of shipwrecked vessels scuttled by Lord Cornwallis during the Battle of Yorktown in 1781—the last major battle of the American Revolution.
Leading the project are Dr. Mark Patterson, head of the Autonomous Systems Laboratory at VIMS, and Dr. David Niebuhr, Director of the Watermen’s Museum. The students are from Point Option High School in Newport News, the Williamsburg Montessori Middle School, and Peasley Middle School in Gloucester. VIMS graduate student Jennifer Elliott, who is teaching at Peasley as part of the VIMS GK-12 partnership, will also be involved.
The project capitalizes on the recent discovery in the York River of two new shipwrecks from the siege of Yorktown. Previous archeological work had revealed the presence of nine other wrecks, including the HMS Betsy, the target of intensive study during the 1970s and 1980s. These wrecks are listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places..."
Read the full article at its source:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Book Reviews: Race Agains the Machine

"Robots Are Coming to Take Your Job
Are you a truck driver? How about a retail clerk, bank teller, tax preparer? Or even a doctor, lawyer, or accountant? If so, a robot may be coming to take your job away in the near future.
That is the premise of a new e-book called “Race Against the Machine” by MIT economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, which is available on Amazon. In their book, they argue that our current unemployment problems are not just due to job outsourcing, but also to the rapid pace of technology, and most people’s inability to keep up with it.
In the past, technological innovations tended to destroy jobs when they were first introduced. The invention of the grain thresher ended employment for 25% of the agricultural workers that had been needed to bring in the crops. But there has always been a net gain of jobs in the long run, as new technologies created jobs in fields that had not existed before. 
In their book, Brynjolfsson and McAfee make the case that these days, machines are increasingly able to perform tasks in which humans were once unquestioned masters. And corporations are eager to replace workers, with their irritating need for pay, health care, and retirement plans, with robots and computers who will work 24 hours a day without complaining, and in many cases do a job much better than humans can. This is leading to a situation ..."
Read the full article at its source: 


"More Jobs Predicted for Machines, Not People

A faltering economy explains much of the job shortage in America, but advancing technology has sharply magnified the effect, more so than is generally understood, according to two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The automation of more and more work once done by humans is the central theme of “Race Against the Machine,” an e-book...
“Many workers, in short, are losing the race against the machine,” the authors write.
Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist and director of the M.I.T. Center for Digital Business, and Andrew P. McAfee, associate director and principal research scientist at the center, are two of the nation’s leading experts on technology and productivity. The tone of alarm in their book is a departure for the pair, whose previous research has focused mainly on the benefits of advancing technology.
Indeed, they were originally going to write a book titled, “The Digital Frontier,” about the “cornucopia of innovation that is going on,” Mr. McAfee said. Yet as the employment picture failed to brighten in the last two years, the two changed course to examine technology’s role in the jobless recovery.
The authors are not the only ones recently to point to the job fallout from technology. In the current issue of the McKinsey Quarterly, W. Brian Arthur, an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute, warns that technology is quickly taking over service jobs, following the waves of automation of farm and factory work. “This last repository of jobs is shrinking — fewer of us in the future may have white-collar business process jobs — and we have a problem,” Mr. Arthur writes...

Technology has always displaced some work and jobs. Over the years, many experts have warned — mistakenly — that machines were gaining the upper hand. In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes warned of a “new disease” that he termed “technological unemployment,” the inability of the economy to create new jobs faster than jobs were lost to automation..."
Read the full article at its source:

National Geographic Show 'Robot Genius' - Great STEM Educational Content

This wonderful show reveals the spirit of 'home brew' robotics engineering. Fantastic to see what an inspired and talented DIY roboticist an do!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Robotic Legs give paralyzed woman the gift of movement

Robotic skeleton helps paraplegic walk
A paraplegic woman has been fitted with a robotic suit which has helped her to walk again
Read the full Telegraph story @:

A set of robotic legs originally bankrolled by the U.S. military to give soldiers a superhuman edge on the battlefield have been repurposed by a company called Ekso Bionics for a more charitable task: giving paraplegics a chance to walk again. The exoskeleton -- which was demonstrated Friday at the London International Technology Show -- relies on sensors and a CPU to mimic nerve and brain function. The company said it will make the Ekso available to rehabilitation centers in the U.K. starting next year.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Which Is Man's BEST Friend, the Dog or the Robot?

All those novelty bots that vacuum up crumbs and bring you a cold drink are great, but they're not exactly doing the work you really dread.
A group of Penn students is bypassing the neat-o factor and getting right down to business, no pun intended. A team at the university's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception lab has taught a robot to scoop poop.
PR2 robot Graspy can already read, as we learned in the Spring when Health & Science reporter Carolyn Beeler paid a visit to the GRASP lab. Now the work of five determined students has the bot learning something a little more physical. The robot is picking up droppings with a 95 percent success rate. GRASP student Ben Cohen even went to San Francisco to show off the possible future of robotics.

"This project was a week-long project from the summer in which four friends and I got the PR2 robot to autonomously scoop poop," Cohen explained. "Mankind wants robots to do all of our menial tasks that we don't want to do. I think scooping poop is the perfect task for my future robot at home."
Read the full article at its source:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Robots Help Autistic Children

Robots built to help autistic childrenAn effective therapist might just be metallic, mechanical and nonhuman.

"Robots aren't known for their soft side. They build cars and defuse bombs; they don't, as a rule, make friends or deal with feelings. But a few groups of researchers around the world are working to build robots for an unusual purpose: Making emotional connections with autistic children who often struggle to interact with humans.

There's something about machines that really seems to resonate with many kids with autism, says Maja Mataric, co-director of the Robotics Research Lab at
USC. These children often have trouble reading human emotions and social cues — complexities they don't have to worry about when they're around a mechanical being.
"Robots are simpler than people," Mataric says.

Still, robots may seem like unlikely candidates for a job usually filled by therapists. As Mataric points out, the general public usually thinks of robots as either cold and efficient workers (at their best) or outright evil beings bent on enslaving humanity (at their worst).

The researchers at USC have a different vision. "We're trying to create something that's endearing," Mataric says.

The result: Bandit, a metallic-colored, child-sized robot that can win the attention — and even empathy — of hard-to-reach kids.

Bandit has a pleasant, inviting face with a movable mouth, archable eyebrows and camera eyes that let him "watch" his playmates. He also has proximity sensors to gauge whether kids are backing away or moving in. If they get too close, he can wheel away.

With his motor-driven arms, Bandit can automatically mimic the motions of children and lead a game of Simon Says. He can make sad sighs or happy chips, and he blows bubbles with the push of a button. He can also talk in soothing tones, although USC researches are just beginning to use Bandit's speech in their work with children with autism..."

Read the full article at its source:,0,5798122.story

Sunday, October 16, 2011

This Ultra-realistic ROBOT blinks!

This is from the first test of the Geminoid. The first hint of a smile triggers immediate response. The people laughing in the background are the designers, who at this point have worked on the robot for months, and here see it operated for the first time.
'Gemini' meaning Twins + 'Oid' meaning of Similar Form to = GEMINOID

Related Links:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Paralyzed man uses mind-powered robot arm to touch

PITTSBURGH: Giving a high-five. Rubbing his girlfriend’s hand. Such ordinary acts _ but a milestone for a paralyzed man.
True, a robotic arm parked next to his wheelchair did the touching, painstakingly, palm to palm. But Tim Hemmes made that arm move just by thinking about it.
Emotions surged. For the first time in the seven years since a motorcycle accident left him a quadriplegic, Hemmes was reaching out to someone _ even if it was only temporary, part of a month long science experiment at the University of Pittsburgh.
‘‘It wasn’t my arm but it was my brain, my thoughts. I was moving something,’’ Hemmes says. ‘‘I don’t have one single word to give you what I felt at that moment. That word doesn’t exist.’’
The Pennsylvania man is among the pioneers in an ambitious quest for thought-controlled prosthetics to give the paralyzed more independence _ the ability to feed themselves, turn a doorknob, hug a loved one.
The goal is a Star Trek-like melding of mind and machine, combining what’s considered the most humanlike bionic arm to date _ even the fingers bend like real ones _ with tiny chips implanted in the brain. Those electrodes tap into electrical signals from brain cells that command movement. Bypassing a broken spinal cord, they relay those signals to the robotic third arm.
This research is years away from commercial use, but numerous teams are investigating different methods.
At Pittsburgh, monkeys learned to feed themselves marshmallows by thinking a robot arm into motion. At Duke University, monkeys used their thoughts to move virtual arms on a computer and got feedback that let them distinguish the texture of what they ‘‘touched.’’
Through a project known as BrainGate and other research, a few paralyzed people outfitted with brain electrodes have used their minds to work computers, even make simple movements with prosthetic arms.
But can these neuroprosthetics ever offer the complex, rapid movements that people would need for more practical, everyday use?
‘‘We really are at a tipping point now with this technology,’’ says Michael McLoughlin of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which developed the humanlike arm in a $100 million project for DARPA, the Pentagon’s research agency.
Pittsburgh is helping to lead a closely watched series of government-funded studies over the next two years to try to find out. A handful of quadriplegic volunteers will train their brains to operate the DARPA arm in increasingly sophisticated ways, even using sensors implanted in its fingertips to try to feel what they touch, while scientists explore which electrodes work best.
‘‘Imagine all the joints that are in your hand. There’s 20 motions around all those joints,’’ says Pittsburgh neurobiologist Andrew Schwartz. ‘‘It’s not just reaching out and crudely grasping something. We want them to be able to use the fingers we’ve worked so hard on.’’
The 30-year-old Hemmes’ task was a much simpler first step. He was testing whether a new type of chip, which for safety reasons the Food and Drug Administration let stay on this initial volunteer’s brain for just a month, could allow for three-dimensional arm movement.
He surprised researchers the day before the electrodes were removed. The robotic arm whirred as Hemmes’ mind pushed it forward to hesitantly tap palms with a scientist.
Then his girlfriend beckoned. The room abruptly hushed. Hemmes painstakingly raised the black metal hand again and slowly rubbed its palm against hers a few times.
These emotional robotic touches have inspired researchers now recruiting volunteers for soon-to-start yearlong experiments.
‘‘It was awesome,’’ is the decidedly unscientific description from the normally reserved Dr. Michael Boninger, rehabilitation chief at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. ‘‘To interact with a human that way. … This is the beginning.’’
Hemmes’ journey began in 2004. He owned an auto-detailing shop and rode his motorcycle in his spare time. Then one summer evening he swerved to miss a deer. His bike struck a guardrail. His neck snapped.
His determination didn’t. Paralyzed below the shoulders, he’s tried other experimental procedures in hopes, so far unrealized, of regaining some arm function.
‘‘I always tell people your legs are great … but they just get you from here to there,’’ Hemmes says as his caregiver waits to feed him a bite of a cheeseburger near his home in Butler, north of Pittsburgh. ‘‘Your arms and fingers and hands do everything else. I have to get those back, I absolutely have to.’’
Read the full article at its source:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ROBOT, get me a sandwich!

Ask For a Sandwich and This Robot Will Go to Subway For You
"Longtime readers know that I’m a fan of Willow Garage’s PR2 robot, which is being used all over the world for robotics research. It’s also been used in student projects to perform tasks that seem relatively simple for humans, but are actually rather hard for robots, including baking cookies, solving Rubik’s cubes, and doing the laundry.

Now here’s an even more interesting piece of programming. A team of researchers from both University of Tokyo and Technische Universit√§t M√ľnchen have joined forces to develop what they’re calling “semantic search” for use with the PR2. Evan Ackerman explains:

“Semantic search” is simply the ability to make inferences about an object based on what is known about similar objects and the environment. It sounds complicated, but it’s really just a computerized version of what we humans think of as “common sense.” For example, if someone asks you to bring them a cup without telling you exactly where the cup is, you’re probably clever enough to infer that cups can be found in drawers or cabinets or dishwashers, and that drawers and cabinets and dishwashers are all usually located in a kitchen, so you can go to the kitchen, poke around for a little bit, and find a cup. Semantic search allows robots to do the same sort of thing.

Now that’s a pretty innovative piece of programming. What’s more interesting is that it will also learn. So if you store something in a room not normally associated with the object – say, your phone chargers in the hall closet – it will learn to associate phone chargers and the hall closet.

You can see a demo of the PR2 with semantic search below. Here, the robot is given a simple command – to get a sandwich. It first checks the kitchen, fails to find a sandwich, and then goes somewhere else where sandwiches are found – the local Subway. It even knows what floor to take the elevator to. Check it out..."
Read the entire article at its source:

Monday, October 3, 2011

COOL STUFF (Educational Resources for Students & Teachers)

Cool stuff, indeed!.. Some very worthwhile resources from iRobot's S.P.A.R.K. (Starter Programs for the Advancement of Robotics Knowledge).

RoboCop, a robot whose time has come...

RoboCop Revisited: How Automation Is Transforming Public Safety
Law enforcement technology may not have reached the point where officers are replaced by cyborgs (think RoboCop), but new automated devices and robots are making public safety efforts more efficient and significantly less dangerous.

According to experts, unmanned ground robots, 3-D technology and various scientific developments are slowly but steadily changing how police, tactical and rescue personnel spend their time and do their jobs.

Four-wheeled drones (that have more in common with Mars rovers than screenwriter Ed Neumeier’s RoboCop character) are increasingly being used to extend the eyes and ears of police and military personnel. A variety of companies are producing these robots, which are designed to keep people out of harm’s way.

For instance, a line of ground and maritime robots from iRobot, a robot designer and manufacturer, is focused on achieving mission objectives such as observation and investigation. The company’s small unmanned ground vehicles have been used by bomb squads and SWAT teams to gather information prior to raids. Knob Moses, head of iRobot’s Government and Industrial Robots Division and a retired Navy supply officer, said giving people the ability to diffuse bombs and investigate scenes with a remote presence that features audio and video feeds is a huge safety benefit. Whether it’s a hostage situation or a drug lab, the ability to see and hear what’s going on from a distance improves situational awareness and saves lives...."

Read the full story at its source (GOVERNMENT TECHNOLOGY):

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Robot Film Festival: "And the Winner Is...."

Double A - Robot from Julien Vanhoenacker on Vimeo.
   "Robots take the stage! The Robot Film Festival, sponsored by Science House, was founded by roboticist Heather Knight of Marilyn Monrobot and Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute to inject a sense of playfulness into traditional science and engineering and explore new frontiers for robotics before the technology is even possible. Get ready to investigate humanity, machinery and the larger symbolisms within.
   The festival is a two day celebration of outstanding, dazzling, hilarious and thought-provoking short robot films. Saturday's events will open with a screening of Spike Jonze's "I'm Here," juried screenings and live performances by human and digital entertainers. ...."Read the full story at its source... 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Chatting Robots

Very interesting story about ChatBOTs and their conversations...
"Robot-To-Robot Chat Yields Curious Conversation

This week, Cornell's Creative Machines Lab posted a video that shows what happens when a robot chats with another robot. The result? A curious conversation that goes from eccentric to existential. Robert Siegel talks to Hod Lipson, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell University, who helped set up the experiment..."
Read and listen to the full story at its source:

Also see story:"Suzette Chatbot Managed To Convince An Expert That She Was Human" @

AND "How to create your own virtual self" @

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: Interactive Demonstration

Rock, Paper, Scissors
A great interactive  simulation from the New York Times

"Smarter Than You Think
Rock-Paper-Scissors: You vs. the Computer

Computers mimic human reasoning by building on simple rules and statistical averages. Test your strategy against the computer in this rock-paper-scissors game illustrating basic artificial intelligence. Choose from two different modes: novice, where the computer learns to play from scratch, and veteran, where the computer pits over 200,000 rounds of previous experience against you."
Access the simulation @ it's source:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Robots Get Real - Fantastic National Geographic Article and Photos - August, 2011

Aguust 2011 - National Geographic Article "Us and Them"
"Robots are being created that can think, act, and relate to humans. Are we ready?"
     Robots Lab (from National Geographic - August 2011) 
"...Someone types a command into a laptop, and Actroid-DER jerks upright with a shudder and a wheeze. Compressed air flows beneath silicone skin, triggering actuators that raise her arms and lift the corners of her mouth into a demure smile. She seems to compose herself, her eyes panning the room where she stands fixed to a platform, tubes and wires running down through her ankles. She blinks, then turns her face toward me. I can't help but meet her—its—mechanical gaze. "Are you surprised that I'm a robot?" she asks. "I look just like a human, don't I?"

Her scripted observation has the unfortunate effect of calling my attention to the many ways she does not. Developed in Japan by the Kokoro Company, the Actroid-DER android can be rented to serve as a futuristic spokesmodel at corporate events, a role that admittedly does not require great depth of character. But in spite of the $250,000 spent on her development, she moves with a twitchy gracelessness, and the inelasticity of her features lends a slightly demented undertone to her lovely face. Then there is her habit of appearing to nod off momentarily between utterances, as if she were on something stronger than electricity..."

Read the full article and see the gallery of photos at their source:


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ISTE Author PODCAST - Getting Started with LEGO Robotics - Mark Gura

ISTE Casts - The trusted voice of Ed Tech
Audio podcasts produced by the International Society for Technology in Education

ISTE Books Author Interview
Episode 28: Mark Gura
click on the link above and then on the podcast icon

Mark Gura, author of Getting Started in LEGO Robotics: A Guide for K–12 Educators, discusses the benefits of LEGO Robotics and provides encouraging insight into starting your own LEGO Robotics program. LEGO Robotics is a hands on, multidisciplinary, collaborative learning experience. Mark Gura provides you with first-hand advice and recommendations so you can have your own robotics program up and running in no time.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Getting Started with LEGO Robotics: A Guide for K-12 Educators

Proudly announcing the release of 'Getting Started with LEGO Robotics: A Guide for K-12 Educators' by Mark Gura - Published by ISTE - International Society of Technology in Education, 2011). Everything that teachers, parents, activity group leaders need to know to get started guiding students in using and learning with LEGO Robotics.

For more information on the book or to purchase it:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

'Robot Journalist' Out-Writes Human Sports Reporter

"Okay, so it's not really a robot. It's actually a software program. You feed it data, it processes that data, and it spits out a news story putting those numbers you gave it into context — just like you'd see in your local newspaper. In the beginning, it was used exclusively for sports stories and a lot of people were skeptical — namely, real-life sports journalists. "I always imagine kind of the robot you imagined in the third grade with the boxy body and the antennae arms, standing in front of a keyboard," says Emma Carmichael, a writer for the sports website Deadspin. She and her colleagues at Deadspin took a few digs at the idea, and this spring, when they came across a particularly bad account of a baseball game on the college sports website they assumed it was machine generated. University of Virginia player Will Roberts had pitched a perfect game against George Washington University. The story on neglected to mention that fact until the second-to-last paragraph. "That was shocking," Carmichael says. "This was the first time this had happened in the NCAA since 2002. And when it happens, you expect to see it in the headline and you expect to see everyone talking about that aspect of the game." The writer of that story — it turns out — was a living, breathing human being. But the creators of Narrative Science, a news-writing software program, took Deadspin's assumption as fighting words. They set out to prove that their system could produce a better story. "We actually got hold of the information director of the school, we got the raw material, the numbers around the story," said Kris Hammond, Chief Technology Officer of Narrative Science. "And we fed it to our system, which wrote the story, where the headline and the lead were focused on the fact that it was a no-hitter. Because how could you write a baseball story and not notice that it was a no hitter? I mean what kind of writer or machine would you be?" And, here's the machine-generated copy they sent in to Deadspin: "Tuesday was a great day for W. Roberts, as the junior pitcher threw a perfect game to carry Virginia to a 2-0 victory over George Washington at Davenport Field. Twenty-seven Colonials came to the plate and the Virginia pitcher vanquished them all, pitching a perfect game. He struck out 10 batters while recording his momentous feat. Roberts got Ryan Thomas to ground out for the final out of the game. Tom Gately came up short on the rubber for the Colonials, recording a loss. He went three innings, walked two, struck out one, and allowed two runs. The Cavaliers went up for good in the fourth, scoring two runs on a fielder's choice and a balk." Deadspin conceded. They published a follow up, saying that — in this case — the machine did write the better story..." The above is quoted from NPR - To read this item in its entirety and listen to the NPR audio at this item's source, go to:

Monday, April 11, 2011

High School Builds Robot for Florida Police Department

From Government Technology: "...The newest member of the Rockledge, Fla., Police Department is two feet tall and weighs 100 pounds, but it’s not police dog — it’s a robot named PDbot. Nearly a year and a half ago, the Police Department tapped Rockledge High School to build a robot for assisting with police operations. The robot has since been completed and has been with the department for nearly a week. PDbot will soon be working with officers in training exercises to eventually be taken out into the field. The idea to acquire a robot or similar mechanism came to be when the department started discussing new ideas to deliver “throw phones” in hostage situations, said Chris Cochie, an investigator for the department. A throw phone is a phone that’s delivered to a hostage-taker to create a line of communication with police during negotiations. “I thought it’d be cool if we had some sort of remote control car or vehicle or something that we could attach the throw phone to, to drive it up to the bad guy,” Cochie said. The Police Department decided to approach the local high school about building and donating a robot to the department since it didn’t have the budget to purchase one. Rockledge High School is known to have one of the best robotics teams in the country, so approaching it was the smart choice, Cochie said. During one of the high school’s football games, the department’s former SWAT commander approached Marian Passmore, a math and science teacher (and current instructor for the school’s robotics team), about the idea, which she agreed to. Students from nearby Cocoa Beach High School joined the team as well. For a year and a half, a subgroup of the robotics team — 14 students total during the course of the project — prototyped, designed and built PDbot, Passmore said. Once completed, the robot was not only able to deliver a throw phone, but also can deliver medical supplies or other items during a crisis situation. In addition, the robot can launch smoke bombs, has video capability for drug surveillance, infrared for nighttime operations as well as other features. PDbot can be remotely operated up to 500 feet from the driver’s station. During a training exercise with the department’s SWAT team, to test the robot’s strength, an officer laid on the ground and had the robot push and pull him in the grass. Passmore said another officer commented that the robot’s pulling capability would be beneficial if an officer was injured during police operations because PDbot could pull him or her to a safe location. Because the Police Department lacked the funds to purchase a robot, obtaining money to build PDbot was the robotics team’s responsibility. Every year the team raises between $45,000 and $50,000 through fundraising, educational outreach grants and from local businesses, and the team put $14,000 toward the PDbot project, Passmore said. While the students were the robot’s main designers and builders, mentors from NASA and the Kennedy Space Center also came on board to help the students complete the project, Passmore said. “The biggest challenge is that they are kids. People have to remember that they are students, they’re not engineers when they’re in high school,” Passmore said, later adding, “But they’ve had some experiences that maybe a normal science class that you walk into, those kids wouldn’t have had.” According to a press release, the next version of PDbot is under development and will add full duplex audio, an attachment to break through glass doors, a taser and more." To read the complete article at its source go to:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Robots to Go Into Japan's Broken Nuclear Plants - Human's Breathe Sigh of Relief!

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>From - NPR
"First Eyes Inside Nuclear Plant May Be A Robot's
Workers in Japan want to look inside three troubled reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. But intense radiation inside the buildings means that it is too dangerous for them to enter. One solution? Robots. They're good at going places where people just don't want to go.

"The purpose of robots is to do those dull, dirty and dangerous missions — so dangerous is certainly what we're talking about here," says Tim Trainer, a vice president at iRobot, an American firm that has sent four of its robots to the company that owns the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant

After a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the plant on March 11, operators lost power to the buildings that hold the reactors. In the ensuing days, three of them heated up and partially melted down. Explosions and fires that accompanied the accident have knocked out valuable equipment and left the area dangerously radioactive.

"A lot of the sensors and cameras are no longer operative in the facility, so the robot can provide your eyes and ears," Trainer says.

The robots Trainer has sent are designed to investigate bombs for the military, and some have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan. They look like little tanks and are about 3 feet long. On their front is an extra set of extendable treads, which they can use to get over things.

I would anticipate that we are going to see a phenomenal enterprise of remote work systems that are brought to bear over the weeks, months and years of recovering Fukushima.

That maneuverability could come in handy at Fukushima Dai-ichi — the area around the plant is cluttered with debris. The robots also come equipped with cameras and chemical and radiation sensors. One type has a robotic arm that can open doors — unless they're locked.

Once the robots get inside, they might use their cameras to inspect the condition of the containment vessels around the reactors or take samples to check the radiation levels.

But this is only the start of the role that the robots may play at Fukushima. Carnegie Mellon University robotics researcher Red Whittaker has assisted with robotic operations at nuclear accidents like Chernobyl. He says after that 1986 accident, at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine, radiation levels were too high for workers to conduct cleanup operations, so remote-controlled robots had to take over..."
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

South Korean Students Learn English from Robot Teacher


"Many South Korean families spend thousands of dollars a year on English language education for their children. Students attend private academies often until late at night everyday. Most such schools hire teachers from abroad, but a team of engineers has created a robot that they hope will eventually replace foreign instructors.

Engkey wheels around the front of a classroom at the Hagjeong Primary School in Daegu.

The egg-shaped robot asks the class - six fourth-grade students - to repeat English phrases and teaches them children’s songs in English.

But Engkey’s voice is not its own. It is connected via teleconference to the Philippines, where a teacher conducts the class through a monitor. An image of a Caucasian woman appears on Engkey’s LCD panel head, although she is not the teacher in the Philippines.

But Engkey’s creators say this robot is much more than a video screen on wheels.

Kim Mun-sang is director of the Intelligent Robotics Program at the government-funded Korea Institute for Science and Technology in Seoul. He explains how the robot works.

"We have some perception technology,” Kim said. “We can detect the motion of the English teacher. As soon as the teacher moves his hand, the robot raises its hand, if the teacher for example laughs, we can detect his laughing expression. So the robot can do just like the English teacher does."

Kim say Engkey also has an autonomous mode in which it can recognize a student’s English speech and correct pronunciation.

Kim says because of South Korea’s strong emphasis on learning English, robots can make up for the shortfall in foreign teachers.

"In Korea there is a lot of demand for English learning, so, they need a very good English lessons from native speakers, but as you know it is not easy to have good quality of English native teachers in Korea at once, there are not so many," Kim added.

Kim adds that Engkey will save schools money. He says the cost to build a robot and hire a Filipino teacher to work with it is around $20,000 a year. That is roughly half the cost of supporting a foreign teacher in Korea.

He says if the Engkey pilot program here in Daegu proves a success, then more robots could be used in after-school tutoring.

So far, students at the Hagjeong School give Engkey high marks.

One 10-year-old boy, who says his English name is Tony, admits he was a little nervous about the robot at first, but likes its singing and dancing

And 10-year-old Charlotte says she likes the robot teacher better than human teachers.

But some teachers think a robot cannot replace the real thing.

Yu Do-hyun lectures in English and education at Seoul’s Kookmin University.

She says Engkey’s novelty will wear off quickly.

"At first children will like to see the Engkey and play with Engkey, learning from Engkey, but after several classes, they are not interested anymore," Yu said.

And Yu adds that learning from a robot deprives students of the main reason for studying a foreign language, human interaction.

"Communication is between humans, so they need practicing with native speakers, human teachers,” Yu added. “Even though they practice English a lot with the robots, when they meet human native speakers, they will be very nervous, because they haven’t conversed with real speakers."

Engkey’s creators say that students will determine how successful the robot is as a teacher. But they hope that someday all schools in South Korea will have a robot in the classroom..."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Robot Marathon – 26.2 Miles to Glory

"Robots have barely learned how to walk, but Vstone is already pushing them to run. The Japanese robot research and manufacturing firm has announced it is putting together the world’s first marathon for our mechanical offspring. The Robot Challenge will have bipedal bots racing around a 100m track for 422 laps either remotely controlled or operating completely autonomously by following a painted line. As you can see in the video below, the contest is unlikely to feature sprinting or even jogging competitors. This race will go to the strong and steady robot that can survive the repeated wear and tear on its servos. Fast or slow, the Robot Challenge marathon marks a step in the evolution of amateur level contests – we know you can make fun or fierce artificial humanoids, now show us a bot that has the staying power to really serve the human race.

Along with their announcement for the Robot Challenge, Vstone released the following concept video. It’s very short, just enough footage to give developers an idea of what they’d need to work on. Note that this demo track is far from being 100 meters long.

The robot shown in the demo is Vstone’s own Robovie-PC, developed in cooperation with ATR. Robovie-PC is a robot that’s also a computer, hence the name. It features a 1.6 GHz processor, twenty degrees of freedom, and a 1.3 megapixel camera in its head. That latest sensor is likely how the bot is able to stay on track during its test run. Retailing for around $4500, Robovie-PC probably represents a typical investment expected for contestants in the Robot Challenge. You don’t have to be a major research institution to afford such a setup, but you can’t exactly be a first-time competitor either.

On the 42.2 km (26.2 mile) journey, it’s expected that many robots will have break downs. Vstone allows for you to replace damaged parts (though not the entire robot) and will use the total time (travel plus maintenance) as the competing score. Sort of like robot NASCAR.

In a world where the majority of amateur robot competitions involve bots pushing each other in ‘wrestling matches’ or kicking balls in soccer matches, Robot Challenge could be something pretty novel. You’re not trying to create a new fighting skill, or fancy new athletic maneuvers, you’re just trying to get your robot to walk for miles without breaking down. Maybe that’s more mundane than we’re used to, but if you think about it, it’s really more exciting than most of the other contests out there. After all, if we really want robots to come work in our homes and do our dirty work, it will be reliability that is the top concern. All major robot research firms perform these types of endurance trials, it’s high time they got the same attention in amateur-level robot competitions.

Robot Challenge is pretty awe-inspiring when you think that every stride the bipeds take could bring us one step closer to creating practical humanoid robots. I’m going to keep that in mind as I cue up the theme of Chariots of Fire and watch the Robovie-PC’s..."

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stay Home and Send Your Robot in to Work!

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>FROM: Hacked Gadgets

"The $15,000 robot has now been available for sale for a few days but has been in beta testing for a long time. It serves an obvious need, just imagine having an Anybot at your remote locations that you need to travel too frequently. Instead of spending countless hours flying and expensive lodging expenses you could simply log into an Anybot that has been setup on site and conduct your business. You could visit a dozen branches on Monday morning and still make your 1:00 PM golf tee time..."
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Friday, February 4, 2011

Robots help sick kids go to school

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>SOURCE: CNET News online 2/1/11

"Children too sick to go to school are still getting an education--thanks to robots in the classroom that transmit lessons back to the student.

(Credit: Vgo Communications) Stepan Supin, 12, of Moscow has been battling leukemia for two years, and his immune system is so weak he can't leave home. However, telepresence technology allows him to go to school via remote-controlled robot.

The R.BOT 100 was developed by Moscow's 3Detection Labs several years ago, and it's been helping Stepan study history, geography, and languages since September.

Priced at roughly $3,000, the R.BOT 100 moves around on a wheeled base and has a display, Web cam, microphone, speakers, and an Internet link so Stepan can interact with his classmates and teacher.

"I can change the robot's speed, to go slower or faster. I can move his head to look left or right. I really feel as if I am in the classroom," Stepan told Australia's Herald Sun.

In Texas, Lyndon Baty also goes to school through a robot surrogate. He suffers from polycystic kidney disease and has a severely impaired immune system, which confines him to home.

Lyndon attends class with the Vgo telepresence robot, which was released last year by Vgo Communications. With two-way video, audio, and a 10-hour battery, Vgo lets Lyndon roam around the halls of Knox City High School and interact with other students (see the video below)..."

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