Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Can Robots Be Programmed to Learn?

"Can Robots Be Programmed to Learn from Their Own Experiences?

Researchers program robots to see if they can learn a very human trait: common sense"

"It took just a few decades for computers to evolve from room-size vacuum tube–based machines that cost as much as a house to cheap chip-powered desktop models with vastly more processing power. Similarly, the days of "personal robots"—inexpensive machines that can help out at home or the office—may be closer than we think. But first, says Alexander Stoytchev, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Iowa State University in Ames, robots have to be taught to do something we know instinctively: how to learn.

'A truly useful personal robot [must have] the ability to learn on its own from interactions with the physical and social environment," says Stoytchev, whose field of developmental robotics combines developmental psychology and neuroscience with artificial intelligence and robotic engineering. "It should not rely on a human programmer once it is purchased. It must be trainable.'

Stoytchev and a team of grad students are developing software to teach robots to learn about as well as a two-year-old child. Their platform is a humanoid robot that sprouts two 60-pound (27-kilogram) Whole Arm Manipulators (WAM) made by Cambridge, Mass.,–based Barrett Technology, Inc., each tipped with a 2.6-pound (1.2-kilogram) three-fingered BarrettHand.

In one set of experiments, the robot was presented with 36 different objects, including hockey pucks and Tupperware. It could perform five different actions with each one—grasping, pushing, tapping, shaking and dropping—and had to identify and classify them based only on the sounds they made. After just one action the robot had a 72 percent success rate, but its accuracy soared with each successive action, reaching 99.2 percent after all five. The robot had learned to use a perceptual model to recognize and classify objects—and it could rely on this model to estimate how similar two objects were with only the sounds they made to guide it.

Another set of experiments showed the robot could learn to tell whether or not something was a container. The team presented the machine, topped with a 3-D camera, with objects of different shapes. By dropping a small block on each one and then pushing it, the robot learned to classify objects either as containers—those that moved together with the block ["co-moved"] more often when pushed—or as noncontainers. The robot could then use this knowledge to judge whether unfamiliar objects could hold things; in other words, it had learned, roughly, how to discern the unique characteristics of a container..."
Read the complete article at its source:

Build a Robot: FUN Computer Game with STEM Learning Potential

"Description: This is an addictive fun game where you have a chance to create your own robot! A robot that you always visualized and imagined about!!!
Select the different parts of the robots body and assemble them as you like in the workshop. You can rotate and resize the different parts according to your requirements.

Left Click and Drag the different parts to join them together. Use the Left And Right Arrow Keys to rotate the parts and use the Up and Down Arrow Keys to resize the objects, while you are dragging them."

You'll find this free game at its home website:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How do you say "ROBOTS ROCK!" in Mandarin?

Is this Engineering? Art? Play? Other?

Here's a longer, more in-depth video of roboticist Wu Yulu's life and work in rural China...

Rural Robots by Wu Yulu from microwavefest on Vimeo.

And here's an informative article on Wu Yulu from the publication Mail Online:
"Meet my robot rickshaw son: Chinese farmer shows off his latest weird inventions"
"The sight of a farmer being pulled along in a cart by a walking robot would stop most people in their tracks. But Mr Wu Yulu's neighbours on the outskirts of Beijing are used to the spectacle.

The 48-year-old has achieved worldwide fame after inventing and building 47 robots in his back out of scrap metal. They can perform functions as varied as jumping, painting, drinking, massaging and of course pulling carts.

He started his unusual hobby in 1986 and has continued ever since despite taking on huge debts, being sprayed with battery acid and risking his marriage.

His wife Dong Shuyan nearly left with their two soon after he burnt down the house while working on a robot and went £8,500 into the red.

But now Mr Yulu's perseverance has paid off. He has been invited to display more than 30 of his robots during the Shanghai World Expo 2010, where he will promote the practical uses of his robots.

The inventor has already received a string of prizes and contracts with universities..."

Read the full article at its source (great photos!):

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

dCompass: Digital Compass for LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT - a compass sensor for LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT

I just received the information below in an email from Dexter Industries... This low-cost device appears to add needed functionality to LEGO NXT robotics resources... Certainly worth a look to understand the concept and approach.


dCompass: Digital Compass for LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT

■A digital compass sensor for the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT.

■Measures compass heading of your robot.

■Build robots that can navigate the earth!

■Sensor can read three axes.

Detailed Description

The Dexter Industries dCompass is a compass sensor for LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT. This compact sensor detects magnetic fields for navigation. Using a magnetic sensor, the sensor is able to measure the earth's magnetic field and returns a magnetic heading, telling you which way your robot is heading.

The device can be used without calibration and can be calibrated with software to account for magnetic fields to deliver a highly accurate compass heading.

The sensor is supported in NXT-G, Labview, and RobotC.

The sensor communicates with the NXT via I2C and can be placed on any port.

You'll find more information about dCompass on Dexter's site:

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Learning Power of LEGO

Here's an excellent info graphic titled The Learning Power of LEGO.
View it in full at at its source:

Monday, February 6, 2012

RoboDEER to the rescue!

Robo-Deer Protects Innocent Wildlife From Poachers
"Wildlife in Florida have an unlikely new ally in the fight against poaching -- a remote-controlled buck lovingly known as Robo-deer. Although he can do little more than flick his tail and turn his head, Robo-deer is so convincingly lifelike that some illegal hunters can't help but take a shot at him. But when they do, those poachers end up getting served something a lot worse than steel veal -- that's because Robo-deer works for the cops.

No, Robo-deer isn't a character from science-fiction -- he's actually the latest modern tool being used by Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers to nab folks who keep on killing deer after the close of hunting season, a time when animal and man should be able to live in peace. "We have a problem with people poaching in this area," says officer Greg Stastay. "So, we're going to set up a deer for them to shoot."
That's where Robo-deer steps in. He's here to take a few bullets so his real-deer peers don't have to.

Officers are able to control Robo-deer's movements from up to 50 feet away with a radio-controlled device mounted its back. When the tempting target is placed in the brush along the roadside, folks driving by who have no qualms about hunting illegally will inevitably stop to shoot at the majestic, albeit mechanical, "animal" -- giving officers justification to step in and arrest them.

"Anybody who shoots at that deer will be arrested for illegal method and hunting deer out of season," says Stastay. Those who Robo-deer helps reveal as poachers can expect a severe punishment, too -- maximum penalties range between 60 days and one year in the slammer.

Despite the fact that he is purely mechanical at heart, the robotic buck has been gaining a bit of celebrity in his own right. Robo-deer's special crime-fighting skills are the centerpiece of tonight's episode of Operation Wild on Planet Green, a show which highlights some of the novel techniques law enforcement officials are using to protect nature's most vulnerable animals..."
Read the full article at its source:

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Toy Robots OR Robotic Toys?

desk pets makes some cool robots... their purpose? Let's just say they offer humans the opportunity to play with robots and celebrate their 'coolness factor'! Take a look>>>

Suggested Reading... very worthwhile review of tankbot from Slash Gear: