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In Robots Podcast episode #95 David Lane, Professor of Autonomous Systems Engineering and affiliated with the Heriot-Watt University Ocean Systems Laboratory (Edinburgh), talks with interviewer Per Sjoborg about his journey from research to business and back. He tells about how he got started first in offshore work then in robotics research, developing control software for autonomous underwater vehicles. He also tells how frustration with the lack of utilization of his work led he and his associates to start the company SeeByte, to commercialize it, and how having the U.S. Navy as their first customer proved very helpful towards the company's success. (Dr. Lane has much to say about the value of customer funding and customer focus for a startup.) Finally, he tells about his return to academia after finding the right person to take over the day-to-day details of running SeeByte, and how his experience in industry finds its way into his academic work.
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CES is nearly over, but we have a few more items to share. The Inventist SoloWheel, shown above, was panned by The Verge as having
zero chance of making it to the mainstream. As may be, pending further development, but the company provides an assortment of videos on its website. Without having tried it myself, I doubt it requires more skill than rollerblades. NEC showed its Communication Robot PaPeRo, a research prototype, not yet for sale, along with an Android app that allows users to control the robot remotely. There were Dancing Cats and Baby Seals, and a robotic vacuum cleaner that entertains while it works, and is itself cleaned out each time it docks. And last, but far from least, TechCrunch interviewed Bre Pettis of Makerbot about their new Replicator model, and the future of 3D printing.
You've probably already heard about the event wherein Justin Bieber was enlisted to introduce TOSY's new mRobo at CES, but you may not have learned much about the device itself or the company that makes it. mRobo is a combination music player and dancing robot. It can store 2 gigabytes worth of music in its own memory, or stream it via bluetooth, or simply listen. In any case, when there's music playing, it sprouts a head, arms, and legs and begins to dance in time to the beat. The price is set at $199, and you won't be able to get one until later this year.
The video above shows iRobot's Ava telepresence platform paying a visit to the crew of The Verge, in their trailer at CES. Other exhibitors of interest include Parrot, showing their AR.Drone 2.0, and Sphero, with their iPhone-controlled ball. More to come.
The video above is an informal (always with Cali Lewis), very upbeat interview with Gary Shapiro, CEO of the CEA, sponsors of CES. Besides Cali and crew, The Verge and Engadget are also prowling the floor at CES 2012, and IEEE Spectrum is also covering the event. All four sometimes talk about robots, and we know there are robots there, so we're hoping for decent coverage, the best of which we'll be passing along.
Robots figure more prominently at this year's CES than ever before. Among the many presenters are Modular Robotics, whose Cubelets are shown above, and XYBOTYX, developers of the XYBOT, a small two-wheeled balancing device that turns an iPhone into a telepresence robot.
This video shows observations of a lizard jumping, followed by application of the techniques for use of a tail for stabilization to robots. (Via Automaton)
The mailbox has been filling up with interesting stories lately, like a pair of conflicting papers from the Current Directions in Psychological Science journal. One claims that Darwin was wrong to suggest that facial expressions have innate connections to particular emotions, while the other supports the idea that facial expressions evolved to communicate emotional states, playing a crucial role in survival. There's also new evidence that chimps have a theory of mind, which has implications for the development of language. If all this talk of mind and emotion is too boring, Hank Pellissier over at IEET, wrote a piece Sexbots for Women, pondering why only males are assumed likely to desire sex with androids. The Swirling Brain noticed a Huffington Post story on Google's cloud robotics initiative. Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report? Send 'em our way please. And don't forget to follow us on twitter.
The Robot Film Festival will soon begin accepting submissions for the 2012 competition.
The Navy Research Lab has completed testing of a Balloon-launched UAV that in turn launches smaller UAVs. They're calling the project ADD (Autonomous Deployment Demonstration) A balloon carried an UASUSA Tempest UAV to 60,000 feet. On each of the Tempest's wings, a smaller CICADA Mark III autonomous glider was mounted (CICADA stands for Close-In Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft). The smaller UAVs were then launched and autonomously navigated to within 15 feet of predetermined waypoints. The goal is demonstrate that the robots could provide a low cost way of placing precision located sensors for reconnaissance. For more photos of the operation, see the Navy's press release
In the final episode of Robots Podcast for 2011, the interviewers reprise some of the highlights of the year, of which there have been many to choose from. Some of those mentioned are represented in a YouTube playlist. Another YouTube playlist collects submissions received in response to an appeal for Christmas-themed videos featuring robots. From the Robots Podcast team, we wish you an even better 2012.
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What better way to close out 2011 than with a story of two space robots reaching their destination after a 112 day voyage? A NASA news release, the GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) space probes, a pair of space bots designed to orbit the moon and measure gravity changes that will tell researchers more about the nature of moon's surface and evolution. If all goes well with the lunar orbit insertion, the probes will set up shop in a circular polar orbit and should be ready to start delivery science data by March 2012. You can track news about the GRAIL space mission now and eventually the science news on the GRAIL project page. Both probes also carry MoonKAMs, cameras that were added just to provide cool photos for the public. Students will be able to request photos from the MoonKAMs. The GRAIL project is based on the same science used in the GRACE project that has been mapping the Earth since 2002. Click through the "read more" link for video and links to more technical info on these space-faring robots.
A December 24th news release from Sea Shepherd, an organization working to stop illegal whaling, describes how a robot helped them locate the Japanese whaling fleet. The non-profit organization recently took delivery of an Osprey UAV built by Hangar 18 Unmanned Aircraft Systems and donated by Bayshore Recycling of New Jersey. The flying robot was named Nicole Montecalvo and is stationed on the Steve Irwin. It was deployed on Dec 24 to search for the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru. The drone successfully located and photographed the ship before any whales were killed. The news release goes on to say:
This time however the Japanese tactic of tailing the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker will not work because the drones, one on the Steve Irwin and the other on the Bob Barker, can track and follow the Nisshin Maru and can relay the positions back to the Sea Shepherd ships. “We can cover hundreds of miles with these drones and they have proven to be valuable assets for this campaign,” said Captain Paul Watson on board the Steve Irwin.
A story in the sUAS news blog provides lots of technical details on the Osprey UAV itself. Click the read more link to see additional photos of the crew launching the drone and photos taken of the Nisshin Maru and Shonan Maru #2 by the drone. See the Sea Shepherd website for info on how you can help.
In a 24-minute, English-language video Al Jazeera examines the present use and ongoing development of military robots, addressing the question where the decisions being made today will take us.
It's the time of year when Santa needs to train for his annual flight and it appears Saint Nick saw our recent posting on CISR's Haptically-Enabled Universal Motion Simulator (UMS). Fortunately, the roboticists at CISR were feeling in the Christmas spirit and agreed to help Santa get into shape. Kyle Nelson writes,
In preparation for Christmas this year Santa has made the trip down-under for some flight training! Santa tested his skills on the new CISR Haptically-Enabled Universal Motion Simulator (UMS) to make sure that he can deliver all of his presents on time this Christmas Eve. We have a feeling Santa's reindeer will be flying super-fast this year, hope you've been good!
For a little more info on Santa's surprise collaboration with Australian robot engineers, see the CISR new release.
In Robots Podcast episode #93, Sabine interviews Erin Rapacki, who previously worked at DEKA, iRobot, and Anybots, and is currently Product Marketing Manager for Mobile Robots at Adept Technology. In the interview, she argues that robotics research should be more driven by real-world problems in need of marketable solutions, and that they should take advantage of available platforms, such as those available from Adept, rather than continually reinventing the mobility aspect of their projects. She also discusses the prospects for cloud robotics and states that many of the missing pieces roboticists have been waiting on have arrived, mentioning faster processors, tablet computers, and the Kinect. Ms. Rapacki recently authored a guest post on the IEEE Spectrum Automaton blog, titled "Dear Reader, I Have News for You: Robots Are Boring" in which she states:
What we need from robotics companies and roboticists everywhere are more boring robots: Robots that would be most appreciated when they complete a task in a manner that is smooth and economical; robots that investors and companies can trust building business models around.As you might surmise from this snippet, "boring", as she uses it in that post, means approximately the same thing as the FDA's "safe and effective". And while it might sound like doublespeak, in most circumstances boring is good.
The holidays are here and it's time once again to count down the top 10 Christmas ideas for robot geeks! There's so much fun and interesting robot stuff out there, it's hard to choose. To help narrow things down, we've settled on a "buy local" theme this year. So we'll be paying special attention to products that are made by individuals and small companies within the robotics community. As for the final selection and order of our list, if you've been reading robots.net for a few years, you know the drill. It's thoroughly unscientific. Robots.net founding editors, steve, Rog-a-Matic, and The Swirling Brain put their heads together and come up with whatever crazy robot gift ideas strike their fancy. The Top 10 are presented in ascending order of geeky awesomeness as determined by the dart board of collaborative subjectiveness. Ready? Click the read more link to get started!
Robot builder Kåre Halvorsen (aka Zenta) has released a new video of his MorpHex robot. This is a hexapod robot with a spherical shell. The sphere is divided into an upper and lower hemisphere, each of which are broken into six smaller segments. The lower six shell pieces act as legs when the robot is moving. All twelve segments can be retracted to form a sphere. In addition to the video, check out the Zenta Robotic Creation blog for lots of photos during the construction.
A new version of the Nao is ready, and eager to make your acquaintance.
2012 Top 10 Robot Christmas Gift Ideas
DARPA Robotics Challenge Kick Off
2012 ASABE Robot Contest Photos
Interview with David L. Heiserman
David Anderson on Subsumption Robots
Review: Apocalyptic AI by Robert M. Geraci
Raspberry Pi Interview with Eben Upton
2012 VEX Robotics World Championship
Giant Dallas Robot Cited as Best Public Art
There's More Than One Way to Skin a Robot
Day of the Androids at Hanson Robotics