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Hizook has been tracking VC investment in robotics firms for about two years, and has a list of the top companies for 2011, as determined by the scale of the capital infusions they've received. Topping the list, at $43 Million (US), is Restoration Robotics, which makes robots that automate the process of hair follicle harvesting for use in hair transplantation. (Currently implantation is still done manually.)
DARPA's Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM) program is developing software to perform human-level tasks quickly and with minimal direction. The robotic arm in the video was built from commercial components and performs the tasks shown
using vision, force, and tactile sensing, without active human control.
In one of the most impressive TED talks, Professor Vijay Kumar from GRASP Lab of University of Pennsylvania explains the dynamics of flying quadcopters robots. He show some of the already viral videos produced by the lab and explains some of the math that make them possible concluding with an extraordinary musical performance! - via DIYdrones.
The ‘Robot Survival Game’ is a non-destructive robot fighting competition that started 2 years ago in Japan and a few days ago took place for the 10th time. It involves biped, multi-legged, tracked or wheeled robots (or any combination of sorts) that compete in a several scenarios (similar to team games like paintball) ex ‘eliminating’ each other, reach a flag etc. The robots are usually remotely controlled via a camera and the operators may be nearby or even in another city. They also have a toy gun for fighting but they ‘destroy’ each other in a very clever simulated way. Each robot carries a small container made from fragile aluminum foil. A light sensor inside the container is kept in the dark unless a bullet from an opponent punches a hole in it. Then the light sensor detects it and it acts as a kill switch and the robot is ‘dead’. It is a smart way of keeping the entertainment (and the drama!) high without destroying the actual robot. You can find much more information and a lot more videos at IKETOMU’s blog.
In the new episode of ROBOTS we focus on self-organizing systems in modular and swarm robotics. Our guest is Radhika Nagpal, director of the Self-Organizing Systems Research Group at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.
To learn more read on or tune in!
This image is not cgi or a miniature; it is a real mountain slope where artist Sonja Hinrichsen created this beautiful pattern simply by walking in circles. The robotic perspective of this concept is the way the photos and the video were shot, not by a helicopter but by a small (but quite expensive) octocopter by video production company steamboat aerials. The Cinestar8 costs around 10k $ but it can carry the ~400gr camera while being stable enough to produce this result. The video is similar to that of a hugely expensive helicopter shot or even better considering the lack of downwash a helicopter creates. This video is already very popular but almost no-one cares how it was shot, most people focus on the art-concept (reasonably so), maybe drone filming is starting to become quite mainstream. You can enjoy the full scale of it at this video on vimeo and you can find high-resolution aerial images here.
Hercule is the name of this robotic exoskeleton developed by RB3D, a French engineering company, under the steering and funding of DGA, the French ministry of defense. Hercule doesn’t need any special training or knowledge skills, the person that wears it just performs his or her usual tasks and the exoskeleton provides the additional support and strength. It is electrically powered (unlike some other similar concepts that used 2 stroke internal combustion engines) and its battery life is about 20km at a moving speed of km/h (a regular walking pace) with the capacity of carrying 100kg. It can be used by the military (silent operation will be quite important) but civilian applications are equally important. Fire fighting, construction, logistics and even medical applications are possible. You can find more on this pdf brochure (2nd page in English) and in this article (in French). (via Innorobo)
Ryan Calo talks about personal robotics and their effect on society in two short videos produced by James Temple. Ryan Calo is the director of privacy and robotics at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society and expert in robots and the law, subject which he actively blogs and tweets about. He was interviewed on Robots Podcast in 2010.
Robots Podcast #97 (February 10th, 2012) features Carlo Ratti, Associate Professor of the Practice in MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and Director of MIT's SENSEable City Laboratory, discussing the lab's purpose and several of its projects, which include the Digital Water Pavilion installation in Spain, depicted in the composite photo above. Professor Ratti also presented his work nearly a year ago, at a TED conference.
Using hardware developed by KMel Robotics, Alex Kushleyev and Daniel Mellinger, of UPenn's GRASP Lab, working under the direction of Professor Vijay Kumar, and with assistance from Associate Professor Daniel Lee, have demonstrated coordinated flight of as many as twenty nano quadrotors.
David Anderson, a long time member of the Dallas Personal Robotics Group, did an interesting presentation recently in which he distills down what he's learned about building subsumption based mobile robots over the years. The video is a bit long but well-worth your time if you're interested in intelligent robots. David provides some additional notes that link to video of specific examples. And don't forget to check out David's "my robots" webpage for more photos and details on his robots.
The Uncanny Valley has been called upon to explain why Mitt Romney's persona disturbs so many people despite general agreement that he's a "successful, good-looking family man". Like Democrat Al Gore in previous races, Republican Mitt Romney creates a strange unease even among his supporters. A recent essay in the Atlantic provides an explanation for this phenomenon based on the Uncanny Valley theory that we are repulsed by slight imperfections in human-like action. The author argues that Romney's personality exhibits traits which put him into an "uncanny valley" for politicians.
"Most politicians tend to be ordinary-looking people who spend their time convincing voters they're office-quality material. Romney is rushing the other way: he's the politician from central casting who is stumbling through an audition for a role of regular human."
There were lots of jokes and comments about Al Gore being a "robot" in earlier races. But here we've got a more detailed attempt at explaining what makes people uncomfortable about this type of politician. This raises interesting questions: 1) is this just an amusing analogy or could there be any real psychology behind claims of a political uncanny valley? 2) does a reference to the uncanny valley by a political pundit mean even relatively obscure robotics and AI science is going mainstream? 3) if even some humans fall into the uncanny valley, is it more important that robots climb the other side or that we adjust our expectations of intelligent behavior?
Diagram based on Mori Uncanny Valley
In the new episode of Robots Podcast we talk to Subramanian Ramamoorthy from the University of Edinburgh about the recent progress in walking robotics. We then speak with Felipe Brandão Cavalcanti, an Electrical Engineering student working on bipedal walking at the LARA lab at the University of Brasilia with Professor Geovany Borges. Ramamoorthy tells us about the recent advances in humanoid bipedal walking illustrated by Petman and the latest version of Asimo. In particular, we look at the history of the field with work from Mark Raibert, Russ Tedrake andDaniel Koditschek and how different areas, such as machine leaning and motion capture, come together to accelerate progress. Felipe Brandão Cavalcanti's project focuses on the study and implementation of gait generation and stabilization algorithms for small humanoid robots. He tells us how they hacked a humanoid toy to improve its balance and the importance of math in his work.To learn more about walking robotics read on or tune in!
While this won't matter to most readers of Robots.Net until a version with English subtitles becomes available for download, SVT's Akta Manniskor starts tomorrow, January 22nd. A ten hour series following the stories of a handful of "hubots" - human-like robots we might prefer to call androids - and the humans into whose lives they become entwined, the release of this Swedish production has been preceded by a bit of guerrilla marketing, and there is a making-of video available, also in Swedish of course.
Shermine of Universal Robots, a Danish company, writes to tell us about a light-weight robot arm and matching touch-screen controller they've just completed. We also got word of a new robotics and AI blog called NooTriX, check it out. For our LEGO fans, Simon tells us about WorldBricks, a website where you can download LEGO instructions and catalogs dating back to the 1950s. Guy Cefalu sent a link to the Element microcontroller for .NET developers. No specs on memory or CPU type yet but looks like a PIC. (bonus points to the first reader who posts instructions for using an open source compiler like SDCC with this one!) The Swirling Brain spotted an instructable for a tiny robot called the Roule_Robot, just 14g and 39x22mm. Finally, Colin Adamson wrote to tell us about the Kickstarter campaign for his OCULUS Surveillance and Telepresence Netbook Robot (which looks a bit like the old Evolution ER1). 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.
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