Thursday, April 30, 2009

Robotic servants: extravagant & ridiculous

Behold the glory of world’s first ever robotic servants. Is it that your worst fears of machines invading your homes have realized? Well, not quite! The robots that this post focuses on are completely harmless beings. They are only there to serve their owners, which you could classify as, provided you’ve got no scruples for spending your child’s college fund. Yes, these things are extremely pricey.

MobileRobots, for years, has specialized in selling bots to businesses and production houses. Now it has shifted its focus onto home-owners with its mobile servants.

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New robot can 'guess' what's ahead before seeing!

It seems, robots made by man can now challenge their intelligence in turn! It may happen that you may fail to guess rightly, what lies ahead of your journey into an unknown environment. But, a robot that do that job in an assured way!

Yes, it is no fantasizing of future robots — they are soon to be there in real life. Engineers have pulled their sleeves up to come up with the “claimed” robots that would be able to make “educated guesses,”-as you can call them.

The robots, while traversing unfamiliar surroundings, can reduce the amount of time generally needed for successful navigation to such environments, by guessing on what lies ahead!

To make the robots think ahead of humans, they are provided with a new software, which uses algorithm that enables it to create partial maps while traveling through an environment for the first time. It refers to this partial map to guess on what lies ahead.

C. S. George Lee, a Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering said,

The more repetitive the environment, the more accurate the prediction and the easier it is for the robot to successfully navigate.

So, if you ever forget a route you have ventured to earlier, or moving into an unknown, these robots perhaps are the right guide for you.

Image

YABO, an emotional robot by Kim Yong Seong

The product has been described as ‘a friendly robot for lonely unmarried persons’. What I am talking about is an emotional and friendly Robot called YABO designed by the cool and creative designer Kim Yong Seong. It has been designed in such a way that like a nice wife/husband, it would wait for you to arrive back home, with an advantage that it would not nag you with complaints at that hour. It will also monitor the temperature at home and keep it just at the right level.

Don’t worry if you have left something on when you are away, as the robot will take care to keep any unused appliances off. Exceptional about this piece by Kim is the ability of the robot to change its facial colors, which expresses its emotions basically. YABO’s face is sphere, which isn’t that bad and can move left, right, up and down. Huh...have robots already started replacing humans!

Source: Core77

Halluc II - Robot with multi-joint wheel modules


Chiba Institute of Technology
has unveiled a unique robotic truck - Halluc II that encompass ‘multi-joint wheel module’ via mingled robotic technology and automobile technology in one self-directed mechanism.

This robotic truck measures around eighty centimeters in length and weighs twenty kilograms. The Halluc II runs on eight legs via special wheeled modules to move sideways, turn around in place and to drive or walk to combat obstructions until 12 centimeters. Moreover, according to the researchers, this prototype robot will assist security personnel’s in rescue operations and transportation for the mobility-impaired.

Different Modes:

In addition, the best part is that this monstrous truck comes packed with two different modes - Insect and Animal. In insect mode, the robot boycotts wheels and walks like an insect-like giant by extending its legs outwards whereas in animal mode, the machine keeps its legs beneath the truck to conquer tight areas.


How it functions:

The Halluc II functions via wireless LAN capabilities and system of cameras and sensors to detect and monitor the distance of potential obstacles and consecutively study the course to make the best use of its legs and wheels as per the terrain.

It uses 56 motors, 2 for each leg joint (3 joints per leg), plus 1 for each wheel. In addition, by bundling each joint with 2 motors it generates copious power for smooth ride and thanks to multi-motor control system, which is in fact a key component of Halluc II’s design.

The Halluc II will hit Tokyo’s upcoming Miraikan, beginning from August 1 to permit visitors to operate the vehicle via remote-control cockpit with a large screen that shows real-time video shot via an on board camera.


Image

Via: Technovelgy

Robotex's killer robots can battle in real warzones!

Remember Arnold Schwarchenegger in the Terminator series movies. What happens if in reality we have such Terminator clones where robots function as soldiers? The idea that at present might sound plucked out of any science fiction might soon become a reality if governments worldwide accept the new creations from the Silicon Valley robot manufacturers ‘ Robotex.

A two feet tall robot that could move at the rate of ten miles per hour and spins on a dime wields a gun that with deadly accuracy blow a ten-inch hole through a steel hole from a distance of 400 meters. The robot is controlled by a remote over an encrypted frequency that jams nearby radios and cell phones.

Robotex, the manufacturer of the robot AA-12 that could replace human soldiers is based in Palo Alto. It is the brainchild of Terry Izumi, a reclusive filmmaker who worked for DreamWorks and Disney and even trained Secret Service agents.

In 2005, Izumi picked up Nathan Gettings, a former PayPal software engineer and founder of Palantir Technologies along with his brother Adam who was associated with both PayPal and YouTube. They also roped in Jerry Baber founder of Tennessee-based Military Police Systems, manufacturer and distributor of arms. Baber brought his $8000 Atchisson Assault-12 shotgun and his pilotless mini-helicopter called the AutoCopter, which holds two AA-12s to test the dexterity of the soldier-robot.

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Robot suit to offer seven times more leg power

If you are looking ahead to get some extra leg power, Matsushita Electric’s Power Pedal robot suit, a wearable exoskeleton can offer you up to seven times more leg power that you possess.

In this so-called suit robot legs are controlled by a sensor-equipped foot pedals and with six axes of movement that facilitates legs solidity even on rough terrain.

This robot suit is especially developed by keeping in view those disabled and elderly people to walk easily but I don’t think that it is so affordable that disable consumers will easily get it because for this you have to shell about $167,000. However, it is also noteworthy that with in ten years Matsushita expects the price to fall around $30,000 but still I do not think that it will also make any difference if the suit is really developed to help those elderly and disabled people.

The suit will hit the market in August of this year.

Via: Ohgizmo

Time for robotic invasion? Swagata | Sep 14 2008 For decades science fiction writers have fascinated about a robotic age. In films they even moved a

German product designer, Martin Postler has come up with a project “Life/Machine - Scenes from a roboted Life” that explores human-robot interaction while sharing a common environment and the “what ifs” of human-robot coexistence.

The ideas that has come out this project has been creatively expressed with pictures featuring a fabricated robot. It shows how our households will look like if robots are used to aid in certain basic tasks of our lives, like how it will be used in preparing food, in hygiene; like cleaning a man’s ear, or its role in entertainment.

This project brings out the funny and bizarre side of a possible human-robot coexistence, for instance the robotic ear waxing picture - actually looks like some drilling machine is making a hole on a mud pot. The other one that shows a shaving process going on - reminds me, those brutal beheading videos on the internet !

Via: gearfuse

OLE: New robot concept to combat forest fires

Researchers from University of Madgeburg have unveiled an innovative robot that is shaped like a millipede and can function to detect and extinguish forest fires.

This eco-friendly and autonomous machine called ‘OLE’ can patrol throughout the forest at speed of 20 to 30 km per hour and exploits infrared and biosensors to detect potential forest fires to extinguish it subsequently via an impulse appliance.

The robot can roll up in a ball alike bug and can retract its legs when senses danger to function on its ceramic-fibre compound fire resistant shell that can endure 1,300 Degrees Centigrade temperature.

Thirty OLEs are being claimed by the researchers to be efficient to protect 2,700 square miles of forest area. Hope those wild animals don’t mind these OLEs strolling freely in their territory!

Via: Research-in-germany

Robotic Desk Lamp: Your collaborative lighting assistant

Based on Guy Hoffman’s Ph.D thesis on human-robot fluency and nonverbal behavior a new robotic desk lamp has been developed called AUR or robotic desk lamp or a collaborative lighting assistant.

The design of this lamp features an existing 5-DoF robotic arm, though the lamp don’t have any human-like specs but still it manages to develop personal relationship with its human partners via abstract gestures and nonverbal behavior.

Constructed in 3D animation system this lively lamp also uses custom pipeline to enable active management of behaviors. Catch the video to see this so-called objective lamp in action.


Via: Engadget

Trio: World’s first master of ceremonies

World’s first robot that acted as master of ceremonies at a South Korean wedding of Seok Gyeong-Jae, one of the engineers who designed it.

This Trio robot features a cone-shaped body, two arms and a dark-glassed face with eyes and a mouth of flashing lights that indicated smiles for guests. The robot introduced the couple to the guests in male voice and performed its programmed duties.

Hanool Robotics
manufacturer of this smart robot claims that it is for the first time a robot has been used as master of ceremonies at a wedding.

However, some other small robots were also present at the ceremony to guide guests or to show their skills but Trio whose value is 200 million yen (some 215,000 dollars) after performing its marital duties will also soon get up gradation to perform various other functions too.

Via: Davesdaily

Palm-sized LANdroid WiFi robots to help warfighters on the move

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has now come up with a unique way to develop LANdroid WiFi robots, which are intelligent crawling radio-relay robots with size equal to that of a deck of cards. LANdroids are there on the DARPA’s technology wish-list. DARPA is requesting for intelligent self-directed radio relay nodes that could set up mesh networks in urban settings.

Conceptually pictured above, the LANdroid WiFi robots will boast a radio, robotic platform, battery, and small processor. Warfighters will carry a many of them and would be able to drop them anywhere on the move. Collectively, these units would create a self-healing mesh network. In case, a unit is sighted by the enemy and grabbed, the network will course around the lost transmitter. The LANdroids are expected to be about the size of our palm.

Via: Technovelgy

Time for robotic invasion?

For decades science fiction writers have fascinated about a robotic age. In films they even moved a bit far away from the present, and have presented stories of robotic revolutions from time to time. It is always true that stories like robotic invasion and human fight back always been best sellers in the market. Success stories of the Terminator series prove the fact. Now is it the beginning of the era? The recent venture of iRobot Corporation may hint that way.

Taser International Corporation announced that they have teamed up with iRobot Corporation to produce a new generation of robots that will be capable of delivering a shock charge to people. As it is already visible, the robot can be used in sentry operations. May be these will be the new generation of robots carrying a weapon, non lethal for the time being, but seems that the fictions are going to come true.

In preliminary discussions it has been revealed that this prototype will be sold to police or military and will be used in situations where use of lethal weapons is not possible. In cases of demobilizing a suspect in everyday police operations or while pinning down a terrorist in military activities this prototype can be proved very useful.

For the time being this robot will require a human interfere in its operation. Before it tries to subdue a victim it needs a human instruction. But with the advancement of AI it is inevitable that sooner or later the software used will be smart enough to decide go along without fleshy interference. When this robot will be off the assembly line is yet to be decided. The first place of its deployment is also not confirmed. But its operations are confirmed and critics all over the World are worried about a probability of science fictions coming true. Can you sniff a Terminator 3: rise of machines story readers?

Source: Slipperybrick

Robotic Sealing Automation for Smaller Industrial Operations

by Paul Cutean, Process Manager – Sealer Technology , ABB Inc., Robotics Division
ABB Inc.
Historically Sealing robots have been utilized in many applications that require tough ergonomic and environmental conditions. An industrial robot’s design and flexibility offer many advantages over the difficult labor constraints frequently posed to a manual operator. The perceived high cost factor has been negated due to many Automotive OEM’s embracing these technologies. Robots, like other computer based equipment, become more affordable as the installed base grows. And with today’s industrial employee workforce having at least a working knowledge of graphical user interface (GUI), the ability to program and control robots has become more intuitive and user friendly for the novice programmer.

The 6-axis robot is a mature, stable product, the primary R&D costs of which have been well absorbed by the manufacturers and early adopters. Sealing robots are now positioned to help general industrial users increase competitiveness, product quality and workman safety, all while reducing the environmental impact associated with applying many sealing materials.

This article will help answer:

  • History of adhesives and various types of robotically applied sealer applications
  • What is a sealing robot?
  • Is your factory a good candidate for robotic sealing automation?
  • If so, what advantages will automation bring to your operation?

A Briefing on Adhesive History

The dictionary defines adhesive as: “a substance capable of holding materials together by surface attachment”. This is a simple definition for a material that is the basis of a multi-billion dollar industry with more than 750 companies competing for a share of the market. The first evidence of a substance being used as an adhesive dates back to 4000 BC. Archeologists have discovered broken pottery vessels that were repaired with sticky resins from tree sap.

The era of plastics began with the introduction of Bakelite phenolic, a thermoset plastic, in 1910. Within a year, adhesives using phenolic resin were put on the market. The 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s saw many new plastics and rubbers synthetically produced, many out of a urgent necessity- developed during World War II.

Although adhesives have been known for about 6000 years, most of the technology of adhesives has been developed during the last 100 years. The development of plastics and elastomers has rapidly advanced the development of adhesives and has given formulators a wide variety of products that can change and improve various properties of adhesives such as flexibility, toughness, curing or setting time, temperature and chemical resistance. Below are typical examples and applications for various types of adhesives that could be robotically applied:

  • Animal Glues – made from the protein extracted from the bones, hides, hoofs and horns of animals by boiling. Its major use has been in the wood and furniture industry.
  • Fish Glue – is similar protein based glue made from the skins and bones of fish. An exceptionally clear adhesive can be made from fish and was the first adhesive used for photographic emulsions for photo film and photo resist coatings for photoengraving processes.
  • Casein Glue – is made from a protein isolated from milk. Its first use was in bonding the seam of cigarette paper. It provides a fast setting bond that requires very little adhesive, one gram of adhesive can bond 2000 cigarettes.
  • Starch (Paste) – a carbohydrate extracted from vegetable plants such as corn, rice, wheat, and potatoes. Major use area is in bonding paper, and paper products such as bookbinding, corrugated boxes, paper bags, wallpaper paste (non-removable), also used as a sizing in textiles.
  • Rubber-based solvent cements – made by combining one or more rubbers or elastomers in a solvent. Used in a variety of applications such as: contact adhesive from plastic laminates like counter tops, cabinets, desks, and tables. Solvent based rubber adhesives have been the mainstay of the shoe and leather industry.
  • Epoxies – made by complex chemical reaction. Various resins are made synthetically by reacting two or more chemicals. Epoxy adhesives can bond a wide array of substrates with high strength particularly metals. Epoxy can replace some traditional metalworking methods of joining like nuts and bolts, rivets, welding, crimping, brazing, and soldering. High strength epoxies are used to construct rotor blades of helicopters, attach aluminum skins to the struts of aircraft winds and tail sections.
  • Hot Melt – are thermoplastic polymers that are rough and solid at room temperature, but are very liquid at elevated temps.
  • RTV Silicone – is a rubber like polymer called polydimethsiloxanes. RTV stand for room temperature vulcanizing, or simply a rubber that cures at room temp. When cured, silicone rubber adhesives/sealants have excellent resistance to heat (500-600F) and moisture which makes them exceptionally suited for outdoor weather applications, such as sealant caulking compounds in the construction industry. Silicone adhesive/sealants are used to seal windows, doors and portholes on the space shuttle and satellite missiles. A special silicone adhesive is used to bond the heat shield tiles on the space shuttle.

What is a sealing robot?

“Sealing Robot” is an industry term for a robot that has additional fluid handling technologies integrated into the robot which differentiates it from all other standard industrial robots:

1) Sealer Robot Characteristics. Sealer robots are built with numerous arm configurations, meaning that they are manufactured in such a way that they can easily adapt to accessing difficult to reach areas of the part in question. Designing the robots optimal placement with relationship to the part typically yields optimum application results.

2) Fluid Handling Integration. When sealer robots were first designed, they only had one function – to apply materials in a difficult environment. As acceptance and use expanded, sealing robots grew into a unique subset of industrial robots, not just a traditional robot with application equipment. Sealing robots now have the ability to control all aspects of application parameters such as air assist, atomization air, multiple fluid flows/guns/equipments, speed proportional control, and anticipation parameters.

Is your factory a good candidate for robotic sealing automation?

There are several limiting factors to robotic sealing:

  • Part presentation
  • Amount of dissimilar parts
  • Size and shape of the parts
  • Amount of material required for the multiple parts
  • Various types of material on the same part

Part presentation: Robotic sealing does require a repeatable part presentation window, the part presentation is routinely handled by the following methods, guiding or trapping a part via mechanical methods. Alternately robotic vision systems are utilized to guide the robot to a nominal location on the part. Sealing applicators usually require a tip to part distance of 5mm to 150mm. The more accurately a production conveyance presents a part to the robot, the more benefit of quality and material savings can be achieved. An industry standard request of part presentation can be assumed at +2mm to +75mm, the latter typically requiring a vision solution. The importance of tolerance will vary depending on the precision of application required and cost of sealing (material savings). For most standard applications a simple pallet pin method part presentation provides enough stability/repeatability to make robotic sealing automation accurate and affordable.

Amount of dissimilar parts: Robots are very effective in a variety of sealing systems; from those that involve only few parts to those that involve many hundreds of different parts. The primary environment where robots are not as effective is in ‘job shop’ applications. An engineered piece that will be manufactured one time and never again is not a good candidate. Parts that will be manufactured over and over, even with major time gaps (months/years) between runs can be easily sealed with today’s robotic technology. The robot memory will store part specific programs indefinitely and call for them when required.

Size and shape of the parts: A good rule of thumb is that if a factory operator can seal a part there is a robot that can seal the same part. In certain applications, however, the size or shape of part is so unique that both factory operator and robot may struggle to reach all areas that require sealing. Other Limiting factors include:

  • Very small parts: often the work is too fine to be done by hand or robot; some other process such as heat cure will be more effective.
  • Very large parts: the robot will need to be moved by additional track systems and extensions to reach all areas; often not viable for a smaller industrial operation.

What advantages will automation bring to your operation?

Quality and sealer material savings: Increased and more consistent product quality is the most widely regarded advantages gained by robotic automation of all types. For sealing robots the most complete analysis must be identified by close examination of the production cycle as the quality improvement cascades through the entire production system.

An industry standard assumption is that a material savings of 5 to 50% is achieved when manual operations are replaced by automation. This savings is achieved in three primary areas:

  • Application geometry accuracies of ± 0.5mm are common with robotics. If a substrate requires 4mm diameter + 2mm/-1mm and is regularly produced by hand at 5 - 6mm a material ‘loss’ of 20 - 50% can impact the producer with no knowledge of the additional expense. If the manual operator applies below minimum (e.g. 3mm) the part will need to go through system re-work or pass through the system undetected resulting in a leak or defective part or possibly causing additional warranty claims and or damage to the associate operations. It is much more common to see the over application situation because that generally meets the minimum application requirements thus resulting in manufacturing compliance.
  • Trigger accuracy is the other major quality and savings impact. Industry standards of less than 50 ms trigger time are common. This allows the user to accurately and consistently apply sealer to the part only where required every cycle. When the applicator is repositioning the material supply trigger is off, eliminating material loss due to sealer miss-applied onto the part.
  • Manual Clean-up of the part is common place when inaccurate, unpredictable practices are in place during the manufacturing process. It is routinely witnessed that automated operations can deliver repeatable results to less than 3% variation.

Savings achieved through applying sealing operations robotically will relate directly to many other savings:

  • Manual Exhaust: Automation reduces stack volatile organic compounds (VOC) volumes.
  • Manual Exposure: Eliminate potential long term health effects by minimizing exposure levels.
  • Over application: Reductions go directly to less filter usage or material usage.
  • Reduced rework: Problems such as under applying and over compensating should be reduced.
  • Reduced scrap: Less material to landfill.

GREEN is good: Sealer robots have always been environmentally friendly. It is becoming obvious that carbon footprint impact will soon be the baseline for a good community employer, if not legally measured. When using robots there are the environmental savings already discussed, plus additional energy savings that are to be gained.

People first: All savings aside, many sealer application environments are very unfriendly to the workmen who occupy them. PVC contains chemicals such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, are extremely unhealthy. Spraying the same product over and over can also result in a repetitive stress injury. Many employees initially see robots as a threat to their employment. In the case of many sealer chemistry situations, the benefits of moving the robot in and the person out far outstrip the disadvantages. In most cases the employee is moved to a safer, more rewarding position.

Estimated cost

While it is difficult to completely assess the installed cost for all industrial sealing situations, as an example, a single ABB robot sealing system can be purchased, installed and be fully operational for $70,000 to $120,000. The cost range is dependent on the size of the robot needed. Depending on sealer usage, labor savings and increased quality/less waste, the full investment can be paid back between four months and one year. A well maintained sealer robot can last for a long time, delivering savings that cover the cost of the system many times over!

Summary

The robot can be a great tool, but it is only a tool. The most common mistake is assuming that the robot is a sealer applications expert. On the contrary, it is only a contributor to the application. The expertise comes from competent support staff who keep the robot calibrated and at optimum functionality. With the combination of well trained staff and maintained robots, along with their applications equipment it will be very possible to increase quality and throughput while reducing cost and being a better corporate citizen.

Further Information
Please contact Mandy Hermes at ABB Inc. Auburn Hills MI for additional information
call 248-391-8400 or visit www.abb.com/robotics.

Take Charge of your Scribbler Robot's IR Capabilities

The Scribbler Robot represents a great value to the robotics enthusiast. It's affordable and comes completely assembled with a built-in Parallax BASIC Stamp 2, drive motors and a host of on-board sensors. It comes preprogrammed with seven simple routines to demonstrate its sensors and motors. Software and a serial cable are included so it can be programmed in PBasic and it offers a simple GUI that lets children use it to draw patterns on paper as it rolls along. Although it has been used in a few introductory college courses, I believe that Scribbler has been largely dismissed as a "kiddie" robot. It is similar in many ways to its popular kit-based brother, the Boe-Bot, except that the Scribbler's sensors and I/Os are hard-wired. It is just as programmable and a good match for this project.

Scribbler's built-in IR sensor has a fixed, calibrated aperture that can receive and track external IR signals. Scribbler's "set and forget" hardware motor drivers are easier to program than Boe-Bot's servos, which require continuous software pulsing. Scribbler's circular shape and low profile are superior for maneuvering and docking. Finally, Scribbler's hard-wired sensors won't vibrate loose or get knocked out of alignment.

For Phase 1 of this project, we'll use a TV remote control to drive and steer Scribbler around, and track toward the remote control beam. This is great fun and only requires an infrared remote and an hour of programming; no robot modifications are necessary. In Phase 2 we'll build a simple charger that Scribbler can locate and dock with using its on-board sensors. This will require minor robot mods and some electromechanical construction, but I have kept things as simple as possible so that you can get similar results. I'll call out the specific items I used so you can duplicate my hardware if desired.

There is a wealth of online information on programming Scribbler and BASIC Stamps, and much of the programming info written for Boe-Bot applies to Scribbler as well. Andy Lindsay, who works in Parallax's education division, is a genius, and his books "What's a Microcontroller" and "Robotics with the Boe-Bot" are required reading for any robot enthusiast. The links below provide the information that we hunger for.

Primary Scribbler download page: www.parallax.com/ProductInfo
BASIC Stamp Editor download:
www.parallax.com/tabid
Infra-Red (IR) with the Boe-Bot:
www.parallax.com/Portals
Robotics with the Boe-Bot:
www.parallax.com/Portals/0/
What's a Microcontroller?: www.parallax.com/Portals/0/Downloads/

STEERING

Like many more expensive robots, Scribbler's differential drive isn't perfect. Electromechanical variations between the two motors, fluctuating battery voltage and the lack of wheel encoders all can cause each wheel to turn at slightly varying rates, so the robot's software must be periodically recalibrated to go (mostly) straight. It will generally tend to steer left or right somewhat, and perhaps not consistently. Fortunately, the robot can still track to an IR source using its IR sensor. Further, it can distinguish between multiple IR sources, so Scribbler could consistently navigate from A to B to C with line-of-sight restrictions. The single IR sensor senses the presence of an IR signal, but not its direction. As a result, our simplified tracking routine is as follows:
signal detected = drive forward, signal not detected = turn until signal detected

IR REMOTE

Scribbler reads IR control pulses on a carrier frequency of ~39 kHz. Low intensity signals (like our charger beacon) have line-of-sight restrictions, while most remote controls emit high energy signals that reflect off walls and ceilings for thorough coverage in a room. We'll control the robot using SONY television IR codes. You'll want a nice big universal remote configured as such for several reasons. First, you want large buttons for good control ergonomics. Ideally, get one with control buttons styled as four obvious directional arrows: forward, reverse, left and right. Next, you need to broadcast a strong IR signal that the robot detects easily through its tiny forward-facing aperture. Finally, we want a strong TV remote IR signal to significantly overpower our charger beacon's continuous low-intensity signal. I used Radio Shack Remote No. 15-2142.

PROGRAMMING

Using the PBasic editor, program the robot with the program listed for the Scribbler Hack in the downloadable source code, click here. You will also find Scribbler I/O declarations listed there.
Scribbler I/O Declarations

LedRight PIN 8
LedCenter PIN 9
LedLeft PIN 10
Speaker PIN 11
MotorRight PIN 12
MotorLeft PIN 13
ObsTxRight PIN 14
ObsTxLeft PIN 15
LightRight PIN 0
LightCenter PIN 1
LightLeft PIN 2
LineEnable PIN 3
LineRight PIN 4
LineLeft PIN 5
ObsRx PIN 6 Stall PIN 7

Now you can drive the robot around with the IR remote buttons shown in the diagram. This program monitors the wheels' stall sensor on pin 7 and tries to stop the robot if it hits something. This sensor is most reliable at full speed. If you run the PBasic editor with the robot hooked up to your serial port, the IR command codes received will display in a DEBUG window. Use these codes to modify the software to use different buttons if desired.

You'll also need to calibrate your robot's straight-line driving ability by changing the numbers in the "fwd" and "bwd" subroutines. Their pulsout commands drive the left motor (on pin 13) and right motor (on pin 12). Values are 3000 for full speed forward, 2000 for stop, and 1000 for full speed reverse. Proportional numbers give proportional speeds. Ideally, pulsout 13, 3000 and pulsout 12, 3000 would drive the robot straight forward. But if your robot curves left, you need to slow down your right motor. In this case, you might try pulsout 13, 3000 and pulsout 12, 2900 then adjust as necessary.

TRACKING IR

The most interesting aspect of this program is having Scribbler follow your IR remote beam. Press the MUTE button, and the 3 green LEDs light to indicate TRACKING mode. It drives forward any time it senses a MUTE signal. When no MUTE signal is detected, the robot circles left. The remote's intense IR signal overwhelms Scribbler's IR sensor unless you point it away from the robot. Press & hold MUTE while you lead the robot around the room by aiming the remote at the floor or wall. Different features around your room will reflect the IR beam differently, and it is interesting to see how sensitive your robot is to the reflections. Your remote will "time out" after 30-60 seconds of holding the mute button, so release and press again. Pressing the STOP button will end tracking mode, as will a motor stall condition.

To make the robot track directly toward your remote, you must reduce the intensity of the IR signal. The easiest way is to cover your remote's IR LED with a layer or two of black electrical tape and poke a small hole in it. Of course, you'll have to trigger tracking mode by pointing your reduced-output remote directly at the robot's IR sensor.

PHASE 2

To download the PHASE 2 software click here (zip file). The download is also available at the end of the article (page 2).

CONFIGURING THE CHARGER

In phase two of this project, I will show you how to create a docking station and how to modify the Scribbler so that it will self-dock and charge its batteries. This material, which was not included in the printed article, is laid out below. You'll need an AC adapter to provide 14-18 volts DC, no load voltage. First choice is an old transformer-based "wall wart" rated at 12 volts, ~ 500 mA that actually puts out over 12 volts. New switching-type units (required by law) are more efficient, but regulated to 12.0 volts and may not charge our six batteries fully. Adapt and overcome! Scrounge around in your drawers; find an adapter from an old cordless drill or answering machine, or use an RC car battery charger. Use a multimeter to verify the no-load output is 14--18 volts.

Charger IR Beacon


Figure 3


The Charger IR Beacon emits a low-intensity IR signal for the Scribbler to home in on. Build the LM556 timer circuit shown in Figure 3 above; all parts are available at Radio Shack or equivalent. (I used a small copper PC board, half of RS # 276-148.) Construction is not critical, but keep your wiring short and neat. Use a socket for the LM556 IC, and use a multi-turn 10K pot RS #271-343. The LM556 has two timer/oscillator circuits; one will generate a 39 kHz carrier frequency (critical), and the other will pulse the carrier at about 1.35 kHz (non-critical). To calibrate your circuit, you'll need a multimeter or scope that counts frequency. Temporarily ground pin 6 to pin 7 on the LM556 timer, and then adjust the 10K pot to obtain a 39 kHz signal at output pin 9. In use, this pulsing signal will be sent out of two IR LEDs, aimed horizontally about 30 degrees apart for good coverage as you can see in the photo of the beacon circuit board in Figure 4.


Figure 4
Beacon circuit board. Two IR LEDs are aimed horizontally angled slightly apart for good coverage.

You can adjust the LEDs' series resistors to suit your environment. I got a detection range of 10+ feet using 82 ohm resistors. Lower resistances emit stronger signals that can be tracked from farther away, but they may reflect off various surfaces and give false signals. Scribbler will use the PBasic COUNT command to identify your particular beacon, so you must calibrate your software to recognize your beacon signal. Once your beacon is working, aim your Scribbler at it while attached to the serial port and run this one-line program to view the pulse rate of your particular beacon.

aaa:COUNT 6,15, B0:DEBUG ? B0:GOTO aaa

My beacon's pulse rate was 18-19. Your exact values may be different, but the important thing is that your results should be steady, not varying by more than +/- one unit. You'll use this range of numbers to calibrate your tracking software.

If you don't have access to a frequency counter to adjust the pot to 39 kHz, you can try the following procedure, assuming that your beacon is built and functioning properly otherwise: run that same one-line program above, which counts the IR pulses received. With your Scribbler connected to your PC and the DEBUG screen displayed, let your robot see the working beacon and adjust the beacon's 10K trimpot until you see numbers displayed in the DEBUG window in the range of 15-24. Adjusting the pot won't change the values displayed, but will tune the beacon's carrier frequency to match the robot's IR sensor. Find the pot's range of adjustment that works, and center the pot in this range.

My original plan was to hack a $5 remote control into a continuous IR beacon. That would be simple, fast and cheap. Phase 1 clearly demonstrates that Scribbler can track a handheld IR remote. True, but I haven't found a remote yet that doesn't auto-shut off after 30-60 seconds. A battery preserving routine for when we sit on the remotes? At least one remote lost its life before I figured that out.

If you're familiar with 555/556 circuits, notice the 1N914 diode between pins 1 and 2. Without it, the modulation duty cycle is 50% and Scribbler's IR detector can't see it for more than a second. The diode drops the duty cycle under 50%, which Scribbler can continuously detect. I lost sleep figuring that out!

WALKING QUADRUPED DINOSAUR

2ND—2 $2,000 SCHOLARSHIPS!

A prototype walking biped
(not entered).

Tom Lundberg (left) and Jared Schwartz.

The second-place walking quadruped dinosaur.
Jared Schwartz & Tom Lundberg

Jared Schwartz will be a senior at Cranbrook Kingswood Upper School, Bloomsfield Hills, Michigan, this fall. He has been in the school robotics club since sixth grade and on the robotics team since ninth grade. Jared has participated in the FIRST FTC and FRC competitions and World Robofest. His FTC team qualified for the past two years to compete in Atlanta at the world championship. Jared has always had an interest in robotics and hopes to pursue a career involving robotics and art.
Tom Lemberg, also of Bloomfield Hills, grew up with two older brothers “... who have always pushed me into challenges and caused me to build up my abilities.” He is a sophomore at Cranbrook Kingswood. Although he has not targeted a career in robotics at this point, Tom says “Like all challenges, I appreciate the Grant Imahara VEXplorer Robot Challenge for its fun and rewards.”

“The Quadruped Dinosaur can walk around, move its head up and down and look left and right. Because it has a motor for the neck as well as the head, it is more like a real dinosaur than the biped prototype,” the two winners comment. The purpose of the robot is to look around and explore. The wheels “... were simply replaced by legs.” To see how, view the SolidWorks images at www.youtube.com.

Grant Imahara VEXPlorer Robot Challenge Winners! by Tom Atwood


Grant Imahara, chief judge in this challenge, is one of the hosts of Discovery Channel’s hit show “Mythbusters.” He is a special- effects expert who has worked on and operated some of the most famous robots in history, including R2-D2 and the Energizer Bunny. Grant is the author of “Kickin ’Bot,” a book that explains how to build a combat robot.
The First Place winner, CHEMBOT.

In our last issue, we announced the Grant Imahara VEXplorer Robot Challenge, sponsored by Revell, Innovation First, Inc. (IFI), Solidworks Corporation and Robot magazine. The contest, which was broadly announced on robotics news websites, gave 25 robot enthusiasts a chance to compete for a $5,000 scholarship grand prize and a $2,000 second-place prize. Ten more contestants were given a chance to win $200 gift certificates redeemable at www.vexrobotics.com. Many dozens applied, and we selected 25 to build their robots.


The Second Place winner, Walking Quadruped Dinosaur.
The contest entailed using the VEXplorer kit and any additional robotics parts (up to a limit of $100) from www.vexrobotics.com to create a unique and original application, which then had to be posted as a video on YouTube by June 1. These limitations set a level playing field (minor additions such as masking tape, glue, string, paper towels, etc,. to complete the application were deemed to be within the scope of the rules). Contestants were given additional points for the use of SolidWorks software and for good videography. “Mythbuster” Grant Imahara picked the winners.

We are pleased to announce the overall winner: Gustavo Goretkin’s ChemBot took first place. Gustavo, congratulations on winning the $5,000 scholarship prize! In second place were Jared Schwartz and Tom Lundberg with their Walking Quadruped Dinosaur. Although the second prize was initially set at $2,000, Grant and the contest sponsors were so impressed by Tom and Jared’s robot that they awarded each a $2,000 scholarship.

We thank all who applied and all 25 contestants for the tremendous effort and fantastic creativity shown in their entries. See them all at www.vexrobotics.com. Contestants who did not make the winner’s list will be given a free one-year subscription to Robot in appreciation of their entries. Original applicants who did not make the contestant cut and those who are not listed as winners, will be sent complimentary copies of the SolidWorks Student Edition.

CHEMBOT
1ST—$5,000 SCHOLARSHIP GRAND PRIZE!

Gustavo Goretkin, a student of the Broward Virtual School, has participated in the FIRST robotics program of Dillard High School for the past three years. He has also mentored a FIRST Lego League team at Hallandale Elementary for two years. His interests lie in computer intelligence, robotics engineering and in technology, generally. Chembot can be viewed at www.youtube.com

Gustavo notes “Chembot is remotely operated and designed to conduct experiments from a safe distance from the experimenter. The onboard camera allows the robot to relay images of the materials it is manipulating and allows the researcher to observe the experiment. The robot’s arm assembly is mounted on a Cartesian coordinate system. The base moves in a single axis (both sides of the drivetrain are linked by an axle), and a linear slider system is mounted perpendicularly to the base’s axis. The shoulder, which is mounted on the sliding base, supports the rest of the components.

“A wrist was added; it provides the gripper with two additional degrees of freedom. The tilting angle of the wrist allows the gripper to always remain parallel to the horizontal plane so that materials are not spilled while moving from one vertical position to another. The rotational degree of freedom rotates about the grabbing axis, and it allows the robot to pour materials from a container.”

Surveyor Introduces the First Low-Cost 3D Stereo Vision System for Robotics and the Web

Surveyor brings depth perception to the masses, including educators, researchers and developers, by providing developers of robots and robotic technology with a dual-camera and dual-processor vision system for the low price of $550. Surveyor Corporation, a leading developer of small vision-enabled wireless robots and robot controllers for research and education, today introduced a first in the industry by offering a $550 stereo vision system, designated Surveyor SVS, for robotics, embedded image processing and web-based remote monitoring. With onboard programmability, WiFi connectivity, easy interface to sensors and actuators, open source architecture and a low price, the SVS represents a breakthrough in 3D stereo vision technology cost and usability for researchers, educators and developers. Stereo vision is similar in concept to biological visual sensing, where the difference in… View this post

iRobot to Acquire Nekton Research, LLC

As a follow-up to its earlier announcement of a agreement with University of Washington to commercialize the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Seaglider technology, iRobot has agreed to acquire Nekton Research a developer of unmanned underwater vehicles. With the second announcement, iRobot makes clear its strategic push into maritime systems. iRobot Corp. (Nasdaq: IRBT) announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Nekton Research, LLC, an unmanned underwater robot and technology company based in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. The transaction is expected to close by September 12, 2008. Nekton has been instrumental in shaping the underwater marketplace during the past 6 years by supporting customers such as the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Naval Undersea Warfare Command (NUWC), the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and the U.S.… View this post

FATRONIK-Tecnalia Robot Wins International Strategic Manufacturing Award 2008

A robot developed by FATRONIK-Tecnalia’s Industrial Systems Unit for the aeronautical company Airbus EspaƱa has been declared the winner, out of more than 100 companies from all over the world, of the prestigious international Strategic Manufacturing Awards 2008, within the Innovation category. In its decision, the jury highlighted the robot’s innovative conception and, in particular, its mobility for working with large-sized elements, such as those to be found in the aeronautical industry, although it can be applied within other sectors. The prize-winning machine, known as “ROPTALMU”, consists of a light portable robot whose purpose is to drill holes with a high degree of precision in large aeronautical components, such as aircraft wing spars, during the assembly stage. The FATRONIK-Tecnalia representative responsible for collecting the award was… View this post

Robotic Technology Takes Inspiration From Service Dogs

Service dogs, invaluable companions providing assistance to physically impaired individuals, are an elite and desired breed. Their presence in a home can make everyday tasks that are difficult - if not impossible - achievable, enhancing the quality of life for the disabled. Yet with a cost averaging $16,000 per dog – not to mention the two years of training required to hone these skills – the demand for these canines’ exceeds their availability. But what if these duties could be accomplished with an electronic companion that provides the same efficiency at a fraction of the cost? Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have engineered a biologically inspired robot that mirrors the actions of sought-after service dogs. Users verbally command the robot to complete a task… View this post

Freescale Sensors Enhance Motion Sensitivity in Handheld Devices

The company’s advanced 3-axis digital MEMS accelerometers eliminate the need for A/D converters and are supported by extensive development tools for quick integration with mobile devices. Freescale Semiconductor has introduced two advanced 3-axis digital accelerometers to help mobile device developers meet the demand for sleeker, more sophisticated portable electronics products. Based on Freescale’s proven micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) technology, the MMA7455L and MMA7456L accelerometers enable low power consumption and motion sensing within a small form factor, making them ideal for cell phones and portable media players. The MEMS devices also can be used as drop-in replacements for customer designs already in production. The MMA745xL 3-axis accelerometers provide digital output, a key capability that eliminates the need for an extra A/D converter and enables flexible board layout options.… View this post

RoboBusiness 2008 Conference Proceedings

29 Sessions Available in the Proceedings Robotics Trends’ RoboBusiness 2008 Conference and Exposition (April, 8-9, 2008 - Pittsburgh, PA) brought emerging robotics technology out of the lab and into the open market, focusing on the business side of the mobile robotics business. The overarching theme for the 2008 conference was ‘Achieving Autonomy’. In addition, the event featured two full days of healthcare robotics sessions under the heading ‘RoboMedicus’. Tracks in the 2008 RoboBusiness event included: Business Development and Investment Track Technology and Standards Track Applications and Products Track Emerging Markets for Industrial Robots Track Technology and Standards Track Robotics Workforce Development Track RoboMedicus (Healthcare Robotics) Applications and Products Track Security and Defense Track First Responder Robotics Track Intelligent Transportation and Field Robotics Track Autonomous Transportation Consumer… View this post

Energid Technologies and Mo­bile Robots Inc. Preview Ad­vance in Mobile Manipulation Robots

11/30/08 07:44 PM
Energid and Mobile Robots partner to provide autonomous navigation and advanced robotic tele-operation in a single platform code-named Dactyl. Energid Technologies and MobileRobots Inc gave robot developers at the second annual national RoboDevelopment conference in Santa Clara CA a sneak preview of their new semi-autonomous mobile robotic manipulation system. The new platform, code-named “Dactyl” for the bird-like form of the manipulator, combines MobileRobots autonomous PatrolBot and MobileEyes robot control interface with Energid’s Actin arm and advanced manipulation control interface. Dactyl brings many robot applications closer to reality: help for the disabled and the elderly, as well as remote manipulation, repair and installation tasks in hazardous or distant sites. To use Dactyl, a person drives the robot once around the house or space to teach it where… View this post

Evolution Robotics’ NorthStar 2.0 Wins Robotics Development Innovator Award

Low cost, intelligent navigation system based on proprietary micro-GPS technology wins the first annual RoboDevelopment Innovator Award at RoboDevelopment 2008 Conference and Exposition. Evolution Robotics Inc., a leading robotics technology company, announced today that its NorthStar® 2.0 technology has been named the Robotics Development Innovator Awards’ “Best Component Technology” for 2008. The goal of the awards, presented in conjunction with the RoboDevelopment Conference & Exposition, is to recognize products that successfully reduce the time, effort and complexity of building the next generation of innovative robotics products, and in doing so, furthering the robotics industry as a whole. Evolution Robotics’ NorthStar® 2.0 Navigation System enables mobile robots (e.g. robotic toys and vacuums) to intelligently navigate within indoor settings using a proprietary micro-GPS system, providing the first-ever practical… View this post

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Applied Robotics Announces New Meat Gripper

Applied Robotics moves into news markets with a new pneumatic meat gripper adheres that to all food production cleaning requirements and is manufactured with extremely light weight materials approved by the FDA and USDA. Applied Robotics Inc., a leading global manufacturer of robotic end-of-arm tooling and connectivity solutions, announced today its newest gripper product designed specifically for handling meat and other fresh and frozen food products. The new Meat Gripper is manufactured from extremely light materials approved by the FDA and USDA administrations, adheres to all production cleaning guidelines and allows sanitization to be performed quickly and easily. “The Meat Gripper has very rapid open and close times and consistently smooth movements making it a natural for use on all currently available high speed robots,” said… View this post

Microchip Technology Makes Embedded Ethernet Easier

Security upgrade adds SSL security to TCP/IP Stack; Stack works with 8-, 16- and 32-bit PIC MCUs and dsPIC DSCs. Company also introduces a new configuration wizard and local training. Microchip Technology Inc. (NASDAQ: MCHP), a leading provider of microcontroller and analog semiconductors, announced from the Embedded Systems Conference in Boston the expansion of its Ethernet software and support for embedded systems designers, including the addition of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption to its free TCP/IP Stack and a new TCP/IP Configuration Wizard to simplify the configuration of Ethernet projects. To make implementing embedded Ethernet even easier, Microchip is also offering a hands-on class that is available from its worldwide network of more than 35 Regional Training Centers. Embedded engineers are increasingly taking advantage of Ethernet… View this post

MIT’s New Underwater Robot Can Hover in Place

Odyssey IV, developed by MIT Sea Grant College Program’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicles Laboratory, offers novel hovering capabilities, making it a a boon for oil explorers, archaeologists and more. By David Chandler, MIT News Office MIT researchers have designed a new robotic underwater vehicle that can hover in place like a helicopter—an invaluable tool for deepwater oil explorers, marine archaeologists, oceanographers and others. The new craft, called Odyssey IV, is the latest in a series of small, inexpensive artificially intelligent submarines developed over the last two decades by the MIT Sea Grant College Program’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicles Laboratory. The Odyssey series revolutionized underwater research in the 1990s by introducing the thrifty and highly capable underwater robots. But the previous Odyssey vehicles still had one significant limitation: Like… View this post

NASA Ames Collaborates to Develop Robotic Lunar Lander

NASA Ames Research Center is collaborating with a commercial partner to develop a lunar lander for future low-cost missions to the moon. Under the terms of a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement with Odyssey Moon Ventures LLC, Henderson, Nev., NASA Ames will share its small spacecraft technical data and expertise with the company. In return, Odyssey Moon Ventures will reimburse NASA Ames for the cost of providing the technical support and will share its technical data from its engineering tests and actual lunar missions with NASA. “NASA is a big supporter of developing the commercial space sector, and is interested in developing small spacecraft for future lunar exploration,” said NASA Ames Research Center Director S. Pete Worden. By making these designs available to commercial enterprises, we hope… View this post

Agilysys Announces Partnership with Evolution Robotics Retail

IT solution provider Agilysys to resell Evolution’s LaneHawk loss-prevention product, as well as provide installation, integration support services. As a certified installation provider of LaneHawk, Agilysys is able to not only deliver the Evolution Robotics Retail hardware and software, but can also provide integration directly to the point-of-sale system and post-installation support services Agilysys, Inc. (Nasdaq: AGYS), a leading provider of innovative IT solutions, announced today that they have entered into a partnership with Evolution Robotics Retail to be an authorized reseller and implementation partner for its flagship loss-prevention product, LaneHawk(TM), which helps turn bottom-of-basket (BOB) losses into profits in real time. LaneHawk is a visual scanner that detects and recognizes items without having to read a product’s UPC. When a BOB item is recognized on… View this post

iRobot Delivers 2,000th PackBot Robot

PackBot Continues to Keep Warfighters and Public Safety Professionals out of Harm’s Way iRobot Corp. (Nasdaq: IRBT) today it has delivered 2,000 PackBot robots to the U.S. military, public safety organizations and a variety of international customers. Born out of an initial research initiative with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 1998, the original PackBot has evolved with next-generation technology that puts combat-proven robots in the hands of soldiers today. The first PackBot created a new standard in unmanned reconnaissance and tactical robots and offered unprecedented mobility and durability. “The delivery of our 2,000th PackBot further validates the continued demand for our PackBot line of robots and the immediate need for unmanned ground vehicles to assist our troops in theater,” said Joe Dyer, president… View this post

Monday, April 27, 2009

Carnegie Mellon, U at Buffalo Collaborate on $4.7 Million Project To Advance Public Transportation

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University at Buffalo (UB), State University of New York, are collaborating on a five-year, $4.7 million effort to advance public transportation for people with disabilities by bringing together computer science technology and the principles of universal design. Their grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) is funding a new Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Accessible Public Transportation. The center will develop ways to empower consumers and transit service providers in the design and evaluation of accessible transportation equipment, information services and physical environments. The center’s principal investigator and co-director is Aaron Steinfeld, a systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute who works on human-robot interaction and intelligent transportation systems in… View this post

California Polytechnic State University Orders an Iver2 AUV

OceanServer Technology to provide Cal Poly with a Iver2 AUV including the VectorMap mission planning and data presentation tool. OceanServer Technology, a leader in next generation autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) technology, announced that California Polytechnic Institute (Cal Poly) has agreed to purchase an Iver2 AUV for research purposes. The order consists of one base vehicle outfitted with a second CPU for AUV behavior study and sensor development. The Iver2 platform is used by leading universities across the United States for a variety of research purposes. The Iver2 is a low-cost, simple to operate AUV system that incorporates a truly ‘open’ software architecture and defined hardware interfaces that enables researchers and OEMs to quickly adapt the Iver for a variety of applications. Common payloads include GPS navigation,… View this post

Braintech Inc. to Open New Multi-Purpose Detroit Area Office

Developer of vision guided robotics solutions opens Detroit area sales, engineering and research office. Braintech Inc. (OTCBB: BRHI) will continue a strategic reorganization when the Company moves into a new Detroit-metro area office on Jan. 2, 2009 that will house its USA Engineering, Sales and Development Center and Robotic Laboratory. The new office is located in a “HUB Zone.” Braintech, a recognized leader in Vision Guided Robotics, has hired and is in the process of hiring additional sales executives, as well as application engineers and vision scientists for the new Detroit-metro area office, which will be headed by Chief Sales Officer Jim Dara. “The opening and staffing of our new office in Detroit is the second phase of a reorganization designed to maximize the commercialization of… View this post

ReconRobotics Wins 2008 Innovation Award from Cygnus Law Enforcement Group

Recon Scout, a throwable, mobile surveillance robot initially developed at the University of Minnesota, can be used by police and military personnel to get inside information about dangerous or hostile environments. ReconRobotics, Inc. announced that it has been awarded the 2008 Innovation Award from Cygnus Law Enforcement Group, publisher of Law Enforcement Technology magazine. The Award recognizes the company’s Recon Scout tactical reconnaissance robot, which is used by police and military personnel to get inside information about dangerous or hostile environments. The Award was presented to Aimee Barmore, the western regional sales executive for ReconRobotics, at the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in San Diego on November 9. More than 180 new police technologies were entered in the 2008 competition. ReconRobotics… View this post

Mars Rovers Near Five Years of Science and Discovery

Spirit and Opportunity’s three month Mars exploration mission, now in its fifth year, is a phenomenal success by any measure. NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity may still have big achievements ahead as they approach the fifth anniversaries of their memorable landings on Mars. Of the hundreds of engineers and scientists who cheered at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 3, 2004, when Spirit landed safely, and 21 days later when Opportunity followed suit, none predicted the team would still be operating both rovers in 2009. “The American taxpayer was told three months for each rover was the prime mission plan,” said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The twins have worked almost 20 times that… View this post

i-LIMB Hand wins Prosthetic Product Innovation Award

Scotland’s Touch Bionics receives accolades for their i-LIMB Hand at Limbless Association’s Prosthetic Product Innovation Award gala dinner. The i-LIMB Hand is a first-to-market prosthetic device with five individually powered digits. Touch Bionics, developer of the world’s first commercially available bionic hand, announced today that its i-LIMB Hand product has won the Limbless Association’s Prosthetic Product Innovation Award for 2008. The company accepted the award at the Limbless Association’s annual gala dinner in London. “We are delighted to receive this award from such a leading user group like the Limbless Association and feel that it reflects the growing numbers of users that have adopted the i-LIMB Hand in such a short period of time,” said Phil Newman, marketing director, Touch Bionics, accepting the award. “The upper… View this post

Rockwell Collins Nav System Selected for AeroVironment’s Global Observer Unmanned Aircraft

For their liquid hydrogen-powered Global Observer Unmanned Aircraft System, designed to operate in the stratosphere for up to seven days without landing, AeroVironment will make use of Rockwell Collins’ Athena 411 Inertial Navigation, Global Positioning, Air Data, Attitude, Heading, Reference System (INS/GPS/ADAHRS). The Rockwell Collins Athena 411 Inertial Navigation, Global Positioning, Air Data, Attitude, Heading, Reference System (INS/GPS/ADAHRS) has been selected by AeroVironment for their Global Observer. AeroVironment is developing Global Observer, a liquid hydrogen-powered Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) that will fly at an altitude of 65,000 feet for up to seven days, for the U.S. Special Operations Command as well as for other military and civilian applications. Athena 411"We believe our proven high-performance, high-reliability solution, embodied in the compact, light-weight Athena 411, will enable the… View this post

New Prodigy Stand-Alone Motion Card Offers a Powerful New Approach to Distributed Motion Systems

The latest innovation in the Prodigy family of motion cards from Performance Motion Devices, Inc. (PMD), is a Stand-Alone format that does not require a host bus connection. This new Stand-Alone design provides the capability to download motion programs to the Prodigy card for onboard execution, off-loading or eliminating the PC host and increasing the ability to distribute independent motion programs throughout the machine. Downloadable Programming Multiple versions of the Stand-Alone card are offered for 1- thru 4-Axis applications. All versions measure 6.3” x 4.23” (16cm x 10.7cm), providing a small form factor for space constrained designs. They are available with horizontal connectors or optional vertical connectors for stackable configurations. This provides designers with greater versatility in choosing mounting locations and cabling options. Prodigy Stand AloneNew… View this post

Canadian Organizations Receive $2.8 Million Funding Boost for Development of Intelligent Systems

Precarn, an independent, non-profit company that supports the pre-commercial development of leading-edge technologies, announces funding for six first-of-their-kind innovations. Ottawa-based Precarn Incorporated announced $2.8 million in funding to promote the research and development (R&D) efforts of six first-of-their-kind intelligent systems projects in Alberta. Under the program, which is administered by Precarn - a not-for-profit company representing a national network of corporations, universities, colleges, research institutes and government partners engaged in the development of enabling technologies - Alberta companies and academic organizations will commercially develop or advance innovative made-in-Canada advanced technologies. With support from Precarn, project leaders of Alberta-based companies will have the opportunity to work not only with other Alberta research organizations, but also with researchers and business partners from across Canada. The goal is to… View this post

NASA UAV Test Pilot, Distinguished Astronaut and Two Technology Investors Join Astrobotic Technology

Google Lunar X Prize competitor that plans return to Apollo 11 site adds four new members to its Board of Directors. Astrobotic Technology Inc., which will pioneer the lunar frontier with commercial robotic services, today announced that four leading space and management experts have been elected to its Board of Directors. “Together, these new board members span an enormous range of talents,” said Astrobotic CEO John Kohut, formerly a senior space manager at Raytheon Co. “Their backgrounds include top corporate management, investments and start-ups, senior NASA leadership, robotics and international relations experience.” The company’s chairman, Dr. William “Red” Whittaker, is founder of the Field Robotics Center at Carnegie Mellon University and is directing the development of the firm’s first lunar robot, which has been undergoing field… View this post

Partnership Provides Autonomous Vehicles to Enable New Era of Deep Sea Research

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has partnered with the Waitt Institute for Discovery to make deep-sea exploration technology and a world-class operations group broadly available for the oceanographic community. The collaboration, called the CATALYST Program, features the Waitt Institute’s two newly-built Hydroid REMUS 6000 Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), which can explore depths of up to 6,000 meters, or 3.7 miles, below the ocean’s surface. The vehicles are capable of conducting hydrographic surveys, environmental monitoring, debris and field mapping, search and salvage operations, fishery operations, scientific sampling and seafloor mapping. WHOI developed and engineered the REMUS AUVs and has assembled a rapid-response operations team with the expertise to conduct REMUS 6000 expeditions anywhere in the world. The Waitt Institute for Discovery commissioned the construction of two… View this post

‘The Wright Brothers All Over Again’: Cross-Disciplinary Cooperation Drives Unmanned Aerial Systems

University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences built its reputation long ago as an innovative pioneer in training the world’s future pilots. With its “manned” aviation legacy soaring, the school has turned to a new challenge, one that involves no pilot, at least not onboard the plane. The field of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) has taken off rapidly in recent years in the military and with other governmental entities such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Both support fleets of aircraft flown by on-the-ground pilots, sometimes half a world away. In the United States, their flight paths are deliberate and often confined to military-restricted airspace, far from the increasingly busy lanes of commercial air traffic. But UND Aerospace researchers envision a place… View this post

Honda Unveils Experimental Walking Assist Device With Bodyweight Support System

Honda’s second ‘Walking Assist’ device is not designed for the infirmed, but as a ‘Lifestyle Enhancement’ product that provides additional load support for the legs and body. Honda Motor Co., Ltd. unveiled its second experimental walking assist device that helps support bodyweight to reduce the load on an individual’s legs while walking, going up and down stairs, and in a semi-crouching position. The device is designed for people who are capable of walking and maneuvering on their own, but who can benefit from additional leg and body support while performing tasks. Honda will now begin testing the device in real-world conditions to evaluate its effectiveness. The new walking assist device with the bodyweight support system reduces the load on leg muscles and joints (in the hip,… View this post

Roomba co-Inventors Shift Focus to Cleaning Up Commercial Growing

Joe Jones likes to build practical robots… the type of robot that can do enough on their own to more than make up for their cost. His best known example is the first widely adopted consumer robot, the two-million-selling iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaner, which Joe, along with co-inventor Paul Sandin, developed while working at iRobot. Jones is also the author of three books, including, Mobile Robots: Inspiration to Implementation. He graduated from MIT, served for nine years as a research engineer at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab and worked as senior roboticist at iRobot Corp. for nearly 15 years, before both he and Sandin left in 2006 to found a company dedicated to the next great thing in robotics. Launched as QRobotics, the Groton, Mass.-based company… View this post

Robotics Powered Business Process Innovation – A Conversation With Kiva Systems CEO Mick Mountz

At Kiva Systems, Mick Mountz’ goal is to alleviate one of the most complex, costly, relentlessly human-powered components of supply chain management - the process of getting a specific list of items off the shelf in a warehouse and into the truck that will deliver them to the customer. The ‘pick-pack-and-ship’ process has been streamlined over the years by more efficient warehouse design, conveyor belts and complex collection and distribution within the warehouse that reduces the time it takes for workers (pickers) to fill most orders. It has also been improved by technologies such as handheld computers that tell pickers which item they should get next, and on what shelf, as well as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags that help locates unshelved and misplaced items. But… View this post

Group Hopes Training Work Force Will Expand Local Robotics Industry

A group of colleges and engineering companies in the Pittsburgh area are coming together to sponsor an associate degree program in robotics for local community colleges. The two year Robotics Engineering Technology degree program is designed to train students with high-school-equivalent educations how to build and maintain robots and embedded systems, without requiring a four-year engineering or computer-science degree. The program was developed by a group called Robotics Corridor – a consortium of private companies, state government agencies and local colleges. The group’s whose goal is to lay the foundations for a robotics industry in southwestern Pennsylvania, by training the workforce and building the technical infrastructure for robotics companies to thrive. Classes will be offered this fall at three local community colleges, according to Robotics Corridor.… View this post