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by and   -   March 28, 2014

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What’s with all the quadrotors in auto advertising these days? And what do quadrotor swarms have to do with cars? Probably not much at all, but apparently associating your auto brand with high-performance quads is de rigeur. Subaru is following the lead of Lexus (which launched its quadrotor ad last November), upping the ante by having the driver of the new WRX STI engage in a pas de deux (or should we say, ’pas de plusieurs?’) with a swarm of 300 LED-lit quadrotors. It makes for some pretty stunning footage, but before you get too excited, unlike the original Lexus ad (which had at least a decent portion of real footage from Kmel’s impressive quads) almost all of the quadrotor eye-candy in the new Subaru ad is CGI. The automaker’s desire to associate themselves with cutting edge technology may be a sign of just how popular quadrotors have become, but is hyper-realistic CGI enhancement inflating consumer’s expectations of what quadrotors can actually do? (see the video below)


by   -   March 26, 2014

Robot Launch 2014 is the first global online startup competition for robotics, and as the deadline for first round entrants approaches (11pm PDT on March 30) we’re excited to see just where in the world all the robot startups are coming from! There are already more than 40 entrants representing 18 different countries. The US needs to look over its shoulder as Europe and Australia are very well represented. And while the competition is being run in English, many entries are from non-English-speaking countries, giving a real global reach to our first robot startup competition.


by   -   March 25, 2014

When it comes to complex tasks like building a house, many people with different skills work together to accomplish a single, larger goal. Instead of trying to create a perfect robot capable of building a house solo, could scientists replicate how humans function and make a “swarm” of imperfect robots capable of working together to accomplish complex tasks? This is the question Dr. Jekan Thanga hopes to answer. Thanga is one of the leading researchers who are applying bio-inspired neuro-evolutionary methods to robotics, and heads up Arizona State University’s Space and Terrestrial Robotic Exploration Laboratory.


by   -   March 24, 2014

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As we have been enjoying amazing scenes from Sochi, Russia where disabled athletes have been completing in the winter Paralympics, researchers in Switzerland have been considering a new route for athletes for whom normal devices such as prosthetic feet and modified wheelchairs are not suitable. For these athletes, robotic technology that can interface with the user, such as powered exoskeletons, may be better adapted to allow fair and exciting competitions.

On 8th October 2016 Zurich, Switzerland will host the Cybathlon, a championship for athletes using robotic assistive devices. Teams consisting of one or more “pilots” and a technology provider (academia or industry) will compete in one of six disciplines:


by   -   March 24, 2014

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Ever since Apple bought Prime Sense, roboticists have been asking what’s going to fill the gap. Robots need to know where they are and what’s around them. The Carmine, and the unveiled but undelivered Capri from Prime Sense, were the smallest, cheapest and most effective ways of mapping the environment available. Microsoft’s first Kinect was based on Prime Sense technology, and it enabled a raft of robotics developments, as did the Asus Xteon. But with the core Prime Sense technology off the market now, there are questions about what will fill the gap, and what will some crowd funded projects use to fulfill their campaigns.


by   -   March 24, 2014

Douglas-Westwood, an energy research group, says (in their $5,000 World ROV Operations Market Forecast 2013-2017 report), that ROV operations expenditures will grow 80% over the next 5 years.

by   -   March 19, 2014

What looks like a fish, swims like a fish but isn’t a fish? The latest in soft-bodied robots created by team of engineers of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


by   -   March 18, 2014

António Câmara is a man with a vision.

Despite the widespread adoption of computers and digital technology over the last few decades, how we interact with that technology, and use technology to interact with the world around us has remained largely unchanged. For example, for over 30 years, the primary means of interacting with a computer has been the keyboard and mouse. Certainly there have been updates to the technology – trackpads, for example, have become a popular mouse alternative – but that essential method of interaction remains the same. Even touch screens, perhaps the most widespread change in how people interact with technology, date back to the 1980’s.


by   -   March 17, 2014

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The Flying Donkey Challenge asks teams to create a UAV solution that can eventually circle Mount Kenya collecting and delivering 20 kilo payloads. The first subchallenge in this escalating task will take place between the 8 and 16 of November in Kenya. The final challenge, where teams have 24 hours to race around Mount Kenya, will take place in 2020 and teams are competing for a multimillion dollar prize. Solving the problem of supply delivery in places where infrastructure is poor or non-existent is seen as critical for health and economic well being.


by   -   March 14, 2014

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The lay notion of how human communication works is, basically, that we exchange packages of information that are encoded and then decoded in our heads using language. But it just takes a little observation to see that this “computer metaphor” just doesn’t apply to the human way of communicating. We can’t reduce communication to a transfer of abstract information, and the same happens to be true of human-machine communication if we expect it to be of any use.


by   -   March 13, 2014

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As part of a resupply mission to the International Space Station, ROS will board a SpaceX Rocket on March 16 and, barring inclement weather, will launch into space. According to a blogpost by Brian Gerkey at the OSRF, SpaceX will deliver a set of robotic legs for the Robonaut 2 (R2) humanoid torso that is currently aboard the ISS: “Once those legs are attached to R2, ROS will officially be running in space.”


by   -   March 13, 2014

NAO

As of yesterday, you can get the adorable and versatile humanoid robot NAO from Aldebaran Robotics for yourself, even if you are not an academic or a hardcore developer. According to Génération Robots, a European partner of Aldebaran Robotics, they are selling NAO Next Gen (that’s the fourth of the four versions of NAOs out there) with the starting price of 5628 €. In North America, the RobotsLab is offering NAO for $7990 – down from $16,000.

 


by   -   March 12, 2014

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Amputee Dennis Aabo Sørensen wearing sensory feedback enabled prosthetic in Rome, February 2013 (Lifehand 2, Patrizia Tocci).

Roboticists and doctors working in Switzerland and Italy have come together to develop a bionic hand that provides sensory feedback in real time, meaning that an amputee can be given back the ability to feel and modify grip like someone with a “real” hand. Using a combination of surgically implanted electrodes (connected at one end to the nervous system, and at the other end to sensors) and an algorithm to convert signals, the team has produced a hand that sends information back to the brain that is so detailed that the wearer could even tell the hardness of objects he was given to hold.


by   -   March 12, 2014

Astronauts all know how important it is to stay healthy in space. Weightlessness alone can cause a number of physiological changes including muscle atrophy, loss of blood volume and bone loss. Most astronauts complete medical training, which equips them with the skills to perform procedures such as first aid and basic surgery. But what happens if there’s an emergency and no medical expert to assist?


by and   -   March 11, 2014

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Timo Boll & Agilus robot Photo credit: KUKA

[UPDATE] – KUKA just published the well-advertised video of the table tennis match of top athlete Timo Boll and one of its fastest robots, the KUKA KR AGILUS. Don’t forget that even if the actual movements performed by the robot are real, the match is a directed and scripted advertisement with multiple takes (as you can see in the making of video below). It’s a very impressive presentation of the agility and speed of AGILUS, but it’s not an actual match. KUKA is celebrating with a very popular sport in China to mark the occasion of its new plant in Shanghai.

Watch the video of the match below and read more about the making of.





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