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by   -   March 26, 2019

The toggle gripper holding a screwdriver. Credit: Daniel Preston / Harvard University
By Caitlin McDermott-Murphy, Harvard University Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology

A soft robot, attached to a balloon and submerged in a transparent column of water, dives and surfaces, then dives and surfaces again, like a fish chasing flies. Soft robots have performed this kind of trick before. But unlike most soft robots, this one is made and operated with no hard or electronic parts. Inside, a soft, rubber computer tells the balloon when to ascend or descend. For the first time, this robot relies exclusively on soft digital logic.

by   -   March 26, 2019

By Rob Matheson
Researchers have developed computationally simple robots, called particles, that cluster and form a single “particle robot” that moves around, transports objects, and completes other tasks. The work hails from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Columbia University, and elsewhere.
Image: Felice Frankel

Taking a cue from biological cells, researchers from MIT, Columbia University, and elsewhere have developed computationally simple robots that connect in large groups to move around, transport objects, and complete other tasks.

by   -   March 26, 2019

By Frederik Ebert and Stephen Tian

Guiding our fingers while typing, enabling us to nimbly strike a matchstick, and inserting a key in a keyhole all rely on our sense of touch. It has been shown that the sense of touch is very important for dexterous manipulation in humans. Similarly, for many robotic manipulation tasks, vision alone may not be sufficient – often, it may be difficult to resolve subtle details such as the exact position of an edge, shear forces or surface textures at points of contact, and robotic arms and fingers can block the line of sight between a camera and its quarry. Augmenting robots with this crucial sense, however, remains a challenging task.

Our goal is to provide a framework for learning how to perform tactile servoing, which means precisely relocating an object based on tactile information. To provide our robot with tactile feedback, we utilize a custom-built tactile sensor, based on similar principles as the GelSight sensor developed at MIT. The sensor is composed of a deformable, elastomer-based gel, backlit by three colored LEDs, and provides high-resolution RGB images of contact at the gel surface. Compared to other sensors, this tactile sensor sensor naturally provides geometric information in the form of rich visual information from which attributes such as force can be inferred. Previous work using similar sensors has leveraged the this kind of tactile sensor on tasks such as learning how to grasp, improving success rates when grasping a variety of objects.

Intuition Robotics         


interview by   -   March 18, 2019



In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Dor Skuler, CEO and co-founder of Intuition Robotics, about a socially assistive robot for older adults named ElliQ. Skuler discusses the motivation for ElliQ, how it infers context and changes its behavior accordingly, and how ElliQ adapts its behavior over time.

by   -   March 8, 2019

What does a day in the life of a woman working with robots look like? We asked members of WomeninRobotics.org to volunteer “a paragraph and a picture” for this first patchwork representation of the field. And if you’re a woman working in robotics or interested in the field, join us! (updated with content from Odyssey Foundation in Nigeria)

Flytrex         


interview by   -   March 5, 2019



In this episode Abate interviews Yariv Bash from Flytrex. Yariv discusses how Flytrex works in cooperation with local businesses in a city to use drones to rapidly transport goods in a local region. A practical application is the delivery of food from local restaurants. Yariv discusses Flytrex’s plans for using their USD$7.5 million series B round of funding.

by   -   February 27, 2019

Researchers have developed a next-generation bionic hand that allows amputees to regain their proprioception. The results of the study, which have been published in Science Robotics, are the culmination of ten years of robotics research.

by   -   February 27, 2019

By Jessica Montgomery, Senior Policy Adviser

The Royal Society’s artificial intelligence (AI) programme explores the frontiers of AI technologies, and their implications for individuals, communities, and society.

As part of our programme of international science and policy dialogue about AI, last year we worked with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences to bring together leading researchers from across disciplines to consider the implications of AI for equality, transparency, and democracy.

by   -   February 19, 2019

By Tijana Zrnic

“Scientific research has changed the world. Now it needs to change itself. – The Economist, 2013

There has been a growing concern about the validity of scientific findings. A multitude of journals, papers and reports have recognized the ever smaller number of replicable scientific studies. In 2016, one of the giants of scientific publishing, Nature, surveyed about 1,500 researchers across many different disciplines, asking for their stand on the status of reproducibility in their area of research. One of the many takeaways to the worrisome results of this survey is the following: 90% of the respondents agreed that there is a reproducibility crisis, and the overall top answer to boosting reproducibility was “better understanding of statistics”. Indeed, many factors contributing to the explosion of irreproducible research stem from the neglect of the fact that statistics is no longer as static as it was in the first half of the 20th century, when statistical hypothesis testing came into prominence as a theoretically rigorous proposal for making valid discoveries with high confidence.

by   -   February 19, 2019
MIT Media Lab researchers are using RFID tags to help robots home in on moving objects with unprecedented speed and accuracy, potentially enabling greater collaboration in robotic packaging and assembly and among swarms of drones.
Photo courtesy of the researchers

A novel system developed at MIT uses RFID tags to help robots home in on moving objects with unprecedented speed and accuracy. The system could enable greater collaboration and precision by robots working on packaging and assembly, and by swarms of drones carrying out search-and-rescue missions.

by   -   February 19, 2019

California has released the disengagement reports the law requires companies to file and it’s a lot of data. Also worth noting is Waymo’s own blog post on their report where they report their miles per disengagement has improved from 5,600 to 11,000.

interview by   -   February 18, 2019



In this episode, Audrow Nash interviews Amy Loutfi, a professor at Örebro University, about how semantic representations can be used to help robots reason about the world.  Loutfi discusses semantics in general, as well as how semantics have been used for a simulated quad rotor to do path planning within constraints.

by   -   February 12, 2019

By Rohin Shah and Dmitrii Krasheninnikov

It would be great if we could all have household robots do our chores for us. Chores are tasks that we want done to make our houses cater more to our preferences; they are a way in which we want our house to be different from the way it currently is. However, most “different” states are not very desirable:

Surely our robot wouldn’t be so dumb as to go around breaking stuff when we ask it to clean our house? Unfortunately, AI systems trained with reinforcement learning only optimize features specified in the reward function and are indifferent to anything we might’ve inadvertently left out. Generally, it is easy to get the reward wrong by forgetting to include preferences for things that should stay the same, since we are so used to having these preferences satisfied, and there are so many of them. Consider the room below, and imagine that we want a robot waiter that serves people at the dining table efficiently. We might implement this using a reward function that provides 1 reward whenever the robot serves a dish, and use discounting so that the robot is incentivized to be efficient. What could go wrong with such a reward function? How would we need to modify the reward function to take this into account? Take a minute to think about it.

by   -   February 12, 2019

This week Washington DC was abuzz with news that had nothing to do with the occupant of The While House. A group of progressive legislators, led by Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, in the House of Representatives, introduced “The Green New Deal.” The resolution by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was in response to the alarming Fourth National Climate Assessment and aims to reduce global “greenhouse gas emissions from human sources of 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030; and net-zero global emissions by 2050.” While the bill is largely targeting the transportation industry, many proponents suggest that it would be more impactful, and healthier, to curb America’s insatiable appetite for animal agriculture.

interview by   -   February 4, 2019



In this interview, Audrow Nash interviews Jaime Fernández Fisac, a PhD student at University of California, Berkeley, working with Professors Shankar Sastry, Claire Tomlin, and Anca Dragan. Fisac is interested in ensuring that autonomous systems such as self-driving cars, delivery drones, and home robots can operate and learn in the world—while satisfying safety constraints. Towards this goal, Fisac discusses different examples of his work with unmanned aerial vehicles and talks about safe robot learning in general; including, the curse of dimensionality and how it impacts control problems (including how some systems can be decomposed into simpler control problems), how simulation can be leveraged before trying learning on a physical robot, safe sets, and how a robot can modify its behavior based on how confident it is that its model is correct.

A Social Robot Companion for Older Adults
March 18, 2019