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by   -   April 21, 2019

By Annie Xie

In many animals, tool-use skills emerge from a combination of observational learning and experimentation. For example, by watching one another, chimpanzees can learn how to use twigs to “fish” for insects. Similarly, capuchin monkeys demonstrate the ability to wield sticks as sweeping tools to pull food closer to themselves. While one might wonder whether these are just illustrations of “monkey see, monkey do,” we believe these tool-use abilities indicate a greater level of intelligence.

by   -   April 7, 2019

Automated, networked truck convoys could save fuel and cut down on driving time. Image credit – MAN Truck & Bus

by Sandrine Ceurstemont
Semi-autonomous cars are expected to hit the roads in Europe next year with truck convoys following a few years later. But before different brands can share the roads, vehicle manufacturers need to agree on standards for automated functions.

by   -   April 5, 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.

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 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   -   January 25, 2019
OroBOT – Credit: Maxime Marendaz

Using the fossil and fossilized footprints of a 300-million-year-old animal, scientists from EPFL and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin have identified the most likely gaits of extinct animals and designed a robot that can recreate an extinct animal’s walk. This study can help researchers better understand how vertebrate locomotion evolved over time.

by   -   January 25, 2019

Cozmo robots and their corresponding tablets are being distributed to participants to take home so that they can interact with them for a week for an experiment being carried out by social robotics professor Emily Cross. Image credit – Ruud Hortensius and Emily Cross
By Frieda Klotz

People’s interactions with machines, from robots that throw tantrums when they lose a colour-matching game against a human opponent to the bionic limbs that could give us extra abilities, are not just revealing more about how our brains are wired – they are also altering them.

Emily Cross is a professor of social robotics at the University of Glasgow in Scotland who is examining the nature of human-robot relationships and what they can tell us about human cognition.

by   -   January 25, 2019

Developing countries must begin seriously considering how technological changes will impact labour trends. KC Jan/Shutterstock

By Asit K. Biswas, University of Glasgow and Kris Hartley, The Education University of Hong Kong

In the 21st century, governments cannot ignore how changes in technology will affect employment and political stability.

The automation of work – principally through robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of things (IoT), collectively known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution – will provide an unprecedented boost to productivity and profit. It will also threaten the stability of low- and mid-skilled jobs in many developing and middle-income countries.

by   -   January 17, 2019

In trials, the ResiBot robot learned to walk again in less than two minutes after one of its legs was removed. Image credit – Antoine Cully / Sorbonne University

By Gareth Willmer

It’s part of a field of work that is building machines that can provide real-time help using only limited data as input. Standard machine-learning algorithms often need to process thousands of possibilities before deciding on a solution, which may be impractical in pressurised scenarios where fast adaptation is critical.

by   -   January 7, 2019

This biocompatible sensor is made from a non-toxic, highly conductive liquid solution that could be used in diagnostics, therapeutics, human-computer interfaces, and virtual reality. Credit: Harvard SEAS

By Leah Burrows
Children born prematurely often develop neuromotor and cognitive developmental disabilities. The best way to reduce the impacts of those disabilities is to catch them early through a series of cognitive and motor tests. But accurately measuring and recording the motor functions of small children is tricky. As any parent will tell you, toddlers tend to dislike wearing bulky devices on their hands and have a predilection for ingesting things they shouldn’t.

by   -   January 7, 2019
Remote presence technology enables a medic to perform an ultrasound at the scene of accident.
(University of Saskatchewan), Author provided

Ivar Mendez, University of Saskatchewan

It is the middle of the winter and a six-month-old child is brought with acute respiratory distress to a nursing station in a remote community in the Canadian North.

by   -   December 21, 2018

By Lindsay Brownell

Jet engines can have up to 25,000 individual parts, making regular maintenance a tedious task that can take over a month per engine. Many components are located deep inside the engine and cannot be inspected without taking the machine apart, adding time and costs to maintenance. This problem is not only confined to jet engines, either; many complicated, expensive machines like construction equipment, generators, and scientific instruments require large investments of time and money to inspect and maintain.

by   -   December 19, 2018

Artistic photo taken by Jerry H. Wright showing a hand-made shape generated following an emergent Turing pattern (displayed using the LEDs). The trajectory of one of the moving robots can be seen through long exposure. Jerry also used a filter to see the infrared communication between the robots (white light below the robots reflected on the table). Reprinted with permission from AAAS.

Work by I. Slavkov, D. Carrillo-Zapata, N. Carranza, X. Diego, F. Jansson, J. Kaandorp, S. Hauert, J. Sharpe

Our work published today in Science Robotics describes how we grow fully self-organised shapes using a swarm of 300 coin-sized robots. The work was led by James Sharpe at EMBL and the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona – together with my team at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and University of Bristol.

by   -   December 16, 2018

A research team from the University of Zurich and EPFL has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

by   -   December 16, 2018

Better tracking of forest data will make the climate change reporting process easier for countries who want compensation for protecting their carbon stock. Image credit – lubasi, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Steve Gillman
Every year 7 million hectares of forest are cut down, chipping away at the 485 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) stored in trees around the world, but low-cost drones and new satellite imaging could soon protect these carbon stocks and help developing countries get paid for protecting their trees.

ERICA: A Robot Made to Look Human
April 15, 2019

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