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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   -   April 5, 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   -   April 5, 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 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)

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 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 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.

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

By Rob Matheson

A novel model developed by MIT and Microsoft researchers identifies instances in which autonomous systems have “learned” from training examples that don’t match what’s actually happening in the real world. Engineers could use this model to improve the safety of artificial intelligence systems, such as driverless vehicles and autonomous robots.

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.

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