The Humanoid Grand Challenge [DARPA] is Finally Here!

This is a long awaited competition for robotics is here. This should hopefully drive research in this field. Many humanoids have always been showed in staged environments given the difficulties in getting them to perform in the real world.

There are many difficulties that has to be overcomed but actuator design. Dr. Gill Pratt, DARPA’s program director, is in-charge of this challenge. He is familiar with this field, given he is the inventor of the Series Elastic Actuator at MIT where he was developing robots for locomotion. He’s the right person to drive this development.

Here’s a good article about actuators used in legged robots.

There has been many advancement in using traditional electric servo motor solutions to locomotion. Petman at Boston Dynamics and DLR with their Bipedal Robot.

Robocup has a similar goal in development of humanoids as well.

By mid-21st century, a team of fully autonomous humanoid robot soccer players shall win the soccer game, comply with the official rule of the FIFA, against the winner of the most recent World Cup.

[source: robocup.org]

Link to the announcement at Hizook and Wired.

Building Robot Given the Lack of Technology

Robot interaction is still something unclear to us. The basic mode of communicate in a society is through speech and this is hard for a robot given the ability of current speech recognition technology and natural language understanding. If only Siri really worked for people of all nation and in every context.

Service robotics is a growing trend globally given the aging situation in developed countries. Who doesn’t want a robot in his/her home called Rosie? But the reality is that we don’t have the technology to build a Rosie yet. Given that fact, how should we instruct or interact with robots?

This article in WSJ covers this in detail.

 

Our Own Telepresence Robot

Ctrl Works, a Singapore telepresence company, has been busy getting their robot (the puppet) in action at various hospitals and homes in Singapore. This is one of the more publicised robots in Singapore from the private sector. It is indeed encouraging to see development in robotics outside of industry in Singapore. The Healthcare industry in Singapore has been exploring robotics and it’s great to see that they are now exploring the use in trials.

There certainly are many telepresence in the market now but at present it’s difficult to develop a generic platform. There’s a need to truly understand the need of the end-user to develop a suitable platform for the particular application. It’s the integration that seals the deal for implementation. It’s good that the healthcare sector in Singapore is open to such technologies and opportunities to testbed telepresence in Singapore, given the size of our island.

Read about them at Singularity Hub and Pop Sc.

Kinect Guru’s New Robot Project

Garratt Gallagher has done many hacks for the Kinect. He won first place in the Kinect/ROS competition. He’s started a KickStarter project – Bilibot. It’s a iRobot Create with the Kinect as a sensor for navigating the robot around.  Kinect is a great tool and there are still competitors on the market hopeful to get a bite of the pie. They have changed their business model from selling products to being OEM for consumer product manufacturers. There’s a lot of prospect in this area given how microsoft has brought down the cost to this level. The rules of competition is different and the consumers are there to reap the rewards of this battle. Can’t wait.

The new Kinect will hopefully push cheap robots to a higher level of competence.

Hizook has covered this story in detail.

NAO as a Platform for Research

The JSK lab has shown that there is no limits to the use of NAO as a platform for research. It’s certainly worth looking at as a platform for research. The NAO recently had an upgrade to improve the PC that’s onboard. The cost of the platform is around 12000 EUROs.

Mobile Platform for Paraglegics

This “wheelchair” I found on gizmodo certainly is lifesaver for paraplegics.

It’s also good to see how robotics technology can take shape in different forms that play such a wonderful role in a person’s live.
It would be good to bring this to Singapore to help children with muscular dystrophy. Most of these children reach a stage where they can’t move their legs and have weak hands. Their caregivers need help and this will be a great platform to assist them and give independence to the children as well.

Open Source – Is it good for Business?

The debate published in ieee spectrum between Colin Angle (iRobot) and Robert Bauer (Willow Garage) is interesting. Willow garage has benefited the community greatly and it’s pretty easy to get a robot to grasp a cup using the ROS platform (given you can purchase the robot). This approach of crowdsourcing does speed up the development but it’s not easy to build a hardware business out of this model. Do write your thought in the article. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Toyota Personal Mobility Vehicle and Robots

Have a look at some of Toyota’s innovation on their website. They certainly have some good ideas on how robots and personal mobility vehicles will be in the future.

 

New iRobot Scooba 390

A much awaited update for the iRobot Scooba 390. This will be more useful in a tropical country like Singapore where we don’t really use carpets.I have used the Scooba 385. It was good for general cleaning. The issue was with the changing of water for the unit. But sure was satisfying to see how dirty the water was.

ieee spectrum has an detailed article on the upgrade.

 

Helping the Aged

There is a growing trend of development of robots for the aging society of the world. This is a global challenge that we are addressing as it will become reality soon. It’s important we get the best minds to the task as this isn’t an easy problem to solve but we have our hopes in iRobot.

REad article in Technology Review.