Honda's latest robotic creation is a robotic lawnmower built for lucky Europeans. Using a random pattern, the Miimo can cut 2 - 3mm lengths. Three bump sensors help it to navigate around large objects and it has auto-speed adjustment for thicker grass patches. The lawnbot has a fan in its blade holder to suck in the loose cuttings. Running on a lithium-ion battery, Miimo will return to its charging station when needed. No price has been released but both the Miimo 300 and 500 will be available in 2013.
Because delivering supplies can often be dangerous due to terrain or hostile territory, Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace turned its K-MAX into a UAS. The helicopter can be controlled by remote control or used autonomously and can handle up to 6,000 lbs. of cargo at sea level, 4,000 lbs. at 15,000 feet. Since it was employed by the military in 2007, it has flown over 750 hours in autonomous mode and will continue to serve in Afghanistan until September.
It is not enough to see the tune Thriller recreated by Filipino inmates or the occasional flash mob. These NAO robots, built by Aldebaran Robotics and programmed by MIT, use a quorum sensoring system and couple oscillators to synchronize the group. The video is especially eerie when the one out of sync rejoins the others. Imagine the technology being adapted in large factories or forming a robo-army for the eventual takeover.
Intelligent Automation's Multi-Arm Unmanned Ground Vehicle can multi-task with three arms, three cameras with depth perception and 29º of freedom. The MA-UGV can be programmed for autonomous chores and is being used in tool handling and manipulation, backpack inspection, door breaching, knot tying and other military applications like IED diffusion.
The University of Penn's GRASP Lab continues to make strides with its quadrotors. Presented at the TED2012 Conference, Vijay Kumar and team demonstrated their swarming ability by playing the James Bond theme song. Moving in unison, the nano quads receive a series of waypoints, this time specific keyboard notes or guitar strings. Each autonomously figures how to attend its task without interfering with the others.
Copora's Q.bo Daniel 123 has certainly been busy and can now identify himself in a mirror via his flashing nose. Because he is equipped with the Festival speech synthesizer and Julius recognition program, he can relate to people. Even more impressive, he recognizes another Q.bo (Jane 234) and the two have a brief, even flirty chat. As robots "approach consciousness" we are wondering if someday they be clever enough to perform experiments with humans.
A group of experts who come from Sydney University, have created a robot that is being used to test troops who may run into terrorists. Sent to a Marine base in Virginia's Quantico, The Marathon Targets are trained to "think" and because they are autonomous, flee as fast as a human if one of their group is shot. They even have enough smarts to seek shelter. The company received a $57 million contract with the USMC after showing its lifelike armored-plated T2 prototype. They also have another Terrorbot with four wheels for use in rough terrain.
Bless Willow Garage and their PR2s. The one that belongs to the University of Pennsylvania's GRASP lab will do one of the worst human jobs. He even has the telling name POOP SCOOP (Perception of Offensive Products and Sensorized Control of Object Pickup.) It identifies them based on color against a green field then heads on over there and grabs its prize.
PS is somewhat limited in his endeavors and can only manage high fiber scooping. They will soon be posting their ROS stack and you can assist and make it a super-scooper. With a success rate of about 95%, the $400,000 bot can practice in our backyard anytime.
The University of Tokyo has taught their PR2 to fetch a sandwich. If one is not available in the fridge, he goes to the Subway in another building. The bot is using "semantic search," the ability to use common sense when seeking an object. It can also add to the knowledge as it gains more experience. So, although he did have a bit of a bind at the elevator, we still call this a $5 footlong success.
Back in February, Watson beat out Jeopardy champs and his keepers decided his next move would be Med School. Teaming with the University of Maryland, software developer Nuance and Columbia UMC, the computer "learned' about anatomy, conditions and symptoms to help diagnose patients' illnesses. Dr. Eliot Siegel, the team's head, says they will use Watson as a sort of "safety check" to determine if proper care and medicines have been prescribed. Yeah, he ought to stay in the background as he probably doesn't have much of a bedside manner.
Note: If you are a Watson fan and watched him on Jeopardy, PBS' Nova presented "The Smartest Machine on Earth" this month. It discussed computer learning and how IBM prepared him for his TV debut, including auditions. This is a must see for anyone into A.I. and you can still watch it online.
The IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems takes place in San Francisco from September 25th - 30th. Tickets are still being sold for the 50th anniversary event that will feature robots from all over the planet and includes workshops, tours, and forums. Look for exhibits from Willow Garage, DARPA, iCub and many other robotics companies. Registration for the IROS includes almost everything, from the conference attendance to receptions to the special events.
Want to save a cool $115,000 on a great robot? Willow Garage is offering one-armed PR2 SEs for a mere $285,000.00 if you promise to contribute to their ROS community. A Microsoft Kinect motion sensor is included in the deal. Rather than thinking of the bot as half capable, think of 50% as being halfway there. Besides, you can buy another arm later, even if your one armed bandit bot can manage just the way it is.
A team from Cornell led by Ashutosh Saxena managed to program a robot to find shoes. The software contains an FECCM algorithm and data with characteristics of the footwear and the searchbot is trained to look for places, such as under a bed or sofa, that they might be hidden. The bot can also grasp the object without damaging it. It can be retrained to find other objects, so maybe it can discover socks that get eaten in the washing machine.
The team from the University of Penn.'s GRASP Lab have taken their PR2 and taught it to read the same way a human child learns. Graspy looks at the shapes of words then sounds them out. New ones are matched with known words as his vocabulary becomes more advanced. At this point, the bot has basic reading skills and is still working on different fonts, but we cannot wait to see what he can do in the near future. If you would like to download their ROS platform software you can get it free on their website.