AndyVision is the pet project of Priva Narasimhan and a team from Carnegie Mellon University that may change the way retail business operates. Currently, humans do most of the stocking of shelves and often customers cannot find what they really want because of misplacement. The hoody-clad robot solves this dilemma by traveling down aisles, and combines video camera imaging with algorithms to find items. The data is then sent to a large planogram for customer usage.
AndyVision is still at the prototype stage but is part of Intel Science and Technology Center's Retail 2020 project that is partnered with the CMU Bookstore. Perhaps someday he and other robots can assist shoppers and do many of the mundane tasks like folding clothing and assisting with owners' manuals. And if you have ever had to work an overnighter in retail pre-holiday, you know this is a very good idea that could be made so much better.
Chiba University's Nonami Group have been developing mini drones that can fly in formation. The quadcopters do this with cameras that capture certain markers on the ground then sends the images back to the host computer. Position and attitude are calculated fast enough to prevent collision. Future applications could include disaster inspection, volcanic eruptions and power line inspection.
We have seen plenty of eateries run by robotic cooks, waiters and other personnel, but this recently built $127 million one probably gets the distinction of either being the glitziest or the most disturbed. Robot Restaurant, located in Shinjuku, Tokyo, serves only basic lunch boxes but for $38.00 you get food, drink and a psychedelic hour-long show that includes fembots, real fems, a marching band and automated tanks, all surrounded by neon. Humans also run the entertainment from behind the scenes but we bet most of its patrons simply enjoy the festivities.
When Idaho decided it was time to attract tourists to Sun Valley, they created a robot that can skip stones. Skippy may only have one function but we expect that he was inundated with those who wanted to play with him. Unfortunately, he is no longer active. Still, he reminds us of those Mayberry antics of Andy and Opie.
Engadget got a hold of several of Hasbro's new Furbies and tested them out for the rest of us. This one is pretty much the same as the old one, albeit he is somewhat more advanced and has those freaky eyes. He responds to both human voice and music, and the more you play with him the more he morphs into new personality. An iPad app gives you more interaction and a way to feed him.
Although you cannot turn him off, stash him somewhere and he will go into sleep mode. No price announced but he will definitely be a holiday treat or trick, depending on whether you play with him or someone else does and drives you bonkers.
The reality of the movie Avatar may be taking baby steps but it is well on its way. The Virtual Embodiment and Robotic Re-embodiment Project connected student Tirosh Shapira in Israel to a robot in France. This was done with an fMRI machine that scanned his brain for data that was then analyzed and interpreted into commands. Shapira could get the bot to look left and right and move forward while he gets a video feed from the robot's head cam. After performing 3 trials, the human said he felt like he was actually "inside" his metal surrogate.
We try to keep up with the latest in military robotics, so most of the participants of the recent Robeo in Ft. Benning, GA are familiar to us. This is a US Army annual 10-day event that challenges robots against each other in mock battle. Both new and updated bots took on each other with 45 companies, 5 universities and 74 technologies represented.
TARDEC (Detroit's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center) ran 3 vignettes, testing reconnaissance, autonomous supply and foxhole digging. JIEDDO (the Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization) ran four of them that centered on counter-IED missions with reconnaissance, bomb detection, endurance and disruption.
Vendors are represented as well and found out how to improve the efficiency of their tools. Check out some of the other participants via the link.
Ishakawa Oku's physics lab at the University of Tokyo built a robot that plays Rock, Paper, Scissors and never loses. It can do this because there is a high-speed camera in the room that captures and analyzes the competitor's wrist angle so it knows the next move. It takes one millisecond to do that, much faster than a human can. The team believes it to be a learning tool that can be used in the area of cooperation between the two species. Before that day comes, maybe it can be taught the much cooler Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock.
A team from Georgia Tech's Center for Music Technology formed Tovbot and developed Shimi, a 12" tall robot that can be connected to an iPhone or Android smartphone and act as DJ. After accessing the music library it can suggest tunes, move to the beat and play music based on feedback. The strange-looking bot doubles as a docking station and can alert users to Facebook or Twitter activity. Look for Shimi's formal launch at the 2013 CES.
We heard recently that there are fewer lifeguards these days because of low pay, high training fees charged to would-be guards and fewer qualifications because of weight. So it is fortunate that E.M.I.L.Y. (Emergency Integrated Lifesaving Lanyard) can handle some of the action.
Built by Hydronalix, this RC vehicle can be directed to those who are drowning or stranded. It can reach a speed of up to 25 mph and acts as a portable buoy for up to 4 people. In development for about 2 years, the $10,000 tool has worked its way to Malibu's Zuma Beach after LA County lifeguards helped improve the prototype.