Korean Robot Makers Walk Off With $2 Million Prize

via www.livescience.com

via www.livescience.com

A team of roboticists from the

Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology

 claimed a $2 million prize on Saturday that was offered by a Pentagon research agency for developing a mobile robot capable of operating in hazardous environments.

Twenty-five teams of university and corporate roboticists competed for the prize, which was first given in 2012 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The robots were graded on their ability to complete eight tasks, including driving a vehicle, opening a door, operating a portable drill, turning a valve and climbing stairs, all in the space of an hour.

The Korean victory is a validation of the work of JunHo Oh, the designer of the Hubo family of humanoid robots that he has developed since 2002. The winning Hubo is a clever machine that can kneel and drive on wheels in addition to walking.

The second-place winner, the Institute of Human and Machine Cognition in Pensacola, Fla., received $1 million, and the third-place winner, Tartan Rescue, from the National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., received $500,000.

Despite clear progress since a trial event in Florida in 2013, the robots remain decades away from the science-fiction feats seen in movies like “Ex Machina” and “Chappie.”

Instead, the robots seemed more like an array of electronic and hydraulic contraptions that, in some cases, walked in a lumbering fashion on two or four legs and, in other cases, rolled on tracks or wheels. Some of the machines weighed more than 400 pounds. They were equipped with sensors and cameras to permit remote control.

On Friday, the first day of the Robotics Challenge, it took until 2:30 in the afternoon for the first robot to successfully complete the course, seven and a half hours after the competition began. Frequently, the machines would stand motionless for minutes at a time while they waited for wireless connections with their controllers to improve. Darpa degraded the wireless links on purpose to create the uneven communications that would simulate a crisis situation.

Reporters were once again left grasping for appropriate metaphors to describe the slow-motion calisthenics performed by the menagerie of battery-powered machines. Most agreed that “like watching grass grow” was no longer the best description, and Gill Pratt, the Darpa official in charge of the competition, suggested that it had risen to the level of “watching a golf match.”

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Keecker: A real-life R2D2 for home entertainment and more

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via GigaOM

If the French team behind the robot can deliver on their promises, Keecker will please both audiophiles and internet of things junkies.

We love our screens. Many people have TVs in multiple rooms in their homes, prop their tablet up in the kitchen when they cook and tap away at their smartphone screen when they are in the bathroom. We like being able to access content at all times and go to great lengths to make it available to ourselves.

Keecker, a mobile robot revealed for the first time today, is meant to remove the limits on where and how we access that content. The microwave-sized robot is equipped with a projector that allows it to display images on any surface, plus six respectable speakers that project sound in 360 degrees.

Keecker founder and CEO Pierre Lebeau, a former Google product manager based out of Paris, said that the idea for Keecker came to him all at once one day when he was riding his motorbike.

“In 20 seconds, everything made sense,” Lebeau said.

With a team of five people, he built Keecker to fulfill his own entertainment wishes, plus create a totally new platform for home interaction. He wanted it to be not “a black box,” but something that could stylishly blend into any room in the home.

The prototype that visited the Gigaom office last week was certainly beautiful. Velvety to the touch, it resembled a large, pillowy egg with clean black and white lines. Its projector was broken after the long flight from France, but it still put out good sound that did indeed sound three dimensional. It moved at a sluggish pace as Lebeau piloted it from an app.

He said the robot will go through a Kickstarter campaign before shipping to buyers by the end of 2014. He said that the finished product will be smaller, lighter and, quite seriously, perfect. It will retail for $4,000 to $5,000.

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Coming Soon, a Night Watchman With Wheels?

K5 Autonomous Data Machine

The night watchman of the future is 5 feet tall, weighs 300 pounds and looks a lot like R2-D2 – without the whimsy. And will work for $6.25 an hour.

A company in California has developed a mobile robot, known as the K5 Autonomous Data Machine, as a safety and security tool for corporations, as well as for schools and neighborhoods.

“We founded Knightscope after what happened at Sandy Hook,” said William Santana Li, a co-founder of that technology company, now based in Sunnyvale, Calif. “You are never going to have an armed officer in every school.”

But what is for some a technology-laden route to safer communities and schools is to others an entry point to a post-Orwellian, post-privacy world.

“This is like R2-D2’s evil twin,” said Marc Rotenberg, the director of the Electronic Privacy and Information Center, a privacy rights group based in Washington.

And the addition of such a machine to the labor market could force David Autor, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist, to rethink his theory about how technology wrecks the middle class.

The minimum wage in the United States is $7.25, and $8 in California. Coming in substantially under those costs, Knightscope’s robot watchman service raises questions about whether artificial intelligence and robotics technologies are beginning to assault both the top and the bottom of the work force as well.

The K5 is the work of Mr. Li, a former Ford Motor Company executive, and Stacy Dean Stephens, a former police officer in Texas. They gained some attention in June for their failed attempt to manufacture a high-tech police cruiser at Carbon Motors Corporation in Indiana.

Knightscope plans to trot out K5 at a news event on Thursday — a debut that is certain to touch off a new round of debate, not just about the impact of automation, but also about how a new generation of mobile robots affects privacy.

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Robots get stroke patients back on their feet

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A robot is now being built to help stroke patients with training, motivation and walking

In Europe, strokes are the most common cause of physical disability among the elderly. This often result in paralysis of one side of the body, and many patients suffer much reduced physical mobility and are often unable to walk on their own.
These are the hard facts the EU project CORBYS has taken seriously. Researchers in six countries are currently developing a robotic system designed to help stroke patients re-train their bodies. The concept is based on helping the patient by constructing a system consisting of powered orthosis to help patient in moving his/her legs and a mobile platform providing patient mobility.

The CORBYS researchers are also working with the cognitive aspects. The aim is to enable the robot to interpret data from the patient and adapt the training programme to his or her capabilities and intention. This will bring rehabilitation robots to the next level.

Back to walking normally

It is vital to get stroke patients up on their feet as soon as possible. They must have frequent training exercises, and re-learn how to walk so that they can function as good as possible on their own.
Why a robot? “Absolutely, because it is difficult to meet these requirements using today’s work-intensive manual method where two therapists assisting the patient by lifting one leg after the other”, says ICT researcher Anders Liverud at SINTEF, which is one of the CORBYS project partners.

Robot-patient learning

CORBYS involves the use of physiological data such as heart rate, temperature and muscle activity measurements to provide feedback to the therapist and help control the robot. Do the patient’s legs always go where the patient want? Is the patient getting tired and stressed?

“The walking robot has several settings, and the therapist selects the correct mode based on how far the patient has come in his or her rehabilitation”, says Liverud. “The first step is to attach sensors to the patient’s body and let them walk on a treadmill. A therapist manually corrects the walking pattern and, with the help of the sensors, create a model of the patient’s walking pattern”, he says.

In the next mode, the system adjusts the walking pattern to the defined model. New adjustments are made and are used to improve optimisation of the walking pattern.

“The patient wears an EEG cap which measures brain activity”, says Liverud. “By using these signals combined with input from other physiological and system sensors, the robotic system registers whether the patient wants to stop, change speed or turn, and can adapt immediately”, he says. “The robot continues to correct any walking pattern errors. However, since it also allows the patient the freedom to decide where and how he or she walks, the patient experiences control and keeps motivation to continue with the training”, says Liverud.

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Panasonic to unveil new helper robots

With the aging of populations in many countries around the world, particularly Japan, there are ever increasing numbers of elderly to care for, but relatively fewer younger people to do the job. Robots have long been seen as a means of filling the gap and Panasonic is set to unveil its latest technology designed to do just that. The three robotic devices set to make their debut at the upcoming 38th International Home Care & Rehabilitation Exhibition (H.C.R.2011) in Tokyo include a communication assistance robot and new models of the company’s Hair-Washing Robot and RoboticBed.

Panasonic’s “HOSPI” automatic medication delivery robot has already made it into hospitals in Japan and other countries where it is used to sort and transport medications to nurse stations. The HOSPI-Rimo employs the same self guiding technology and high-definition visual communications technology found in HOSPI, but is tasked with serving as an intermediary to provide communication between people who are bedridden or have limited mobility to communicate and others, such as an attending doctor somewhere else in the hospital or far flung friends and family, as if they were interacting face to face.

Like its predecessor that was unveiled at last year’s H.C.R.2010, Panasonic’s new Hair-Washing Robot can perform all the tasks of your favorite hairdresser – minus the gossip – from wetting to shampooing, rinsing, conditioning and drying, as well as a spot massage. Panasonic has updated this latest model to feature washing arms with more fingers – 24 up from 16 – and improved mechanics that Panasonic says delivers a more comfortable wash.

The third robotic device is the latest version of Panasonic’s RoboticBed, which was first introduced at H.C.R.2009.

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