186 posts tagged robotics
Interactive robot trains kids with autism
A humanoid robot shows promise for teaching a basic social skill called joint attention to children with autism spectrum disorder.
Aiden, who is three and a half years old, has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). NAO (pronounced “now”) is the diminutive “front man” for an elaborate system of cameras, sensors, and computers designed specifically to help children like Aiden learn how to coordinate their attention with other people and objects in their environment.
Typically developing children learn joint attention naturally. Children with autism, however, have difficulty mastering it and that inability can compound into a variety of learning difficulties as they age.
Mechanical engineers and autism experts have developed the system and used it to demonstrate that robotic systems may be powerful tools for enhancing the basic social learning skills of children with ASD.
Writing in the March issue of the IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, the researchers report that children with ASD paid more attention to the robot and followed its instructions almost as well as they did those of a human therapist in standard exercises used to develop joint attention skill. The finding indicates that robots could play a crucial role in responding to the “public health emergency” that has been created by the rapid growth in the number of children being diagnosed with ASD. (via Futurity.org – Interactive robot trains kids with autism)
Can humanoid robots save lives? Will they have the capacity to be our friends? Dennis Hong, founding director of Virginia Tech’s Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa), is making this happen by teaching robots how to win at soccer and by entering the DARPA Robotics Challenge. (via 33rd Square | Dennis Hong On Robot Evolution and The DARPA Robotics Challenge)
Bartenders beware: A robotic drink-dispensing rig is aiming to steal your customers while pouring cocktail creations at the push of a touchscreen button. Its creators call it Bartendro. Operated through an iPad interface, the open source, synthetic Al Swearengen holds up to 15 bottles of beverage plumbed into custom-designed, Raspberry Pi-controlled pumps. It’s capable of mixing dozens of drinks, including black Russians, Kahlua mudslides, or almost any other classy beverage of your choosing. (via This Open Source Robot Bartender Pours the Perfect Mix | Wired Design | Wired.com)
A new robot unveiled this week highlights the psychological and technical challenges of designing a humanoid that people actually want to have around.
Like all little boys, Roboy likes to show off. He can say a few words. He can shake hands and wave. He is learning to ride a tricycle. And - every parent’s pride and joy - he has a functioning musculoskeletal anatomy. But when Roboy is unveiled this Saturday at the Robots on Tour event in Zurich, he will be hoping to charm the crowd as well as wow them with his skills. “One of the goals is for Roboy to be a messenger of a new generation of robots that will interact with humans in a friendly way,” says Rolf Pfeifer from the University of Zurich - Roboy’s parent-in-chief. As manufacturers get ready to market robots for the home it has become essential for them to overcome the public’s suspicion of them. But designing a robot that is fun to be with - as well as useful and safe - is quite difficult. (via BBC News - When are we going to learn to trust robots?)
The era of drone wars is already upon us.
The era of robot wars could be fast approaching.
Already there are unmanned aircraft demonstrators like the arrow-head shaped X-47B that can pretty-well fly a mission by itself with no involvement of a ground-based “pilot”.
There are missile systems like the Patriot that can identify and engage targets automatically.
And from here it is not such a jump to a fully-fledged armed robot warrior, a development with huge implications for the way we conduct and even conceive of war-fighting.
On a carpet in a laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Professor Henrik Christensen’s robots are hunting for insurgents. They look like cake-stands on wheels as they scuttle about. Christensen and his team at Georgia Tech are working on a project funded by the defence company BAE systems. Their aim is to create unmanned vehicles programmed to map an enemy hideout, allowing human soldiers to get vital information about a building from a safe distance. “These robots will basically spread out,” says Christensen, “they’ll go through the environment and map out what it looks like, so that by the time you have humans entering the building you have a lot of intelligence about what’s happening there.” (via BBC News - Robot warriors: Lethal machines coming of age)
Ever since it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2005, robotic surgery for hysterectomy has been heavily advertised. Surgeons promise that using the da Vinci robotic device will bring better results and an easier recovery, and many hospitals claim that patients will experience less pain and fewer complications, getting back on their feet faster.
The company that makes da Vinci robotic surgery equipment promoted it last May at free health workshops organized by the federal Office on Womens’ Health. On Sunday, the Liberty Science Museum in Jersey City will host its first “Let’s Operate Day,” offering guests “hands-on” practice peering into video monitors and using da Vinci’s robot arms to pick up and manipulate small objects.
The cost of the new technology is rarely mentioned. But last week, a new study that evaluated outcomes in more than a quarter of a million American women raised questions about the manufacturer’s claims. The paper, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, compared outcomes in 264,758 women who had either laparoscopic or robotically assisted hysterectomy at 441 hospitals between 2007 and 2010. Both methods are minimally invasive and involve smaller incisions than open abdominal surgery.
The researchers found no overall difference in complication rates between the two groups, and no difference in the rates of blood transfusion, even though one of the claims regarding robotic surgery is that it causes less blood loss.
But the researchers did find a big difference in cost. Robotically assisted surgery for hysterectomy costs on average about one-third more than laparoscopic surgery. (via Questions About a Robotic Surgery - NYTimes.com)
CEO Of Educational Robot Company: “Robots Belong In The Classroom”
Graham Ryland believes that robots belong in the classroom. As the CEO of Barobo, the maker of modular robots called Mobots, he has witnessed firsthand the enthusiasm students get for math and science when they can learn the subjects in the context of robots. He gave a recent talk at TEDxSacramento to share his enthusiasm for what robots can do for education.
“Robots offer a wide variety of learning modalities. Kids can learn math through experience. They can make predictions with math and then verify them with robots.” He added, “Robots teach 21st century skills like creativity and collaboration. They give the opportunity for students to have mentorship positions with other students.”
As Graham explains in the TEDx video, the company has a successful approach for getting kids into learning about math via robots: a tiered-strategy called instructional scaffolding. “We grab kids with the remote control. We show them what robots can do. We use control panels to get them interested in using math as part of their curriculum and part of their word problems. We use pose teaching to have hands-on programming that allows them to create complex motion control with the robots. And then, once they know how to program in C, opportunities are limitless.” (via CEO Of Educational Robot Company: “Robots Belong In The Classroom” | Singularity Hub)
That’s Not A Droid, That’s My Girlfriend
Robotics in many parts of the world is driven by military aims. Pacifist Japan takes a different approach: This is a digital love story. Osamu Kozaki’s life in Tokyo is, by his own admission, often a lonely one. The 35-year-old, an engineer who designs industrial robots, has had few relationships with women in his life. Those few have almost always gone badly. So when Kozaki’s girlfriend, Rinko Kobayakawa, sends him a message, his day brightens up. The relationship started more than three years ago, when Kobayakawa was a prickly 16-year-old working in her school library, a quiet girl who shut out the world with a pair of earphones that blasted punk music. Kozaki sums up Kobayakawa’s personality with one word: tsundere – a popular term in Japan’s otaku geek culture, which describes a certain feminine ideal. It refers to the kind of girl who starts out hostile but whose heart gradually grows warmer. And that’s what has happened; over time, Kobayakawa has changed. These days, she spends much of her day sending affectionate missives to her boyfriend, inviting him on dates, or seeking his opinion when she wants to buy a new dress or try a new hairstyle. (via That’s Not A Droid, That’s My Girlfriend | The Global Mail)
NOTE: for those interested my own article on the issue is here:
Researchers from the University of Michigan have found that running cockroaches begin to recover from being pushed sideways even before their nervous systems kick in to tell their legs what to do.
The research team hopes that these new insights on the stabilization of biological systems could one day help engineers design steadier robots. The findings, published online in Biological Cybernetics, might also improve doctors’ understanding of human gait abnormalities. The roaches being tested were able to maintain their footing mechanically by using their momentum and the spring-like architecture of their legs, rather than neurologically by relying on impulses sent from their central nervous system to their muscles.
“The response time we observed is more than three times longer than you’d expect,” said Shai Revzen, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, as well as ecology and evolutionary biology, at the University of Michigan.
“What we see is that the animals’ nervous system is working at a substantial delay,” he said in a statement. “It could potentially act a lot sooner, within about a thirtieth of a second, but instead, it kicks in after about a step and a half or two steps—about a tenth of a second. For some reason, the nervous system is waiting and seeing how it shapes out.” (via Robotics May Get Ideas From Running Cockroaches - Science News - redOrbit)
Inside a laboratory in California, space engineers are designing a new generation of rover… and they look like nothing you have seen before. It’s three in the afternoon, and in their Nasa lab in Silicon Valley, California, two engineers are playing with a toy designed for toddlers. The melon-sized plaything consists of a tactile lattice of brightly painted beads, connected by wooden rods and elastic cords. It twists and flexes as Vytas Sunspiral and Adrian Agogino crunch it in their hands and throw it between themselves across the room. One online review describes the gadget as “great for sensory exploration,” but Sunspiral and Agogino are considering it for something way more ambitious: planetary exploration. This bundle of beads, rods and cords, they believe, could form the basis of a new generation of planetary rovers. “The programme that funded this bit of research, I call it the crazy ideas programme,” exclaims the fast-talking Sunspiral, a towering figure whose name, long blonde hair, beard and glasses suggest a “crazy ideas” lab in Silicon Valley is his natural environment. For obvious reasons, Nasa prefers not to use the word “crazy” in its research but includes the project under its Innovative Advanced Concepts Program. “Here, in the intelligent robotics group,” says Sunspiral, “we do all sorts of advanced research on robots.” The toy Sunspiral and Agogino are playing with uses what is technically known as a tensegrity system. “It’s a system where, unlike our buildings where everything’s held together rigidly, everything’s held together in tension,” Sunspiral explains. “So you end up with a network of cables that hold rods. You will often have seen artwork that looks like this – kind of crazy weird bars, floating in space.” (via BBC - Future - Science & Environment - Nasa’s ‘crazy’ robot lab)