A global map of robot makers including start-ups is here.
Coming soon to protect texters (like you?)
Posted 05/24/13 at 03:58 AM
... CrashAlert is an app under development by Pourang Irani and Juan David Hincapié-Ramos at the University of Manitoba to provide a realistic solution to the ongoing dangers posed by walking and texting. Since users aren’t likely to pocket their devices, the system restores their peripheral vision through the use of a Kinect-like forward-looking depth camera that provides distance and location cues to obstacles in the user’s path.
... Unlike existing apps WalkNText and TypenWalk, which are essentially see-through texting apps, CrashAlert displays a small slice of the depth camera’s image on the mobile’s screen and alerts users of obstacles immediately in front through a red alert prompting users to immediately stop or lift their heads.
... No info on commercialization plans yet but it’s easy to see the market is ripe for the product.
... Photo courtesy of Examiner.com.
Is the commercialization of UASs passing the U.S. by?
Posted 05/20/13 at 06:24 AM
... Forget the debate about the military use of drones (but if you must know, here’s a comprehensive FAQ on the issue).
... There’s money to be made using those very same unmanned aerial vehicles and systems for commercial purposes. And money is being made by UAS makers and the ancillary businesses that support them in Europe and Australia—but not in the U.S. which will have to play catch-up beginning in late 2015 when the FAA issues rules governing UAS flight in civilian airspace.
... Agriculture, forestry, mining, infrastructure and general surveying, topographical modeling and first responders are just some of the groups that will all benefit from the use of UAS.
... Swiss startup senseFly has 40 engineers producing 60 drones a month at selling prices ranging from $10,000 to $20,000. That’s $18 million a year for senseFly (which was recently acquired by Parrot SA, the French car electronics and AR.Drone maker).
... Airware, an American startup that provides autopilot hardware for UASs, must market outside the US. However, CEO Jonathan Downey says there is plenty of very profitable business outside the United States.
... Almost all industrial robot makers have or are working on lightweight and human-friendly robot arms, but none are offering them at low cost, or with user-friendly training, or plug and play and safety features. There are other robot startups in the SME marketplace - and on the horizon - but none are as far along as Rethink Robotics and Universal Robots.
... Rethink Robotics’ Baxter robots are being produced and sold at a rate of 500+ units for 2013.
... Universal Robots is building 100+ UR5 and UR10 robots a month of which approximately 25-30% are for customers in the U.S.
... Click to see a review of each robot’s features and a couple of examples of how they are being used.
Othermill: a new high quality CNC circuit board fabricator
Posted 05/13/13 at 03:12 AM
... Otherfab, a spin-off from San Francisco-based Otherlab, an engineering, energy, education, math, computation and design research facility, surpassed their Kickstarter goal and is well on their way to produce their new CNC device.
... Originally developed to revive shop class in American schools by providing a very capable CNC fabricating machine but stalled by government funding delays, Otherfab’s new CNC Othermill and simple software is designed for ease of use and flexible operation.
... It’s not too late to subscribe to the Kickstarter campaign.
UPDATED 5-21-2013: Lawyers conclude closing arguments and case given to jurors
... For continuing coverage of not only the court case but also the FDA probe, the JAMA article, the product recall, and the new class action suits, click here.
... Intuitive Surgical’s marketing director testified that they focused on a category of urologists who have “basic or limited laparoscopic skills who currently perform” traditional prostate removals and that group is “where 80 percent of your clinical [marketing] time should be spent.”
... Intuitive released their first quarter results showing surprisingly high profits and revenue. But Intuitive also narrowed their 2013 revenue projections slightly. The stock market responded with a $21.00 drop in price (4.25%).
... In first day of trial in State of Washington, in their opening arguments, lawyers stated their cases:
[Plaintiff] that Intuitive Surgical designed a watered down training program to make it easier for them to sell systems to hospitals thereby compromising surgical quality which, in this case, led to complications which caused a man to die.
[Defendent] that injuries suffered by the obese and medically-troubled patient occurred after the robotic system was unplugged and not in use; the injuries happened after the robotic surgery was completed. Trial details here.
... A suit alleging injuries tied to the robot surgery system in a 2008 procedure to remove a patient’s prostate claims that the surgeon was not adequately trained and that the results of that lack of training caused mistakes which led to kidney failure, brain damage, permanent incontinence, the need to wear a colostomy bag, and ultimately, heart failure and death.
... An attempt by Intuitive to have the case thrown out was denied because the state’s product-liability laws require medical-device makers to properly train physicians who buy their products.
... There are 12 suits of this type pending trials. But there is also a JAMA article which shows that although the number of robotically assisted procedures is up, their effectiveness is the same as laparoscopic methods but their costs are about $2,000 higher per procedure. However, when reductions in hospital stays and post-recovery work from traditional surgery are added into the mix, robotic surgery is the most cost efficient.
... Also, the FDA has initiated an ongoing probe asking surgeons at numerous hospitals to identify complications with the da Vinci machines.
... Armed with €40 million for acquisitions, Parrot S.A. founder, Chairman and CEO Henri Seydoux said that the success of the AR.Drone and AR.Drone 2 proves that there is a large consumer market for the entertainment side of aerial drones.
... Now he and Parrot are going after the professional side: providing mapping and georgraphical information for surveying, construction, mining, agriculture, forestry, environmental observation and protection, and town planning using aerial drones and sophisticated cameras and software.
... Read the details here.
Online job postings for robotic positions up 10% compared to the same 90-day period in 2012
Posted 05/01/13 at 04:01 PM
... More than 14,000 jobs were advertised online requiring knowledge or use of robotics in the U.S., according to WANTED Analytics™, a source of real-time business intelligence.
... The most commonly advertised job titles requiring use or knowledge of robotics: Maintenance Technician, Controls Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Manufacturing Engineer, Senior Mechanical Engineer, Physician Urology, Registered Nurse, Electrical Engineer, Software Engineer and Urologist.
Blimp-in-a-box contract causes acquisition
Posted 04/05/13 at 04:00 PM
... Global Telesat Corp (think Globalstar, inmarsat and Iridium), and Lighter Than Air Systems, were awarded a DoD contract to provide the Army with two Blimp-in-a-Box systems.
... In order to fulfill that contract and to benefit from future collaborations of a similar nature, Lighter Than Air Systems agreed to be acquired in an almost all-stock transaction worth about $1 million by World Surveillance Group.
... All three companies are Florida-based defense contractors.
... Blimp-in-a-box is designed to provide real-time day/night high definition footage for ISR, IED detection, border security and other governmental and civilian uses. The system is packaged in a crate, mounted to a trailer, and can be rapidly deployed within minutes by a two man crew.
... The Roadmap’s pdf is a must-read, full of real information, and can be downloaded here.
... Six sectors were reviewed: (1) Manufacturing, (2) Medical Robots, (3) Healthcare Robotics, (4) Service Robots (both professional and domestic), (5) Space and (6) Defense were all discussed.
... Congress was asked to invest in core science challenges stimulating development and solutions across all six sectors - challenges like robust 3D perception, planning and navigation, dexterous manipulation, intuitive HRI, and safe robot behavior.
... As awareness of the use of robotic drones on borders and by police departments across America is rising, a debate is taking place as to their value, potential misuse and future.
... My friends at Robohub are running a week-long series of focused stories on the subject and, in an attempt to add to the conversation, The Robot Report has provided a list of 29 of the publicly-traded companies worldwide that produce these types of robotic devices along with a sobering quote from President Dwight Eisenhower.
... As we sit today on the cusp of allowing potential spy drones into our civilian airspace—along with all the good that commercial aerial robots can also provide—it seems that we will have to live with some misuse. In 2009 Hong Kong police arrested burglars who were casing prospective condos by sending camera-studded aerial drones up to the windows for a look-see.
... Jurors reached a 10-2 verdict after a 5-week trial. Intuitive Surgical owes no damages based on claims by the family that Intuitive had inadequately trained the doctor who performed the operation.
... The win may reduce the steam in the kettle of the pending class action suits about false claims by the company regarding their financial performance.
... In after hours trading, as news of the verdict came out, the stock (NASDAQ:ISRG) rose to $498, a 5% gain for the day and night.
... For further details, see the Bloomberg story, watch the video from the local TV station and read the review by Everything-Robotic.
... IndieGoGo-funded swiveling personal camera and follow-me device has sold 10,000 units thus far; 1,250 to schools and universities.
... Now they are scaling up with upgraded capabilities and a new round of funding including $500,000 from Grishin Robotics.
... New SWIVL can handle iPads and tablets, cloud services and SDKs from Apple and Android.
... Educators and business people are finding it helpful for capturing classroom and meeting content.
Are Accelerators the new Incubators and Angel Investors?
Posted 05/19/13 at 09:19 AM
... Tech startups can lead to big business. Last year Y Combinator reported their top 21 projects were worth $4.7 billion! Just last week Airware, a Y Combinator startup, received the biggest round of funding in YC history ($10.7 million).
... Y Combinator is certainly the most well known and the most visual leader in the new accelerator model of startup funding, i.e., invest a small amount of money in a large number of startups. The startups move close by for a few months during which the cadre works intensively with the startup team to get them into the best possible shape for investors.
... Last year Forbes produced a Top 10 Startup Incubators and Accelerators List.
... This year Robohub contributor Andra Keay produced a robotics-friendly list.
Airware Gets $10.7M from Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures to Build Autopilot Systems for UASs
Posted 05/15/13 at 06:16 AM
... Airware, a Newport Beach, CA start-up offering autopilots for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) enabling UAS manufacturers to rapidly develop diverse and price competitive solutions while maintaining their intellectual property.
... Airware made it into Y Combinator’s Winter 2013 class. The company’s $10.4M Series A funding from Andreessen Horowitz and Google Ventures is the biggest post-Demo Day round in YC history.
... Airware will be competing with 3D Robotics’ PX4FMU, an open source high-performance autopilot targeted towards high-end research, amateur and industry needs. PX4FMU is for fixed wing, multi rotors, helicopters, cars, boats and any other robotic platform that can move, and Dreamhammer’s Ballista control system, a commercial version of their drone control software already used by the military.
ROS Industrial celebrates one-year anniversary
Posted 05/13/13 at 01:56 AM
... ROS-I is developing and promoting a manufacturer-independent open-source library of drivers and the transfer of established components from research to industry - not just h/w interfaces and MS, IOS and Android support, but legal and standardization issues as well.
... Interchangeability of h/w components through standardized interfaces and intelligent software components for flexible production are the benefits.
... With centers covering The Americas (located at SwRI in Texas) and for Europe (located at Fraunhofer IPA in Germany), ROS-I is looking for a partner to cover Asia.
... A one-year video montage shows some industrial robotics applications made possible by ROS-I. One can see ROS-I controlling robots by ABB, KUKA, Fanuc, Adept, Universal Robots, and Yaskawa-Motoman.
... The Edison Awards, created by the American Marketing Association in 1987 but now a self-sustaining non-profit, jury-selects and annually awards for innovation and innovators in technology.
... 2013’s winners include 13 robotic companies and 4 more that came from the fields of automation or sensing. Rethink Robotics’ Baxter, iRobot’s Looj and Liquid Robotics’ Wave Glider all won gold medals in their respective categories.
... All 17 companies are profiled here.
KUKA acquires US integrator and toolmaker
Posted 05/05/13 at 01:21 PM
... For an amount “in the low double digit million Euro range,” KUKA has acquired the engineering services, toolmaking and integration divisions of US-based Utica Enterprises. 300 people are involved in the acquisition.
... “With this acquisition KUKA Systems is leveraging its technologies. Our customers will benefit from an expanded manufacturing footprint, talent pool and knowledge base with greater economies of scale” said Lawrence Drake, CEO of KUKA Systems North America, a wholly-owned subsidiary of KUKA AG, one of the world’s leading suppliers of robotics and plant and systems engineering.
... Japan robotics companies are rebounding quite well, helped by recovery from the twin disasters of 2012 and the value of the yen going down.
... Israel service robot companies, particularly medical and defense related, are also doing well.
... US and EU companies are doing about as well as the DJIA and NASDAQ indices.
Rethink Robotics and Aldebaran both launch robots for research, teaching and custom development
Posted 04/26/13 at 10:14 AM
... Rethink Robotics just launched a version of their Baxter robot armed with a new SDK providing educators and researchers with almost limitless capabilities at an affordable cost. Using ROS and the new SDK, educators and researchers have the ability to share innovations and build on each other’s work and know-how. Read their press release.
... Aldebaran Robotics’ launched their ASK NAO (Autism Solution for Kids) initiative for use in special education and for children with autism. More humanoid than Baxter, NAO is kid-sized, the new program provides educators with planning, monitoring and analyzing interactions to help set up lessons with NAO. Read the press release.
... Although Baxter and NAO have different capabilities, the ability for researchers and educators to easily program applications - and share those apps with others - is hoped by both companies (Aldebaran and Rethink) to accelerate new capabilities and apps for commercial use.
... iRobot’s stock (ISRG:NASDAQ) jumped 14% today on yesterday’s earnings report which exceeded analysts’ expectations for both the quarterly earnings and the annual projections.
... “We kicked off 2013 with an outstanding quarter,” said Colin Angle, chairman and chief executive of iRobot in a statement. “The results and outlook for our home Robot business are excellent.”
... Domestic home robot revenue grew 44% in Q1 representing 14% year-over-year increase. International home robot revenue was $61.3 million (66% of total for quarter).
... “The DoD announced a $14.4 million order for FirstLook robots during the quarter which gives us confidence in achieving our full year expectations.”
... At an International Federation of Robotics (IFR) CEO Round Table held at Automate 2013, in Chicago, IFR executives presented a recap of a new research report on the positive impact of industrial robots on employment.
... The report, prepared by British market research company Metra Martech, updates a 2011 report on the same subject with three conclusions:
1. Only robots can produce precision and consistency standards at an affordable cost demanded by the global economy.
2. Although the recession has temporarily reduced attention to unsatisfactory work conditions, enhancing work conditions is a driving force for using robots.
3. Robots are a critical factor in re-balancing of world manufacturing economies by reducing the threat by low labor cost countries (off-shoring).
... Based on IFR data through 2011, the report projects potential job creation by robotics between 2012 and 2020 to be 1.9 to 3.5 million jobs. This is the sum of new robotic products (.55 to 1.4 million), current industry expansion (.45 to .70) and downstream jobs (.90 to 1.4).
... The report also projects an additional 2-3 million jobs from downstream activities.
... The updated report, which can be downloaded here, is sufficiently transparent such that one can readily accept their position regarding projecting 2-3.5 million new jobs from 2012 to 2020.
... But the report is seriously unsubstantiated in the effects of offsets for jobs displaced and in the multiplier effect of downstream jobs. Details of the review can be read here.
... The robotics industry as a whole appears to have fully recovered from the stock market crash in 2008 and, in most cases, has returned to or surpassed their highs of 2007.
... Some of the country-by-country results are slightly skewed because of dramatic stock increases by a few performers in volatile sectors: Mazor Surgical (MZOR:IL), MDA (MDA:TSO) and the 3D printer manufacturers 3D Systems (DDD:NYSE) and Stratasys (SSYS:NASDAQ) are cases in point.
... Although the industrial robotics sector is still down from 2007/2008, the big four are doing quite well—click here to see the chart.
... The new Kinect, released a few days ago, uses an infrared light to illuminate whatever is in front of the sensor, and the pixels of an infrared camera watch for each pulse to reflect back. Just like radar, distance is calculated by the time it takes for light to reach a particular pixel and reflect back.
... The new Kinect can process 6 people at a time and, instead of the wire-frame skeletal tracking from the past, can now track fingers, muscle and force, facial expressions, joint orientation and do it all in light or dark and without distortion from side or inconsistent light sources.
... Wired has an in-depth video and review.
... It took a few months for hackers to make use of the previous Kinect for robotic apps. With so much added to the new version, robotics is sure to get a major boost from this new Kinect.
This Week’s Military News:
Posted 05/15/13 at 06:00 AM
... The Northrop Grumman X-47B unmanned aircraft made its first aircraft carrier launch this week. Two days later they spent the whole day doing touch-and-go take-offs and landings.
... The US Navy’s Naval Research Lab (NRL) flew a UAV for 48 hours, breaking a fuel-cell-for-flight record. The UAV was powered by a liquid hydrogen fuel in a cryogenic fuel storage tank and delivery system.
... In the UK, two pilots didn’t have anything to do as their BAE Systems passenger aircraft flew a unmanned flight from Lancashire to Inverness, Scotland which was controlled by a pilot in Warton using advanced sensors and on-board robotic systems.
... iRobot’s SUGV’s will be getting a new “batwing” fix which adds a collapsable hook that affixes to a telescoping pole to better examine IEDs.
... In Saskatoon, Canada, RC Mounties launched a Draganflyer UAS equipped with FLIR forward-looking infrared, to find and save the life of a disoriented man in a field on a cold night.
Robots make the cover of Time Magazine—again!
Posted 04/26/13 at 10:08 AM
... The cover of the April 22 issue of Time Magazine shows robots chiseling out the words “Made in the USA” and the story is “Manufacturing is back—but where are the jobs?”
... The story makes the case that (1) the “offshoring boom appears to have largely run its course”; (2) labor productivity has been rising sharply in the US over the past decade while remaining flat in China; (3) infrastructure, energy and shipping costs are cheaper in the US; (4) states are providing incentives to companies to build and hire in their states; (5) “It’s win-win when companies can combine low-cost energy with more productive local labor and cost-saving automation technology” [robots].; and (6) although fewer workers will operate these new hi-tech factories, they will be paid higher wages and required STEM skills.
... GE’s $170 million battery factory in upstate NY was used as an example of high-tech methods producing backup power in cell towers all over the world at lower cost and higher quality than any other provider.
... Time’s February cover story “Rise of the Drones: What happens when they’re unleashed at home?” described some of the civilian applications for these UAS. In agriculture, flights to determine where to spray pesticides or fertilizers geo-referenced to enable tractors guided by GPS to precisely spray as they drive over the targeted land; “testing air quality over feed lines, tracking livestock marked with ID chips or taking the temperature of the animal from above to scope out health issues.”
... Instead of just seeing a Lidar spinning around on top of a car, at the block party you could walk around the back and see a sun-shaded monitor showing what the Lidar was seeing. And talk with an eager young salesperson about what you could do with the data.
... One booth stood out as a kid-pleaser. This year’s F.I.R.S.T. contest includes shooting frisbees into a raised box so one high school team was there shooting off frisbees to clutches of happy kids trying to catch them.
... Intuitive Surgical was showing the simplicity of their arm/wrist/fingers but also the amount of complex mechanics that make it work.
... Bosch, although showing their new Indego robotic lawn mower, was really recruiting for all the different types of activities that Bosch Research is involved with.
... No refreshment stands or even bottled water—and it was hot (88)! But it was a beautiful day and the chatter from kids and adults was upbeat and appreciative for the event.
Two New Videos Show Progress With Humanoid Robots
Posted 04/05/13 at 11:24 AM
... Boston Dynamics has clothed their Petman (left) humanoid robot to test hazardous conditions and to be able to detect chemicals leaking through the suit. Check out the video here.
... COMAN (right), modeled on a 4-year-old child, from the Italian Institute of Technology, has a new video showing how its variable stiffness joints (which use series elastic actuators) improve the safety and make the robot compliant with being pushed around yet staying on its feet.
... At a weekend Engadget Expand event at Fort Mason in San Francisco, Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler spoke about Kickstarter’s success: 17 projects raised $1 million+ in 2012, a 43.66% success rate, with much of the money going to film & video projects, games, design and music.
... Also at the Engadget event were a group of Indiegogo projects and some feisty Indiegogo sales people who emphasized that Indiegogo is the largest global crowdfunding platform and campaigners can launch campaigns from every country in the world. Also, that they are more flexible about funding options, unlike Kickstarter which applies an “all or nothing” rule meaning the campaign must reach a minimum pledge level or none are collected.
... Notable robotics-related projects from these two crowdfunders include Oculus Rift, Form 1 hi-res 3D printers, DiveBot and Dragonfly, the GA Tech robotic insect spin-off which raised over $1 million.
... Kickstarter is located in New York City’s lower east side; Indiegogo in the heart of SOMA in San Francisco. The rivalry is palpable and it’s all for the good of the campaigns.
... Read more.
... Last weekend’s Engaget Expand Event at Fort Mason in San Francisco had one panel of particular interest to robotics-interested people. It was misnamed Robopocalypse: Now. In spite of that, the participants’ presentations were great and you are sure to find the watching of all three videos of value.
... Chris Anderson, CEO of DIY Drones, has sold and supports 40,000 aerial drones. He described how we are all able to get military-grade technology at toy prices in this 16 minute video.
... Marc Riabert, President of Boston Dynamics (of Big Dog fame) describes how DARPA and his firm have developed some amazing locomotion breakthroughs in this 12 minute video
... Steven Cousins, CEO of Willow Garage, talks about having spent six years changing the robotics industry, and how they have now shifted gears to making profitable robots in this 14 minute video.
Romo On The Move
Posted 03/16/13 at 08:44 AM
... Romotiv, the maker of the Romo robot, is moving from Las Vegas to San Francisco. CEO Rinaudo wrote the reason behind the move, which will take place over the next three months, was the company’s desire to be closer to the large pool of tech-savvy programmers and engineers in the Silicon Valley.
... More important, Romotive just signed their single largest order for 10,000 Romos.
... With 20 US employees, Romotive manufactures Romos in China.
... Las Vegas’ Downtown Project, spearheaded by Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO, invested $500,000 and provided mentoring and support as Romotiv, which started working out of rental condos, grew from 3 to 20 people.
... A new start-up being spun off from the IRIS labs at the ETH in Zurich, Switzerland offers promise of robotically-controlled catheters to support cardiac procedures.
... Aeon Scientific‘s new technology is also a platform for other medical applications including targeted drug delivery.
... In photo, the magnetics are shown on the left and enable moving the micron-sized rectangular medicine delivery system in the retina of an eye on the right, and steer it to the exact right spot.
... In a new report analyzing the uses and needs for remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROV) by the global oil and gas industry, Visiongain, a British research provider, has projected positive growth for both makers and users. They project rental and manufacturing revenue for ROVs in 2013 to be $2.5 billion.
... Visiongain’s report, ROVs in the Oil Gas Industry 2013-2023, is available for purchase for $2,250.
... The list of companies included in the report is extensive and can be downloaded for free by clicking on the “Companies Listed” tab here.
... 25,500 robots were sold in the US in 2012; $1.66 billion in revenue. This is a 17% year-over-year increase in units and 27% in dollars.
... Robotics Industry Association (RIA) estimates that 225,000 robots are now working in US factories. This represents 10% robot density, i.e., only 10% of companies that could benefit from using robots have done so thus far.
iRobot’s stock takes another downward hit
Posted 02/07/13 at 09:47 AM
... iRobot’s stock (IRBT:NASDAQ) has suffered once again from not meeting analyst expectations. The stock is down 13% on news that expectations for 2013 show continuing downward pressure on their Defense & Security Division although their Home Robots are doing quite well.
... On a good note, expected earnings for 2013, including those from newly acquired Evolution Robotics, are expected to grow 11% over 2012. Colin Angle, CEO, said, “Our business performance over the next few years will be driven by our rapidly growing home technology business. Home Robots [Division] is expected to grow roughly 20 percent this year and comprise 90 percent of total company revenue. In addition, we have an emerging remote presence business and have stabilized our defense business.”