Left Column Featured Links
World’s Most Human-Like Android Wasn’t Unveiled at GF2045
Posted 06/18/13 at 12:35 AM
... At the 2nd Global Future 2045 Congress held in New York City June 15-16, one of the featured draws was the unveiling of a new Hanson Robokind head of the Congress’ host, Dmitry Itskov. It didn’t happen.
... Hanson was late and apologized saying: “My robots are complex works of art, and this is the most complex and ambitious one I’ve made yet. I know there are risks and uncertainties that come along with making such robots; however, it’s heartbreaking to me to miss this deadline, and I am sorry.”
... Dmitry Itskov said: “...just like many other technological advances, failure is sometimes a part of the road to success. We hope that we can show you something very soon.”
iRobot unveils new AVA 500 mobile robot for professionals
Posted 06/10/13 at 11:55 PM
... New iRobot AVA 500, planned for 2014 delivery, navigates autonomously and can be sent from point A to B using an iPad.
... Base of AVA same as that used by InTouch Health and their successful RP-VITA remote presence robot.
... AVA 500 carriers a Cisco 21.5-inch LCD and has a HD webcam atop it packed with Cisco’s TelePresence videoconferencing software.
... Available for lease and purchase but purchase price not announced. Lease prices start at $2,000.
... The Ava 500 can move in any direction and safely self-navigate real-world environments. It can adjust its height to accomodate who it sees (seated or standing). It thinks on the spot and can moderate speed and alter it’s path if it senses humans nearby and return to it’s charging station after the meeting is over. It requires very little training to operate because the primary focus is the communications; not the technology.
... More details in Boston Globe article by Michael Farrell.
Israel is top global exporter of UAS
Posted 06/03/13 at 11:40 AM
... Frost & Sullivan, a research and consulting firm, reported that Israel’s UAS export revenue totaled $4.6 billion from 2005 to 2012. In terms of the number of systems sold, Israel is the world’s largest exporter of unmanned aircraft the study said.
... “UAS exports have accounted for nearly 10 percent of the country’s total defense export industry, and this is expected to increase” the report said. “Defense exports will increase steadily, as Israel continues aggressive marketing campaigns with countries in growing UAS markets, such as Africa, Asia/Pacific, and South America.”
Kinect completely redone. Windfall for robotics.
Posted 05/22/13 at 03:48 AM
... 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.”
Stanford U hosts Robot Block Party as part of National Robotics Week
Posted 04/11/13 at 08:53 AM
... 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.
Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Robotic Start-ups and Engadget Expand
Posted 03/24/13 at 10:55 AM
... 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.
Three videos to watch from Engadget’s Expand Event
Posted 03/20/13 at 10:36 AM
... 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.
Magnetic catheter steering system coming from Swiss start-up
Posted 03/05/13 at 09:09 AM
... 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.
ROV market study shows dramatic growth for 2013-2023
Posted 02/19/13 at 03:28 PM
... 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.
2012 Record Year for US Robot Industry
Posted 02/08/13 at 10:58 PM
... 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.”
2012 Robo-Stox™ Recap
Posted 01/03/13 at 12:53 PM
... 2012 was a good year for many robotics companies and 2013 seems like it will continue the momentum of equal parts finding robotic solutions to workplace needs but also crowd-funded wild ideas and other digressions.
... Industrial robotic providers had a good year.
... Military robot makers saw governmental cutbacks reflected in their stock prices and are widening their sales and transforming their products to sell to municipal governments.
... Surgical and hospital service robot suppliers had a mixed year, the former held up by patents and FDA approvals, the latter (eg, Swisslog) did quite well.
... Most other new-tech robotic companies are privately held, consequently no data except press releases. For example, venture funded Liquid Robotics, during 2012, established a new joint venture with oil conglomerate Schlumberger and a new naval division for governmental and Navy contracts.
... Click chart to enlarge; click headline to see many more charts and details.
... Also see “Filling a need… or feeding a diversion” for additional stocks and info.
InformationWeek’s Top 10 robots that could change healthcare
Posted 12/19/12 at 08:45 AM
... Mobile remote-presence robots by Giraff, Anybots and InTouch Health for critical and remote care consultations and communication.
... Mobile platforms by Aethon, iRobot and Swisslog for various hospital applications from hauling laundry to distributing pills.
... Therapy bots by AnthroTronix and others to help with autistic children, stroke victims and other disabled people that need interactive therapy.
... Feeding bots by Bestic. This is one of two Swedish-supported companies mentioned in the article (Giraff being the other) which strategically solve serious in-country needs with robotic solutions.
... And futuristic microbots that steer through the body by various means to distribute medicines, provide information and remove plaque - from leading universities around the world.
... Curiously omitted are minimally invasive surgical augmentation robots like the new single-port Intuitive Surgical da Vinci robot.
... Pics and details here.
Unmanned Vehicle University Accredited To Grant Doctorate and Masters Degrees
Posted 12/13/12 at 02:50 PM
... Unmanned Vehicle University just received an Arizona state license to grant Graduate Doctorate and Masters Degrees in Unmanned (Air / Ground / Sea / Space) Systems Engineering.
... The Arizona school also offers UAV pilot training, online courses, and Project Management Certificates for undergraduates.
The patent grip loosens
Posted 12/10/12 at 11:43 AM
... VGo Communications wins infringement lawsuit brought on by InTouch Health and also initiated a patent reexamination of four other InTouch patents.
... The court’s decision is a bigger subject than just InTouch vs. VGo. At a recent conference on remote presence telemedicine the most enlightening thing I saw was four hours of tightly-packed presentations by critical care doctors and hospital administrators, all users of InTouch Health’s remote presence robots, all portraying different aspects of why remote presence in health care is relevant, is saving lives and is necessary today and why it will continue to be in the future. Certainly there is room for more companies to assist in this very noble work.
... Patents being used competitively in the robotics healthcare community is a serious issue as this case points out. Read more....
Interactive Map of Global Robot Providers
Posted 11/25/12 at 12:46 PM
... 200+ industrial robot makers (red markers); 600+ service robot providers (blue markers) and 170+ start-up companies (green markers) covering 37 countries around the world.
... Clusters can be seen surrounding the top 20 robotics universities and research labs (shown in yellow).
... Details here.
... Map here.
Recent funding for robotics companies
Posted 11/24/12 at 03:31 PM
... MAKO Surgical gets $43 million from the sale of common stock. MAKO produces a robotic orthopedic surgical platform for implant placement. MAKO’s stock (NASDAQ:MAKO) has had a dramatic downward ride from a high of $45 to it’s present $14 because of missed revenue and earnings projections.
... Revolve Robotics, a San Francisco start-up with a remote telepresence device, shared a $1.85 million round of funding with 4 other start-up companies in the LEMNOS Labs stable of hardware incubator companies.
... Unmanned Innovation, a Newport Beach, CA start-up also in the LEMNOS Labs incubator group, is a producer of auto-pilot components for UAVs and also shares in the $1.85 million funding round.
VGo Gets Funding to Scale Up for Healthcare
Posted 11/23/12 at 03:11 PM
... VGo Communications received $900,000 debt financing to help the company scale up and focus on providing remote presence for the healthcare industry.
... They’ve changed their website to present the various ways that VGo robots can be useful in hospitals, with visiting nurses, as a post-op communication device and for medically home-bound students.
... VGo has taken in close to $11 million in venture funding and debt financing since it was founded in 2007. But now they are centering their marketing on a particular market niche from which they’ve had much success and good press: healthcare.
Lockheed Martin Acquires UAV Maker Chandler/May
Posted 11/14/12 at 06:40 PM
... Lockheed Martin acquires ChandlerMay for an undisclosed amount. The new acquisition will join Lockheed’s Mission Systems & Sensors (MS2) business.
... ChandlerMay, with facilities in Huntsville, AL and San Luis Obispo, CA, has produced over 2,500 UAVs for the military, mostly as a subcontractor to Lockheed. ChandlerMay also produces UAS ground control stations and tactical systems software and support.
... Lockheed’s MS2 focuses on UAS including the unmanned K-MAX helicopter the Marines are testing in Afghanistan, the Desert Hawk UAV (which ChandlerMay produced), and provides systems engineering, software development and management.
Chris Anderson, Wired editor-in-chief, resigns to run 3D Robotics
Posted 11/04/12 at 07:49 PM
... Anderson has held the editor-in-chief position for 11 years during which time, in addition to his work at Wired, he authored three books and founded DIY Drones and co-founded 3D Robotics. He also grew Wired’s circulation and won eight magazine awards. In 2010, Adweek named Wired its magazine of the decade.
... Now he is leaving Wired to pursue an entrepreneurial dream by becoming CEO of 3D Robotics, the manufacturing arm for DIY Drones’ UAV product line and store.
... DIY Drones is a 30,600 strong member group focused on amateur UAVs, contests, sharing and the fun of building and flying.
... UPDATE: 11/5: 3D Robotics gets $5 million in VC funding from True Ventures, O’Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures and Chris Michel. With the funding and a new sales, marketing and community development office in the Bay Area, 3D Robotics will accelerate growth and expand into new markets. 3D Robotics already employs 40 people in their R&D facility in San Diego and factory in Tijuana, Mexico.
Wave Glider transmits real time weather data during Hurricane Sandy
Posted 10/31/12 at 06:11 PM
... One of Liquid Robotics’ Wave Gliders successfully piloted itself through Hurricane Sandy winds and transmitted weather data in real time.
... The Wave Glider was in the region 100 miles off the coast of New Jersey. It’s sensors reported a plunge in barometric pressure to a low of 946 as it battled 70 knot winds.
... It was on a scientific demo run for underwater acoustics company Sonardyne, Rutgers University and the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS).
First Sighting of FoxBots in China
Posted 10/15/12 at 07:08 AM
... Foxconn said they would be deploying 1 million robots in their factories in China. The first photographs of one of those appeared in Chinese news last week.
... 10,000 turquoise FoxBots have been installed in a factory in Jincheng, China.
... News sources estimate that Foxconn is behind schedule to meet their goal of 300,000 by the end of 2012; 30,000 appears to be the real number.
... But the big story is that these robots appear to have been built by Foxconn itself.
Chinese Companies Cited by Congress as IP Threats
Posted 10/08/12 at 02:45 PM
... “I would find another vendor if you care about your intellectual property, if you care about your consumer’s privacy and you care about the national security of the United States of American,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers on CBS 60-Minutes regarding Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese telecommunications conglomerates.
... Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine did a cover story and exposé earlier this year as they have done three years in a row… it’s that important of an issue.
... iRobot CEO Colin Angle said recently: Robotics innovation represents a tremendous opportunity for economic growth akin to automobiles, aerospace and information technology. If we are to freely share our ‘intellectual capital’ on the open market we risk losing the economic engine that will advance our economies and send growth and jobs overseas.
... An in-depth review of the issues and concerns can be found in this Wall Street Journal story.
Robotics And The Mountain Of Things We Throw Away
Posted 09/29/12 at 12:37 PM
... “Cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash - surrounded by piles of wrecked and rusting automobiles, and almost smothered in rubbish. Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountain of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use.” John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley.
... Zen Robotics, a Finnish company which makes recycling systems that use robots, just raised $17 million from Invus/Evergreen and Lifeline Ventures. Additionally, Zen sold a recycling system to the Baetsen Group (The Netherlands) and it will be operational in Q1 of 2013.
... In other trashy news: Grand Rapids, Michigan became the most recent user of a robotic waste bin pickup system. Their system enables the city to price their pickup service based on the quantity of garbage collected. They use trash containers with embedded RFID computer chips and trucks with robotic arms and remote control to pick and empty the bin while validating, computing and recording the charge.
iRobot Acquires Competitor Evolution Robotics for $74 million
Posted 09/20/12 at 12:09 AM
... Mint floor cleaning robots produced by Evolution Robotics differ from iRobot’s methods; plan is for them to be developed and marketed as complementary.
... Evolution’s CEO Paulo Pirjanian will become the new iRobot CTO.
... Financial downside of the acquisition is that iRobot must sell off Evolution’s inventory at breakeven plus they acquired a loss of $7 million and a very low GP margin for the whole product line. So Q4 and the next 2-3 quarters for iRobot are going to take a big hit—as did iRobot’s stock yesterday and today on the news.
... The acquisition includes many US and international patents. iRobot CEO Colin Angle said that the patents and technology acquired from Evolution - particularly involved with visual SLAM technology - will enable iRobot to navigate future floor cleaning robots at lower cost.
… To read a transcript of Colin Angle’s comments and answers to investor questions, click here.
2011 Industrial & Service Robotics Statistics
Posted 09/07/12 at 02:50 PM
... The Intl. Federation of Robotics has released their 2012 books reflecting 2011 results, and projections for 2012-2015.
... Bottom line: 2011 was very successful for industrial robot manufacturers and growth rates will be in double digits for years to come. 2011 sales of industrial robots—166,000 units; $8.5 billion in sales—are up 38% from 2010 and expected to reach 181,000 robots for 2012. Service robot sales, which include every other type of robot, were up 9% from 2010 and reflected 16,408 units of which 32% were in the defense sector.
... Personal and domestic robot sales were up 15% over 2010 and reflected 2.5 million units, $636 million in sales, mostly in toys and robot vacuums.
... The two books cost $540 each but in-depth free summaries can be found here.
... These are the most comprehensive recaps of what robots are tasked to do, how many of them are doing it, and how much revenue has accrued to the industry.
... The charts and slides shown at this link accompanied the presentation of the announcement (at a press conference in Taipei) of the publication of the two books.
Thomas Friedman Breaks Secrecy About Rethink Robotics’ New Robot
Posted 08/26/12 at 09:33 PM
... In a NY Times Weekend Review OpEd piece, three-time Pulitzer winner and prolific author Thomas Friedman saw Rethink Robotics’ new robot. His comments and observations about the new robot and the team that invented it were refreshing and invigorating. They gave example to the prescription Friedman outlined in his most recent book, “That Used To Be Us.”
... “This is the march of progress. It [the new Rethink robot] eliminates bad jobs, empowers good jobs, but always demands more skill and creativity and always enables fewer people to do more things,” wrote Friedman who went on to say: “what this election should be about is how we spawn thousands of Rethinks that create new industries, new jobs and productivity tools. Alas, it isn’t. So I’m just grateful these folks here in Boston didn’t get the word.”
... Read Friedman’s article here.
Two Different Approaches to Spawn Robotics; One Common Thread
Posted 08/21/12 at 05:24 PM
... Two different approaches to spawn robotics innovation but one common thread: build a product using robotics that satisfies a specific need.
... RE2 (squared) started with defense funding to develop a robotic arm with extraordinary torque and load capacity.
... Liquid Robotics started with personal and non-profit funding to capture the sounds of whales as they migrated along the coasts of Hawaii to Alaska.
... The profiles of these two successful companies make an interesting read but share a common theme: they both provided a solution involving robotics to solve a real need.
... Read the article.
Parrot Invests in Two Swiss Spin-offs
Posted 08/14/12 at 09:43 AM
... Parrot, a global leader in wireless devices for mobile phones and car entertainment systems, went out of character a few years ago with the introduction of the augmented reality quad copter AR.Drone, an instant success.
... Now Parrot is investing $2.4 million in Pix4D and $5 million for a majority in sensFly, two spin-off companies from Switzerland’s EPFL.
... Pix4D provides a unique software package that converts thousands of standard pictures into a professional geo-referenced image and a highly accurate 3D model.
... senseFly has a lightweight hi-res camera and flight planning system for drones.
... Both investments enable civilian UAVs - and Parrot’s AR.Drone - to advance into the next-generation mapping, surveying and who knows what else.
Mazor Robotics To Get $15 Million Equity Funding; Medrobotics gets $8
Posted 08/12/12 at 10:49 AM
... Larry Ellison’s Oracle Investment Management invested $7.5 million; the remainder comes from an issuance of ordinary shares.
... Part of the deal is to upgrade Mazor Robotic‘s Israeli ADR to be listed on the American NASDAQ.
... Mazor sales are rising steadily as more hospitals are acquiring their Renaissance™ spine surgery/implant system. Second quarter financial results reflect a four-fold increase from a year ago. “We have made significant progress in placing our Renaissance systems in prestigious hospital networks, particularly within the important U.S. market,” says company CEO.
... Medrobotics, a robotic surgical products company making cardioARM, a robotic probe controlled remotely and designed to enable surgeries with minimal or no incisions, filed an $8M round of equity, warrants and other options as part of a $20 million Series D offering. A total of 18 investors participated.
The Beginning of Something Important: InTouch Health and iRobot’s RP-VITA
Posted 07/31/12 at 06:55 PM
... InTouch Health’s new RP-VITA remote presence robot is the first product from the partnership between InTouch and iRobot. It can navigate autonomously or be driven by laptop or iPad.
... Product announced at a workshop where hour-upon-hour of presentations by critical care doctors and hospital administrators, all users of InTouch Health’s existing remote presence robots, and all portraying different aspects of why remote presence in health care is relevant, is saving lives and is necessary.
... Sleek new device has 3 PrimeSense 3D sensors, a laser scanner, and Swedish wheels on the iRobot platform and swiveling wide angle and zoom cameras and screens and sophisticated and secure two-way communications to enable a doctor to be in two places at once.
... Colin Angle, iRobot’s CEO, said, “It is definitely the beginning of something important.”
Smart Headlights See Through Rain
Posted 07/19/12 at 07:16 PM
... CMU released papers and videos showing their new smart headlight system which improves visibility by constantly redirecting light to shine between particles of rain. This involves a camera to track the motion of rain and snow and then applying algorithms to predict where those particles will be and then shooting the light so as not to be there… and repeating this process so that it appears seamless to the driver!
... Now the CMU team is working on a more compact version to be installed in a car for road-testing.
Fascinating Projections - $100 Billion Robotics Industry by 2020
Posted 07/12/12 at 05:03 PM
… Markets and Markets: Service robotics revenue forecast for 2017: $46 billion at 17.4% annual growth.
… Intl. Federation of Robotics: service robotics forecast much lower figures but similar growth rate.
… Daiwa Capital Markets analyst projects industrial robotics revenue for 2020 to be $41 billion.
… Spurring the growth: Apple and Foxconn investing $7 billion for industrial robots and the emerging entry into the global SME marketplace with co-robots of all types and prices.
... Service and Industrial combined total $100 billion by 2020!
Apple to invest $7 billion in robots
Posted 06/18/12 at 12:34 PM
... According to a story in Seeking Alphaª, Apple plans to purchase billions of dollars of industrial robots from Fanuc for placement within Foxconn’s factories in China. Neither Apple nor Foxconn have confirmed the piece.
... It takes 141 steps to make an iPhone and passes through 325 pairs of hands over 5 days. Although labor only represents about 3% of the cost of building these products, wages of Chinese factory workers have been rising at about 15% a year. Problems managing this workforce have also tarnished Apple’s image. Thus Apple’s move represents an important step.
... The Apple robots deployed by Foxconn and other Apple sub-contractors, will be designated for use in only making iProducts. That’s a strategic move on Apple’s part to tie up a huge chunk of global robot and electronics production and stay ahead of the competition.
... Seeking Alphaª says that Apple will increase it’s capital outlays to $7.1 billion and believes that a significant portion of that sum will be for robot and automated, computerized machine tool purchases.
New Venture Fund Specifically for Service Robotic Startups
Posted 06/16/12 at 12:08 AM
... “We are at the start of a transformative period for robotics that requires a new breed of risk-taker to drive mass-market adoption,” says Dmitry Grishin, founder of Grishin Robotics.
... With a particular focus on already-working products with mass-market appeal, Grishin aims to facilitate the development of the robotics industry by injecting much-needed capital and providing business counsel for up-and-coming startups. He has seeded the fund with $25 million of his own money.
... Grishin is co-founder and CEO of Mail.Ru Group (61HE on the London stock exchange), the largest Internet and social networking company in the Russian-speaking world.
Four approaches by industrial robot makers to transition to service robotics
Posted 06/07/12 at 10:49 AM
... KUKA launched a new lightweight and sensitive arm that can be affixed to a tabletop. YASKAWA MOTOMAN has an ambitious and well-thought-out plan to provide human assist robots. ADEPT is acquiring mobility and food-processing tech to add capabilities. BOSCH is buying, partnering and investing in new tech while making their own robots as backup.
... Disruptive startups such as Heartland Robotics and Foxconn could radically change the whole dynamic.
... Read more.
Hansen Medical Receives FDA Clearance for it’s Magellan Robotic System
Posted 06/06/12 at 07:59 AM
... Today, most catheter and catheter-based technologies for vascular disease use blood vessels as highways to guide their movement to specific parts of the body, manually-controlled, with handheld instruments.
... The Magellan Robotic System offers simultaneous and independent distal tip control of a catheter and a sheath as well as robotic manipulation of standard guide wires, all with incredible stability. This leads to faster, easier, and safer vessel navigation, which may result in less vessel trauma, reduced patient healing time, faster, more predictable procedures, and an improved case rate.
... Hansen Medical plans to offer the Magellan Systems to the same hospitals using their Sensei systems because these institutions already are aware of the benefits of an active intuitive surgical robotics program.
What’s happening to the big industrial robot stocks?
Posted 06/01/12 at 06:57 PM
... Compared to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which is back to where it started the year, the big four robot manufacturers are down 20% year to date. Yet 2011 robot sales were great (see story below). And prospects for 2012 sales were expected to be just as good. Particularly in Asia. So why are these stocks 20% down?
... Rising wages and demands for faster, safer production are driving Chinese manufacturers to buy more robots. China bought 15,000 robots last year and expects that figure to expand 30-40% annually.
... KUKA, the largest European industrial robot maker, is building a regional hub in China.
... FANUC tripled production capacity to handle new sales into China. It’s stock is the only one of the four that is positive for the year.
... YASKAWA ELECTRIC is building plants in Japan and China to meet the rising demand.
... ABB, the second-largest European robot maker, said that it sells one out of three robots to customers in Asia, and just shipped it’s 200,000th robot to a solar manufacturer in China.
... Nevertheless, stocks of the Big 4 are significantly trailing the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
2012 IERA Invention and Entrepreneurship Awarded to RoboCoaster and Universal Robots
Posted 05/31/12 at 10:25 AM
... “The important advancement in safe robots for the entertainment industry by RoboCoaster and the development of a new generation of simple robots for SME’s by Universal Robots not only represent positive steps forward for the robotics industry but also reflect businesses that have successfully translated technology into commercial success.”
... Runners-up included HiBot‘s Expliner robot for inspection of high-voltage transmission lines, Evolution Robotics’ Mint™ mopper and sweeper robot and Reflexxes library of instantaneous trajectory generation algorithms.
... Awards given at AUTOMATICA 2012, a trade fair for automation and mechatronics held in Munich.
... Click photo to enlarge.
Global robot sales up 37% for 2011
Posted 05/30/12 at 03:26 PM
... China, the US and Germany all reached new peak levels between 39% and 51%.
... Auto industry, metals and machinery industries were the main drivers.
... “In 2011, about 165,000 industrial robots were sold worldwide, by far the highest level ever recorded, 37% more than 2010. The increase of demand in 2010 and 2011 following the worldwide economic crisis exceeded all our expectations. We expect 2012 robot sales will further increase and again reach a new peak level.” [Source: Intl. Fed. of Robotics]
Navy Buys Eight $33 Million Fire Scout Unmanned Copters
Posted 05/15/12 at 10:50 AM
... Navy awards Northrop Grumman with $262 million contract for 8 Fire Scouts with plans to add an additional 20 at a later date.
... The Fire Scout has the ability to autonomously take off and land on any aviation-capable warship, can fly at 125+ knots at up to 20,000 feet, for up to 8 hours.
... The newly upgraded UAV can provide battle damage assessment, be a communications relay device, is interoperable between land and sea-based actions, and can be armed.
List of Publicly-traded Robotics Stocks
Posted 05/01/12 at 05:00 PM
... Robotics is becoming a big deal and people want to invest in the industry. But choosing robotics stocks is complicated. Many of the companies are international, some are small subsidiaries within much larger companies, many are start-ups or otherwise privately held, and others are outright wastes of time.
... Here is a list of publicly-traded stocks to whet your appetite - with explanations as to why they are appropriate.
Health Robotics has banner 1st quarter
Posted 04/03/12 at 04:15 PM
... Health Robotics, an Italian supplier of life-critical intravenous medication automation, produces robotic devices which make sterile, accurate, tamper-evident and ready-to-administer IVs for hospital use worldwide.
... The 31 contracted devices sold in the quarter just ended brings to 150 the total number of units under contract.
“Robots Ate My Job” airs all week on PBS
Posted 03/26/12 at 04:28 PM
... American Public Media’s ‘Marketplace’ has produced a 5-part audio series entitled ‘Robots Ate My Job.’
... The issue of jobs being displaced by automation is very topical. Many reputable sources are providing research or opinion: NY Times, Harvard Business Review, Metra Martech, and the International Federation of Robotics to name a few.
... The recent acquisition of Kiva Systems by Amazon raises the fear that Kiva robots will displace thousands of Amazon warehouse workers.
... In China, Foxconn plans to deploy 1 million robots in the next 3 years - a feat that will displace 500,000 workers. They claim they will try to move the displaced workers up the salary scale.
... Is it true that jobs will be lost or just rearranged when robots are installed? Is it also true that more robots mean fewer jobs lost to offshore sources? Read more....
Another big robot acquisition: Amazon buys Kiva Systems
Posted 03/19/12 at 02:42 PM
... Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) will acquire privately-held Kiva Systems for approximately $775 million!
... Kiva’s novel warehousing system uses robots to bring the shelves to the picker and packer instead of vice versa.
... The acquisition is expected to close next quarter.
Softbank Acquires Aldebaran… Maybe
Posted 03/15/12 at 12:01 AM
UPDATE 3-25-2012: Translated from an Aldebaran post on their user forum: “Hello everyone. Information originally issued by the Financial Times is false. The reporter called us several times. We have denied, said that its source is not reliable. But the article came out anyway. We are surprised that the FT can leave this type of erroneous article to be published.”
... According to the Financial Times, Softbank paid about $100m for an 80%+ stake in Aldebaran.
... Softbank will also invest an additional $40m to $50m to accelerate development.
... Softbank, a conglomerate engaged in telecommunications and Internet businesses, bought out existing shareholders Intel Capital, CDC Innovation, iSource and Crédit Agricole Private Equity.
... Aldebaran, famous for its Nao line of robots, is also developing Romeo, a bigger robot which will be able to perform more socially assistive tasks such as helping people open doors, fetch items and twist open jars. Romeo is partially funded by the French government to enable eldercare and also therapeutic assistance for autistism and other disabilities.
$160 million for VC-Funded Robotic Projects in 2011
Posted 03/05/12 at 11:21 AM
... One roboticist’s opinion why VC funding for robotics is a tough nut to crack: projects have large capital requirements, few potential acquirers and little “Google-scale” IPO prospects.
... $160 million is a far cry from the $6.9 billion that went into 997 VC funded deals in web and Internet startup companies in 2011.
... Most money went to a company that uses a robot to provide image-guided technology for hair follicle harvesting.
... Read about all 14 companies here.
... This list doesn’t mention the many acquisitions, strategic partnerships and mergers that occurred. The most recent two are the $18 million acquisition of French Cybernetix by Technip, an oil resources and ROV service provider to the industry, and the $100 million acquisition of Aldebaran Robotics by Softbanks (see preceding article).
From concept to commercialization: one woman’s journey into robotics
Posted 02/20/12 at 01:49 PM
... After observing that children attentively played with her interactive animatronic robot, she decided that it had commercial value and began her journey.
... Interbots, a small 5-person Boston start-up, is her vehicle. It has received funding through competitions, awards, regional grants and angel investors.
... Interbots’ robots come bundled with software, an interactive website, and lesson plans for therapists and teachers.
... Read the complete story of Seema’s journey thus far, as written by Babs Carryer.
Robotics and smart technologies merge for material handling
Posted 02/15/12 at 10:19 AM
... There were more buyers than in previous years and they appeared to be holistic in their approach to material handling in the factory and picking and packing in the warehouse. Their reasoning and underlying economic drivers detailed in this report.
... Brad Berger, editor-in-chief of SupplyChainBrain magazine, said that investing in automation for material handling is back after a few years of being put off because of the economy. Buyers are creating smart warehouses where RF, voice, barcodes, tablets and software all work together seamlessly as tools in the bigger picture of moving, handling, picking and packing our materials and products.
... 18-20,000 attendees of which 2,000+/- were international, 560 exhibitors, 170,000 sq ft of exhibition space. Very impressive; very busy (and very tiring).
The Future of Chinese-manufactured Apple Products
Posted 01/30/12 at 04:03 PM
... Two NY Times articles expose details about the treatment of 400,000+ Chinese workers involved in the production of Apple products: (1) In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad and (2) How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work.
... Editorial: Two solutions to the question of what can and should Apple and other companies do when their sub-contractors are not abiding to acceptable Western standards?
... This is not just an Apple problem. Amazon, HP and most of the phone makers all use Foxconn and other Chinese manufacturers, e.g.: Nokia just announced plans to stop assembling phones in Europe and shift production to China.
Consumer Robots at CES 2012
Posted 01/16/12 at 04:24 PM
... 25+ robotic vendors; a few hits; some duds; and, except for Nathan’s hotdogs, bad food.
... CES is always a wonderful experience. This year the unadvertised theme was digital to smart to every type of consumer product.
... Lots of pictures and links. Read the review.
Disappointing 4-years for robotic stock investors
Posted 01/07/12 at 09:22 PM
... Year-end ROBO-STOX™ results show that robotic industrials are down 28% from their 2007 highs and did poorer than the Dow Jones Industrial Average which is also still down 8.5%. Service robotic stocks are down 15% from 2007 while the NASDAQ is down 2.5%.
... Industrial robot companies represent 62% of the $9.3 billion industry revenue; service is 38% of which 75% was for military/defense.
... Industrials took a big fall from their 2007 highs and have not yet recovered. A small rise in the latter part of 2010 was blown away with the Japanese disasters, Thailand floods and EU economic turmoil.
... Service companies (mostly start-ups or privately held; few are publicly-traded) fall into three main sectors: medical, defense/security and a mixture of academic and consumer niche products. Medical robotic stocks are booming; defense/security stocks are holding steady; and the remainder are all over the place.
ABC Nightline Interviews Lifelike Hanson Robot
Posted 01/02/12 at 04:09 AM
... “It feels weird to be a robot sometimes,” the robot said in the interview. “You know, like I shouldn’t exist outside of a science fiction story. It makes me wonder if this is actually real like if it isn’t a dream or a story being written by a science fiction writer.” Throughout the interview and ABC Nightline story, David Hanson’s advanced cognitive artificial intelligent robot projects are visualized and discussed as is David’s passion to have a robot as a friend.
... Similar to the NY Times’ 2010 interview of Bina48, another Hanson robot of a real person, the robot interviewed by ABC Nightline is improved, surprisingly human, not just in mechanics, but also in appearance. It’s a wonderfully illustrative way to end 2011 in robotics with the promise of more wonders from Hanson and others in the years to come.
Two newsworthy examples of healthcare robots
Posted 12/18/11 at 09:08 PM
... Children’s Hospital Boston sends Vgo telepresence robots home with post-op patients in a pilot program that includes the robots into its regular post-op care program. Doctors and nurses now have a direct line of communication and observation between themselves, the patients and their family as they recover at home. Vgo telepresence visits take 10-15 minutes with no commute time and, most importantly, appointments can occur every three days instead of waiting six weeks for a post surgical visit.
... In Auckland, NZ, the University of Auckland and four Korean and Japanese robot vendors, have placed 31 robots into a retirement village to help older people be more independent, and more socially interactive. The robots will serve as friend, guide, provide comfort, tutor residents in brain stimulating activities, and provide waiter services.The robots will also do simple tasks giving staff more time to spend with the residents.
Google Gets Patent for Driverless Car
Posted 12/17/11 at 07:54 PM
... Google was granted a US Patent “for transitioning a mixed-mode autonomous vehicle from a human driven mode to an autonomously driven mode.”
... Now comes the endless red tape over safety, negotiations with vehicle manufacturers, etc., that will tie things up for years.
... Patent experts say that Google’s patent will not prevent others developing rival self-drive vehicles.
... But imagine how your commute will change as you sip your coffee, handle emails, and check the latest headlines without jeopardizing anyone’s safety.
Will there be a universal robotic control system?
Posted 12/05/11 at 11:58 PM
... From a highly fragmented industry with few common standards or platforms, there will soon be a universal interface so that 3rd parties can add platforms and modules to robotic systems.
... There won’t be a commercial version of Willow Garage’s ROS nor any other universal robotic operating system, but within academia and the emerging service robotics sector, there will be greater dependence and use of ROS.
... More industrial robot manufacturers will announce plans to migrate to and provide service robots.
... Read more about these projections and trends.
Y-T-D Global Robo-Stox™ Chart - a very ugly picture!
Posted 12/05/11 at 10:21 PM
... All the gains from the early months of 2011 have been lost for the whole global robotics industry.
... Only American defense contractors and service robotic companies are holding their own.
Toyota displays four new healthcare robots available in 2013
Posted 11/15/11 at 09:00 PM
... Toyota displays four new nursing and healthcare robots which are scheduled to be commercialized and available for sale in 2013.
... Two robots assist with walking, another with balance and the fourth is for patient transfer from bed to toilet and back.
... Photos and details here.
More disasters plaguing Japanese auto industry
Posted 11/01/11 at 09:06 PM
... Thailand flooding inundates Honda auto manufacturing plant and many auto parts providers; robots and computers under water.
Flooding continues and the factory remains submerged.
... Toyota shuttered for at least 60 days and prepared for flooding; no damage yet.
... Thailand’s worst flooding in decades has exposed the complexity of the global supply chain and a lack of components has forced Japan’s automakers to halt or slow production in Asia and beyond.
Help for independent scientists and early-stage companies developing radical ideas
Posted 10/26/11 at 01:08 PM
... Peter Thiel, of Google’s driverless car fame, launched Breakout Labs, a new program to help independent scientists and early-stage companies develop their most radical ideas.
... Funding agreements range from $50,000 to $350,000 depending on the nature of the project. Breakout Labs uses a revolving funding model where successful projects help fund the next generation of audacious scientific exploration.
James Cameron wins Popular Mechanics’ 2011 Leadership Award
Posted 10/03/11 at 05:15 PM
... Cameron wins Breakthrough Leadership Award not only for technologies he has pioneered for his movies, but for his other explorations in providing 3D cameras for NASA’s next Mars rover, for underwater exploration, shipwreck hunting, and for ROVs engineered and used for his movies. Says Cameron, “I believe in exploration.”
... AeroVironment and DARPA’s Robotic hummingbird also wins Breakthrough award for it’s wing design and wing-stroke velocity.
... Winning one of 10 most innovative tech product awards was Microsoft’s Kinect and their software developer kit (SDK). The Kinect device was seen in many booths at last weeks IROS conference in San Francisco.
IFR Says Robots Did Well In 2010
Posted 09/07/11 at 07:19 PM
... Industrial robot sales almost doubled compared to 2009 - to $5.7 billion - with the auto and electronics industries as the main drivers.The IFR expects China to become the world’s largest market for robots by 2014. For the first time, global sales to the electronics sector surpassed those to the auto industry.
... An additional $3.6 billion service robots were sold. $3.1 bn to corporations and governments (75% of which was for security and defense). $0.5 bn for personal and domestic use (a 35% increase).
Defense Robots for Land, Air and Sea
Posted 08/20/11 at 06:17 PM
... The just-ended AUVSI convention showcased military/defense technology - including a Chinese-made drone.
... Good pics from the Wall Street Journal.
US Army Testing 4 Rugged UGVs in Afghanistan
Posted 08/17/11 at 11:07 AM
... Lockheed Martin’s rugged UGV has a range of 125 miles (201 km), carries up to half a ton of cargo, and has three control options: supervised autonomy, tele-operation or manual operation.
Shopping tablet guides you thru store, discounts and alternatives
Posted 08/15/11 at 07:27 AM
... Korea’s largest telecom provider SK Telecom is funding a tablet-enabled grocery shopping cart trial. It matches a smartphone purchase list app to a tablet affixed to the cart and, while you move around the store, tells you where your items are, data about the product, discounts and alternatives.
Timely Robotics-Related Research Reports Hit The Market
Posted 08/15/11 at 07:21 AM
... Expensive but comprehensive research reports covering most aspects of the robotics industry: components, healthcare and medical, defense, security, surveillance, industrial, personal and exoskeletons, prostheses and optical sensory devices.
... ABI Research offers cluster package of reports covering all aspects of the industry.
... Research and Markets just released their Global UAV Market Analysis for 2011-2021.
... Market Research is offering “Robotics: Technologies and Global Markets,” which estimates a $22 billion industry for 2011 and $30 billion by 2016. With Foxconn’s planned installation of 1 million robots over the next three years, those numbers should be on the low side.
... PLUG: Most of the information and companies mentioned in these reports can be seen here or in the archives of The Robot Report for free.
Recent breakthroughs enabling consumer and commercial robotics
Posted 07/24/11 at 09:17 AM
... The Kinect phenomena highlights the market for low-cost sensors and also the ingenuity of the world of roboticists and hackers taking advantage of these breakthroughs.
... iRobot’s AVA - an inexpensive mobile platform connected to a two-way vision tablet - is going to help and is partnering into healthcare and other fields with it’s AVA robot. Other vendors (Vgo, Luna, BiliBot, etc.) also making inroads with low-cost telepresence robots.
... The use of series elastic actuators changes the whole approach to manufacturing robots. Besides being cheaper, robots are able to safely interact with people thereby ridding the necessity for a “cage.”
... Open sourcing and app store concepts (e.g.: RoboEarth) are taking hold in the robotics world as Apple has pioneered and others are following in the computer and communications world.
American Robots in Japan Highlight Nuclear Safety Myth
Posted 07/04/11 at 03:42 PM
... Japan’s nuclear power authority didn’t have any emergency robots ready to assist with damage and control. Why were they caught unprepared?
... The ‘safety myth’: From the NY Times: “It’s a fact that there was an unreasonable overconfidence in the technology of Japan’s nuclear power generation.”
... The seniority system: Both iRobot and QinetiQ, companies that volunteered equipment to Tepco, found that senior Tepco employees were chosen to be trained to operate the robots yet they were less suited to the task than the 20-year olds who had gamer experience.
Carls Jr ad say: If machines can’t eat it, machines shouldn’t make it. But robots do process food.
Posted 06/29/11 at 06:18 AM
... The robot in Carl’s Jr’s new ad is a symbol for the evil, alien machines that bread other chicken patties before they’re frozen.
... Stephen Colbert does a schtick about Robo-Slackers”—skip forward to 3:26 to see the bit.
... Humor aside, robots ARE involved in food processing and packaging. It’s a rising area of robotics. Food quality, safety, labor costs and productivity are the drivers. ABB, FANUC, Adept and a fleet of integrators are the providers enabling large food and beverage processors to better handle baked goods, meat and poultry products and candy.
... Already in use in the EU and Japan, and seeking approval in the US, Japanese-made robot deboning machines are working in refrigerated rooms on chicken legs and ham thighs.
U.S. research dollars keep flowing
Posted 06/16/11 at 12:09 PM
... U.S. DoD to spend $41.7 billion on unmanned aerial vehicles and systems in 2012-2014 (that’s $13.9 billion per year!) says research firm focused on the aerospace/defense sector.
... Defense spending towers over venture capital investments, eg:
- Aldebaran Robotics (of Nao fame) raised $13 million from Intel Capital, CDC Innovation, iSource and Crédit Agricole Private Equity
- Liquid Robotics (wave gliders) got $22 million from VantagePoint Capital and Schlumberger
- Estonian Fits.me (robotic mannequin) received $1.75 million from the Estonian Development Fund
Got $3,000 and a lot of trust?
Posted 06/06/11 at 10:54 AM
... RoboDynamics launches Luna - an as-yet not-described telepresence and personal robot. The first 1,000-unit production run, due in Q4, will sell for $3,000 apiece.
... Wonderful design and pictures but an awful video.
... At recent Google Developer Conference, iRobot’s AVA was displayed using ROSJava on an Android tablet and compared to Luna, BiliBot and others. Interesting review on Singularity Hub.
... An eerie telepresence concept from Sony is a helium blimp with the telepresence image projected on the 3’ face of the blimp - it gets around the stairs problem but at what cost?
Sex With Robots? An Industry Review.
Posted 05/15/11 at 10:51 AM
... Ashley Madison, an online dating site for married people seeking affairs, reported a massive surge in female memberships the day after Mother’s Day.
... Women represent 65% of adult sex toy purchasers, particularly “smart” toys and vibrators while men provide a huge market for porn videos, games and paid websites.
... So… the market is there. But robotics are slow to take off. Future of Sex provides a review of the state of the sex robot market.
Money is out there—particularly for low-cost platforms:
Posted 04/24/11 at 10:27 AM
... Philips Healthcare invests in Corindus’ vascular robotics start-up.
... New telepresence and hacked Kinect/Roomba platforms rolling out:
Kickstarter enables MIT’s Garratt Galagher to get starter funding for his Bilibot.
WillowGarage starts selling $500-$1,000 Turtlebot which, like the Bilibot, includes heavy-duty ROS.
iRobot’s AVA adds an iPad to the arsenal. Interview with iRobot’s CEO talking about low-cost benefits and meeting consumer expectations (unlike recent baseball throwing bot which failed miserably throwing out first pitch at a Phillie’s ballgame).
... VCs are offering big development money for robotic apps and consumer products for the Android and iOS platforms.
... Finally, RobotShop is offering to partner and commercialize robotic inventions.
Dissecting the Controversy About the Robotics Industry
Posted 04/02/11 at 10:06 PM
... From Automate 2011 in Chicago: Industrial robotic companies mostly recovered from 2009 lows. Japan is the exception and China accounts for 127% of the growth. Much of the recovery was due to the renewal of facilities for newer hybrid cars in the auto industry.
... From InnoRobo 2011 in Lyon, France: The service sector didn’t go down as much as the industrial companies did—it grew steadily during the recession. But 2/3 of the growth was in defense, security and space.
... Bruno Bonnell, Pres. of the French Union of Service Robotics (Syrobo) said that the service robotic market will multiply to 30 times the current rate this decade and be a $100 billion/year industry by 2020.
... Much more, including economic drivers propelling this growth, here.
New details about Robonaut2
Posted 03/30/11 at 01:07 PM
... In a presentation at Automate 2011 in Chicago, the NASA and GM Team Leaders provided new details about Robonaut2 (R2).
... General Motors will soon work with a robotics manufacturer to enhance R2 with faster chips, cameras and sensors to take advantage of the flexibility of the hands and lower arm springs.
... The GM representative said that the new two-armed robots on the market lack end-of-arm flexibility and sensors and arm tensioning thereby making them not flexible or safe enough to work side by side with GM factory workers.
Stats and predictions about service robotics
Posted 03/12/11 at 08:11 PM
... Bloomberg Businessweek’s “Service Robots: Rise of the Machines (Again),” said that the U.S. was ahead in the the race to provide non-manufacturing robots because “the service market is expected to double in size by 2013, and of the 200 or so top companies, nearly 70 are in the U.S., twice as many as are in Germany or Japan.”
... The article also reported that the U.S. had “blown” nearly all of the industrial robot business.
... The International Federation of Robotics, in their $415 2010 WorldRobotics Service Robots Report, detailed all these companies and their robotic offerings.
... iRobot’s CTO Tom Wagner, in smartplanet, talked about robots in defense, homes, healthcare and hospitals, and suggested that, unlike manufacturing, service robots will be mostly autonomous. “On the home side, it’s providing solutions that give you back time; on the defense side, it’s solving problems that put lives in danger.” These we’ll see this decade, well before we see human-robot communication and human-like robots.
Allosphere and STEM
Posted 03/01/11 at 09:57 AM
... Open house at UC Santa Barbara’s Allosphere Research Facility was like an adult 3D experience. An amazing (trippy) way of visualizing and exploring multi-dimensional input on a massive IMAX-like hemispheric screen in an attempt to gather additional insight from overwhelmingly complex data.
... Grad students (mostly foreign) displayed various augmented reality apps, vision systems and simulation methodologies.
... Good turnout of students, educators and interested business people.
... Illustrates EAST/WEST opposing trends in STEM education: start young, work hard and long, follow an academic/STEM plan and compete, versus Montessori (self-centered) start, reduced school hours and guidance, quickest route to high-paying jobs, and partying (which is the way American students are perceived all over Asia).
... “NextGen Education and Research Robotics” by Robotics Trends, Wednesday, March 10, free, attempts to cover the topic in an all day webinar.
Agricultural automation progressing… slowly
Posted 02/09/11 at 11:33 PM
... World Ag Expo, held February 8-10 in Tulare, California, was massive in size but low key for new technologies. Cost is the driver and also the criteria. Seed, sprays and labor costs are increasing thereby requiring productivity automation to lower costs and remain competitive. More....
... Show covered 60 acres, had 100,000 visitors and 1,600 exhibitors.
Pres. Obama Excludes Robotics in State of the Union Speech
Posted 01/30/11 at 03:13 PM
... Pres. Obama didn’t use the word “robotics” or make reference to the robotics industry in his State of the Union speech. Many think the omission dealt a death blow to an American owned and led robotics industry.
... New book’s title suggests the importance: “The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream” - and it’s #7 on the NY Times Bestseller List.
Japan to invest $3 billion to deep-sea mine for gold, silver and rare metals
Posted 01/13/11 at 10:28 PM
... Japanese government to develop a mining system, using the world’s first deep-sea mining robot to do the excavation, to mine gold, silver and rare metals in Japanese territorial waters, which will then be transported to a support ship on the surface via a pipe.
Workerbots Begin Production in Europe
Posted 12/15/10 at 03:15 AM
... The workerbot is a flexible inspection and assembly robot system from pi4_robotics, a German optical inspection and image processing industrial robot manufacturer.
... Funded by the EU and developed jointly with the Fraunhofer Institute of Production Systems, workerbot, a direct competitor to America’s as-yet unreleased Heartland Robotics worker robots, sports two arms, three cameras (a 3D and two others for detailed inspection tasks), intuitive setup of new tasks (no programmer necessary), plug and play, low investment cost via leasing plan, and can safely work side by side with sitting or standing humans.
... Read “Manufacturing with Robots: prospects and Problems Ahead”.
Festo’s Robotic Elephant Arm Wins German Future Prize
Posted 12/03/10 at 12:37 PM
... It is described as a bionic handing assistant which allows humans and machines to work together safely and efficiently as a team. Possible areas of use include industry, agriculture, care facilities and even at home.
... The 250,000 Euro prize is shared with the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA).
2010 Robotic Gifts for the Whole Family
Posted 10/30/10 at 02:44 PM
... For all ages: Parrot’s AR.Drone iPhone-controlled quadcopter.
... For Mom: a robotic vacuum from Neato or iRobot.
... For Dad: the adaptive cruise control option for his new car.
... For Grandparents and their grandkids: Pleo, the baby dinosaur.
... For little kids: Zhu Zhu pets.
... For pre-teen boys: RoboRaptor.
... For pre-teen girls: Bossa Nova’s Penbo robot and her baby Bebe.
... For robotically-interested 10 yo and older: LEGO Mindstorm robot kit.
Autism, Robotics and Apple’s iPad
Posted 10/28/10 at 08:43 AM
... An unintended consequence of the versatility, ease of use, size and colorfulness of Apple’s new iPad is its emerging use of with autistic children to help them communicate. One software app in particular is providing very innovative assistance: Proloque2go.
... The San Francisco SFWeekly did an very informative story on the subject.
... Kaspar, a portable, small robot developed in the UK to help low-end-of-spectrum autistic children become socialized, complements the mix of tools, software and therapies to help our disabled children.
DARPA to Develop Multi-purpose Hand
Posted 10/21/10 at 10:45 AM
UPDATE: Read IEEE interview with DARPA’s Dr. Robert Mandelbaum where, when asked whether there would be a trickle down effect into civilian applications, he said: “It won’t just trickle down—it will be a flood! The commercial applications will be all over the place.”
... DARPA has chosen lead vendors for a research project to develop a multiple-purpose hand, actually two hands working together. Project completion is mid-2014. Imagine a robot opening the zipper of a duffle and riffling through to find a specific object. Or picking up oddly shaped objects with both arms for search and rescue.
- Barrett Technology will develop and provide the hardware portion of the project.
- RE Squared will provide integration services for the Barrett hardware with additional sensors and a mobile platform.
Images from Taipei Int’l Robot Show
Posted 10/20/10 at 05:06 PM
... Images courtesy of our friends at PlasticPals.
... The International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) was held at the same time.
Stephen Colbert’s Droid Rage
Posted 10/01/10 at 09:05 PM
... On a recent Colbert Report, he shows a snake robot, Wall.e, an archer and the new skin from UC Berkeley: “Scientists teach robots how to lie, kill and feel shame about their naked bodies.”
... During a brief visual review of various other robots, he called a dancing ASIMO: “Awkward white-man dancing.”
... Very funny.
Five government agencies combine to fund a long list of robotic research
Posted 09/18/10 at 09:50 PM
... The Whitehouse Office of Science and Technology believes that “robotics is at a tipping point in terms of its usefulness and versatility” and is backing their belief with a fund to spur small business research.
... Companies can apply for up to $100,000 to aid research on a long list of areas of interest which include:
(1) Home care, personalized care for special-needs populations, and robotic wellness/health promotion
(2) Robot-assisted recovery, rehabilitation and behavioral therapy
(3) Surgical and interventional robots
(4) High-throughput robotics technologies
(5) Dexterous manipulators with tactile feedback
... Click to see the detailed funding announcement.
Just Released: 2010 Industrial and Service Robotics Market Analyses
Posted 09/14/10 at 09:52 AM
... Selected quotes from the International Federation of Robotics’ just-released 2010 statistical reports on the robotics industry:
... Industrial Robots: There are many reasons for a bright future in robotics: Huge consumer markets are opening up in China, India, Brazil and Russia. The competitive nature of the automotive companies results in new investments in production facilities in these markets. Other industries are following as well. The degree of automation in North America is comparatively low with a need to catch up through investments in robotics. After the substantial rise of robot sales in 2010, a further increase will resume in the period between 2011 and 2013 by about 9% per year on average in the Americas, about 12% in Asia/Australia and by 8% in Europe.
... Service Robots for Professional Use: Projections for 2010-2013 indicate that the number of professional service robots will double. Application areas with strong growth are defense (30+%), rescue and security applications, field robots, logistic systems, inspection robots, medical robots and mobile robot platforms for multiple use.
... Service Robots for Personal Use: Projected sales of all types of domestic robots (vacuum cleaning, lawn-mowing, window cleaning and other types) in the period 2010-2013 could reach some 6.7 million units. The market for entertainment and leisure robots, which includes toy robots, is forecast at about 4.6 million units. The two markets combined will yield more than $5 billion.
Two new books on the entrepreneurial side of robotics
Posted 09/05/10 at 12:38 AM
... There’s a chapter in Trade-Off by Kevin Maney where he describes how iRobot’s Roombas came to be and why they became such a success. It offers the thesis that there is a “trade-off between the fidelity of an experience and its convenience—and it’s more like the invention of a feature that gives an edge to an age-old product.”
... Change, circumstance and ego all worked to build and then unwind America’s first robot manufacturer is described in a soon to be published book: Pity the Pioneer: The Rise and Fall of Unimation. An excerpt is in Sept/Oct issue of Robot Magazine.
... Is America now sitting out the race for the future of robotics? Read BusinessWeek’s remarks about the clean energy sector and see the similarities.
Slow going for tele-robotic companies
Posted 09/04/10 at 09:43 PM
... In spite of many positive stories - the two most recent from IEEE Spectrum and John Markoff of the NY Times - security, bureaucracy, undefined need, undocumented benefit(s) and alternative non-robotic methodologies (eg: telecom companies, Skype) seem to be the culprits holding back progress.
... Many start-ups but few success stories. InTouch Health, is one of the latter, with a noble effort to be the eyes, ears and voices of doctors who cannot be there in person but can almost be by using InTouch’s line of RP robots and a laptop control station.
... Fred Nikgohar of RoboDynamics gives his spin on why progress is slow-going - and he’s on his 3rd year of selling experiences. Very informative interview with Singularity Hub’s Aaron Saenz.
Adept and RMT Robotics on a golden road to the East
Posted 08/24/10 at 11:03 PM
... Adept recently acquired MobileRobots which provides mobile robotic platforms to RMT Robotics and their ADAM line of mobile robots.
... Finnish Cimcorp’s recently acquired RMT Robotics announced that it now provides the ADAM line to a Korean integrator, Hanwha TechM who, in turn, is reselling them to a US battery manufacturer.
... Adept ships big order of parallel robots to Chinese integrator Austong Intelligent Robot Technology who is outfitting a Chinese dairy provider with the robots.
CBS News Sunday Morning Feature on Robots
Posted 08/04/10 at 09:03 AM
... Daniel Siebert reported on how robotic technology is becoming more than just science fiction and is changing our lives on a daily basis.
... “Enthusiasm for robots on the battlefield, it seems, is only outpaced by the speed with which the military is acquiring them,” says the author of “Wired for War,” P.W. Singer.
... Read Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about military-industrial complex - 49 years ago - still applicable today.
Robotic Surgeries and Teleoperated Surgical Devices
Posted 08/03/10 at 10:02 PM
... The FDA approved Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci surgical system not as a robotic system… but as a tele-manipulated medical device. Nevertheless, the device has been called a surgical robot by the press and also by Catherine Mohr, an Intuitive Surgical director (and professor at Stanford).
... Mohr recently wrote a Freakonomics NY Times piece explaining why minimally invasive robotic surgeries are cheaper than open or laparoscopic surgeries.
... An increasing array of procedures are performed by the da Vinci system, the most recent being hand surgery.
... Duke University is testing fully autonomous medical procedures such as prostate and breast biopsies and autopsies.
... China’s University Hospital of Tianjin is using a tele-manipulated surgical assistant (named “Little Hand”) similar to the da Vinci system.
... Israel’s Mazor Surgical Technologies has FDA approval for their SpineAssist robotic system which enables simulation and precise targeting and placement for intricate spinal implant operations. The robot enables the surgeon to improve accuracy from an estimated 3 millimeters to one-half millimeter.
Rescue Robots in the News
Posted 06/29/10 at 11:47 AM
... American start-up Hydronalix introduces E.M.I.L.Y., a robot lifeguard, to Malibu beaches. It uses sonar to shoot out to struggling victims (at up to 28 mph) and then utilizes telepresence to coach the victim onto the raft which then zooms back to shore and a waiting lifeguard.
... 27 teams from 12 countries took part in the RoboCup 2010 Rescue Robot competition last week in Singapore. Three Thailand teams won 1st and tied for 2nd place; Australia won 4th and Japan 5th in the annual contest to increase awareness of the challenges involved in search and rescue applications and sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
... NIST also sponsored (along with FEMA and Texas A&M) Disaster City’s annual Response Robot Evaluation Exercises earlier this year. These exercises enable search and rescue robotic providers to be able to test their equipment in simulated disaster situations and environments.