Tag Archives: Robots

Another Strong Quadruped​ Robot – HyQReal

(See my other Robot posts) – The HyQReal was developed at the Dynamic Legged Systems Lab at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT). In the video above (uploaded to YouTube in May of 2019 by Dynamic Legged Systems lab) the robot is shown towing a 7275 lb (3300 kg) P180 Avanti aircraft.

The HyQReal is 4 ft 4.4 in (1.33 m) long and 35.5 in (90 cm) tall, and weighs 286.5 lbs (130kg). About 33 lbs (15 kg) of that weight comes from the onboard Li-Po battery that can power the HyQReal for two hours. The HyQReal is also water and dust resistant.

While most of these quadruped robots are still in the research I doubt it will be too long before we begin to see some in the field.

References:

  1. Watch the HyQReal Robot Pull an Airplane

New Robots on Way to the ISS

(See my other posts on Robots) – Today’s Cygnus cargo flight with 7,600 pounds of science, supplies & cargo for the ISS includes a pair of new robots. These will replace the current SPHERES robots on the International Space Station (ISS). The Astrobee robots have been developed by the Intelligent Robotics Group at the NASA Ames Research Center.

The new Astrobee robots are autonomous cubes designed to be flown around the ISS. The first pair of Astrobee robots are named Honey and Bumble. A third named Queen is scheduled to fly to the ISS later this year. These are very modular robots with hardware and software designed for a wide range of tasks and experiments. 

The robots are intended to fly around the ISS autonomously, perform experiments, and take video. While they will generally be operated by humans from the ground, they will occasionally operate without any supervision.

Each Astrobee robot is about 12 inches (30 cm) square.  They will use pressurized air from 12 different nozzles to propel themselves around the ISS. They can rotate in any direction and have no need to refuel as air is compressed and used from the ISS atmosphere.

The Astrobees are based on ROS and are equipped with six cameras, sensors, and enough computing power to allow them to operate autonomously. They can be fitted with modular payloads in their three different payload bays for a variety of experiments. Later this year a small arm will become available for manipulating objects and grabbing hold for maintaining their position. The robots will be able to undock, redock and perch within the ISS independently of the crew.

The robots should complete their checkout before the end of April. After that, they will map and be calibrated for the ISS modules. Final commissioning of the entire Astrobee system should be complete before the end of the year.

More Robots at Walmart

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(See my other posts on Robots) – Walmart has been impacted by online sales from Amazon and other sources. As part of their cost-cutting efforts to stay competitive and improve the customer experience, they have begun deploying robots within their stores.

Walmart recently announced on their Blog (“#SquadGoals: How Automated Assistants are Helping Us Work Smarter“) that they would be deploying 1,500 new “Auto-C” autonomous floor cleaners, 300 “Auto-S” shelf scanners, and an additional 1,200 “FAST” unloaders to scan and sort items as they come off delivery trucks. To expedite online orders, Walmart will add 900 “Pickup Towers”. These will let customers order something on the company’s website and just pick up it up from a vending machine at a nearby Walmart. ”

Walmart’s stated intention with the effort is to use “pioneering new technologies to minimize the time an associate spends on the more mundane and repetitive tasks like cleaning floors or checking inventory on a shelf. This gives associates more of an opportunity to do what they’re uniquely qualified for: serve customers face-to-face on the sales floor.“.

For now, the new robots and human employees will be working side-by-side.

Celebrate National Robotics Week!

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Robots – This week, actually it started yesterday, celebrates robotics in the US. Per the National Robotics Week website:

National Robotics Week (RoboWeek) is a series of grassroots events and activities during the month of April aimed at increasing public awareness of the strength and importance of the U.S. robotics industry and of the tremendous social and cultural impact that robotics will have on the future. Activities come in all shapes and sizes from a robot block party, university open house, or a robotics competition. The mission of RoboWeek is simple — to inspire students in STEM-related fields and to share the excitement of robotics with audiences of all ages. Celebrate RoboWeek by hosting an event in your community, sponsoring or attending a local event, or spreading the word on social media.

National Robotics Week was first celebrated in 2010 after university and industry leaders appealed to the Congressional Caucus on Robotics to create a “national roadmap” for robotics technology. On March 9, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed resolution H.Res. 1055, officially designating the second full week in April as National Robotics Week.

Boston Dynamics ‘Handle’

(See all of my Robots posts) – Most of us think of the biped or quadruped robots when we hear of Boston Dynamics. The ‘Handle‘ is a much more immediately useful robot.

Per the Boston Dynamics website the ‘Handle’ is:

Handle is a robot that combines the rough-terrain capability of legs with the efficiency of wheels. It uses many of the same principles for dynamics, balance, and mobile manipulation found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are fast and efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs, Handle has the best of both worlds.

Handle can pick up heavy loads while occupying a small footprint, allowing it to maneuver in tight spaces. All of Handle’s joints are coordinated to deliver high-performance mobile manipulation.

The all-electric ‘Handle’ can pick up items weighing up to 100 lbs (45 kg). The robot itself weighs just over 230 lbs (105 kg). With the grasping attachment shown in the video above, 11 lb (5 kg) boxes are being manipulated. Boxes up to 33 lbs (15 kg) can be accommodated.

These are much more likely the kind of robots we will first see working beside humans.

Is AI As Smart As We Think?

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Robots – Articles appear all the time touting how ‘intelligent’ a new system is. But are they really as smart as claimed? The article “How intelligent is artificial intelligence?” raises the point that we should look harder at how these systems have reached their conclusions.

This article is based on work done by researchers from TU Berlin, Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute HHI and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). Among the points raised in the article:

  • Some seemingly successful AI systems employ flaky or even “cheating” problem solving strategies
  • Some AI systems sometimes use so-called ‘Clever Hans Strategies’ [1]
  • It is quite conceivable that about half of the AI systems currently in use implicitly or explicitly rely on such ‘Clever Hans’ strategies.

The researchers used a technology developed earlier by TU Berlin and Fraunhofer HHI, the so-called Layer-wise Relevance Propagation (LRP) algorithm. This algorithm allows visualizing which input variables an AI system uses to make their decisions

 

 

Footnotes:

  1. Clever Hans was a horse that could supposedly count and was considered a scientific sensation during the 1900s. As it was discovered later, Hans did not master math but in about 90 percent of the cases, he was able to derive the correct answer from the questioner’s reaction.

Japan’s Plan for the 2020 Olympics Includes Robots

Robots – We will have another Olympic event coming up next year in Tokyo, Japan. Part of that event will be the “Tokyo 2020 Robot Project.” That project plans to have many different robots doing “useful things” for attendees.

The two robots that have been identified as helpers at the games are the Toyota’s Human Support Robot (HSR) and the Delivery Support Robot (DSR). Plans are for these two robots to work together to assist disabled visitors. They will direct visitors to their seats and will fetch food or other items visitors order through a tablet interface. Current plans include up to 16 HSR robots and 10 DSR robots for the games.

Clearly, with these numbers, the use of these robots at the games will still be more in the realm of research. The goal is to develop robots that can help take care of people. As the population ages, it is hoped that robots like these can provide assistance when no human helpers are available.

Studies Show Humans Discouraged When Working With Robots

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Robots – There have been many reports as to how robots and automation may impact human jobs. In “Your new most annoying overachieving coworker is a robot” studies are mentioned that show that humans who are performing a dull, repetitive work task alongside a robot may suffer declines in productivity and self-esteem.

The ‘real-world’ impact of this problem is already being seen at Amazon fulfillment centers. Last December were pushing to unionize saying “We are not robots. We are human beings. We cannot come into work after only four hours of sleep and be expected to be fully energized and ready to work. That’s impossible.”

This research points to a more immediate concern than job loss – How robots in the workspace may impact the productivity and emotional well-being of the humans they work beside.

Robots May Change Our Social Makeup

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Robots – There has been a lot in the press as to how machines and robots will impact humans. I read the article “How AI Will Rewire Us” today that suggests there will be yet another kind of impact – how we interact socially with other humans. Among the issues identified in the article:

  • our interactions with AI could affect how we humans interact with one another
  • adding artificial intelligence to our midst could be very disruptive with regards to

    our interactions with one another

  • where people and robots interact socially—the right kind of AI can improve the way humans relate to one another
  • adding AI to our social environment can also make us behave less productively and less ethically
  • children who grow up relating to AI in lieu of people might not acquire “the equipment for empathic connection”
  • if we grow more comfortable talking intimately to our devices, what happens to our human marriages and friendships?
  • as AI permeates our lives, we must confront the possibility that it will stunt our emotions and inhibit deep human connections
  • a diverse group of researchers and practitioners—computer scientists, engineers, zoologists, and social scientists, among others—is coming together to develop the field of “machine behavior”
  • sees robots and AI as a new class of social actors

I thought that this article made many good points and should make us all more aware of how AI is going to impact our society. Robots are not only going to impact our careers, but they may also make significant changes to humans as to how they interact.