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Category Archives: Robotics

Robotics firm hits back at ‘exaggerated’ killer robot claims – The INQUIRER

Posted: August 25, 2017 at 4:09 am

ONE OF the robot manufacturers at the centre of the “when good robots go bad” research which we reported on earlier this week has hit back at the “exaggerated” reports.

IOActive’s research demonstrated how a domesticated robot can be hacked and turned into a screwdriver-wielding, tomato-squishing maniac that, much like a swan, could break a man’s arm. But a swan with gears and cogs instead of feathers and a beak.

Now UBTECH, whose robots were featured in the research have hit back, dismissing the video.

“UBTECH has been made aware of a sensationalistic video produced by IOActive featuring the Alpha 2. The video is an exaggerated depiction of Alpha 2’s open-source platform. UBTECH encourages its developer community to code responsibly and discourages inappropriate robot behaviour,” it told INQ.

Which is kind of the point. The video served to show what would happen if the robot was hacked to be evil and while UBTECH implies scaremongering, it also does little to deny that actually, yes, it could happen.

It’s a bit like saying “We at the INQUIRER as members of the press, discourage Katie Hopkins”. We do, but someone is still obviously poking her with a stick somewhere.

With regards to protecting customers from the vulnerability, John Rhee, the General Manager at UBTECH North America adds: “UBTECH is committed to maintaining the highest security standards in all of its products. As a result, the company has conducted a full investigation into the claims made in the IoActive report regarding the Alpha 2 robot.

“The Alpha 2 robot was designed to be on an open-sourced platform where developers are encouraged to program their robots with code. UBTECH has fully addressed any concerns raised by IoActive that do not limit our developers from programming their Alpha 2”

So basically, again, a pretty empty but angry response. UBTECH has fixed everything, except the bits that might cause a problem for people using it for good things – which of course could then be used for bad things.

Basically, we’re on different sides of the same coin here. For UBTECH the message is “our robots aren’t dangerous because we’re responsible”. Ours is a less nuanced “it was a bloody silly report in the first place”. After all, IOActive has been treading thispathfor months. Either way, it could still happen. Make sure you unplug your toaster oven at night or it WILL EAT YOU. That’s scientific fact*.

*actual science may vary

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Ga. Tech Unveils World’s First Open Robotics Research Lab | WABE … – WABE 90.1 FM

Posted: at 4:09 am

An audio version of this story.

Georgia Tech researchers have opened a new lab that allows anyone around the world to remotely access and control its robots.

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Its called the “Robotarium” and the university claims it’s the world’s first open robotics research lab.

To demonstrate how it works, a few dozen robots sit on what looks like a large air hockey table with a smooth white surface.

Each is about an inch wide and tall. Theres a Wi-Fi chip on top and small rubber wheels on the bottom. Infrared cameras hanging overhead are scanning the robots below and can tell them apart based on how four to five reflective silver balls on top are configured.

The robots are given specific commands to help it find its final destination. Slowly the robots roll off their wireless charging stations at the edges of the table and into the center to spell out the letters GT for Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech post-doctoral fellow Sean Wilson said these swarm robots are meant to mimic how animals like honeybees and flocking birds move and solve problems together that individual animals or robots cant on their own.

“Swarm robotics is the challenge of controlling a large number of robots without a central computer, Wilson said. So what commands do you send each individual robot so that swarm does what you want them to do?”

Anyone from around the world can upload their code that tells the robots what to do and watch the robots interact through a live feed.

But what happens if someone programs the robots to destroy each other?

Researchers have planned ahead by automatically programming virtual barriers around each robot to prevent collisions.

The lab’s computer system also tests new code for malware and viruses.

Georgia Tech Ph.D. student Siddharth Mayya said the goal of the open research lab is to make robotics more accessible.

“Even a high school student can just log on to and submit his experiment and run his code on actual robots,” Mayya said.

The lab’s director, Magnus Egerstedt, is also executive director of the Institute for Robotics and Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines. Egerstedt said the lab will soon have 100 aerial drones, or mini-quadcopters, as well as mini-robots. Eventually, he wants to increase the number to 1,000.

Building and maintaining a world-class, multi-robot lab is too expensive for a large number of roboticists and budding roboticists, Egerstedt said. This creates a steep barrier to entry into our field.”

And he said hes noticed that it’s not only engineers who are uploading experiments.

“We’ve had biologists that are interested in social insects test their ideas. Traffic engineers who are looking at traffic congestion, Egerstedt said. People that are studying social interactions on Facebook test their algorithms for social dynamics.

And it was only fitting that a robot helped cut the ribbon during the grand opening of the Robotarium.

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Ga. Tech Unveils World’s First Open Robotics Research Lab | WABE … – WABE 90.1 FM

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Boston Tech Watch: Rethink Robotics, SquadLocker, Semcasting & More – Xconomy

Posted: at 4:09 am

There was a flurry of tech deals announced this week in Boston, including the acquisitions of Applause, Digital Lumens, and Dragon Innovation, and a $6 million investment in GNS Healthcare. Here are a few more deals you might have missed:

Rethink Robotics raised $18 million from investors, part of a funding round announced last December that now totals $36 million, according to SEC filings. That brings Rethinks total venture capital haul to at least $148 million. The company makes robots that can collaborate with factory workers on tasks like assembly and testing.

Semcasting, a North Andover, MA-based provider of data tools for marketing and advertising, acquired Orlando, FL-based Transparency AI for an undisclosed price. Transparency AI helps clients in the automotive industry measure the effectiveness of their online advertisements. With the acquisition, Semcasting now has around 60 full-time employees located at offices nationwide, a spokeswoman said.

Warwick, RI-based SquadLocker received a $7 million Series B investment led by Causeway Media Partners, a spokesman said. Causeways managing partners include Boston Celtics co-owner and CEO Wyc Grousbeck. Earlier SquadLocker investor James Lombardi also contributed to the funding round. Causeway managing partner Bob Higgins has joined SquadLockers board, according to a press release.

SquadLockers online tools help coaches and parents manage the process of designing and ordering youth sports apparel. The company has raised about $18 million from outside investors, according to the Boston Globe. SquadLocker co-founder and CEO Gary Goldberg has also put in $4 million, the Globe reported.

Heres one that flew under the radar: Day Zero Diagnostics announced earlier this month that it closed a $3 million seed funding round led by Golden Seeds and Sands Capital Ventures. The startup, based at the Harvard Innovation Lab, wants to use genomic sequencing and machine learning tools to improve infectious disease diagnostics.

Boston medical device firm Rebion raised nearly $2.2 million from investors, according to a new SEC filing. Formerly known as Rebiscan, the company says it has developed eye-scanning technology for detecting lazy eye and traumatic brain injury.

CareAcademy closed a $1.7 million seed round led by Rethink Education, Lumina Foundation, and Techstars Ventures, according to multiple news reports. The Boston-based startup, which provides online education for professional in-home caregivers, participated in this years Techstars Boston accelerator program.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email:

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Boston Tech Watch: Rethink Robotics, SquadLocker, Semcasting & More – Xconomy

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High school student teaches middle schoolers the ABCs of robotics – Andover Townsman

Posted: at 4:09 am

Andover high school student Aum Trivedi found a way to turn his passion into profit, while also paying it forward.

Earlier this year Trivedi created Derive, a business where he offers a five-day course to middle school students to teach them the basics of robotics and engineering.

It all started when Trivedi signed up for an eight-week course known as the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. The course teaches students how to create a business plan, financial projections, and market research for their business. It was through the Young Entrepreneurs Academy that Trivedi was able to develop his plans for the business, and eventually get Derive up and running.

“The idea of providing robotics education came from my own experience as a young, inexperienced, member of the Andover High School Robotics Club,” said Trivedi. “As a freshman in high school, I was taught by several incredibly talented upperclassmen. Without their mentorship, I would still know nothing about robotics. I decided that as I am now an upperclassman, I have the opportunity to return that favor, and begin to offer the same sort of mentorship that I received to as many people as possible. With that notion of spreading the knowledge, I came up with Derive as an effective way to train future robotics engineers.”

Two fellow Andover high students,Aurash Bozorgzadeh andAlex Yang, worked as instructors alongside Trivedi during the Derive pilot session. The three are rising seniors this year, all belonging to the Andover High robotics club.

Trivedi will be holding future sessions for Derive Robotics during February and April school breaks. The 5-day course aims to help middle school students get ready to compete in the First Tech Challenge in high school, and costs $500 per student.

“What was most remarkable is that he demonstrated that there was a market need for what he was going to do,” said Walter Manninen, a mentor of Triveldi’s from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. “What he saw was a need to target junior high students to give them a footing in robotics. He was really helping young people embrace robotics with the end goal in mind that this could help them in their college career and help them get scholarships.”

Trivedi held the first Derive Robotics session the week of July 10 this summer.

“Robotics was compelling to me because working as a part of a robotics team incorporates an immense array of different skill sets,” said Trivedi. “A member of a robotics team could be working on anything from documentation of designs and building progress, to designing 3D models of printable parts, to physically assembling the robot itself. This broad diversity means that anyone can be involved, and there is a huge amount to learn.”

Follow Kelsey Bode on Twitter @Kelsey_Bode


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Temple Sholom Nursery School adds woodworking, robotics room … – Greenwich Time

Posted: at 4:09 am

Photo: Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

Temple Sholom Nursery School adds woodworking, robotics room for toddlers

GREENWICH One by one, the preschoolers strapped on safety goggles and grabbed a saw. Back and forth, the children pushed the blades through a thin piece of wood tied with a red ribbon, their arms quaking from the effort.

This is tricky! said Jordan Rosenthal, 3, wielding a saw half her height.

Parents and teachers gathered round, watching many nervously and helping the children. When 4-year-old Oliver Halios saw broke through the skinny plank, the room erupted in cheers.

The ribbon sawing Thursday morning marked the opening of the new STEAM room at Temple Sholom Selma Maisel Nursery School.

When nursery school classes resume in September, 3-year-old and prekindergarten children will have access to the new room outfitted with knee-high wooden work benches, water tables, programmable robotic toys, ramps and a cannon-like wind tunnel made out of clear plastic.

When we stay on the cutting edge of early childhood education, our students reap the benefits, said David Cohen, director of the nursery school. We see public and private elementary schools investing in these programs and we want to ensure our students will arrive ready for the challenge.

Temple Sholom spent about $20,000 on the new STEAM room, Cohen said. The nursery school has been planning the new addition since January, when Cohen attended an early childhood STEM conference at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California.

The nursery schoolers will use the STEAM room on a weekly basis, receiving safety instruction and activity prompts but also with the freedom to experiment. The new space does not shy away from putting drills, screwdrivers, hammers and other tools into the hands of young children.

We dont play around with fake stuff, Cohen said. Woodworking is highly recommended for (young childrens) development and physical skills, but its something that a lot of people shy away from.

For an additional $5,000, the nursery school also added a new gymnastics room with pint-sized parallel bars, balance beams and mats next door to the STEAM room. The gymnastics room will be used as part of the schools physical education classes.

It will really do wonders for developing gross motor skills and building confidence, said Cohen.

The new additions are part of Selma Maisels efforts to offer forward-thinking early childhood education to children of all faiths and ethnicities, administrators said.

We are always looking to grow and enhance our program and see what will entice kids, said Eileen Robin, executive director of Temple Sholom.; Twitter: @emiliemunson

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Hawaii launches new credit-based internship program in robotics work for college students – Pacific Business News (Honolulu)

Posted: at 4:09 am

Hawaii launches new credit-based internship program in robotics work for college students
Pacific Business News (Honolulu)
Hawaii's state-funded aerospace agency, Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, has launched a new credit-based internship program for students at the Big Island's Hawaii Community College to gain high-tech skills. The state …

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Leaders Of Top Robotics And AI Companies Call For Ban On Killer Robots – HuffPost

Posted: August 20, 2017 at 6:18 pm

Founders of AI/robotics companies, including Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, OpenAI) and Mustafa Suleyman (Googles DeepMind), call for autonomous weapons ban, as UN delays negotiations.

Leaders from AI and robotics companies around the world have released an open letter calling on the United Nations to ban autonomous weapons, often referred to as killer robots.

Founders and CEOs of nearly 100 companies from 26 countries signed the letter, which warns:

In December, 123 member nations of the UN had agreed to move forward with formal discussions about autonomous weapons, with 19 members already calling for an outright ban. However, the next stage of discussions, which were originally scheduled to begin on August 21 — the release date of the open letter — were postponed because a small number of nations hadnt paid their fees.

The letter was organized and announced by Toby Walsh, a prominent AI researcher at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. In an email, he noted that, sadly, the UN didn’t begin today its formal deliberations around lethal autonomous weapons.

The open letter included such signatories as:

In reference to the signatories, the press release for the letter added, Their companies employ tens of thousands of researchers, roboticists and engineers, are worth billions of dollars and cover the globe from North to South, East to West: Australia, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, UK, United Arab Emirates and USA.

Bengio explained why he signed, saying, the use of AI in autonomous weapons hurts my sense of ethics. He added that the development of autonomous weapons would be likely to lead to a very dangerous escalation, and that it would hurt the further development of AI’s good applications. He concluded his statement to FLI saying that this is a matter that needs to be handled by the international community, similarly to what has been done in the past for some other morally wrong weapons (biological, chemical, nuclear).

Stuart Russell, another of the worlds preeminent AI researchers and founder of Bayesian Logic Inc., added:

Ryan Gariepy, founder & CTO of Clearpath Robotics was the first to sign the letter. For the press release, he noted, “Autonomous weapons systems are on the cusp of development right now and have a very real potential to cause significant harm to innocent people along with global instability.”

The open letter ends with similar concerns. It states:

The letter was announced in Melbourne, Australia at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI), which draws many of the worlds top artificial intelligence researchers. Two years ago, at the last IJCAI meeting, Walsh released another open letter, which called on countries to avoid engaging in an AI arms race. To date, that previous letter has been signed by over 20,000 people, including over 3,100 AI/robotics researchers.

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5 Passive Cooling Alternatives Using Robotics and Smart Materials – ArchDaily

Posted: at 6:18 pm

5 Passive Cooling Alternatives Using Robotics and Smart Materials

The IAAC (Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia) has developed a series of advanced materials and systems for air conditioning and passive ventilation, allowing homes to reduce interior temperatures up to 5 degrees lower while saving the electricity consumption caused by the traditional air-conditioning. The systems are made from long-lifespan materials, which lower the costs of maintenance in the long-term and can be used as low-cost alternative building technologies.

The projects highlightedare the Breathing Skin, Hydroceramics, Hydromembrane, Morphluid and Soft Robotics – all developed by students of the IAAC’s Digital Matter Intelligent Constructions (conducted by Areti Markopoulou). The passive air-conditioning of spaces is investigated using a combination of new materials that mimic organic processes, adaptive structures and Robotics that help regulate temperature and create sustainable micro climates.

Facades and light structures like Hydroceramics, Breathing Skin or Hydromembrane have been developed by the IAAC during recent years. By creating a series of systems that act like a second skin in buildings, IAAC transforms a buildings thermoregulation to imitate the human body -transpiring water to regulate the temperature.

Hydroceramics is a faade system made of clay and hydrogel panels capable of cooling building interiors up to 5 degrees. Hydrogel capsules have the capacity to absorb up to 500 times their own weight in water to create a construction system that “breathes” through evaporation and perspiration.

Unlike Hydroceramics, parallel inventions Hydromembrane and Breathing Skin are based on compounds made with fine membranes and intelligent fabrics for buildings that act as a second “respiratory” skin for constructions capable of self-regulating the humidity and climate of indoor and outdoor spaces.

Each system uses materials that have a high capacity of water absorption, which is later released by evaporation – creating a cooling effect in warm environments. As an example, Breathing Skin absorbs up to 300 times its volume in water in a relatively short period of time thanks to the presence of superabsorbent polymer called sodium polyacrylate.

IAAC has also designed more alternatives that focus on structures and applied robotics in the new bioclimatic architecture. Morphluid or Soft Robotics (SORO) are created as passive shading systems using “live roofs” that regulate the amount of light and heat entering the spaces.

Soft Robotics is a lightweight and sensitive robotic shading device that attempts to create microclimate by controlling sunlight, ventilation and temperature to humidify the atmosphere. This robotic prototype adopts different sizes and shapes as the artificial “sunflowers” that project shade the moment its integrated liquid element is evaporated by the heat of the sun.

Morphluid is also based on the transition of liquids as an activator that modulates the roof and adjusts the environment by means of shading. Morphluid integrates two water tanks into a movable structure (a roof, a window) that tilts when the water in one of the tanks evaporates, allowing shade to continuously project and refresh the environment.

The IAAC academic director and project manager, Areti Markopoulou, highlights “the potential of advanced systems and materials to help us have the most pleasant temperature in our homes through more sustainable buildings that breathe and behave the living things and interact with their environment.” Markopoulou Also highlighted the importance of this innovation to energy saving, since “passive air-conditioning materials and systems are based on principles of physics such as evaporation to cool spaces.”

To learn more about eachproject, check out the gallery below:






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The Robots Will Be Soft and Cuddly and Heal Their Own Wounds … – WIRED

Posted: at 6:18 pm

Seppe Terryn/Science Robotics

Poke a hole in a human and something remarkable happens. First of all, you go to jail. But meanwhile, the wound heals itself, filling in the missing tissue and protecting itself from infection. Poke a hole in a robot , however, and prepare for a long night of repairs. The machines may be stronger than us, but theyre missing out on a vital superpower.

Until now. Researchers at Belgiums Vrije Universiteit Brussel report this week in Science Robotics that theyve developed a squishy, self-healing robot. Cut it open, apply heat, let it cool down again, and the wound heals itself. While self-healing materials are nothing new, their application in so-called soft robotics a relatively new kind of pliable machine that uses pneumatics or hydraulics to movecould be big. Think Terminator-style robots that automatically heal bullet wounds. OK, maybe dont think of that.

Seppe Terryn, Science Robotics

To build their squishbot, the researchers crafted an elastomer, a elastic variety of polymer. Its network of microscopic chains are held together by something called a Diels-Alder reaction , which is temperature-sensitive. So these bonds break when you heat them and reform as they cool. On the microscopic level, there is enough mobility to seal the gap, says electromechanical engineer Seppe Terryn , lead author on the paper. And then if we decrease the temperature again the entire network will be formed again. Think of melting down a cube of Jell-O, then putting it back in the fridgethe difference being that this polymer goes back to its original shape and strength after injury. Also, its more expensive and less tasty.

Now, of course itd be ideal if the soft robot could heal itself without the application of heat, but in a way theres an advantage here. This means also that we can do the healing in a controlled way, says Terryn. So in the long term, the robots can decide when is the best time to start the healing and start heating up.

That, though, would require that the robot knows its injured. So what the team is working on next is a material loaded with sensors that could tell exactly where a wound opens up, then deploy targeted heat to the area to heal it. The robot could even start preemptively healing if it detects microcuts from normal wear and tear.

Seppe Terryn, Science Robotics

This system, then, very much mimics the way an animal seals up a wound. That’s opposed to other self-healing materials already out there which, for instance, use embedded microcapsules to release healing agents. (These are better for rigid structures like glass, not floppy robots. That and they don’t need temperature changes to work.) What Terryn and his team are doing instead is adapting an existing technology. “They’re taking these Diels-Alder polymers that have been shown before to have reversible covalent bonds and making use of them in these very biomimetic applications,” says North Dakota State University’s Michael Kessler, who also works in self-healing materials.

In addition to this system needing heat to work, another downside is that the healing isnt wildly efficient. The main concern with the material proposed in this paper is the time and the heating required for healing, says roboticist Pietro Valdastri of the University of Leeds. Depending on the application, 40 minutes at 80 degrees centigrade plus cooling time can be too long to wait.

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But thats now. Self-healing will only get better from here, and surely will be essential for soft robots, which today are typically made of fabrics like polyester. After all, the whole point of a robot soft is it can interact with humans without killing them and pick up squishy objects like tomatoes.

That and they pack well: A four-foot-long soft robot arm can deflate and ship in far less space than a traditional robot arm. And thats important because soft robots are going places. Having a robot that doesn’t need to be pulled out for repair, says roboticist Jon Pompa of soft robot outfit Pneubotics , if you could identify some failure modes and have the materials of the robot do some kind of self-repairing stuff, that would be a really excellent argument why to use them in extreme environments.

For instance, if you pack a soft robot in a rocket and fire it to Mars to do some construction ahead of human habitation, youre screwed if it springs a leak and deflates mid-mission. But what Terryns team has shown is that you could theoretically have an injured soft robot deflate itself and heat up to repair the wound. That would save you a lot of money and heartache.

So get ready to see a lot more soft robots and, at some point, soft robots you can stab without getting in trouble. Sorry, I’m still thinking about Terminator .

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This 3D-printed robotic arm is built for sign language – TechCrunch

Posted: at 6:18 pm

While we usually see robotics applied to industrial or research applications, there are plenty of ways they could help in everyday life as well: an autonomous guide for blind people, for instance, or a kitchen bot that helps disabled folks cook. Or and this one is real a robot arm that can perform rudimentary sign language.

Its part of a masters thesis from grad students at the University of Antwerp who wanted to address the needs of the deaf and hearing impaired. In classrooms, courts and at home, these people often need interpreters who arent always available.

Their solution is Antwerps Sign Language Actuating Node, or ASLAN. Its a robotic hand and forearm that can perform sign language letters and numbers. It was designed from scratch and built from 25 3D-printed parts, with 16 servos controlled by an Arduino board. Its taught gestures using a special glove, and the team is looking into recognizing them through a webcam as well.

Right now, its just the one hand so obviously two-hand gestures and the cues from facial expressions that enrich sign language arent possible yet. But a second coordinating hand and an emotive robotic face are the next two projects the team aims to tackle.

The idea is not to replace interpreters, whose nuance can hardly be replicated, but to make sure that there is always an option for anyone worldwide who requires sign language service. It also could be used to help teach sign language a robot doesnt get tired of repeating a gesture for you to learn.

Why not just use a virtual hand? Good question. An app or even a speech-to-text program would accomplish many of the same things. But its hard to think less of the ASLAN project; taking an assistive technology off the screen and putting it in the real world, where it can be interacted with, viewed from many angles, and otherwise share the physical space of the people it helps, is a commendable goal.

ASLAN was created by Guy Fierens, Stijn Huys and Jasper Slaets. Its still in prototype form, but once its finalized the designs will be open sourced.

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