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Category Archives: Robotics

How Humans Tell Robots What to Do – Robotics Business Review

Posted: November 12, 2019 at 6:46 am

November 11, 2019Bryan Hellman

The modern production floor is changing rapidly as robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence converge to enhance productivity in the manufacturing sector. One of the key drivers of convergence is the combination of technological advancements in robotics and communication technologies, which has led to an expansion in applications including wireless interfaces in industrial robotics.

The first industrial robot was a robotic arm called Unimate #001, which relied on hydraulic actuators for control. Industrial robotics advanced further in the 1970s with the invention of programmable logic controllers (PLCs). During this period, Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) was one-directional, where controllers pressed buttons, and the robots responded.

In the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s progressed, the introduction of wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 3G and 4G (and soon, 5G) wide-area wireless networks transformed HRI into a two-way communications system. In addition, different ways for humans to interact with robots also evolved.

A graphic user interface enables the user to control the robot using pictures or images displayed on the screen of the device. The images are captured by a camera mounted on the robot and transmitted to the user. The advantages of the graphic user interface include its ability to make human-robot interaction more intuitive and engaging. GUI devices provide data from sensors, which is vital for decision-making. It also restricts users input to valid ranges or units, which enhances accuracy in execution. The only disadvantage of the GUI is that it can contain complex and contradicting graphical interfaces that require a user to learn both the complicated commands and the robots hardware and software to operate.

Yaskawa Motomans Smart Pendant, seen here with a GP8 robot, aims to ease robot control functions. Source: Yaskawa Motomon

A perfect example of the application of GUI is the Flexible Graphic User Interface (FlexGUI), developed by PPM AS and NACHI of Norway and Japan. This interface bridges the gap between humans and robots by enhancing the learning process of the robot to elevate it to the level of its human controller. Another successful application of GUI similar to FlexGUI is the FlexPendant developed by ABB under its Robot Application Builder (RAB). Both FlexPendant and FlexGUI offer users the option to customize their own graphics interfaces, and they can be developed as a personal computer or a teach pendant.

An in-depth analysis of both applications of GUI highlights that FlexGUI is more flexible, user-friendly, and advanced than FlexPendant. This is because FlexGUI provides an easily accessible interface for learners with the option to upgrade to advanced functionality. This is a major advantage over FlexPendant, particularly for trainees and recruits who need time to learn basic operations of industrial robots before attempting advanced functionality. Also, FlexGUIs interface grants users a custom-created screen for every industrial cell, as well as action buttons and monitoring tools that can easily be customized by the user based on task and priority.

Command language interface requires the user to use existing programming languages to control the robot. The first advantage of CLI is that it is easy to execute commands once users learn the programming language. Second, unlike other interfaces that require controllers to understand and remember several steps, CLI requires the user to understand only the programming language.

Disadvantages of this command interface include the fact that some CLI devices contain complex command interfaces that require the user to learn both the complicated commands as well as detailed information about the robots hardware and software. In addition, a mix-up in the command language can be disastrous for the system.

This type of interface, where a human uses something similar to a video game controller (and in some cases, an actual video game controller), offers an accurate and real-time view of the environment, as the user is maneuvering the robot through obstacles to accomplish the tasks.

The Monarch Platform controller by Auris Health directs doctors to use the robot via a controller. Image: Auris Health

One recent example is the successful trial of BVLOS drones using 4G cellular connectivity to deliver medical supplies. The trial displayed the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) installed with an onboard Internet of Things (IoT) router. The router enabled LTE cellular connectivity for video and control data between the UAV and its pilot. The trial provided an insight into potential future applications of the user interfaces in industrial robotics. It showed that the wireless interfaces can be modified to ensure robots learn from users, which will allow the increase of the intelligence of robots and reduce the need for controllers. Devices that use this type of interface require highly skilled workers to accomplish tasks, which is a major disadvantage. For example, the user flying the BVLOS drone during the trial required skills comparable to that of a pilot for the users to complete the tasks, and this prevents untrained professionals from using the robots.

A gesture-based interface enables users to operate industrial robots using hand gestures, where arm direction commands a specific movement on the robot. This is the most straight-forward and the easiest of all the other interfaces. The gesture interface requires that both the robot and the human are in the same place when the robot undertakes the tasks, which can limit its usage in situations where the robot is in a dangerous location. In addition, gesturing continuously can become tiring for humans after some time.

In this video example, MIT CSAIL researchers show how a robot can be supervised through brain and muscle signals:

Automatic speech recognition (ASR) has enabled expedient control of industrial robots using voice by allowing the conversion of speech into text. Voice control uses a graphic user interface (GUI) with a microphone to communicate commands and a display to view feedback. The speech signal is captured, filtered, converted into text, and matched with preprogrammed text commands by the processor.

Voice control procedure for industrial robots uses the defined syntax of commands starting with a trigger word such as Robot One, which activates speech recognition. The robot replies by sending the text Yes Master. Subsequently, the user utters preprogrammed command words, for example, Move to Origin which commands the robot to move back to the start of the assembly-line.

Future applications of interfaces in industrial robotics will rely heavily on data processing technologies with IoT and cyber-physical system (CPS) serving as neural networks for smart factories and manufacturing. Technological advancements in the future will facilitate total interconnection, where interfaces consist of smart control systems, sensors, communication systems, embedded terminals, and CPS, which will ensure interconnection between robots and all other equipment in the factory.

Wireless interfaces may also be applied in the future to attain total integration, using smart networks established under CPS to achieve total connectivity between humans and industrial robots, as well as between other robots and equipment.

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Global Inspection Robotics in Oil and Gas Market 2019 Development Status and Future Statistics by 2024 – Eastlake Times

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GlobalInspection Robotics in Oil and GasMarket Overview:

GlobalInspection Robotics in Oil and GasMarketpresents a detailed competitive outlook and systematic framework ofInspection Robotics in Oil and Gasmarket at a global uniform platform. The research study is a powerful tool that market participants can use to secure a strong position in the globalInspection Robotics in Oil and Gasmarket. It includes a study on the market status and growth opportunities from different outlooks such as from the key players angle, topographical regions, and type and application segments. It report exhibits the historical data that analyzes respective analytical tools including porters five forces analysis, supply chain analysis, pricing analysis, and regulatory analysis.

The analysts have provided key development strategies including long and short-term strategies, as well as other vital competitive factors of leading businesses the company profiling section of this report. The report aims to offer key essentials for equipment suppliers, education & research institutes, emerging companies, research professionals, service providers, manufacturers, and investors. Importantly, the report covers the weaknesses as well as plus points of the established market players in theInspection Robotics in Oil and Gasmarket. The value chain analysis has been presented with vendor list and the present confronts between consumer and supplier is also highlighted.

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Geologically, the market is segmented into

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Leading vendors covered in the report are:GE Inspection Robotics, ECA Group, International Submarine Engineering Ltd, Inuktun Services Ltd, Flyability SA, IKM Subsea AS, ING Robotic Aviation, MISTRAS Group Inc., Helix ESG, OC Robotics

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The industry experts have used various mathematical and analytical tools and techniques to collect and process the raw data. Type and application insightful utilization tables and figures ofInspection Robotics in Oil and Gasmarket are likewise given. Industry advancement and perceptive examination were used to explore macroeconomic factor and administrative procedures. It also offers the performance of all the related key players, vendors, and suppliers.

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Top 5 things to know about the robots market – TechRepublic

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The use of robotics in business continues to grow at a steady pace. Tom Merritt explains five things you should know about the robots market.

Automation is used as a scare word, but just being scared of it can lead to just as much of a problem as not being prepared for it. How strong are robots? Let's find out five things to know about the robots market.

SEE: Special report: A guide to data center automation (Free PDF) (ZDNet) | Download the free PDF (TechRepublic)

As with all stories on automation and robots, we should take seriously the displacement caused and find serious solutions for people who will lose their jobs, while still maintaining the benefits that can provide the resources to help them.

Be in the know about smart cities, AI, Internet of Things, VR, autonomous driving, drones, robotics, and more of the coolest tech innovations. Delivered Wednesdays and Fridays

Image: iStockphoto/ipopba

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Adidas backpedals on robotic shoe production with Speedfactory closures – TechCrunch

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An expensive experiment in global distribution has been abandoned by Adidas, which has announced that will close its robotic Speedfactories in Atlanta and Ansbach, Germany, within 6 months. The company sugar-coated the news with a promise to repurpose the technology used at its existing human-powered factories in Asia.

The factories were established in 2016 (Ansbach) and 2017 (Atlanta) as part of a strategy to decentralize its manufacturing processes. The existing model, like so many other industries, is to produce the product in eastern Asia, where labor and overhead is less expensive, then ship it as needed. But this is a slow and clumsy model for an industry that moves as quickly as fashion and athletics.

Right now, most of our products are made out of Asia and we put them on a boat or on a plane so they end up on Fifth Avenue, said Adidas CMO Eric Liedtke in an interview last year at Disrupt SF about new manufacturing techniques. The Speedfactories were intended to change that: Instead of having some sort of micro-distribution center in Jersey, we can have a micro-factory in Jersey.

Ultimately this seems to have proven more difficult than expected. As other industries have found in the rush to automation, its easy to overshoot the mark and overcommit when the technology just isnt ready.

Robotic factories are a powerful tool but difficult to quickly reconfigure or repurpose, since it takes specialty knowledge to set up racks of robotic arms, computer vision systems, and so on. Robotics manufacturers are making advances in this field, but for now its a whole lot harder than training a human workforce to use standard tools on a different pattern.

In a press release, Adidas global operations head Martin Shankland explained that The Speedfactories have been instrumental in furthering our manufacturing innovation and capabilities, and that for a short time they even brought products to market in a hurry. That was our goal from the start, he says, though presumably things played out a bit differently in the pitch decks from 2016.

We very much regret that our collaboration in Ansbach and Atlanta has come to an end, Shankland said. Oechsler, the high-tech manufacturing partner that Adidas worked with, feels the same. Whilst we understand adidas reasons for discontinuing Speedfactory production at Oechsler, we regret this decision, said the companys CEO, Claudius Kozlik, in the press release. The factories will shut down by April, presumably eliminating or shifting the 160 or so jobs they provided, but the two companies will continue to work together.

The release says that Adidas will use its Speedfactory technologies to produce athletic footwear at two of its suppliers in Asia starting next year. Its not really clear what that means, and Ive asked the company for further information.

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Soft Robots of the Future May Depend on New Materials that Conduct Electricity, Sense Damage and Self-Heal – The National Interest Online

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Robots used to be restricted to heavy lifting or fine detail work in factories. Now Boston Dynamics nimble four-legged robot, Spot, is available for companies to lease to carry out various real-world jobs, a sign of just how common interactions between humans and machines have become in recent years.

And while Spot is versatile and robust, its what society thinks of as a traditional robot, a mix of metal and hard plastic. Many researchers are convinced that soft robots capable of safe physical interaction with people for example, providing in-home assistance by gripping and moving objects will join hard robots to populate the future.

Soft robotics and wearable computers, both technologies that are safe for human interaction, will demand new types of materials that are soft and stretchable and perform a wide variety of functions. My colleagues and I at the Soft Machines Lab at Carnegie Mellon University develop these multifunctional materials. Along with collaborators, weve recently developed one such material that uniquely combines the properties of metals, soft rubbers and shape memory materials.

These soft multifunctional materials, as we call them, conduct electricity, detect damage and heal themselves. They also can sense touch and change their shape and stiffness in response to electrical stimulation, like an artificial muscle. In many ways, its what the pioneering researchers Kaushik Bhattacharya and Richard James described: the material is the machine.

Making Materials Intelligent

This idea that the material is the machine can be captured in the concept of embodied intelligence. This term is usually used to describe a system of materials that are interconnected, like tendons in the knee. When running, tendons can stretch and relax to adapt each time the foot strikes the ground, without the need for any neural control.

Its also possible to think of embodied intelligence in a single material one that can sense, process and respond to its environment without embedded electronic devices like sensors and processing units.

A simple example is rubber. At the molecular level, rubber contains strings of molecules that are coiled up and linked together. Stretching or compressing rubber moves and uncoils the strings, but their links force the rubber to bounce back to its original position without permanently deforming. The ability for rubber to know its original shape is contained within the material structure.

Since engineered materials of the future that are suitable for human-machine interaction will require multifunctionality, researchers have tried to build new levels of embodied intelligence beyond just stretching into materials like rubber. Recently, my coworkers created self-healing circuits embedded in rubber.

They started by dispersing micro-scale liquid metal droplets wrapped in an electrically insulating skin throughout silicone rubber. In its original state, the skins thin metal oxide layer prevents the metal droplets from conducting electricity.

However, if the metal-embedded rubber is subjected to enough force, the droplets will rupture and coalesce to form electrically conductive pathways. Any electrical lines printed in that rubber become self-healing. In a separate study, they showed that the mechanism for self-healing could also be used to detect damage. New electrical lines form in the areas that are damaged. If an electrical signal gets through, that indicates the damage.

The combination of liquid metal and rubber gave the material a new route to sense and process its environment that is, a new form of embodied intelligence. The rearrangement of the liquid metal allows the material to know when damage has occurred because of an electrical response.

Shape memory is another example of embodied intelligence in materials. It means materials can reversibly change to a prescribed form. Shape memory materials are good candidates for linear motion in soft robotics, able to move back and forth like your bicep muscle. But they also offer unique and complex shape-changing capabilities.

For example, two groups of materials scientists recently demonstrated how a class of materials could reversibly transform from a flat rubber-like sheet into a 3-D topographical map of a face. Its a feat that would be difficult with traditional motors and gears, but its simple for this class of materials due to the materials embodied intelligence. The researchers used a class of materials known as liquid crystal elastomers, which are sometimes described as artificial muscles because they can extend and contract with the application of a stimulus like heat, light, or electricity.

Putting It All Together

By drawing inspiration from the liquid metal composite and the shape-morphing material, my colleagues and I recently created a soft composite with unprecedented multifunctionality.

It is soft and stretchable, and it can conduct heat and electricity. It can actively change its shape, unlike regular rubber. Since our composite easily conducts electricity, the shape-morphing can be activated electrically. Since it is soft and deformable, it is also resilient to significant damage. Because it can conduct electricity, the composite can interface with traditional electronics and dynamically respond to touch.

Furthermore, our composite can heal itself and detect damage in a whole new way. Damage creates new electrically conductive lines that activate shape-morphing in the material. The composite responds by spontaneously contracting when punctured.

In the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the shape-shifting android T-1000 can liquify; can change shape, color, and texture; is immune to mechanical damage; and displays superhuman strength. Such a complex robot requires complex multifunctional materials. Now, materials that can sense, process and respond to their environment like these shape-morphing composites are starting to become a reality.

But unlike T-1000 these new materials arent a force for evil theyre paving the way for soft assistive devices like prosthetics, companion robots, remote exploration technologies, antennas that can change shape and plenty more applications that engineers havent even dreamed up yet.

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Michael Ford, Postdoctoral Research Associate in Materials Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

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Funding needed to help Las Cruces robotics team get to regional competition – KTSM 9 News

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LAS CRUCES, NM (KTSM) A Las Cruces robotics team has the chance to represent their city for the first time ever in regionals this December.

The team is made up of students from Arrowhead Park Early College High School Academy, a recognized Blue Ribbon School in the City of the Crosses.

Being on this robotics team gives these students leading capabilities, problem-solving skills, and the chance to work together as a team, said Arrowhead Robotics coach, Julie Wojtko.

Unfortunately, money plays a big factor if these students get to compete in Frisco, Texas, about 30 miles north of Dallas, Texas.

The team must raise about $14,000 by the end of November and for some students, its a big accomplishment to get to do so,No one really knows about this little town of Las Cruces in New Mexico and going to Dallas we get to show who we are, said Arrowhead Robotics member, Bianka Boudreaux.

The team is working hard to perfect their robot and get it at its best for regionals, We can get there and show them that were ready to compete, said Arrowhead Robotics member, Joseph Vreeland.

If any local business would like to partner with Arrowhead Robotics or give any amount of donation to get these students to regionals contact Julie Wojtko through email atJwojtko@lcps.netor through phone at (575) 527-9540.

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Global Robotics and Automation Actuators Markets, 2015-2018 & 2019-2025 – ResearchAndMarkets.com – Business Wire

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DUBLIN--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The "Global Robotics and Automation Actuators Market Size, By Actuation, By Type, By Application, By End-User Industry By Region; Growth Potential, Trends Analysis, Competitive Market Size and Forecast, 2015-2025" report has been added to ResearchAndMarkets.com's offering.

The Global Robotics and Automation Actuators Market is estimated to grow with a significant rate during the forecast period 2019-2025, due to increasing investments in automation across industry verticals as well as digitalization of production processes.

Moreover, the major factor driving market growth is increased need for various industrial automation to leverage their profits and provide better quality products.

Furthermore, the growing use of Robotics and Automation Actuators in the automotive, aerospace, and healthcare industries for reduction of labor-cost and overcoming the lack of skilled labor will accelerate the growth of the Robotics and Automation Actuators market. Additionally, increasing investment in process automation across various industries will contribute to Robotics and Automation Actuators market growth during the forecast period.

Also, the precise movements and accuracy in performing tasks, the increased awareness about the activities performed by the industrial robots, and applications of robots for improving output and quality and complex tasks performed are expected to boost the Robotics and Automation Actuators market in the upcoming year. In addition, the rapid adoption of robotics in food & beverages and electronics industry will influence the global Robotics and Automation Actuators market over the forecast period.

Electric Actuation of Robotics and Automation Actuators market is projected to be the leading segment of the overall market during the forecast period

On the basis of Actuation, the Robotics and Automation Actuators market has been segmented into Electric, Pneumatic, and Hydraulic. Electric dominates the global Robotics and Automation Actuators owing to their higher efficiency and greater levels of control than Pneumatic and Hydraulic. Pneumatic will boom by its application in miniaturization, materials, and integration with electronics and condition monitoring.

A rotary type of Robotics and Automation Actuators market is projected to be the dominating segment of the overall market during the forecast period

On the basis of Type, the Robotics and Automation Actuators market has been segmented into Rotary and Linear. The rotary segment will lead the global Robotics and Automation Actuators market owing to growing applications in automation industries such as gates, valves, etc. Linear segment will be trigger by its features such as process repeatability, reduce variability, and meet quality expectations and lower manufacturing cost.

Robotics are projected to lead applications of the Robotics and Automation Actuators during the forecast period

On the basis of Application, the global Robotics and Automation Actuators market has been segmented into Process Automation and Robotics. By Application, Robotics segment will lead the market owing to the increasing adoption of robots in automotive and electrical & electronics, pharmaceutical, pulp & paper, and food & beverages. Process automation will drive by its features like increase speed of/reduce errors in customer-facing processes to increase customer satisfaction, reduce manual data edits, increasing quality of data, reducing compliance risks and simplifying audit.

Automotive is projected to lead the industry for utilizing applications of the Robotics and Automation Actuators during the forecast period

On the basis of End-user industry, the global Robotics and Automation Actuators market has been segmented into Automotive, Electronics, Food & Beverages, Construction, and Healthcare. By End-User Industry, Automotive segment will lead the market due to The rising adoption of robots to provide high-quality products to the customers has resulted in increased adoption of industrial robots in this industry. Food & beverages will grow by growing usage of robots for packaging segment.

The Asia-Pacific accounts for the lion's share of the global Robotics and Automation Actuators market during the anticipated period.

On the basis of region, the Robotics and Automation Actuators market has been segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, and Latin America. The Asia Pacific dominates the world Robotics and Automation Actuators market over the forecast period owing to the increasing demand for industrial robots and process automation in different industrial verticals. North America market will trigger by the huge demand for robots for better productivity across various industries.

Key Topics Covered:

1. Research Framework

2. Research Methodology

3. Executive Summary

4. Industry Insights

4.1. Industry Value Chain Analysis

4.2. Industry Impact and Forces

4.2.1. Growth Drivers

4.2.2. Challenges

4.2.3. Opportunities

4.3. Regulatory Framework

4.4. By Company (Market Share 2018)

4.5. Growth Potential analysis, 2018

4.6. Strategic Outlook

4.7. Porter's Five forces analysis

4.8. PESTEL Analysis

5. Global Robotics and Automation Actuators Market Overview

5.1. Market Size & Forecast

5.1.1. By Value

5.2. Market Share & Forecast 2015-2025, (USD Million)

5.2.1. By Actuation

5.2.1.1. Electric

5.2.1.2. Pneumatic

5.2.1.3. Hydraulic

5.2.2. By Type

5.2.2.1. Rotary

5.2.2.2. Linear

5.2.3. By Application

5.2.3.1. Process Automation

5.2.3.2. Robotics

5.2.4. By End-User Industry

5.2.4.1. Automotive

5.2.4.2. Electronics

5.2.4.3. Food & Beverages

5.2.4.4. Construction

5.2.4.5. Healthcare

5.2.5. By Region

5.2.5.1. North America

5.2.5.2. Europe

5.2.5.3. Asia Pacific

5.2.5.4. LATAM

5.2.5.5. MEA

6. North America Robotics and Automation Actuators Market

7. Europe Robotics and Automation Actuators Market

8. Asia Pacific Robotics and Automation Actuators Market

9. Latin America Robotics and Automation Actuators Market

10. Middle East & Africa Robotics and Automation Actuators Market

11. Company Profile: Overview, Financial Matrix, Key Product landscape, Key Personnel, Key Competitors, Contact Address, SWOT Analysis and Strategic Outlook

11.1. Rockwell Automation

11.2. Moog

11.3. Curtiss Wright

11.4. ABB

11.5. Altra Industrial Motion

11.6. Rotork

11.7. Auma

11.8. Flowserve

11.9. Emerson

11.10. Misumi Group

11.11. SKF

11.12. DVG Automation

11.13. Festo

11.14. Harmonic Drive

11.15. IAI

11.16. Nook Industries

11.17. Rotomation

11.18. Tolomatic

11.19. Kinitics Automation

11.20. Chuanyi Automation

11.21. SMC

For more information about this report visit https://www.researchandmarkets.com/r/jv06xi

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These dog-like robots do backflips and play soccer. Yes, they’re adorable – CNN

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These dog-like robots do backflips and play soccer. Yes, they're adorable - CNN

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The robots are coming, faster than ever – The Boston Globe

Posted: at 6:46 am

Six things are happening in robotics in the Boston area right now.

The warehouse remains hot. The news last week that Amazon Robotics is adding jobs and workspace in Westborough was a ripple from Amazons 2012 acquisition of a local robotics startup, Kiva Systems, which now supplies much of the infrastructure that enables Amazons massive warehouses to fulfill orders so efficiently. In 2015, a couple of Kiva alumni founded 6 River Systems of Waltham, which also sought to make warehouses more efficient. It was snapped up in September by Shopify, a Canadian company that provides support services to online retailers.

Investors remain cool. Kiva and 6 River may be the two biggest financial successes of the past decade in robotics, says Ajay Agarwal, a venture capitalist at Bain Capital Ventures in Boston who put money into Kiva. In robotics, there have been a handful of successes and a lot that have not worked, Agarwal says. Even though his firm did well when Amazon bought Kiva, Agarwal says that he hasnt seen a lot that we were excited about backing since Kiva. Agarwal and Bilal Zuberi, an investor at Lux Capital, agree that many robotics companies are more interested in working on really tough technical problems often a continuation of their founders academic research. Most of the robotics sectors wins have been under people who are not trying to commercialize research, but identifying real business opportunities, and only then putting solutions together that address those problems, Zuberi says. (His firm was an investor in CyPhy Works, a Danvers maker of surveillance drones that ceased operations earlier this year.)

The most consistent local investor in the robotics sector? iRobot Ventures, an arm of Burlington-based iRobot. Since 2014, it has put money into about a dozen startups including 6 River.

Simplicity sells. Perhaps the hottest-selling bot at the MassRobotics expo is made by a Lincoln startup called MVP Robotics. Its a 160-pound, $5,500 tackling dummy with a top speed of 16 miles per hour, designed for football practices. There are no artificial intelligence routines running in this robots noggin: its actions on the field are controlled by a coach on the sidelines. But its a way for teams to practice tackling in a realistic way, without human putting players at risk. And MVP already counts as customers half of the National Football Leagues teams, and about 50 colleges. The companys next product is a mobile dummy dubbed HEKTR that police officers can shoot at with live ammo during training. If your aim is good enough, HEKTR falls over.

Drones for business use may soon take flight. American Robotics is a drone-maker that has built a fully-automated system thats contained in what looks like a big white crate. Its basically a drone airport in a box. When its time to fly, doors on the top slide open and an aircraft with four rotors rises into the sky. When the drone returns, it can be recharged without human intervention. American Robotics CEO Reese Mozer says the first market they will focus on is agriculture, giving farmers a high-resolution picture of how well their crops are doing on a daily basis. But before American Robotics is cleared for take-off, it needs to prove to the Federal Aviation Administration that its system can detect and avoid other aircraft without the need for a human pilot or visual observer, Mozer explains. The company hopes that will happen next year.

Can Boston Dynamics transform YouTube views into revenue? Some of the best-recognized robots in the world right now are produced by Boston Dynamics, a Waltham company owned by the conglomerate SoftBank of Japan.

You know the dog-like and humanoid bots youve seen on YouTube that fall over, get back up, open doors, and generally look like theyre ready to take over the world. Boston Dynamics wasnt showing off its robots at the MassRobotics open house last month; CEO Marc Raibert says its too busy doing testing of a four-legged walking robot called Spot at customer locations all over the country, including construction sites, an airport, gas and oil facilities, electric power distribution facilities, and an unnamed entertainment company. (Raibert says there will be a Boston-area demo at the Museum of Science on Dec. 15.)

Zuberi, the venture capitalist at Lux, says hes still a skeptic when it comes to Boston Dynamics, which spun out from MIT way back in 1992: I havent see any signs that they are building systems that solve any specific problems as yet, he says.

Boston startups are trying to identify lots more jobs robots can do. One thing that makes robotics such an interesting field to track is the continual search for ways that todays technologies can perform a useful task.

Root.ai is developing a robot that can tell when fruits like tomatoes or strawberries are ripe and if so, pluck them without accidentally juicing them. Impossible Innovations is developing a snake-like robot that would be able to inspect the inside of pipes and other tight spaces.

Pickle Robot Co. is building a robot (named Dill, naturally) that will be able to load or unload trucks. And Franklin Robotics, based in Billerica, has already delivered 2,000 solar-powered robots that can whack weeds in a garden. But founder Joe Jones notes that there are 42 million gardeners in the United States, and most of them dont love dealing with weeds. He wants to make Franklins $350 weeding robot as ubiquitous as the hoe, he says.

Sounds crazy, until you learn a bit about Jones background: while working at iRobot, he led the team that created the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. That product is the Big Mac of the consumer robotics biz, with more than 25 million sold.

Scott Kirsner can be reached at kirsner@pobox.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKirsner.

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The robots are coming, faster than ever - The Boston Globe

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This robotic arm slows down to avoid the uncanny valley – TechCrunch

Posted: at 6:46 am

Robotic arms can move fast enough to snatch thrown objects right out of the air but should they? Not unless you want them to unnerve the humans theyre interacting with, according to work out of Disney Research. Roboticists there found that slowing a robots reaction time made it feel more normal to people.

Disney has, of course, been interested in robotics for decades, and the automatons in its theme parks are among the most famous robots in the world. But there are few opportunities for those robots to interact directly with people. Hence a series of research projects at its research division aimed at safe and non-weird robot-human coexistence.

In this case the question was how to make handing over an item to a robot feel natural and non-threatening. Obviously if, when you reached out with a ticket or empty cup, the robot moved like lightning and snapped it out of your hands, that could be seen as potentially dangerous, or at the very least make people nervous.

So the robot arm in this case (attached to an anthropomorphic cat torso) moves at a normal human speed. But theres also the question of when it should reach out. After all, it takes us humans a second to realize that someone is handing something to us, then to reach out and grab it. A computer vision system might be able to track an object and send the hand after it more quickly, but it might feel strange.

The researchers set up an experiment where the robot hand reached out to take a ring from a person under three conditions each of speed and delay.

When the hand itself moved quickly, people reported less warmth and more discomfort. The slow speed performed best on those scores. And when the hand moved with no delay, it left people similarly uneasy. But interestingly, too long a delay had a similar effect.

Turns out theres a happy medium that matches what people seem to expect from a hand reaching out to take something from them. Slower movement is better, to a certain point one imagines, and a reasonable but not sluggish delay makes it feel more human.

The handover system detailed in a paper published today (and video below) is robust against the usual circumstances: moving targets, unexpected forces and so on. Itll be a while before an Aristocats bot takes your mug from you at a Disney World cafe, but at least you can be sure it wont snatch it faster than the eye can follow and scare everyone around you.

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This robotic arm slows down to avoid the uncanny valley - TechCrunch

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