Interview with the inventors of near-field communications

Inventors of NFC: Franz Amtmann and Philippe Maugars
Inventors of NFC: Franz Amtmann and Philippe Maugars

They’re not the most famous scientists in the world, but they’re well known enough within the tech community, certainly after winning European Inventor Award recently. And the communication system they invented is used by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Franz Amtmann and Philippe Maugars, who both work for NXP, invented near-field communications (NFC) technology, which is enabling an ever-increasing number of people to pay for their shopping and whatever through contactless payment systems – using either their bank card or smartphone.

NFC can thought of as being like Bluetooth, but is said to be a lot simpler. Closely related to radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, NFC has a range of about 20 centimetres, whereas Bluetooth has a range of about five to 10 metres. Continue reading Interview with the inventors of near-field communications

Your artificially intelligent assistant is ready to take a letter

boss dictates letter to secretaryOne of the many perks of being the boss of a reasonably sized company is having your own personal assistant, someone who you can dictate letters to, someone who keeps your diary updated, answers your phones and helps you organise your time so you are as efficient and as productive as you can be at work.

A good PA is often very highly paid, commensurate with the company and business sector he or she works for, and their image as super-fast typists and excellent organisers is one that is often celebrated and acknowledged.

However, the relationship between the boss and the PA could be about to change forever as a result of developments in artificially intelligent assistant technology. Already there are a number of artificially intelligent personal assistants – let’s call them AIPAs for now – on the market and according to some, they’re quite good. Continue reading Your artificially intelligent assistant is ready to take a letter

Study reveals how the way we live will change in the next 100 years

A team of leading academics has made a number of predictions for how we will live in the future. Many of the predictions were influenced by environmental conditions, with growing populations leading to the development of structures that are better able to cope with space constraints and diminishing resources.

Super-skyscrapers which will dwarf the Shard, underwater bubble cities and origami furniture are all likely to be reality in 100 years’ time. That’s the verdict of the new study which paints a vivid picture of our future lives; suggesting the way we live, work and play will change beyond all recognition over the course of the next century.

The SmartThings Future Living Report was authored by a team of leading academics including TV presenter and one of the UK’s leading space scientists, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, award-winning futurist architects and lecturers at the University of Westminster Arthur Mamou-Mani and Toby Burgess, as well as pioneering urbanists Linda Aitken and Els Leclerq. Continue reading Study reveals how the way we live will change in the next 100 years

Kuka palletising robot becomes art exhibit

Kuka robot as art exhibit
Paratissima art fair: the palletizing robot from Kuka gives an excellent performance, even as a work of art

After 14 years of continuous operation, a Kuka palletizing robot took up a new function recently, appearing as an art exhibit at the Italian art fair Paratissima in Turin.

The palletizing robot used to be in charge of keeping things orderly: untiring, meticulous and reliable, the KUKA robot spent 14 years sorting boxes of hinges used in furniture production.

In November 2015, it gave up its role as a diligent organizer, embracing creative chaos instead. For this, professional body painters applied their skills to transforming the robot into a work of art.

The Kuka robot was on display at the renowned Italian art fair Paratissima in Turin.

“The project was an unusual opportunity for us to share our modern robot technology with a group of people with whom we would otherwise rarely come into contact,” enthused Gian Luca Branca, CEO of Kuka Italy.

Robot vision: Mine eyes have seen the glory of three dimensions

Euro NCAP has been conducting tests to see how well autonomous cars can see pedestrians
Euro NCAP has been conducting tests to see how well autonomous cars can see pedestrians

Exclusive interview with Claude Florin, CEO of Fastree3D, on helping robots finally see the light just that little bit better than they did before

How do robots see the world? Until now, most of them have had to make do with conventional digital cameras for eyes. In technological terms, these cameras are much like those available to consumers in the shops and, increasingly these days, in their smartphones. As clever as they are, and as high quality as the images turn out to be, these cameras only capture the image as a two-dimensional arrangement of pixels.

This means that a robot using such cameras would not able to perceive the three-dimensional space its “eyes” are looking at. This problem of perception – of perceiving 3D space as 2D space – is solved, or at least tackled, at the coding stage.

To program the robot to translate the flat image into a three-dimensional space, and infer such things as depth, distance and geospatial location, is really quite difficult if approached from a purely computer programming – as in, coding – standpoint.  Continue reading Robot vision: Mine eyes have seen the glory of three dimensions

Chicago Auto Show: Robots rev up their engines in preparation for final victory over human drivers

Chicago Auto Show
Chicago Auto Show

Autonomous cars have already taken over the world and are on the verge of making their final, decisive manoeuvre to eject humanity out of the driving seat. The machines have achieved their domination by using the humble and unsuspecting traditional car as their primary instrument of deception.

That’s according to David Sloan, Chicago Auto Show general manager, although he may not have put it in those exact words. Speaking to Chicago Sun-Times, Sloan says: “People might be surprised to know that most of the technology that will be used to make car autonomous in the future is already in cars today on our show floor.”

Surprised? Try shocked and terrified.

Sloan goes on to say: “All the safety technology that allows cars to automatically brake or park, even adaptive cruise control, is there. Vehicles are now safer, cleaner and more efficient than they have ever been and automakers are still able to make them perform really well. The technology is rapidly advancing, and we’re ready for it.”  Continue reading Chicago Auto Show: Robots rev up their engines in preparation for final victory over human drivers

The Floow of traffic is about to change forever

Exclusive interview with Dr Sam Chapman, of The Floow, about autonomous cars and intelligent transport systems of the future   

Dr Sam Chapman, chief innovation officer, The Floow
Dr Sam Chapman, chief innovation officer, The Floow

You might think driverless cars are a long way off, and anyway you wouldn’t even dream of even getting into one let alone allow one to drive you somewhere. Perhaps you’re a control freak. It’s a widely known fact that people who have phobias such as a fear of flying suffer these maladies mainly because they get stressed out when they’re not in control, especially at times when their life is at stake.

Most people probably reacted with some incredulity to pictures on the news media about five years ago of Google’s first driverless cars. They looked like your everyday family cars, except they looked as if they’d been pimped up by Frank Spencer, with what looked like glorified car radios stuck to the roof and on the dashboard, probably with sticky tape.  Continue reading The Floow of traffic is about to change forever

Robots take fruit-picking route to global domination

Chris Roberts, head of industrial robotics at Cambridge Consultants, gives Robotics and Automation News an exclusive interview 

For those of us fortunate enough to spend our time shopping, and perhaps think of ourselves as discerning shoppers, one of the more pleasant experiences when buying fruit is evaluating them on a number of factors, such as colour, texture, firmness and aroma.

chris roberts, cambridge consultants
Chris Roberts

This final selection process tends to happen at the store, after the fruit supplier has already played its part in initially choosing the most suitable produce for the shops it supplies.

A large amount of automation technology is already used in the fruit-picking industry, from robots picking fruit off trees and plants to huge automated fruit sorting machines, but things could be about to take a quantum leap with the advent of fruit-picking robots that can use the same criteria as the most discerning of shoppers. Continue reading Robots take fruit-picking route to global domination

Schunk grippers help visions become reality

Schunk
Schunk LDx linear direct axes are already widely used today in high-performance assembly.

Admittedly, the iron hand of the legendary knight Götz von Berlichingen and Schunk’s 5-finger hand have very little in common. Yet it cannot be denied that the first personal handshake with the agile high-tech gripper creates an unnerving feeling.

The soft handshake soon dispels all skepticism, however, giving way to enthusiasm for the possibilities of modern mechatronics.

Since the Hannover Messe 2015, where the mechatronic masterpiece caused a sensation in the media, the innovative SCHUNK gripper has become the shooting star in the area of flexible handling. Continue reading Schunk grippers help visions become reality

Conference calls for experts in robotics and automation

Organisers of one of Europe’s most important conferences on robotics and automation are calling for papers and articles from experts in the field in the run-up to its conference in the middle of next year.

The 13th International Conference on Informatics in Control, Automation and Robotics – organized by Institute for Systems and Technologies of Information, Control and Communication (INSTICC) – will take place from 29 to 31 of July 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Also known as the ICINCO conference, this is the 13th time it has been held, and is organised by the INSTICC. Continue reading Conference calls for experts in robotics and automation

Industrial robots: Epson Robots signs Cimtec Automation as distributor

Epson’s new SCARA robots
Epson’s new SCARA robots

Epson Robots, which claims to be the top SCARA robot manufacturer in the world, has added Cimtec Automation as the newest member of its growing distribution network.

The agreement includes distribution of all of Epson Robots automation products including their large lineup of SCARA, 6-Axis and Linear Module robots as well as integrated vision, fieldbus I/O and many other industrial automation products offered by Epson Robots.

“With over 25 years of experience, Cimtec Automation has proven themselves as more than just a distributor of products, but as a premier solutions provider in the Industrial Automation market in the Southeastern US and we are proud to have them as a part of our distribution network,” stated Michael Ferrara, director of Epson Robots. Continue reading Industrial robots: Epson Robots signs Cimtec Automation as distributor

Marine robots: AMS ‘Datamarans’ set to provide unprecedented insights into the world’s oceans

The total surface of Planet Earth spans some 510 million square kilometres, and the ocean accounts for more than 70 per cent. If there’s one man who would be familiar with these kind of numbers it’s Eamon Carrig, co-founder and chief roboticist at Autonomous Marine Systems (AMS), a US robotics startup which could scarcely have more compelling origins.

AMS was started by three aerospace engineers – Carrig, T.J. Edwards, and Walter Holemans, although Holemans has since left the company.

“We had all been working together on spacecraft mechanisms – TJ and Walt mostly mechanical, me mostly electrical and software – since 2006,” says Carrig in an exclusive interview with RoboticsandAutomationNews.com.

“Specifically we worked on satellite separation systems, which are the last systems that have to work to get a satellite on orbit. In my career as a sep system engineer, we produced about 15 systems for flight. I would have bet my life on every single system we delivered.” Continue reading Marine robots: AMS ‘Datamarans’ set to provide unprecedented insights into the world’s oceans

Cloud robotics: Talking cloud and saying nothing

Cloud robotics are enabling robots to access large amounts of computing power that their bodies do not have the physical space to accommodate. Hundreds if not tens of thousands of servers are potentially at the service of small robots which can be in remote locations well away from the nearest supercomputer or data centre, only being connected by, for example, Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

This allows robots to call on powerful, cloud-based applications, such as speech recognition and language, when they are interacting with their users.

At the moment, most cloud robotics systems are linked to specific robots. So, for example, SoftBank’s Pepper robot is linked to the cloud robotics artificial intelligence system developed by Cocoro, another SoftBank company.

Pepper has about 25 onboard sensors to collect a wide range of information – sight, sound, touch and movement. That covers three of the five senses that human beings generally use, the two missing are taste and smell.

Pepper can be connected to the internet through Wi-Fi or Ethernet, both of which are incorporated into the robot. Continue reading Cloud robotics: Talking cloud and saying nothing

Robotics platform: Branches of the same Redtree

Robotics enthusiasts, or makers as they are often referred to, is a global community that is growing all the time. Along with it, the demand for chipsets specifically designed for robots is also expanding. 

Compared to the large number of makers out there, there’s not many chipsets specifically designed for robots – Arduino and Raspberry Pi being the most well known. In fact, a quick search on Google yielded very few results of new chipset makers, and most of them talked of plans but no actual product in existence right now.

Top of the list, however, was Redtree Robotics. The Canadian company is the maker of the Redtree Hydra, which it says is “the definitive chipset for robotics”. The company is still building the chipset – it’s an ongoing process, with the system only available on request to select customers. Continue reading Robotics platform: Branches of the same Redtree

Offline programming software for industrial robots from RoboDK offers hundreds of virtual industrial robots from top robotics companies

  • Offline industrial robot programming software, RoboDK, now has hundreds of virtual robots from all the leading industrial robot manufacturers, including ABB, Fanuc, and Kuka
  • RoboDK’s online library has more than 200 industrial robots, tools and external axes, which can be accessed directly from within the cross-platform application
  • Albert Nubiola, founder and CEO of RoboDK, talks to RoboticsandAutomationNews.com about offline programming and how RoboDK can play an increasingly important role in a market where other solutions can prove far more expensive 

Offline programming software for industrial robots

Offline programming for industrial robots seems like such a logical method of managing industrial robots that it’s difficult to find a good enough reason to do it any other way. Offline programming for industrial robots, mostly in the form of industrial robot simulation software, is a relatively new development in industrial robotics but it has been gaining popularity over the past few years.

However, offline programming software for industrial robots is still not as widespread as perhaps one would expect it to be. The majority of robots were programmed using the teach pendant method. A teach pendant, also known as a “teach box”, is a hand-held device often attached to the robot which has numerous buttons and a screen with which to program the robot, usually on-site, requiring the robot to be isolated from the production line and not do any work.

Without offline programming software for industrial robots, downtime is inevitable. This downtime can clearly be costly, even if the robot is out of action for a few minutes, let alone a few hours or a few days. Offline programming drastically reduces and can even eliminate the need to take the robot away from the automated cell and, therefore, is far more cost-effective. That’s the theory. But in practice, the offline programming solutions released so far have been prohibitively costly for many companies.

RoboDK, a new industrial robot simulator and offline programming software for industrial robots, is aiming to change that. RoboDK is the result of many years’ development at École de technologie supérieure (ETS) university in Montreal, Canada. It is the commercial spin-off from RoKiSim, an educational simulator for industrial robotics that the university made available for free. “RoKiSim was a basic simulator but we realised that people used it a lot,” says Albert Nubiola, founder and CEO of RoboDK. “We got a lot of feedback and we used it to build the commercial version, RoboDK. Continue reading Offline programming software for industrial robots from RoboDK offers hundreds of virtual industrial robots from top robotics companies