Opinion: How assistive robots will transform the workplace and elderly care

By Dr Antonio Espingardeiro, member of the IEEE

Robots can bring significant benefits to the workplace, positively impacting productivity, efficiency and quality.

There are challenges to realising these benefits – not least the complex subject of the degree and quality of human interaction that we want or need robots to deliver.

However, robotics offers tremendous scope for helping humanity, so the field will continue to develop the advanced technologies that make it possible.  Continue reading Opinion: How assistive robots will transform the workplace and elderly care

Mouser Electronics to distribute Robotis components

Mouser Electronics has reached a global agreement with Robotis to distribute the company’s components, which include a range of controllers, servo motors, industrial actuators, and open-source development boards. 

The Robotis portfolio is now available from Mouser Electronics, although it’s not clear whether complete versions of the company’s humanoid robots and its TurtleBot will be sold through Mouser.

Robotis’ OpenCM9.04 open-source controllers run on an STMicroelectronics STM32 F1 microcontroller with a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 core.  Continue reading Mouser Electronics to distribute Robotis components

Technically speaking, South Korea just introduced world’s first ‘robot tax’

It was kind of funny when the idea of asking robots to pay their fair share of taxes was first floated, but it seems some are taking it seriously. 

Bill Gates was one of the first to talk about it, but not many probably took him all that seriously.

But then, not many people take the universal basic income idea seriously either, but some countries have already introduced it.  Continue reading Technically speaking, South Korea just introduced world’s first ‘robot tax’

MIT reveals robot to inspect pipes, while Stanford shows ‘vine-like growing robot’

Universities are doing a lot of interesting work in the area of robotics, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford are two of the most active in the field. 

Both universities showed similar robots this week, MIT’s being a bottle-shaped device which checks pipes and Stanford’s one a machine which is said to grow like a vine.

According to DigitalTrends.com, MIT’s PipeGuard team recently won $10,000 in the university’s competition and swims through pipes to detect any problems.

The YouTube video for the device (above) describes as a “leak detection robot for city water distribution systems”.

Stanford, which also made a video (below) of its strange plant- or worm-like organic robot, if it can be called that, said its invention “could be useful in search and rescue and medical applications”.

Commercial customers for the robots are probably already lined up and perhaps the two teams could spin out into startup companies.

Ten must-read books on robotics and technology

books

Books are the perfect way to explore all sorts of topics. Whether you are a fan of fiction or non-fiction, the book world offers plenty of exciting options when it comes to robotics and technology.

So, if you are looking for something to read over the summer holidays, here are ten must-read books on these current topics.

The list below is a good mixture of fiction and non-fiction to give a unique look in robotics and technology.  Continue reading Ten must-read books on robotics and technology

Toyota demonstrates ‘human service robot’ of a type that may take over a lot of homes

Toyota has been demonstrating what it calls its “Human Support Robot”, a type of robot which looks likely to take over millions of homes all over the world in the next few years.

The market for this type of so-called personal assistance robot is forecast to grow very quickly over the next few years because of advances in the technology.

According to analysts at ResearchAndMarkets.com, the personal robotics market will grow by almost 40 per cent within the next five years to a total size of $34 billion.  Continue reading Toyota demonstrates ‘human service robot’ of a type that may take over a lot of homes

Husarion launches new robotics development board

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The basic Core2 is shown on the left, while the ROS-enabled Core2 is on the right

A company called Husarion has launched a new development board specially designed for robotics. 

The Core2 is described as a controller with a variety of interfaces which are useful in robotics, and it can be connected to the Husarion cloud, enabling remote control of robot systems over the internet.

Among the use cases Husarion highlights are:

  • industrial robot arms;
  • telepresence robots;
  • logistics robotcs;
  • drones; and
  • exoskeletons.

One flavour of Core2 uses the Robot Operation System, and is now available for pre-order through CrowdSupply.com. The controller itself is being offered for less than $100 while  Continue reading Husarion launches new robotics development board

Thailand prioritises robotics, aerospace, and auto industries as it looks to increase competitiveness

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Pictures from BMW’s factory in Thailand

Managing an economy today is not easy. But managing it for tomorrow? Now that’s a real challenge. It’s one that the government in Thailand is tackling head on, with a raft of new policies aimed at future-proofing its workforce and industry, particularly in the automotive, robotics, and aerospace sectors.

The measures, known collectively as Thailand 4.0, are centered on incentivizing foreign direct investment and nurturing innovation for 10 key future-focused industries.

The goal is to foster an ecosystem that promotes emerging technology, innovation, and creativity within each of these sectors.  Continue reading Thailand prioritises robotics, aerospace, and auto industries as it looks to increase competitiveness

Growing demand for consumer robots will lead to global spending on robots increasing to $87 billion by 2025, says BCG

The global market for robotics is growing far faster than expected and is projected to reach $87 billion by 2025, according to new research by the Boston Consulting Group.

Updating its previous estimate of $67 billion from three years ago, the management consulting firm recently revised its forecast sharply higher, mostly because of soaring consumer demand.

In a new paper released today, Gaining Robotics Advantage, BCG projects an additional $14 billion of growth in the consumer sector to $23 billion, an increase of 156 per cent over its earlier estimate.  Continue reading Growing demand for consumer robots will lead to global spending on robots increasing to $87 billion by 2025, says BCG

Americans split on impact of automation in the workplace

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Picture credit: Hitachi via IEEE

Automation in the workplace is a polarizing issue for Americans, according to the results of a new American Staffing Association Workforce Monitor survey conducted online by Harris Poll.

About equal percentages of respondents say that automation – for example, robots or artificial intelligence – will be a good or a bad thing for the future world of work.

Specifically, 34 per cent of Americans say automation will be a positive development for the workforce in the next 10 years or more—compared with 31% who say it will be negative. A plurality (35 per cent) are neutral on the matter or just don’t know.  Continue reading Americans split on impact of automation in the workplace

Harvest Croo Robotics field tests autonomous strawberry-picking vehicle

harvest croo strawberry picking robot interior view

Harvest Croo Robotics is field testing an autonomous vehicle designed to help plant and pick strawberries, according to a report on ThePacker.com

The new vehicle looks rather unlike your typical farm vehicle, and is designed to straddle six strawberry beds as it moves along. It uses GPS navigation, LiDAR vision and carries 16 robots which will do the actual planting and picking of the strawberries.

The robots will use a proprietary vision system which will identify which strawberries are ready to be picked (probably based on colour as robots can’t smell or taste yet as far as we know). Picked strawberries will then be moved to the platform level for further inspection and grading.  Continue reading Harvest Croo Robotics field tests autonomous strawberry-picking vehicle

Chinese government’s plan to grow robotics and automation industry seems to be working

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Robot waiting staff at a restaurant in China. Picture courtesy: TheRobotReport.com

China’s plan to expand the nation’s robotics and automation industry seems to be working, according to a new survey by TheRobotReport.com

The website tracks robotics companies worldwide and editor Frank Tobe says he wrote about 194 robot companies in China in 2015, but now that number has more than doubled to greater than 500.

The Chinese government launched a “robot revolution” as part of its Made in China 2025 program a couple of years ago, partly because it has become the world’s biggest buyer of robots and would like some of those robots to be made by domestic companies.  Continue reading Chinese government’s plan to grow robotics and automation industry seems to be working

SoftBank to buy Boston Dynamics, the maker of those unnervingly realistic humanoid and canine robots

boston dynamics bigdog

SoftBank, the maker of the Pepper and Nao humanoid robots, has reached a deal to buy Boston Dynamics, the robotics business owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google. 

Some of the robots Boston Dynamics has been building a wide range of robots, some of which are humanoid, others canine and one or two wheeled – or a hybrid of these structures.

But whatever robots the company has made, they’ve been widely acclaimed as having some of the most realistic movements and best balance of any robots made anywhere – watching them move can be quite unnerving because they move almost exactly like humans or canines.  Continue reading SoftBank to buy Boston Dynamics, the maker of those unnervingly realistic humanoid and canine robots

Apple extends Swift programming language to support robotics

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Apple has updated Swift Playgrounds, its educational coding app for iPad, to include what the company describes as “new way to learn to code using robots, drones and musical instruments”.

Swift Playgrounds is aimed at students and beginners learning to code with Swift, Apple’s programming language for building apps.

Apple says it is working with leading device makers to make it easy to connect to Bluetooth-enabled robots within the Swift Playgrounds app, allowing users to program and control popular devices, including Lego Mindstorms Education EV3, the Sphero SPRK+, Parrot drones and more.  Continue reading Apple extends Swift programming language to support robotics

Learning through play: Omron shows off table tennis-playing robot

For some time, practitioners of mind sports have been grappling with artificial intelligence (AI). Computer brains have already beaten the best human players in chess and Go.

The picture is quite different for sports that require both mental and physical skills. Physical interaction with a human is an enormous challenge for developers of intelligent robots.

Omron, one of the world’s leading companies in industrial automation, has successfully taken on this challenge.

The company is currently in Hannover to show how the third generation of Forpheus, a table tennis robot, adds artificial intelligence to its core skills of sensor and control technology.  Continue reading Learning through play: Omron shows off table tennis-playing robot