The Rubik’s Cube phenomenon: One for the all-time pop charts

lockTo date, more than 400 million Rubik’s Cubes have been sold around the world. As such, the puzzle game is one of the biggest-selling products in history.

Not bad for a toy which its inventor, Hungarian architect Ernő Rubik, says he didn’t even plan to make.

He was working as a professor of architecture at the Budapest College of Applied Architecture at the time, in 1974, and built the cube with the intention of “searching to find a good task for my students”.  Continue reading The Rubik’s Cube phenomenon: One for the all-time pop charts

Kuka wins competition to find the most obscure board game ever invented

Professor Dr Martin Weiss (left) and Markus Webert working with the Kuka small robot KR Agilus. Source: Kuka Robotics
Professor Dr Martin Weiss (left) and Markus Webert working with the Kuka small robot KR Agilus. Source: Kuka Robotics

Becoming one of the world’s largest industrial robot companies takes time and a lot of dedication. Work, work, work. No time for play. And having got to the top, the most annoying thing for a company, like Kuka, must be to see a startup company, like DeepMind, which has yet to deliver a single commercial product, make worldwide headlines for building an artificially intelligent computer that plays an ancient Chinese board game no one understands.

So what does Kuka do to make its own headlines? Of course: find another obscure board game no one understands and teach one of its robots how to play that, and get students at a local university to do all the programming.

The board game in question is Settlers of Catan. While at least spome people had heard of Go, Settlers of Catan sounds like an old cowboy movie that no one saw because it was terrible.  Continue reading Kuka wins competition to find the most obscure board game ever invented

Hong Kong University claims world’s first internally motorized minimally invasive surgical robotic system

Prof Law (left), Prof Yeung (middle) and Prof Yung (right), with their single incision or natural orifice (incision-less) robotic surgery system
Prof Law (left), Prof Yeung (middle) and Prof Yung (right), with their single incision or natural orifice (incision-less) robotic surgery system

A team in Hong Kong is claiming to have developed the world’s first internally motorized minimally invasive surgical robotic system for single incision or natural orifice (incision-less) robotic surgery. 

A statement by the the group, which comprises leading Hong Kong universities working with commercial partner companies, said the system can minimize surgical trauma and improve the safety of current robotic surgery.

The project is said to have developed a novel surgical robotic system (NSRS) with haptic (tactile) feedback and capable of single incision or natural orifice (incision-less) robotic surgery.

The development was initiated by Professor Yeung Chung-Kwong (Prof Yeung), honorary clinical professor at the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong (HKU).  Continue reading Hong Kong University claims world’s first internally motorized minimally invasive surgical robotic system

Billion dollar brain: Exclusive interview with Professor Alois Knoll

Professor Alois Knoll
Professor Alois Knoll, chair of real-time systems and robotics, stands between two tendon driven robots developed as part of the EU project Eccerobot at the Technical University in Munich, Germany. Knoll coordinates the neuro-robotics division of the EU Human Brain Project. Photo: Frank Leonhardt

Professor Alois Knoll, co-ordinator of the European Clearing House for Open Robotics Development (Echord), and one of the key scientists involved in the $1.5 billion-dollar Human Brain Project, speaks exclusively to Robotics and Automation News

It’s not every day you learn a new word you like. From my point of view, having been in journalism longer than I’d like to recall, it’s an interesting experience to be reminded of an extract from a biography of Dr Samuel Johnson, “father of the English dictionary”, written by James Boswell in 1791, which I read in my teens.

Nothing specific from what I read applies here, but I’ll paraphrase a quote from Johnson which I think may be most appropriate. “A writer only begins an article. A reader finishes it.”  Continue reading Billion dollar brain: Exclusive interview with Professor Alois Knoll