Archive for the 'Robotics' Category

I Love My Robot!

Some Roomba Owners Become Emotionally Attached, Study Finds.

The AP (3/3) reports, “A new study shows how deeply some Roomba owners become attached to the robotic vacuum and suggests there’s a measure of public readiness to accept robots in the house – even flawed ones.” Beki Grinter, an associate professor at Georgia Tech’s College of Computing and one of the researchers involved, said, “They’re more willing to work with a robot that does have issues because they really, really like it.” Grinter added, “It sort of begins to address more concerns: If we can design things that are somewhat emotionally engaging, it doesn’t have to be as reliable.” The article details the phases of the research and lists some of the specific findings.

Reposted from the March 3, 2010 ASEE First Bell.

Picky about Trash

Robot Sorts Plastic Recyclables From Trash.

The Daily Telegraph (UK) (3/2, Demetriou) reported on a “device, created by Mitsubishi Electric Engineering Corp and Osaka University researchers, [that] identifies different plastic materials among rubbish and sorts them into piles.” The robot “uses five laser beams and sensors to detect a range of different plastics for recycling purposes.” Plastic recycling in Japan is comparatively limited, and the new device “aims to boost plastic recycling levels by identifying six different types of plastics that can be recycled and sorted from general rubbish collections.”

Reposted from the March 3, 2010 ASEE First Bell.

A Robot for My Co-Pilot

In-Dash Robot Uses Facial Expressions To Communicate With Driver

The Wired (11/17, Squatriglia) “Autopia” blog reported, “Audi and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology envision a future where robots riding shotgun make us happier, safer drivers and create a ‘symbiotic relationship’ between car and driver.”  The robot, called Affective Intelligent Driving Agent, or Aida, “would analyze our driving habits, keeping track of frequent routes and destinations to provide real-time traffic info, and make friendly suggestions along the way,” as well as “give gentle reminders to buckle up, watch our speed or slow down for that school bus up ahead.”  The robot “uses a small laser video projector to convey facial expressions and other information.”  Having “human-like motion” and the ability to express emotions, researchers say, “makes it easier to convey information,” since “reading a facial expression is instantaneous.”  The researchers “plan to build a driving simulator for a controlled study” by next year, and “real-world tests will follow in 2011.”

Reposted from the November 18, 2009 ASEE First Bell briefing.

Just in Time for Halloween…

ChemBot Unveiled

CNET News (10/15, Katz) reports on the “shape-shifting ChemBot” that “looks like the love child of a beating heart and a wad of Silly Putty.”  It is the product of a contract awarded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the U.S. Army Research Office to iRobot.  The maker “along with University of Chicago researchers, showed off the oozy results at the Iros conference (the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems) in St. Louis this week.  DARPA envisions the palm-size ChemBot as a mobile robot that can traverse soft terrain and navigate through small openings, such as tiny wall cracks, during reconnaissance and search-and-rescue missions.”  The robot “inflates and deflates parts of its body, changing size and shape — and scaring the living daylights out of us.  We don’t know exactly when ChemBot will join the Armed Forces, but we can only beg:  please, oh please, keep it away from us.”

Reposted from the October 15, 2009 ASEE First Bell briefing.

High Speed Robot Arm

A high speed robot arm dribbles, spins a pen, throws and catches, knots, and uses tweezers to pick up a grain of rice.  Link to video at

The robot is under development at Ishikawa Komuro Laboratory.  You can see additional videos and demonstration at their web site.

Helping Hands

Technology Review (9/28, Grifantini) reports, “Researchers from Harvard and Yale Universities have developed a simple, soft robotic hand that can grab a range of objects delicately, and which automatically adjusts its fingers to get a good grip. The new hand could also potentially be useful as a prosthetic arm.” Unlike other soft robotic hands, this one “has just a few sensors and a single motor, but can pick up a variety of objects with the flexibility of a human hand.” The researchers noted that “people do not normally use a rigid grasp, but keep their fingers relaxed” when reaching for an object in order “to avoid knocking the object over.” Similarly, “making the robotic hand flexible allows it to pick up objects even with minor calculation errors” while “embedded sensors…allow the new hand to feel an object and adjust its grip.”


From ASEE First Bell, September 28, 2009.  All rights reserved.

The Robots of Summer

For all you baseball fans out there, an interesting tidbit from the American Society for Engineering Education’s First Bell news digest of July 27, 2009:

Robots Developed To Pitch, Hit With Accuracy.

The AP (7/24) reported, “A pair of baseball-playing robots that can pitch and hit with incredible results have been developed in Japan.” The three-fingered “pitching robot…can throw 90 percent of its pitches in the strike zone,” although the ball it uses is polystyrene and the pitch travels at 25 miles per hour. University of Tokyo professor Masatoshi Ishikawa “is hoping to increase the speed to 93 mph and make it able to throw off-speed pitches like curves and sliders.” The batting robot, meanwhile, “has a sensor to determine if pitches are strikes or balls,” and “hits balls in the strike zone almost 100 percent of the time” and “doesn’t swing at pitches outside the strike zone.”

        Popular Science (7/24, Smith) reported that the pitching robot “can open and close its fingers 10 times a second,” which “allows for precise pitching. … The batter is an arm developed by MIT that has a 1000-frame-per-second camera eye attached to detect incoming pitches.”

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