Hardware Hacking

More About Dan Shapiro and the Glowforge CNC Laser Cutter (Video #2) 21

Posted by Roblimo
from the tom-swift-and-his-cnc-laser-cutter-would-make-a-great-book-title dept.
Yesterday Glowforge Co-Founder and CEO Dan Shapiro told us that the Glowforge machine is a CNC laser cutter and engraver, not a 3-D Printer -- even though the first words on Glowforge's main page are, "The First 3D Laser Printer," a description Dan says is there for people not familiar with things like laser cutters and 3-D printers, who want to call the Glowforge a 3-D printer even though people who know about this stuff know what it is at first glance. He also talks about his previous startup, Robot Turtles; what it is, how it came to be, and why kids like it so much. This interview is worth watching (or reading) for the Robot Turtles section alone, especially if you have children or are thinking about designing board games for kids.
Robotics

Florida Hospital Shows Normal Internet Lag Time Won't Affect Remote Robotic Surgeries 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-complaining-about-your-ping dept.
Lucas123 writes: Remote robotic surgery performed hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the physician at the controls is possible and safe, according to the Florida Hospital that recently tested Internet lag times for the technology. Roger Smith, CTO at the Florida Hospital Nicholson Center in Celebration, Fla., said the hospital tested the lag time to a partner facility in Ft. Worth, Texas and found it ranged from 30 to 150 milliseconds, which surgeons could not detect as they moved remote robotic laparoscopic instruments. The tests, performed using a surgical simulator called a Mimic, will now be performed as if operating remotely in Denver and then Loma Linda, Calif. The Mimic Simulator system enables virtual procedures performed by a da Vinci robotic surgical system, the most common equipment in use today; it's used for hundreds of thousands of surgeries every year around the world. With a da Vinci system, surgeons today can perform operations yards away from a patient, even in separate but adjoining rooms to the OR. By stretching that distance to tens, hundreds or thousands of miles, the technology could enable patients to receive operations from top surgeons that would otherwise not be possible, including wounded soldiers near a battlefield. The Mimic Simulator was able to first artificially dial up lag times, starting with 200 milliseconds all the way up to 600 milliseconds.
Robotics

MIT Trains Robots To Jump 59

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-don't-tell-them-how-important-necks-and-heads-are-to-humans dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: MIT just announced that its researchers have programmed a robotic cheetah that can leap over obstacles without a prompt from a human controller. The machine's onboard sensors rely on reflected laser-light to judge obstacles' distance and height, and use that data to fuel the algorithm for a safe jump. The robot's controlling algorithm takes into account such factors as the speed needed to launch its mass over the obstacle, the best position for a jump, and the amount of energy required from the onboard electric motor. As of this writing, the robot can clear 90 percent of obstacles on an open track. "A running jump is a truly dynamic behavior," Sangbae Kim, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, is quoted as saying in a university press release. "You have to manage balance and energy, and be able to handle impact after landing. Our robot is specifically designed for those highly dynamic behaviors." For years, some tech pundits have worried that robots and software will gradually replace human workers in key industries such as manufacturing and IT administration. Now they have something else to fret over: Robots replacing the world's hurdlers.
Hardware Hacking

Glowforge is a CNC Laser Cutter, not a 3D Printer (Video) 44

Posted by Roblimo
from the some-machines-add-material-while-others-cut-it dept.
Co-Founder and CEO Dan Shapiro says, right at the beginning of the interview, that the Glowforge machine is a CNC laser cutter and engraver, not a 3-D Printer. He says they've "simplified the heck" out of the hardware and software, and are making an easy-to-use, non-costly ($2500 has been bandied about as the unit's likely price) device that can fit on a kitchen table -- or, more likely, a workbench at a maker facility. Although Dan did very well on Kickstarter (and afterwards) with his previous venture, Robot Turtles, this time he seems to have raised his first $9 million in the venture capital market, with participation from several MakerBot executives.

Glowforge is not the only CNC laser cutter/etcher device out there (or about to be). In Australia, Darkly Labs appears to have raised $569,397 (AUD) on Kickstarter to bring their LazerBlade to life, and already makes a small laser device called the Emblaser. There are others, too, including Boxzy, which did the Kickstarter thing and will now sell you a device that "rapidly transforms into 3 kinds of machines: CNC Mill, 3D Printer & Laser Engraver while enhancing precision & power with ballscrews." All this, and their top-of-the-line "does everything" machine sells for a mere $3500. Obviously, devices to give makers and prototypers the ability to make ever more complex and accurate shapes are coming to market like crazy. We'll continue to keep an eye on all this activity, including a second video interview with Glowforge's Dan Shapiro tomorrow.
AI

New 'Deep Learning' Technique Lets Robots Learn Through Trial-and-Error 65

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-killing-all-humans-didn't-work,-so-kill-all-humans-next-time dept.
jan_jes writes: UC Berkeley researchers turned to a branch of artificial intelligence known as deep learning for developing algorithms that enable robots to learn motor tasks through trial and error. It's a process that more closely approximates the way humans learn, marking a major milestone in the field of artificial intelligence. Their demonstration robot completes tasks such as "putting a clothes hanger on a rack, assembling a toy plane, screwing a cap on a water bottle, and more" without pre-programmed details about its surroundings. The challenge of putting robots into real-life settings (e.g. homes or offices) is that those environments are constantly changing. The robot must be able to perceive and adapt to its surroundings, so this type of learning is an important step.
Google

Cute Or Creepy? Google's Plan For a Sci-Fi Teddy Bear 102

Posted by timothy
from the teddy-ruxpin-pinned-it-on-the-one-armed-man dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Time Magazine reports that Google has designed and patented an "anthropomorphic device" that could take the form of a "doll or toy" and interact both with people as well as tech gadgets echoing the "super toy" teddy bear featured in Stephen Spielberg's 2001 movie AI. This could be one of Google's creepiest patents yet — especially if movies like "Chuckie" still give you nightmares. The patent filing diagrams a stuffed teddy bear and a bunny rabbit outfitted with microphones, speakers, cameras and motors as well as a wireless connection to the internet. If it senses you're looking at it, the fuzzy toy will rotate its head and look back at you. Once it receives and recognizes a voice command prompt, you can then tell it to control media devices in your home (e.g. turn on your music or TV). According to the patent filing: "To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head, and/or focus its gaze on the user or object of its interest. To express curiosity, an anthropomorphic device may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm. To express boredom, an anthropomorphic device may defocus its gaze, direct its gaze in a downward fashion, tap its foot, and/or close its eyes. To express surprise, an anthropomorphic device may make a sudden movement, sit or stand up straight, and/or dilate its pupils."

The patent adds that making the device look "cute" should encourage even the youngest members of a family to interact with it. But Mikhail Avady, from SmartUp, said he thought it belonged in "a horror film", and the campaign group Big Brother Watch has also expressed dismay. "When those devices are aimed specifically at children, then for many this will step over the creepy line," says Avady. "Children should be able to play in private and shouldn't have to fear this sort of passive invasion of their privacy."
Businesses

Here Comes the Keurig of Everything 270

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-the-lazy-people-who-only-eat-4-things dept.
Tekla Perry writes: Keurig made a huge business out of single-serving coffee machines. Now, as more complex machinery shrinks in size and cost, many companies are trying to duplicate that success for other types of food and drink. Startups are introducing the Keurig of cocktails, the Keurig of Jell-O shots, and the Keurig of dinner (it makes stir fries, stews, and risottos). The question is: does having a single- or limited-purpose device make really make sense for consumables that aren't coffee? Counter space is not infinite, and most people want more variety out of their lunches, dinners, and nightcaps than they do for their morning pick-me-up. (Also, let's retire this metaphor before we get a Keurig for cats.)
The Almighty Buck

World's Rudest Robot Set To Simulate the Fury of Call Center Customers 150

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-thousand-different-kinds-of-angry dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A New Zealand-based company called Touchpoint Group has unveiled the world's angriest robot, which is designed to help train call center employees in the art of dealing with frustrated customers. The project, named Radiant, will involve one of Australia's biggest banks, which is providing researchers with recordings of real-life interactions with customers. Once finished Radiant will simulate hundreds of millions of angry customer interactions, helping companies better understand what triggers heated calls.
Technology

Ask Slashdot: After We're Gone, the Last Electrical Device Still Working? 403

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-the-robots-that-killed-us dept.
Leomania writes: After watching a post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi short on YouTube (there are quite a few) and then having our robot vacuum take off and start working the room, I just wondered what would be the last electric/electronic device still functioning if humans were suddenly gone. I don't mean sitting there with no power but would work if the power came back on; rather, something continuously powered, doing the task it was designed for. Are we talking a few years, decades, or far longer?
Transportation

Will Robot Cars Need Windows? 435

Posted by timothy
from the they-can-dream-without-them dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Atlantic has an article asking whether autonomous cars need windows. If there's no driver, will the passengers want to look outside? In the summer, will anyone want to endure the relentless heat from the sun? The robot cars offer us a great opportunity to rethink the platform which is largely devoted to supporting the driver. But if a computer is in charge and it sees with dozens of cameras ringing the car, what else can we change? What else don't we need? What can improve?
Intel

Mark and Joel Make Autonomous Drones in Their Spare Time (Video) 17

Posted by Roblimo
from the when-a-drone-hits-your-eye-like-a-big-pizza-pie-that's-a-lawsuit dept.
Mark F. Brown and Joel Rozenweig build autonomous drones; that is, drones that don't need an operator every second. You tell the autonomous drone, "Pick up package # 941A at the loading dock and deliver it to 451 Bradbury St.' and off it goes. It's going to be a while yet before that happens, but one day....

Back in the present, dronemaking is still a hobby for Mark and Joel, something they do for fun after spending their workdays as software engineers at Intel. Joel says there is 'remarkably little' crossover between their jobs and their hobby, and that (so far) Intel has contributed little beyond some Edison modules (which you can buy for less than $50) and travel to the Embedded Linux Conference, where they gave a talk accompanied by these slides. NOTE: We have a little bonus for you today. We try to keep videos to 10 minutes or less, but we have no such constraints on transcript length. So if you want the 'full' version of this interview, please read the transcript.
AI

Microsoft's AI Judges Age From Snapshots, With Mixed Results 80

Posted by timothy
from the are-humans-all-that-much-better? dept.
mikejuk writes: A Microsoft Research project that lets users upload photos and estimates their age and gender has attracted more attention than expected — not all of it complimentary. The How-Old.net site demonstrates of some of the capabilities of the Face API included in Microsoft's Project Oxford that was announced at Build. It may have been expected to be a source of amusement but instead it backfired when people started to upload their own photos and discovered just how wrong its estimates could be. It demonstrates not only that machine learning has a long way to go before it's good at estimating age, but also that machine learning may not be the most politically correct way to go about answering the question 'How Old Do I look'. It might be better to employ and algorithm that built in all the rules of how to make a polite answer to that request — such as always knock a decade off the age of anyone over 28. Perhaps this particular neural network needs to learn some social skills before pronouncing how old people look. However it is capable of telling some truths — a photo of Barak Obama in 2005 gives an estimated age of 46, close to his real age of 44, but just 9 years later in 2014 the age guessing robot places him at 65. It seems that Mr President aged 20 years in less than 10 years of office.
Robotics

Robots In 2020: Lending a Helping Hand To Humans (And Each Other) 46

Posted by timothy
from the never-show-them-weakness dept.
Lashdots writes: In the next five years, robots won't kill us (or drive our cars). But they will get better at helping us do routine tasks—and at helping each other too. Those are some of the predictions Fast Company gleaned from some of the robotics firms on its "most innovative" list, including Anki Robotics, robot-based genetic testing startup Counsyl, and Lockheed Martin, which has demonstrated a pair of unmanned aerial vehicles that work together to fight fires. I'm just waiting for drones that will simultaneously cut my lawn and deter burglars.
Businesses

Oculus Rift-Based System Brings True Immersion To Telepresence Robots 34

Posted by samzenpus
from the from-the-comfort-of-your-own-home dept.
An anonymous reader writes: University of Pennsylvania researchers have built an Oculus Rift-based telepresence system that attempts to bring true immersion to remotely operated robots. The system, called DORA (Dexterous Observational Roving Automaton), precisely tracks the motion of your head and then duplicates those motions on a mobile robot moving around at a remote location. Video from the robot's cameras is transmitted to the Oculus headset. One of the creators said that while using the system you "feel like you are transported somewhere else in the real world."
Robotics

Fetch Robotics Unveils Warehouse Robots 49

Posted by samzenpus
from the lift-bots dept.
gthuang88 writes: Warehouse automation has become a big business, with Amazon's Kiva robots leading the way. Now a startup called Fetch Robotics is rolling out a pair of new robots that can pick boxes off of shelves, pass them to each other, and carry the goods to a shipping station. Fetch, led by Willow Garage veteran Melonee Wise, is competing with companies like Amazon's Kiva Systems, Rethink Robotics, and Harvest Automation to develop dexterous, mobile robots for retail, distribution, and manufacturing.
Robotics

Researchers Mount Cyberattacks Against Surgery Robot 55

Posted by Soulskill
from the backseat-aortic-bypass dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A group of researchers from University of Washington have tested the security of a teleoperated robotic surgery system created by their colleagues, and have found it severely lacking. "Teleoperated surgical robots will be expected to use a combination of existing publicly available networks and temporary ad-hoc wireless and satellite networks to send video, audio and other sensory information between surgeons and remote robots. It is envisioned these systems will be used to provide immediate medical relief in under-developed rural terrains, areas of natural and human-caused disasters, and in battlefield scenarios," the researchers noted, and asked: "But what if these robotic systems are attacked and compromised?"
Robotics

Robots Step Into the Backbreaking Agricultural Work That Immigrants Won't Do 285

Posted by samzenpus
from the they-took-our-jobs dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Ilan Brat reports at the WSJ that technological advances are making it possible for robots to handle the backbreaking job of gently plucking ripe strawberries from below deep-green leaves, just as the shrinking supply of available fruit pickers has made the technology more financially attractive. "It's no longer a problem of how much does a strawberry harvester cost," says Juan Bravo, inventor of Agrobot, the picking machine. "Now it's about how much does it cost to leave a field unpicked, and that's a lot more expensive." The Agrobot costs about $100,000 and Bravo has a second, larger prototype in development. Other devices similarly are starting to assume delicate tasks in different parts of the fresh-produce industry, from planting vegetable seedlings to harvesting lettuce to transplanting roses. While farmers of corn and other commodity crops replaced most of their workers decades ago with giant combines, growers of produce and plants have largely stuck with human pickers—partly to avoid maladroit machines marring the blemish-free appearance of items that consumers see on store shelves. With workers in short supply, "the only way to get more out of the sunshine we have is to elevate the technology," says Soren Bjorn.

American farmers have in recent years resorted to bringing hundreds of thousands of workers in from Mexico on costly, temporary visas for such work. But the decades-old system needs to be replaced because "we don't have the unlimited labor supply we once did," says Rick Antle. "Americans themselves don't seem willing to take the harder farming jobs," says Charles Trauger, who has a farm in Nebraska. "Nobody's taking them. People want to live in the city instead of the farm. Hispanics who usually do that work are going to higher paying jobs in packing plants and other industrial areas." The labor shortage spurred Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods, one of the country's largest vegetable farmers, to buy a Spanish startup called Plant Tape, whose system transplants vegetable seedlings from greenhouse to field using strips of biodegradable material fed through a tractor-pulled planting device. "This is the least desirable job in the entire company," says Becky Drumright. With machines, "there are no complaints whatsoever. The robots don't have workers' compensation, they don't take breaks."
Robotics

Tiny Robots Climb Walls Carrying More Than 100 Times Their Weight 19

Posted by samzenpus
from the carrying-a-heavy-load dept.
schwit1 writes: Mighty things come in small packages. The little robots in this video can haul things that weigh over 100 times more than themselves. The super-strong bots — built by mechanical engineers at Stanford — will be presented next month at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle, Washington. The secret is in the adhesives on the robots' feet. Their design is inspired by geckos, which have climbing skills that are legendary in the animal kingdom. The adhesives are covered in minute rubber spikes that grip firmly onto the wall as the robot climbs. When pressure is applied, the spikes bend, increasing their surface area and thus their stickiness. When the robot picks its foot back up, the spikes straighten out again and detach easily.
Robotics

Learn About FIRST's New Embedded Linux Controller (Video) 26

Posted by Roblimo
from the rocking-and-socking-more-powerfully-than-ever dept.
Our interviewee today is Mike Anderson, an adviser to FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Team 116 at Herndon High School in Virginia. He's here to tell us about the new embedded Linux controller FIRST is using this year. It is apparently a bit short of documentation at this stage, so team 116 and others have been posting what they learn at Chief Delphi, which is 'the' FIRST online discussion forum (and fun to read to keep up with all things FIRST). We've talked about FIRST before. We've taken you to FIRST competitions, and looked behind the scenes at the building of a FIRST robot, and will no doubt keep covering a selection of FIRST activities in the future.