Willow Garage to Give Away 10 PR2 Robots

PR2 Robot, Call for Proposals

Willow Garage invites proposals from research organizations interested in using the PR2 to accelerate robotics research, drive open source robotics development, and contribute to the open source robotics community. Approximately ten PR2s will be made available to research organizations that will make rigorous and creative use of the robot in existing or planned research projects.

By making the PR2 platforms available to researchers and developers, Willow Garage’s objectives for this beta program are fourfold:

•enable scientific breakthroughs in personal robotics
•expand the open source robotics community
•develop reusable components and tools
•explore new applications for personal robots
Willow Garage’s goal is to facilitate progress in the area of personal robotics, and to develop a world-wide community of researchers and developers contributing to open-source. Willow Garage works to facilitate progress in the area of personal robotics by sponsoring community-building activities and events, internship programs and visiting scholars.

This Call for Proposals is the beginning of an important open source robotics community-building effort. It is our hope that the PR2 platform will focus attention and foster the sharing of open source code to enable the development of new robotics systems, tools and applications.

Download the Call for Proposals document

Visit Willow Garage

Visit us at Roslyn-Robot.com

Robovie-II Robot to Aid Shoppers

Robovie-II from ATR, a Japanese robotics research institution has been designed to follow you around the supermarket, carry your shopping basket, and remind you of what is on your shopping list.. This is an experiment and the data collected will be used to help design service robots that in the not to distant future will help provide support to the elderly.

Diana Lee, an author for MATHABA, says that Japan sees its future in service robots.
You can read the article here

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Holy Jumping Jehoshaphat!

Yep, that’s what you Great Grand Daddy would say if he saw this video.

This little robot is a new creation from Boston Dynamics, a company that I have written about before.

Here is how they describe themselve on their web site www.bostondynamics.com

Boston Dynamics builds advanced robots with remarkable behavior: mobility, agility, dexterity and speed. We use sensor-based controls and computation to unlock the capabilities of complex mechanisms. Our world-class development teams take projects from initial concept to proof-of-principle prototyping to build-test-build engineering, to field testing and low-rate production.

Organizations worldwide, from DARPA, the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps to Sony Corporation turn to Boston Dynamics for advice and for help creating the most advanced robots on Earth.

They really do make some cool although creepy robots. Click on the links below to see some more videos of these robots in action.

BigDog – The Most Advanced Rough-Terrain Robot on Earth,
LittleDog – The Legged Locomotion Learning Robot
PETMAN – BigDog gets a Big Brother
RHex Devours Rough Terrain
RiSE: The Amazing Climbing Robot

They are also workin on: SquishBot – Advanced Chemistry Robot that Inches, Climbs and Deforms
Sorry, no video of SquishBbot yet.

In our November 2008 post Roslyn-Robot Company intoduced our Robotics PC Interface Prototype After an ten month hiatus, work on that has now resumed and I expect to be posting some footage of the controller in action soon.

visit www.roslyn.robot.com

Is the Memristor the Key to the Positronic Brain

Every student of electronics learns that every circuit no matter how complex is made up of only three fundamental types of components. Resistors, Capacitors, and Inductors.

In 1971 while studying equations that linked these three fundamental elements together Prof. Leon Chua of the Electrical Engineering Department of UC Berkeley published a paper in which he predicted a fourth element would be found. “Memristor – The missing circuit element.” IEEE Trans. Circuit Theory CT-18, 507-519 (1971). 

Now almost 40 years later this prediction has come true. Scientists at Hewlitt Packard have learned how to build memristors.  So will all the electronic books need to be re-written. I guess, although there is  a lot of controversy over whether or not the memristor is indeed a fourth basic element..

Memristor is short for Memory Resistor, it is a passive device in which the resistance can be varied in circuit. What makes the memristor different from other types of variable resisitors is that a memristor will  retain its last set resistance even when the device is turned off.

Applications for memristors are computer memory that retains its state when turned off, so no more boot up required, push the power button and instantly the computer is up and running. Memristors all will greatly simplify construction of artificial synanpses  and so by extension artificial brains.

 Read about it here

This is just what this Venus Robot has been waiting for!

Book Review: Robots, Reasoning, and Reification

Robots, Reasoning, and Reification Image

This new book published by Springer and written by Lousie and James Gunderson is targeted at artificial intellegence researchers and professionals.

Here is a description from the publisher

Robots, Reasoning, and Reification focuses on a critical obstacle that is preventing the development of intelligent, autonomous robots:the gap between the ability to reason about the world and the ability to sense the world and translate that sensory data into a symbolic model.

This ability is what enables living systems to look at the world and perceive the things in it. In addition, intelligent living systems can extrapolate from their mental models and predict the effects of their actions in the real world. The authors call this bi-directional mapping of sensor data to symbols and symbolic manipulation onto real world effects reification. After exploring the gulf between bottom-up and top-down approaches to autonomous robotics, the book develops the concepts of reification from biologically based premises, and follows the development into the necessary components and structures that can be used to provide equivalent capabilities for intelligent robots. It continues by demonstrating how the reification engine supports both learning from experience and creating new behaviors and representations of the world.

I like the way this book begins…

Where is my robot?

You know – the one that acts like the ones in the movies; the one that I just tell

what to do, and it goes out and does it. If it has problems, it overcomes them; if

something in the world changes, it deals with the changes. The robot that we can

trust to do the dirty, dangerous jobs out in the real world – where is that robot? What

is preventing us from building and deploying robots like this? While there are a

number of non-trivial and necessary hardware issues, the critical problem does not

seem to be hardware related. We have many examples of small, simple systems that

will (more or less) vacuum a floor, or mow a lawn, or pick up discarded soda cans

in an office. But these systems have a hard time dealing with new situations, like a

t-shirt tossed on the floor, or the neighbor’s cat sunning itself in the yard. We also

have lots of teleoperated systems, from Predator aircraft, to deep sea submersibles,

to bomb disposal robots, to remote controlled inspection systems. These systems

can deal with changes to the world and significant obstacles provided that one or

more humans are in the loop to tell the robot what to do.

So, what happens when a person takes over the joystick, and looks through the

low-resolution, narrow field of view camera of a perimeter-patrol security robot?

Suddenly, where the robot was confounded by simple obstacles and easy to fix situations,

the teleoperated system is able to achieve its goals and complete its mission.

This is despite the fact that in place of a tight sensor-effector loop, we now have a

long delay between taking an action and seeing the results (very long in the case of

NASA’s Mars rovers). We have the same sensor data, we have the same effector capabilities,

we have added a massive delay yet the system performs better. Of course,

it is easy to say that the human is just more intelligent (whatever that means), but

that does not really answer the question. What is it that the human operator brings

to the system?

We believe that a major component of the answer is the ability to reify: the ability

to turn sensory data into symbolic information, which can be used to reason about

the situation, and then to turn a symbolic solution back into sensor/effector actions

that achieve a goal. This bridging process from sensor to symbol and back is the

focus of this book. Since it is the addition of a human to the system that seems to
enable success, we draw heavily from current research into what biological systems(primarily vertebrates) do to succeed the world, and how they do what they do.

We look at some research into cognition on a symbolic level, and research into the

physiology of biological entities on a physical (sensor/effector) level. From these

investigations we derive a computational model of reification, and an infrastructure

to support the mechanism. Finally, we detail the architecture that we have developed

to add a reification to existing robotic systems.

I found this book interesting but would caution that it is not for everyone.  I would recommend reading some of the sample chapters available on Google first, then decide if you want to pay the $120 purchase price to read the rest.
The theory presented in the book is fascingating, it is very well researched and over 200 footnotes and citations are provided. 

One thing, I am not sure what the publisher is referring to with the statement

It continues by demonstrating how the reification engine supports both learning from experience and creating new behaviors and representations of the world.
In the closing paragraphs the authors state…

One of the obvious deficits of this model, is that the robot can not learn.

What they are really saying is that learning capability still needs to be worked out.


The Gundersons have a robot company named Gamma Two, see this video below of Basil, a robot created using the ideas presented in this book 

visit us at www.Roslyn-Robot.com

4-H Receives $2.5 Million Robotics Grant

(Media-Newswire.com) – LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska 4-H is emerging as a national leader in science education, thanks to a nearly $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation that will take its robotics and GPS/GIS curriculum national.

The new grant, titled “Scale-Up: National Robotics in 4-H: Workforce Skills for the 21st Century,” will allow 4-H to expand its current program, offered mostly to Nebraska youth, to youth from across the United States, said Bradley Barker, University of Nebraska-Lincoln 4-H science and technology specialist and one of the project’s leaders.

The idea, Barker said, is to get young people excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, not just now but for the rest of their lives.

“Robotics is a great integration of all those concepts, all those academic areas,” Barker said. “We make it fun for them. They’re building, they’re programming, they’re hands-on.”

Elbert Dickey, dean and director of UNL Extension, said the program is an excellent example of how 4-H prepares participants for the future.

“By focusing on such key elements of science, technology, engineering and mathematics we’re really helping prepare participants for the workplace of the 21st Century,” Dickey said. “This really is what 4-H is all about.”

John Owens, Harlan vice chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, agreed.

“This is such an exciting project. This type of knowledge is critical to the forward movement of our nation,” Owens said. “Through this project youth can gain the confidence to know they can indeed do science – and enjoy it. We look forward to the progress of this project with great enthusiasm.”

Targeted at students in grades 5-9, the 4-H Robotics and Geospatial Project is built on a 40-hour summer camp experience that features hands-on activities that teach principles of robotics and geospatial technologies in promoting learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Following the summer camps, participants go back to their 4-H clubs and after-school programs for monthly meetings to build on what they learn. Then, in year two, they attend an advanced summer camp, followed by eight more months of activities in their home communities.

During summer 2007, the project was piloted with two camps, followed by formation of several pilot clubs. During summer 2008, 150 youth attended six camps, and 13 clubs will meet during the 2008-09 school year.

This new five-year grant will expand the curriculum’s reach, first in the North Central Region, then nationally.

“This type of technology is exciting enough that once you get people at any age working with it, they want to learn more,” said Viacheslav Adamchuk, associate professor in biological systems engineering and the project’s other principal investigator.

Research results from the pilot camps show the program works: Students who participated in the five-day camp last summer showed a 30 percent increase in science, technology, engineering and math learning. Also, their attitudes toward those disciplines improved from 3.88 to 4.10 on a five-point scale.

“It is so cool … to watch these kids get so excited about making those robots do what they want them to do,” said Gwen Nugent, who conducted those evaluations. Nugent, who’s with the College of Education and Human Sciences’ Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools, will continue to evaluate the curriculum.

Barker said plans are to build a new, affordable educational robotics kit with an integrated GPS chip receiver for the national project. Bing Chen, professor of computer and electronic engineering, and his team will lead the development of the new robotics platform based on work he’s done in his classroom.

Chen is recognized as a national leader in this area. Last year, he received a $3 million NSF grant for an Omaha-based team that’s using small robots to help middle school students learn science, technology, engineering and math.

Working with its partners – the National 4-H Council and National After School Association – Nebraska 4-H will contract with several trainers that will train others to deliver the program. Initially, that will be 40 trainers in each of three regions.

The first step will be to hire a project manager and instructional designer, Barker said.

The curriculum will be taught in both 4-H clubs and after-school programs.

“There’s a shortage of scientists and engineers. We’re trying to have kids go through this program, be successful and realize … ‘I can do science,'” Barker said.

Curriculum organizers are especially interested in attracting girls to science, he added. “They tend to self-select out” of science as they enter college.

“The NSF is anxious to get kids excited about science, technology, engineering and math,” Nugent said.

Nebraska 4-H is part of University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, a division of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

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