Send in Pointman before People

You’re a police officer responding to a burglar alarm call. You arrive at the scene at 2 am, alone. It’s a pharmacy in a desolated area. The door has been kicked in. Now what?  Do you draw you gun and go inside? Is there someone waiting for you in there?

Sounds like a job for Pointman, watch the video

You can learn more about Pointman here.

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Living with Robots

Yesterday at the Sundance Film Festival Honda debuted”Living with Robots” a short documentary and the sixth installment in its series “Dream the Impossible”.

This film talks about how far Honda has come with its humanoid robot ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) in the past twenty years

When the ASIMO program started, creating a biped walking robot seemed an impossible task. Today ASIMO walks well, although it will certainly improve as time goes on.

Honda’s focus has now shifted toward the Artificial Intellegence aspect and is working hard on making ASIMO smarter.

Watch the film here.

ASIMO Humanoid Robot

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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

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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

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.


Robot Uses Rat Brain to Avoid Obsticles

The University of Reading in England has a new robot named Gordon with a biological brain. The brain is composed of rat neurons, and the robot uses it to avoid bunping into things

The following press release was issued by the University of Reading on August 14th

A multidisciplinary team at the University of Reading has developed a robot which is controlled by a biological brain formed from cultured neurons. This cutting edge research is the first step to examine how memories manifest themselves in the brain, and how a brain stores specific pieces of data. The key aim is that eventually this will lead to a better understanding of development and of diseases and disorders which affect the brain such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, stroke and brain injury.

The robot’s biological brain is made up of cultured neurons which are placed onto a multi electrode array (MEA). The MEA is a dish with approximately 60 electrodes which pick up the electrical signals generated by the cells. This is then used to drive the movement of the robot. Every time the robot nears an object, signals are directed to stimulate the brain by means of the electrodes. In response, the brain’s output is used to drive the wheels of the robot, left and right, so that it moves around in an attempt to avoid hitting objects. The robot has no additional control from a human or a computer, its sole means of control is from its own brain.

For more information please contact Dr Lucy Chappell on 0118 378 7391 or 0751 518 8751 or email

You can read the full press release Here

I have written the university in hope of getting them to ship me the rats that they have removed the brains from. I want to equip these rats with the latest 8 bit microcontrollers from Texas Instruments and then have them compete with the robots with the rat brains.

 I haven’t heard back from them though. Oh well.

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What’s New from MIT Robotics

I haven’t heard any robotics news coming out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in a while, so I decided to check up on them and see what’s going on.

MIT’s role in the history of robotics is unsurpassed, here is a quick recap.

In 1959 the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory was founded on the principle that vision, robotics, and language are the keys to understanding intelligence, and ultimately how the human mind works. The early work in AI pioneered many of the computing practices that are now standard in the field of computer science.

Founders included Marvin Minsky, John McCarthy (who invented Lisp) and a talented community of computer programmers. In the 1950s – 1970s, they shared a computer room with a computer (initially a PDP-6, and later a PDP-10) for which they built a time-sharing operating system called ITS.

MIT was at the forefront during both the exciting early days when it seemed Artificial Intelligence was right around the corner, and through the dark period when many had given up on the promise of artificial intelligence.

Things are still moving forward at MIT, have a look at Nexi…

Nexi was created by a group headed by Media Lab’s Cynthia Breazeal, known for earlier expressive robots such as Kismet, the new product is known as an MDS (mobile, dextrous, social) robot.




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Singularity and a Robot to make Wozniak a Cup of Coffee

According to the wikibook, Dictionary of Robotics Terminology, Singularity is defined as “A position in the robot’s workspace where one or more joints no longer represent independent controlling variables. Commonly used to indicate a position where a particular mathematical formulation fails.”

That’s not what I’m talking about in this post though. 

To astrophysicists Singularity is used to describe the center of a black hole at which matter is crushed to an infinite density, the pull of gravity is infinitely strong, and the space-time curvature becomes infinitely large.

I’m not talking about that either.

In his fascinating book, “The Singularity is Near”, author Ray Kurzweil talks about it in the very first paragraph.

singularity is near

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