Pepper-picking robot could change agricultural industry

A pepper-picking robot developed by EU-funded CROPS project, lead by Dr. Bontsema, has become the first in what could be a wave of agricultural robots.

The robot runs on a rail system, has snake like arms with pincers, and uses a stream of snapshots for movement to be able to pick fruits. The robot however was slow and inefficient and Dr. Bontsema is creating another project called SWEEPER to make faster robots ready for commercialization.

‘A robot system will improve food safety and give the opportunity to selectively harvest for higher quality,’ said Dr Jan Bontsema, Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture.

Dr. Bontsema’s team is working to make robots smarter. “We introduced in CROPS the so-called ROS software, robot operating system and we will continue this in SWEEPER,”he said. “With that software you get a kind of plug and play system so if you want to use a different camera, for example, it’s no problem at all.”


Sanbot the latest humanoid robot

Qihan showed off its mesmerizing humanoid robot: the Sanbot at IFA 2016, Europe’s biggest tech show.

Sanbot has flipper arms, a pair of wheels to move about, 3 cameras for security, a 3D camera for spatial awareness, and a HD camera, a touchscreen tablet, and infrared sensors. the back of its head has a built in HD projector and its torso houses speaker grilles and a sub-woofer. It can also recognize faces and voices. It even knows when its time to recharge. The Sanbot can be controlled using an Android or iOS app. It appears to be a personable humanoid, it looks friendly, obviously cute, and harmless.

It has many uses for the home, shops, hospitals, schools, and many other places. It was made to meet human needs, which there are many. For example the Sanbot at the Shenzhen airport in China, which provides passengers with flight information. Whats unique is that the company allows for developers and companies to use publicly available tools to create new roles for the humanoid.

Its maker Qihan, is known for home surveillance. According to the company the Sanbot has been stationed at various places around China such as airports. The humanoid costs around $6,000 (45,000 yuan), which is astonishingly cheap. The company has reportedly shipped around 30,000 of these little humanoids.

Dexta Robotics’ exoskeleton hand the Dexmo

Dexta Robotics is developing next gen technology to allow users to interactive within VR worlds. The company working on an exoskeleton glove called the DexmoGaming.jpg

The technology enables users to interact and bridge the boundaries between VR and reality. It provides force feedback to simulate the action of touching objects in VR. The glove captures hand motion and enables the users to feel the shape, size, and stiffness of the virtual objects, according to the company site. The glove applies inverse force that mimics the objects that are being touched in VR. GraspingRubberDuck (2).JPG

Whats amazing is that users can actually feel the difference between objects from solid objects to soft objects. Dexmo is currently using two Vive controller that are strapped to the users arm and is used for positional tracking.

The company has provided an SDK to allow developers to work with this technology and enhance it.

With the rise of VR and AR new technologies will begin to populate the market to allow users to fully experience these new realities. Its exciting to think what will be available in just two to five years.

Robot Pill that treats patients inside the body.

A team at MIT are experimenting with a new type of robotic technology that can be used to treat wounds and remove foreign objects.

Daniela Rus, Director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, her team, the University of Sheffield, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology have created a tiny robot that is placed inside of a pill, which after is swallowed unfolds. The robot can then be guided through the stomach using magnetic fields and perform tasks. It is also made with an accordion like design to enable it to use “stick-slip” motion to move around and has been augmented with tiny finds to help it move within liquid. The robot then dissolves in the stomach once its tasks have been completed.

The project is being funded from a National Science Foundation grant and the team is currently running experiments using a silicon molded prototype stomach. They are seeking approval from MIT’s animal care committee to test on live animals.

If testing is successful it would pave the way for new medical treatments. Instead of having to undergo surgery the robot is frozen in ice and then swallowed like a pill.

OpenSource AI

OpenAI, an artificial intelligence non profit, is working on a physical robot for household chores.

OpenAI has a funding of $1bn with with backing by Elon Musk, Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Jessica Livingston, Reid Hoffman, and Peter Thiel. You might be thinking, why is Elon Musk funding an AI company when he’s hellbent on making sure AI don’t take over the world? Well according to OpenAI’s site they have a different mission in mind, “Our goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.” The non profit was launched in 2015 as a way to balance the advancements made by other corporations such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.

In a blog post  by Altman, Brockton, Musk, and Sutskever, they explain that they don’t want to manufacture the robot, but want to “enable a physical robot…to perform basic housework.”

OpenAI wants to build an AI that can understand natural language, learn by itself, and solve complex problems. They are aiming to build new algorithms to advance the field because as of now AIs are not yet advanced enough. “Today, there are promising algorithms for supervised language tasks such as question answering, syntactic parsing, and machine translation but there aren’t any for more advanced linguistic goals, such as the ability to carry a conversation, the ability to fully understand a document, and the ability to follow complex instructions in natural language,” OpenAI noted.

The company opened Gym Beta, which targets advances in reinforcement learning, and is their step to advancement of the field.

Robots made safer for humans using soft Actuators

Robots are becoming more common place as advancements are made to create robots in just about every industry. Though generally robots work separately and away from humans, because of safety concerns. In order to make robots safer around humans a team led by George Whitesides, faculty member at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, have developed a new actuator that uses rubber beams that mimics movements similar to skeletal muscles.

The work was published in the Advanced Materials Technologies journal. The actuators are soft, shock absorbent, and make them safer to work alongside humans. The team developed vacuum actuated muscle inspired pneumatic structures (VAMPs) to decrease the actuators volume to cause it to buckle, for a human this would be raising your forearm while in a resting state.

The actuator is made of small, hollow, chambers of air, which then collapse after applying vacuum.

The team envisions using these robots to help the disabled, elderly, serve food, deliver goods, and many other services. Though these robots will also make work environments safer while maintaining the efficiency that robots produce.

Google is making chatbots with human level speech abilities.

Google is known to work on innovative, futuristic, technology. AI is on of them, though one of their AI projects is more chatty.

At a Singularity conference engineers from Google revealed that they have been working on chatbots. Ray Kurzweil, a computer scientist and futurist, and his team announced that these chatbots will be released later this year.

“That’s very relevant to what I’m doing at Google,” Kurzweil said in the interview. “My team, among other things, is working on chatbots. We expect to release some chatbots you can talk to later this year.”

These chatbots will be human like robots that can converse with you much like a human would. One of the chatbots named Danielle has its speech tailored after a books character. Kurzweil said people could make their own unique chatbot by feeding it samples of writing, this would allow bots to have different types of personalities.

He did go on to say that it would take some time for bots to have human level language abilities, so these bots might not work the way you would want them to, atleast for now. Kurzweil states we’ll have to wait till 2029 when AI will be able to pass the Turing test, which would make them indistinguishable from real people.

Researchers are teaching robot to ‘feel’ and react to pain

Scientists from Leibniz University of Hannover, are programming a robot to feel pain and react to it.

Researchers are developing a robot nervous system that allows robots to understand pain and appropriately respond to it. The system would use a reflex controller to mimic reactions from pain.

The robot reacts to different types of pain from light and moderate to severe, even testing a cup of hot boiled water. Its being trained to react to pain and save themselves from danger. The project was displayed at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stockholm, Sweden.

Though a very important thing to understand is that the ability to not feel pain allows robots to work in dangerous environments or perform tasks that are too risky for humans. It would also allow robots to assess, understand, and react to threats when near humans.

And while robots won’t essentially feel pain, this would be a direct first step in understanding how to emulate pain. So don’t worry robots aren’t becoming human, right now. As of yet the technology is still very primitive.

Robot Usher: a new breed of robot

Robots are becoming more and more of a viable option for many organizations. The latest variant of robot was introduced at the Sydney Opera House during its TEDx event.

The robot is 23 inches (58 centimeters) tall and works side by side with its human colleagues. The robot is made of Intel parts and as such the company working with the Opera House posted a video that showed the daily goings of the robot.

The robot is helpful and witty, as it attempts to find its role within the work environment. “My colleagues were very unsure about me at first, I think they thought I would take all of their jobs. Ha ha ha,” he said. “But they soon welcomed me in.”

Hyundai’s newest Exoskeleton

Hyundai has created a wearable exoskeleton that could be used to help the wearer lift incredibly heavy objects.

In a blog post from the company, the “wearable robot” is compared to the all famous Iron Man Suit, but don’t rush into conclusions you can’t fly nor can you shoot energy blasts from your palms. The exoskeleton is in development from Hyundai’s H-LEX platform (Hyundai Lifecaring ExoSkeleton), which it announced last year. The exoskeleton is made for various uses. It can help workers, military personnel, and can be used for physical rehabilitation. It can lift up to 110 pounds over long distances allowing for better handling of heavy objects and reduces risk of injuries.

The company has also made a lightweight version to help seniors, the handicapped, and paraplegics. This model comes with a mechanical spine and legs that are strapped to the user. These projects are part of Hyundai’s “Next Mobility” system

Hyundai is not the only company working on robotic exoskeletons. Panasonic, Audi, and BMW are among the many companies that are working on exoskeletons.

If you’re looking for something a little bit more Iron man like, there’s also Megabots.