Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Aeryon Scout & Tablet-based Control PC

Your local police may soon be packing flying surveillance bots. At the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit, Aeryon Labs President Dave Kroetsch gave a compelling pitch on his company, which makes a two-pound robot helicopter that has enough on-board intelligence and stability control to allow it to be flown by people who just point to locations on a Google Map-based interface.

The whole kit, including a table-based control module, fits in a suitcase-sized crate and can be quickly assembled in the field. After the user snaps the flying bot together, he or she just tells it where to go by pointing to a spot on a map. The device has a motion-compensated camera that can take 5-megapixel stills and stream video back to the operator's tablet.

The Aeryon Scout and its tablet-based control computer.
(Credit: Aeryon)

More specs: Kroetsch says the Aeryon Scout can fly in up to 30 mph winds for up to 20 minutes. It is limited to 500 feet in altitude (to fly under FAA restrictions). One kit costs $50,000.

Aeryon plans to sell to private security forces, and eventually police departments. Kroetsch is doing things in this order because it's easier to get a contract from a private firm than from a cash-strapped police department or grant-funded program at one.

Obvious other markets include construction (for site surveys), other public safety applications, and of course military.

The company is headquartered in Canada and hopes to have United States FAA approval for its flying robot within six months. Sadly, until that approval comes, the Scout is grounded Stateside. And that means no demos for reporters or buyers unless they head up to Canada.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Panasonic Robot Mascot Off To Le Mans

Panasonic wants to prove that its AA alkaline Evolta batteries are the best in the world--even though it already has a certificate from Guinness World Records.
The electronics giant plans to send its 12-inch Evolta robot car in France, where it will race around part of the Le Mans endurance circuit for as long as possible.
Evolta batteries have a 10-year shelf life. Panasonic boasts they're the longest-lasting batteries of their kind in the world.
Built of carbon fiber over an aluminum frame, the Evolta robot car (more like a tricycle) travels at a blinding top speed of 0.8 mph. It has two small forward motors powered by a pair of batteries in its robot driver's back, and autonomously follows a lead car emitting an infrared guide signal.
The robot, called "Mr. Evolta" in English, was designed by entrepreneur Tomotaka Takahashi, known for his designs for humanoid kit robots inspired by Japanese animation and science fiction.
Mr. Evolta is no stranger to challenges. Last year, he managed to climb out of the Grand Canyon--it took over six hours but he successfully scaled 1,700 feet after two aborted attempts. Check out the video below.
The Evolta campaign is another illustration of how Japanese manufacturers are willing to use robots as pitchmen in Japan, catering to an innate Japanese love of machines. Honda Motor's Asimo robot is probably a more effective "spokesperson" than any of its human colleagues.
How would people respond if GM replaced Fritz Henderson with a robot CEO?

More details..

Turn Your iPhone Into A Humanoid Robot

An enterprising tinkerer in Japan has turned an iPhone 3GS into a humanoid robot by wiring it to a mechanical body.
Meet "Robochan."

Check out the video. Robochan is perhaps disturbing, but undeniably cute. The anime face and leek-waving are nods to Hatsune Miku, a character created for Yamaha's Vocaloid singing synthesizer application. Hatsune is a virtual idol in Japan; one of her albums topped the Oricon music chart last month.
Robochan consists of a 3GS wired to a Kondo Kagaku KHR-2 HV kit robot through its doc connector. The 3GS serves as the controller for the humanoid body, a popular kit which retails for about $900 with much assembly required.
Robochan can speak, dance, wake you up at a preset time, learn motions taught by hand, and react when its screen is touched. 

More details... 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NASA: Robots Very Successful In Endeavour

Computer world- Shortly after the NASA space shuttle Endeavour undocked with the International Space Station this afternoon, officials called the mission's robotics work a huge success.

The shuttle and its seven-person crew spent 10 days, 23 hours and 39 minutes linked up with the space station to install the last of the Japanese laboratory there. And for those nearly 11 days at least one, if not two, robots were at work almost every day. Without them, the mission simply could not have been completed, according to Bill Jeffs, a NASA spokesman.

"This was a challenging mission from a robotics standpoint," Jeffs said in an interview with Computerworld today. "We used the robotic arm on the space station, the robotic arm on the space shuttle and the arm on the Japanese laboratory. In terms of robotics, it's been very challenging but very successful."

After the undocking, the Endeavour embarked on a so-called "fly-around" the space station which allows the astronauts still there to visually scan the outside of the shuttle for any problems with the critical heat shield. Once the inspection is completed, NASA pilot Doug Hurley is set to maneuver the shuttle away from the station and put it on a course to earth.

Endeavour is scheduled to land at 10:48 a.m. EDT on Friday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Before the mission, Holly Ridings, lead space station flight director for Endeavour, called it one of the most technical ever to be undertaken by NASA. With an ambitious schedule of five spacewalks, the astronauts onboard both the station and the shuttle used three robotic arms.

More here...

Ferrari's Innovative New V8—the 458 Italia

The Italia is the latest incarnation of the mid-rear engined Ferrari berlinetta and will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. While it's true that every Ferrari is innovative by definition, it's equally true that in the course of the Prancing Horse's history, certain cars have marked a genuine departure from the current range. This is very much the case with the Ferrari 458 Italia, which is a massive leap forward from the company's previous mid-rear engined sports cars.

The new model is a synthesis of style, creative flair, passion and cutting-edge technology, characteristics for which Italy as a nation is well-known. For this reason Ferrari chose to add the name of its homeland to the traditional figure representing the displacement and number of cylinders.

The Ferrari 458 Italia is a completely new car from every point of view: engine, design, aerodynamics, handling, instrumentation and ergonomics, just to name a few.

A two-seater berlinetta, the Ferrari 458 Italia, as is now traditional for all Ferrari's road-going cars, benefits hugely from the company's Formula 1 experience. This is particularly evident in the speed and precision with which the car responds to driver inputs and in the attention focused on reducing internal friction in the engine for lower fuel consumption than the F430, despite the fact that both overall displacement and power have increased. However, Ferrari's track experience makes its presence felt in the 458 Italia not only in terms of pure technological transfer but also on a more emotional level, because of the strong emphasis on creating an almost symbiotic relationship between driver and car. The 458 Italia features an innovative driving environment with a new kind of steering wheel and dashboard that is the direct result of racing practice. Once again input from Michael Schumacher—who was involved from the very start of the 458 Italia project—played an invaluable part.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Nissan Unveils All-Electric Sedan Prototype

Nissan gave a glimpse of its plans to make an all-electric sedan that will go 100 miles on a charge and have a suite of online features to aid drivers.

The company on Monday showed off an electric car prototype, based on the Tiida mid-size sedan. It said that an all-electric production car with a unique design will be unveiled on August 2 at its Yokohama, Japan headquarters and go on sale in 2010 in Japan and the U.S.

The electric sedan will connect to Nissan's data centers to provide drivers with information and support, according to the carmaker.

Nissan's EV prototype, an electric power train fitted onto a Tiida/Versa mid-size Versa sedan.
(Credit: Nissan)

The EV-IT system will display on a map how much driving range they have left and can calculate whether a car can make it to a pre-set destination. The system can point drivers to available charging stations within driving range.

The driver can also remotely view a battery's charge and turn on the air conditioner from a Web-connected computer or phone. Charging can be scheduled to take advantage of off-peak rates, too.

The car itself is built around Nissan's electric motor and a 24-kilowatt-hour battery pack which is placed under the car. With generative braking that charges the car during deceleration and braking, Nissan estimates that drivers can get 100 miles on a charge, although it notes that range depends on conditions and driving styles.

Although it lags in hybrids, Nissan has been one of the most aggressive in developing all-electric sedans. It is already testing the EV-02, which is based on the Nissan Cube chassis. It also has a partnership to work with Better Place, which provides consumers with charging points and access to battery-swapping stations in exchange for subscription plans.

Nissan has not announced prices, but a company representative told the Associated Press in Japan that the electric vehicle would be "competitive" with gasoline cars.

Because of the limitations on driving range and the high cost of batteries, other automakers including Toyota and General have said they expect consumers will favor gasoline-electric cars.

Along with Tesla Motors, start-ups Coda Automotive and Detroit Electric are making all-electric cars which they say will have enough range for daily driving for many people.

More here...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Female Robot Takes To The Catwalk

The latest hot model about to grace the catwalks of Japan made an appearance today. Fluttering her eyelids, HRP-4C as she is known, was unveiled by scientists as the most human-looking robot yet.

Rory Cellan-Jones has been taking a look.

Robotic Fish to Mimic Swimming

Researchers at the University of Bath are to build a robot to help understand how fish swim against the flow.

A consortium of five institutions have been awarded £1.5m to create the swimming robot trout.

The Ocean Technologies Lab at Bath will try to mimic the sense organ found in fish which allows them to detect the flow of water and react to it.

It is hoped the robot can be used in future for pollution control and monitoring the world's ecosystems.

It could also be used to study marine life near the seashore.

Complex controls

Dr William Megill, Lecturer in Biomimetics at the University of Bath said: "Currently, most aquatic robots can't manoeuvre very well in the shallow water near the shore because they just get smashed against the rocks by the force of the waves.

"However, even in a tsunami, fish manage to sense and swim against the current so that they stay in the water, rather than ending up on the beach.

"So this project is interesting on two levels - firstly we want to understand more about how the fish manages to react to changes in current, and secondly we want to create a robot that mimics this artificially."

The fish's complex nervous system will be emulated by computer software, developed by the University of Verona, which will allow the robot to interpret changes in flow outside the robot so it can adjust its swimming behaviour to compensate accordingly.

The FILOSE (Robotic FIsh LOcomotion and SEnsing) project is financed by the European Union.

More details at BBC...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Paging Dr. Robot

A revolutionary robot mounted with a high-tech camera is helping physicians treat and save soldiers -- from just about any location in the world.

In three years, army docs have conducted at least 200 medical interventions from remote locations, thanks to the device.

Dr. Kevin Chung, who directs the Burn Intensive Care Unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, is one doctor who has incorporated the cutting-edge technology into the care of his patients.

He is a frequent operator of the robot and regularly uses it to treat patients, including those he cared for when he was deployed to Iraq.

When he was in Baghdad, Chung used the robot to follow up with critically injured soldiers after they had returned to hospitals in the U.S, he told CNN.

The high-tech medical assistant is controlled from afar via a laptop and remote joystick. The robot is able to move easily because sensors located on its "torso" help it identify any obstacles in its path.

The camera on the wireless robot captures images of a patient from just about every angle, and a zoom option allows doctors a close-up view of their distant patient.

Besides the benefit of allowing doctors to be in more than one place at once, the high-tech medical robot can be a confidence booster for those working in combat zones.

On using the robot to see soldiers he had treated in Baghdad when they were back in the U.S., Chung recounted: "To visually see that patient in a bed, with stable vital signs, halfway around the world -- that did wonders just to be able to see that for all the staff."

More on CNN...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Google Indic Transliteration

Google Indic Transliteration offers an option for converting Roman characters to the Urdu characters. This lets you type Urdu words phonetically in English script and still have them appear in their correct alphabet. Note that this is not the same as translation -- it is the sound of the words that are converted from one alphabet
to the other, not their meaning. For example, typing "shukriya" transliterates into Urdu as:

Try it now!