Tag Archives: electric

#430988 The Week’s Awesome Stories From Around ...

BIOTECH
Lab-Grown Food Startup Memphis Meats Raises $17 Million From DFJ, Cargill, Bill Gates, OthersPaul Sawers | Venture Beat “Meat grown in a laboratory is the future, if certain sustainable food advocates have their way, and one startup just raised a bucketload of cash from major investors to make this goal a reality….Leading the $17 million series A round was venture capital (VC) firm DFJ, backer of Skype, Tesla, SpaceX, Tumblr, Foursquare, Baidu, and Box.”
ROBOTICS
Blossom: A Handmade Approach to Social Robotics From Cornell and GoogleEvan Ackerman | IEEE Spectrum “Blossom’s overall aesthetic is, in some ways, a response to the way that the design of home robots (and personal technology) has been trending recently. We’re surrounding ourselves with sterility embodied in metal and plastic, perhaps because of a perception that tech should be flawless. And I suppose when it comes to my phone or my computer, sterile flawlessness is good.”
AUTOMOTIVE
Mercedes’ Outrageously Swoopy Concept Says Nein to the Pod-Car FutureAlex Davies | WIRED “The swooping concept car, unveiled last weekend at the Pebble Beach Concoursd’Elegance, rejects all notions of practicality. It measures nearly 18.7 feet long and 6.9 feet wide, yet offers just two seats…Each wheel gets its own electric motor that draws power from the battery that comprises the car’s underbody. All told, they generate 750 horsepower, and the car will go 200 miles between charges.”
EDTECH
Amazon’s TenMarks Releases a New Curriculum for Educators That Teaches Kids Writing Using Digital Assistants, Text Messaging and MoreSarah Perez | TechCrunch“Now, the business is offering an online curriculum for teachers designed to help students learn how to be better writers. The program includes a writing coach that leverages natural language processing, a variety of resources for teachers, and something called “bursts,” which are short writing prompts kids will be familiar with because of their use of mobile apps.”
VIRTUAL REALITY
What We Can Learn From Immersing Mice, Fruit Flies, and Zebrafish in VRAlessandra Potenza | The Verge “The VR system, called FreemoVR, pretty much resembles a holodeck from the TV show Star Trek. It’s an arena surrounded by computer screens that immerses the animals in a virtual world. Researchers tested the system on mice, fruit flies, and zebrafish, and found that the animals reacted to the virtual objects and environments as they would to real ones.” Continue reading

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#430556 Forget Flying Cars, the Future Is ...

Flying car concepts have been around nearly as long as their earthbound cousins, but no one has yet made them a commercial success. MIT engineers think we’ve been coming at the problem from the wrong direction; rather than putting wings on cars, we should be helping drones to drive.
The team from the university’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) added wheels to a fleet of eight mini-quadcopters and tested driving and flying them around a tiny toy town made out of cardboard and fabric.
Adding the ability to drive reduced the distance the drone could fly by 14 percent compared to a wheel-less version. But while driving was slower, the drone could travel 150 percent further than when flying. The result is a vehicle that combines the speed and mobility of flying with the energy-efficiency of driving.

CSAIL director Daniela Rus told MIT News their work suggested that when looking to create flying cars, it might make more sense to build on years of research into drones rather than trying to simply “put wings on cars.”
Historically, flying car concepts have looked like someone took apart a Cessna light aircraft and a family sedan, mixed all the parts up, and bolted them back together again. Not everyone has abandoned this approach—two of the most developed flying car designs from Terrafugia and AeroMobil are cars with folding wings that need an airstrip to take off.
But flying car concepts are looking increasingly drone-like these days, with multiple small rotors, electric propulsion and vertical take-off abilities. Take the eHang 184 autonomous aerial vehicle being developed in China, the Kitty Hawk all-electric aircraft backed by Google founder Larry Page, which is little more than a quadcopter with a seat, the AirQuadOne designed by UK consortium Neva Aerospace, or Lilium Aviation’s Jet.
The attraction is obvious. Electric-powered drones are more compact, maneuverable, and environmentally friendly, making them suitable for urban environments.
Most of these vehicles are not quite the same as those proposed by the MIT engineers, as they’re pure flying machines. But a recent Airbus concept builds on the same principle that the future of urban mobility is vehicles that can both fly and drive. Its Pop.Up design is a two-passenger pod that can either be clipped to a set of wheels or hang under a quadcopter.
Importantly, they envisage their creation being autonomous in both flight and driving modes. And they’re not the only ones who think the future of flying cars is driverless. Uber has committed to developing a network of autonomous air taxis within a decade. This spring, Dubai announced it would launch a pilotless passenger drone service using the Ehang 184 as early as next month (July).
While integrating fully-fledged autonomous flying cars into urban environments will be far more complex, the study by Rus and her colleagues provides a good starting point for the kind of 3D route-planning and collision avoidance capabilities this would require.
The team developed multi-robot path planning algorithms that were able to control all eight drones as they flew and drove around their mock up city, while also making sure they didn’t crash into each other and avoided no-fly zones.
“This work provides an algorithmic solution for large-scale, mixed-mode transportation and shows its applicability to real-world problems,” Jingjin Yu, a computer science professor at Rutgers University who was not involved in the research, told MIT News.
This vision of a driverless future for flying cars might be a bit of a disappointment for those who’d envisaged themselves one day piloting their own hover car just like George Jetson. But autonomy and Uber-like ride-hailing business models are likely to be attractive, as they offer potential solutions to three of the biggest hurdles drone-like passenger vehicles face.
Firstly, it makes the vehicles accessible to anyone by removing the need to learn how to safely pilot an aircraft. Secondly, battery life still limits most electric vehicles to flight times measured in minutes. For personal vehicles this could be frustrating, but if you’re just hopping in a driverless air taxi for a five minute trip across town it’s unlikely to become apparent to you.
Operators of the service simply need to make sure they have a big enough fleet to ensure a charged vehicle is never too far away, or they’ll need a way to swap out batteries easily, such as the one suggested by the makers of the Volocopter electric helicopter.
Finally, there has already been significant progress in developing technology and regulations needed to integrate autonomous drones into our airspace that future driverless flying cars can most likely piggyback off of.
Safety requirements will inevitably be more stringent, but adding more predictable and controllable autonomous drones to the skies is likely to be more attractive to regulators than trying to license and police thousands of new amateur pilots.
Image Credit: Lilium Continue reading

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#430550 This Week’s Awesome Stories From ...

DRONES
MIT Is Building Autonomous Drones That Can Both Drive and FlyApril Glaser | Recode“The drones, which were built at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, also include route-planning software that can help calculate when the flying robot switches from air to ground in order to optimize its battery life.”
SPACE
SpaceX Is Making Commercial Space Launches Look Like Child’s PlayJamie Condliffe | MIT Technology Review“Late Friday, SpaceX launched a satellite into orbit from Florida using one of its refurbished Falcon 9 rockets. Then on Sunday, for good measure, it lofted 10 smaller satellites using a new version of the same rocket, which it launched from California. The feat is a sign that the private space company seems more likely than ever to turn its vision of competitively priced, rapid-turnaround rocket launches into reality.”
CYBERSECURITY
A New Ransomware Attack Is Infecting Airlines, Banks, and Utilities Across EuropeRussell Brandom | The Verge“The origins of the attack are still unclear, but the involvement of Ukraine’s electric utilities is likely to cast suspicion on Russia. Ukraine’s power grid was hit by a persistent and sophisticated attack in December 2015, which many attributed to Russia. The attack ultimately left 230,000 residents without power for as long as six hours.”
SILICON VALLEY NEWS
Mark Zuckerberg’s Probably Nonexistent 2020 Presidential Campaign, ExplainedTimothy B. Lee | VOX“After all, the kind of outreach Zuckerberg would do in a presidential campaign isn’t that different from the kind of outreach he’d do if he were simply trying to understand Facebook users better and build public goodwill for his massive social media site.”
AUTONOMOUS CARS
Riding in a Robocar That Sees Around CornersPhilip E. Ross | IEEE Spectrum“It takes 20 to 30 minutes to fit a car with the necessary hardware: a GPS sensor and a wireless transceiver. Here in the MCity compound, at least, the GPS system uses a repeater to enhance its accuracy down to centimeter level—good enough to locate a car precisely and to allow other cars to figure out its trajectory and measure its speed.”
Image Credit: SpaceX / Flickr Continue reading

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#428053 Omnidirectional Mobile Robot Has Just ...

Spherical Induction Motor Eliminates Robot’s Mechanical Drive System
PITTSBURGH— More than a decade ago, Ralph Hollis invented the ballbot, an elegantly simple robot whose tall, thin body glides atop a sphere slightly smaller than a bowling ball. The latest version, called SIMbot, has an equally elegant motor with just one moving part: the ball.
The only other active moving part of the robot is the body itself.
The spherical induction motor (SIM) invented by Hollis, a research professor in Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, and Masaaki Kumagai, a professor of engineering at Tohoku Gakuin University in Tagajo, Japan, eliminates the mechanical drive systems that each used on previous ballbots. Because of this extreme mechanical simplicity, SIMbot requires less routine maintenance and is less likely to suffer mechanical failures.
The new motor can move the ball in any direction using only electronic controls. These movements keep SIMbot’s body balanced atop the ball.
Early comparisons between SIMbot and a mechanically driven ballbot suggest the new robot is capable of similar speed — about 1.9 meters per second, or the equivalent of a very fast walk — but is not yet as efficient, said Greg Seyfarth, a former member of Hollis’ lab who recently completed his master’s degree in robotics.
Induction motors are nothing new; they use magnetic fields to induce electric current in the motor’s rotor, rather than through an electrical connection. What is new here is that the rotor is spherical and, thanks to some fancy math and advanced software, can move in any combination of three axes, giving it omnidirectional capability. In contrast to other attempts to build a SIM, the design by Hollis and Kumagai enables the ball to turn all the way around, not just move back and forth a few degrees.
Though Hollis said it is too soon to compare the cost of the experimental motor with conventional motors, he said long-range trends favor the technologies at its heart.
“This motor relies on a lot of electronics and software,” he explained. “Electronics and software are getting cheaper. Mechanical systems are not getting cheaper, or at least not as fast as electronics and software are.”
SIMbot’s mechanical simplicity is a significant advance for ballbots, a type of robot that Hollis maintains is ideally suited for working with people in human environments. Because the robot’s body dynamically balances atop the motor’s ball, a ballbot can be as tall as a person, but remain thin enough to move through doorways and in between furniture. This type of robot is inherently compliant, so people can simply push it out of the way when necessary. Ballbots also can perform tasks such as helping a person out of a chair, helping to carry parcels and physically guiding a person.
Until now, moving the ball to maintain the robot’s balance has relied on mechanical means. Hollis’ ballbots, for instance, have used an “inverse mouse ball” method, in which four motors actuate rollers that press against the ball so that it can move in any direction across a floor, while a fifth motor controls the yaw motion of the robot itself.
“But the belts that drive the rollers wear out and need to be replaced,” said Michael Shomin, a Ph.D. student in robotics. “And when the belts are replaced, the system needs to be recalibrated.” He said the new motor’s solid-state system would eliminate that time-consuming process.
The rotor of the spherical induction motor is a precisely machined hollow iron ball with a copper shell. Current is induced in the ball with six laminated steel stators, each with three-phase wire windings. The stators are positioned just next to the ball and are oriented slightly off vertical.
The six stators generate travelling magnetic waves in the ball, causing the ball to move in the direction of the wave. The direction of the magnetic waves can be steered by altering the currents in the stators.
Hollis and Kumagai jointly designed the motor. Ankit Bhatia, a Ph.D. student in robotics, and Olaf Sassnick, a visiting scientist from Salzburg University of Applied Sciences, adapted it for use in ballbots.
Getting rid of the mechanical drive eliminates a lot of the friction of previous ballbot models, but virtually all friction could be eliminated by eventually installing an air bearing, Hollis said. The robot body would then be separated from the motor ball with a cushion of air, rather than passive rollers.
“Even without optimizing the motor’s performance, SIMbot has demonstrated impressive performance,” Hollis said. “We expect SIMbot technology will make ballbots more accessible and more practical for wide adoption.”
The National Science Foundation and, in Japan, Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI) supported this research. A report on the work was presented at the May IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Stockholm, Sweden.

Video by: Carnegie Mellon University
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About Carnegie Mellon University: Carnegie Mellon (www.cmu.edu) is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 13,000 students in the university’s seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation.

Communications Department
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
412-268-2900
Fax: 412-268-6929

Contact: Byron Spice For immediate release:
412-268-9068 October 4, 2016
bspice@cs.cmu.edu
The post Omnidirectional Mobile Robot Has Just Two Moving Parts appeared first on Roboticmagazine. Continue reading

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