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#430579 What These Lifelike Androids Can Teach ...

For Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, one of the most interesting things about androids is the changing questions they pose us, their creators, as they evolve. Does it, for example, do something to the concept of being human if a human-made creation starts telling you about what kind of boys ‘she’ likes?
If you want to know the answer to the boys question, you need to ask ERICA, one of Dr. Ishiguro’s advanced androids. Beneath her plastic skull and silicone skin, wires connect to AI software systems that bring her to life. Her ability to respond goes far beyond standard inquiries. Spend a little time with her, and the feeling of a distinct personality starts to emerge. From time to time, she works as a receptionist at Dr. Ishiguro and his team’s Osaka University labs. One of her android sisters is an actor who has starred in plays and a film.

ERICA’s ‘brother’ is an android version of Dr. Ishiguro himself, which has represented its creator at various events while the biological Ishiguro can remain in his offices in Japan. Microphones and cameras capture Ishiguro’s voice and face movements, which are relayed to the android. Apart from mimicking its creator, the Geminoid™ android is also capable of lifelike blinking, fidgeting, and breathing movements.
Say hello to relaxation
As technological development continues to accelerate, so do the possibilities for androids. From a position as receptionist, ERICA may well branch out into many other professions in the coming years. Companion for the elderly, comic book storyteller (an ancient profession in Japan), pop star, conversational foreign language partner, and newscaster are some of the roles and responsibilities Dr. Ishiguro sees androids taking on in the near future.
“Androids are not uncanny anymore. Most people adapt to interacting with Erica very quickly. Actually, I think that in interacting with androids, which are still different from us, we get a better appreciation of interacting with other cultures. In both cases, we are talking with someone who is different from us and learn to overcome those differences,” he says.
A lot has been written about how robots will take our jobs. Dr. Ishiguro believes these fears are blown somewhat out of proportion.
“Robots and androids will take over many simple jobs. Initially there might be some job-related issues, but new schemes, like for example a robot tax similar to the one described by Bill Gates, should help,” he says.
“Androids will make it possible for humans to relax and keep evolving. If we compare the time we spend studying now compared to 100 years ago, it has grown a lot. I think it needs to keep growing if we are to keep expanding our scientific and technological knowledge. In the future, we might end up spending 20 percent of our lifetime on work and 80 percent of the time on education and growing our skills.”
Android asks who you are
For Dr. Ishiguro, another aspect of robotics in general, and androids in particular, is how they question what it means to be human.
“Identity is a very difficult concept for humans sometimes. For example, I think clothes are part of our identity, in a way that is similar to our faces and bodies. We don’t change those from one day to the next, and that is why I have ten matching black outfits,” he says.
This link between physical appearance and perceived identity is one of the aspects Dr. Ishiguro is exploring. Another closely linked concept is the connection between body and feeling of self. The Ishiguro avatar was once giving a presentation in Austria. Its creator recalls how he felt distinctly like he was in Austria, even capable of feeling sensation of touch on his own body when people laid their hands on the android. If he was distracted, he felt almost ‘sucked’ back into his body in Japan.
“I am constantly thinking about my life in this way, and I believe that androids are a unique mirror that helps us formulate questions about why we are here and why we have been so successful. I do not necessarily think I have found the answers to these questions, so if you have, please share,” he says with a laugh.
His work and these questions, while extremely interesting on their own, become extra poignant when considering the predicted melding of mind and machine in the near future.
The ability to be present in several locations through avatars—virtual or robotic—raises many questions of both philosophical and practical nature. Then add the hypotheticals, like why send a human out onto the hostile surface of Mars if you could send a remote-controlled android, capable of relaying everything it sees, hears and feels?
The two ways of robotics will meet
Dr. Ishiguro sees the world of AI-human interaction as currently roughly split into two. One is the chat-bot approach that companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and recently Apple, employ using stationary objects like speakers. Androids like ERICA represent another approach.
“It is about more than the form factor. I think that the android approach is generally more story-based. We are integrating new conversation features based on assumptions about the situation and running different scenarios that expand the android’s vocabulary and interactions. Another aspect we are working on is giving androids desire and intention. Like with people, androids should have desires and intentions in order for you to want to interact with them over time,” Dr. Ishiguro explains.
This could be said to be part of a wider trend for Japan, where many companies are developing human-like robots that often have some Internet of Things capabilities, making them able to handle some of the same tasks as an Amazon Echo. The difference in approach could be summed up in the words ‘assistant’ (Apple, Amazon, etc.) and ‘companion’ (Japan).
Dr. Ishiguro sees this as partly linked to how Japanese as a language—and market—is somewhat limited. This has a direct impact on viability and practicality of ‘pure’ voice recognition systems. At the same time, Japanese people have had greater exposure to positive images of robots, and have a different cultural / religious view of objects having a ‘soul’. However, it may also mean Japanese companies and android scientists are both stealing a lap on their western counterparts.
“If you speak to an Amazon Echo, that is not a natural way to interact for humans. This is part of why we are making human-like robot systems. The human brain is set up to recognize and interact with humans. So, it makes sense to focus on developing the body for the AI mind, as well as the AI. I believe that the final goal for both Japanese and other companies and scientists is to create human-like interaction. Technology has to adapt to us, because we cannot adapt fast enough to it, as it develops so quickly,” he says.
Banner image courtesy of Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories, ATR all rights reserved.
Dr. Ishiguro’s team has collaborated with partners and developed a number of android systems:
Geminoid™ HI-2 has been developed by Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories and Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR).
Geminoid™ F has been developed by Osaka University and Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories, Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR).
ERICA has been developed by ERATO ISHIGURO Symbiotic Human-Robot Interaction Project 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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#428367 Fusion for Energy signs multi-million ...

Fusion for Energy signs multi-million deal with Airbus Safran Launchers, Nuvia Limited and Cegelec CEM to develop robotics equipment for ITER
The contract for a value of nearly 100 million EUR is considered to be the single biggest robotics deal to date in the field of fusion energy. The state of the art equipment will form part of ITER, the world’s largest experimental fusion facility and the first in history to produce 500 MW. The prestigious project brings together seven parties (China, Europe, Japan, India, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the USA) which represent 50% of the world’s population and 80% of the global GDP.
The collaboration between Fusion for Energy (F4E), the EU organisation managing Europe’s contribution to ITER, with a consortium of companies consisting of Airbus Safran Launchers (France-Germany), Nuvia Limited (UK) and Cegelec CEM (France), companies of the VINCI Group, will run for a period of seven years. The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UK), Instituto Superior Tecnico (Portugal), AVT Europe NV (Belgium) and Millennium (France) will also be part of this deal which will deliver remotely operated systems for the transportation and confinement of components located in the ITER vacuum vessel.
The contract carries also a symbolic importance marking the signature all procurement packages managed by Europe in the field of remote handling. Carlo Damiani, F4E’s Project Manager for ITER Remote Handling Systems, explained that “F4E’s stake in ITER offers an unparalleled opportunity to companies and laboratories to develop expertise and an industrial culture in fusion reactors’ maintenance.”
Cut-away image of the ITER machine showing the casks at the three levels of the ITER machine. ITER IO © (Remote1 web). Photo Credit: f4e.europa.euIllustration of lorry next to an ITER cask. F4E © (Remote 2 web). Photo Credit: f4e.europa.euAerial view of the ITER construction site, October 2016. F4E © (ITER site aerial Oct). Photo Credit: f4e.europa.eu

Why ITER requires Remote Handling?
Remote handling refers to the high-tech systems that will help us maintain and repair the ITER machine. The space where the bulky equipment will operate is limited and the exposure of some of the components to radioactivity, prohibit any manual intervention inside the vacuum vessel.

What will be delivered through this contract?
The transfer of components from the ITER vacuum vessel to the Hot Cell building, where they will be deposited for maintenance, will need to be carried out with the help of massive double-door containers known as casks. According to current estimates, 15 of these casks will need to be manufactured and in their largest configuration they will measure 8.5 m x 3.7 m x 2.6 m approaching 100 tonnes when transporting the heaviest components. These enormous “boxes”, resembling to a conventional lorry container, will be remotely operated as they move between the different levels and buildings of the machine. Apart from the transportation and confinement of components, the ITER Cask and Plug Remote Handling System will also ensure the installation of the remote handling equipment entering into the vacuum vessel to pick up the components to be removed. The technologies underpinning this system will encompass a variety of high-tech skills and comply with nuclear safety requirements. A proven manufacturing experience in similar fields and the development of bespoke systems to perform mechanical transfers will be essential.

Background information
MEMO: Fusion for Energy signs multi-million deal with Airbus Safran Launchers, Nuvia Limited and Cegelec CEM to develop robotics equipment for ITER
Multimedia
To see how the ITER Remote Handling System will operate click on clip 1 and clip 2
To see the progress of the ITER construction site click here
To take a virtual tour on the ITER construction site click here

Image captions
Cut-away image of the ITER machine showing the casks at the three levels of the ITER machine. ITER IO © (Remote1 web)

Illustration of lorry next to an ITER cask. F4E © (Remote 2 web)

Aerial view of the ITER construction site, October 2016. F4E © (ITER site aerial Oct)

The consortium of companies
The consortium combines the space expertise of Airbus Safran Launchers, adapted to this extreme environment to ensure safe conditions for the ITER teams; with Nuvia comes a wealth of nuclear experience dating back to the beginnings of the UK Nuclear industry. Nuvia has delivered solutions to some of the world’s most complex nuclear challenges; and with Cegelec CEM as a specialist in mechanical projects for French nuclear sector, which contributes over 30 years in the nuclear arena, including turnkey projects for large scientific installations, as well as the realisation of complex mechanical systems.

Fusion for Energy
Fusion for Energy (F4E) is the European Union’s organisation for Europe’s contribution to ITER.
One of the main tasks of F4E is to work together with European industry, SMEs and research organisations to develop and provide a wide range of high technology components together with engineering, maintenance and support services for the ITER project.
F4E supports fusion R&D initiatives through the Broader Approach Agreement signed with Japan and prepares for the construction of demonstration fusion reactors (DEMO).
F4E was created by a decision of the Council of the European Union as an independent legal entity and was established in April 2007 for a period of 35 years.
Its offices are in Barcelona, Spain.
http://www.fusionforenergy.europa.eu
http://www.youtube.com/user/fusionforenergy
http://twitter.com/fusionforenergy
http://www.flickr.com/photos/fusionforenergy

ITER
ITER is a first-of-a-kind global collaboration. It will be the world’s largest experimental fusion facility and is designed to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion power. It is expected to produce a significant amount of fusion power (500 MW) for about seven minutes. Fusion is the process which powers the sun and the stars. When light atomic nuclei fuse together form heavier ones, a large amount of energy is released. Fusion research is aimed at developing a safe, limitless and environmentally responsible energy source.
Europe will contribute almost half of the costs of its construction, while the other six parties to this joint international venture (China, Japan, India, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the USA), will contribute equally to the rest.
The site of the ITER project is in Cadarache, in the South of France.
http://www.iter.org

For Fusion for Energy media enquiries contact:
Aris Apollonatos
E-mail: aris.apollonatos@f4e.europa.eu
Tel: + 34 93 3201833 + 34 649 179 42
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#428357 UV Disinfection robot

Tech-Link Healthcare Systems partners with Blue Ocean Robotics Introducing UV-Disinfection Robot
Singapore, 1 November 2016 – The rise of robots have steered Tech-Link Healthcare Systems, a design and integrator of healthcare automation systems to offer solutions beyond automated storage and material handling systems. With a vision of providing holistic solutions for healthcare organisations, Tech-Link extends its capabilities by offering UV disinfection robot solutions via a strategic partnership with Danish robotics company, Blue Ocean Robotics to battle against Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs).Singapore’s labour intensive healthcare environment and the unknown impact of HAIs in the developed city-state had beckoned Tech-Link Healthcare Systems to offer solutions in the area of disinfection. We recognised the rise in demand for robots to collaborate with humans and have identified this need for customers. Introducing robotic technologies as part of our suite of solutions is the company’s mission to innovate the way healthcare organisations work and enhance their customers’ experience.Tech-Link’s partnership with Blue Ocean Robotics affirms both companies’ efforts in reaching out to new markets with technology and solutions to ease manpower crunch, deliver greater value and improve the quality of healthcare services. As an official sales partner, we bring together Blue Ocean Robotics’ expertise in automating disinfection procedures to promote safer, efficient and more productive work environment.
“Tech-Link looks forward to developing reliable healthcare solutions with hardware and latest technologies from Blue Ocean Robotics for our customers in Singapore and abroad.” said Director of Tech-Link Healthcare Systems, Tan Hock Seng. “Our similar beliefs in the Blue Ocean strategy synergise the collaboration to improve the quality of healthcare services through robotics.” he added.“We are very excited about our new sales partner Tech-Link Healthcare Systems, since it is of great importance for Blue Ocean Robotics to expand our sales of new technologies beyond Denmark’s borders. Blue Ocean Robotics focuses on creating new markets for robots. This includes both the development of new technologies and the creation of new markets for revolutionary robot solutions. We welcome Tech-Link Healthcare Systems with open arms and look forward to a fruitful collaboration in the years ahead.” said Claus Risager, Rune K. Larsen & John Erland Østergaard, Partners and Co-CEOs, Blue Ocean Robotics.
UV-Disinfection RobotThe UV-Disinfection Robot – also called UV-DR – is an autonomous disinfection robot for hospitals, production lines and pharmaceutical companies. The robot is used primarily in, but not limited to the cleaning cycle with the aim of reducing spread of HAIs, infectious diseases, viruses, bacteria and other types or harmful organic materials.UV-DR is a mobile robot that can drive autonomously while emitting concentrated UV-C light onto pre-defined infectious hotspots in patient rooms and other hospital environments, thus disinfecting and killing bacteria and virus on all exposed surfaces. An exposure time of ten minutes is estimated to kill up to 99% of bacteria such as Clostridium Difficile.

About Tech-Link Healthcare Systems Pte LtdTech-Link Healthcare Systems is a subsidiary of Tech-Link Storage Engineering established in Singapore since 2015. The company designs and provides innovative solutions for the healthcare sector, focusing on advanced and emerging solutions to support healthcare organisations in optimising available resources and services. Tech-Link Healthcare Systems design and implement automated material handling systems to enhance secured material transport and logistics storage management in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. As a complete solution provider, the company also provides consultancy in systems design to streamline and automate processes as well as integrated video solutions within healthcare facilities.About Tech-Link Storage Engineering Pte LtdTech-Link Storage Engineering is a group of companies established in Singapore with more than 25 years of principal activities in procurement, manufacturing and marketing of storage, distribution and materials handling products and systems. From its domain expertise in storage and racking systems, Tech-Link is also involved in R&D, system design, supply and implementation of logistics supply chain automation systems. The business expanded its global capabilities in the area of planning and consultancy to provide solutions for Built-to-Suit industrial developments and Healthcare logistics systems.
Tech-Link is an ISO 9001:2008 and OHSAS 18001:2007 certified company for Quality Management System and Occupational, Health and Safety System.Visit www.techlinkstorageengineering.comAbout Blue Ocean RoboticsBlue Ocean Robotics is an international company group with presence across the globe including America, Europe, Asia and Australia. The robotics company has its headquarter in the city of Odense (www.odenserobotics.dk) in Denmark. Blue Ocean Robotics applies robot technology to create solutions and innovation for end-users and new businesses in partnerships.Visit www.blue-ocean-robotics.com
Here is a video showing the robot in action:

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#428173 Next-Gen Robotics & Automation: ...

PRESS RELEASE:

The fall in price of next-generation robots from hundreds to tens of thousands of pounds means that the business case just became stronger for automotive vehicle and parts manufacturers to implement robotic solutions across individual manufacturing lines.

Challenges and pitfalls remain though, with nearly 76% of the target audience lacking clarity on robotic capabilities and implementation best practice. From how to prepare process for automation, to the individual capabilities of each type of robot for individual production lines, OEMs need to know the next best step.

This year’s must attend Next-Generation Robotics & Automation: Automotive Manufacturing Europe 2016 Summit will be the only event focused on robotic upgrade and innovation, specifically for the automotive industry.

Co-located with our UK flagship Joining, Forming & Manufacturing Technologies Summit, on 29th-30th November, at the VOX in Birmingham, this must attend event addresses how to retain cutting edge in automotive manufacturing and the tactics needed to get next-generation robots right, first time.

Reasons To Attend:

The Only European Robotics Event Dedicated To The Automotive Industry

Discuss selection and implementation challenges specific to your sector:

8+ Robotic Capabilities Case Studies – Comprehensive access to exclusive manufacturer perspectives on Next-Generation Robotic applications – direct from the plant

5 Process Specific Breakout Groups – Grapple with application, maintenance & selection considerations particular to your production process: Body Shop, Paint Shop, Power Train & Final Assembly

4 Robot-Type Deep Dive Discussion Groups – Discuss with peers the capabilities and attributes of each specific next-generation robot type to address their relevance to your needs: Zero Speed Monitoring, Power & Force Limited, Speed & Separation & Hand Guided Robots

Strategic & Technical Focus – A blended programme offers access to business case and strategic considerations, as well as tactical robotic application techniques
Speakers Include:

Willem Grobler, Technology Project Leader, BMW
Rich McDonnell, Senior Manufacturing Manager TS-22,
Jaguar XE & F-Pace Body Construction, Jaguar Land Rover
Dan Lämkull , Methods Developer, Volvo Car Corporation
Ali Ackay, Control Technologies & Robotics – Manufacturing Engineering Development, Daimler AG & Mercedes-Benz Trucks

Register today to profit from the Super Early Bird Discount, and reserve your place at the innovation hub of the European Automotive sector in time!
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