Tag Archives: human

#439831 Tesla’s Tesla Bot

Here’s Elon Musk hyping “Tesla Bot”, said to be a general purpose, bi-pedal, humanoid robot that will perform “unsafe, repetitive or boring” tasks.

Posted in Human Robots

#439916 This Restaurant Robot Fries Your Food to ...

Four and a half years ago, a robot named Flippy made its burger-cooking debut at a fast food restaurant called CaliBurger. The bot consisted of a cart on wheels with an extending arm, complete with a pneumatic pump that let the machine swap between tools: tongs, scrapers, and spatulas. Flippy’s main jobs were pulling raw patties from a stack and placing them on the grill, tracking each burger’s cook time and temperature, and transferring cooked burgers to a plate.

This initial iteration of the fast-food robot—or robotic kitchen assistant, as its creators called it—was so successful that a commercial version launched last year. Its maker Miso Robotics put Flippy on the market for $30,000, and the bot was no longer limited to just flipping burgers; the new and improved Flippy could cook 19 different foods, including chicken wings, onion rings, french fries, and the Impossible Burger. It got sleeker, too: rather than sitting on a wheeled cart, the new Flippy was a “robot on a rail,” with the rail located along the hood of restaurant stoves.

This week, Miso Robotics announced an even newer, more improved Flippy robot called Flippy 2 (hey, they’re consistent). Most of the updates and improvements on the new bot are based on feedback the company received from restaurant chain White Castle, the first big restaurant chain to go all-in on the original Flippy.

So how is Flippy 2 different? The new robot can do the work of an entire fry station without any human assistance, and can do more than double the number of food preparation tasks its older sibling could do, including filling, emptying, and returning fry baskets.

These capabilities have made the robot more independent, eliminating the need for a human employee to step in at the beginning or end of the cooking process. When foods are placed in fry bins, the robot’s AI vision identifies the food, picks it up, and cooks it in a fry basket designated for that food specifically (i.e., onion rings won’t be cooked in the same basket as fish sticks). When cooking is complete, Flippy 2 moves the ready-to-go items to a hot-holding area.

Miso Robotics says the new robot’s throughput is 30 percent higher than that of its predecessor, which adds up to around 60 baskets of fried food per hour. So much fried food. Luckily, Americans can’t get enough fried food, in general and especially as the pandemic drags on. Even more importantly, the current labor shortages we’re seeing mean restaurant chains can’t hire enough people to cook fried food, making automated tools like Flippy not only helpful, but necessary.

“Since Flippy’s inception, our goal has always been to provide a customizable solution that can function harmoniously with any kitchen and without disruption,” said Mike Bell, CEO of Miso Robotics. “Flippy 2 has more than 120 configurations built into its technology and is the only robotic fry station currently being produced at scale.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, many foresaw that Covid-19 would push us into quicker adoption of many technologies that were already on the horizon, with automation of repetitive tasks being high on the list. They were right, and we’ve been lucky to have tools like Zoom to keep us collaborating and Flippy to keep us eating fast food (to whatever extent you consider eating fast food an essential activity; I mean, you can’t cook every day). Now if only there was a tech fix for inflation and housing shortages…

Seeing as how there’ve been three different versions of Flippy rolled out in the last four and a half years, there are doubtless more iterations coming, each with new skills and improved technology. But the burger robot is just one of many new developments in automation of food preparation and delivery. Take this pizzeria in Paris: there are no humans involved in the cooking, ordering, or pick-up process at all. And just this week, IBM and McDonald’s announced a collaboration to create drive-through lanes run by AI.

So it may not be long before you can order a meal from one computer, have that meal cooked by another computer, then have it delivered to your home or waiting vehicle by a third—you guessed it—computer.

Image Credit: Miso Robotics Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#439766 Understanding human-robot interaction ...

Robotic body-weight support (BWS) devices can play a key role in helping people with neurological disorders to improve their walking. The team that developed the advanced body-weight support device RYSEN in 2018 has since gained more fundamental insight in BWS but also concludes that improvement in this field is necessary. They find that recommendations for the optimal therapy settings have to be customized to each device and that developers should be more aware of the interaction between patient and the device. The researchers have published the results of their evaluation in Science Robotics on Wednesday September 22. Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#439730 Faster Microfiber Actuators Mimic Human ...

Robotics, prosthetics, and other engineering applications routinely use actuators that imitate the contraction of animal muscles. However, the speed and efficiency of natural muscle fibers is a demanding benchmark. Despite new developments in actuation technologies, for the most past artificial muscles are either too large, too slow, or too weak.

Recently, a team of engineers from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have described a new artificial microfiber made from liquid crystal elastomer (LCE) that replicates the tensile strength, quick responsiveness, and high power density of human muscles. “[The LCE] polymer is a soft material and very stretchable,” says Qiguang He, the first author of their research paper. “If we apply external stimuli such as light or heat, this material will contract along one direction.”
Though LCE-based soft actuators are common and can generate excellent actuation strain—between 50 and 80 percent—their response time, says He, is typically “very, very slow.” The simplest way to make the fibers both responsive and fast was to reduce their diameter. To do so, the UCSD researchers used a technique called electrospinning, which involves the ejection of a polymer solution through a syringe or spinneret under high voltage to produce ultra-fine fibers. Electrospinning is used for the fabrication of small-scale materials, to produce microfibers with diameters between 10 and 100 micrometers. It is favored for its ability to create fibers with different morphological structures, and is routinely used in various research and commercial contexts.
The microfibers fabricated by the UCSD researchers were between 40 and 50 micrometers, about the width of human hair, and much smaller than existing LCE fibers, some of which can be more than 0.3 millimeters thick. “We are not the first to use this technique to fabricate LCE fibers, but we are the first…to push this fiber further,” He says. “We demonstrate how to control the actuation of the [fibers and measure their] actuation performance.”

University of California, San Diego/Science Robotics
As proof-of-concept, the researchers constructed three different microrobotic devices using their electrospun LCE fibers. Their LSE actuators can be controlled thermo-electrically or using a near-infrared laser. When the LCE material is at room temperature, it is in a nematic phase: He explains that in this state, “the liquid crystals are randomly [located] with all their long axes pointing in essentially the same direction.” When the temperature is increased, the material transitions into what is called an isotropic phase, in which its properties are uniform in all directions, resulting in a contraction of the fiber.
The results showed an actuation strain of up to 60 percent—which means, a 10-centimeter-long fiber will contract to 4 centimeters—with a response speed of less than 0.2 seconds, and a power density of 400 watts per kilogram. This is comparable to human muscle fibers.
An electrically controlled soft actuator, the researchers note, allows easy integrations with low-cost electronic devices, which is a plus for microrobotic systems and devices. Electrospinning is a very efficient fabrication technique as well: “You can get 10,000 fibers in 15 minutes,” He says.
That said, there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed still. “The one limitation of this work is…[when we] apply heat or light to the LCE microfiber, the energy efficiency is very small—it's less than 1 percent,” says He. “So, in future work, we may think about how to trigger the actuation in a more energy-efficient way.”
Another constraint is that the nematic–isotropic phase transition in the electrospun LCE material takes place at a very high temperature, over 90 C. “So, we cannot directly put the fiber into the human body [which] is at 35 degrees.” One way to address this issue might be to use a different kind of liquid crystal: “Right now we use RM 257 as a liquid crystal [but] we can change [it] to another type [to reduce] the phase transition temperature.”
He, though, is optimistic about the possibilities to expand this research in electrospun LCE microfiber actuators. “We have also demonstrated [that] we can arrange multiple LCE fibers in parallel…and trigger them simultaneously [to increase force output]… This is a future work [in which] we will try to see if it's possible for us to integrate these muscle fiber bundles into biomedical tissue.” Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots

#439698 Artificial fiber spun from liquid ...

A team of researchers at the University of California has developed a way to create an artificial fiber that performs very much like human muscle fibers. In their paper published in the journal Science Robotics, the researchers describe their process and how well the fiber worked when tested. Continue reading

Posted in Human Robots