Friday, March 31, 2006
Thursday, March 30, 2006
A power-assisted wearable device that could provide the leg strength, support and endurance for the elderly and those with effects of lower limbs weakening diseases, RoboWalker, if successfully developed, would be a state-of-the-art breakthrough in orthotic device, which currently consists of only passive device. RoboWalker webs the leg and foot in a series of artificial, exoskeleton springy tendons and muscles. The device is able to, through the numerous sensors, know exactly the user’s next course of action, and provides bursts of muscular energy through the brace when needed. Such burst of energy provides the necessary strength that could assist the user in accomplishing the task (for instance walking up the stairs or even standing up from sitting position) which he or she may otherwise have difficulty accomplishing. Nevertheless, just like its scaled-down cousins RoboKnee or RoboAnkle, RoboWalker is not useful for paraplegics (complete paralysis of the lower extremities), since the user must have the ability to first put the leg where it needs to go in order for RoboWalker to provide the necessary assistance to complete the motion. While the RoboWalker prototype has had rather impressive trial results, there are also certain drawbacks associated with it. Firstly, the batteries that power the device can only last for a relatively short period of use. Recharging the batteries or changing a new set would be required after about 30 to 40 minutes of wireless assisted walking. Secondly, while the final price of the actual device is unknown, the estimated cost in the range of $10,000 may make it prohibitively expensive for most people. The success of RoboWalker will see the change in lives of many disabled and elderly people. It will definitely replace the wheelchair as the preferred means of locomotion for these people. Not only will this innovation greatly reduce the inconvenience brought to people suffering from weakness in lower extremities, such breakthrough in technology would also bring about a huge cost savings to social welfare system, where the needs for modifications to improve mobility (wheelchair-friendly houses, stair lifts, car lifts, home aids etc) would be reduced.
RQ-1: Predator The Predator is a propeller driven air vehicle 27 feet in length and with a wingspan of 49 feet. It is able to operate for more than 40 hours at an altitude of up to 25 000 feet with a cruising speed of over 130 km/h and a range of 740 km. The aircraft is part of a system of 4 planes, one ground control station (usually a van) and a satellite communications system. It is equipped with a satellite dish for communicating with the ground control station, with infrared sensors, cameras and radar, and may also be equipped with weapons. The Predator has been empoyed by the U.S.A. in Bosnia since 1995, and it is also in use in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's main uses are, as with most UAV's, reconnaissance, but it is also capable of carrying up to 14 Hellfire missiles. The Predator became (in)famous when it was used by the CIA to assassinate six suspected terrorists in Yemen in 2003, the first ever attack by an unmanned aircraft outside a theatre of war. The Predator has a bright future in the U.S, as the Pentagon plans to buy at least 219 Predators over the next five years. RQ-2: Pioneer The Pioneer was an early bird among modern military UAV's. It began service as early as 1985, when it was employed by the US Navy. It had several teething problems though, facing for instance electromagnetic interference from the ships it launched from, leading to several crashes. A USD 50 millon research and development project was consequently launched, bringing the Pioneer to a level of "minimum essential capability". In spite of this, the history of the Pioneer is a history of success. It was used extensively during Iraq War 1, where it carried out reconnaissance, target acquiring and battle damage assessment missions, among others. It became famous when a group of Iraqi soldiers surrendered to the Pioneer, fearing the ship bombardement that usually followed an overpass. This was the first time human soldiers surrendered to a machine, and is thus a landmark (if a somewhat scary one) in the history of robotic warfare. The Pioneer is smaller than the Predator, with a length of 14 feet and a wingspan of 17 feet. It is a propeller driven aircraft and has a range of 185 km, a cruising speed of 120 kmh and operates at altitudes up to 15000 feet. The pioneer is also used by the Israeli.RQ-8: Fire Scout
The Fire Scout is an unmanned robotic helicopter still under development and testing. It showed an amazing degree of autonomy when it, whitout interference from human hands, was able to land on an aircraft carrier moving at 27km/h. Landing at an aircraft carrier is known as the most difficult part of piloting a navy plane, as it requires the pilot to have very good reflexes to adjust to the ship as it pitches and rolls. The Fire Scout may thus also lead to the development of automatic landing systems for manned planes, surely a great relief for pilots.In conclusion, it is clear that the future of unmanned aircraft vehicles is bright from a military perspective. But is killing and war all these machines can be used for? Certainly not. As the technology becomes more and more advanced, UAV's are more than likely going to enter civilian life to a higher degree. I can easily envision UAV's for use of monitoring rainforests and other endangered enviroments, for natural research, spraying of fields and so on.
For interested readers, Wikipedia offers several links to open-source UAV projects on the net. References: General information on UAV's: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unmanned_aerial_vehicle http://www.fas.org/irp/program/collect/uav.htm http://www.uavforum.com/library/photo.htm http://www.marinetimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-1649125.php About Predator: http://www.fas.org/irp/program/collect/predator.htm http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/predator/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RQ-1_Predator About Pioneer http://www.fas.org/irp/program/collect/pioneer.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RQ-2_Pioneer About Fire Scout http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RQ-8A http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/business/20060119-9999-1b19scout.html
 "First robot doctors start work in UK hospitals" THE GUARDIAN , LONDON Friday, May 20, 2005,Page 6
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Monday, March 27, 2006
Above NEC's Health and Food advice robot , Sony's QIRO , Mitsubishi's Wakamura (from left ) This robot with “taste buds” is a new feature added to the common existing ones like patrolling the home with built-in cameras for detecting intrusion , recognizing faces and voices to communicate with its owners as well as to provide information and controlling home appliances . Officially called the “ Health and Food Advice Robot “ and dubbed as the world’s first partner robot with a sense of taste by its creator, NEC System Technologies . The robot is able to analyze the food and ingredients and also to perform food tasting . In other words , the robot is able to break down the compositions of the food and also differentiate among the variants of a particular food . For example, the robot is able to determine the amount of fat composition in a cheese and possibly what kind (brand) of cheese it is . On top of it , the robot can also offer advices to its user if it is given its user’s health profile . The advices include how to improve the user’s health and eating habits based on the robot’s analysis of the user’s diet . Technology behind the “food tasting” The robot has an infrared sensor equipped to one of its arms . This robot utilizes a property called “ spectrum reflection ratio” to determine the composition of the food . Varying wavelengths of infrared light are beamed onto the food, where the spectrums of the reflected infrared lights are analyzed to determine the actual contents in the food. Now the food compositions in term of water, protein and other molecule types have been determined by the infrared sensor. Given the robot’s database of the food compositions, the robot is able to identify the food if it exists in its database or “remembers” it if it isn’t. ( picture left shows the infrared sensor on its arm ) References : http://www.necst.co.jp/english/press/20050609/index.htm http://www.roboticsdaily.com/headline/Health-Food-Advice-Robot.html Photo sources from : NEC : http://plusd.itmedia.co.jp/lifestyle/articles/0506/09/news070.html Mitsubishi Wakamaru : http://www.mhi.co.jp/kobe/wakamaru/english/about/index.html Sony QIRO : http://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/QRIO/top_nf.html
Saturday, March 25, 2006
ROBOTS IN MINING
“In the ten years between 1988 and 1998, 256 miners died and over 64,000 were injured in mining accidents!” “World metal prices have been falling for decades due to increases in efficiency. If a mine is unable to become more productive, it will go out of business!”
Yes! The vision of robotic industries, science fiction only a few years ago, is poised to become reality in the global mining sector, driven by the twin needs for safety and efficiency.
CSIRO's deputy chief executive for minerals and energy, Dr Bruce Hobbs says research teams at CSIRO are trialling and developing a range of giant robotic mining devices, that will either operate themselves under human supervision or else be "driven" by a miner, in both cases from a safe, remote location. “It is all about getting people out of hazardous environments," he says.
Robots will be doing jobs like laying explosives, going underground after blasting to stabilize a mine roof or mining in areas where it is impossible for humans to work or even survive. Some existing examples of mining automation include
· The world's largest "robot", a 3500 tonne coal dragline featuring automated loading and unloading
· A robot device for drilling and bolting mine roofs to stabilize them after blasting
· A pilotless burrowing machine for mining in flooded gravels and sands underground, where human operators cannot go
· A robotic drilling and blasting device for inducing controlled caving.
Robots must demonstrate efficiency gains or cost savings. The biggest robot of them all, the automated dragline swing has the potential to save the coal mining industry around $280 million a year by giving a four per cent efficiency gain. Major production trials of this robot are planned for later in the year 2000.
Unlike their counterparts commonly found in the manufacturing industry, mining robots have to be smart. They need to sense their world, just like humans.
"Mining robots need sensors to measure the three dimensional structure of everything around them. As well as sight, robots must know where they are placed geographically within the minesite in real time and online," says Dr Corke. "CSIRO is developing vision systems for robots using cameras and laser devices to make maps of everything around the machine quickly and accurately, as it moves and works in its ever-changing environment," he says.
Dr Corke insists that the move to robots will not eliminate human miners, but it will change their job description from arduous and hazardous ones to safe and intellectual ones.
The Technology :
Example 1: RecoverBot  (used in mine rescue operations) , a one hundred and fifty pound tethered rectangular unit, has two maneuverable arms with grippers and four wheels that support an open box frame with power units, controllers and video cameras separately built with their own individual metal armor. Lowered down the target shaft to prepare a recovery, the telerobotic eyes "see" for the surface controller and the arms move the body into a second lowered net by lifting and dragging. An "aero shell" protects the robot during the lowering operation from a winch to protect from falling debris, and then removed when bottom is reached. Then RecoverBot performs it’s mission, observed from two points of view-the overhead camera used by current mine rescue to image deep shafts-and the robot, who’s video are the mine rescuer’s second view. When the mission is completed the robot is then raised to the surface after the victim and overhead camera is withdrawn.
Example 2: Groundhog , a 1,600-pound mine-mapping robot created by graduate students in Carnegie Mellon's Mobile Robot Development class, made a successful trial run into an abandoned coalmine near Burgettstown, Pa. The four-wheeled, ATV-sized robot used laser rangefinders to create an accurate map of about 100 feet of the mine, which had been filled with water since the 1920s.
To fulfill its missions, the robot needs perception technology to build maps from sensor data and it must be able to operate autonomously to make decisions about where to go, how to get there, and more important, how to return. Locomotion technology is vital because of the unevenness of floors in abandoned mines. The robot also must contain computer interfaces enabling people to view the results of its explorations and use the maps it develops.The robot incorporates a key technology developed at Carnegie Mellon called Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM). It enables robots to create maps in real time as they explore an area for the first time. The technology, developed by Associate Professor Sebastian Thrun of the Center for Automated Learning and Discovery, can be applied both indoors and out.
"Mining can be a hazardous job. Getting robots to do the job will make mining safer and ensure the long-term viability of the industry".
Friday, March 24, 2006
One robot being tested is a Jeep-size, four-wheeled vehicle that has been equipped with radar, television cameras and an infrared scan to detect people, vehicles and other objects. It carries a breadbox-sized mini-robot that can be launched to search under vehicles, inside buildings and other small places.
Another robot is fashioned from an off-the-shelf, four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle, giving it added versatility because a human also can ride it like a normal ATV. Both vehicles can be remotely operated from laptop computers and can be equipped with remotely fired weapons, like an M-16 rifle or pepper spray.Those robotics can be programmed to patrol and in case of suspicions, they will sound loudly to tell potential threats, and interesting can use different languages to question the intruders. But the Air Force still use a human to be always around because the military doesn't want to give machines complete discretion. Very practical example of what the situation is about the security robotic. But it also pose a problem to us, how much we can believe a robotic to secure us, and how about the social issures with the deployment of the robotics?