Robotics & Automation


Germany draws up rules of the road for driverless cars

Daily Mail

German regulators have been working on rules for how such vehicles should be programmed to deal with a dilemma, such as choosing between hitting a cyclist or accelerating beyond legal speeds to avoid an accident. Mercedes EQ electric car concept: German regulators have been working on rules for how such vehicles should be programmed to deal with a dilemma, such as choosing between hitting a cyclist or accelerating beyond legal speeds to avoid an accident. When an accident is unavoidable, the software must choose whichever action will hurt people the least, even if that means destroying property or hitting animals in the road, a transport ministry statement showed. That means that when an accident is unavoidable, the software must choose whichever action will hurt people the least, even if that means destroying property or hitting animals in the road, a transport ministry statement showed.


Google reveals the software behind its self-driving cars

Daily Mail

While Google's physical self-driving cars logged 3 million miles last year, the virtual ones that drive in the Carcraft simulations logged an astounding 2.5 billion miles The exclusive software works in tandem with a secret test base called'Castle,' which is essentially a hidden mock city that can quickly be configured to test different scenarios. There, Waymo is testing several types of self-driving cars, including popular Lexus models, retired Priuses, Chysler Pacificas minivans and even autonomous vehicles labeled'level four,' meaning they physically cannot be driven by humans. There, Waymo is testing several types of self-driving cars, including popular Lexus models, retired Priuses, Chysler Pacificas minivans and even autonomous vehicles labeled'level four,' meaning they physically cannot be driven by humans. A Carcraft'fuzzing' chart that allows engineers to see different combinations of variables that would influence a self-driving cars decisions At Castle, Waymo is testing several types of self-driving cars, including popular Lexus models, retired Priuses, Chysler Pacificas minivans and even autonomous vehicles labeled'level four,' meaning they physically cannot be driven by humans'It's not enough to just track a thing through a space - You have to understand what it is doing.'


'Carcraft' is Waymo's virtual world for autonomous vehicle testing

Engadget

Earlier this year we watched as an AI kept driving straight into the water in Grand Theft Auto: V. Rather than use Rockstar Games' crime-world magnum opus to train its self-driving vehicles, though, Waymo instead uses Carcraft. Yes, Alphabet built its own virtual world to train self-driving cars. The Atlantic writes that Carcraft began as a way for Waymo to recreate scenarios the autonomous cars experienced on the road. There's an awful lot more to The Atlantic's story -- including a trip to one of Waymos' real-world autonomous testing "neighborhoods" -- so be sure to check out the links below.


Robot bears are coming for your grandparents

Engadget

Indeed, some 13 percent of the American population is now 65 or older, though a recent report from the Pew Research Center suggests that figure will nearly double by midcentury. Last year, the company introduced a "self-reliance support robot" -- essentially a smart walker that recognizes when the user's weight shifts, enabling it to support and guide her as she stands or sits. It's a heavy-lift robot designed to gently scoop elderly folks from their beds and deposit them into a wheelchair. The unfortunately acronym-ed HAL (hybrid assistive limb) system from the dubiously named Cyberdyne Corp., on the other hand, is already being tested at Haneda airport in Tokyo.


Apple's Self-Driving Vehicle Project: An Autonomous Campus Shuttle

International Business Times

Apple CEO Tim Cook made it clear last month the company was not planning to build its own self-driving car when he told Bloomberg the company was focusing on an autonomous car system. Apple's self-driving technology project, called Titan, will instead work on the system that will allow cars to drive on its own. "We're focusing on autonomous systems," Cook told Bloomberg. What We Know About Apple's Titan Project So Far Apple recently added more employees to the project this year.


Blossom: A Handmade Approach to Social Robotics from Cornell and Google

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Guy Hoffman, who is well known for the fascinating creativity of his robot designs, has been working on a completely new kind of social robot in a collaboration between his lab at Cornell and Google ZOO's creative technology team in APAC. Guy Hoffman: Looking at the design of the huge number of social robots revealed in recent years, there are a lot of repetitive features: white shiny plastic with metal or black accents, glass screens and smooth, rounded lines and edges. The soft components give the robot a physical compliance which make Blossom move in an imperfect, lifelike way, and would be impossible to recreate with rigid components. The Blossom project is a collaboration between Hoffman's lab at Cornell and the team at Google ZOO's creative technology team in APAC.


The future of funerals? Robot priest launched to undercut human-led rites

The Guardian

In Japan robots can serve as companions, helpers for the elderly, entertainment bots and even sexual partners, but now SoftBank's humanoid robot Pepper has put itself up for hire as a Buddhist priest for funerals. Taking the German blessing bot's idea and running with it, Pepper's new code will let it chant sutras in a computerised voice while tapping a drum, providing a cheaper alternative to a human priest to see your loved ones off into the eternal sleep. The robot was on display on Wednesday at a funeral industry fair, the Life Ending Industry Expo, in Tokyo, shown off by plastic molding maker Nissei Eco. With the average cost of a funeral in Japan reaching in excess of £20,000, according to data from Japan's Consumer Association in 2008, and human priests costing £1,700, Nissei Eco is looking to undercut the market with Pepper available for just £350 per funeral.


Custom robots in a matter of minutes

MIT News

In a new paper, they present a system called "Interactive Robogami" that lets you design a robot in minutes, and then 3-D print and assemble it in as little as four hours. Despite these developments, current design tools still have space and motion limitations, and there's a steep learning curve to understanding the various nuances. "3-D printing lets you print complex, rigid structures, while 2-D fabrication gives you lightweight but strong structures that can be produced quickly," Sung says. "By 3-D printing 2-D patterns, we can leverage these advantages to develop strong, complex designs with lightweight materials."


Robot Funeral: Human-Like Bot 'Pepper' Can Perform Last Rites

International Business Times

Japanese plastic molding maker Nissei Eco Co. created software for Pepper The Robot enabling the humanoid to chant Buddhist mantras and recite sutras typically performed by monks at funerals. The robot displayed its funeral rite capabilities – including sutras chanted in a computerized voice and a drum ritual -- at a Wednesday funeral industry event in Tokyo, the Life Ending Industry Expo. Pepper's two 2D cameras, 4 microphones, 2 speakers, and engaging hi-res tablet allow it to engage with you in seamless interactions #robots pic.twitter.com/L0On14A8EX Softbank Robotics' various worldwide branches have touted Pepper for being able to "engage with you in seamless interactions." Buddhist priest Tetsugi Matsuo told Reuters he visited the Life Ending Industry Expo to see if Pepper was up to the task for bringing the "heart aspect to a machine because I believe that the'heart' is the foundation of religion."


Airbus' Vahana Flying Car Uses Laser Sensors to Pick out Landing Spots

WIRED

Airbus calls its self-flying flying car Vahana, and is working on it at its Silicon Valley outpost A 3 (pronounced "a cubed"). If all goes according to plan, Vahana will use a Near Earth Autonomy technology called Peregrin. Singh has spent 25 years working on sensors for autonomous cars and aircraft, and spun off Near Earth Autonomy from Carnegie Melon University five years ago. That said, a lot of work remains to be done, and Neva Aerospace, a European consortium driving the development of key technologies for flying cars, believes fully autonomous flights remain a long ways off.