A robotic arm is sublime at stacking boxes on a production line, but workplace robots struggle with social niceties. Now researchers are teaching robots the right way to act in social situations in the hope of making it easier for humans and robots to work together. Human social interactions are full of subtle cues that are tricky for robots to interpret, says Song-Chun Zhu at the University of California, Los Angeles. So Zhu and his team set out to teach Baxter – an industrial robot designed to work alongside humans – to respond to social cues in a more natural way. The team trained Baxter on videos of humans shaking hands, waving, helping each other up, passing over a cup and high-fiving.
AMP Robotics, the recycling robotics technology developer backed by investors including Sequoia Capital and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, is close to closing on as much as $70 million in new financing, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the company's plans. The new financing speaks to AMP Robotics' continued success in pilot projects and with new partnerships that are exponentially expanding the company's deployments. Earlier this month the company announced a new deal that represented its largest purchase order for its trash sorting and recycling robots. That order, for 24 machine learning-enabled robotic recycling systems with the waste handling company Waste Connections, was a showcase for the efficacy of the company's recycling technology. That comes on the back of a pilot program earlier in the year with one Toronto apartment complex, where the complex's tenants were able to opt into a program that would share recycling habits monitored by AMP Robotics with the building's renters in an effort to improve their recycling behavior.
Japanese robotics firm tmsuk has unveiled a new piggyback-style rideable designed to make life easier for wheelchair users. The Rodem electric wheelchair is positioned in a way that allows a person to pull their body straight onto the seat, simplifying the process of moving from a bed or sofa onto the wheelchair. Rodem users can even control the robotic chair with a smartphone, to drive their wheelchair right up to them when it's needed, or park it out of the way when it isn't. Japanese robotics firm tmsuk has unveiled a new piggyback-style rideable designed to make life easier for wheelchair users. The ¥980,000 (roughly US$8,700) robotic wheelchair weighs about 110 kilograms (242lbs), and can reach a maximum speed of about 6 km per hour (3.7mph).
Research is all about being the first, but commercialization is all about repeatability, not just many times but every single time. This was one of the key takeaways from the Transitioning Research From Academia to Industry panel during the National Robotics Initiative Foundational Research in Robotics PI Meeting on March 10 2021. I had the pleasure of moderating a discussion between Lael Odhner, Co-Founder of RightHand Robotics, Andrea Thomaz, Co-Founder/CEO of Diligent Robotics and Assoc Prof at UTexas Austin, and Kel Guerin, Co-Founder/CIO of READY Robotics. RightHand Robotics, Diligent Robotics and READY Robotics are young robotics startups that have all transitioned from the ICorps program and SBIR grant funding into becoming venture backed robotics startups. RightHand Robotics was founded in 2014 and is a Boston based company that specializes in robotics manipulation.
ICRA, the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, is an annual academic conference covering advances in robotics. It is one of the premier conferences in its field. This year, I was invited to attend to its 2017 edition in Singapore. With a superb organization and a beautiful location, the event included conferences of leading researchers and companies from all around the world, as well as workshops and an exhibitors area. This latter is where I spent most of my time, as I love direct interaction with the companies and research centres.