In 1984, Heathkit presented HERO Jr. as the first robot that could be used in households to perform a variety of tasks, such as guarding people's homes, setting reminders, and even playing games. Following this development, many companies launched affordable "smart robots" that could be used within the household. Some of these technologies, like Google Home, Amazon Echo and Roomba, have become household staples; meanwhile, other products such as Jibo, Aniki, and Kuri failed to successfully launch despite having all the necessary resources. Why were these robots shut down? The simple answer is that most of these personal robots do not work well--but this is not necessarily because we do not have the technological capacity to build highly functional robots.
To be useful, drones need to be quick. Because of their limited battery life they must complete whatever task they have – searching for survivors on a disaster site, inspecting a building, delivering cargo – in the shortest possible time. And they may have to do it by going through a series of waypoints like windows, rooms, or specific locations to inspect, adopting the best trajectory and the right acceleration or deceleration at each segment. The best human drone pilots are very good at doing this and have so far always outperformed autonomous systems in drone racing. Now, a research group at the University of Zurich (UZH) has created an algorithm that can find the quickest trajectory to guide a quadrotor – a drone with four propellers – through a series of waypoints on a circuit.
What is the best simulation tool for robotics? This is a hard question to answer because many people (or their companies) specialize in one tool or another. Some simulators are better at one aspect of robotics than at others. When I'm asked to recommend the best simulation tool for robotics I have to find an expert and hope that they are current and across a wide range of simulation tools in order to give me the best advice, which was why I took particular note of the recent review paper from Australia's CSIRO, "A Review of Physics Simulators for Robotics Applications" by Jack Collins, Shelvin Chand, Anthony Vanderkop, and David Howard, published in IEEE Access (Volume: 9). "We have compiled a broad review of physics simulators for use within the major fields of robotics research. More specifically, we navigate through key sub-domains and discuss the features, benefits, applications and use-cases of the different simulators categorised by the respective research communities. Our review provides an extensive index of the leading physics simulators applicable to robotics researchers and aims to assist them in choosing the best simulator for their use case."
Tiny drones are ideal candidates for fully autonomous jobs that are too dangerous or time-consuming for humans. A commonly shared dream by engineers and fire & rescue services, would be to have swarms of such drones help in search-and-rescue scenarios , for instance to localize gas leaks without endangering human lives. Tiny drones are ideal for such tasks, since they are small enough to navigate in narrow spaces, safe, agile, and very inexpensive. However, their small footprint also makes the design of an autonomous swarm extremely challenging, both from a software and hardware perspective. From a software perspective, it is really challenging to come up with an algorithm capable of autonomous and collaborative navigation within such tight resource constraints.
Abate talks to Maxime Gariel, CTO of Xwing about the autonomous flight technology they are developing. At Xwing, they retrofit traditional aircraft to include multiple sensors such as cameras, lidar, and radar. Using sensor fusion algorithms, they create an exceptionally accurate model of the environment. This model of the environment and advanced path planning and control algorithms allow the plane to autonomously navigate in the airport, take off, fly to a destination, and land, all without a person on board. Maxime Gariel Maxime Gariel is the CTO of Xwing, a San Francisco based startup whose mission is to dramatically increase human mobility using fully autonomous aerial vehicles.
The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) in Taiwan has introduced the AI-Based High Density Shuttle Rack System (SRS). This smart storage system, which operates without manpower in thousands of square meters of space, uses Artificial Intelligence to make warehousing decisions. ITRI's system is an all-in-one pick, pack and fulfillment system for high volume e-commerce. Current capacities allow up to 1.25 miles of track for robotic shuttles, with vertical lifts for movement up and down as many as 14 floors of storage capacity. Inventory replenishment and picking is enabled by real-time positioning and tracking with low-latency 5G infrastructure.
The Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) hosted their first virtual conference last Wednesday, the 30th of June. With over 50 talks, the conference was a gathering of top robotics researchers, business leaders and PhD/post-doctoral students showcasing cutting-edge research. In their four dedicated tracks, speakers covered a wide range of topics such as unmanned aerial vehicles, soft robotics, assistive technologies, human-robot interaction, robot safety & ethics, or swarm robotics, among others. Moreover, there were two panels discussing the future of robotics, and smart automation & startups. In case you missed the conference, or you would like to re-watch it, BRL has made all the talks available through their dedicated YouTube channel.
Softbank Robotics Europe, the group behind two of the more recognizable robots, is laying off 40% of its workforce. On July 7, the developer of the famous Nao and Pepper robots will reduce its Paris-based workforce that had 330 employees as of March 2021. The Robot Report confirmed this news, which was first reported by French media outlet Le Journal du Net. Softbank Robotics Europe lost \$38 million in its fiscal 2019-2020 year and more than \$119 million over the last three years, according to Le Journal du Net. Despite their worldwide fame, the Nao and Pepper robots never achieved financial success.
Dive into the experience of piloting a robotic scout through what appears to be an ancient cave system leading down to the centre of the Earth. With the help of advanced sensors, guide your robot explorer along dark tunnels and caverns, avoiding obstacles, collecting relics of aeons past and, hopefully, discover what happened to its predecessor. Mickey Li, Julian Hird, G. Miles, Valentina Lo Gatto, Alex Smith and WeiJie Wong (most from the FARSCOPE CDT programme of the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England) have created this educational game as part of the UKRAS festival of Robotics 2021. The game has been designed to teach you about how sensors work, how they are used in reality and perhaps give a glimpse into the mind of the robot. With luck, this game can show how exciting it can be to work in robotics.
Texas A&M's Robin Murphy has deployed robots at 29 disasters, including three building collapses, two mine disasters and an earthquake as director of the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue. She has also served as a technical search specialist with the Hillsboro County (Florida) Fire and Rescue Department. The Conversation talked to Murphy to provide readers an understanding of the types of technologies that search and rescue crews at the Champlain Towers South disaster site in Surfside, Florida, have at their disposal, as well as some they don't. The interview has been edited for length. We don't have reports about it from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department, but news coverage shows that they're using drones.