IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel


Robots Learn to Speak Body Language

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Called OpenPose, the system can track body movement, including hands and face, in real time. It uses computer vision and machine learning to process video frames, and can even keep track of multiple people simultaneously. It no longer requires the camera-lined dome to determine body poses, making the technology mobile and accessible. By perceiving and interpreting your physical gestures, the robot may even learn to read emotions by tracking body language.


Professor Einstein Is a Fun, Wacky Robot That Loves to Talk About Science

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

This very expressive, very wacky robotic character is a creation of Hanson Robotics, which calls it "your personal genius." My daughters ask Professor Einstein to stick out its tongue, point its finger, take a walk, and "go crazy." But other times Professor Einstein seems confused by our questions. Dr. Hanson tells me that his past robot creations showed the value of "deeply engaging interactions between human and robot, including facial expressions, conversation, and nonverbal communication."


Robots for Kids: Designing Social Machines That Support Children's Learning

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

In this guest post, Jacqueline M. Kory Westlund, a researcher in the Personal Robots Group at the MIT Media Lab describes her projects and explorations to understand children's relationships with social robots. What design features of the robots affect children's learning--like the expressivity of the robot's voice, the robot's social contingency, or whether it provides personalized feedback? When I tell people about the Media Lab's work with robots for children's education, a common question is: "Are you trying to replace teachers?" Despite all the research that seems to point to the conclusion "robots can be like people," there are also studies showing that children learn more from human tutors than from robot tutors.


AI Can Help Patients Recover Ability to Stand and Walk

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Artificial intelligence software combined with a robotic harness could help spinal injury and stroke patients walk again. Rehabilitation programs for spinal cord injuries or strokes usually have patients walk on treadmills at a steady pace while harnesses support their weight to varying degrees. As part of a clinical trial of this "neurorobotic platform," the researchers experimented with 26 volunteers recovering from spinal cord injuries or strokes, whose disability ranged from being able to walk without assistance to being able to neither stand nor walk independently. After the volunteers walked roughly 20 meters using the neurorobotic platform to familiarize themselves with the apparatus, three patients with spinal cord injuries who previously could not stand independently could, immediately after such practice, walk with or without assistance.


THOR Transformer Drone Hovers and Cruises With No Compromises

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

THOR manages to achieve very high structural efficiency by using all of its aerodynamic surfaces in both vertical and horizontal flight modes, transforming from a flying wing into a sort of whole-body spinning bicopter thing that you really need to see to believe. In hovering mode (which the researchers call H-MOD), THOR spins in place with its airfoils rotated 180 degrees from each other, like the rotors on a helicopter. With the exception of the servo and bearing used for wing rotation, THOR uses every other structural component in both hovering and cruising modes, making it highly efficient relative to hybrid designs. Can you describe the process for the transition between hovering flight and forward flight (or forward flight and hovering flight)?


Video Friday: Water Drones, Sad Robot, and Self-Driving in Duckie Town

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

The technology group Wärtsilä and DHL, the world's leading logistics company, have teamed up to test mobile robots of Fetch Robotics. The mobile robot system simplifies point to point material handling. For his internship at Fetch, Kiran Mohan worked on robot localization using Wi-Fi signals. Kiran Mohan, a master student from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, developed a prototype system using Wi-Fi data to improve robot localization in several ways.


Iran's Newest Robot Is an Adorable Dancing Humanoid

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Over the last several years, a team of roboticists at the University of Tehran has been working on increasingly large and complex life-size humanoids. A team of 15 researchers at University of Tehran's Center for Advanced Systems and Technologies worked for over a year to design and build Surena Mini, which is 50 centimeters tall and weighs 3.4 kilograms. Its hands aren't designed for grasping objects, but Surena Mini can push on small things--or karate-chop them: A little over a year ago, the same group unveiled Surena III, an advanced adult-size humanoid designed for researching bipedal locomotion, human-robot interaction, and other challenges in robotics. The Iranian roboticists plan to continue working on Surena III, but they also want to explore the possibility of creating marketable products based on their research, Professor Yousefi-Koma explained, and one of the ideas they had was building a "kid-size version of Surena."


AI Creates Fake Obama

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Artificial intelligence software could generate highly realistic fake videos of former president Barack Obama using existing audio and video clips of him, a new study [PDF] finds. Such work could one day help generate digital models of a person for virtual reality or augmented reality applications, researchers say. In the new study, the neural net learned what mouth shapes were linked to various sounds. This work could also help people talk with digital copies of a person in virtual reality or augmented reality applications, Kemelmacher-Shlizerman says.


How a One-Man Team from California Won NASA's Space Robotics Challenge

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

NASA's Space Robotics Challenge (SRC) took place last month, full of virtual Valkyries wandering around a virtual Mars base trying to fix virtual stuff. Of the 93 teams initially signed up to compete, NASA selected 20 finalist teams based on their performance completing some tasks in the Gazebo 3D robot simulator, and each of those finalists had to program a Valkyrie humanoid to complete a repair mission on a simulated Mars base. The winner of the SRC was team Coordinated Robotics, which also was the only team to manage a perfect run with 100 percent task completion, taking home the US $125,000 top prize plus a $50,000 "perfect run" bonus. With a real robot it generally takes multiple people to run a single test.


Why I Think Home Robots Will Become Invisible

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Cute, social robots currently get a lot of press, but are these engaging devices early emissaries of our robotic future? In my view, companion robots offer novelty over utility, but once the novelty wears off, it's only utility that people will pay for. The robot, I think, should not be an end in itself but instead should be the simplest, most cost effective way to deliver what our customers truly want. Joe Jones is co-founder and CTO of Franklin Robotics, which is developing a solar-powered garden-weeding robot named Tertill.