If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
The Robot Launch global startup competition is over for 2017. We've seen startups from all over the world and all sorts of application areas – and we'd like to congratulate the overall winner Semio, and runners up Apellix and Mothership Aeronautics. All three startups met the judges criteria; to be an early stage platform technology in robotics or AI with great impact, large market potential and near term customer pipeline. Semio from Southern California is a software platform for developing and deploying social robot skills. Ross Mead, founder and CEO of Semio said that "he was greatly looking forward to spending more time with The Robotics Hub, and is excited about the potential for Semio moving forward."
Our first few submissions have now arrived! Have a holiday robot video of your own that you'd like to share? Send your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. "I made 2000 ugly holiday cards with a $100k robot arm" by Simone Giertz "Making Ideas Come True" by Danish Technological Institute Welcome home for the holidays."
The two biggest societal challenges for the twenty-first century are also the biggest opportunities – automation and climate change. The epitaph of fossil fuels with its dark cloud burning a hole in the ozone layer is giving way to a rise of solar and wind farms worldwide. Servicing these plantations are fleets of robots and drones, providing greater possibilities of expanding CleanTech to the most remote regions of the planet. As 2017 comes to end, the solar industry for the first time in ten years has plateaued due to the proposed budget cuts by the Trump administration. Solar has had quite a run with an average annual growth rate of more than 65% for the past decade promoted largely by federal subsidies.
Three very different robotics startups have been battling it out over the last week to win the "Robohub Choice" award in our annual startup competition. One was social, one was medical and one was agricultural! Also, one was from the UK, one was from the Ukraine and one was from Canada. Although nine startups entered the voting, it was clear from the start that it was a three horse race – thanks to our Robohub readers and the social media efforts of the startups. The most popular startup was UniExo with 70.6% of the vote, followed by BotsAndUs on 14.8% and Northstar Robotics on 13.2%.
Soft robotics has made leaps and bounds over the last decade as researchers around the world have experimented with different materials and designs to allow once rigid, jerky machines to bend and flex in ways that mimic and can interact more naturally with living organisms. However, increased flexibility and dexterity has a trade-off of reduced strength, as softer materials are generally not as strong or resilient as inflexible ones, which limits their use. Now, researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University and MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have created origami-inspired artificial muscles that add strength to soft robots, allowing them to lift objects that are up to 1,000 times their own weight using only air or water pressure, giving much-needed strength to soft robots. The study is published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). "We were very surprised by how strong the actuators [aka, "muscles"] were.
Real time autonomous motion planning and navigation is hard, especially when we care about safety. This becomes even more difficult when we have systems with complicated dynamics, external disturbances (like wind), and a priori unknown environments. Our goal in this work is to "robustify" existing real-time motion planners to guarantee safety during navigation of dynamic systems. In control theory there are techniques like Hamilton-Jacobi Reachability Analysis that provide rigorous safety guarantees of system behavior, along with an optimal controller to reach a given goal (see Figure 1). However, in general the computational methods used in HJ Reachability Analysis are only tractable in decomposable and/or low-dimensional systems; this is due to the "curse of dimensionality."
Robohub Podcast has launched a campaign on Patreon! If you don't know, Robohub Podcast is a biweekly podcast about robotics. Our goal is to explore global robotics through interviews with experts, both in academia and industry. We have published nearly 250 episodes and have spoken with many of the most influential people in robotics, such as Rodney Brooks, Dean Kamen, Radhika Nagpal, and Helen Griener. We would like your support so we can bring you interviews from the leading robotics conferences and laboratories around the world.
Dan Burstein, reporter, novelist and successful venture capitalist, declared Wednesday night at RobotLab's winter forum on Autonomous Transportation & SmartCities that within one hundred years the majority of jobs in the USA (and the world) could disappear, transferring the mantle of work from humans to machines. Burstein cautioned the audience that unless governments address the threat of millions of unemployable humans with a wider safety net, democracy could fail. The wisdom of one of the world's most successful venture investors did not fall on deaf ears. In their book, Only Humans Need Apply, Thomas Davenport and Julia Kirby also warn that that humans are too easily ceding their future to machines. "Many knowledge workers are fearful.