IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Whitney says the device has greater torque per weight (torque density) than highly geared servos or brushless motors coupled with harmonic drives. And more significant: To build an autonomous robot, you'd need a set of motors and a control system capable of replacing the human puppeteer who's manually driving the fluid actuators [below]. John P. Whitney: The original motivation was the same as for the MIT WAM arm and other impedance-based systems designed for human interaction: Using a lightweight high-performance transmission allows placing the drive motors in the body, instead of suffering the cascading inertia if they were placed at each joint. We are learning that many of the "analog" qualities of this system will pay dividends for autonomous "digital" operation; for example, the natural haptic properties of the system can be of equal service to an autonomous control system as they are to a human operator.

New Technique Controls Autonomous Vehicles in Extreme Conditions


"Aggressive driving in a robotic vehicle – maneuvering at the edge – is a unique control problem involving a highly complex system," said Evangelos Theodorou, an AE assistant professor who is leading the project. At the Georgia Tech Autonomous Racing Facility, researchers are studying a one-fifth-scale autonomous vehicle as it traverses a dirt track. Georgia Tech researchers are using an electric-powered autonomous vehicle to help driverless vehicles maintain control at the edge of their handling limits. At the Georgia Tech Autonomous Racing Facility, researchers are studying a one-fifth-scale autonomous vehicle as it traverses a dirt track.

A four-armed robot can now improvise music as well as human bandmates


This wasn't a your average jazz band member, though--this was Shimon, a four-armed robot marimba player built by the Georgia Institute of Technology to be able to listen to music, improvise, and play along with human musicians. Barnes joined Weinberg, his team, and Shimon onstage to play a few songs, and the performance was pretty surreal. His students are also working on making Shimon's creative abilities even stronger, currently working on figuring out what it would sound like if it was fed one style of music and asked to play another, such as feeding it Mozart and asking it to play jazz in the style of Thelonious Monk. But unlike IBM or many other researchers using AI systems for music, Weinberg's team is building working robots that can play real acoustic instruments, rather than programs that output beeps from a speaker.

Video Friday: Whiskered Robot, Haptic Jamming, and Humorous Humanoid

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

We tried to include videos from many different areas of robotics: control, sensing, humanoids, actuators, exoskeletons, manipulators, prosthetics, aerial vehicles, grasping, AI, VR, haptics, vision, and microrobots. In addition, we tested the performance of the individual gripper components, the aerial vehicle's ability to transfer force to the cups, the system's ability to grip inclined surfaces, and finally the vehicle's ability to grasp a multitude of objects using various numbers of cups. The arm control scheme enables adjustments based on errors in hand position and posture that would be impossible to achieve by finger motions alone, thus allowing the fingers to grasp an object in a laterally symmetric grasp. We propose a space carving approach to design optimal link geom- etry maximizing structural strength and joint limits while minimizing link mass.

Robot Performs Soft-Tissue Surgery By Itself


It carefully scans soft, sticky intestinal tissue and delicately weaves stitches with unmatched surgical precision. The surgical bot is named STAR, or Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot, and it just performed the world's first autonomous, soft-tissue surgery. STAR is the creation of a team of computer scientists and medical researchers led by Peter Kim, a biochemist at the Children's National Health System in Washington D.C. "Current robotic surgery is'teleoperated', [meaning that] every step and every movement of the robot, is directed by the surgeon," says Axel Krieger, a robotics expert with the team at Children's National Health System.

Ping pong and robotics: A match made in heaven


Enter Trainerbot, the smart ping pong robot with a wicked serve. Harrison started working on a ping pong robot made from a household garbage can. Puma has developed a racing robot to push runners, with the idea that competing against an opponent helps improve athletes' performance. For a totally customizable game, users can control the motors via a mobile app.

Do you Trust a Robot?


Just as industrial robots don't look like humans, robots with artificial intelligence don't think like humans. The breakthrough victory of Deep Blue, IBM's supercomputer over the then world champion, Garry Kasparov, was based on sheer processing power combined with massive data storage capability. While Japan and Germany dominated the industrial robotic industry, China and USA are racing to dominate the deep learning robotic space. The researchers now claim to have managed to make STAR work autonomously.

Joke-Telling Robots Are the Final Frontier of Artificial Intelligence


And yet this simplistic style of joke-telling is the perfect jumping off point for one of the most exciting and ambitious efforts in the artificial intelligence research community: the quest to develop funny robots. Rather, AI researchers are working to create robots and computers that are in on the joke, able to detect various shades of wit from their human companions, and to fire back in turn with their own wisecracks. "Robots and all other modes of digital humor systems have the ability to create their own distinct styles of humor," Molineux said. "I'm not sure that we'll know when a computer achieves humor perfectly," she cautioned, "but probably when it's capable of generating responses to situational humor rather than getting information from familiar jokes.

Untapped opportunities in AI


Editor's note: this post is part of an ongoing series exploring developments in artificial intelligence. Here's a simple recipe for solving crazy-hard problems with machine intelligence. Google's success is astonishing not only in scale and diversity, but also the degree to which it exploded the accumulated conventional wisdom of the artificial intelligence and machine learning fields. While this might scale up to handle everyday driving in many parts of the developed world, many autonomous vehicle or robot applications will require the system to recognize and understand its environment from scratch, and adapt to novel challenges in real time.

Robot CEO: Your next boss could run on code


At the time it was predicted that it might take another hundred years until computers would beat top human players at the boardgame Go. But a few days ago, Google's AlphaGo beat the world's champion Go player in a five-game series. Business books and management consultants commonly list six functions that a CEO is responsible for: determine the strategic direction, allocate resources, build the culture, oversee and deliver the company's performance, be the face of the company, and juggle with everyday compromises. Human managerial decisions will switch focus to the "why" rather than the "how" as data-driven decisions slowly creep from scheduling to resource allocation to performance measurement and reporting, and finally to daily management tasks.