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Ivan Kirigin's views on Robotics & Culture: future. perfect. progress.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Grand Challenge 2006?

You can help decide.

Friday, December 16, 2005

"The androids, automatons and artificial animals website"

Interesting. Check out this video.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Joe Engelberger at IREX

Behind those flirting eyes and underneath that weird stuff that might be skin, is the future. Or so they think in robot land. Who do they think they are fooling?

Certainly not Joe Engelberger, the father of modern robotics, who emerged exasperated from a visit to the international robot show in Tokyo to stick a prong right into the circuitry of the Japanese robot industry.

"These are toys that are being made," he said during a 'oh heaven help me' plea to an audience of scientists and industry representatives in Tokyo this week.
There are indeed many cure useless humanoids out there, but the research isn't without reward.

Generally, I'd like to see more people try to solve part of the problem first, and then expand the frontier. He gives the plea to develop aides for the elderly. I think a "smart" walker could help.

There probably isn't enough of an engineered environment, which is why most people think that robotic aides are a ways away. Start from something simple: are there stairs? What are you going to do about it?

Get a bit more complicated: how do you handle delicate items like dishes?

I think there needs to be a flexible platform developed that can start by using tele-operation, and move on to more complicated tasks autonomously. It probably shouldn’t be humanoid. It needs cameras and sensors for local obstacle avoidance. It needs fairly dexterous manipulators on arms which can reach a high shelf.

At a presentation about 2 years ago at CMU, I saw Engelberger speak about this same topic. It surprised me that he was asking for funding. Why should just a man need to look hard for what he considers to be an urgent and lucrative application of the field he pioneered?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Big Dog

In a previous post I just mentioned Big Dog, a 4-legged robotic mule. Last time I tried to download the video, it was cutoff without my realizing it. Now I've seen the entire thing, and I encourage you to check it out!

I'm told there is a stereo sensor head. You would need to do some excellent obstacle avoidance. The human control scheme is the most interesting aspect to me (mainly because I don't know much about legs). Do you use a joystick & line-of-sight? How about tele-operation? Would you need to stabilize the video feed?

I've worked on perception for a similar platform, RHEX, so I'd be interested in seeing what they're planning.

HAL: Hybrid Assistive Limb

Assitive Suits are very interesting. The system mainly interacts with you, not the environment. Imagine the difficulty: it needs to support 200kgs, but detect when you want to move it. If done well, the tiny force your hand exerts on the suit will make it respond.

Suits will initially be for the disabled and elderly. Shortly, it will be for the military. A bit after than, it'll be for consumer use.

For the military, the main concern is the massive amount of weight soldiers carry. A good quote, from a general: "soldiers today carry 80-140lbs of extremely lightweight equipment".

If they could handle a 500kg load, they could carry water and food for days, in addition to heavier armor, much more weaponry and ammunition. This would make each soldier much more powerful. An alternative is a mule robot like Big Dog.

A huge issue is power. My guess is that in the short term, at least for outdoor operation, they need to be big enough to hold an internal combustion engine. Latter, fuel cells should handle it. If I were to guess, I would estimate the HAL-5 on the right gets 15-30 minutes battery life.

By the way, there is the International Robot Expo (IREX) in Japan on right now. Look for the latest and greatest in robotics.