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

Thursday, April 20, 2006

SnakeBots: "Field Trials and Testing of the OctArm

Interesting paper on a pretty advanced snake-bot. I'd like to see many of them used together, perhaps with dry adhesion pads on the tips. Then you have an industrial strength, and extremely dexterous giant hand. The single trunk alone isn't as useful.

One shortcoming is the use of pneumatics. That means compressed air and short operation time. An engine and compressor would solve that problem, but then indoor operation is limited.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Chatten Associates : Human/Robotic Interfaces

These are some pretty amazing videos of controlling a remote camera based on head motions.

Some are taken from iRobot SUGVs (small unmanned ground vehicle) and R-Gators (an autonomous ATV made by iRobot and John Deere).

Note how much more lively the robots seem than even regular tele-operated bots. That's because the operators are clearly more situationally aware.

I'd like to see this taken a step further. Have vision algorithms track moving objects in the scene, in addition to those chosen by the operator. Incorporate eye-tracking to select objects within the field of view.

You could then have multiple targets being tracked (even when the human can't see them, with algorithms to handle the lacking information or extra cameras), without the operator needing to pay attention to them.

In a military application, that tracking could be hooked into an auto-aiming system, and a human could pull the trigger.

This is very interesting and exciting work.

UPDATE: Looking around at the rest of the site, we see some commercial applications: Even Tony Soprano is interested!

UPDATE 2: Just a comment on the photo. He's wearing a bright safety vest. The whole point is that he needn't be in that thing. He could be doing his job from home.

Daily HRI Evaluation at a Classroom Environment– Reports from Dance Interaction Experiments

This is a PDF of a paper about toddler-QRIO interaction.

We need to see more robot-human skinner boxes. Too bad having a deployable robot is so hard. Even worse that QRIOs and Aibos are going to be a thing of the past with Sony's cancellation of the programs.

Monday, April 17, 2006

"Drone aircraft may prowl U.S. skies"

UAVs are becoming very common - for very good reason: they protect the operator, have extremely long air time and range capabilities, and will scale well into fuller autonomy.

This is an article in the use domestically in the US. I think it makes a great deal of sense.

Putting UAVs, UGVs, and cameras along the border and seas is essential.

Robotics enters the immigration debate in two ways. One is border security. Regardless of the number of immigrants you think should come to the US, it is clear that current policy allows anyone with enough desire to enter the US. A robotic system would compliment a brick-n-mortar solution, namely a wall with cameras, combined with a road for UGVs. It is the only economically feasible solution, and luckily is the only one that would work.

On the other side of the immigration issue are those who oppose it: one reason given is that low skill labor is so cheap with mass immigration that innovation is stifled. With cheap labor, you don't need robots. Folks like to point to Japan as an example. Last I checked, ASIMO is not autonomous. The technology just isn't there yet.

Also, research dollars are huge. There are no numbers to show that higher immigration lowers demand for intelligent robots.

Finally, the same folks who want to limit immigration in order to increase innovation also want to limit immigration because the wages of natives will supposedly increase. Firstly, they're wrong in that immigration isn't zero sum: it isn't a simple increased-supply/fixed-demand issue with low-skilled labor if enough entreprenurial folks immigrate and create more demand. Considering the endeavoring nature of immigration, I wouldn't be surprised if the proportion of entreprenuers is higher than the country of origin.

Also, I don't think they understand the effect that successful intelligent robots will have on low-skill labor.

There will simply be no demand for uneducated or uncreative once all non-creative jobs can be done by robots. The reason is that the technology to do the most difficult unskilled tasks is not unique for a given field. If a robot’s perception and dexterity is good enough to be a maid, it will also let you act as a dishwasher, construction worker, farm hand, or driver.

This transition will be good: robots should work; people should think. In the short term, those who, say, don't have a high school education and are not creative, will be worse off.

Europe's Grand Challenge

Not so grand -- and no so much of a challenge. It's an assessment, with no cash prizes.

Still, the three tasks sound difficult. I'm looking forward to the results.

GeckoSystems, Inc.

These are some pretty scary robots.

And I thought all that human-robot-interaction stuff with cute lovuble bots was too obvious to study...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Robots Meet 'Substance of Style'

Virinia Postrel would be pleased. iRobot just went live with iRobotSkins, which lets you personalize your robot. The little cleaning bots, like the Roomba vacuum and Scooba mopper, are cute. Owners usually give them names -- so why not play dress-up as well?!

Giving people what they want, in this case a purely aesthetic change, is a great move.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Toy Racer

A camera strapped to a tiny toy track race car.

An omni-cam or wide-angle lens would certainly help.