Robot Round-Up


Gone But Not Forgotten
Mar 1, 2002
Robots get sensitive

Nature's Science Update

Robots are about to get more feeling. An electronic skin as sensitive to touch as our own is being developed by scientists in Japan.

"Recognition of tactile information will be very important for future generations of robots," says Takao Someya at the University of Tokyo who developed the skin. A sense of touch would help them to identify objects, carry out delicate tasks and avoid collisions. But while a lot of effort has gone into vision and voice recognition for robots, touch sensitivity is still fairly rudimentary.

Our own skin contains a battery of touch receptors that produce nerve signals when pressed. For gentle pressures, the main sensors are tiny bulbs of layered tissue called Meissner's corpuscles.

Their behaviour is mimicked in plastics such as polyvinylidene fluoride, which generate an electric field when squeezed and are used to make pressure-sensitive pads for computer keyboards and other touch-triggered devices.

Sensory perception

But for an electronic skin to have a genuine sense of touch, it needs to be able not just to sense pressure, but to know where it is being applied. So the skin must be covered with a whole bank of individual sensors, each of which sends a signal when pressed.

Someya and colleagues have wired up such a skin1. It consists of a sheet of rubbery polymer, impregnated with flakes of electrically conducting graphite. The electrical resistance of the sheet changes when it is squeezed, and this change is detected by an array of transistors beneath the rubber.

The key challenge is to make the whole device sufficiently flexible to behave like a true skin, so that it can be wrapped around a robotic limb. Conventional transistors in microchips are hard, brittle devices made from silicon. But Someya and colleagues have made them from an flexible organic material called pentacene. Their sensor array consists of a 32 x 32 grid of transistors, each of which is 2.5 mm square. The researchers are hopeful that they will be able to make transistors 100 times smaller than that if necessary.

The resulting skin can be bent quite sharply without damaging the transistors, and continues to function even when wrapped around a bar just 2 mm wide.

Stretchy skin

Of course our own sense of touch doesn't rely on pressure alone; we can also detect temperature and humidity, for example. The Japanese team hopes to add such features to their artificial skin. They also want to make it stretchy. At present it is more like a sheet of paper; bendy but not elastic.

"The absence of good devices of this sort has made it very difficult to move forward", comments Robert Howe, who works on tactile sensing for robotics at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But he reserves judgement about the impact of the new electronic skin. "Many such devices have been proposed, but none seems to make it beyond the lab bench."

Meanwhile, Someya is confident that his skin could find many applications beyond robotics, for example in sport, security or medicine. A pressure-sensitive carpet on the floor of a house could distinguish family members from strangers just from their footprints, he suggests, or sense if an elderly person had collapsed on it. Tactile mats could monitor the performance of athletes in the gym, while tactile seat coverings might measure the physical condition of car drivers.


Imaginary Person
Feb 9, 2003
In a Liminal Zone
Kung-fu robot warriors...

The miniature robots in the video clips look quite cool. I want one for Christmas.

It's interesting, because I'd not realised quite how good robot walking mechanisms are getting. Scale these up and solve the power supply issue and we're on the way to real humanoid robots.


Combat robots wow crowds

17:00 16 August 04 news service

A robot fighting contest that draws huge crowds in Japan each year has highlighted sophisticated technological trends in robotics, experts say.

The 2004 Robo-One contest, held in Kawasaki, central Japan on 8 August, drew hundreds of spectators. The event is inspired by the sport K-1, a combination of kick-boxing other martial arts that is popular in Japan.

But the contestants are remote controlled robots constructed and operated by robotics enthusiasts and experts. Robots battle it out one-on-one for the title of overall Robot-One champion. In each bout a winner is declared if a robot is unable to stand within ten seconds of falling over, or if one freezes up or falls from the fighting platform.

The competition also includes a frenetic multi-robot brawl known simply as "The Rumble". Eight robots scrap it out with the last one standing declared the winner.

Videos posted to the tournament web site show the sophistication and agility of the robots competing this year. One video, captured by Japanese service shows a large robot pummelling a smaller contestant and flexing its arms in celebration.

Footage of The Rumble shows eight robots with various fighting techniques battling it out. For example, one wields a knife while others use martial arts moves.

But, as well as providing entertainment for robot fans, some experts believe the contest reveals technological trends in robotics.

Robert Richardson at the UK's University of Manchester, says the contestants at Robot-One exhibit "hierarchical control", meaning they can be told to perform a complex task, like standing up, and will do that for themselves.

"They've got many, many joints and you couldn't control them all," he told New Scientist.

Richardson adds that the fighting machines highlight the trend for making robots more robust. "There's a definite trend in the last few years to have more fault-tolerant humanoid robots," he says. "At some point they are going to fall over, so make them so they don’t get damaged and can get back up again."...

Will Knight

Fighting 'bots

The Rumble:


Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 18, 2002
There seem a lot of solo robot threads in this forum so I might as well round them up into one thread.

Yarrrrr 'n' this 'un has space legs:

NASA engineers refine Robonaut

By Tariq Malik
Monday, August 23, 2004 Posted: 1902 GMT (0302 HKT)

( -- Not content to simply stand in one place, NASA's mechanical astronaut has found not one, but two new robotic bodies that will allow it to move across land and space.

Robonaut B, a robot built with human-like hands and television camera eyes, now has the option of rolling around Earth on a modified two-wheeled Segway scooter or grappling the International Space Station with what researchers call a "space leg."

"We built Robonaut B to be portable," said Robert Ambrose, robonaut project lead at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston,Texas. "It really exceeded our expectations."

The second in the robonaut series, Robonaut B is a self-contained robot controlled remotely by a human operator. Future incarnations of the mobile robot could prove vital companions for astronauts living and working on the moon and in space.

"We're looking at other lower bodies for the moon, with a four-wheel or six-wheel base," Ambrose said. "We're not going to take a Segway to the moon, but it's a good way to emulate the idea on Earth."

The robonaut project is a collaboration between NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Roving robonaut

Increasing Robonaut's mobility has been a prime goal for project researchers, though it is also designed to attach to the robot arms aboard the space shuttle or International Space Station.

Among the biggest challenges was combining Robonaut's arm and hand functions with its newfound mobility in a way that a human operator could easily use.

"It's an interesting challenge, and humans do it beautifully," Ambrose said of the coordination between mobility and manipulation. "Just look at the coordination of the athletes in the Olympics."

Robonaut B's wheeled tests proved one human could remotely operate the robot's mobility and manipulation systems simultaneously. It rolled from test station to test station, a smooth combination of robot and rover.

Using its "space leg," a kind of adapter that allows Robonaut B to plug itself into the same ISS ports astronauts use for their foot restraints, the robot demonstrated its ability to move hand-over-hand outside the space station and use tethers like its human counterparts. That skill, in particular, could come in handy aboard the ISS, researchers said.

"A lot of things, like spacewalking where humans have go from an airlock to a specific site, mean you have simply got to get where the work is," Ambrose said.

Building a better one

Since Robonaut B is portable and wireless, its internal systems are much smaller than those of its older brother Robonaut A.

"We basically scrubbed everything and replaced all of the electronics with much smaller miniature versions," Ambrose said of the newer robonaut.

Robonaut A is stuck in a fixed location at a JSC lab, where engineers test new autonomy hardware and software that could later be applied to the portable version.

"We have tried out a couple of different levels of autonomy [for Robonaut B]," Ambrose said.

The robot is programmed to protect itself from damage in the event of human error. Robonaut B won't, for example, drive through a brick wall if a teleoperator commands it to. It can also be told to pick up certain objects without specific motion directions, a useful skill on missions with five or 10 seconds delays in communications.

The next step is developing a spaceworthy robonaut for flight tests, either aboard the space shuttle or the ISS, Ambrose said, adding that human-robot cooperation can play an important role in space exploration.

"If I were going to the moon, I would want a habitat already there and something to check that it is airtight and that oxygen is being produced," he said. "A robot can check that."


Aug 19, 2003
Robot health care on the way
The idea of robots tending to the sick, elderly and disabled might sound like science fiction, but it is not.

The technology already exists and could be coming to Australian homes.

The move towards home care for the sick has taken a high tech step forward.

Korean-designed robots can be programed to do a range of tasks for the sick and disabled including moving the patient and bringing them food and drinks.

They are activated by voice and hand signals or body movements.

"We can design the system in such a way, depending on their disability, they can choose the way of commanding the system," Professor Zeungnam Bien, from the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, said.

Korean scientists are visiting the University of New South Wales to show robotic engineers how the technology works.

One robot uses the patient's eye movements and a miniature camera to control a mechanical arm, allowing it to pick up objects for the patient.

While that technology is a way off, home health care is already here.

Australian scientists have devised a system where patients can test their own blood pressure, heart rate and lung function and send those results directly to the GP.

Experts say the greatest difficulty with the new technology is convincing people to overcome their fear and hesitation about being cared for by machines.

"These technologies must come in in the next decade to 20 years. The issue now is how to deploy them, how to use them and how to have people accept them," Professor Branko Cella, head of the University of New South Wales School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunication, said.

The home health care system is already being trialled in Australia.

The robots are several years away.


Gone But Not Forgotten
Mar 17, 2002
Table Football Robots

Fans of table football, or foosball, will no longer have to hang around at the pub waiting for a friend to turn up before they can play. A robotic foosball table will be able to give them just as good a game.

Foosball is a table-based game in which players twist, push and pull rotating metal rods attached to figures representing soccer players. The idea is to use the model players to kick a ball into the opponent's goal.

To turn it into a single-player game, roboticists led by Bernhard Nebel at the University of Freiburg in Germany have connected the rods on one side of a foosball table to high-torque motors and an electronic control system. They are claiming some pretty good results against casual players. "It beat 85% of a random sample," Nebel says.

To allow the control system to track the ball, the base of the table is made of translucent glass, tinted green. A camera underneath photographs the ball 50 times per second, and sends this data to a built-in computer that maps the ball's position.


Gone But Not Forgotten
Jun 18, 2003
Smelly robot eats flies to power itself
Wed 8 September, 2004 19:16

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists are developing a robot that will generate its own power by eating flies.

The idea is to produce electricity by catching flies and digesting them in special fuel cells that will break down sugar in the insects' skeletons and release electrons that will drive an electric current.

"Called EcoBot II, the robot is part of a drive to make "release and forget" robots that can be sent into dangerous or inhospitable areas to carry our remote industrial or military monitoring of, say, temperature or toxic gas concentrations," New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.

Chris Melhuish and his team, who are developing the robot, have to manually feed the flies to EcoBot II because they are still designing some type of pump to suck the insects into it.

"One of the great things about flies is that you can get them to come to you," he said.

Hence the downside of the fully autonomous robot: it will have to use sewage or excrement to attract the flies and is bound to smell appalling.


Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 18, 2002
I do wonder if that is far from haivng robots that eat people!!!

Engineer Builds Robot That Walks on Water

2 hours, 33 minutes ago

By MIKE CRISSEY, Associated Press Writer

PITTSBURGH - It could be called a mechanical miracle — a robot that walks on water. With inspiration from nature and some help from research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (news - web sites), a research team led by Carnegie Mellon engineering assistant professor Metin Sitti has built a tiny robot that can walk on water, much like insects known as water skimmers, water skaters, pond skaters or Jesus bugs.

Although it's only a basic prototype, Sitti and other researchers imagine that his water-skimming robot could be used on any still water. With a chemical sensor, it could monitor water supplies for contamination or other toxins; with a camera it could be a spy or an explorer; with a net or a boom, it could skim contaminants off the top of water.

Sitti, who runs Carnegie Mellon's NanoRobotics Lab, said he has long been fascinated by water striders and what it would take to build one.

"I think it is the final challenge of microrobotics if you can make this thing," Sitti said. "It needs to be so light and so compact. Look how this animal stays on the water in that kind of miniature, very lightweight body."

For their size — a half-inch on average — the insects can move. Water striders skim across the water as fast as a meter per second; the human equivalent of going 400 miles per hour. They're also very mobile.

For now, Sitti's robot is little more than a half-inch boxy-body made from carbon fibers and eight, 2-inch steel-wire legs coated with a water-repelling plastic (technically making it a water spider).

It also doesn't have a brain, any sensors or a battery. Its "muscles" are three flat-plate piezoelectric actuators — special pieces of metal that change shape when electricity is run through them. The actuators are powered by wires and controlled by three circuits connected to a power supply.

But it can stand on water — it doesn't float — and can skim backward and forward, propelling itself with two legs that act like oars. Although simple now, Sitti said he could build a more complex water-skimming robot within six months without too much trouble.

"These insects are really dumb," Sitti said. "Think about the economy of power, if you are so small why should you need a brain like us to plan everything. These insects have such simple controls."

Sitti's prototype is especially impressive considering researchers didn't really know how water skimmers actually walked on water until last year.

The bugs support themselves on water because they're not heavy enough to break the surface tension of water, like a needle that floats.

It was long thought the insects used their legs to create waves to push themselves forward, like a wave hitting a boat.

In 1993, Mark Denny, a Stanford University marine biologist, pointed out a problem: If water skimmers moved by creating waves, newly hatched water skimmers would be immobile because they weren't strong enough to create waves. In reality, newly hatched water skimmers move just as well as full grown adults.

Last year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology mathematician John M.W. Bush and two graduate students solved the riddle by placing dyes and particles in water and using a high-speed video camera.

Bush and the graduate students discovered that water striders move by pushing down on the surface of water enough to create valleys but not enough to break the surface. The water then bounces back like a trampoline to push the insect forward.

Beside the physics and mechanics of walking on water, Sitti's prototype also shows how far robotics has come with the help of lighter and stronger materials.

"If you had asked us 10 years ago to build a water bug, I don't think we would have done it," said Mark Cutkosky, an engineering professor at Stanford University who has been building roach-like robots.

Sitti's robot weighs about a gram, or half of a dime. And so far, it's cheap. Sitti estimates his spartan prototype cost about in materials to make.


On the Net:

Carnegie Mellon University's NanoRobotics Lab:



Aug 19, 2003
Cockroach-like robot leads new research effort

Cockroach-like robot leads new research effort
17 Sep 2004

BERKELEY – A cockroach-like robot named RHex is the starting point for a major project to understand animals' most distinguishing trait - how they move without falling over.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced today (Thursday, Sept. 16) a $5 million, five-year grant to the University of California, Berkeley, that will fund an all-star team of biologists, engineers and mathematicians from universities across the country to try to understand the mechanical and neurological basis of locomotion. The grant is one of six totaling nearly $30 million through NSF's Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research (FIBR) program, which supports integrative research that addresses major questions in the biological sciences.

"The hallmark of life is movement," said Robert Full, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley and leader of the team. "Yet, no single systems-level model, reaching from neurons to muscles to the skeleton to the whole body, can explain the control that makes movement possible. You have so many nerves and so many muscles, how in the world do you actually move forward?"

Researchers from UC Berkeley, the University of Michigan, Princeton University, Cornell University and Montana State University will focus on RHex, a short, six-legged robot that scampers like a cockroach, as a working model of the principles they're seeking to uncover. By tweaking the robot and using it as a physical model, they hope to tease apart the complex neural and muscular networks in insects.

At the same time, they will conduct biomechanical and neurological experiments on insects and develop mathematical models to improve the robot. This multi-pronged approach will allow them to uncover the neural and muscular control and feedback loops that lead to the remarkably similar patterns of whole-body motion in animals as diverse as crabs, cockroaches, lizards, dogs and humans.

"The robot has to operate in the real world, like the animal does, so we can use it for testing hypotheses," Full said. "We know, for example, that the body's center of mass bounces along like a pogo stick, which is embodied in the robot, but we don't know how its parts - its legs, feet, actuators or muscles - sum up to give that remarkably general pattern of movement.

"Now we can ask questions like, 'What if you had a more compliant leg? What if you had two joints in that leg, what does that give you versus one joint?' We can start putting artificial muscles in. Of course, that will make a better robot, but that is not the goal of this program."

Full has studied animal locomotion for 30 years, providing important insight not only to biologists, but also to engineers who have designed robots like RHex that mimic the movements of animals. RHex was built by Full's collaborators at the University of Michigan, led by Daniel Koditschek, professor of electrical engineering and computer science. But Full has contributed to other robots too: Ariel, which walks like a crab and was designed to operate in the surf zone and right itself if upended; Mecho-Gecko, which climbs up walls; and the Stanford-built Sprawlita, which bounces five body lengths at a time thanks to six piston-driven legs.

But, he admits, a biologist and an engineer can go only so far in understanding locomotion without the help of mathematicians and specialists in dynamics who can create models that can be tested on animals and robots. Full has coined the phrase "neuromechanical systems biology" for this multidisciplinary approach, which integrates data across mathematical models, numerical simulations, robot models and biological experiments.

The team he has assembled represents the best in these areas. While Full has run cockroaches, crabs, geckos and other animals on treadmills, across gelatin and over complex terrains to understand their stability, he is eager to team up with an experimental neurophysiologist who is able to interpret insects' neural code. John Miller, a professor of cell biology and neuroscience and director of the Center for Computational Biology at Montana State University, Bozeman, hopes to be able to rewrite that code while measuring motion, forces and neuromuscular signals. They will work closely with two mathematicians - Philip Holmes, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University, and John Guckenheimer, professor of mathematics and theoretical and applied mechanics at Cornell University - who will analyze animal data to produce the mathematical models. The models will, in turn, provide feedback to Koditschek's robotic cockroach, which will serve as a controlled experiment that's easier to manipulate than real animals but able to tackle real-world challenges.

"This robot, the most mobile one built and created from the fundamental principles of what we know about animals, is going to help us address the grand challenge in biology - how they move," Full said.

NSF's FIBR program encourages investigators to identify major understudied or unanswered questions in biology and to use innovative approaches to address them by integrating the scientific concepts and research tools from across disciplines, including biology, mathematics and the physical sciences, engineering, social sciences and the information sciences. Among the other projects funded by NSF this year are BeeSpace, an interactive environment for studying social behavior in honey bees; a project that will examine how species that live together, evolve together; and a project examining how climate affects genetic variation and evolution.

"FIBR is one of the premier, crosscutting programs in biology at NSF," said Mary Clutter, head of NSF's Biological Sciences directorate. "By undertaking highly innovative and broadly integrative approaches to research in biology, FIBR projects tackle grand challenges and promote the training of a new and fearless generation of scientists willing and able to bridge conventional disciplinary boundaries."

Contact: Robert Sanders
[email protected]
University of California - Berkeley



Gone But Not Forgotten
Mar 17, 2002
Shape Shifting Robots

Robots that change shape and even split into smaller parts to explore unfamiliar terrain could soon be feasible thanks to new algorithms designed to enable such metamorphic tricks.

Zack Butler and colleagues at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, US, developed algorithms to control robots made from identical components, each capable of moving on their own but also able to attach to one another. As this is beyond current hardware, they constructed virtual modular bots and used a software simulator to test them.

The modular robot can move along as a complete unit, built up of around 100 smaller parts. But when faced with an impassable obstacle, some of these modules can detach and proceed as a smaller unit, or even on their own.

Once the obstacle has been passed, however, the smaller units will automatically recombine into the larger whole, enabling them to travel over different terrain once more.


Aug 19, 2003
Nothing Robotic About Robo-Art

Nothing Robotic About Robo-Art By Cyrus Farivar
Story location:,1284,65020,00.html

01:30 PM Sep. 20, 2004 PT

NEW YORK -- For 18 hours, robots invaded Harlem, but they came in peace.

The third annual ArtBots: The Robot Talent Show was held in New York City this past weekend, and it showcased some of the best and most creative applications of modern robotics that make or are themselves art.

While some spastic creatures exhibited human qualities, like the three-legged Tribot or the quadruped Bionic Log, other robots invited audience interaction, like constructing a Drawbot or climbing aboard the Self Preservation Machine.

ArtBots featured 20 artists from California to Portugal with various backgrounds in science and engineering. Check out their creations in the photos to the left.


Gone But Not Forgotten
Mar 17, 2002
robot with whiskers

A robot with real mouse whiskers could represent an important step towards developing simple robots that navigate by mimicking rodents. Such whiskered machines could eventually be used to perform repairs in pipes.

The bristly bot, known as AMouse (Artificial Mouse) was built by researchers from the University of Tokyo in Japan and the University of Zurich in Switzerland. It uses real mouse whiskers because simulations have shown these to be the perfect size and shape for the task, but artificial whiskers will also be developed eventually.

Hiroshi Yokoi of the University of Tokyo, and one of the team, says whiskers provide a straightforward way for a robot to navigate through many types of environment. They are a simple sensor for working in the dark, for example, he says.

Yokoi believes rodent-inspired bots might eventually use artificial whiskers to explore confined surroundings and scuttle though pipes to perform repair work. He presented his work at the International conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) 2004 in Sendai, Japan on Thursday.

"The mouse is a really interesting animal because it lives in such a diverse range of environments," Yokoi told New Scientist. "I hope this is the best way to make a simple robot [sensor]."


Gone But Not Forgotten
Mar 17, 2002
microscopic swimming robots

The World's No.1 Science & Technology News Service

Drugs delivered by robots in the blood

18:06 01 October 04 news service

A microscopic swimming robot unveiled by Chinese scientists could eventually be used for drug delivery or to clear arteries in humans, say researchers.

The 3 millimetre-long triangular machine was constructed by Tao Mei of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, and colleagues from the University of Science and Technology of China.

The craft is propelled using an external magnetic field which controls its microscopic fins. The fins are made from an alloy that contracts in response to application of the field. Applying the field quickly makes the tiny submersible paddle forwards and gradually switching the field off slowly moves the fins back to their original position.

It is possible to control the speed of the craft by altering the resonant frequency of the magnetic field. The next stage is to build a robot with fins that respond to different magnetic field resonances. This would enable an operator to control the fin separately and steer the robot around.

Early stage

Mei admits that the project is at an early stage but believes remote controlled swimming machines could be used to deliver drugs to a particular part of the human body, through the blood stream.

So far the Chinese scientists have tested a swimming device measuring 3mm x 2mm x 0.4mm but are working a new model just 1 mm long.

"We would like to make a 0.1mm one that could go inside the bloodstream," Mei told New Scientist. "Maybe we can make it even smaller using nanotechnology."


As if!
Jul 31, 2004
A robot walks into a bar...

The Bar Bot

"The Bar Bot is driven by self interest. Its aim is to drink beer...the Bar Bot is probably the most humanoid robot ever built. "

Isn't it wonderful that such things are in the world!


Make mine a 99
Jun 3, 2004
Valaskjalf (Ex. pat.)
Do I got the link for you:
Whitebox Robotix

Soon we all can have our own personal robots.
According to the website, it will cost the same as a PC, which probably mean
somewhere between $500 and $1000.


As if!
Jul 31, 2004
I quote "The finished robot runs Windows 98/ME/2000/XP as an operating system"

Thats just what we need. A robot that crashes whenever you ask it to do two things at once. Imagine if The Terminator had run on Windows....


Aug 19, 2003
Robots set to get homely by 2007

Robots set to get homely by 2007
Robots are set to become increasingly familiar companions in homes by 2007, says a United Nations survey.
Seven times more robots will helping us out with the cleaning, security and entertainment in three years' time, as their price falls and they get smarter.

It is not quite the humanoid vision of blockbuster film I, Robot as many of them will be vacuum bots.

Two-thirds of the 607,000 domestic robots in use were bought in 2003, says the UN's annual World Robotics report.

By the end of 2007, 4.1 million robots will be doing jobs in homes, says the report by the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the International Federation of Robotics.

As well as the vacuuming, they will take over tasks like mowing the lawn, cleaning pools, and washing windows.
Robots like Irobi, unveiled this week by Korean company Yujin Robotics, will be able to multiple tasks.

It is a net-based, all-in-one family robot complete with educational functions, home security, diary, entertainment, and message delivery capability.

Fun and games

Robots will also be keeping humans company and entertaining them much more, becoming a part of home life.

By 2007, it is projected that there will be almost 2.5 million entertainment and "leisure" robots in homes, compared to about 137,000 currently.

Sony saw global sales of their high-end robots, the all-dancing, voice-recognising, dog-like Aibos, climb this year.

About 692,000 of them have found homes since its release in 1999. Aibo enthusiasts even meet up to play Aibo football and hold dance contests.
Aside from playing football and jigging in the home, robots are increasingly being used to carry out more hazardous or specialists jobs.

Robots involved in more serious tasks, like scientific and medical research, defence and surveillance, as well as mine-clearing, will also enjoy a boom in popularity, says the report.

Researchers around the world are developing robots for multiple uses, and many are making them a lot smarter and autonomous by developing AI systems (Artificial Intelligence).

The survey also confirmed that the number of robots in industry has grown globally, with record orders in 2004.

Robot investment in the UK grew by 48% in 2003, but robot use in the UK is still lagging far behind the rest of Europe.

Would you welcome having a robot in the home to do your chores? What you would like a robot to do for you? Is it right to get robots to do our dirty work? Send us your comments.

I would like having a robot to help me to do something, like taking care of my baby in case he fell from bed or something bad to happen to him, or for cleaning house etc. But that wish must depend on a cheaper price or we can't afford it.
Chii, Taiwan

Please invent one that does the ironing
Sean O'Donovan, Chesterfield

Imagine a shopping trolley that followed you around the store, or robotic luggage trolleys in airports maybe?
Howard Dickins, Cardiff

I think it would be very useful just to have a robot to lift and carry things around. Imagine a shopping trolley that followed you around the store, or robotic luggage trolleys in airports maybe?
Howard Dickins, Cardiff
I would welcome robots in my home to do my chores, as long as they were correctly set up and not too expensive. If they were extremely expensive then I would not want to use them in case they were damaged! I can't really think of anything a domestic robot could realistically do other than floor-related things (grass cutting, vacuuming) or fetching me things. Maybe a security robot would be good, but if it hurt someone trying to get into your house you would probably be locked up for it nowadays! It's right to get robots to do our dirty work as they cannot feel and are completely emotionless so they can carry out tasks more effectively and efficiently than humans.
Adam Foxton, Dundee, Scotland

I'd find some of them more a hindrance. Why would I want some bulky plastic thing taking up floor space, when I can just get out my vacuum for a minute or two a day? The only way I'll be convinced is if a robot can de-ice my car in the morning, I'd pay good money for one of those!
Tony, UK

More machines means more isolation which in turn will lead to more illness, more depression and more anxiety
Dave Hands, UK

Since the introduction of labour-saving devices there has been a noticeable increase in mental illness, silly ideas, depression, stress and anxiety. Arguably this is due to the amount of time we now have to sit around wondering what to do. I don't mean that we should return to the days of endless hard work just getting the washing done/house cleaned. But there is a limit. More machines means more isolation which in turn will lead to more illness, more depression and more anxiety. One wonders whether we will live to see a "bonfire of the micro chips", when people burn their computers, robots, mobile phones etc in an attempt to get their privacy and minds back?
Dave Hands, Birmingham, UK
I'm all for progress and love the thought of having a robot in the house to vacuum, cook, clean etc. You can't stop evolution, we're surrounded by computers everywhere we go, so having ones that can, in part communicate with us is just the next link on the chain!
Olli Budworth, Hampshire

I have to say it seems to scary to be honest. Although I do like the idea of cleaning robots. Lets just hope and pray they don't take over the world! I'm half and half about the whole robot idea.
Charles Martin, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear

I think that we must use the robots for all our dirty works but not as a pet or friend. To accept them as a friend kills our emotions. The robots can be strong, useful and fast, but they don't have a heart.
Yucel Bozak, Turkey

People need to try and remember that they are still computers driven by software and prone to crashing, hackers and such like
Keith Baker, Germany

My feelings on the matter of robots in the home are good, I have purchased a Sony Aibo and they are great fun and harmless. I think that as long as it does not go to far as a robot baby sitter etc. People need to try and remember that they are still computers driven by software and prone to crashing, hackers and such like.
Keith Baker, Germany
Haven't we seen enough dodgy movies to learn that, ultimately, robots will take over the planet and enslave humankind? This is a bad idea!
Jo, Peterborough

I think it is actually quite scary, I'm all for techno-advancement; but it could end up being like The Terminator one day when computers rise up to dispel their war-mongering creators. You only need to look at how hackers are already recruiting networks of thousands of 'bot computers to wage virus war against millions of innocent people.
Ryan, Poole, UK

We are using robots already, to do the washing, drying etc. The only difference is that, in the future, we will have those that can multi-task and, most importantly, move about and probably have voice recognition capability.
Ben, Lagos, Nigeria

A modern robot is nothing but a fancy spanner. Would I let it do my dirty work? Yes!
Jason, UK

What do you mean, "is it right to get robots to do our dirty work?" That's like asking, "is it right to use a car to get you from place to place!?" It's a ridiculous question, robots are machines, tools and nothing more. I know how it might be nice to think of films like Millennium Man or I Robot or The Matrix and give robots an intelligence they simply do not posses at this time (and it's very doubtful they ever will). A modern robot is nothing but a fancy spanner. Would I let it do my dirty work? Yes!
Jason, UK
I already have several small robots around my house. We have an i-Cybie to entertain the younger kids, a Robosapien for the older one and kit built one as an experiment. I think robots can be invaluable tools for learning but could also be used for dangerous jobs that really help save human lives. I don't think we should allow ourselves to become dependant on robots for all things though otherwise we would very quickly find ourselves out of a job!
Paul Clarke, UK

Since robots are currently incapable of conscious thought, there is no reason they should not be used for doing our dirty work, as they are tools, but cleverer than conventional ones. However, were AI to become so advanced that they were sentient, at that point our using them for dirty work would be comparable to slavery.
Jon Morrison, Birmingham

I'll be fine for a while until the robots start to get a bit clever. Then no doubt you'll have people campaigning for rights for robots. Probably with the slogan "Robots are people too"
Ged, Liverpool

I have a Sony Aibo ERS-7. It's as much fun as a smelly hairy pet but I can switch Fred (the Aibo) off when he starts annoying me. No vets bills, no poo and no biting. I'm looking forward to using more robots in my home.
Giuseppe, Basingstoke, UK

Sean from Chesterfield writes that he'd like an ironing robot. The good news is: Siemens has already invented an ironing robot! The only disadvantage is its price tag. Håvard, Trondheim, Norway

At best, we have the prospect of malfunctioning robo-butlers crashing over the furniture and spilling our G&Ts on the automated stealth hoover
T Avery, Chatham, UK

Those of us with our eye on the ball know that the promise of a technology-supported, Utopian future is a hollow one. At best, we have the prospect of malfunctioning robo-butlers crashing over the furniture and spilling our G&Ts on the automated stealth hoover; at worse, the terrifying reality that our cybernetic homes will one day turn on us, forcing humanity into a desperate, apocalyptic battle for survival across the nuke-ravaged wastelands of our once-beautiful planet. Anyway, amid all this talk of "domestic intelligent service robots", where is the one thing we were promised in the 1950s and have been waiting for ever since - the one thing we really want? In short: where's our flying car?
T Avery, Chatham, UK
Hello, films like The Terminator are only fiction! Get real.
Karen Kelsey, Coventry

The observation about robots rising up is pure silliness; your ironing robot is hardly likely to decide to make a break for freedom one day because your ironing robot cannot "decide" anything, all it can do is follow its programming, just like any other computer today. The danger here is the development of artificial intelligence, something which is not likely to happen soon if at all in our lifetimes.
Mitchell, United Kingdom

I do not understand how people want to substitute beings with robots. A dog is a dog, Aibo is not a dog. It is really "cool" in one word, but nothing more than that. Some people have asked robots that clean and push trolleys. Well that can exist now, but people can do that. I can assure you that there are thousands of people in your cities interested to do those things. Hence, the money gives them incentive to do the job as better as possible. Why not give human beings a change, but we are already occupied with the idea of robots.
D., Prishtina, Kosovo

Robots are fine in their place but I don't think the home is that place
Roma, Middlesex, UK

There is no substitute for warm human contact, real emotion, compassion,and understanding. Above all a sincere heart. Let's move with the times but lets not forget the need for the more basic things in life, love and affection, only a real friend, dog etc can offer these things.Robots are fine in their place but I don't think the home is that place.
Roma , Middlesex, UK
I'm all for robots doing the house work but I think there are much more important things that can be done using the technology that is around today. Think of the possibilities when poor underdeveloped countries could grow and produce areas of crops faster with robots that can do the job of 20 people in half the time. I think it would be foolish to turn our backs on something that could have the potential to solve a lot of the worlds issues. I'm not saying they could be the solution to all our problems, but it could be a good start.
Stephen, Sutton, UK

You can hear more on this story on BBC World Service radio programme Go Digital.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/10/22 08:20:01 GMT



Aug 19, 2003
Robots learn 'robotiquette' rules

By Roberto Belo
BBC News Online

The research focuses on how human-robot interaction should be
Robots are learning lessons on "robotiquette" - how to behave socially - so they can mix better with humans.
By playing games, like pass-the-parcel, a University of Hertfordshire team is finding out how future robot companions should react in social situations.

The study's findings will eventually help humans develop a code of social behaviour in human-robot interaction.

The work is part of the European Cogniron robotics project, and was on show at London's Science Museum.

Back to the future

"We are assuming a situation in which a useful human companion robot already exists," said Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn, project leader at Hertfordshire.

"Our mission is to look at how such a robot should be programmed to respect personal spaces of humans."

I want robots to treat humans as human beings, and not like other robots

Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn,
University of Hertfordshire
The research also focuses on human perception of robots, including how they should look, and how a robot can learn new skills by imitating a human demonstrator.

"Without such studies, you will build robots which might not respect the fact that humans are individuals, have preferences and come from different cultural backgrounds," Professor Dautenhahn told BBC News Online.

"And I want robots to treat humans as human beings, and not like other robots," she added.


In most situations, a companion robot will eventually have to deal not only with one person, but also with groups of people.

To find out how they would react, the Hertfordshire Cogniron team taught one robot to play pass-the-parcel with children.

If you think of a robot as a companion for the human being, you can think of 20 years into the future

Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn
Showing off its skills at the Science Museum, the unnamed robot had to select, approach, and ask different children to pick up a parcel with a gift, moving it arm as a pointer and its camera as an eye.

It even used speech to give instructions and play music.

However, according to researchers, it will still take many years to build a robot which would make full use of the "robotiquette" for human interaction.

"If you think of a robot as a companion for the human being, you can think of 20 years into the future," concluded Professor Dautenhahn.

"It might take even longer because it is very, very hard to develop such a robot."

You can hear more on this story on the BBC World Service's Go Digital programme.


Aug 19, 2003
Purdue, Japanese Researchers To Create More Human-Like Robot

Purdue University is leading a four-year project to enable humanoid robots to move more like people and adapt quickly to new situations so that they can complete a variety of tasks they weren't specifically programmed to perform.

C. S. George Lee, a Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering, from left, and Howard Zelaznik, a professor of health and kinesiology, work with doctoral student Nicole Rheaume to study how humans learn movement skills. Rheaume draws s circle with a pen equipped with a tiny coiled wire "receiver." A nearby magnet induces a low-level magnetic field. As Rheaume moves the pen, the wire coil induces an electrical current that enables researchers to track the movements. The ultimate goal is to create software that enables robots to combine several of the most "primitive" skills to perform more complex movements, much as people are able to combine a series of basic movements to perform specific tasks. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

"We are trying to give humanoid robots the ability to behave and move more like human beings, to have the skill-learning capabilities of humans," said C.S. George Lee, a Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering who specializes in robotics.

Purdue will collaborate with researchers from the Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Japan, which leads the world in humanoid-robot research.

"What we are going to try to do is capture the essence of how people learn movement skills," said Howard Zelaznik, a Purdue professor of health and kinesiology.

The work is funded with a four-year, $900,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's Information Technology Research program.

Humans are able to automatically combine a series of basic movements, such as pushing, lifting or grasping, to perform new tasks on the fly.

"For example, if I asked you to open a door and you were carrying two bags of groceries, you would know how to do that the first time through because you have in your repertoire the flexibility to combine old skills into new ones," Zelaznik said. "We'd like to see whether we can figure out if there is a computationally reasonable way for a robot to take a set of skills and combine them into new skills rather efficiently, flexibly and quickly."

Humanoid robots are robots that resemble people. A popular example of such robots is Honda Motor Co.'s "ASIMO," which walks upright, has two arms, two legs and a head.

Although today's humanoid robots represent an engineering feat, they do not move the way people do.

"They are very stiff and mechanical," Lee said.

One important reason to teach humanoid robots how to quickly learn new movements is so that they will be better able to assist people.

"Imagine that a person in a wheelchair has just dropped his or her keys under the wheelchair, and the robot wasn't programmed specifically to retrieve them from that location," Zelaznik said. "We are trying to figure out how best to make that robot adaptable so that it can learn new skills quickly."

The Purdue team, which includes four doctoral students, will use specialized equipment to record human movements in three dimensions.

Tiny coiled wire "receivers" will be placed around certain body parts, such as fingers and arms, as a person moves in a low-level magnetic field. As the person moves, these coiled wire receivers will induce a current, which will be tracked by laboratory computers. Lee and Zelaznik will then be able to see the basic movement patterns and hope to use that information to build mathematical models to make robots move more like people.

The ultimate goal is to create software that enables robots to combine several of the most "primitive" skills to perform more complex movements.

"We are not trying to make the robot perfect," Zelaznik said. "People are not perfect. When we move, we are variable, we are imprecise, we make errors. We don't exactly do the same thing time in and time out. We believe it is this imperfection that allows us the capability to be flexible."

Related Web sites:

C. S. George Lee:

Howard Zelaznik:


Aug 19, 2003
The robot infiltrator that will lure pests to their doom

Insects, poultry and sheep may all be controlled with machines

IT BEHAVES like a cockroach. It smells like a cockroach. It is accepted by other cockroaches.
But it is not a cockroach. It is a robot and scientists say that its invention is a breakthrough in mankind’s struggle to control the animal kingdom.

The robot, InsBot, developed by researchers in France, Belgium and Switzerland, is capable of infiltrating a group of cockroaches, influencing them and altering their behaviour.

Within a decade, its inventors believe, it will be leading the unwanted pests out of dark kitchen corners, to where they can be eliminated.

But this is only the first of the applications for a pioneering programme that has got scientists dreaming out loud.

They say that they will soon be using robots to stop sheep jumping off cliffs, to prevent outbreaks of panic among guinea fowl and to encourage chickens to take exercise.

“The idea of using decoys to control animals is very old,” Jean-Louis Deneubourg, of the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research, who is co-ordinating the programme, said. “Hunters and fishermen have used them for many years. The aim of this project is to develop a robot, or a robot-like artefact, capable of integrating and communicating with animals.”

The cockroach research was the first step, Professor Deneubourg said. “Cockroaches are not an objective in their own right. But this shows what it is possible to do.”

The initial task, carried out by the Centre for Research on the Cognition of Animals (CRCA) in Toulouse, France, was to analyse cockroach behaviour. A student spent three years filming the insects and making a computer programme that reproduced their movements. The study showed that cockroaches, like ants, are egalitarian creatures, without a group leader. They congregate as a result of a “collective intelligence” that depends upon interaction within the group.

“Cockroaches like contact with each other. When they meet, they stay still. They are happy to be with a friend for a few moments. The more friends around them, the longer they stay,” the professor said.

The second stage of the €2 million (£1.4 million) programme, called Leurre, was to build a robot capable of detecting cockroaches, of distinguishing them from other objects, of moving like them, and of becoming inactive in the dark.

InsBot, which is green, the size of a matchbox, and equipped with lasers and a light sensor, was developed by Switzerland’s Federal Polytechnic School in Lausanne. When it bumps into a cockroach, it does what they do: it stops moving. The more cockroaches that approach it, the longer it remains stationary.

The third stage, undertaken by the French Centre for Scientific Research’s laboratory in Rennes, Brittany, was to isolate the molecules that give cockroaches their smell — to create a cockroach perfume — and to spray it on to the robot.

“Without the perfume, cockroaches consider InsBot a stranger and run away from it,” Professor Deneubourg said.

Early next year he hopes to publish findings that demonstrate InsBot’s capacity to modify its friends’ behaviour. He is carrying out an experiment that involves placing cockroaches in a space that contains two shelters, one dark, one light. Naturally, they gather in the dark shelter, where they feel comfortable. But if the robots go to the light shelter, cockroaches follow — the desire for companionship proving stronger than the need for dark.

“It is plausible and realistic to imagine that, in five or ten years’ time, people with a cockroach infestation will be buying robots to get rid of them,” Professor Deneubourg said.
Other applications are also envisaged for the computer programmes developed under the Leurre project. Guy Theraulaz, the director of research at the CRCA, says that it may be possible to build chicken-like robots that will be used to stimulate poultry.

“A lot of chickens don’t move at all and die as a result. They need to be encouraged to run around. Robots could do that.”

He is also studying collective panic attacks among guinea fowl. “The idea is to analyse the reasons for the panic and develop sensors to detect when birds start moving abnormally. These sensors would be linked to a computer that would turn the lights on to calm them or something like that,” he said.

Another area of research involves sheep. In mountainous regions when one sheep jumps off a cliff to escape a predator, the others tend to follow — with the result that the whole flock dies. M Theraulaz believes that his team will soon be able to identify flock leaders and give them collars equipped with receivers. They will then train these sheep to stand still — or move — when the receivers emit a signal such as a sound or an electric shock.,,170-1358958,00.html


Gone But Not Forgotten
Mar 17, 2002
shape shifting robot

A shape-shifting robot comprised of many independently moving components has been demonstrated walking, rolling and slithering for the first time.

The prototype robot - called ATRON - demonstrated its various metamorphoses in Tokyo on Wednesday. For example, reconfiguring its many individual modules allows the robot to change its mode of locomotion on command.

"We can envision it being used to inspect hazardous environments or in space exploration where they could replace devices such as the Mars rovers," says Henrik Hautop Lund, who leads the research project at the Maersk Institute in Denmark.

Lund told New Scientist that the simple design of the robot's modules allow it to scale up to greater overall complexity. He has made 100 modules so far.

"If he has made 100 and all work well, it will prove that his design is splendid, as most researchers have made less than 20 modules," says Haruhisa Kurokawa at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba, central Japan.

Kurokawa agrees that Lund’s design is simple compared to other metamorphic robots but says it is still relatively complicated, with four connection mechanisms and complex electronics. Kurokawa’s own laboratory is also developing shape-changing robots capable of switching between different modes of locomotion.


Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 18, 2002
More Robot Grunts Ready for Duty

By Noah Shachtman

Story location:, ... 85,00.html

02:00 AM Dec. 01, 2004 PT

ORLANDO, Florida -- Hunting for guerillas, handling roadside bombs, crawling across the caves and crumbling towns of Afghanistan and Iraq -- all of that was just a start. Now, the Army is prepping its squad of robotic vehicles for a new set of assignments. And this time, they'll be carrying guns.

As early as March or April, 18 units of the Talon -- a model armed with automatic weapons -- are scheduled to report for duty in Iraq. Around the same time, the first prototypes of a new, unmanned ambulance should be ready for the Army to start testing. In a warren of hangar-sized hotel ballrooms in Orlando, military engineers this week showed off their next generation of robots, as they got the machines ready for the war zone.

"Putting something like this into the field, we're about to start something that's never been done before," said Staff Sgt. Santiago Tordillos, waving to the black, 2-foot-six-inch robot rolling around the carpeted floor on twin treads, an M249 machine gun cradled in its mechanical grip.

For years, the Pentagon and defense contractors have been toying with the idea of sending armed, unmanned ground vehicles, or UGVs, into battle. Actually putting together the robots was a remarkably straightforward job, said Tordillos, who works in the Army's Armaments Engineering and Technology Center.

Ordinarily, the Talon bomb-disposal UGV comes equipped with a mechanical arm, to pick up and inspect suspicious objects. More than a hundred of the robots are being used in Iraq and Afghanistan, with an equal amount on order from the UGV's maker, Waltham, Massachusetts-based firm Foster-Miller.

For this new, lethal Talon model, Foster-Miller swapped the metal limb for a remote-controlled, camera-equipped, shock-resistant tripod, which the Marines use to fire their guns from hundreds of feet away. The only difference: The Marines' version relies on cables to connect weapons and controllers, while the Talon gets its orders to fire from radio signals instead.

"We were ready to send it a month ago," Tordillos said. Navigating the Pentagon bureaucracy and putting together the proper training manuals are what's keeping the Talon stateside, for now.

Back in December 2003, the Army's 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division tested an armed Talon in Kuwait. Now, the brigade wants 18 of the UGVs to watch the backs of its Stryker armored vehicles.

Four cameras and a pair of night-vision binoculars allow the robot to operate at all times of the day. It has a range of about a half-mile in urban areas, more in the open desert. And with the ability to carry four 66-mm rockets or six 40-mm grenades, as well as an M240 or M249 machine gun, the robots can take on additional duties fast, said director John Pike.

"It's a premonition of things to come," Pike said. "It makes sense. These things have no family to write home to. They're fearless. You can put them places you'd have a hard time putting a soldier in."

It's the same goal Army-funded researchers are keeping in mind as they develop an unmanned ambulance. The Robotic Extraction Vehicle, or REV, is a 10-foot-long, 3,500-pound robot that can tuck a pair of stretchers -- and life-support systems -- beneath its armored skin. The idea is for battlefield medics to stabilize injured soldiers, and then send them back to a field hospital in the REV. But the REV also carries an electrically powered, 600-pound, six-wheeled robot with a mechanical arm that can drag a wounded fighter to safety if there isn't a flesh-and-blood soldier around.

Ordinarily, it takes two to four men to get the wounded out of harm's way. Patrick Rowe, with Applied Perception of Pittsburgh, said he hopes the REV will cut that number, maybe by half. The firm is scheduled to show off prototypes of the robots to the Army's Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center in March.

But this early version will be limited, Howe said. Ideally, the REV would drive around on its own, with no help from human operators. In practice, the robot would either be driven by a person with a joystick, or it would get around by itself by sticking to carefully preplanned routes. As the limited performances in the Pentagon's robot off-road rally in March showed, unmanned drivers are still pretty lousy at handling open, unknown terrain.

That's one of the reasons why iRobot's new UGV will still have a steering wheel inside, so it can be driven by a human, too. The company -- best known for its Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner and the PackBot UGVs that the Army has been using to clear bombs and explore suspected terrorist hideouts in the Middle East -- is now working with agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere to build a cargo-hauling robot.

The M-Gator is a six-wheeled, diesel mini-Jeep that soldiers use to schlep about 1,400 pounds of gear. IRobot wants to have a robotic version ready by next year, so it can show it off to the Army and try to get funding for a full line of the vehicles, which would work as mechanical pack mules. The company hopes to be in production by 2006.

By then, the armed Talon will have been in operation for about a year, if all goes according to plan. And for those of you who might be worried about the robot getting loose with a "runaway gun," Tordillos orders you to relax.

"The thing is not shooting on its own. You've got to have these," he said, waving a set of small, silvery keys, which fit into a lock on the Talon's briefcase-sized controller. A single switch causes the robot to reboot and return to safe mode.'s Pike isn't worried about the Talon going haywire. He's concerned about what the armed UGV represents for the future.

"This opens up great vistas, some quite pleasant, others quite nightmarish. On the one hand, this could make our flesh-and-blood soldiers so hard to get to that traditional war -- a match of relatively evenly matched peers -- could become a thing of the past," he said. "But this might also rob us of our humanity. We could be the ones that wind up looking like Terminators, in the world's eyes."


Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 18, 2002

~looks at story above~


Sat. Dec. 4 2004 9:47 PM ET

UN report predicts robot revolution by 2007 News Staff

A recent report from the United Nations says consumer use of robots is about to take off. It will increase sevenfold by 2007, partly because of cheaper parts and labour costs.

In what is believed to be the first robot census, the UN says there are about 610,000 robots in use around the world by consumers.

But the UN estimates that by 2007 more than four million consumers will own robots -- thereby sparking a robot revolution.

"Mobile Service Robots: Entering the Commercial World," is a study authored by Neena Buck, Vice President of the Strategy Analytics Emerging Frontiers program.

Her report looks at the embryonic state of the market today while identifying the barriers to mass robot commercialization.

While most of us dream about the robots Hollywood promotes, experts say that the future of the industry is in tool-building. For example, robots that can be an extra set of eyes or a third arm will be popular.

The focus, scientists say, won't be on robots that replace human beings so much as complementing them.

"The new generation of robotics are going to be primarily relevant to the service robotic applications, usings domestic tasks and medical robotics," says Andrew Goldenberg of the University of Toronto.

Already, robots are being used by police departments to detect bombs and dispose of them. Another type of robot snakes its way around oil and gas pipelines, inspecting them and repairing them as it moves along.

Consumers may already be aware of the household-helper robots available out there. Some of them vacuum or mow the lawn.

At McGill University, researchers have invented a robot that can swim. Eventually, it'll be used in ocean exploration.

"This is much different. This is autonomous. This is a robot that can act and think and do things on its own," said Anthony Eyton, CEO of Precarn, a federal non-profit group assisting Canadian robot research.

That group of machines belongs to a category called "humanoid" robots. They're still in the experimental stage although Honda unveiled a model it developed called Asimo in 2000.

The robot can dance, do tricks and even greet its owner, but it still needs a lot of human help. There aren't any plans to sell Asimo yet, but in Japan, the robots guide visitors at science museums.



Aug 19, 2003
Second Career for Old Robot: Art

Assembly-line robots can do more than just build cars. A European art group claims they can draw, dance, even DJ a party.

Robotlab acquires industrial robots -- the metal arms on factory floors that wield welding torches and other manufacturing tools -- and reprograms them to become performers in public spaces. Some of the reprogrammed beasts spin tunes, others paint, and still others perform intricate dances to music.

The group, based in Karlsruhe, Germany, sees the project as part of an artistic and educational movement to prepare us for when similar machines are part of our daily lives.

"Sometimes the artistic community looks at us as something very technical, and then the engineers think we are very artistic -- it is really something like a mixture," said Jan Zappe, who co-founded robotlab in 2000. Zappe, 35, studied chemistry and philosophy. His cohorts include a robotics engineer and a graphics designer.

Although the robots can weigh 820 pounds and are designed to make everything from cars to bulldozers, they can be remarkably supple, with more than enough finesse to draw on canvas.

For one installation, the group retooled a KR 125/2 robot with a pen instead of a pneumatic hammer, and placed it in front of an easel. Human participants sat still while a video camera in the robot's arm sent a digital image to a computer, which sent an analysis of the image to the arm, which then drew the portrait.

Another traveling project trained the arms to mimic the scratching movements of DJs. At one event the robo DJ selected the music and decided when to scratch. Zappe said the robot's timing and choice of music were "not very harmonic." So the robotlab crew reprogrammed the machine to help it place the scratches at more appropriate times.

The machines can even dance. Using 7-foot industrial robots, robotlab organized a dance troupe with Swiss choreographer Pablo Ventura. Being all arms, literally, the robots couldn't traverse the stage, but human performers enhanced their show.

Zappe said robotlab hopes, within the next year, to collaborate with electronic music pioneer Karl Bartos from Kraftwerk. "This will be something like a man-machine collaboration, but it's still in development now," said Zappe.

"All our projects have two sides: the artistic and ideas side and the technical side," Zappe said. "Every project is a new invention.", ... _tophead_3


Gone But Not Forgotten
Jan 9, 2004
New japanese robot 'beautiful' when at rest

Jellyfish robot practical and 'beautiful'
A Japanese firm says it has created a jellyfish-shaped robot that can alert homeowners to burglars or housesit for their pets.

When it is not at work, it can lounge about and be "beautiful."

"Roborior," a transparent robot that can glow blue or red, is equipped with a camera, speaker and hi-tech sensor.

Creator Tmsuk says it can transmit information to an owner's mobile phone or sound an alarm.

"We want to create a robot that is both beautiful and reliable," Yasuhiro Suseki, a spokesman for maker Tmsuk Sanyo, said.

"As an interior object, this robot easily fits in people's living rooms."

Designed by British artist Paul White, "Roborior" weighs 3.25 kilograms and is 27 centimetres tall.

It can run at up to 19 centimetres per second.

Roborior costs about 300,000 yen ($US29,000) and will go on sale in Japan late next year.

"Roborior" followed another home-security robot, "Banryu," which was jointly developed by Sanyo and Tmsuk in 2002.

Banryu, which looks like a green-eyed dinosaur, cost a staggering 2 million yen but 30 of the 50 Banryus found buyers.

Last Update: Thursday, December 9, 2004. 1:49am (AEDT)
At two million yen? Crikey! But is it art?


Gone But Not Forgotten
Sep 10, 2004
NASA urged to send shuttle to Hubble

Astronauts, not robots, should fix the Hubble Space Telescope, says a new report by the US National Research Council (NRC). That conclusion is directly at odds with NASA, which is opposed to a human mission on safety grounds, following the Columbia disaster.

NASA - which is currently pursuing a robotic fix - provided no immediate response to the report, released on Wednesday. But Sherwood Boehlert, chairman of the US Congress's science committee, says the committee would now hold hearings early in 2005 "to see whether and how the Hubble Space Telescope might continue its path-breaking work".

If the 14-year-old telescope is not serviced, it is expected to stop making observations by the end of 2007, when five of its six stabilising gyroscopes are predicted to fail.

But what form the servicing mission should take has been controversial since January 2004, when NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe cancelled a planned shuttle mission to repair and upgrade the telescope with two new science instruments.

O'Keefe said a human repair mission would leave astronauts without access to the "safe haven" of the International Space Station, which could provide a platform to inspect and repair any damage to the shuttle. Such on-orbit capabilities were recommended by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) for future shuttle flights. However, in March 2004, CAIB chairman Harold Gehman said the board was split on the merits of flying a shuttle mission to Hubble.

Man versus machine

The new report by the NRC panel is more resolute. Its 21 members - all distinguished veterans of industry, academia and government - unanimously believe that a human mission has a higher chance of success than a robotic mission.

Astronauts could respond better to unforeseen problems - a skill that has come in handy during four previous shuttle missions to service Hubble, according to the report. And astronauts could prepare the telescope to dock with a future robotic mission that would steer the observatory into the ocean at the end of its useful life.

The NRC panel also downplays the risks of a human servicing mission. A second shuttle could be launched quickly as a means of escape if the first develops problems, it says. And because the most dangerous portions of a flight occur during launch and atmospheric re-entry, a mission to Hubble is only slightly riskier than the 30 or so planned to the space station by 2010.

Risk management

"If one assumes that going to the space station is worth the risk, we also believe it's worth the risk to go to Hubble," says Roger Tetrault, report co-author and a former CAIB board member. Though he admits that he had initially been "dead-set against" a human mission.

A shuttle could also be launched more quickly than a robotic mission, says the report. A Hubble mission could blast off as early as July 2006 - after about seven flights to the space station. But the report estimates a robotic servicing mission would not launch until February 2010 - too late to save Hubble.

The report blames the delay on the "unprecedented" complexity of developing a robotic mission, which involves creating an automated rendezvous and docking system as well as validating untested pieces of hardware.

An independent report, studied by the NRC panel, came to a similar conclusion. The California-based Aerospace Corporation estimated a robotic mission could be launched in five years - still beyond Hubble's probable expiry date - but it gave the mission only a 50% chance of success due to the "unproven technologies" involved.

And though they differ in many respects, both a human and a robotic mission share similar price tags. The Aerospace Corporation and the US Government Accountability Office estimate that each type of mission would cost about $2 billion


Aug 19, 2003
Robotic Fish From China

Robotic Fish From China
By Bill Christensen

A robotic fish designed for underwater archaeology, mapping, water cultivation and even fishing has been co-developed by the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Automation Research Institute (of the Chinese Academy of Sciences).

The black-bodied robot fish is about four feet long, and resembles a real fish in both shape and movement. The robot is controlled remotely with a palm-sized control pad. It also has automatic navigation controls and swims at about four kilometers per hour for up to three hours.

The robofish from China is described as being "flexible in action, easy to operate and makes little disturbance to surrounding environment." It has been tested in an underwater search of a sunken warship last August.

This sophisticated robot might be the direct ancestor of the Mitsubishi turbot, the robofish that is the star of Michael Swanwick's 2002 novelette Slow Life. In the story, astronauts gamely explore Titan, one of the moons of Saturn, while doing good public relations by answering constant questions posed for them over the Web. The robofish is used to swim not just in water, but in icy lakes of methane and ammonia:

Consuelo carefully cleaned both of her suit’s gloves in the sea, then seized the shrink-wrap’s zip tab and yanked. The plastic parted. Awkwardly, she straddled the fish, lifted it by the two side-handles, and walked it into the dark slush.
She set the fish down. "Now I’m turning it on."
The Mitsubishi turbot wriggled, as if alive. With one fluid motion, it surged forward, plunged, and was gone.
Lizzie switched over to the fishcam.
Black liquid flashed past the turbot’s infrared eyes. Straight away from the shore it swam, seeing nothing but flecks of paraffin, ice, and other suspended particulates as they loomed up before it and were swept away in the violence of its wake. A hundred meters out, it bounced a pulse of radar off the sea floor, then dove, seeking the depths... (read more)
If you like robofish, you might want a look at robotic lamprey parasites. Learn more about the real Titan (as opposed to the literary version). Read more about the underwater robotic fish.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from - where science meets fiction.) ... 41210.html


Aug 19, 2003
Ecobot Eats Dead Flies for Fuel

Ecobot Eats Dead Flies for Fuel By Lakshmi Sandhana
Story location:, ... 36,00.html

02:00 AM Dec. 15, 2004 PT

Robots walk, robots talk and, soon, robots will eat, too.

Researchers at the University of the West of England, Bristol, are working on creating autonomous robots that power themselves using substances found in the environment. Professors Chris Melhuish and John Greenman plan to give robots their very own guts -- artificial digestive systems and the corresponding metabolisms that will allow robots to digest food.

Doing away with solar cells and batteries, their robot Ecobot II has a stomach consisting of eight microbial fuel cells, or MFCs, that contain bacteria harvested from sewage sludge. The microbes break down the food into sugars, converting biochemical energy into electricity that powers the robot. With bacteria breaking the food down and a type of robotic "respiration" in which air provides oxygen to the fuel cells to create useful energy, the whole system mimics real digestion as closely as possible.

Currently being fed a diet of dead flies and rotten apples, the robot isn't one for speed, though. Ecobot II can crawl along at a top speed of about 2 to 4 centimeters every 15 minutes, fueled by eight flies that are fed directly into the MFCs.

"People have built these things before but this is the first robot that actually uses unrefined food," said Melhuish.

Earlier efforts at creating robots that could ingest food included the Gastrobot developed by Stuart Wilkinson at the University of Florida. Dubbed Chew Chew, the train-like bot was hand-fed a diet of pure sugar cubes. An earlier version of Ecobot was also powered by sugar but the team developed the fly-eating version to simulate conditions found in nature.

"If you put unrefined sugars in there like a fly, then it has to do work on the fly to generate sugar," said Melhuish. "If you put sugar in there in the first place, then it doesn't have to do any work in doing the conversion, and with a special cathode in the fuel cell you can make it 90 times faster. But then you are giving it stuff which it wouldn't find out in the wild."

Right now, though, any robot powered by MFCs can work only in short spurts, powering up in the intervals. While MFCs, with their capacity to provide a continuous power supply, seem to be the best bet to create such bots, the technology is still in its infancy, and a single fuel cell is no match for a standard alkaline battery. The cells are only capable of giving out a very low trickle of power, which must be accumulated until it reaches a level high enough to power the robot.

"Until today, the maximum open circuit voltage of a microbial fuel cell is not more than 0.75 volts and that goes down in current production, which is not enough to power most of the electronics, including many handheld devices," said Swades K. Chaudhuri, a professor in the University of Massachusetts microbiology department. "However, with further discovery of a novel bug that can quickly oxidize organic material or by modifying existing bugs genetically there may be a way to enhance power output."

Unless the situation changes, robots will perforce have to idle away between meals. Ecobot II can currently extract around 90 percent of the energy contained in three to four flies in about a week or two, and the team is working on increasing the speed of the process so that it takes only a few days.

The team also plans to make the robot self-sustaining; with the development of more-powerful fuel cells, sensing mechanisms could be set in place that allow the robots to identify their own food. Alternative measures could involve using fly pheromones to lure flies into the system. Given the complex behaviors involved with luring and trapping prey, though, the first generation of such robots is more likely to consist of natural vegetarians, eventually developing in such a way as to eat any organic matter.

"It can probably eat cellulose, and that's the most commonly found organic material on the planet," said Greenman.

That opens up a whole new range of possibilities, Greenman said. "You could take the robot and nail it to a tree and still be able to get flies or food to it or have it use tree sap, maple syrup and all the rest. You might get tree sap to run it and you could sense all kinds of things -- pollution, temperature, have some that work in the water."

Ultimately, the goal is to create a robot that can effectively operate for years without any human intervention, able to feed and keep itself going on all fronts. Plans include making the robot smaller, improving the fuel cell efficiency in terms of power level and longevity, and engineering the MFC system so that it more closely imitates the gut. With artificial digestive systems specially designed to exploit any organic food source on land or sea, future robots could be herbivores or omnivores working both on land and underwater.

"It's like the very first petrol engine that was ever invented," Greenman said. "If you compare the power output from the first petrol engine compared to the Formula One racing engine that they have nowadays, they are a hundred if not a thousand times more powerful. It's the same sort of thing. Hopefully we will be able to improve the power output at least five or 10 times, so then we will have something that's moving all the time. We are right at the beginning of a new idea, a new technology."


Aug 19, 2003
Humanoid robot learns how to run

Asimo is now taller, fatter and faster

Car-maker Honda's humanoid robot Asimo has just got faster and smarter. The Japanese firm is a leader in developing two-legged robots and the new, improved Asimo (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) can now run, find his way around obstacles as well as interact with people.

Eventually Asimo could find gainful employment in homes and offices.

"The aim is to develop a robot that can help people in their daily lives," said a Honda spokesman.

Jogging along

To get the robot running for the first time was not an easy process as it involved Asimo making an accurate leap and absorbing the impact of landing without slipping or spinning.

The "run" he is now capable of is perhaps not quite up to Olympic star Kelly Holmes' standard. At 3km/h, it is closer to a leisurely jog.

Its makers claim that it is almost four times as fast as Sony's Qrio, which became the first robot to run last year.

The criteria for running robots is defined by engineers as having both feet off the ground between strides.

Asimo has improved in other ways too, increasing his walking speed, from 1.6km/h to 2.5km, growing 10cm to 130cm and putting on 2kg in weight.

While he may not quite be ready for yoga, he does have more freedom of movement, being able to twist his hips and bend his wrists, thumbs and neck.

Wowing audiences


Recognise moving objects
Follow movements
Greet people
Recognise and respond to 50 different Japanese phrases
Come when beckoned
Walk up and down stairs
Asimo has already made his mark on the international robot scene and in November was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame.

He has wowed audiences around the world with his ability to walk upstairs, recognise faces and come when beckoned.

In August 2003 he even attended a state dinner in the Czech Republic, travelling with the Japanese prime minister as a goodwill envoy.

He is one of a handful of robots used by tech firms to trumpet their technological advances.

Technology developed for Asimo could be used in the automobile industry as electronics increasingly take over from mechanics in car design.

For the moment Asimo's biggest role is an entertainer and the audience gathered to see his first public run greeted his slightly comical gait with amusement, according to reports.

Robots can fulfil serious functions in society and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe predicts that the worldwide market for industrial robots will swell from 81,000 units in 2003 to 106,000 in 2007.


Justified & Ancient
Aug 6, 2003
Mind what you say - this robot will know how you feel


Mind what you say - this robot will know how you feel

Robin McKie, science editor
Sunday December 19, 2004
The Observer

In this year's summer hit film I, Robot, an android interrupts a row between hero Will Smith and heroine Bridget Moynahan to prevent violence. 'Excuse me. I note there are elevated stress patterns in your speech,' the robot announces, recognising the anger in their voices.

It is a nice idea: a machine that could determine our emotions purely from our speech. But this is no science fiction dream. Scientists working for a Scottish firm have developed a computer system that can determine mood purely from the way people talk, and are negotiating to sell it to car and computer-game makers. 'When you are depressed or sad, the pitch of your voice drops and your speech slows down,' said Dr Christian Jones, the chief executive of Affective Media. 'When you are angry, the pitch rises and the volume of your voice goes up.

'We betray our emotions as we talk in dozens of subtle ways. Our recognition system uses 40 of these. It ignores the words you use, and concentrates exclusively on the sound quality of speech. It can tell your emotional state the very first time it hears your voice.'

The technology was developed as part of a link between Edinburgh and Stanford universities that has also involved Toyota, which is developing cars that can offer drivers advice about road conditions.

'But the process is going to be two-way: soon we will talk to our cars. We will give them voice commands to turn on CD players, heaters and fans,' said Jones. 'Using emotion recognition, those commands would also show if we are angry, frustrated, or sleepy.'

Angry or bored drivers are a danger. So a car could change the way it presents information to suit the driver's mood. It could become more chatty if the driver is bored, or try to be calming if he or she is angry.

Emotion recognition has already been used in pilot studies at call centres. Callers have their emotional state assessed, and those who are angry are switched to more experienced staff. In addition, centre workers' own voices may be monitored to check if they are concentrating.

Affective Media, which began as a spin-off company from Edinburgh's Heriot Watt University, has talked to the BBC about using the system for reality TV shows. Producers would monitor a contestant's voice and provide a profile of their emotional state for viewers at the end of each day, showing for how much time they were happy or sad.

Affective Media's bosses have met executives of Sony Entertainment with the aim of getting emotion recognition used in computer games. 'It would assess your emotional involvement in a game, and that could provide feedback for the way the game progresses,' said Jones. 'For example, in the game Football Manager, a player would be able to give half-time dressing room talks. The better and more convincing their performance, the more points they will get.'

Once perfected, the system could have more serious uses, perhaps in spotting hoax calls to the emergency services. Only those displaying true anger or fear would be put through to the 999 service of their choice.

The technology has foundered, however, on one aspect: trying to spot people who are feeling amorous. 'If you ask a man to sound sexy, he just puts on a Sean Connery accent, said Jones. 'That's all we got: dozens of Sean Connerys.',6903,1376937,00.html



Aug 19, 2003
Robots Suffer for Art's Sake By Daniel Terdiman

Robots Suffer for Art's Sake By Daniel Terdiman

In Hollywood these days, post-modern technologies -- and in particular, robots -- are often portrayed as a threat to humanity. In films like Metropolis, I Robot, The Matrix and Minority Report, the audience faces endless scenes where people must fight or be scared of technology.

But Fernando Orellana thinks such fear is overblown, and in fact is worth turning on its head. An artist whose métier involves building interactive electronic and high-tech installations, Orellana recently won an honorable-mention prize at the Spanish art show, Vida 7.0, for his piece, Unending Closure, an installation aimed at showing that sometimes, common perceptions are far off base.

Unending Closure presents viewers with three robots enclosed in tall, narrow columns. Each column has a thin slit through which people can see the robots, and vice versa. When no one is nearby, the three robots appear to communicate with each other by emitting a series of calm, running-water-like sounds.

When people approach the robots, however, they react. If someone gets close, the robot that senses a person crossing its RF scan will respond with what seems like curiosity. But when viewers get too close, the robots are designed to do what could only be called freaking out.

"The robot tries to get away," Orellana explained, "but it's impossible for it to get away, because it lives in its enclosure, so all it can do is spin around and try to get away from immediate danger."

The installation is Orellana's commentary on how humans have come to live with so much fear since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"For me, it's a piece about paranoia," he said, "and specifically, the paranoia that's evolved in the last four years: People being stuck inside of their shells, and wanting to look around, and at the smallest bit of danger, they recoil."

Orellana said that in creating Unending Closure, he was particularly interested in observing people's experiences with robots that behave unlike any most have seen before. He said viewers quickly -- and probably unconsciously -- begin to anthropomorphize the robots, automatically assigning associations such as fear to them. Many, he added, see the robots' responses to them and then look at them almost like pets.

"My robots don't feel anything, but they simulate it," Orellana said. "And I'm really interested in that: Creating the illusion and the simulation of emotions."

In fact, he said he wanted to play on the anthropomorphism by presenting visitors with robots that behave as though they're interested in, and then frightened by, what might be -- if one imagines a trapped robot's thought process -- godlike creatures.

"I'm not a big believer in God," Orellana said, "but if God manifested itself in front of me, I'd probably be scared."

Sabrina Raaf, who originally curated Unending Closure, thinks Orellana is making a wry observation about a pop-culture view of technology, especially in light of the way Hollywood has presented robots and other technology as embarked on a malicious path to eventually outsmart humans.

"To portray machines, or to make a machine that is shy or reticent," Raaf said, "then you're flipping that notion on its head, that machines are these dark, insidious forces in our culture and that machines will eventually enslave us. I think that using humor when you make these large, beautifully crafted machines reticent or shy (isn't) enforcing the paranoia. I think it's popping the bubble.", ... 01,00.html