Moxi Prototype from Diligent Robotics Starts Helping Out in Hospitals

Diligent Robotics demos the latest version of their healthcare support robot Earlier this year, Diligent Robotics introduced a mobile manipulator called Poli, designed to take over non-care related, boring logistical tasks from overworked healthcare professionals who really should be doing better things with their time. Specifically, Diligent wants to automate things like bringing supplies from a central storage area to patient rooms, which sounds like it should be easy, but is actually very difficult. Autonomous mobile manipulation in semi-structured environments is hard at the best of times, and things get even harder in places like hospitals that are full of busy humans rushing around trying to save the lives of other humans. Over the past few months, Diligent has been busy iterating on the design of their robot, and they’ve made enough changes that it’s no longer called Poli. It’s a completely new robot, called Moxi.

New Guidelines for $10 Million Avatar XPRIZE Promise Compelling Robot Challenge

With some input from the robotics community, XPRIZE’s new guidelines will make this a robotics competition worth getting excited about Earlier this year, XPRIZE announced a new challenge: a four-year global competition to “develop real life avatars,” with a US $10 million prize sponsored by All Nippon Airways (ANA). We like robot challenges, especially robot challenges with prizes big enough to attract top-notch competition, and the idea of creating remote presence systems that can do more than just send back video is a compelling one, with all kinds of potential use cases. However, our first reaction to the sample of potential challenge scenarios published by XPRIZE was that they weren’t nearly difficult and compelling enough, meaning that the challenge wouldn’t promote the kind of cutting-edge innovation that we (and presumably XPRIZE) would like to see. To their credit, XPRIZE has put a lot of work into incorporating feedback from a Continue reading New Guidelines for $10 Million Avatar XPRIZE Promise Compelling Robot Challenge

Mobile Robots Cooperate to 3D Print Large Structures

A team of robot arms on mobile bases can 3D print large structures quickly What’s possible with 3D printing is largely driven by two things: How patient you are, since printing large or complex structures can take a while, and what kind of build volume you have to work with. Most 3D printers are boxes, and inside those boxes are smaller boxes, and inside those boxes are the area in which a thing can be printed. If your thing is larger than that box, you’ve either got to print it in pieces that can be assembled later, buy yourself a new printer, or give up entirely. You can certainly 3D print very large things, but there are still usually build volume constraints. We’ve seen examples of robot arms that can print anywhere they can reach, as well as gantry systems that can print structures like houses, as long as the Continue reading Mobile Robots Cooperate to 3D Print Large Structures

Boston Dynamics Is Getting Ready to Produce Lots of SpotMinis

But what are they going to do? At CEBIT back in June, Boston Dynamics’ CEO Marc Raibert mentioned in a talk that they’re currently building about 100 SpotMinis, and that they’re planning on scaling that up to be able to build something like 1,000 SpotMinis by the end of 2019. This has attracted some attention recently, since it seems like Boston Dynamics is ready to “productify” its robots on a commercial scale, and Raibert even mentioned some areas in which they’ve had interest from potential customers. “We’re trying to take what we already know, and reduce it to practice by making robot products,” he said. “Robot products are new for Boston Dynamics … we’ve been operating for a long time working on the future, and now we’re trying to make practical products.” Making practical robotic products is a very difficult thing to do, as Boston Dynamics knows. And Raibert did a good Continue reading Boston Dynamics Is Getting Ready to Produce Lots of SpotMinis

Centauro: A New Disaster Response Robot From IIT

This hybrid of robot human and robot horse is designed to rescue you from disasters One of the things that we learned from the DARPA Robotics Challenge is that it’s useful for robots to have legs to walk, but it’s even more useful for robots to be versatile and adaptable, with multimodal locomotion capabilities that they can deploy depending on the situation. At the DRC, we saw all kinds of different designs, but one of the more unique approaches came from the University of Bonn, in Germany, with their robot Momaro. Momaro used a “centaur” design, with four legs that had wheels on the bottom (like a wheeled quadruped) coupled to a humanoid upper torso with a head and arms. It was the top-ranked European robot in the DRC, completing an almost perfect run in just 34 minutes. We’ve since been wondering whether the centaur design would inspire other disaster robots, and Continue reading Centauro: A New Disaster Response Robot From IIT

World’s Largest Robot Hauls Ore Through Western Australia

It’s dirty, it’s dull, it’s enormous, and it’s probably one of the most productive robots on the planet It’s often the case that the more useful a robot is, the less exciting it is. The robots that do the hardest jobs tend to be straightforward solutions to straightforward problems, because that’s what works. The (self-declared) world’s largest robot is an efficient, grubby example of this—it’s an autonomous train that recently hauled 28,000 metric tons of iron ore 280 kilometers across the Australian desert.

Stealthy Startup Aims to Reinvent AI for Manufacturing

Some 400 engineers are working under the radar at AutoLab AI with former Autodesk CEOs leading the pack Illustration: iStockphoto What exactly is the “future of autonomous manufacturing?” According to venture capitalist and AutoLab AI cofounder Lior Susan, stealth startup AutoLab AI is building it, but isn’t defining it yet, at least not publicly. That kind of cryptic chatter doesn’t usually get Silicon Valley talking—more likely yawning, or at most mumbling about vaporware. But AutoLab AI, according to Axios, already has 400 employees and some serious funding. It’s not clear where those employees are hiding; the Palo Alto address for the company points to a small suite of offices at best. And the breadcrumbs the company has left to date are remarkably sparse. But some dots are starting to connect. SEC filings indicate that manufacturing giant Flex is a major funder, along with Eclipse Ventures; the company closed a Series Continue reading Stealthy Startup Aims to Reinvent AI for Manufacturing

Houston Mechatronics Raises $20M to Bring NASA Expertise to Transforming Robot Submersibles

Engineers from NASA’s Robonaut and Valkyrie projects team up with industry veterans to develop transforming underwater vehicles Image: HMI Deep ocean robotics is not generally an area where we expect to see much in the way of significant innovation. When we do write about submersible robots, they’re usually confined to very near-surface operations. This isn’t a total surprise: It seems like the only people who really worry about what’s going on in the deep ocean (meaning hundreds or thousands of meters beneath the surface) are the military, the occasional scientist, and the oil and gas industry. Robots are important to these folks, even critical in some cases, but the technology has been more or less stagnant for decades, which is why we don’t write about it very frequently.  To be fair, there are some very good reasons why it’s hard to innovate when it comes to submersible robotics. The environment Continue reading Houston Mechatronics Raises $20M to Bring NASA Expertise to Transforming Robot Submersibles

Robots Continue Attempting to Master Ikea Furniture Assembly

These robots are slow, careful, and successful, making them way better than humans at assembling an Ikea chair Image: NTU Apparently, one of the standards by which we should be measuring the progress of useful robotic manipulation is through the assembly of Ikea furniture. With its minimalistic and affordable Baltoscandian design coupled with questionably creditable promises of effortless assembly, Ikea has managed to convince generations of inexperienced and desperate young adults (myself included) that we can pretend to be grownups by buying and putting together our own furniture. It’s never as easy as that infuritatingly calm little Ikea manual dude makes it look, though, and in terms of things we wish robots would solve, Ikea furniture assembly has ended up way higher on the priority list than maybe it should be.  We’ve seen a variety of robotic systems tackle Ikea in the past, but today in Science Robotics is (perhaps Continue reading Robots Continue Attempting to Master Ikea Furniture Assembly

Agility Robotics Raises $8 Million for Commercial Bipedal Robots

Playground Global leads a sizeable round with the goal of turning walking robots into useful tools Photo: Agility Robotics Today, Agility Robotics is announcing US $8 million in Series A funding “to accelerate product, technology, and business development.” Leading the round is Playground Global, founded by Android co-creator and ex-Google Robotics head Andy Rubin, and also joining in is Sony Innovation Fund. We don’t write about funding rounds all that often, but this could be the first robotics company to get such a significant amount of VC funding to develop a realistic commercial bipedal robot. There are certainly other well-funded companies working on bipeds, including Boston Dynamics and Schaft. But while it’s not that clear what commercial applications these companies are targeting, Agility Robotics is very specifically and deliberately working on a legged robot that can make deliveries. From the press release: Agility Robotics is solving the mobility problem faced by mobile Continue reading Agility Robotics Raises $8 Million for Commercial Bipedal Robots