iHY, the Low Cost Robot Hand

The iHY Robot Hand is the result of the DARPA Autonomous Robotic Manupulation(ARM) program. the aim was developed with the goal of producing a low cost robotic hand with the flexibility to handle different situations.
The hand is equipped with three fingers that are flexible and able to pick up large objects like a basketball to a small object like a pin. It’s able to sustain the weight of a 50 lb kettle bell. It can open doors, pick up a power tool before operating the power tool with it’s finger. It is a very versatible hand at a very low price. It has contributed greatly to the field of robotics in a big way.
The hand is underactuated and called so because there are fewer motors than joints. The spring like material and mechanical linkages connect the rigid parts of the finger. The design of the finger enables it to grab and hold large object but yet also grasp small objects like a pin. Have a look at the video to see it at work. This is not the first underactuated finger in the market but it is the first with it’s versatility and at that price point.

iRobot has done a great job and they did not do it alone. They had the help of Harvard and Yale, hence the name – iHY.

ieee article

The new Care-O-bot 4

This is the new Care-O-bot is now configurable and still compatible with ROS. It has been given a modern look with newer features.

This fourth generation has many of the features available on Willow Garage’s PR2 and it has the same intelligence as the PR2 given it’s on the ROS platform. It has learnt from PR2 that you can’t sell the entire robot as it’s too expensive. It has the options to purchase the robot with different configuration depending on your budget. Something worth looking into, given it’s german built.

IPhone 6 Built by Robots

Queues are forming outside Apple stores in America as everyone awaits the arrival of the new iPhone 6. The much awaited iPhone 6 is Apple’s flagship product and the demand for the iphone is going to surmountable. This is Apple’s 7th generation phone and they will be launching this phone globally at the same time.

Foxconn, the contract manufacturer for Apple, is now manufacturing millions of iPhones, getting ready for the launch. Foxconn decided in 2011 to introduce robots into their assembly line and Apple will be the first to reap the benefits of this new process.

A total of 10,000 robots, costing around USD 20,000, will be installed on the new line. These robots are in the final stages of testing. Assembly is a task that a robot excels in and these robots will be able to improve the rate of production and the quality of the phone produced. One of these robots will be able to produce around 300,000 iPhones per year.

There will definitely be teething issues with the production line but this is a move in the right direction to reduce the dependence on China’s human workforce. This is a right direction given the rising cost of China’s workforce and their recent issues with the way they treat their employees.

Foxconn planned the development of their own robots and it’s final hope is to develop intelligent robots to handle their current assembly work. These robots will be developed for Foxconn only.

Read more here.

WHILL Wheelchair

WHILL is a Japanese startup┬áthat has revolutionised the motorised wheelchair. It’s an omnidirectional wheelchair that has put thought into the usability of the product. It won the Red Dot award in 2014.

The wheelchair is able to handle all kinds of terrain and it able to traverse even on grass and the steep slopes of San Francisco. As you can see the various videos, riding around on this wheelchair is smooth and very responsive. This not just functional but the have added some thought into the experience. Since the wheel is omnidirectional, it makes it easy for the wheelchair to mount a vehicle as long as there’s a slope to the vehicle. I love this feature. It is easy to dismount the wheelchair as the handle on the side can shift out of the way.

The wheelchair is ready for pre-order with a price tag of USD 9,500.

Prequel to Self-Driving Cars

Self driving cars have been in the limelight because of Google’s announcements on their autonomous cars on city streets. This isn’t new given that autonomous vehicle technology research has been ongoing for more than 10 years. The direction now is getting the technology on the road, where the rubber hits the road. Google has shown that they have covered the distance on highways. In their latest revelation, Google have their cars on city streets where things can get pretty messy with many cars, bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians around the vehicle. They have gain confidence to showcase their work in this arena and this is indeed a great achievement. But before this becomes adopted by the masses, we want to look at the little steps that we have been taking to get there.

One component of autonomous vehicles that interest me is Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Advance Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

ACC normally keeps the car moving at a set speed but intervenes if necessary to avoid keeping too close to the vehicle in front. It takes control of the throttle and the brake of the vehicle but not the steering. ACC is a upgrade to the cruise control of most vehicles. Many have placed their trust on these systems. It says something about how a driver can trust that a collision does not happen when the ACC takes control. This will be applied to Lane Keeping technology in the near future.

There are many other Advance driver assistance systems (ADAS) including, lane departure warning system, collision avoidance system, traffic sign recognition and other systems in development. This is the first stage towards self-driving cars on the road. People need to trust these basic components first before they can let go of the steering wheel. Do we trust cars to drive themselves, given there are human drivers around us. Roads can be a pretty messy place and machines might not be able to react faster than we can.

Self-driving cars are coming. It is a matter of time and they question is are we ready. You can google survey on self-driving cars or autonomous vehicles and you will find that people generally say no but this is a changing view – all thanks to Google! They convince by making it happen, the best way to do it.