Robotics and perception technology is getting cheaper and more robust. It will indeed help bring manufacturing back to 1st world countries. This is an issue in America as well as in Europe. China’s cost of manufacturing is also increasing. With a push and a pull, there’s an incentive now for 1st world countries to rethink manufacturing. China is not the only option now, since the cost of manufacturing now is much higher there. Foxconn is feeling it and they have plans to replace the current workforce with robots (1 million of them) in 3 years.
Are we going to see a shift in manufacturing towards the west? Are we going to see innovation in robotics and manufacturing? The landscape of automation is going to change. We are going to rely on software and cheaper hardware to get things done. Willow Garage, Redwood robotics and Rethink robotics are geared for this shift.
There is a waiting list for the KUKA lightweight arm. You have to wait for a while even if you place your order now. It’s a great arm if you have cash to spare.
You can see many demos showcasing the arm on youtube. It has been used as arm manipulators and as legs as well.This arm was developed by DLR. It has a 1:1 payload to mass ratio with force control at joint level. This arm has been used as legs as well.
The Chinese are replacing their highly paid chefs with robots – noodle cutting robots. The robots are called ‘Chef Cui’ and they are replacing humans in the face of rising labor costs in China. Each robot cost around US $2000, which is cheaper than paying a chef at least US $5,000 a year. The robot is very simple with a single DOF shaving arm that is used to shaving lumps of dough attached to a moving arm. 3,000 units have already been sold.
The AIRarm is a robot arm developed by iRobot with funding from DARPA. It is inexpensive as compared with an arm of similar size and lightweight as well. It weighs around 1/10th of the weight of the PackBot 3’s arm. The best part is that it can be easily deflated and kept. A pump is located onboard that allows it to inflated and deflated. Despite its light weight, AIRarm is still pretty stiff once inf, and can lift up to five pounds, or possibly more depending on how much its inflated. By varying the level of inflation, it’s also possible to vary the level of compliance of the arm: this makes the arm a little bit flexible when you need it to be, which in turn makes it safer and more durable. The same construct is used to develop a six legged robot as well.
Stanford’s Dynamic Designs Lab and the Volkswagen Electronics Research Lab has collaborated to work on a self-driven Audi TTS. They have managed to allow the self-driving car to hit speeds of up to 120mph.
The Google self-driving car has achieved the distance (300,000 miles) whereas the Stanford-Volkswagen team holds the top speed accolade. But at this speed, the car has not been able to beat professional drivers on the track yet. The team is working hard to tweak the system to hopefully one day beat us
Sandia, in partnership with Stanford, has created a dexterous robot hand for the DARPA’s ARM program. It’s addresses issues that have plagued previously developed arms, such as cost, durability, dexterity and modularity. It’s amazing how you can just snap on the fingers to form the hand and it has a skin that is able to mimic human tissue allowing for a better grip on objects.
Since the hand is modular and fingers can be attached magnetically according to the use of the robot, it would give us the opportunity to expand the use of the hand by looking at different configurations of the hand. Given the way the fingers are attached, it’s possible for the hand to pick up fingers and attach them as well. This gives the robot the flexibility to easily change the configuration of the hand during operation.
The fingers are costed around $800 per degree of freedom for low-volume productions and hence the 12 degrees of freedom hand would cost around $10,000. Sandia claim this to be cheaper than similar industrial hand with identical degrees of freedom.
Have a look at the video to see how dexterous the hand can be.
There are lots of telepresence robots on the market and it’s great to see Double Robotics the cost is moving towards a price point where the product might be acceptable to the general business consumer.
The iPad interface is a great idea given the popularity of iOS and that most of us are familiar with the interface. It allows for many app developers to work on apps that now can development on this platform.
It’s always wonderful to see a humanoid conquering stairs, especially autonomously. It’s not easy on larger robots but more possible with the nao. It’s all preprogrammed without feedback with ASIMO and HUBO.
It would be wonderful to see this work on larger robots. Humanoids are built to conquer the human-centric world but seem to struggle with what we deem trivial like climbing stairs.