Furby is back, and he looks really bad - in a good way....
The new Furby has some interesting, and hopefully engaging, improvements especially in the way that it interacts with humans. The only thing that appears a bit off target are the LCD eyes. While they appear useful in indicating changes in Furby's personality (or personalities), the LCD eyes don't really match the rest of Furby's body and give an eerie, somewhat unsettling feeling to the toy. It will be interesting to see if that impacts market acceptance and take-up on the toy as we move into the critical 2012 holiday gift buying season.
I first met Hajime Sakamoto in 2005 during a ROBO-ONE competition in Tokyo. One of the most striking and impressive things about Sakamoto was his total dedication to humanoid robotics
Many of the other ROBO-ONE competitors design excellent, world-class robots but they do it primarily as a hobby. It's a way for them to express their creativity, skill, and passion away from the day to day work grind. It's a pleasant and fulfilling escape from their daily duties. But for Sakamoto, designing and building high performance humanoid robots is a way of life.
Designing and producing robot parts with 3D printers has become a reality with the advent of affordable devices like the MakerBot, but after you create the necessary parts, how can you attach them to each other in a reliable, robust way that will withstand actual use in the unforgiving real world?
Our friends over at I Heart Robotics have come up with practical solution - brass inserts that install in most 3D printed plastic parts using a soldering iron. According to their tests, the insert holding strength should be more than sufficient for most applications.
I can't be everywhere at once, but there are certainly times when I wish I could. Next week, on May 21st, SWISSNEX is staging a Robots and Humans event in San Francisco I would really like to attend:
Oussama Khatib, from the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Stanford University, presents new concepts for safe, dependable, and competent robots including design, novel sensing modalities, efficient planning and control strategies, methods for modeling human motion and skills, and other requirements. These developments are providing exciting prospects for novel clinical therapies, athletic training, and performance improvement.
Aude Billard leads the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). She shares recent advances in the development of robust algorithms to enable robots to learn by imitating humans as well as examples of applications for flexible manipulation and quick adaptation, such as catching an object that is just starting to fall.
According to a report in Monday's Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Canon, the world's leader in digital cameras with a 20% marketshare, is building two automated plants in Oita Prefecture that are expected to be fully online by 2015.
The first plant, in Utsunomiya City, will fully automate the camera assembly process using robotics eliminating the need for human workers as much as possible. The second plant, in Kunisaki is expected to implement similar advances in Canon interchangeable lens production.
Canon has placed a priority on increasing efficiency and decreasing the human assembly component since 1990. Recent market and environmental changes, including the impact of the March 2010 earthquake and tsunami, difficult foreign currency exchange rates, flooding in Thailand, and the expected challenges with manufacturing in China going forward, seem to have accelerated Canon's initiative to strengthen its manufacturing base in Japan.
Moving production back from overseas factories to domestic doesn't directly correlate to job creation or transfer. Canon has been silent on the exact job impact of their new facilities, however it appears that manufacturing employees associated with Canon camera and accessory production in Oita Prefecture have decreased by half over the past three years.
Via: Nihon Keizai Shinbun
In reading through the new Introduction to Micromouse Robots for Embedded Developers article on MONOist, authored by The March Hare, I was struck by the fact that participation in the annual All Japan Micromouse Competition has increased consistently over the past two decades, to the point that there were 3 times as many competitors for the 2011 event compared to when the same event took place in 1991.
The participation chart, based in part on 2009 RoboCon magazine article data, illustrates the trend quite clearly, with the post 1990 trends plotted with Expert Class in blue, Freshman Class in red, and the total in yellow. The Half Size micromouse classification started in 2009 and is shown in light green. Keep in mind that the chart numbers only represent participants in the All Japan competition. There are quite a few regional competitions held throughout Japan from the summer through late fall leading up to the All Japan event, and only the top developers make it all the way to the national competition.
While interest in engineering and design careers waned in many First World countries over the same time period, and was severely depressed during tough economic times, it appears that the Japanese not only remained dedicated to the initiative, they actually increased in number quite dramatically.
I'm not sure what conclusions can be drawn from this trend, especially since micromouse development represents a very unique sector of robotics where participants are highly motivated to compete against themselves - to beat their own best times and improve their skills and know-how - rather than attempting to defeat each other.
Nevertheless, it's a stark contrast to what took place in robotics in other countries, like the U.S., during the same period of time.
Via: ＠IT MONOist