The BBC Checks Out Robot Research at the ISRC University of Ulster (Video)

BBC visits the Ulster ISRC robot labs

The BBC recently visited the Cognitive Robotics lab at the University of Ulster, Intelligent Systems Research Center and broadcast a short news segment (see below) covering the advanced robotics research work underway in the lab. While it doesn't disclose anything dramatically new or exciting, the video does provide an additional views of the Willow Garage PR2 preparing coffee and solving a Rubik's cube along with a researching shaking hands with the one of the famous Shadow robotic hands.

That being said, the vintage footage that starts off the video makes it all worthwhile - classic robot camp stuff.

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Free Surveillance Cameras for Robotics Teams, Physics Labs, and Science Programs

free robot video camera for schools

Security Camera Warehouse, located in North Carolina, contacted us about their "Securing the Future" program, designed to encourage and support robotics teams as well as physics labs and science programs by providing free video cameras.

According to the program details:

"You have to be a University or High School to have guaranteed acceptance to receive the free cameras*. Club level robotics teams, optics labs, physics labs, and other programs can also apply but will be approved on a case by case basis. Club level teams need to be primarily educational in nature and have an emphasis on youth and young adults."

The program lists quite a few qualifying cameras and many of them appear to be easily adaptable to suit the needs of a robot surveillance project or remote telepresence application. Understandably, there are several restrictions shown on the website, including the requirement that receipients are limited to the US. Nevertheless, we think it's a great program and a great way for the company to support the robotics community. We wish other companies would follow their lead.

(Via SCW's Securing the Future -- Free Surveillance Cameras for Robotics Teams, Physics Labs, and Science Programs.)

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Ishiguro Laboratory Looking For Scientific Engineer

ishiguro robot lab

Hiroshi Ishiguro's famous robotics laboratory situated in Kyoto, Japan, is looking for an outstanding international scientific engineer that can make a major contribution to their development in teleoperated robotic systems. Demonstrated expertise with state of the art robotics projects is one of their key selection criteria. The exact definition of a 'scientific' engineer isn't immediately clear - at least to me, though they are looking for candidates with experience in hardware/software humanoid robot construction; teleoperation; computer vision, and/or spoken language processing.

The laboratory is world famous for pushing the edge with startling, sometimes almost frightening, android creations including the Geminoid series, Telenoids, and Elfoids. While other robotic researchers tend to shy away from the boundaries of the Uncanny Valley, Ishiguro's laboratory seems to have staked out the territory as their own personal hunting ground.

All things considered, it looks like a real plum job for the right candidate, the opportunity to work with the leading experts in the field and potentially gain a lot of invaluable know-how, experience, and visibility in the robot community.

Thanks to @mspetitegeek for the heads-up.

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Augmented Reality Using Kinect and 3D Video on the iPad (Video)

ipad kinect 3D reality

The guys at Laan Labs came up with a novel way to record 3d data from the Kinect then play it back as a 3D augmented reality video on the iPad using the String SDK. It plays on the strength of both devices. The ability of the Kinect to cheaply, easily, and accurately generate 3D data, and the iPad form factor that makes it easy to move around in space to view the 3D image from different angles.

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Unique Marine Robots Capture Substantial Venture Investment (Video)

liquid robotUnder the heading of "robot business", we were very pleased to see that even in today's extremely challenging business climate, robot ventures are continuing to attract substantial investment.

While increased use of robotics isn't likely to result in a corresponding increase in employment for their human counterparts, contrary to popular belief, it will open up new applications and open the door to exploring new opportunities that were previously considered to be too hazardous, risky, or beyond the keen of available economical technology solutions.

A good example is Liquid Robotics, the creator of marine robotic drones that utilize ocean waves and solar arrays to generate the power required for their operation. These unique platforms are almost totally self-sufficient and can automatically maintain their position in the ocean, kind of the sea-going equivalent of the geostationary satellites positioned in space over the planet.

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CNN Documentary Addresses U.S. Science and Math Education Crisis – Features FIRST Robotics (Video)

Next Sunday, May 15th, CNN will air what promises to be an insightful and tremendously relevant documentary titled "Don't Fail Me: Education in America". The program focuses on the status of U.S. public education and the critical need to take action, or face a depressing, despondent future.

Among the leading authorities interviewed for the program are Dean Kamen, well known inventor, creator of the Segway mobility platform, and founder of the FIRST Robotics initiative; US Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Ursula Burns, Xerox Corporation CEO; and many others.

Some of the quotes and concerns expressed during the program are a wake-up call and clearly demonstrate that the country is already deep in a state of crisis. For example, Duncan states, "it is amazing to me that at a time of high unemployment rates, we actually have over two million unfilled, high wage, high skilled jobs."  Burns says that Xerox can't find enough skilled engineers in the US and that she is panic stricken about it.

Kamen took the initiative to start the FIRST Robotics program years ago because he saw the handwriting on the wall and felt personally compelled to take action. He says, "If we don't generate the next group of innovators, scientists, engineers, our standard of living, our quality of life, our security will plummet."

Note: If your browser doesn't play the embedded video above then view the trailer video directly on the CNN website.

The most compelling quote we've heard from the program so far came from Fredi Lajvardi, a FIRST Robotics coach that encourages his students to "dream big, be creative, and solve their own problems." Lajvardi says, "You decide what you're going to do. Not your condition, not your status, not your economic background, whatever, you decide what you want to do. That's what we're trying to teach them." The program, and the initiative that triggered it, is sure to be a boon to academic facilities that are positioned to fill the education gap, like the University of Phoenix San Diego and other similar organizations nationwide.

Whether or not you agree with the assumptions and conclusions of the program producers, we strongly urge you to watch. Even if you don't agree, the discussion and debate it can generate will be very productive and will raise awareness of the educational crisis facing the country.

Additional information including excerpts from the documentary can be found at www.cnn.com/inamerica.

The program is scheduled to air on Sunday, May 15th at 8:00 ET and PT on CNN and will re-air on the following Saturday, May 21st in the U.S.

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Metal Robots Vie For Gold Medals – RoboGames 2011

robogames combat robots

The 8th annual RoboGames attracts teams from around the world to compete in 60 different events - from dancing androids to fire-breathing combat robots and autonomous cars to soccer playing droids.

The San Francisco Bay Area has long been a rich playground where hard working cogs in the startup machine wrestle valiantly in their cubicles with the coding questions of the ages. 51 weeks out of the year, it's humdrum workday solving the world's technology problems.

And then there's week 52 -  RoboGames week...

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Mini-Documentary From KQED on Hackerspaces (Video)

KQED in San Francisco put together an excellent 5 minute mini-documentary on the hackerspace movement featuring Mitch Altman, one of the founders of the Noisebridge hackerspace:

Search out a hackerspace in your community. They are popping up all over the world. Over here, Tokyo Hackerspace is well over a year old and has established a real presence in the community along with serving as a nucleus and gathering point for crafter's, experimenters, and robot geeks. If there isn't a local hackerspace near you already, then seriously consider starting one.

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3D Printing Company Offers Sweet-Heart Deal to Robot Builders

Imaterialise
A while back we wrote about practical 3D printing technology reaching the level where it's starting to be adopted by some of the top level Japanese humanoid robot creators. Several leading builders here have been evaluating the technology, providing their feedback and experience, and it won't be long before their robot champions put it to the test under severe battle conditions in the ROBO-ONE ring.

The 3D printing company leading the charge, i.materialise, isn't just any hardware company, they see robotics as a significant potential market, one that is a key part of their strategic plan going forward. According to Joris on the i.materialise blog:



"...an area that is very important to us here at i.materialise: using 3D printing to customize robots. We think that in the coming years two technologies that are ripe for democratization are robots and 3D printing. To combine both of them into one service is irresistible to us."

At the same time, there have to be robot builders elsewhere in the world that could benefit from the same technology. And, we're sure that the robot folks in Europe, the US, and other tech centers around the world don't want to end up behind the curve.

So, they came up with a real sweet-heart deal. Get this, again from Joris at i.materialise:


“So we are looking for you. Are you a robotics enthusiast with good 3D modeling or CAD skills? Do you own or are you building a consumer friendly robot such as the Roomba, WowWee Robotics, a hexapod, Kondo, etc.? Would you like to customize the look and feel of your robot or add functionality to it using 3D printing? Please email joris (at) i.materialise.com and if you’re one of the suitable candidates we will help you, including giving you the 3D prints for free.”

What are you waiting for? How often do you think a great offer, including free 3D printed parts, like this comes along? Just go for it!




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Peeking into the NASA JPL Robot Lab (UStream video)

Ever wonder what it would be like to be inside the NASA JPL labs as they put together a space robot? As a kid who grew up spending more time in school doodling spaceships, aliens, and astronauts when I should've been studying in class, the chance to look over the shoulder of the NASA engineers and technicians as they assemble one of the rover robots destined to drive across the surface of the red planet would be absolutely mind blowing. Well, now I, and everyone else with Internet access, can share in the experience.

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