Entries with tag robotics research.

Soft Robotics Research and Development Growing

A growing research area within robotics is that of soft robotics. Most robots have rigid structures, but soft structures pose several operating advantages. These types of robots move differently, which means the movements do not need to be precisely calculated by operating algorithms. They also can work in environments alongside humans without fear of injury to human or robot. The danger “is on par with being attacked by a pillow,” notes MIT researchers who are working on a fish-inspired silicon robot named Bubbles.  Among the other academic organizations and businesses working on soft robotics are Harvard University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, San Francisco-based Otherlab, and researchers in Italy who constructed a robotic tentacle. (SlashDot)(The Verge)(MIT News Office)

Robotic Theme Park Designed to Promote Korean Industry

The South Korean government and private companies in the country are moving ahead with plans for a theme park that would promote the Korean robotics industry. Masan Robot Land, first conceived in 2007, would be located on 300 acres in Changwon City, located on the nation’s southern coast, and cost an estimated $666 million. Proponents expect to finish the first part of the project—which will include tourist attractions, a robotics R&D center, and a convention center—in September 2016. They expect to complete the second phase—which will include hotels and condominiums—by the end of 2018. The South Korean government is actively promoting the country’s robotics industry and estimates it will be worth $500 billion by 2020, at which point officials hope to have a robot in every household. (SlashDot)(Robohub)

Robots Are Taking Over Chinese Jobs

A new entrant into the Chinese labor pool is sending ripples into the nation’s economy and labor pool. Companies are increasingly using robots for simple jobs such as peeling noodles from dough lumps and placing them into boiling water in many of China’s noodle shops. A cook doing that job earns about 40,000 yuan per year (about $6,400 per year). The noodle-making robot costs 10,000 yuan (about $1,600) and its price is continuing to drop. Inventor Cui Runquan said he has sold the robots to about 3,000 restaurants since 2010. China is on pace to become the world’s largest market for robotics. Recently, the China Machinery Industry Federation launched the Robot Industry Alliance, a nonprofit group focused on robotics research and development. In addition to noodle-making, newer industrial robots are expected to tackle tasks such as welding, painting, ironing, and packaging. Experts say robots will threaten Chinese jobs based on how quickly they are adopted compared to how fast the domestic labor force shrinks. China’s labor force declined in 2012 and could continue to do so as its population ages. (SlashDot)(Singularity Hub)(ZDNet)(MIT Technology Review)(Xinhua News Agency)

Algorithms Help Household Robots Perform Tasks

Students from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have designed algorithms that help household robots pick up and place items and complete various chores. Most experimental robots use motion-planning algorithms to help them avoid collisions, navigate, and perform tasks, but these algorithms must search among a great number of possible movement options. Typically, these types of algorithms help the robot identify those movement paths that avoid collisions. One of the new MIT algorithms looks for collisions, but also enables the robot to avoid bad path selections when moving an object. It allows the robot to place the object into an optimal, desired movement path. Users can also modify the algorithms via an interface that lets them input new parameters describing new types of objects with which the robot may interact, which should enable the robot to smoothly pick up and place a wide variety of objects in a specific manner rather that using a universal algorithm for the task. The researchers, who used the Willow Garage PR2 robot in their experiments, will present their work at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in May. (PhysOrg)(MIT News Office)

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