Entries with tag Robots.

Robots Hawking Coffee Makers in Japanese Retail Stores

A fleet of humanoid robots is selling coffeemakers for Nestle SA in electronics retailers throughout Japan. The company is the first corporate customer for SoftBank’s Pepper robots, which are developed in France and made in Taiwan. In December, 20 robots will be used in Japanese Nestle stores. Nestle plans to eventually have robots in 1,000 stores. Nestle Japan spokesperson Miki Kano told the Japan Times, “We are sure that our customers will enjoy shopping and being entertained by robots.” Pepper—which sells for ¥198,000 yen ($1,763)—is also serving as a greeter at SoftBank mobile phone stores in Japan. Pepper will be available to consumers in February 2015. (Reuters)(Japan Times)

Robots Test Authenticity of Thai Food

A robot able to discern the subtleties of authentic Thai food is being demonstrated by Thailand’s government. The e-delicious system has multiple sensors that send data to a computer with algorithms that determine a food’s chemical signature and thereby identify its aromatic and flavor attributes. The system compares this information to a “gold standard” that 120 taste testers have approved. For example, Thai green curry must have a specific balance of basil, curry paste, and coconut cream to be deemed authentic. The government will award dishes passing the e-delicious’ testing a seal of approval. Former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was removed from office in May by a military coup, conceptualized the e-delicious after experiencing poor Thai food in other countries. The government established the Thai Delicious committee and the National Innovation Agency funded the project.  Two robots have been built to date. (BBC)(United Press International)

Brazil Plans to Augment World Cup Security with Robots

Brazilian law enforcement will get high-tech assistance during the 2014 World Cup soccer games from 30 robots. The national government purchased the machines for $7.2 million. They will be stationed in the 12 host cities during the soccer matches and will primarily be used to help examine any suspicious objects. The small and sturdy robot, which weighs roughly 40 pounds, is designed to fit in a backpack such that a human can deploy it immediately. It is able to reach speeds of up to 9 miles/hour and can navigate uneven and steep terrain, but it is also submersible at depths of up to 2 meters. The PackBot robot is made by Bedford, Massachusetts-based iRobot. It was first deployed in 2002 in Afghanistan and has since been used by the military in Iraq and several other countries. The PackBot was also the first remote controlled robot to enter the Fukushima nuclear facility after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. (SlashDot)(International Business Times UK)(Robohub) 

Google-Acquired Robotics Firm Leads DARPA Trials

SCHAFT, a Japanese company newly acquired by Google, won the most points in a field of 16 organizations competing in the DARPA Robotics Challenge in Florida. The top eight teams gain continued DARPA funding and will compete at the end of 2014 for a $2 million prize. The competition was focused on tasks that might typically be encountered in hazardous first-responder environments, such as climbing and descending a ladder as well as debris removal. The SCHAFT robot was awarded 27 of 32 possible points in the competition. The trials were held 20 and 21 December 2013 in Florida. The event also included demonstrations from organizations, including Sandia National Laboratories, which showed its Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue and Urban Hopper robots. DARPA says the finals competition will require robots to attempt a circuit of consecutive physical tasks, with degraded communications between the robots and their operators. (Robotics Tomorrow)(PhysOrg)(The Wall Street Journal)(DARPA Robotics Challenge 2013 Trials) 

Robotic Companion Designed to Help Seniors

A customizable robotic assistant is being designed by European researchers to help provide those older people still living independently with assistance. The robot, which is being designed under the umbrella of the MOBISERV project, is a semi-humanoid figure on wheels that can remind seniors of important tasks, such as taking medications or encouraging them to have a drink of water or visit friends. The wheeled companion is equipped with cameras, sensors, audio and a touch screen interface and is part of a suite of smart-home technologies for seniors, which includes health-monitoring smart clothing  and emergency alert systems. The researchers say the robot will not replace professional home-care providers, but is designed to provide assistance for those family members who are caring for a senior parent. Europe’s senior population is expected to double by 2060. Just as important as monitoring a senior’s safety, say researchers, is supporting their cognitive health and social well-being through reminders to undertake activities such as calling a friend or going for a walk. Prototype testing was conducted in the Netherlands and United Kingdom. The project was led by Smart Homes, the Dutch Expertise Centre on Home Automation and Smart Living, and included scientists from various research institutes, universities, and technology companies in seven European countries. They say the robot now costs about EUR 10,000, but the price should drop to EUR 5,000 within a couple of years, which is when the technology may be commercially available. The researchers are seeking funding for improvements to the robot that could also enable them to undertake large-scale trials of the technology. (SlashDot)(CORDIS)

Japanese Robotic Astronauts Set to Travel to Space Station

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced plans to send two robots to the International Space Station in August. The Kibo Robot Project, founded to explore human-robot interaction. created Kirobo and backup robot Mirata. The small robots have capabilities such as voice and facial recognition, and the ability to communicate in Japanese. At the space station, Kirobo is expected to converse with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata. . The Robo Garage, Toyota, the University of Tokyo, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are working on the project. (SlashDot)(Discovery News)(Kibo Robot Project @ YouTube)

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)

DARPA Creating Robotic Hands

DARPA, which is conducting numerous robotics-related projects designed to aid US soldiers in the field, has created a low-cost robotic hand. The latest work by its Autonomous Robotic Manipulation program is a step toward creating robots with dexterous hands. The agency designed its new device to cost $3,000. A robot was able to use the new hand to change a tire by itself. The new hands could be key to developing robots able to operate autonomously in the field on tasks such as finding and defusing improvised explosive devices or inspecting suspicious packages. DARPA is collaborating with researchers from iRobot, the US Sandia National Laboratory, the University of Southern California, Carnegie Mellon University, and NASA to create a robotic arm with multifingered hands. (CNET)(Gizmodo)(DARPA Autonomous Robotic Manipulation)

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