Robotically Enhanced Exercise
A lot less brawny is the Joggobot, under development at Australia's Royal
Melbourne Institute of Technology ( www.rmit.edu.au). It isn't exactly an invention,
though, as the platform is actually a foam-fendered AR Drone quadricopter which is
really a flying game from Parrot SA ( www.parrot.com) that can be controlled using
an iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, or (soon) other mobile platforms. You can pick one up
for about $300 from Amazon and other vendors. The difference is that Joggobot
incorporates custom software that enables you to enter your preferred jogging speed
into a smartphone app. The app controls the drone so that it flies ahead of you at
the proper pace. Alternatively, you can program it to maintain a set distance
regardless of how fast you are running. It accomplishes that by monitoring a blue-and-orange pattern on the t-shirt that you are required to wear.
Noted the developers, "We ask questions such as `Should the robot be a
pacemaker for the jogger? If so, can this be motivating? Or should the Joggobot be
more like a dog, reacting to the jogger like a companion? How does this affect the
interaction and, in particular, the exercise experience for the jogger?'" Another
question one might ask is, "While you're focused on the Joggobot, what's to keep
you from jogging in front of a moving bus or stepping into an open manhole?"
Guess it could provide endless amusement for those of us who are just watching.
Joggobot aims to enhance
the jogging experience.
Fowlbot Automates Deboning
One doesn't usually think of the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI,
www.gtri.gatech.edu) as being in the chicken business, but it turns out that
poultry is Georgia's no. 1 agricultural product with an estimated annual
economic impact of nearly $20 billion. Accordingly, researchers have created
the Intelligent Cutting and Deboning System which uses advanced imaging
technology and a robotic cutting arm to automatically debone chicken and
other poultry products. The system employs a 3D vision system that
determines the proper cutting procedure, allowing the device to automatically
butcher the bird so as to optimize yield and reduce the risk of leaving bone
fragments in the product. In case you're interested in the details, this
prototype system uses a fixed two-degree-of-freedom mechanism for making
simple planar cuts. The bird is mounted on a six-degree-of-freedom arm that allows alignment of the bird to any desired
position. The robot arm places the bird under the vision system and moves it with respect to the cutting robot. The system
employs a force-feedback algorithm that can detect the transition from meat to bone which allows the knife to slice
through ligaments while avoiding the bone. In addition to minimizing bone chips, the system promises to increase product
yield. As noted, "Every one percent loss of breast meat represents about $2.5 million to each of Georgia's poultry
processing plants." Somewhere Frank Perdue is smiling.
Robotic system prepares to slice through
the shoulder joint of a chicken.
Photo courtesy of Gary Meek.
Breakthrough in Robutties
If it's been bad, you can spank it. If it's been good, you can caress it. If you're
just weird and perverted, you can poke it with your finger. In any case, it will
respond by expressing "various emotions with organic movement of the artificial
muscles." "It" is Shiri — a pair of humanoid haunches made of a rigid urethane
skeleton encased in silicone skin. Each cheek contains an airbag that employs
modulating pressure to generate various reactions to your advances, including
"quivering in fear." And, yes, you can see it in action at www.youtube.com/
watch?v=hkIJGjXoBAA. Taking credit for this feat of engineering is Nobuhiro
Takahashi of Japan's University of Electro-Communications ( www.uec.ac.jp/eng).
His parents must be so proud. SV
Whip it or caress it, it's Shiri the robobutt.
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