BOT IN STORES NEAR YOU
Underneath that color-coordinated hoodie is AndyVision —
Carnegie Mellon's inventory assistance robot. It's programmed to take
over the drudgery of daily retail inventory, helping stores figure out
what customers want.
You may recognize the Kinect sensor underneath AndyVision's
hoody, and he's also got a fairly simple mobile base with sonar for
obstacle avoidance. Using Kinect, AndyVision scans store shelves to
count items for inventory (using contextual object recognition), and will
wirelessly alert store staff to low stock, no stock, or items that have
been misplaced. Meanwhile, customers get access to real time data on
what items are where and how many are left. The technology involved
isn't anything new and crazy, but it’s a great example of a relatively simple robot being used to do valuable autonomous work in
a commercial environment.
AndyVision is a project from the Intel Science and Technology Center (ISTC) at CMU, and is part of a "Retail 2020"
project to "transform the retail landscape." He's fairly retail-futuristic as is, but ISTC has other plans for the future where "in-store robots might handle tasks such as folding clothing items, stocking shelves, and helping customers to locate items and load
their purchases into their cars."
LOST AND (STILL NOT) FOUND
The search continues to find the location of Amelia Earhart's plane after
finding an old photograph of Nikumaroro Island in the Republic of Kiribati
with something "suspicious looking" in the water. PIH's autonomous Bluefin
Robotics 21 will be searching in this area by means of multi-beam sonar. A
second dive will involve black and white photography with the team collecting
data, replacing batteries, and reprogramming when needed.
A TRV 005 robot with manipulating arms made by Submersible Systems
will try then for close-up views with a high-def video camera to be controlled
by a human on the surface ship. The project is being funded by TIGHAR
(International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery), after raising almost $2.2
million from various sources, including the US State Department and private companies. They believe that Earhart and navigator
Fred Noonan may have landed on the reef of a coral atoll.
The expedition began July 2nd from Honolulu when the Hawaiian research vessel Ka'Imikai-o-Kanaloa departed. The date
marks the 75th anniversary of Earhart's disappearance. Go to
http://tighar.org for updates.
GETTING THE FINGER
Researchers at the University of Southern California's Viterbi
School of Engineering have succeeded in making an artificial fingertip
that outperforms humans in identifying a range of textures. That
fingertip — the BioTac® from SynTouch LLC — is a molded
elastomeric sleeve with a fingerprint-like pattern on the outside and
sensors on the inside, filled with a conductive fluid. What the USC
researchers have done is to develop algorithms for interpreting the data
produced by the fingertip, and for optimizing the movement of the
robotic arm or hand on which it is mounted to most efficiently produce
useful data. Their findings have been published in Frontiers in
Neurorobotics. Syn Touch LLC (founded in 2008) "is a start-up technology
business that develops and manufactures tactile sensors for mechatronic systems." Bio Tac sensors are available as an evaluation
kit, and also as kits for the BarrettHand and the Shadow Hand.
Bio Tac’s patented design consists of a rigid core surrounded by an elastic skin filled with a fluid to give a compliance
remarkably similar to a human fingertip. Bio Tac is the first sensor capable of detecting a full range of sensory information that
human fingers can detect such as forces, microvibrations, and thermal gradients.
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