Human-inspired robot takes a brisk walk in the grass

In a rolling, outdoor field, full of lumps, bumps and uneven terrain, researchers have successfully field-tested for the first time the locomotion abilities of a two-legged robot with technology that they believe heralds the running robots of the future. The test demonstrated how their “ATRIAS” robot can move quite nicely, keep its balance and withstand mild blows from a bouncing rubber ball, while taking a walk in the grass, up and down hill, and over varying terrain at a normal walking speed of a little more than three miles per hour.

May 03, 2015 at 06:00PM
Human-inspired robot takes a brisk walk in the grass
In a rolling, outdoor field, full of lumps, bumps and uneven terrain, researchers have successfully field-tested for the first time the locomotion abilities of a two-legged robot with technology that they believe heralds the running robots of the future.

May 03, 2015 at 05:16PM
Chinese shopping for global robotics ventures

Photo: Faungg via wikimedia commons.

April has seen Chinese VCs acquiring robotic ventures, buying out competitors, seeking funding to scale up production, and shoring up industry gaps.

Look at these four transactions:

  1. Beijing-based Ninebot, a Segway competitor, acquired Segway;
  2. Chinese venture fund Cybernaut plans to invest $200 million into Russia’s Skolkovo Center to incubate Russian inventions manufactured and marketed in China;
  3. China South Rail paid $190 million to acquire SMD, a UK deep-sea robot manufacturer;
  4. and Chinese drone maker DJI is forecasting global 2015 sales of $1 billion and a market value of $10 billion as it seeks funds to scale up it’s operations.

Ninebot acquires Segway

Ninebot, a Beijing-based 2012 startup, markets their device as a personal transportation robot. Segway has sued and accused Ninebot of patent infringement but all that is now water under the bridge because Ninebot acquired (for an undisclosed amount) all the intellectual property as well as the company and facilities of Segway. Although the two companies will retain their brand identities and separate locations, the transaction was an acquisition nonetheless and all Segway’s IP are now owned by Ninebot.

Bedford, NH-based Segway’s press release calls the transaction a “Strategic Combination”; Ninebot’s website calls it an acquisition. Included in Ninebot’s announcement of the acquisition was notice that Ninebot had raised $80 million from Xiaomi, Shunwei and Sequoia VCs.

Segway was launched in 2001 by Dean Kamen’s group. It struggeled to live up to all the ballyhoo from its launch when it was called the “future of transportation.” In 2009 Segway was purchased by British entrepreneur Jimi Heselden who was killed in 2010 while riding a Segway off a cliff. It was then bought by Saint Louis, MO-based Summit Strategic Investments in 2013 and it was that firm that did the deal with Ninebot. Certainly the real prize is Segway’s 400+ patents related to personal transportation devices being transferred over to Ninebot.

According to TechCrunch, “Ninebot plans to use the purchase to expand its product line. Founder and CEO Gao Lufeng said ‘After establishing the alliance, the company will apply a series of technologies into its future products, covering electric driving, mobile internet, and man-machine interaction. This combination creates great opportunities for the development of the short-distance transportation industry.‘”

Commenting on the transaction, Robots Dreams blogger Lem Fugitt said, “While Segway management is positioning the take-over as positively as they can, in the long term it appears to be a major loss for U.S. technology, intellectual property, and manufacturing. The most telling comment from Segway’s president Rod Keller, as reported in the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper, was, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’”

Cybernaut to invest $200 million into Skolkovo robotics startups

The Skolkovo Foundation outside Moscow, a large campus being constructed to focus on transferring Russian science into tangible products and to incubate Russian startups to make that happen, has signed a strategic partnership with Cybernaut Investment Group for Cybernaut to invest $200 million with Skolkovo in IT, space, telecommunication and robotic products that can be manufactured and marketed in China.

Hangzhou-based investment firm Cybernaut Investment Group will also create a new Chinese robotics center in Hangzhou to supplement Skolkovo’s efforts. Cybernaut is one of China’s largest VCs.

An in-depth review of the Skolkovo Cybernaut deal can be found at here.

China South Rail acquires SMD for $190 million

SMD, a UK based provider of underwater ROVs and ROV systems, tractors and trenchers for laying cable, sub-sea mining and oil and gas operations, was sold to Zhuzhou CSR Times Electric, a subsidiary of China South Rail (CSR), a state-owned conglomerate, for $190 million.

According to the Want China Times, the acquisition is expected to help China obtain core deep-sea robotic technology and equipment, andl will also help CSR absorb the mature industry platform and global sales network of SMD, supporting it to enter the global deep-sea market. This will complement CSR’s existing businesses in offshore wind energy, shipyard, marine engineering and drilling and help the Chinese company build an industrial chain for marine equipment.

A recent article in The Economist analyzed and charted the number of Chinese mergers and acquisition transactions in the EU.

Chinese deals in Europe as a whole rose from $2 billion in 2010 to $18 billion in 2014. Europe is attractive because it has lots of businesses going cheap — privatizations, cash-strapped firms and a weak euro. Chinese firms are following an edict to acquire advanced technology and high-quality brands from abroad that the government laid down in its five-year plan of 2011. Until recently most outbound dealmaking was by state firms buying up raw materials. Now high value-added businesses are the main target, and private capital is flowing.

SZ DJI Innovations seeks scale-up funding

SZ DJI Innovations expects their revenue to exceed $1 billion this year. That information is part of the material being shown to raise funds for the company. The Wall Street Journal reported that DJI has set a valuation as high as $10 billion and that several Silicon Valley VC firms have offered to invest. The Shenzhen company has sold hundreds of thousands of their drones to hobbyists, journalists, photographers, real estate agents and other business people worldwide. According to the WSJ, DJI has taken minimal outside capital and instead has used cash flow to fund its rapid expansion which recently was reported to include three factories and 2,800 employees.

One quote by Chris Dixon of VC Andreessen Horowitz is particularly interesting:

Companies like DJI right now have good momentum, but they’re hardware makers Next year or the year after that, you’re going to see hundreds of DJI clones. I don’t think long term that’s a good bet. Software is going to eat drones.

I disagree. I see a parallel to the robotics industry of today where a few big firms make the basic industrial robot arms but thousands of independent global consultants, distributors, integrators and engineers add value through software and add-on devices just as mapping, data mining, sensor manufacturers and aerial service providers are beginning to do today for the drone industry.

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April 30, 2015 at 10:25PM
The Year of CoCoRo Video #17/52: Lily confinement by bluelight

The EU-funded Collective Cognitive Robotics (CoCoRo) project has built a swarm of 41 autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) that show collective cognition. Throughout 2015 – The Year of CoCoRo – we will be uploading a new weekly video detailing the latest stage in its development. In this video we use blue-light blinks to keep the swarm together and to keep it in vicinity of the moving base station.

Due to this “confinement”, the radio-controlled base-station can pull a whole swarm of Lily robots like a tail behind itself. It is important to confine the robots into specific areas in larger water bodies because the swarm requires normally a minimum connectivity among agents to work efficiently, which is achieved only with a critical minimum swarm density. Without keeping the robots in a controlled area, robots could get lost and the robot density could fall below the critical density. Thus, confinement was identified to be a critical functionality.

To learn more about the project, see this introductory post, or check out all the videos from the Year of CoCoRo on Robohub.

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April 30, 2015 at 07:19PM
This robotic chimp could one day roam the Moon

With renewed interest in moon exploration - in particular the remote possibility that deposits of helium-3, believed to be in greater concentration on the moon, could one day power nuclear fusion power plants on Earth - robots might be the ideal solution, especially to keep the costs down. And a design from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence in Bremen, Germany, has landed on the chimpanzee as its model for unmanned lunar missions.

May 02, 2015 at 07:24PM
The amazing technicolor liquid nano laser | Gizmag

“Unlike conventional lasers, which use mirrors to bounce light back and forth through a gain medium (kind of like an amplifier), this new nanolaser contains an array of reflective gold nanoparticles that accomplish the same feat on a considerably smaller scale. Previously-developed nanolasers used solid gain materials, which provide a fixed wavelength, but the Northwestern team used a liquid (more specifically, an organic dye) instead.”

See it on, via Cultibotics

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April 30, 2015 at 06:49PM
Wrestle Quad Battle Robots Look Like Insects But Foster STEM Education (Video)
At first glance they might be confused with toys or some mad scientist’s robot creation, but the multi-legged, insect-like robots developed by young students participating the the Club WAD robotics education initiative in Japan are anything but toys. In operation for over a decade now, Club WAD was founded with the goal of interesting and […]

Robots Dreams:
May 03, 2015 at 11:37AM
2-legged robot can take a walk in the grass

A two-legged robot that can keep its balance and walk in an outdoor field, full of lumps, bumps and uneven terrain, is three times more energy-efficient than any other human-sized bipedal robot, scientists say, Zee News reports. Researchers at Oregon State University last week successfully field-tested for the first time the locomotion abilities of the two-legged robot with technology that they believe heralds the running robots of the future.

May 03, 2015 at 09:52AM
Standford Engineers Have Built Tiny Robots That Can Pull 2000 Times Their Own Weight

Image source: NewScientist/Stanford

Size doesn’t always matter. A team of mechanical engineers at Stanford University has designed a set of tiny, nature-inspired robots or “MicroTugs” that can literally pull up to 2000 times their own weight. So what’s the secret to these robots’ super strength? These MicroTugs are mimicking the grippers and movements seen in geckos and inchworms.

Weighing a mere 12 grams and outfitted with a small pad of retractable adhesive (similar to the pads of a gecko’s foot) that grips as pressure’s applied, the larger of the two MicroTugs can pull 2000 times its own weight or roughly 53 pounds. To put the robot’s strength into perspective, David Christensen, an engineer on the project, explains that this is the equivalent to a human pulling a blue whale.

On the smaller side of the spectrum, the 9 gram robot crawls on vertical surfaces much like an inchworm would. Its tiny legs are equipped with the same rubber adhesive spikes that, when pressure is applied, bend and increase the surface area. The adhesive spikes straighten out when pressure is relieved and this allows the robot to lift its leg up and take another step. Smaller in size than the other MicroTug, this little robot can pull objects 25 times its own weight up a vertical space. In other words, that’s like a human pulling an rhinoceros up a wall.

Last but certainly not least, the smallest 20 milligram version of the MicroTug can pull a paper clip or ten times its own weight. What’s more interesting about this 20 milligram MicroTug is that it’s so tiny that the engineers had to assemble it with tweezers under a microscope.

Dave Christensen and Elliot Hawkes, the Stanford engineers behind the project, hope that their super strength machines could be used for heavy lifting at construction sites and factories.

Source: NewScientist

The post Standford Engineers Have Built Tiny Robots That Can Pull 2000 Times Their Own Weight appeared first on SimpleBotics.

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April 30, 2015 at 05:25AM
Feedback: Won't somebody please think of the robots?

GOOGLE has obtained a US patent for personalities in robots. Kate Darling , a robot ethicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology complains in IEEE Spectrum that such patents are not good for robotics research because they may restrict innovation by other companies.

May 02, 2015 at 07:00AM