Robotics

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Silicone 3D printing startup Spectroplast spins out of ETHZ with $1.5M

3D printing has become commonplace in the hardware industry, but because few materials can be used for it easily, the process rarely results in final products. A Swiss startup called Spectroplast hopes to change that with a technique for printing using silicone, opening up all kinds of applications in medicine, robotics and beyond.

Silicone is not very bioreactive, and of course can be made into just about any shape while retaining strength and flexibility. But the process for doing so is generally injection molding, great for mass-producing lots of identical items but not so great when you need a custom job.

And it’s custom jobs that ETH Zurich’s Manuel Schaffner and Petar Stefanov have in mind. Hearts, for instance, are largely similar but the details differ, and if you were going to get a valve replaced, you’d probably prefer yours made to order rather than straight off the shelf.

“Replacement valves currently used are circular, but do not exactly match the shape of the aorta, which is different for each patient,” said Schaffner in a university news release. Not only that, but they may be a mixture of materials, some of which the body may reject.

But with a precise MRI the researchers can create a digital model of the heart under consideration and, using their proprietary 3D printing technique, produce a valve that’s exactly tailored to it — all in a couple of hours.

ethz siliconeprinting 1

A 3D-printed silicone heart valve from Spectroplast.

Although they have created these valves and done some initial testing, it’ll be years before anyone gets one installed — this is the kind of medical technique that takes a decade to test. So in the meantime they are working on “life-improving” rather than life-saving applications.

One such case is adjacent to perhaps the most well-known surgical application of silicone: breast augmentation. In Spectroplast’s case, however, they’d be working with women who have undergone mastectomies and would like to have a breast prosthesis that matches the other perfectly.

Another possibility would be anything that needs to fit perfectly to a person’s biology, like a custom hearing aid, the end of a prosthetic leg or some other form of reconstructive surgery. And of course, robots and industry could use one-off silicone parts as well.

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There’s plenty of room to grow, it seems, and although Spectroplast is just starting out, it already has some 200 customers. The main limitation is the speed at which the products can be printed, a process that has to be overseen by the founders, who work in shifts.

Until very recently Schaffner and Stefanov were working on this under a grant from the ETH Pioneer Fellowship and a Swiss national innovation grant. But in deciding to depart from the ETH umbrella they attracted a 1.5 million Swiss franc (about the same as dollars just now) seed round from AM Ventures Holding in Germany. The founders plan to use the money to hire new staff to crew the printers.

Right now Spectroplast is doing all the printing itself, but in the next couple of years it may sell the printers or modifications necessary to adapt existing setups.

You can read the team’s paper showing their process for creating artificial heart valves here.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says labor should not fear automation

It’s impossible to discuss the seismic shift toward automation without a conversation about job loss. Opponent of these technologies criticize a displacement that could some day result wide scale unemployment among what is often considered “unskilled” roles. Advocates, meanwhile, tend to suggest that reports of that nature tend to be overstated. Workforces shift, as they have done for time time immemorial.

During a conversation at SXSW this week, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offered another take entirely.

“We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work,” she said in an answer reported by The Verge. “We should be excited by that. But the reason we’re not excited by it is because we live in a society where if you don’t have a job, you are left to die. And that is, at its core, our problem.”

The response to an audience member’s question is a take that doesn’t too often get repeated in broader conversations about automation. Often times industry spokespeople will discuss technology’s potential to replace jobs that are deemed “dull, dirty and dangerous” — menial tasks that many roboticists will suggest no one really wants in the first place.

This just such a shockingly intelligent thing for any politician to say. https://t.co/QcRJNW12g6

— William Gibson (@GreatDismal) March 10, 2019

Ocasio-Cortez’s answer, on the other other hand, speaks to a viewpoint more in-line with her own Democratic Socialist views. It’s a suggestion that, if harnessed correctly, such technologies could one day liberate workers from a capitalist system where being a worker is inexorably tied to one’s identity and livelihood.

The newly elected Congresswoman elaborated on her position by pointing out the benefits that automation could bring to a society.

“We should be excited about automation, because what it could potentially mean is more time educating ourselves, more time creating art, more time investing in and investigating the sciences, more time focused on invention, more time going to space, more time enjoying the world that we live in,” The Verge quoted Ocasio-Cortez as saying. “Because not all creativity needs to be bonded by wage.”

And Ocasio-Cortez cited Bill Gates’ suggestion (first floated in a presentation on Quartz) that a robot tax might be a way to make that vision real. “What [Gates is] really talking about is taxing corporations,” she reportedly said. “But it’s easier to say: ‘tax a robot.’”

Her response to the automation question has met with applause from some writers who have been notably prescient about the future.

“This [is] just such a shockingly intelligent thing for any politician to say,” novelist William Gibson said via tweet. It is, at very least, a fresh perspective on a well-trod topic and the kind of outlook that could breath some life in a vital conversation about our collective technological future.

Automation will have an unquestionably profound impact on jobs in the coming decades — we’ve already seen much of that already, for roles in places like warehouses. Every study on the subject acknowledges this, with jobs “destroyed” number in the tens of millions and above, while jobs “created” are often times a fraction of that massive number.

The congresswoman’s comments, however, suggest that, independent of those numbers, perhaps we’ve been asking the wrong the question all along.

Wandelbots raises $6.8M to make programming a robot as easy as putting on a jacket

Industrial robotics is on track to be worth around $20 billion by 2020, but while it may something in common with other categories of cutting-edge tech — innovative use of artificial intelligence, pushing the boundaries of autonomous machines that are disrupting pre-existing technology — there is one key area where it differs: each robotics firm uses its own proprietary software and operating systems to run its machines, making programming the robots complicated, time-consuming and expensive.

A startup out of Germany called Wandelbots (a portmanteau of “change” and “robots” in German) has come up with an innovative way to skirt around that challenge: it has built a bridge that connects the operating systems of the 12 most popular industrial robotics makers with what a business wants them to do, and now they can be trained by a person wearing a jacket kitted with dozens of sensors.

“We are providing a universal language to teach those robots in the same way, independent of the technology stack,” said CEO Christian Piechnick said in an interview. Essentially reverse engineering the process of how a lot of software is built, Wandelbots is creating what is a Linux-like underpinning to all of it.

With some very big deals under its belt with the likes of Volkwagen, Infineon and Midea, the startup out of Dresden has now raised €6 million ($6.8 million), a Series A to take it to its next level of growth and specifically to open an office in China. The funding comes from Paua VenturesEQT Ventures and other unnamed previous investors. (It had previously raised a seed round around the time it was a finalist in our Disrupt Battlefield last year, pre-launch.)

Notably, Paua has a bit of a history of backing transformational software companies (it also invests in Stripe), and EQT, being connected to a private equity firm, is treating this as a strategic investment that might be deployed across its own assets.

Piechnick — who co-founded Wandelbots with Georg Püschel, Maria Piechnick, Sebastian Werner, Jan Falkenberg and Giang Nguyen on the back of research they did at university — said that typical programming of industrial robots to perform a task could have in the past taken three months, the employment of specialist systems integrators, and of course an extra cost on top of the machines themselves.

Someone with no technical knowledge, wearing one of Wandelbots’ jackets, can bring that process down to 10 minutes, with costs reduced by a factor of ten.

“In order to offer competitive products in the face of the rapid changes within the automotive industry, we need more cost savings and greater speed in the areas of production and automation of manufacturing processes,” said Marco Weiß, Head of New Mobility & Innovations at Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH, in a statement. “Wandelbots’ technology opens up significant opportunities for automation. Using Wandelbots offering, the installation and setup of robotic solutions can be implemented incredibly quickly by teams with limited programming skills.”

Wandelbots’ focus at the moment is on programming robotic arms rather than the mobile machines that you may have seen Amazon and others using to move goods around warehouses. For now, this means that there is not a strong crossover in terms of competition between these two branches of enterprise robotics.

However, Amazon has been expanding and working on new areas beyond warehouse movements: it has, for example, been working ways of using computer vision and robotic arms to identify and pick out the most optimal fruits and vegetables out of boxes to put into grocery orders.

Innovations like that from Amazon and others could see more pressure for innovation among robotics makers, although Piechnick notes that up to now we’ve seen very little in the way of movement, and there may never be (creating more opportunity for companies like his that build more usability).

“Attempts to build robotics operating systems have been tried over and over again, and each time it’s failed,” he said. “But robotics has completely different requirements, such as real time computing, safety issues and many other different factors. A robot in operation is much more complicated than a phone.” He also added that Wandelbots itself has a number of innovations of its own currently going through the patent process, which will widen its own functionality too in terms of what and how its software can train a robot to do. (This may see more than jackets enter the mix.)

As with companies in the area of robotic process automation — which uses AI to take over more mundane back-office features — Piechnick maintains that what he has built, and the rise of robotics overall, is not going to replace workers, but put them on to other roles, while allowing businesses to expand the scope of what they can do that a human might never have been able to execute.

“No company we work with has ever replaced a human worker with a robot,” he said, explaining that generally the upgrade is from machine to better machine. “It makes you more efficient and cost reductive, and it allows you to put your good people on more complicated tasks.”

Currently, Wandelbots is working with large-scale enterprises, although ultimately, it’s smaller businesses that are its target customer, he said.

“Previously the ROI on robots was too difficult for SMEs,” he said. “With our tech this changes.”

“Wandelbots will be one of the key companies enabling the mass-adoption of industrial robotics by revolutionizing how robots are trained and used,” said Georg Stockinger, Partner at Paua Ventures, in a statement. “Over the last few years, we’ve seen a steep decline in robotic hardware costs. Now, Wandelbots’ resolves the remaining hurdle to disruptive growth in industrial automation – the ease and speed of implementation and teaching. Both factors together will create a perfect storm, driving the next wave of industrial revolution.”

 

 

In Army of None, a field guide to the coming world of autonomous warfare

The Silicon Valley-military industrial complex is increasingly in the crosshairs of artificial intelligence engineers. A few weeks ago, Google was reported to be backing out of a Pentagon contract around Project Maven, which would use image recognition to automatically evaluate photos. Earlier this year, AI researchers around the world joined petitions calling for a boycott of any research that could be used in autonomous warfare.

For Paul Scharre, though, such petitions barely touch the deep complexity, nuance, and ambiguity that will make evaluating autonomous weapons a major concern for defense planners this century. In Army of None, Scharre argues that the challenges around just the definitions of these machines will take enormous effort to work out between nations, let alone handling their effects. It’s a sobering, thoughtful, if at times protracted look at this critical topic.

Scharre should know. A former Army Ranger, he joined the Pentagon working in the Office of Secretary of Defense, where he developed some of the Defense Department’s first policies around autonomy. Leaving in 2013, he joined the DC-based think tank Center for a New American Security, where he directs a center on technology and national security. In short, he has spent about a decade on this emerging tech, and his expertise clearly shows throughout the book.

The first challenge that belies these petitions on autonomous weapons is that these systems already exist, and are already deployed in the field. Technologies like the Aegis Combat System, High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM), and the Harpy already include sophisticated autonomous features. As Scharre writes, “The human launching the Harpy decides to destroy any enemy radars within a general area in space and time, but the Harpy itself chooses the specific radar it destroys.” The weapon can loiter for 2.5 hours while it determines a target with its sensors — is it autonomous?

Scharre repeatedly uses the military’s OODA loop (for observe, orient, decide, and act) as a framework to determine the level of autonomy for a given machine. Humans can be “in the loop,” where they determine the actions of the machine, “on the loop” where they have control but the machine is mostly working independently, and “out of the loop” when machines are entirely independent of human decision-making.

The framework helps clear some of the confusion between different systems, but it is not sufficient. When machines fight machines, for instance, the speed of the battle can become so great that humans may well do more harm then good intervening. Millions of cycles of the OODA loop could be processed by a drone before a human even registers what is happening on the battlefield. A human out of the loop, therefore, could well lead to safer outcomes. It’s exactly these kinds of paradoxes that make the subject so difficult to analyze.

In addition to paradoxes, constraints are a huge theme in the book as well. Speed is one — and the price of military equipment is another. Dumb missiles are cheap, and adding automation has consistently added to the price of hardware. As Scharre notes, “Modern missiles can cost upwards of a million dollars apiece. As a practical matter, militaries will want to know that there is, in fact, a valid enemy target in the area before using an expensive weapon.”

Another constraint is simply culture. The author writes, “There is intense cultural resistance within the U.S. military to handing over jobs to uninhabited systems.” Not unlike automation in the civilian workforce, people in power want to place flesh-and-blood humans in the most complex assignments. These constraints matter, because Scharre foresees a classic arms race around these weapons as dozens of countries pursue these machines.

Humans “in the loop” may be the default today, but for how long?

At a higher level, about a third of the book is devoted to the history of automation, (generalized) AI, and the potential for autonomy, topics which should be familiar to any regular reader of TechCrunch. Another third of the book or so is a meditation on the challenges of the technology from a dual use and strategic perspective, as well as the dubious path toward an international ban.

Yet, what I found most valuable in the book was the chapter on ethics, lodged fairly late in the book’s narrative. Scharre does a superb job covering the ground of the various schools of thought around the ethics of autonomous warfare, and how they intersect and compete. He extensively analyzes and quotes Ron Arkin, a roboticist who has spent significant time thinking about autonomy in warfare. Arkin tells Scharre that “We put way too much faith in human warfighters,” and argues that autonomous weapons could theoretically be programmed never to commit a war crime unlike humans. Other activists, like Jody Williams, believe that only a comprehensive ban can ensure that such weapons are never developed in the first place.

Scharre regrets that more of these conversations don’t take into account the strategic positions of the military. He notes that international discussions on bans are led by NGOs and not by nation states, whereas all examples of successful bans have been the other way around.

Another challenge is simply that antiwar activism and anti-autonomous weapons activism are increasingly being conflated. Scharre writes, “One of the challenges in weighing the ethics of autonomous weapons is untangling which criticisms are about autonomous weapons and which are really about war.” Citing Sherman, who marched through the U.S. South in the Civil War in an aggressive pillage, the author reminds the reader that “war is hell,” and that militaries don’t choose weapons in a vacuum, but relatively against other tools in their and their competitors’ arsenals.

The book is a compendium of the various issues around autonomous weapons, although it suffers a bit from the classic problem of being too lengthy on some subjects (drone swarms) while offering limited information on others (arms control negotiations). The book also is marred at times by errors, such as “news rules of engagement” that otherwise detract from a direct and active text. Tighter editing would have helped in both cases. Given the inchoate nature of the subject, the book works as an overview, although it fails to present an opinionated narrative on where autonomy and the military should go in the future, an unsatisfying gap given the author’s extensive and unique background on the subject.

All that said, Army of None is a one-stop guide book to the debates, the challenges, and yes, the opportunities that can come from autonomous warfare. Scharre ends on exactly the right note, reminding us that ultimately, all of these machines are owned by us, and what we choose to build is within our control. “The world we are creating is one that will have intelligent machines in it, but it is not for them. It is a world for us.” We should continue to engage, and petition, and debate, but always with a vision for the future we want to realize.

Monarch is a new platform from surgical robot pioneer Frederic Moll

Auris Health (née Auris Surgical Robots) has done a pretty good job flying under the radar, in spite of raising a massive amount of capital and listing one of the key people behind the da Vinci surgical robot among its founders. With FDA clearance finally out of the way, however, the Redwood City-based startup medical startup is ready to start talking.

This week, Auris revealed the Monarch Platform, which swaps the da Vinci’s surgical approach for something far less invasive. The system utilizes the common endoscopy procedure to a insert a flexible robot into hard to reach places inside the human body. A doctor trained on the system uses a video game-style controller to navigate inside, with help from 3D models.

Monarch’s first target is lung cancer, the which tops the list of deadliest cancers. More deaths could be stopped, if doctors were able to catch the disease in its early stages, but the lung’s complex structures, combined with current techniques, make the process difficult. According to the company,  “More than 90-percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer do not survive, in part because it is often found at an advanced stage.”

“A CT scan shows a mass or a lesion,” CEO Frederic Moll tells TechCrunch. “It doesn’t tell you what it is. Then you have to get a piece of lung, and if it’s a small lesion. It isn’t that easy — it can be quite a traumatic procedure. So you’d like to do it a very systematic and minimally invasive fashion. Currently it’s difficult with manual techniques and 40-percent of the time, there is no diagnosis. This is has been a problem for many years and [inhibits] the ability of a clinician to diagnose and treat early-stage cancer.

Auris was founded half a dozen years ago, in which time the company has managed to raise a jaw-dropping $500 million, courtesy of Mithril Capital Management, Lux Capital, Coatue Management and Highland Capital. The company says the large VC raise and long runway were necessary factors in building its robust platform.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have an investor base that is supportive of our vision and committed to us for the long-term,” CSO Josh DeFonzo tells TechCrunch. “The investments that have been made in Auris are to support both the development of a very robust product pipeline, as well as successful clinical adoption of our technology to improve patient outcomes.”

With that funding and FDA approval for Monarch out of the way, the company has an aggressive timeline. Moll says Auris is hoping to bring the system to hospitals and outpatient centers by the end of the year. And once it’s out in the wild, Monarch’s disease detecting capabilities will eventually extend beyond lung cancer.

“We have developed what we call a platform technology,” says Moll. “Bronchoscopy is the first application, but this platform will do other robotic endoscopies.”

Waymo orders thousands of Pacificas for 2018 self-driving fleet rollout

 Waymo has ordered thousands of new Chrysler Pacifica minivans from FCA to help populate its autonomous ride-hailing fleet, which it will open to the public in 2018, the company says. The public launch of its Pacifica-based self-driving ride hailing service is set to occur sometime later this year, after Waymo starts testing its minivans without anyone behind the wheel, achieving true Level… Read More

Lyft gets approval to test self-driving cars on public roads in California

 Lyft is the latest company to be added to the ever-growing list of those permitted to test their self-driving technology on California state public roads. The California Department of Motor Vehicles added Lyft to the list recently (via Axios), following Lyft’s foundation of a self-driving technology development center earlier this year, and its announcement that it would work on both its… Read More

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The AR-powered fighting MekaMon robot goes on sale at Apple Stores

 After selling out of its initial run of 500, U.K.-based Reach Robotics scored a $7.5 million funding round to help it produce a more consumer-ready version of its battling robotics platform. Turns out VCs weren’t the only ones paying close attention to the company’s product: Apple has also been watching the company’s growth with keen interest. Read More

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iRobot to acquire its biggest European distributor for $141M

 Consumer robot maker iRobot is to acquire its largest European distributor, Robopolis, in a cash deal worth $141 million. The company said it’s signed a definitive agreement to acquire the privately-held, French company, with the acquisition expected to close in October 2017. Read More

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MIT’s Daniela Rus is leading a robotics revolution

 Daniela Rus’s morning is packed. My arrival appears to come as a bit of a surprise. She considers the situation for a moment before inviting me in. Rus has allowed me to sit in for a packed morning of meetings. It’s a generous gesture, but more to the point, it’s the only way to manage some face time with the head of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence… Read More

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New toolkit makes it easy to drag and drop your own robot

 The old song tells us that leg bone is connected to the hip bone how are we to know if the articulated cam can connect to the brushless motor? There are, sadly, no songs designed to tell us how to build robots. Luckily CMU’s Ruta Desai has us covered. His project, “Computational Abstractions for Interactive Design of Robotic Devices,” is essentially a robotics toolkit. You see… Read More

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6 River Systems unveils warehouse robots that show workers the way

 When Amazon acquired Kiva Systems in 2012, other retailers and third-party fulfillment centers panicked. The e-commerce giants took Kiva’s robots off the market, leaving their competitors without an important productivity tool. Lots of newcomers have cropped up to help warehouses keep up with demand since then. But one of the most hotly anticipated robots in this space was under… Read More

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OceanGate plans an expedition to 3D scan the Titanic

 Seattle-based OceanGate Inc. this week announced plans for a manned expedition to study the R.M.S. Titanic, the world’s most famous shipwreck. Fewer than 200 people have ever visited the Titanic since it sank in April 1912 according to historians’ estimates. To put that in perspective, more people have scaled the summit of Mt. Everest, or flown in space. The new expedition,… Read More

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How baby dolls, mine sweepers and Mars rovers led iRobot to the Roomba

 The iRobot museum is located in the main building of its Bedford, Massachusetts headquarters. It’s more of a hallway, really, tucked behind a security door just off the building’s lobby, sporting the words “Cool Stuff.” It’s the first stop for tour groups and field trips, laying out the company’s 27-year history along conveniently stocked shelves. Read More

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Pebby makes long-distance pet relationships more fun

 I’m convinced that if humans could find fun in simple games as easily as pets, our world would be a healthier place. Watching footage of dogs playing with Hansen Goh’s Pebby pet toy, launched today, has only persuaded me of this further. The smartphone-controlled mechanized ball keeps pets active and in good spirits, letting owners remotely draw their companions from one room to… Read More

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BeeHex cooks up $1 million for 3D food printers that make pizzas

A heart-shaped pizza printed by BeeHex. The phrase “3-D printer” typically brings to mind devices that churn out plastic objects like jewelry, toys, hardware prototypes or even prosthetics. Now, a startup building a 3-D food printer, BeeHex, has raised $1 million in seed funding to launch its first product, a pizza printer called the Chef 3D. Initially, BeeHex wanted to develop a printer that would be able to make a… Read More

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I moved a robotic hand using (basically) my mind

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In the nether regions of the “NEXTech” area of Fira Gran Via, the enormous venue in Barcelona where Mobile World Congress is taking place, I’ve learned that graphene is important. 

Among the several startups and research projects that heavily rely on the use of graphene, a carbon allotrope that’s thin, durable and conducts electricity well, the most interesting was Italian Institute of Technology’s initiative Rehab Technologies, which showed me how graphene could be used to improve the life of people with disabilities. 

They showed me a robotic hand prototype which I controlled remotely by contracting and relaxing the muscles on my hand. All it took is two graphene-based electrodes strapped to my arm, which conduct the neurological signals sent from my brain to my muscles.  Read more…

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Superintelligent AI explains Softbank’s push to raise a $100BN Vision Fund

masayoshi son Anyone who’s seen Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son give a keynote speech will know he rarely sticks to the standard industry conference playbook. And his turn on the stage at Mobile World Congress this morning was no different, with Son making like Eldon Tyrell and telling delegates about his personal belief in a looming computing Singularity… Read More

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Confirmed: Magic Leap acquires 3D division of Dacuda in Zurich

magicleap-shutterstock_344631905 Magic Leap, the augmented reality startup that has raised $1.4 billion in funding but has yet to release a product, has made an acquisition to expand its work in computer vision and deep learning, and to build out its operations into Europe.
The company has acquired the 3D division of Dacuda, a computer vision startup based out of Zurich. One of Dacuda’s focuses had been… Read More

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Ornithologists are using drones to eavesdrop on songbirds

listening When conservationists put drones to work in field research, they typically function as flying eyes that gather imagery of the habitat and wildlife below. Now, ornithologists from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania are using drones as flying ears to monitor songbirds in the Appalachian Mountains. Results of their drone study were published in the peer-reviewed journal The Auk:… Read More

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NASA’s concept Europa lander belongs on the cover of a sci-fi pulp

pia21048_figb Long before any mission to another planet is undertaken, NASA and other space agencies commission reports on why and how we might want to go about it. The latest such report was issued this week regarding Jupiter’s moon Europa, one of the most interesting and mysterious bodies in the solar system — and among the most likely to show traces of life. Read More

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Watch Cruise’s self-driving Bolt EV navigate smoothly to SF’s Dolores Park

self-dirving-cruise GM-owned Cruise Automation wants you to be able to see the progress it’s making with its self-driving car tests, in a way that’s more tangible than looking at boring lists of disengagement reports. That’s why it’s been publishing videos of its Cruise test cars navigating real city streets, and a new episode of that video series is available now, showing a Bolt EV… Read More

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This robot may have just ruined your sick day

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Although robots may soon go to space, it’s still difficult to build one that people genuinely want around the home and office.

Marita Cheng thinks she’s succeeded. Based in Melbourne, her company Aubot has built a telepresence robot that can be controlled by the brain. Although it’s particularly useful for people with disabilities who have limited mobility, Cheng thinks it could also be helpful for a range of users. 

Basically, she’s cancelled your sick day: “Rather than missing out on work when they’re sick, they can send the robot to work,” she told Mashable. “They can still go to meetings at work by putting on this headset and participating via our telepresence robot.” Read more…

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MIT built a gel-based claw robot that can catch and release live fish

unspecified MIT’s latest robot looks a bit like one of those claw machines you find at the front of an arcade, only instead of metal, the claws are made of a clear, membranous substance. And instead of stuffed Minion dolls, they pick up live fish. But other than that, the principles are pretty similar.
The robot’s limbs are made from hydrogel, an extremely pliable material that’s… Read More

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Bots_alive kit imbues toy robots with charming, lifelike AI

bots_alive There will be no shortage at Toy Fair next month of robots and gadgets promising artificial intelligence — and generally falling short. But a more modest approach from an actual AI researcher has produced a clever and accessible way to create lifelike behavior through a simple and elegant modification of a popular existing robot. Read More

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Daimler leads $17.2M round in rolling delivery drone startup Starship Technologies

lieferroboter-6 Daimler has led a new $17.2 million funding round in Starship Technologies, a startup created by Skype founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, the WSJ reports. The round will help UK-based Starship expand its efforts to bring rolling drone deliveries to city sidewalks around the world. Starship’s six-wheeled autonomous delivery bought are essential coolers on wheels, keeping contents hot… Read More

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Segway’s first robot launches to developer partners

4928 Segway’s doing moving along with its plan to develop its robotics capability, with the launch of its developer edition Loomo robot, the first robot it created and demoed last year at CES. The robot combines a domestic bot with a Segway personal transport, tackling last-mile transportation as well as addressing a host of other in- and around-home uses. Loomo has autonomous capabilities… Read More

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