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Robotics

This exoskeleton suit is being developed by Cyberdyne

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This exoskeleton suit is being developed by a Japanese company named Cyberdyne in collaboration with Tsukuba University and its main purpose is to help the people with movement disabilities, but applications for this exoskeleton can be found in a lot of fields like cleaning toxic wastes and moving military equipment.

The company has come up with a few versions of the suit, the latest being HAL-5(Hybrid Assistive Limb), a full exoskeleton body suit. Testing has begun in some of Japan’s hospitals and in August 2013 clinical testing has started in Europe. The first results were pretty impressive as the suit helped disabled people walk with speeds of up to 2.5 miles/hour and stand on their feet.

The exoskeleton is able to read bio-electric signals sent from the brain to the muscles and interprets them, recognizing what type of movement the user wants, in order to perform a specific action. This mechanism does not only read the signals from the brain but also feeds back the motion of walking to the brain allowing for the user to gradually learn to emit the signals required to perform a wide range of actions.

The suit is 5 feet tall,weighs 50 pounds, and is powered by a 100 volt AC battery which provides a 3 hour run time on a single charge. HAL has become the first powered exoskeleton to receive global safety certification. The suit can help the wearer to lift and carry around 5 times the weight he could carry or lift unaided before.

The design of the autonomous control system allows the suit to make the movements as natural as possible. In the next years we hope to see how this device will impact our everyday life. For the moment the HAL exoskeleton can be found in over 130 hospitals in Japan and is available to public at a price starting 20.000$.

Who doesn’t enjoy listening to a good story. Personally I love reading about the people who inspire me and what it took for them to achieve their success. As I am a bit of a self confessed tech geek I think there is no better way to discover these stories than by reading every day some articles or the newspaper . My bookcases are filled with good tech biographies, they remind me that anyone can be a success. So even if you come from an underprivileged part of society or you aren’t the smartest person in the room we all have a chance to reach the top. The same message shines in my beliefs. All it takes to succeed is a good idea, a little risk and a lot of hard work and any geek can become a success. VENI VIDI VICI .

Artificial Intelligence

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas humanoid robot has transitioned to electric power

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Atlas is immobile, lying face down on a stack of connected gym mats. The only audio accompaniment is the humming of an electric motor. While it may not be completely silent, the noise level is significantly lower compared to the abrupt movements of its predecessors.

While the camera rotates, the robot’s legs flex at the knees. Initially, it is a spontaneous motion that gradually transitions into an eerie domain, reminiscent of scenes from a Sam Raimi film. The robot has successfully changed its position by cleverly rotating its legs, appearing as if it is lying on its back.

Atlas is positioned with its back facing the camera. Currently, the head rotates in a complete 180-degree motion, and subsequently, the torso mimics this movement. The object pauses briefly, allowing the camera to get a clear picture of its head—a circular screen with a ring-shaped light surrounding it. Once again, the torso rotates in alignment with the head’s 180-degree turn as Atlas moves away from the camera and exits the frame.

Boston Dynamics has recently announced that their humanoid robot, Atlas, has transitioned from a hydraulic system to an electric one, following in the footsteps of Bob Dylan.

The pace is rapid, with the steps still somewhat abrupt, although noticeably smoother than many of the recent commercial humanoids that have been introduced in the past few years. If anything, the gait evokes the bold self-assurance of Spot, a relative of Atlas who diverged from the humanoid lineage a few generations ago.

Brand new Atlas

The latest iteration of the robot is nearly indistinguishable. The top-heavy torso, bowed legs, and plated armor have been eliminated. There are no visible cables present on the sleek and slender new mechanical framework. The company, which has successfully defended against reactionary concerns about robopocalypse for many years, has chosen a more compassionate and considerate design compared to both the original Atlas and more modern robots such as the Figure 01 and Tesla Optimus.

The new robot’s appearance is more similar to that of Agility’s Digit and Apptronik’s Phoenix. The traffic-light-headed robot features a gentler and more whimsical design. According to the video, it is referred to as the “All New Atlas.” Boston Dynamics has deviated from its usual practice by retaining the research name for a product that it intends to market commercially. SpotMini was renamed Spot. The handle was transformed into a stretch. Currently, Atlas remains unchanged and is still referred to as Atlas.

“We may reconsider this when we are fully prepared to construct and distribute on a large scale,” states Boston Dynamics CEO Robert Playter in an interview with. “However, I believe that at present, it is beneficial to preserve the branding.”

The executive’s statement reveals the project is still in its initial phases. Boston Dynamics intends to start pilot testing of the electric Atlas at Hyundai facilities soon, with full-scale production following in a few years.

“Starting next year, we will be conducting on-site experiments with Hyundai,” states Playter. “We currently possess Hyundai equipment at our location.” We have been engaged in this task for a considerable period of time. In order to achieve success, it is imperative to possess a plethora of attributes beyond merely possessing innovative technology. In order to justify the investment in a robot, it is crucial to fully comprehend the use case and ensure that there is enough productivity to make it worthwhile.

Performing a complete reversal

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The most remarkable aspect of the 40-second “All New Atlas” teaser is the robot’s motions. They serve as a reminder that constructing a humanoid robot does not necessitate maximizing its human-like qualities. Despite billions of years of evolution, as one investor pointed out in the past, humans have not yet perfected themselves as machines. If we are going to design machines that resemble us, why not construct ones that possess capabilities beyond our own?

“We have constructed a collection of bespoke actuators that are powerful and adaptable, installed at the majority of joints,” states Playter. “The range of motion is extensive.” The compact design of this robot effectively harnesses the strength and agility of an exceptional athlete, allowing us to utilize its capabilities in various applications.

It is important to remember that Boston Dynamics has built its reputation through a series of popular videos over the course of many years. New additions to the canon are equally likely to feature a robot’s dance moves as they are to offer anything truly practical in an industrial environment. Therefore, it is challenging to separate the features that the company considers genuinely functional from those that are merely intended to impress.

Commencing in the prone position, for example, provides an opportunity to demonstrate the impressive reverse crab leg maneuver while also serving a practical purpose. Boston Dynamics proudly demonstrated in the farewell video of the hydraulic Atlas that falling down is an inherent aspect of its function, as is the ability to recover and stand up again. In reality, the majority of the current generation of industrial robots necessitates human intervention in the event of a failure. Conversely, a robot that can autonomously remove dust from its surface and resume its tasks is highly advantageous for enhancing productivity.

The system’s agility significantly enhances its potential for productivity. It reminds me of Agility’s Digit demonstrations (the company is notably the only one of its kind demonstrating systems at this magnitude), in which a robot walks to a shelf, rotates, walks to the conveyor belt, rotates again, and walks back. When you multiply that task by hundreds, or even thousands, per day, you start to realize the importance of saving valuable seconds.

“It will possess a range of movements that surpass human capabilities,” Playter explains. “There will be highly utilitarian applications for that.”

Minimizing the robot’s turning radius is crucial in confined areas. These machines are intended to be brownfield solutions, meaning they are specifically designed to be seamlessly integrated into pre-existing workflows within existing spaces. Enhanced maneuverability could ultimately determine whether one can effectively operate in a particular environment or if the layout needs to be redone.

Cranium and upper extremities

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The hands featured in the video are not newly created, as they have previously been used on the hydraulic model. However, they also signify the company’s choice to not strictly adhere to human design as a guiding principle. The distinction lies in the choice of using three fingers instead of four on the end effectors.

“A hand contains a great deal of intricacy,” states Playter. When using actuators to interact with the world, it is essential to anticipate and ensure both reliability and robustness. Therefore, we intentionally designed these objects with less than five fingers in order to manage and reduce their level of complexity. We are currently investigating various generations of individuals. We desire a grasping mechanism that adheres to regulations and is capable of adjusting to various shapes while possessing advanced sensing capabilities to accurately detect contact.

Internally, the head is likely the most controversial element of the design. The large, circular screen bears resemblance to a vanity mirror.

“It was a design element that we were greatly concerned about,” says Playter. “All the other individuals possessed a humanoid form.” I desired it to be distinct. We desire a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. It offers a range of colors for a visual presentation. Undoubtedly, the object contains concealed sensors, but its design primarily aims to convey a sense of amicability. That knowledge will be crucial for effectively engaging with these entities in the future.

A Christmas Atlas

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The landscape has undergone significant changes in the past decade since the hydraulic Atlas was first introduced. There are several other companies, such as Figure, Apptronik, Tesla, and 1X, that also have humanoid robots like Electric Atlas.

There has been a significant increase in interest from our end. Three significant events, in my opinion, are what have caused the increase. Hyundai paid almost one billion dollars to acquire Boston Dynamics. That really caught everyone’s attention, making them realize there was a way out. Tesla’s expression of interest in manufacturing has confirmed the validity of our long-standing efforts. Furthermore, the rise of AI as a valuable tool in addressing general challenges is making all of this possible. We have taken our time to make this announcement, as we wanted to conduct thorough research to ensure that we can effectively address manipulation issues and have full confidence in our new generation of machines.

Despite Boston Dynamics’ significant advantage in the field of humanoids, Playter mentions that the company managed to assemble the initial version of the new robot around Christmas 2023. Prior to that, it was addressing numerous intricate issues in simulation.

This week, it appears that the company is prepared to showcase the capabilities of the robot, or at least provide a glimpse into its initial plans for the system.

Intelligence in a broad sense
One thing that can be said about Elon Musk is that he consistently makes ambitious commitments. During the initial stages of Optimus’ public debut, when the Tesla ‘bot seemed to resemble a human in spandex, the executive discussed a comprehensive system capable of performing various tasks. Imagine having an Optimus that can handle your factory work, run errands, and even prepare a delicious dinner for you. That’s the aspiration, isn’t it?

The reality is, of course, one that is built upon taking small steps forward. Robotics companies are currently engaged in discussions about “general-purpose humanoids,” but their systems are currently focused on scaling one task at a time. For many individuals, the primary objective is to transport payloads from one location to another. To fully leverage the form factor, a broader level of intelligence will be necessary.

The app store model seems to offer the most straightforward solution. Developer access has indeed played a significant role in expanding Spot’s range of features. According to Playter, Boston Dynamics has a different approach in mind for Atlas.

“We will focus on developing an application rather than creating a platform,” he states. In our experience, the key to making progress quickly is to prioritize a specific application and actively work towards solving any challenges that arise. We cannot rely on others to solve these problems for us. I believe that AI is a crucial component in this context. To ensure the efficiency of tasks, they will be enhanced with AI techniques.

Developers now have access to Spot’s reinforcement learning algorithm, thanks to the company’s recent decision. This work will be crucial for Atlas’ expanding skillset.

Thinking creatively

In order to achieve success, Playter emphasizes the importance of thinking outside the box.

“I believe there are numerous other robots capable of accomplishing that,” he remarks. Humanoids should be capable of handling a wide range of tasks. You have two hands. As a business owner, you need to be able to handle intricate and heavy geometric shapes that a basic box picker wouldn’t be able to manage. And you have to handle a massive volume of these shapes, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. I believe the era of the single-task robot is long gone. Stretch is a unique application where a robot can efficiently navigate and handle boxes.

What other responsibilities will the new Atlas have on the Hyundai show floor, similar to those of a business owner? The company shared a video in February that contains the solution. The video shows the hydraulic version of the robot interacting with the Hyundai parts that Playter previously mentioned.

“With our extensive experience in the field of dynamic mobility, we possess the strength and expertise to handle substantial payloads while ensuring exceptional mobility,” he explains. Being able to handle heavy, complex, and massive objects will set us apart from the competition. The strut in the video likely weighs around 25 pounds. Acquiring wheels: we will be releasing a video later on as part of our comprehensive initiative, showcasing the various manipulation tasks we have been conducting with Atlas using real-world objects. I’m quite certain we have a good grasp on how to handle that aspect, and I haven’t observed anyone else attempting it thus far.

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Engineering

With the orchard vision system, farm tools can be turned into AI-powered data recorders

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Robots used in farming are not a new idea. We’ve seen machines that pick berries and apples, get rid of weeds, plant trees, move food, and more. Even though these tasks are thought to be the most important parts of automated systems, it’s always been that way in technology: it’s all about the data. One big thing that makes these goods valuable is the amount of useful data that their sensors gather.

Orchard Robotics’ system gets rid of the middle guy in a way. Even so, there is still a lot of value in automating these jobs when there aren’t enough workers. The young company’s system makes it easier to get started by adding a sensing module that can be attached to tractors and other farm vehicles.

There are many farmers who are willing to try new technologies that might help them get more crops or fill jobs that have been hard to staff. However, fully automatic robotic systems can be too expensive for many farmers to even consider.

As the name suggests, Orchard will start out by focusing on apple trees. The system’s cameras can capture up to 100 images per second, each of which records information about a different tree. After that, the Orchard OS software uses AI to turn the data into maps. That includes every bud or fruit that can be seen on every tree, where they are located, and even what color the apple is.

Charlie Wu, founder and CEO, says, “Our cameras take pictures of trees from bud to bloom to harvest. They use advanced computer vision and machine learning models we’ve built to get accurate information about hundreds of millions of fruits.” “This is a huge improvement over the old ways, which involved picking samples of maybe 100 fruits by hand.”

Thanks to the GPS on board, farmers can get a more accurate picture of how well their crops are doing, right down to the location and size of each tree. The company began at Cornell University in 2022. Even though it’s still pretty new, farmers have already started trying the tool. It looks like the field tests from last season were good enough to get real investors interested.

The Seattle-based company will announce a seed round of $3.2 million this week. The general catalyst will lead the round. Humba Ventures, Soma Capital, Correlation Ventures, VU Venture Partners, and Genius Ventures joined the raise. It comes after a pre-seed round of $600,000 that wasn’t made public.

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Artificial Intelligence

Agility Robotics cuts workforce to focus on commercialization

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Agility Robotics stated on Thursday that it had fired a “small number” of workers. The Oregon-based company with lots of money says the job cuts are part of a company-wide push to make more products.

“As part of Agility’s ongoing efforts to structure the company for success, we have parted ways with a small number of employees that were not central to core product development and commercialization,” the company told TechCrunch in a statement. At the same time, we are focused on meeting the huge demand for robots that can walk on two legs in a wide range of commercial settings. To do that, Digit production needs to be sped up, and the company needs to keep winning big customers around the world and create new jobs that help them reach their goals. We think that what we did today will allow us to focus on the things that will help us make Digit a product, sell it, and make more of them.

The two-legged robot Digit, made by Agility, was ahead of its time in the industrial humanoid field. The company grew out of studies done at Oregon State University. Over the years, people have been very interested in its amazing robots with legs. Ford was an early supporter as Agility looked into Digit’s promise for last-mile delivery. In the end, though, those efforts were put on hold while the company focused on stores that were short-staffed.

Agility’s work has had plenty of funding, even though investments and use of robotic systems have slowed down overall. This can be seen as a necessary fix after a huge boom caused by the pandemic.

This month, two years ago, the company announced a $150 million Series B round. Amazon played a big role in the round through its Industrial Innovation Fund. After that, the big store chain said it would test Digits as part of its fulfillment center process. The pilots are over now, but neither company has said what they will do next.

Other companies that make humanoid robots have also announced their own tests in the past few months. Figure with BMW and Apptronik with Mercedes are two examples. At Modex last month, Agility showed off updates to Digit’s end effectors that were made to work better with workflows in the car manufacturing industry.

In the past year, Agility has also hired a number of well-known people, such as Peggy Johnson, CEO of Magic Leap, as CEO, Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch, as CTO, and Aindrea Campbell, COO, who used to work for Apple and Ford.

 

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