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Robotics

Hermes the robot punches walls, pours coffee, all in the name of science

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MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering is currently working on a bipedal robot capable of many tasks that you and me might take for granted. Not unlike some humans I know, Hermes the robot apparently likes punching walls and performing a number of other seemingly destructive actions. Everything if of course done in the name of science, however, as the MIT egineers are trying to create a robot similar in dexterity to a human being that can also keep its balance while performing certain tasks, a problem that’s harder to resolve than one may think. Hermes the robot is already pretty good at fulfilling its purpose, but (luckily) it still needs the help of a human in order to punch through a wall or wield a sledgehammer.

Hermes is able to do his job thanks to a system that connects it to an engineer wearing a special exoskeleton suit. The human is actually the one giving all the commands, but what make Hermes the robot special is that it can execute them pretty much instantly and with a high degree of accuracy. The exoskeleton-wearing human only needs to mimic a motion or action and the robot automatically tries to perform it as best as it can. In addition, Hermes the robot can also maintain its balance after throwing a punch, thus preventing itself from falling over when carrying out momentum-driven tasks.

But punching is only the beginning as Hermes is also good with more delicate tasks. A new Youtube video released by MIT shows the robot pouring coffee into a cup and looking very relaxed while doing it. Until recently, most robots have been notorious for their clumsiness, so this is definitely an improvement. The ultimate goal here is to combine a human’s natural reflexes with the strength and durability of a robot and make good use of that combination in disaster situations.

“We’d eventually have someone wearing a full-body suit and goggles, so he can feel and see everything the robot does, and vice versa,” says PhD student Joao Ramos. “We plan to have the robot walk as a quadruped, then stand up on two feet to do difficult manipulation tasks such as open a door or clear an obstacle.”

Something rather similar to Hermes the robot was developed by South Korean tech giant SK Telecom and showcased earlier this year at MWC 2015. That particular robot is not as strong or dexterous as Hermes, however, its advantage is that it can make good use of the new 5G wireless technology making it more efficient when controlled from afar. Let’s just hope that Hermes will eventually be equipped with 5G as well because at the moment it only seems to work in close proximity to its user.

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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Engineering

Ukrainian officials view ground robots as a significant development in warfare

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Milan — The Ukrainian government is currently witnessing a rise in the number of applications submitted by robotics manufacturers seeking to assess the effectiveness of their combat systems. This trend indicates the growing significance of unmanned ground capabilities, particularly in light of the current deadlock on the front lines with Russia.

Brave1, a government defense-technology hub responsible for the development of field-ready capabilities, has recently announced the submission of over 50 ground robotic systems and more than 140 unmanned ground vehicles for evaluation.

In order to improve the Ukrainian army’s capabilities on the battlefield, Brave1 announced on March 12 that it would acquire a sizable number of unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) through United24. These UGVs are expected to have a transformative impact on the ongoing conflict, similar to the existing role of drones. The Ukrainian government runs a website called United24 that seeks to raise money for the country’s ongoing internal conflicts.

Over the past year, there has been a notable rise in the proliferation of such platforms in military operations, with their utilization and evaluation expanding to encompass a broader range of objectives. Ukrainian social media platforms have lately disseminated video content purportedly showcasing an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) with the capacity to deploy six anti-tank mines simultaneously.

The online images shared by Brave1 depict a diverse array of compact tracked and wheeled ground robots in motion, armed with firearms, engaged in the evacuation of injured dummies, and seemingly outfitted with technology designed for mine detection.

A prevailing pattern observed in Ukrainian unmanned robots is their tendency to be somewhat light and less weighty compared to their numerous counterparts available on the global market.

According to Nataliia Kushnerska, the project lead at Brave1, Ukraine gains a strategic advantage on the battlefield by employing advanced technological solutions that outperform their adversaries in terms of efficiency, innovation, and cost. These hardware and software products serve as asymmetric responses, capable of altering the configuration during confrontations against the formidable resources of the enemy. This information was conveyed in an email statement to Defense News.

“Ukraine has emerged as a prominent international center for defense technology, and the expansion of this industry will have a crucial impact on Ukrainian defense strategy for many years to come,” she stated.

A considerable quantity of weapons and explosives employed by Russian and Ukrainian military forces persist without detonation, presenting a potential hazard to both military personnel and non-combatants. As of April 2023, it is anticipated that almost 174,000 square kilometers of Ukraine were polluted with landmines.

The impetus to expedite the advancement of Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) stems from the want to deploy robots for the perilous task of extracting live munitions that remain on the battlefield.

 

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