A new European project promotes the development of service robots

imagesThe EU has financed $ 2.16 million project called Phriends ( “Physical Human-Robot Interaction: Dependability and Safety”). The technology developed in this project will use both the development of industrial robots to help people (physical rehabilitation, sports, health …). The aim of Phriends is to create a new generation of robots that are safe and versatile for interacting with humans.

The project coordinator Antonio Bicchi said “we are still far from what we see in science fiction films, most current robots can only operate safely in different environments than humans. […] The classical approach robotics is to design and build robots with a specific task in mind. Phriends robots will be developed by insurance, since security is guaranteed by its own physical structure and not by external sensors or algorithms that can fail. “

Robot evaluates tissue layers with nanometer precision

imagesThe robot is capable of displaying NanoZoomer with an extremely high resolution tissue samples at various levels in order to help the understanding of cancer. This allows detailed assessment of the effect produced by cancer treatments on cells and tissues. This development is the result of cooperation of the institute of pathology and medical and biometric information from the University of Heidelberg and the Japanese company Hamamatsu Photonics.

Dr. Niels Grabe of the Institute of Biometry and Medical Informatics and research director of TIGA notes that in the future robots will be able to determine in a fully automatic changes in cells and tissues.

NASA space shuttle launch today Endeavor to send “robot alien” space

F200803111332262283476724The space shuttle Endeavor in the U.S. NASA will be released on 11 Eastern time U.S., as scheduled. 7 astronauts and concentrated on October 9th at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This space trip Endeavor send the “robot alien” developed by Canada and the experimental module “La Esperanza” developed by Japan to the International Space Station.

It is an arduous task that flight of Endeavor, which set a new record in the duration and the number of spacewalks by astronauts on flight tasks NASA to establish the International Space Station. This space trip will last 16 days as scheduled. Its main task is sent to the International Space Station two-armed robot named Dextre and the experimental module “La Esperanza”, developed by Canada and Japan, respectively.

To install the robot and the experimental module on the International Space Station, astronauts intend to make 5 spacewalks. The total operation time will be approximately 30 hours. The astronauts jokingly call the Dextre two-armed robot developed by Canada Frankenstein, “Strange Science” described by the English writer Mary Shelley. Dextre, with arms of approximately 3.4 meters long each and about shoulder width 2.4 meters, is about 3.7 meters high, weighing 1550 kilos and has no legs or face.

Dextre, the robot’s name comes from the English word “Dexterous. Like its name, the robot can rotate freely on their waist and each of its two arms has 7 joints. In his hands, rather tongs, handles are installed, cameras and lights. However, Dextre can work with only one arm each time to avoid imbalance or shock in his hands. The initial purpose of developing Dextre is to help astronauts maintain the space telescope “Hubble” and the astronauts of the ISS to accomplish tasks and meet certain hazardous tasks outside the module in place of astronauts.

Robot Doctor” Revolutionizing Medicine

786-EL_11bed.embedded.prod_affiliate.84A new doctor at the hospital. Well, more or less.
The male doctor is a robot that works with a joystick, has three wheels, a stethoscope and may be the solution to the shortage of doctors and nurses that affects hospitals in the nation. Chico (English acronym of Computer Intensive Care Attendant) allows physicians and nurses to virtually examine patients, they speak, have access to digitized medical records and, ideally, diagnose diseases but is far from the patient.

The robot’s face is a flat screen.
Not that Chico does the work of doctors, but facilitates their work supervising the patient. And when the doctor is next to the patient, can get a second opinion from a distance. Or if the doctor and patient speak different languages, Chico coordinated interpretation. “With the acute shortage of specialists in trauma and critical care, telemedicine is going to move,”said Dr. Jeffrey Augenstein, a professor of surgery and director of Ryder Trauma Center.” The advantage of such a thing is worth millions.”

The robot does not cost a penny to Jackson Memorial Hospital. The Army and the Jackson lease it reaps the benefits because the Army medical personnel are trained in this hospital before being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Doctors at Jackson and Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami began using a male since last month on an experimental basis, although not yet fully operational. As the population ages and the shortage of specialized physicians is acute, medical videoconferencing robot could be the future.

“In the history of modern medicine to the patients we assessed seeing and talking to them. This would be a way to change that system,”said Augenstein.” We sat in this room [the robot] and have access to all information of no matter who is patient with us or across the world.” The robot of Jackson is one of a kind used in the trauma center, according to the creator of the device, In Touch Technologies, based in California. Four other Army hospitals – one in Seattle, two in Texas and one in Germany – but those hospitals are trauma centers.

Dozens of similar units, called RP-7 Remote Presence Robots are used in hospitals around the country to assess embolisms, heart attacks and critical care. Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson handles 4,000 cases a year.
The Army expects that robots allow access to specialists at the forefront of battle.”The Army has a shortage of surgeons … with a growing need in the battlefield … this can help,”said Dr. Donald Robinson, lieutenant colonel and chief of Army Training Center at Jackson.

Hospital officials say the robot is a great benefit to the population.
“What if someone is injured in Key West or in a rural county,” asks Augenstein. Answer: If the hospital has a broadband connection the robot can help doctors diagnose from Jackson if the patient should be transported to the trauma center. The robot was created by Dr. Yulun Wang, In Touch Technologies. This latest version of the preceding six.

Robots do not require regular maintenance but are permanently monitored every two minutes, technical service teams. “The robot informs its corresponding computer server when operating properly,”Wang
Some 25 doctors, surgeons and trauma center technicians have learned to use the robot.  Dr. Antonio Martta Jr., Associate Professor of Surgery, is known as the most skilled operator of the robot, which sensors avoid colliding with people or objects. “For me it’s easy,”said Martta laughing.” Before I spent much time playing video games.”

The robot is new, but doctors say that the origin of its operation is not.
“All of us have practiced telemedicine, just not as advanced,”said Augenstein.”You get a call from another doctor, send a picture … we do this daily. We practice distance mentoring.” Doctors do not believe that robots replace them completely. “In the practice of medicine the doctor’s presence is necessary for human contact.”

NASA plans to put spiders in space robot

vista-espacioA mission to determine if robots, like spiders, they can build complex structures in space, will be launched in January 2006 according to ew Scientist magazine. The spider bots could build large structures from a “web” released from a larger spacecraft. The engineers behind the project plan to eventually construct colossal solar panels for satellites that will transmit solar energy back to Earth. The satellites could reflect and concentrate the sun’s rays on a power receiving station on Earth or perhaps in the form of microwaves.

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency launched a satellite called Furoshiki on 18 January 2006, which will conduct three experiments to test this idea. The satellite will be deployed from a rocket into a suborbital trajectory. This means that scientists will have only 10 minutes of microgravity in which to perform their tests before the craft starts its descent back to Earth and eventually burns up in the atmosphere. The first experiment will see three small satellites separated from the mother ship and stretch out to form two corners of a triangular net with it.
Onboard cameras will be used to constantly check the network as possible, which measures 40 meters on each side, and that the satellites do not become entangled in the web.

Orbital web
Later, two smaller robots, called RobySpace Junior 1 and 2 will be sent from the mothership and maneuver along the filaments of the fabric.
These spider robots could one day be used to construct large pieces of sets of solar reflectors. The prototype robots, built by engineers at the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Vienna University of Technology, will test how to maneuver throughout the network in the absence of gravity.
Each robot has a set of wheels that can grip both sides of a network line to avoid floating off into space. “Hopefully we can prove first that it is possible to move along a very thin, free-floating in a controlled manner,” says Leopold Summerer Advanced Concepts Team of ESA. While robots are being deployed, a ground station will instruct the mother satellite and satellites to synchronize their children microwave antennas and beam a signal back to a receiving station on Earth.
One small step :The mission will last only a short time but will cost much less than an experiment in orbit. “We wanted to try an experiment of longer duration in satellites,” says Nobuyuki Kaya, an engineer from the University of Kobe, Japan, who is working on the satellite’s microwave experiment.
“But we have no budget. We think this is only a first step.”
A satellite capable of beaming one billion watts of electricity generated by the sun and sent back to Earth would probably need a solar panel with an area of one square kilometer. The spider robots could also be used to build massive communication antennas or a shield to protect satellites from orbiting space junk.

A robot in the hospital

1094463055_0Rudy is the new employee Davis Medical Center, University of California. It measures 1.68 meters, weighs 90 kilos and is a robot. Its main function is to allow doctors to interact with post-operative patients without being present. The body of this ‘Robodoc’ consists of a camera, a television screen and microphone. Thanks to its structure, the physicians, patients and family members can see and hold a conversation.

Besides, Rudy is able to zoom in to the camera lens “to provide an overview of vital signs and quirugica incision,” says an article in ‘The British Medical Journal. The machine runs through the hospital’s wireless network for management and the doctor needs a computer, a camcorder can record sound and a joystick. With these elements and the Rudy’s own, the robot can be operated even from outside the hospital.

Currently, the model is being tested by various hospitals in the U.S. and one of the issues that will need to clarify, within this period, is whether patients prefer seeing their own doctor, even through the robot, rather than seeing a specialist who does not know. The main objective of these tests, according to British publication collects, passes measure symptoms of post-operative patients when they are controlled vary from traditional visits or when they receive ‘televisiting’.

Robots, our assistants in space

aramies_bodylegsThe big advantage of space robots is that they need neither food nor drink and can work in inhospitable conditions. More importantly, although expensive to design and produce, their loss is always preferable to an astronaut. In the edition of November 2004 ASTRA robots designed in the Space Research Laboratory of the Technical Center of ESA in the Netherlands attracted much attention.On Earth, robots often take repetitive tasks or when human health is jeopardized. They are used to assemble cars, deactivate bombs, weld pipes at the bottom of the sea and work in nuclear power plants, “says Gianfranco Visentin, Head of Automation Robotics Section at ESA ESTEC in the Netherlands.

“In the space even more attractive to use robots,” he emphasizes. “They can support or replace people to perform tasks that are too dangerous, difficult, repetitive, time-consuming or even impossible for astronauts. They can be quicker and more accurate people” jokingly adding, “They can work 24 hours a day and do not stop for lunch or sleep “.
What is a space robot?
In the space community can call any unmanned spacecraft, a robotic spacecraft, but Visentin prefers a more specific description: “A system having mobility and the ability to manipulate objects plus the flexibility to perform any combination of these tasks autonomously or by remote control.
“The objective of space robots is basically to perform an action in space such as position an instrument to take a measurement, collect a sample for examination, assemble a structure or even move around an astronaut.”
In no ways space robots are different from their brothers on Earth, they basically replace a human performing an action.
But those who are destined to space must meet some specific requirements:
– Resist a pitch. – Operate in difficult environmental conditions and often in very remote locations.
– Weighing as little as possible, as any burden, its release is very expensive.
– Consume less energy and have a long functional life.
– Operating independently.
– Be extremely reliable.
“To respond to these advanced technological challenges are very complex systems required,” says Visentin, “sounds like a big problem, but space gives us great opportunities to create robots that could not otherwise be made for use on Earth . “The biggest advantage is the almost zero gravity in outer space. This means that everything weighs much less than on Earth and even the heaviest object can be moved and raised with little effort, so a small robot can move objects enormous. ”
Types of robots :
The robot most commonly used in space missions is the rover (wanderers). This vehicle can move around the surface of another planet transporting scientific instruments. Usually both the vehicle and the instruments are operated autonomously. ESA, in collaboration with European industry, has developed the incredibly small micro-rover Nanokhod. Although only the size of a large book and weighing just 2 kg it can transport and position 1 kg. of instruments within a small radius around the “lander” (landing ship).

A larger robot has been developed to collect soil samples from other planets. The mini-rover MIRO-2 from 12 kg a robotic drill that can collect up to 10 samples from a depth of 2 m. It then returns to the lander where the samples can be analyzed by the scientific instruments on board.
A third mini-rover of 15 kg has been developed by ESA is powered entirely by solar energy. Solero mini-rover that uses miniature batteries to store electricity on board. It also has an innovative chassis. Its six wheels arranged on the vertices of a hexagon enable it to operate in very irregular terrain.

Studying Nature
Robot designers often inspired by nature. A good example is the impressive Aramie / Scorpion developed by ESA. With his legs and the movement inspired by the animal is capable of operating in rugged terrain and dunes.
Another example is EUROBOT as big as a human being is designed to perform the tasks of an astronaut on the International Space Station. EUROBOT be able to climb the outside of the space station, attach itself to the rails like an astronaut and be tele-operated by the crew inside.

Nature also inspired the hopping robot. With just under 40 cm. high it can leap over obstacles up to six feet high, a feat impossible on Earth due to gravity but fairly easy to accomplish on the Moon or Mars.
Visentin emphasizes that research in the ESA is aimed specifically at space issues and are not interesting or profitable for terrestrial use and does not duplicate what is already available. “Whenever possible we re-use robotics technology used for applications on Earth, but some operations required for space exploration are of no use on Earth. For instance, nobody would want to make a robotic field biologist to explore the Earth, even with the most advanced technology the result would always be far below that of a real biologist, at least today. On Mars, however, is currently the only option. ”

The constraint of space.

The space raises many issues not faced by robots for use on Earth. The low pressure in the orbit leads to cold-weld metal parts together, atomic oxygen can react with almost any material and nullifies the cooling benefits of electronic transmission.
Radiation also differs from that encountered on Earth and in space, heavy particles make digital electronics misbehave or even burn. Thermal conditions are also extreme, with external temperatures ranging from more or less, 100 ° C.

Another characteristic of space missions is that robots have to operate far from their base. Radio signals to control and monitor them have to travel for a long time and this introduces communications delays that prevent tele-operation in real time or near real time. Space robots, therefore, must be able to work alone and solve any problems that occur while performing their tasks. The ESA’s space engineers have learned to cope with all these problems. Qualified design techniques, materials, hardware and electronics components are specifically designed to work reliably despite these effects.
“We continue research into new types of robots that can cope with the special conditions of space, go where humans can not and that will help astronauts manage the enormous amount of work on the International Space Station,” says Visentin.

Medical students learn in Mexico with robots as patients

imagesFacing the increasing number of medical students and the few units available for learning, a Mexican university began using robotic patients to train future doctors.  The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) on Monday opened the “virtual hospital” world’s largest, in which students can practice from birth with a mannequin robot up a shot in the arm of a plastic baby.

The robots are dummies complete with mechanical organs, synthetic blood and mechanical breathing systems. “The increase of medical students in the country has not been proportional to the increase in medical care units,” said Joaquin Lopez Barcena, general secretary of the Faculty of Medicine, UNAM, the largest public university in the country. “This is a very valuable learning opportunity,” he added. The “virtual hospital” which cost about 15 million pesos (about 1.08 million or 1.38 million) – has 24 robotic patients and a software that can simulate illnesses ranging from diabetes to a heart heart.

For Paola Mendoza, a freshman of Medicine, the robotic patients peace of mind. “I would feel nervous if it were a real patient,” he said after drawing blood synthetic plastic arm. “With this (dummy) I can practice many times,” he said. With nearly 15,000 students, UNAM has one of the largest medical schools in Latin America. Mexico has this year with more than 70,000 medical students, according to the Mexican Association of Colleges and Schools of Medicine. “Medical schools proliferate everywhere in Mexico,” said Martha Hijar, a researcher at the National Institute of Public Health. “It’s a well-paid career that offers a good status in society, so many come in that field,” he said.

Robot intelligent and emotional

foto_54382The personal attitude toward these artificial creatures and the very purpose of these is the study of the program entitled Living with robots and interactive companions (LIREC in ALARA), which have just jointly launch several European technology research centers.
The project aims to create a new generation of interactive, emotionally intelligent beings capable of establishing a long relationship with humans, both in a virtual world (on a computer screen), as in the real world (robots). LIREC, worth 8.5 million euros, is also the first program to examine how we react when a robot with which we have everyday familiarity in our field takes the form of a living-person, animal or other look-in computer screen, thus putting the face and eyes to what until now saw as an object.
The investigations are based on next-generation robots recently established with some of them establishing a relationship like that stays with pets.

One is Pleo, a dinosaur that is already marketed, designed to emulate the appearance and behavior of a puppy from a week old Camarasaurus. Each Pleo learns from its experiences and environment through a sophisticated artificial intelligence, and develops an individual personality. When he runs his hand over, for example, behaves as you would a puppy, moving the neck and tail.
GlowBots, the enlightened
Another interactive companion are GlowBots, robots the size of a glass that have wheels and lights of different colors. Develop complex relationships between them and their owners. They move differently, and their lights configured various ways when touched by someone or enter into communication with their peers.

The study will also conduct experiments with iCat, a duck-shaped toy that plays chess and whose behavior varies depending on the evolution of the game, Kaspar, a humanoid child-sized, and the calls peoplebots, little robots with human appearance but take some behaviors of men.
According to Professor Peter McOwan, University of London, the project LIREC is interested in how people can develop a long term relationship with artificial creatures. There may not be a robot to help us wash the dishes in the immediate future, but we hope to explore how this technology can be developed, and want to begin to predict how they will be intelligent machines of tomorrow.

Evolutionary Robotics (Evolutionary Robotics)

225362-286784This approach applies the knowledge gained from the natural sciences (biology and ethology) and Artificial Life (neural networks, evolutionary techniques and dynamical systems) on real robots, to develop their own skills in close interaction with the environment and without human intervention.
With a fixed design, it is difficult to have a robot suits (self-organized) to a dynamic environment that evolves through-often-chaotic changes. Hence, the evolutionary robotics can provide an adequate solution to this problem because the machine can automatically acquire new behaviors depending on the dynamic situations that occur in the environment where it is located.

Through the use of evolutionary techniques (genetic algorithms, genetic programming and evolutionary strategy), you may decide to evolve the control system or certain features of the robot body (morphology, sensors, actuators, etc.). Or co-evolve both. Similarly, you may decide to evolve physically the hardware (electronic circuits) or software (program or control rules). However, little is done on evolvable hardware [Fernández León, 2004] and usually what is done is to move first driver in a computer simulation, and only then, are transferred to real robots. The robot controller typically consists of artificial neural networks, and evolution is to change the weights of the connections of the network.

Currently, the main drawback is its slow evolutionary control convergence speed and the considerable amount of time that must pass to complete the evolutionary process on a real robot [Pratiharas, 2003]. It is not appropriate for solving problems of increasing complexity [Fernández León, 2004].
Robotics Biomimetics, Biologically Inspired Robotics Biorrobótica or
This approach is concerned with designing robots that function like biological systems, hence they are based on the natural sciences (biology, zoology and ethology) and robotics. Given that biological systems perform many complex processing tasks with maximum efficiency, provide a good reference for implementing artificial systems that perform tasks that living things do naturally (interpretation of sensory information, learning, movement, coordination, and so on. ) [Ros, et al, 2002]. Although it is possible to obtain different degrees of “biologically inspired” (from a vague resemblance to an acceptable reply), the ultimate goal is to make machines and systems increasingly similar to the original [Dario, 2005].

The advantage of building bio-robots is that, as is possible to study all their internal processes, they can be contrasted with the different organs of the animal from which it is based. Currently, scientists develop locusts, flies, dogs, fish, snakes and roaches robotics, in order to emulate a greater or more behavior-robust, flexible and adaptable animals. However, few machines resemble their natural counterparts.

Replicate biology is not easy and could be some time before they can produce biomimetic robots that are truly useful. Another problem, perhaps the most-is that, although well aware of the different processes of many of these living beings, there is a huge difference with their human counterparts. Indeed, the manner in which man perceives and acts is extremely more complex than a lobster does, to give an example.

Sergio Alejandro Moriello is Electronic Engineer (1989), Postgraduate Diploma in Science Journalism (1996), Postgraduate Diploma in Business Administration (1997), Specialist in Information Systems Engineering (2005) Studying Masters in Information Systems from UTN-FRBA ( Thesis completed). Author of books Intelligences Synthetic and Natural and Synthetic Intelligence.