Image of a robot on the moon.

One big step for man, one giant leap for telepresence

The buzziest news in telepresence this week was an announcement by Carnegie Mellon to develop a telepresence application using the Oculus rift to visit the moon on a virtual mission.  The Astrobotics team lead by Daniel Safrir, plan on landing a rover on the moon and sending video back.  They’ve already landed a deal with SpaceX to launch the robot and other payloads in 2015.  

The goal is to have "hundreds of the robots on the Moon", said Mr Shafrir.  As I wrote in Exploring the Great Beyond, you can stop on by NASA’s SSERVI (Solar System Exploration and Research Virtual Institute) to plot out your mission prior to taking control of a robot.  You’ll find some hi-def images of the moon there to plot your mission.  They’ll have some serious obstacles to overcome, the least of which is the roughly three second latency experienced between sending signals to and from the moon.  

Night at the Museum Telepresence Style

The Tate Musuem in Britian is hosting four robotics guests for an after hours tour through the museum.  The  “After Dark”  exhibit is a cross between chat roulette and Skype.  You can logon to the site and using your Google Chrome browser, request control to await your chance to control the robot.  Commentary is live during your visit, though I did not see a way to communicate with the my hosts, so I was never quite sure what I was looking at, unless they happened to call out the robot that was being was driven.  

Image of Fanbot telepresence robots pictured in a baseball stadium in Korea.

Take me out to the ballgame

A Korean profesional baseball team has decided that I won't let a fan's physical location get in the way of watching their team live.  The Hanwha Eagles have recruited 24 telepresence robots (dubbed fanbots)  to help fill their stands, which does seem to be a problem given the teams record of wins and losses.  The robots are capable of cheering, starting waves, and displaying text messages on their LED signs.  It does bring a new element of attending a sporting event allowing you to physically interact with the environment rather than tweeting while watching the broadcast version.   I do give them credit for creativity with fan engagement   

I suppose this will technically increase attendance given the seat will be occupied, though not necessarily by a sentient being.    

We are the Champions!

If you were excited watching the World Cup soccer match earlier today, later this month in Brazil, there will be another  important soccer match played involving teams of humanoid robots at the RoboCup 2014.  The Robocup, involves teams of humanoid robots from around the world.  While there is currently a very limited national development system for these robot athletes, another decade or two will likely change that, in anticipation for the match in July 2050.  At least that is the goal of the RoboCup.  While earlier today, Germany took on Argentina to determine the 2014 FIFA World Cup champion, this match will likely have much more significance, or at least that’s the goal.

Look who's coming to dinner

It seems almost weekly now that I am reading yet another article from a website about the coming robot invasion.  How they will take our jobs, invade our lives, and probably take over society.  I have news for you.  They’re already here.  They have already become a part of our everyday lives.  Many have lost their novelty, ceased being recognized as robots, and faded into the background, in a feat no more mystifying than the electricity that is piped into your home.   


The elephant in the room

You wouldn’t typically think that an elephant could inspire robot design, but that’s a limit of your imagination.  Festo has been developing bio-inspired robots for the past several years with some amazing results.  From sea rays to dragonflys, all of these creatures have inspired engineers to learn and create human designed mechanisms for use in our daily lives.  The elephant’s trunk  inspired the “Bionic Handling Assistant.”  Through the intelligent use of pneumatics the arm eliminates lots of heavy metal parts that can be dangerous.  Industrial settings often require lots of caging and safety features around robots, which can rival the cost of the robot itself.  Attaching it to a mobile robot base, such as with the Robotino XT, it’s only a matter of time before a humanoid design is developed with walking ability.      


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