May 31, 2009 at 3:03 am | Robot Hand | No comment
When she was on the Cal Tennis Club, Yoko “Yoky” Matsuoka (B.S.’93 EECS) dreamed of creating a robotic opponent that could return balls to her over the net. That bot never materialized, but her desire to build it launched a groundbreaking career that earned her a 2007 MacArthur “genius” award, a no-strings-attached, $500,000 honor from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation recognizing Matsuoka’s bold research in neurobotics—neuroscience meets robotics—most notably her efforts in developing a brain-powered prosthetic hand.
A native of Japan, Matsuoka grew up in Santa Barbara, California. After graduating from Berkeley, she earned her master’s and doctorate at MIT, then joined the faculty at Carnegie Mellon. In 2006, she joined the University of Washington, where she is now associate professor of computer science and engineering and on the research team at UW’s Neurobotics Lab.
“Moving forward 25 to 30 years, we have to achieve very dexterous behavior,” Matsuoka says. Current prosthetic options are stiff and provide only limited motion. But her approach could give amputees the ability to operate a replacement limb without, well, giving it a second thought.
Matsuoka and team modeled a robotic prosthesis on an actual human appendage and wired it to function like the real thing. The device incorporates lifelike “bones” made from composite that articulate when mini-motors drive nylon polymer “tendons” to curl or flex a finger. In place of the brain signals that control movement in a normal hand, this creation uses neural data from real patients, transformed by algorithms into pulses that drive the motors. Matsuoka hopes that one day, an amputee will be able to attach the limb and operate it just as they would a biological one—with brain power.
“Assume you’re missing your arm, and we give you a complex robotic prosthesis that has nothing to do with how your brain actually controls your arm,” she says. “If we can provide a system that looks and functions like a real system, your brain doesn’t have to work as hard to control it.”
Matsuoka also built a robotic arm that safely guides individuals recovering from strokes and other neurological problems through their physical therapy regimes. With her newfound MacArthur funding, she has visions of starting a company, “writing a book or three” and working with K–12 institutions, all with the goal of speeding up the timetable for bringing neurobotic technology into our daily lives.
Great job! Original Article from here
May 30, 2009 at 4:09 am | Robot Hand | No comment
The innovative Robotic Air Powered Hand with Elastic Ligaments (RAPHaEL), developed by Virginia Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory of the College of Engineering came in first place in the recent 2008-2009 Compressed Air and Gas Institute’s Innovation Award Contest.
The Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) of the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech has developed a unique robotic hand that can firmly hold objects as heavy as a can of food or as delicate as a raw egg, while dexterous enough to gesture for sign language.
Named RAPHaEL (Robotic Air Powered Hand with Elastic Ligaments), the fully articulated robotic hand is powered by a compressor air tank at 60 psi and a novel accordion type tube actuator. Microcontroller commands operate the movement to coordinate the motion of the fingers.
“This air-powered design is what makes the hand unique, as it does not require the use of any motors or other actuators, the grasping force and compliance can be easily adjusted by simply changing the air pressure,” said Dennis Hong, RoMeLa (http://www.me.vt.edu/romela/) director and the faculty adviser on the project. RoMeLa is part of Virginia Tech’s department of mechanical engineering (ME).
The grip derives from the extent of pressure of the air. A low pressure is used for a lighter grip, while a higher pressure allows for a sturdier grip. The compliance of compressed air also aids in the grasping as the fingers can naturally follow the contour of the grasped object.
“There would be great market potential for this hand, such as for robotic prosthetics, due to the previously described benefits, as well as low cost, safety and simplicity,” Hong said. The concept has won RoMeLa first place in the recent 2008-2009 Compressed Air and Gas Institute (http://www.cagi.org) (CAGI)’s Innovation Award Contest, with team members sharing $2,500 and the College of Engineering receiving a separate $8,000 monetary award.
The $10,500 prize was announced in April by the Cleveland, Ohio-based CAGI, an industry organization. The design competition was an invitation-only program, with projects overviews – including written reports and video – being sent to the judging panel. Teams from Virginia Tech, the Milwaukee School of Engineering and Buffalo State College each submitted entries on their air-powered designs for judging. Six teams in all participated, according to Hong.
It is the second year in a row that RoMeLa has won first place in the CAGI competition. A judge on the panel said of the robotic hand, “It is a cutting edge concept, and the engineering was no less than brilliant.”
Student team members, all ME majors, are:
Colin Smith of Reston, Va., a senior.
Kyle Cothern of Fredericksburg, Va., a junior.
Carlos Guevara of El Salvador, a senior.
Alexander McCraw of York, Pa., a senior.
May 29, 2009 at 6:57 am | Robot Humanoid | No comment
History of Humanoids – Man’s dream takes first step forward
The first two-legged walking humanoid represents the fruition of engineerszeal to create an innovative kind of mobility that brings a whole new value to human society in perfect co-existence and harmony. Indeed, mans dream has taken the first but steady step into the future as the robot steps forward.
Following in the steps of Honda motorcycles, cars and power products, Honda has taken up a new challenge in mobility,the development of a two-legged humanoid robot that can walk.
Honda wants to create a partner for people, a new kind of robot that functions in society, that the reason why they build ASIMO.
The main concept behind Honda’s robot R&D was to create a more viable mobility that allows robots to help and live in harmony with people.
Research began by envisioning the ideal robot form for use in human society.
The robot would need to be able to maneuver between objects in a room and be able to go up and down stairs. For this reason it had to have two legs, just like a person.
In addition, if two-legged walking technology could be established, the robot would need to be able to walk on uneven ground and be able to function in a wide range of environments.
Although considered extremely difficult at the time, Honda set itself this ambitious goal and developed revolutionary new technology to create a two-legged walking robot.
May 29, 2009 at 6:30 am | Miscellaneous Technology | No comment
A new solar-powered underwater robot technology developed for undersea observation and water monitoring will be showcased at a Sept. 16 workshop on leading-edge robotics to be held at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Arlington, Va.
Image: Solar-powered Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (SAUV). Photo: RPI/Sanderson in collaboration with Autonomous Undersea Systems Institute, Falmouth Scientific Inc., and Naval Undersea Warfare Center.
Arthur C. Sanderson, professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, will display the robotic technology being developed by a team of research groups, including Rensselaer, and led by the Autonomous Undersea Systems Institute directed by D. Richard Blidberg.
Sanderson also will participate on a panel of six robotics experts who recently completed a study to be released at the Sept. 16 workshop. The World Technology Evaluation Center International Study of Robotics is a two-year look at robotics research and development in the United States, Japan, Korea, and Western Europe.
As the principal investigator of an NSF-funded project called RiverNet, Sanderson is working collaboratively with other researchers to develop a network of distributed sensing devices and water-monitoring robots, including the first solar-powered autonomous underwater vehicles (SAUVs).
“Once fully realized, this underwater robot technology will allow better observation and monitoring of complex aquatic systems, and will support advances in basic environmental science as well as applications to environmental management and security and defense programs,” said Sanderson.
The SAUV technology allows underwater robots to be deployed long-term by using solar power to replenish onboard energy. Long-term deployment of SAUVs will allow detection of chemical and biological trends in lakes, rivers, and waterways that may guide the management and improvement of water quality. Autonomous underwater vehicles equipped with sensors are currently used for water monitoring, but must be taken out of the water frequently to recharge the batteries.
According to Sanderson, the SAUVs communicate and network with one another in real time to assess a water body as a whole in measuring how it changes over space and time. Key technologies used in SAUVs include integrated sensor microsystems, pervasive computing, wireless communications, and sensor mobility with robotics. Sanderson notes that the underwater vehicles have captured the attention of the U.S. Navy, which will evaluate their use for coastal surveillance applications.
The SAUV weighs 370 pounds, travels at speeds of up to 2 miles per hour, and is designed to dive to depths of 500 meters.
Sanderson and his colleagues will continue field testing the vehicles in coming months at locations including Rensselaer’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute on Lake George, N.Y., to determine communication, interaction, and maneuvering capabilities in testing dissolved oxygen levels, one of the most important indicators of water quality for aquatic life.
Sanderson is collaborating on SAUV development with the Autonomous Undersea Systems Institute, Falmouth Scientific Inc., the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and Technology Systems Inc.
The Sept. 16 workshop is sponsored by NSF, NASA, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The international robotics study was organized by the World Technology Evaluation Center, a United States-based organization conducting international research assessments.
“This gathering of researchers and their robots shows the necessity of federal support for basic research that leads to new technologies with useful applications in health care, the environment, and industry,” said Sanderson.
Source: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute