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  • What's New In Robotics?  14.12.2018

    -News from Robotiq, Wandelbots, House of Design
    -Shape-shifting drones
    -Multi-terrain Velox 
    -Caterpillar-inspired robot
    -Space bots, AI News
    -Five vids for Friday
    -And much more! 


    Manufacturing & cobot roundup

       Robotiq has raised Can$31 million (c. US$23.1 million) in funding from global investment firm Battery Ventures



    Via The Robot Report:

    This is Robotiq’s first round of funding. Battery General Partner Jesse Feldman, who specializes in industrial technology investments, will join Robotiq’s board. Robotiq says it will use the funding for product development, international expansion and enhanced support of its partner ecosystem.

    Robotiq co-founder and CEO Samuel Bouchard has more on this exciting development.

        New video shows one of KUKA's LBR iiwa cobots collaborating with humans at automotive supplier Yanfeng Automotive Interiors' German manufacturing facility.  The cobot safely fastens screws to assemble armrests for the doors of the Opel Insignia in close proximity to human operators...



        German start-up Wandelbots, which is developing a system to help people program robots via a smart jacket fitted with dozens of sensors, has raised US$6.8 million to fund further growth and support the opening of a new China office. 

    Credit:  Wandelbots

    TechCrunch reports:

    “We are providing a universal language to teach those robots in the same way, independent of the technology stack,” said CEO Christian Piechnick said in an interview. Essentially reverse engineering the process of how a lot of software is built, Wandelbots is creating what is a Linux-like underpinning to all of it.

        The extraordinary accuracy and consistency of advanced cobots is creating opportunities in novel robotics domains.  For example, new video released this week shows cobots from Universal Robots being used as part of a prototype human-robot spinal surgery system. 

    It's all part of a research project at Nottingham Trent University, UK, in which experts are exploring how surgeons and cobots can collaborate on advanced medical operations...



        77 per cent of U.S. workers think that "working hand in hand with robots without safety fences will improve manufacturing," according to the automatica Trend Index 2018 survey of 1,000 U.S. workers, published this week.  Via BusinessWire:  "The reason for that: Human talents like judgement and fine motor skills will be combined with those of robots like force and precision. Almost 80 percent say that human machine collaboration will make US companies more competitive." 


        Collaborative robots "will augment workforces" next year, according to IoB's '10 smart factory trends to watch in 2019':

    The most successful businesses will be those that also help their people do what they do better with the new digital tools that are available. In other words those that focus on using digital and robotics innovations to augment their workforces, rather than replace them.

        One of Robotiq's 2-finger adaptive grippers was spotted doing some maze-running...



        Idaho State University (ISU) announced a collaboration with industry partner House of Design to develop augmented reality applications for robots. 


    Credit: Idaho State University

    ISU reports:

    This project will be supported by a US $162,606 grant to ISU from the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission Council, which is administered by the Idaho Department of Commerce. The grant to design and develop an augmented reality platform for robotic systems design and interaction (ARPRI) will run next year. 

    In other news...

    • A trio of packaging production tales that end happily in 2018  (Packaging Digest
    • Reinforcement learning shows promise for industrial robotics  (The Robot Report)
    • Industrial Robot Industry Sees Exceptional Growth: 2018 Review  (Robotics.Org)
    • BALYO and NORCAN Announce Strategic Partnership for Co-Development of a Smart Collaborative Robot  (BusinessWire)
    • Global Industrial Robots Market to Witness a CAGR of 8.9% during 2018-2024  (MarketWatch)


        In a busy week for soft and bio-inspired robot news, New Atlas ran a feature story on the new Velox robot --a versatile, multi-terrain, wriggling, undulating bot developed by New York engineering startup Pliant Energy Systems.

    Credit: Pliant Energy Systems

        Meanwhile, Autodesk profiled the amazing work of Takuya Umedachi, who builds soft, caterpillar-inspired bots.  From Umedachi's perspective, caterpillars' soft and simple "tubelike bodies—with no clear bone structure, controlled by a very small number of neurons yet adaptable to diverse environments—provided the ideal model for developing robotic movement using soft materials." 

    Credit: Takuya Umedachi

        Researchers at KAUST revealed a bio-inspired artificial skin with embodied electronics that they hope could "enhance the way robots sense and interact with their surroundings."  

    5bfe90c263d5535cf2457f8dUp close, the artificial skin appears as a mesh of nanowires.  Credit: 2018 Wiley-VCH

        The Register explored the work of Michael Levin, director of the Allen Discovery Centre at Tufts University.  While traditional artificial intelligence systems tend to be human brain-inspired, Levin believes that other biological processes (e.g. limb regeneration and metamorphosis) could be sources of inspiration for those building next-gen machine-learning software and hardware. 

        This week also brought us a plan to advance AI by exploring the minds of children (H/T MIT Technology Review), the launch of a new ethical AI institute in Australia (H/T ZDNet), a call to instill greater trust in AI systems, and Ozy's exploration of the question 'Could Robots Develop Prejudice On Their Own?' 

        Space bots were busy too.  InSight returned its first full Martian selfie...

    4-nasasinsightCredit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech

      China launched the Chang’e-4 robot on its mapping mission to the dark side of the moon, where it is expected to arrive in early January, 2019...

    Artist's impression of the Chinese robot on the lunar surface.  Credit: Xinhua

        And SpaceX's holiday season delivery arrived at the International Space Station... 

    Credit: NASA TV via AP

        If you find yourself near the Lawson convenience store near Osaki Station, Japan between now and Dec. 28, make sure to check out 'Dekitate Karaage-kun Robo' during it's trial run. 

    Credit:  The Japan Times

    Able to prepare, fry and dispense chicken, the robot was introduced this week to see how effectively it enhances the productivity of human workers.  If the daytime trial is successful, Lawson may use the robot to prepare and serve other kinds of food.  (H/T The Japan Times

    In other news...

    • Guy in a Costume Fooled Russian TV into Thinking He Was a ‘High-Tech’ Robot  (Vice)
    • These walking robots could help humans get back on their feet again  (C|Net)
    • This 27-year-old built the world's first gaming robot and now he's partnered with Apple and Amazon  (CNBC)
    • The Long, Winding And Still Evolving Path Toward Automated Driving  (Forbes)
    • Canada Moose Cree First Nation to get drone deliveries  (BBC)

    Come back next week for more of the latest robotics news in manufacturing and beyond!  Until then...

    Five vids for Friday

    1.  NASA revealed that after an extraordinary 42-year journey its Voyager 2 probe has finally entered interstellar space.  To put that achievement in perspective, Viking 1 and the robots onboard Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway's spaceship are the only other bots known to have traveled such a distance!  More seriously, Edward Stone, the mission’s project scientist and Suzanne Dodd, the mission's project manager sat down to discuss the milestone with NASA TV.




    2.  Take a peek behind the scenes at Stanford University's Bao Research Group where researchers are investigating ways to print "stretchable, flexible inks for use in robotic skin and biomedical wearable technology."



    3.  Fresh video from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence showcased the facility's test vehicle (a modified, off-the-shelf electric car) and CERMcity, a test track for autonomous vehicle technology.  



    4.  Experts at the University of Zurich and EPFL, Switzerland have created a bio-inspired, shape-shifting drone that can change its shape in order to squeeze through gaps while remaining in flight.  



    5.  Elias Knubben, Head of Research and Innovation at Festo and an expert in bio-inspired and soft robotics systems, spoke about these topics at a TEDxVienna event this week.  



     Start production faster with Lean Robotics

    Read more »
  • Hiring Robotics Talent in 2019: What to Look For

    Whether hiring robotics talent for the first time or adding to an existing team in 2019, hiring personnel must take a strategic approach to the process by figuring out what traits, training, experience or capabilities the top candidates should have.


    Employee showing a product at the 2018 - Robotiq User Conference RUC

    Here are seven characteristics and skill sets robotics company managers are looking for when hiring new employees.


    1. A history of working in the field

    It's not always possible to find people with prior experience in the robotics sector, especially for entry-level jobs. However, it's helpful if candidates have worked at other companies before.

    Universal Robots knew that when it hired more than 20 former employees of Rethink Robotics, a cobot company that recently shut down.


    2. People with relevant backgrounds

    It's rare for universities to offer robotics degree programs. So, hiring managers seeking robotics professionals may have difficulty filling positions if they refuse to consider people who earned other kinds of degrees. For example, computer science, engineering and mathematics degrees could all prepare people for robotics roles.

    Amazon recently brought a computer science professor from the University of Washington onto its team to serve as its Director of Robotics and oversee automation in the company's fulfillment centers. It realized the person chosen had appropriate amounts of educational and life experience to excel in the role with a computer science background.


    3. An understanding of what makes people trust robots

    Soft skills help people working in robotics roles, too, and one of them is trust.

    More specifically, the people who build cobots know it's ideal if those machines feature familiar elements, such as characteristics that seem slightly human-like to a recognizable degree, but not so much that they're creepy.

    Even if robotics professionals don't create cobots, they'll likely still need to help people feel comfortable while working around them. A big part of making that happen is realizing what people may be afraid of and helping them turn that fear into trust.


    4. A flexible mindset

    Robots that work alongside people are relatively new technologies. And, the robotics industry as a whole is still evolving so rapidly that job qualifications and opportunities will likely change over time. When robotics professionals can anticipate future needs and ensure they are ready to meet them, they'll be well-suited for success.

    In places such as southern and southeast Asia, people are learning to work with robots by acquiring new skills that will allow them to adapt to changes instead of finding themselves without work and replaced by technology.

    Robotics professionals must do something similar by staying abreast of industry developments and knowing their jobs may be substantially different in a decade or less.

    5. An ability to work with related technologies

    Other technologies are out there, including artificial intelligence (AI), which will be exceptionally instrumental in furthering the progress of robots soon. In fact, it's already having a significant impact. For example, PepsiCo uses an AI-powered robot recruiter in the Russian job market that can interview 1500 candidates in nine hours.

    Although that example doesn't relate to cobots, it does highlight how smoothly robotics can integrate with other emerging technologies. As such, people hired for new robotics positions must be eager about exploring those prospects.

    6. Experience with robot maintenance

    Many of today's leading robot designs, especially cobots, have self-diagnostic capabilities that warn operators if things aren't working as they should or if a particular kind of maintenance is necessary.

    An analysis of job ads in 2012 and 2016-17 found an increase in the number of job ads requesting people to have robotics skills. And, the most in-demand robotics skill to have is robotics maintenance. Looking for people with that skill could mean robotics companies enjoy more uptime and better productivity.


    7. Excitement about solving problems

    Some people get stressed when faced with problems, but excellent robotics professionals should feel excited about using their talents to solve problems, especially by bringing cobots into the workforce to boost output. In one Romanian factory, cobots reduced the tedious tasks humans had to perform.

    A cobot setup there could find, pick up and place parts in a 20-second cycle that caused a 20-percent rise in productivity. Then, the people who once took care of those tasks are moved to other parts of the factory to do jobs that aren't so strenuous and repetitive.

    If robotics companies can find candidates for open positions who are committed to exploring how robotic equipment can solve problems, their organizations will be set for the future.


    Ways to stand out from the crowd

    People with robotics skills have the advantage of a job market that craves the skills they possess.

    Even so, if some of the things on this list apply to them too, they'll be in even better positions to get hired.

     Give your team the right robotics skills

    Read more »
  • Robotiq Gets a Can$31M Energy Boost from Battery Ventures

    Maybe it's because I have had a training in physics but to me, money is energy. The more you have, the more you can make things move. Now Robotiq has much more and we will move bigger things even faster! That extra boost comes from Battery Ventures, who just invested $31M in Robotiq. We have an official press release relating this exciting news but I wanted to write a personal note on the event as it will transform this company I co-founded 10 years ago with JP and Vincent.

    Since then, many lessons were learned and great things happened. We've seen the birth and initial growth of the collaborative robotics industry. We've contributed to free thousands of human hands from repetitive tasks, enabling thousands of collaborative robot applications with our global network of highly skilled partners. We've also invested heavily in educating the market, explaining why and how to deploy cobot applications, even writing Lean Robotics, a book on the topic.


    Robotiq tools and know-how help manufacturers start production faster with collaborative robots

    I am extremely proud of the quality of the team members who joined us in the last decade and of what we have achieved together. This is especially true considering the limited financial resources that we had to do it : This investment is the first external money that we take. This regime instilled a culture of innovation and resourcefulness to deliver results that will endure. We now have what it takes to multiply the impact of the work we're doing.

    Now that collaborative robotics is accelerating and becoming widely adopted by manufacturers worldwide, it's time to step up our game. To do so, we wanted to find a solid partner, which is exactly what Battery is. Since the first contact we had with their team, they prove that their experience in growing high tech industrial businesses will make a tremendous difference to help us grow Robotiq to the next level. I am extremely happy to have such world class partner on our side for the next phase of the Robotiq evolution.

    Stay tuned!

    Start production faster with Lean Robotics

    Read more »

NASA Breaking News

Space News

Universe Today

European Space Agency Articles

  • Spaceship EAC: Die Denkfabrik

    ESA und das Europäische Astronautenzentrum (EAC) setzen auf frische Ideen und innovative Anwendungen, die Studierende, Trainees und Doktoranden für kommende Weltraum-Missionen entwickeln. Die Initiative „Spaceship EAC“ fördert die Zusammenarbeit und das Netzwerk mit Universitäten und Forschungseinrichtungen. Im EAC in Köln haben junge Forscher sogar ein eigenes Laboratorium.

    Read more »
  • Neue ESA Kids Website

    Das ESA Education Office freut sich, die neue und verbesserte ESA Kids Website, die virtuelle Heimat von Paxi, dem Maskottchen von ESA Education zu präsentieren. ESA Kids ist die zentrale Anlaufstelle für alle raumfahrtbezogenen Informationen, Materialien, Medien und Aktivitäten für Kinder.

    Mit einem neuen Design und einer verbesserten Benutzerfreundlichkeit ermöglicht die ESA Kids-Plattform den Nutzern einen leichteren Zugang zu raumfahrtbezogenen Inhalten aus den Bereichen Naturwissenschaften, Technik, Ingenieurwesen und Mathematik (MINT). Die Inhalte richten sich an Kinder im Grundschulalter (5-12 Jahre) und sind auf Englisch, Deutsch, Niederländisch, Spanisch, Französisch und Italienisch verfügbar.

    Read more »
  • Deutsche Raumfahrt- Trainees bei der ESA in Darmstadt

    Das Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt vergibt auch dieses Jahr wieder Plätze in ihrem German Trainee Programm (GTP). Damit geben sie Absolventen die Möglichkeit, bei der Europäischen Weltraumorganisation ESA an aktuellen Raumfahrtprojekten mitzuarbeiten. Dieses Jahr nehmen sie bereits den 110. Stipendiaten ihr ihr Programm auf. Satellitenbetrieb, Robotik, bemannte und unbemannte Raumfahrt, Erdbeobachtung und Missionsanalyse sind nur einige der spannenden Arbeitsfelder, in denen die Trainees anspruchsvolle Aufgaben bei der ESA übernehmen.

    Read more »

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