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Greg Galitzine


Automotive Robotics Sales Increase

March 7, 2008

Don’t call it a comeback.   Ok, well maybe a little comeback.   According to the latest numbers from the Robotic Industries Association, North American-based robotics companies saw orders to North American manufacturing companies rise 24% in 2007, reversing the declines of the previous year. The trade group is reporting a total of 15,856 robots, with an overall value of $1.07 billion were ordered by North American manufacturing companies.   “We’re obviously very pleased to see strong growth in 2007, especially following the 30% decline in 2006,” said Ake Lindqvist of ABB Robotics and chairman of the RIA statistics committee. “Most of the growth last year resulted from sales to automotive manufacturers and their suppliers. In this market segment, which accounted for 64% of all orders, robot sales in North America rose 43%,” Lindqvist noted.   Apparently automotive companies went on a binge in 2007, as orders for spot-welding robots increased 100%, coating and dispensing rose 38%, material handling jumped 14%, and arc welding jumped 10%.   But Lindqvist believes that future growth of the market depends on reaching outside the automotive space.   “The robotics industry’s future expansion depends upon reaching more nonautomotive customers, and we still have a long way to go.

Robots To Replace Graying Japanese Workers?

April 8, 2008

  As the population of Japan ages, the Machine Industry Memorial Foundation (MIMF) believes that robots can be called upon to fill in gaps in the labor force.   According to a Reuters story, Japan faces a 16 percent slide in the size of its workforce by 2030 while the number of elderly will mushroom.   Tops among the opportunities for robots? Health and nursing care.

  In its report, the MIMF said that Japan could save over $20 billion in insurance payments in 2025 by “…using robots that monitor the health of older people, so they don’t have to rely on human nursing care.”   Caregivers would save more than an hour a day if robots helped look after children, older people and did some housework, it added.

Robotics Evolution

April 9, 2008

In our quest to give our readers more choice and an ever increasing variety of content — by going deeper into the technologies we currently cover as well as expanding the base of technologies we cover — I found myself in Pittsburgh today, attending the RoboBusiness Conference & Expo.   One of the first companies I came across in the exhibit hall, was Evolution Robotics.   Evolution Robotics develops enabling technologies for the robotics market, and partners with OEMs to integrate those technologies into new and more intelligent products such as autonomous robots for commercial or consumer use.   Evolution’s NorthStar technology is an indoor localization solution that combines a sensor, a processor and an infrared projector to provide accurate location information in real-time.   According to the company literature:   With NorthStar, consumer products can:
  • Reliably and directly return to a docking station from anywhere in the environment
  • Automatically perform or not perform particular functions based on location
  • Systematically patrol an environment.
NorthStar is perhaps most famously deployed in WowWee's telepresence robot, Rovio, which made its debut at this past January’s CES event.   So let me get this straight. Telepresence meets robotics?   I’m definitely interested.   But first, back to Evolution.   The company’s NorthStar technology enables developers, like WowWee to create consumer oriented products like Rovio.

Microsoft Updates Robotics Development Tools

April 10, 2008

Microsoft has unveiled the first community technology preview of Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008, the latest version of its Windows-based robotics programming platform environment designed for use by academic, hobbyist and commercial developers for the creation of robotic programs and testing scenarios.   The new offering improves upon runtime performance, distributed computational capabilities and tools.   While the Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio will only be released later this year, the first preview is available now for evaluation and testing by developers, customers, and partners.   According to the release, here’s what’s new:  
  • Increased runtime performance. Performance improvements of 150 percent to 300 percent in message throughput between services within a node and between DSS nodes. Services now load 200 percent faster.
  • Improved distributed computational capabilities. Support for distributed language integrated queries (LINQ), which reduces network utilization and simplifies service authoring.

What's Next, Mr. Robot? Fooseball?

July 10, 2008

Is nothing sacred? Are we really on the cusp of being pushed off our perch at the top of the food chain by robotic devices that we ourselves have created?

    First Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov.   Then last weekend, during the Man-Machine Poker Competition in Las Vegas, a computer dubbed Polaris 2.0 that was designed by the University of Alberta defeated a team of expert poker players. Polaris 2.0 went head-to-head in four rounds of 500 hands against two human opponents, winning two rounds, losing one, and drawing one.   A report on EE Times said Polaris learned from experience.   Now, check this out from another EE Times article:   An upgraded robot designed by General Electric Fanuc (GEF) and programmed by Nuvation Research Corp. (San Jose, Calif.) can beat most human air hockey players, its developers claim.   The robot is powered by a special pc-board that can instantly switch between Freescale Semiconductor's 8-bit Flexis and its 32-bit ColdFire microcontrollers running identical C language programs.

If You See a Robot in the Mall...

July 11, 2008

If Peapod doesn't provide quite the level of service you expected... if you would prefer to actually have a look at the specific fruits and vegetables or cuts of meat, etc... before purchasing them, then Japanese robotics developer tmsuk might have the solution for you.

  According to Pink Tentacle, tmsuk has developed a remote controlled shopping robot that allows the infirm or just plain lazy to shop from home via various cellphone links.   The current state of the technology was demonstrated at the Izutsuya department store in the city of Kitakyushu, Japan.   According to Pink Tentacle:   In the demonstration, an unwell grandmother unable to go shopping with her granddaughter sent the robot in her place. Using an NTT DoCoMo video-capable cellphone, the grandmother was able to control the robot and enjoy the shopping experience through the robot's camera eyes.

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