March 23, 2019
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UC Berkeley’s Ken Goldberg and Michael I. Jordan will discuss AI at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI April 18

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We’re just over a month out from our TC Sessions: Robotics + AI event at UC Berkeley on April 18. We’ve already announced a number of marquee guests for the event, including Marc Raibert, Colin Angle, Melonee Wise and Anthony Levandowski. Today we’ve got another exciting panel to unveil and, as an FYI, our early-bird sale ends Friday!

This is our third robotics event, but it’s the first time artificial intelligence has shared the spotlight. Today we’re revealing that two of UC Berkeley’s top names in the space will be sharing the stage to discuss the role of AI in society for a panel titled “Artificial Intelligence: Minds, Economies and Systems that Learn.”

The pair of professors will be discussing how AI grew to become one of modern society’s most ubiquitous and wide-ranging technologies. The panel will also explore where the tech will go from here.

Ken Goldberg is a professor of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at UC Berkeley. He has co-authored more than 200 peer-reviewed papers on automation, robotics and social information. He is the editor-in-chief of IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering and co-founder of the Berkeley Center for New Media.

Michael I. Jordan is the Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Department of Statistics at UC Berkeley. His work touches on a wide range of topics, including computer science, AI and computational biology. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Early-bird ticket sales end tomorrow, Friday. Book your tickets today and save $100 before prices increase.

Students, grab your discounted $45 tickets here.

Startups, make sure to check out our demo table packages, which include three tickets, for just $1,500.

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Tiny claws let drones perch like birds and bats

in Artificial Intelligence/biomimesis/biomimetic/Delhi/drones/Gadgets/Hardware/India/Politics/robotics/Science by

Drones are useful in countless ways, but that usefulness is often limited by the time they can stay in the air. Shouldn’t drones be able to take a load off too? With these special claws attached, they can perch or hang with ease, conserving battery power and vastly extending their flight time.

The claws, created by a highly multinational team of researchers I’ll list at the end, are inspired by birds and bats. The team noted that many flying animals have specially adapted feet or claws suited to attaching the creature to its favored surface. Sometimes they sit, sometimes they hang, sometimes they just kind of lean on it and don’t have to flap as hard.

As the researchers write:

In all of these cases, some suitably shaped part of the animal’s foot interacts with a structure in the environment and facilitates that less lift needs to be generated or that power flight can be completely suspended. Our goal is to use the same concept, which is commonly referred to as “perching,” for UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles].

“Perching,” you say? Go on…

We designed a modularized and actuated landing gear framework for rotary-wing UAVs consisting of an actuated gripper module and a set of contact modules that are mounted on the gripper’s fingers.

This modularization substantially increased the range of possible structures that can be exploited for perching and resting as compared with avian-inspired grippers.

Instead of trying to build one complex mechanism, like a pair of articulating feet, the team gave the drones a set of specially shaped 3D-printed static modules and one big gripper.

The drone surveys its surroundings using lidar or some other depth-aware sensor. This lets it characterize surfaces nearby and match those to a library of examples that it knows it can rest on.

Squared-off edges like those on the top right can be rested on as in A, while a pole can be balanced on as in B.

If the drone sees and needs to rest on a pole, it can grab it from above. If it’s a horizontal bar, it can grip it and hang below, flipping up again when necessary. If it’s a ledge, it can use a little cutout to steady itself against the corner, letting it shut off or all its motors. These modules can easily be swapped out or modified depending on the mission.

I have to say the whole thing actually seems to work remarkably well for a prototype. The hard part appears to be the recognition of useful surfaces and the precise positioning required to land on them properly. But it’s useful enough — in professional and military applications especially, one suspects — that it seems likely to be a common feature in a few years.

The paper describing this system was published in the journal Science Robotics. I don’t want to leave anyone out, so it’s by: Kaiyu Hang, Ximin Lyu, Haoran Song, Johannes A. Stork , Aaron M. Dollar, Danica Kragic and Fu Zhang, from Yale, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the University of Hong Kong, and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

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This is the next-gen lionfish vacuuming robot

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Roboticists have the strangest pet projects. For Colin Angle, it’s vacuuming up lionfish. The iRobot CEO is also the cofounder of RSE (that’s Robots in Service of the Environment), a volunteer-based organization designed to create what it says in the name.

The organization’s first project, announced back in 2017, is a robot designed to capture the invasive species, which are capable of decimating reef fish.

Following a successful $29,000 Kickstarter campaign, RSE just announced the launch the intensely named Guardian LF1 Mark 3. Fish vacuuming robot works at depths up to 400 feet, where the fish tend to hang out and breed. It can be remotely operated via a laptop or mobile device for up to an hour in a go.

“The Lionfish are destroying the coral reef and decimating fish populations in the Atlantic,” Angle said in a release tied to the news. The latest innovations incorporated into the RSE Guardian LF1, enable the undersea robotic solution to go deeper, fish longer and pull in a larger haul. With each technical milestone we cross we get one step closer to saving our greatest natural resource by empowering fisherman with new tools.”

The device stuns the fish with a zap, before collected up to ten in a single go. It’s currently a functioning prototype, which has been deployed during various testing missions in Florida.

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My little robot dude

in Delhi/India/Politics/roborock/robotics/TC/Xiaomi by

It was only a matter of time before I let a robot enter my apartment and run wild. Roomba’s have been around since 2002, so it’s somewhat odd that it took me so long to get on board the robot vacuum train. But, alas, I’ve been testing the Roborock S5, a combo vacuum and mop, in my apartment for the last few weeks.

TL;DR: I love him. We’ve only been together for a little while but I’ve grown to care for him, and I worry about him when he goes on a rug that’s just a bit too shaggy for his liking. I remember coming home one day and he was nowhere to be found. He wasn’t at his little docking station, which is where I last saw him. So, naturally, horror quickly set in. I feared my little robot dude had gone rogue and was hiding behind a corner, waiting to make his move to kick off the house robot revolt.

Turns out, he was just trying to be helpful by putting himself to work while I was gone. Before I left for the day, I had asked him to vacuum while I was home, but he ran out of battery (I didn’t fully charge him before his first job) and had to recharge.

Once he got enough juice, he went back to work but got stuck on the bathroom rug. He looked so helpless, just sitting there — immobile and only able to say “error.” I wondered how long he had been stuck there like that. I felt empathy for my little robot dude. This is why I don’t leave him home alone anymore while he’s on the job.

The Roborock S5 features 13 sensors to ensure it doesn’t fall off cliffs, hit walls and all of that fun stuff. It also comes with intelligent mapping and smart carpet identification. But, I suppose some rugs are just no match for my little robot dude.

A map of where my little robot dude went to work

Through the app, you can set specific zones for the robot to clean or avoid. When it senses it’s low on battery, Roborock S5 automatically returns to its docking charger.

My main qualm is around the mopping. The mop itself works great, but my little robot dude created some anxiety for me. It required a bit too much in-app customization for me to ensure he wouldn’t try to mop my rugs.

I had a moment where I thought to myself, “You know, it’d probably be faster for me to just mop the floors myself than keep fiddling with this app.” But maybe that’s because it was my first time using the mopping functionality. For future mopping sessions, I can set and save no-go zone and barriers.

There are a bunch of other technical features that I’m not going to go into here, but my takeaway is that it knows where it is in my apartment and works quite well. It currently retails for $546.99 on Amazon, while Roomba’s retail from $548 to $1K+ on Amazon. Roborock is backed by Xiaomi, along with other investors.

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Colin Angle will be speaking at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI April 18 at UC Berkeley

in Anthony Levandowski/Artificial Intelligence/colin angle/Delhi/helen greiner/India/iRobot/marc raibert/Melonee Wise/Politics/robot/robotics/rodney brooks/Roomba/TC Sessions: Robotics + AI/TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2019/TC Sessions: Robotics+AI 2019/terra/uc-berkeley/United States by

Earlier this week, we added Anthony Levandowski to a growing list of headliners that already includes Marc Raibert, Melonee Wise and Ken Goldberg. We’re back with one more headliner to add to our already packed schedule for April 18’s TC Sessions: Robotics + AI event at UC Berkeley (p.s. Early Bird ticket sale ends next week).

We’re excited to announce that iRobot co-founder and CEO Colin Angle will be joining us on stage in April.

Angle co-founded iRobot 28 years ago, alongside fellow roboticist Rodney Brooks and Helen Greiner. In 2002, the company struck robotics gold with the launch of the first Roomba. The device became the first truly successful home robot and has since gone on to become the best selling vacuum in the U.S.

Earlier this year, iRobot announced the upcoming release of Terra, the company’s first venture into lawn care. Angle will join us to discuss the creation of a home robotics ecosystem and the ten years of research and development that went into creating its new lawnmower.

Early Bird ticket sale ends next week! Book your $249 Early bird ticket today and save $100 before prices go up. Student tickets are just $45 when you book here.

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