Robots as multifunctional gentlemen

Care-O-bot 4 / Photographer: Rainer Bez (2015)

Following the success of the personal computer (PC), our private and professional lives could soon be improved by personal robots (PR). These would function as  a sort of “electronic butler”, bringing the newspaper, pouring coffee or clearing  the table. They are friendly and affable, yet remain discreetly in the background  when not needed. The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA has been developing innovative service robots since the 1990s.  These can be used in areas including households, hotels, care homes and hospitals,  for example. Researchers have now developed a new model centred on the concept of a universal helper for everyday scenarios: the fourth generation of  the “Care-O-Bot®”. While its predecessors from 1998 onwards were used primarily in the development of technological fundamentals, the Care-O-bot® 4 is a modular product family providing the basis for commercial service robot solutions.

Together with the Stuttgart-based design studio Phoenix Design and Schunk, Fraunhofer IPA has been working on the completion of its new service robots for three years. The  result is unique. “The fourth generation of the Care-O-bot® is not only more agile, modular  and charming than its predecessors, but it also stands out through the use of costreducing construction principles,” explains Dr Ulrich Reiser, Project and Group Leader at Fraunhofer IPA. In this way, large parts of its internal construction feature folding sheet metal, which is economical to produce in small quantities.

Andreas Haug, co-Founder and Managing Director of Phoenix Design, adds: “Care-Obot® 4 is a successful symbiosis of design and engineering, as well as functionality and emotion, which quickly encourages user interaction.” Its streamlined design, with two arms attached at the side and a type of head, mean that the robot is reminiscent of a  human being. However, developers did not want its appearance to be over-human, as  this would “encourage false expectations with regard to its capabilities” for users, says  Ulrich Reiser. It is just the robot’s “internal values” which are human: it always maintains  a respectful distance, shows what it has understood and what it intends to do, while also being able to make simple gestures and reflect emotions. As with previous generations, social role models were used as a guiding vision in developing the design and functionality. While the concept for the Care-O-bot® 3 was a more reserved, cautious butler, its successor is as courteous, friendly and affable as a gentleman.

Modularity ensures economical solutions

The Care-O-bot® 4 also features a greater range of movements in comparison with previous generations. The smart helper is fitted with patented spherical joints around discreet pivot points on its neck and hips. These allow the robot to bend forward without losing its balance. Developers took inspiration from human anatomy, creating a moving part which shifts backwards when the robot bends over, ensuring that balance is maintained. The Care-O-bot® 4 does therefore not fall over when carrying a load in outstretched arms.

An innovative one-finger hand was developed with Schunk especially for the Care-Obot® 4. The combination of simplicity and elegance with integrated sensors is impressive. Schunk also manufacture their own standardised Schunk Powerball ERB modules, which  are used as arm joints. Their compact ball shape permits seamless integration. Managing  Partner Henrik A. Schunk comments: “The Care-O-bot® 4 represents a significant milestone in the mobile service robot industry on account of its high degree of standardisation.”

In comparison with its predecessors, the fields of application are far more wide-ranging for the Care-O-bot® 4. Its modular construction allows various different configurations. Arms, spherical joints and sensors are optional. If the intended purpose if to serve drinks, one  hand can be replaced by a tray, or the mobile base platform can be used on its own  as a serving trolley. Targeted adaptation for specific tasks significantly reduces costs. Individual robot platforms can be configured for a wide range of applications: a mobile information centre in museums, DIY stores and airports, for collection and delivery services in homes and offices, for security applications or as museum robots at attractions – the Care-O-bot® 4 is a safe and handy human helper at all times.

Facial expressions and gestures for a user-friendly service

IPA developers were determined to ensure that the Care-O-bot® 4 is simple to use. Users are more open to the help a robot can offer when they know that it functions properly. With this in mind, the Care-O-bot® 4 is fitted with an easily accessible touchscreen on the head. Moreover, it possesses a microphone for speech recognition and cameras for personal and gesture recognition. The Care-O-bot® 4’s spherical joints allow it to intuitively inform users what it is planning to do and what it has understood, including gestures such as nodding and shaking the head. A circle of LEDs on its torso area and a laser pointer in the hand serve as information exchange points.

Establishing a developer community 

Care-O-bot® 4 offers open software interfaces that makes it easily expandable for deve- lopers. Ulrich Reiser is keen for as many scientists as possible to use the system developed in Stuttgart in order to steadily advance its possible areas of application. “The objective is to steadily grow the developer community that was established already around CareO-bot® 3,” he explains. Numerous developers at research institutions and universities around the world have already worked with the Care-O-bot® 3 and the new Care-Obot® 4 should follow suit.

More detailed information on: http://www.care-o-bot.de

The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA was founded in 1959. It is one of the largest single institutes within this research organization and employs around 435 scientists. It has an annual budget of approximately 58,4 million euros, of which 22.9 million euros derive from industrial projects. The Fraunhofer IPA is made up of 14 individual departments engaged in the fields of Production Organization, Surface Engineering, Automation, and Process Technology. Its research and development work focuses on organizational and technological issues in the manufacturing environment of advanced industries, including Automotive, Mechanical Engineering, Electronics and Microsystems Engineering, Energy, and Medical and Biological Engineering. The R&D projects aim to enhance production processes and make products more cost-effective and environmentally friendly by identifying and exploiting the potential for automation and streamlining at our customers’ companies. This helps to maintain jobs and to strengthen international competitiveness.

Roberta Basketball Arm CAD – Zeitraffer – YouTube

Roberta Basketball Arm CAD – Zeitraffer – YouTube.

Roberta Robot-Arm Videos

Here are some Videos, found at the Roberta Youtube-Channel. They show a new robot-arm with 4 DOF, completely build of Lego. For more information about Roberta, take a loot at: http://www.roberta-home.de


Press the left or right arrow-button at the side of the video frame to switch between the videos.

First Day of Safety, Security and Rescue Robots 2010 (SSRR-2010)

Currently I’m participating at the workshop of Safety, Security and Rescue Robots 2010 in Bremen.

The first day is now gone and a lot of interesting talks have been given:

Tetsuya Kinugasa has shown a Flexible Displacement Sensor in his talk of „Measurement of Flexed Posture for Mono-tread Mobile Track Using New Flexible Displacement Sensor„. His group develops and uses this sensor to control the posture of a robot which is a combination of snake, worm and tank.

Jimmy Tran presented his works on „Canine Assisted Robot Deployment for Urban Search and Rescue„. The basic idea is as simple as brilliant, use a equipped dog to find victims and to inform operators about him. So, dogs are well used in rescue and they have a high mobility. They can easily overcome huge rubles and are able to carry video cameras or rescue material. So, his approach is to use the dogs to deploy a small robot next to a victim, which would allow to investigate medical status of the person. The idea is hilarious.

Development of leg-track hybrid locomotion to traverse loose slopes and irregular terrain“ is so far the most interesting technical approach of this workshop. It shows a way how a tracked like vehicle can be combined with a semi-Walker.

Donny Kurnia Sutantyo  presented his work on „Multi-Robot Searching Algorithm Using Levy Flight and Artificial Potential Field„, while Julian de Hoog showed a solution for team exploration in „Dynamic Team Hierarchies in Communication-Limited Multi-Robot Exploration“.

The invited speaker Bernardo Wagner showed the outcomes of his department. The Leibniz University of Hannover has worked intensively in the field of „Perception and Navigation with 3D Laser Range Data in Challenging Environments„.

Potential Field based Approach for Coordinate Exploration with a Multi-Robot Team“ is topic of Alessandro Renzaglia.

Bin Li showed another nice approach of a shape shifting robot. His robot is able to shape shift it self by rearranging its three motion segments. „Cooperative Reconfiguration between Two Specific Configurations for A Shape-shifting Robot

Jorge Bruno Silva presented a approach of trajectory planing while respecting time constrains in „Generating Trajectories With Temporal Constraints for an Autonomous Robot
Noritaka Sato closed the day by presenting novel a HMI approach for teleoperation. Instead of showing only the direct camera image his group uses temporal shifted images to generate an artificial bird eye view, like it is given in computer car games. „Teleoperation System Using Past Image Records Considering Moving Objects

I am looking forward to listen to the next talks.

Free German NXC Tutorial

Not eXactly C is a high-level programming language for the Lego Mindstorms NXT. NXC, which is short for Not eXactly C, is based on Next Byte Codes, an assembly language. NXC has a syntax like C.

There is a new version of the NXC Tutorial available at the Roberta Homepage. It is an extended german version of the tutorial original based on the work of Daniele Benedettelli.

You can download the german tutorial for free here: http://roberta-home.de/de/was-bietet-roberta/roberta-reihe/nxc-tutorial

The English original version is available here: http://bricxcc.sourceforge.net/nbc/nxcdoc/NXC_tutorial.pdf

http://roberta-home.de/sites/default/files/images/Tutorial.thumbnail.JPG

„Jeffrey“ CAD-file ready for download

All registered Roberta-Teachers are now able to download the CAD-File of „Jeffrey“ at the Roberta-Homepage.

Interesting designs for Rescue Robots – Part 2

Professor Dr. Satoshi Tadokoro from the Tohoku University  presents his ASC. ASC is an search camera for usage in emergency situations and stands for Active Scope Camera. In basic it is a flexible endoscope which is able to move by it self. With the help of vibrating inclined cilia this endoscope can like a caterpillar crawl into smallest voids (>30 mm). Its maximum speed is 47 mm/s and the operating range is 8 m. This allows rescue workers to search in rubbles for victims or checking the structure of it.

The following video shows Professor Dr. Satoshi Tadokoro at the Tokyo International Fire and Safety Exhibition 2008 presenting the ASC.

During the Collapse of the Historical Archive of the City of Cologne (March 2009),  Professor Dr. Satoshi Tadokoro, Professor Dr. Robin R. Murphy (Texas A&M University), Clint Arnett (Project Coordinator for Urban Search and Rescue in TEEX), members of the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems (IAIS) were trying to support the local fire department. Therefore I was able to test the ASC which was in use during this disaster.

The ASC performs extremely well. It can crawl in a reasonable speed into the rubble and is (after a little training) easy to use. But the biggest problem is the user interface. The ASC camera system does not compensated tilting or turning if the „robot“ does flip/turn over, which happens quite often. Hence, it is hard for the Operator to keep track of the orientation. In addition the opening angle of the camera is extreme small, which does even more handicap the situational awareness.

Roberta on Facebook

Adhesive foil/cover for Lego Mindstorms NXT available

Ever wanted to individualize your NXT a bit more?

Now you can buy the Roberta adhesive foils for Lego Mindstorms NXT (design by Ashley A. Green) at Technik LPE and coulourise your NXT the way you want. The foils are wipeable, heavy-duty and removable.

See:
http://roberta-home.de/de/aktuelles/|neu|-roberta-nxt-klebefolie

http://www.shop.lego-in-der-schule.de/Uebersicht?sparte=10

FAIR Libary is online

As we have already reported is the „Fraunhofer Autonomous Intelligent Robotics Devices“ Library now open source and available at the sourceforge project „OpenVolksBot„. In addition we can know report some more details on it.

  • The FAIRlib is now organized as several Eclipse-Project (fairAlgorithm, fairCore, fairDevices, fairGraphics, fairTestAlgorithm, fairTestCore, fairTestDevices and fairTestGraphics). This allows an easy extending and compiling the projects and minimizes the cross dependencies.
  • The dependences  are listed in the ReadMe and can be auto installed by using the script „apt-get-fair“
  • A way of easy installing is given by the script „install-fair
  • The current version is tested on the Ubuntu 9.10 (64-Bit) ,  but will also work on other OS (by side of auto solving the dependences)
  • Fair is published under the CC-by-sa-nc License .

So now we all can reuse and cooperated in a create library, instead of reinventing the „wheel“ again and again. 😉