Posts Tagged ‘robots’

Robotic Cerebellum Aims to Increase Robo-Coordination

Robotic Cerebellum Aims to Increase Robo-Coordination

Robotic Cerebellum Aims to Increase Robo-Coordination

Sure, modern robots can clean up after you, keep watch on the kids, and chase away unwanted intruders, but there’s no denying that an unexpected gust or stray stack of Lego blocks can bring even the most sophisticated humanoid to its knees. To cure such clumsiness, researchers at the University of Granada are reportedly working with electronic engineers, physicists, and neuroscientists from a range of universities including Edinburgh, Israel and Paris as a part of the Sensopac project which aims at “reproducing an artificial cerebellum.” The application of the cerebellum would allow androids to purportedly “carry out similar tasks as mammals and might help to treat cognitive diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.” Apparently, the team is hoping to create an implantable device to “make movements and interaction with humans more natural” within two years, and while it’s probably obvious, one of its primary uses would be in home-help robots who need to be agile whilst aiding the elderly.

The wires are jumping with this report out of the Cleveland Clinic: A neurosurgeon induced an aneurysm in a dog during a product demonstration, then euthanized the animal. The demo was for salespeople, which is apparently the most objectionable part:

The Cleveland Clinic says a neurosurgeon used a dog with an induced brain aneurysm to demonstrate a medical device to salespeople on Wednesday. The dog was anesthetized during the demonstration and euthanized afterward. The hospital uses animals for medical research but says it “doesn’t allow procedures with animals for the sole purpose of sales training.”

It’s unclear whether the aneurysm was induced in the dog solely for the sales demonstration. An aneurysm is when arteries or blood vessels bulge and eventually burst, which can cause severe damage or death. The clinic has reported the incident to the Department of Agriculture, which regulates animal testing.

We wonder what the device being demonstrated was, and whether one of the salespeople in the audience broke the silence and reported the incident.

In the never-ending quest to develop the Terminator, scientists at the University of Granada [not to be confused with El Granada, CA -ed] are trying to develop a cerebellum-like structure for robots. The device would have neuronal-like circuitry that could coordinate fine motor movements and maintain balance under dynamic conditions. This would allow robots to move around easier and be able to interact safely with humans.

They strangely claim that the development of the device might provide insight into Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Alzheimer’s has little to nothing to do with the cerebellum, and Parkinson’s is a disease of the basal ganglia that affects movement initiation (the cerebellum controls coordination and fine-motor movements). We’ll just have to see what they come up with.

The researchers also stated that robotic skin, which is next in line for development, could be used in conjunction with the device to provide input from all surfaces of the robot. The recent progress in robotics has some people alarmed. The BBC had this to say about it:

The fast pace of current robotics research has prompted deeper questions about how androids would be integrated into human society.

Some have called for a code of ethics for robots while others question how humans will cope in the face of machine intelligence.

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Making humanoid robots that can run and walk

Making humanoid robots that can run and walk

Props to the guys over at smart-machines for digging up an awesome video (see below) of the Toyota humanoid robot running at 7 Km/hr (4 mph), besting Asimo’s 6Km/hr.  Making humanoid robots that can run and walk was once a formidable challenge for robot engineers, but advances in computing now make the problem of calculating split second compensations for balance less of a headache.  Surprisingly, there still aren’t many bipedal humanoid robots that can walk, let alone run.  The Asimo robot from Honda and also the upcoming Dexter robot from Anybots are two of the more famous examples, but now Toyota has jumped into the ring in a big way.  The Toyota humanoid robot is part of a now multi-year effort by Toyota to create robots that are designed to help humans, aptly called partner robots.


The Asimo robot from Honda has been around for over a decade, so at first the humanoid robot from Toyota might not seem like much of an achievement.  Perhaps this is true…but after watching the video you will have to agree its still pretty darn cool.  Apparently the Toyota robot can only operate on conventional flat surfaces, whereas the Asimo robot is capable of walking up stairs and handling more diverse situations (except when it falls).  But then again the Toyota robot can play the violin, so who is the real champ here?  In the end, the best thing is that there are multiple big money players all jumping into the humanoid robot market, and thus the field is rapidly advancing through natural competitive pressure.  It surely won’t be long now before Honda or some other company bests this 7 Km/hr achievement.  And then of course if we allow the robot to have more than two feet, my money is on the big dog kicking everybody’s butt, humanoid or human.

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Surprisingly there is very little information I can find about the Toyota running robot other than the info in this post.  If anybody can dig up more videos or information please post it in the comments.

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