World’s First Sidebot Offers Compact Design, High Speed

When a typical industrial robot is overkill but a cobot doesn’t quite get the job done, you can now turn to a new solution: a sidebot. 

By Jamie Hartford

Companies seeking to automate their operations typically have two choices: a workhorse industrial robot, intended to replace human workers, or a defter cobot, designed for lighter work performed in collaboration with or in close proximity to humans. But a new category of robots, called sidebots, seeks to provide the best of both worlds. 

Swiss company Wyzo claims to have developed the world’s first direct-drive pick-and-place sidebot, which it says can work side-by-side with human workers in the food and beverage, consumer goods, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, automotive, electrical, and electronics industries. The company says its namesake sidebot is 10 times faster than a typical cobot, providing up to 80 picks per minute. At 5.5 square feet and less than six feet tall, the Wyzo is six times more compact than a typical industrial robot. And thanks to sensors that can detect nearby human activity, it does not need to be surrounded by protective barriers.

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Mexico Is Sending Game-Changing Robotic Vehicles to Explore Resources on the Moon

By Otilia Drăgan

Mexico is one of the latest countries to join the space industry, with an ambitious project. Together with Airbus, the Mexican Space Agency (AEM) and local startup Dereum Labs are launching a groundbreaking Mexican In-Situ Resources Utilization (ISRU) Program for lunar extraction. 7 photos

In a few years, the industries that today are not related to space will be doing business on the Moon, Mars and beyond” said the CEO of Dereum Labs, Carlos Mariscal. In order to get there, we must be able to sustain long-term living on the moon. If other new projects focus on developing “gas stations” in space, this innovative Mexican initiative takes thing even further. 

What if we could obtain resources such as oxygen, water and fuel right there, on the moon, instead of having to transport them from the Earth? Through advanced technologies, they could be extracted from the moon’s surface layer, known as regolith. The demonstration concept of this new program is an end-to-end process that goes from regolith identification, to extraction of resources.

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Picking the way to a better asparagus future with robotic harvesting

A robotic asparagus harvester project led by growers and supported by the Government is set to reinvigorate the New Zealand asparagus industry by alleviating ongoing labour challenges.

 BY DAVID EDWARDS 

The New Zealand Asparagus Council and Tauranga-based Robotics Plus will work alongside New Zealand asparagus growers to develop a world-first commercial-scale autonomous robotic asparagus harvester to help address ongoing labour shortages in the industry and support growers to tap into high-value export markets.

The Government’s Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund is contributing $2.6 million to the $5.83 million project. 

“We’re really excited to get this project under way as we simply don’t have enough people to do the work,” says Mangaweka Asparagus grower and NZAC Chair, Sam Rainey.

“Robotic harvesting will be a game-changer for the asparagus industry that currently relies heavily on picking asparagus by hand, which is hard toil. An average picker will walk 10 kilometres per day, so it’s extremely difficult to attract people to do the work.

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Seattle’s first robotic parking garage opens

A car on a piston at the robotic parking garage in the Spire

BY  Joshua McNichols

Residents of this luxury Seattle tower drive their car onto a platform, exit the car, and punch in a code. Then their car disappears down a hole. 

That’s called “parking” at the Spire. 

Upon seeing the technology demonstrated for the first time, most people say: “Whoa.” And then they want to see what’s down the hole.

“We’re the only ones that have a key to this door, because the parking system is a building-sized machine and no one should be in the lower basement levels while the machine is in operation, except skilled technicians and engineers,” said Michael Dennison with the US company that distributes the Swiss-made robotic parking equipment.

Seattle’s first automated parking system is part of the Spire, a 41-story luxury condominium tower constructed on the edge of Belltown, not far from the Space Needle.

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Inflatable robotic hand gives amputees real-time tactile control

by Jennifer Chu,  Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Caption:An MIT-developed inflatable robotic hand gives amputees real-time tactile control. The smart hand is soft and elastic, weighs about half a pound, and costs a fraction of comparable prosthetics. Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

For the more than 5 million people in the world who have undergone an upper-limb amputation, prosthetics have come a long way. Beyond traditional mannequin-like appendages, there is a growing number of commercial neuroprosthetics—highly articulated bionic limbs, engineered to sense a user’s residual muscle signals and robotically mimic their intended motions.

But this high-tech dexterity comes at a price. Neuroprosthetics can cost tens of thousands of dollars and are built around metal skeletons, with electrical motors that can be heavy and rigid.

Now engineers at MIT and Shanghai Jiao Tong University have designed a soft, lightweight, and potentially low-cost neuroprosthetic hand. Amputees who tested the artificial limb performed daily activities, such as zipping a suitcase, pouring a carton of juice, and petting a cat, just as well as—and in some cases better than —those with more rigid neuroprosthetics.

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ROBOTIC GYNECOLOGIC SURGERY: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

Robotic gynecologic surgery provides surgeons a greater range of motion and precision

Robotic surgeries in healthcare are not new, especially in the field of gynecology. In 2005, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of robotic surgery for gynecological procedures. When both medication and non-invasive procedures fail to treat gynecological disorder symptoms, doctors recommend surgery. Robotic Gynecologic Surgery stays the acknowledged and best treatment for most gynecological conditions such as cervical cancer, excessive uterine bleeding, uterine fibroids, and more.

Before robotic surgery, surgeons sometimes used to held cameras in their hands, which means they could shake or gradually move. Now, the specialist can get a 3-D perspective on the activity site and the video is steady all through the process. Control has likewise improved with robotic technology. This allows surgeons to work normally and instinctively which can prompt better outcomes and speed up the process. It also helps to reduce the risk of blood loss and quicker recovery.

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Magnetic ‘millirobots’ climb and swim to deliver drugs to neural tissue

Researchers from Purdue University have developed magnetic ‘millirobots’ which can climb slopes, move against a current, and deliver substances to rodent neural tissue with great precision.

The study investigated how the robots – ‘Magnetically Aligned Nanorods In Alginate CapsuleS’ (aka ‘Maniacs’) – could perform as drug delivery vehicles inside the body. It found that, when controlled using a magnetic field, the robots can move against fluid flow, climb slopes and move through neural tissue, such as the spinal cord, to deposit substances at precise locations.

Disease in the central nervous system can be very difficult to treat. Lamar Mair of Weinberg Medical Physics, which partnered with the academics on the study, explained: “Delivering drugs orally or intravenously, for example, to target cancers or neurologic diseases, may affect regions of the body and nervous system that are unrelated to the disease. Targeted drug delivery may lead to improved efficacy and reduced side-effects due to lower off-target dosing.”

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Robot-assisted surgery: Putting the reality in virtual reality

by Chinese Association of Automation

Cardiac surgeons may be able to better plan operations and improve their surgical field view with the help of a robot. Controlled through a virtual reality parallel system as a digital twin, the robot can accurately image a patient through ultrasound without the hand cramping or radiation exposure that hinder human operators. The international research team published their method in IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica.

“Intra-operative ultrasound is especially useful, as it can guide the surgery by providing real-time images of otherwise hidden devices and anatomy,” said paper author Fei-Yue Wang, Director of the State Key Laboratory of Management and Control of Complex Systems, Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences. “However, the need for highly specialized skills is always a barrier for reliable and repeatable acquisition.”

Wang noted that the availability of onsite sonographers can be limited, and that many procedures requiring intra-operative ultrasound also often require X-ray imaging, which could expose the operator to harmful radiation. To mitigate these challenges, Wang and his team developed a platform for robotic intra-operative trans-esophageal echocardiography (TEE), an imaging technique widely used to diagnose heart disease and guide cardiac surgical procedures.

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Boston Dynamics introduces new warehouse robot ‘Stretch’

US robotics company Boston Dynamics on Monday unveiled a new robot called Stretch, designed to perform one very specific warehouse job: moving boxes.

Stretch is the first robot for one task that the company has built, based on requests received from companies around the world, said Michael Perry, vice president of business development for Boston Dynamics.

“We heard pretty much universally across warehousing that truck unloading is one of the most physically difficult and unpleasant jobs … And that’s where Stretch comes into play,” Perry told Reuters.

Stretch has a small mobile base that allows it to move around tight spaces in existing warehouses without having to reconfigure them for automation. It is equipped with an arm and a smart-gripper with advanced sensing and computer vision cameras that can identify and handle a large variety of boxed and shrink wrapped cases.

“We’re looking at picking up boxes around 50 pounds and our maximum rate of picking up and moving boxes can reach up to 800 cases per hour. So, it’s a fast-moving, highly versatile robot,” Perry said.

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This is Boston Dynamics’ next commercial robot

Handle’s descendant Stretch finds the company making a big play for logistics

Brian Heater

Boston Dynamics’ transitionfrom a decades-long research robotics firm to a company that productizes and sells hardware has been a fascinating one to watch. There have been some tough lessons along the way, including the very real lesson that at the end of the day, most robots in the world will be deployed for mundane tasks.

Sure, the company will continue to court the public with fun viral videos of its technology dancing to the oldies, but when it comes to actually selling robotics, the targets continue to be the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs we humans just don’t want to do. Or, as I’ve been putting it for a while now, robotics are — more often than not — cool technology performing decidedly uncool tasks.

Spot has found most of its success as an inspection robot. The quadruped has been deployed to oil rigs, nuclear plants and other places where most people would rather limit their time, given a choice. That takes care of the dangerous part of the three Ds, and you could make a reasonable argument that the company’s second commercially available robot is going after the dull bit.

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Ocean floor mapping robotics startup Bedrock announces an $8M raise

By Brian Heater

“It seems quite odd that no one has built the SpaceX equivalent for the ocean,” Anthony DiMare tells TechCrunch. “There’s no big, modern technology company that fits the space yet.”

DiMare cofounded Bedrock Ocean Exploration last year, with Charles Chiau. The latter brought a depth of robotics expertise to the space, while DiMare has experience with the oceans. His previous company, Nautilus Labs, which specialized in ocean fleet logistical planning, raised an $11 million Series A back 2019.

After leaving the startup, DiMare says he met up with Chiau at a San Francisco diner, where the pair discussed the challenges and opportunities in mapping the ocean floor. Today Bedrock is announcing that it has raised an $8 million seed round led by Eniac Ventures, Primary Venture Partners, Quiet Capital and R7.

The company notes that more than 80% of the ocean remains unmapped. And those parts are often at fairly low resolution. As the CEO puts it in a press release tied this morning’s news, “A far greater percentage of the surfaces of the Moon and Mars have been mapped and studied than our own ocean floor has.”

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This Fingertip for Robots Uses Magnets to ‘Feel’ Things

By sensing the subtle changes in the finger’s own magnetic field, this new technology could one day make for ultra-sensitive prosthetic hands.

By MATT SIMON

IMAGINE, IF YOU will, the home robot of the future. It picks clutter off the floor, sweeps, and does the dishes. And it has to do so  perfectly: If the robot has an error rate of just 1 percent, it will drop one dish out of a hundred. Totally unacceptable. In no time, your floor would be covered in shards and the robot would get stuck in a sad, vicious feedback loop, dropping dishes and sweeping them up and dropping more dishes, ad infinitum.

To avoid this domestic nightmare, engineers will have to give robots a keen sense of touch. And for that, the machines will need fingertips, perhaps like the one recently described in the journal Science Robotics. It feels in a decidedly nonhuman way, by sensing the subtle changes in the finger’s own magnetic field, and it could one day make for ultra-sensitive prosthetic hands and robots that don’t maim tableware (or people) because they can’t control their grasp.

You, a human, can feel pressures and textures with your fingertips, thanks to specialized sensory cells in the skin called mechanoreceptors. These, along with the nervous system at large, translate mechanical information from the environment into signals your brain can comprehend as the perception of “touch.” Combined with thermoreceptors (which sense temperature) and nociceptors (which sense pain), you’re able to manipulate the world around you without hurting yourself.

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