'Omnicorp' unveiled Robocop at this year's CES in Las Vegas with this video. Omnicorp's bearded and be-suited representative gloats "We have created the most powerful and technological defense system in history" before adding chillingly "yet this wasn't enough."

 

Naturally this is just a promotional stunt for the forthcoming Sony Pictures film of Robocop, but there is an uneasy familiarity of the presentation itself and given the recent advancements in robotics from Boston Dynamics and others... Could the real RC2000 be nearer than we think?

 

You have 15 seconds to watch this video!

 

 

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Screen grabs from Youtube

In the future drones in the sky will be just as common as aircraft. New, smaller technology has reduced the weight of common electronics and has allowed drones to be lighter, smaller, and easier to make. Getting drones up and flying is not a problem, the problem lies within government regulations and privacy concerns. Additionally, flying drones in air space which is already occupied by lots of air traffic is also of concern.

 

Therefore, six test sites across the U.S. have been chosen for studying how drones can be integrated into U.S. air traffic and identifying which safety precautions needs to be met. For example, in the situation that a drone loses radio contact there should be standard procedures which will prohibit the drone from crashing or flying off its designated path. The six sites chosen for testing include: North Dakota, Alaska, Virginia, Nevada, Texas, and New York. All of the sites chosen have been picked for their Universities or research institutions which will be leading the projects. In addition, the FAA has approved 300 additional sites for drone testing which will be much smaller and consist mostly of universities and police departments.

 

North Dakota, one of the winning candidates for drone testing already has a long history in aerospace and drone research. In 2010 the University of North Dakota announced the country's first degree program for piloting drones. Furthermore, Grand Forks police department has already been authorized by the FAA to use drones in police missions, and deployed their first one in a mission in May of 2013. Many people at the Grand Forks Air Force base believe unmanned air vehicles are the future of aviation. Likewise, In Nevada officials predicted drone use could open thousands of jobs with an average salary range for drone piloting paying between $85,000 to $115,000.

 

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Sign in North Dakota issued to notify public of drone use. (via popsci)

 

Although the potential for drone use is higher than ever, there are still many skeptics and critics fighting against it. To combat this and gain public support many committees are beginning to form. One example is the University of North Dakota's Unmanned Aerial Systems Research Compliance Committee. Members include people, which have backgrounds in academic research ethics and not necessarily drone science. The goal of the committee is to review and approve drone use proposals and set public standards. This can include creating a drone flight map, voicing public feedback, or notifying the public of drone operations.

 

The testing of unmanned aerial vehicles is set to start as soon as possible. The test sites can be in operation from anywhere up to 2017. In addition, the FAA is hoping to have operational guidelines in place by 2015. Commercialization of drones will be revolutionary for companies such as Amazon, but it will also bring about new laws and new concerns.

 

Drone usage is sure to increase the number of UFO sighting… get the tinfoil hat.

 

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ShoeboxCNC. They better bring the price down before returning to kickstater... (via SBCNC)


Sometimes finding the right place to get started with robotics can be hard. You may have an idea of what you want to make, but choosing the right parts and all the accessories can be a bit overwhelming for beginners. This is why starter kits and bundles can be popular items. One of the latest kits being put together is an Ardunio controlled CNC robot. Currently on Kickstarter, the Shoebox CNC robot (SB-1) will be easily put together using cardboard pieces, or as the name implies, using a shoebox.

 

It will work by using a custom Ardunio shield for controlling 3 different motors. Additionally, it will work with quadrature encoders for each motor and limit switches. An H-bridge motor will also be available for powering an additional item. The motors that will come with the kit are custom made with quadrature encoders integrated into their structure. According to their Kickstarter page, the motors will be accurate with up to sub-millimeter precision.

 

Open source software is also being developed for easy control. Using a PC or MAC, movements for vector drawings and possibly g-code will be possible. Their page also states that they will be working to get software for LinxCNC working, as well as Scratch and Processing coding environments.

 

If interested in the ShoeboxCNC kit, there are many different options currently available on Kickstarter. For $45 you can get the Arduino shield previously mentioned. For $85 you can get the shield plus an Arduino and power supply. And for $250 you can get the entire kit with motors, wood, and cardboard materials. This kit will be great for getting people started with CNC robotics. However, I think their price may set them back a little bit. Paying $250 for an entire kit which will really only let you draw or paint shapes is a bit too much. On the plus side, it does give people a great idea on how to turn a useless box into something fun.

 

Although the project was cancelled… It will be back.

 

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Zepp’s GolfSense motion sensor, promo image. You get the gist.. glove... app... (via Zepp)


Amateur golfers are always looking for that edge to go pro. Whether it is wearing crazy golf hats, using better clubs or hiring a coach, they are always looking gain an advantage. While nothing can take the place of natural talent, there are devices that can help improve a player’s golf swing, which can help them become adept at the sport. In this case, it’s Zepp’s novel GolfSense device, which can help improve a golfer’s motion and lessen the urge of throwing those new clubs in a fit of rage after missing that crucial putt. The device attaches to a players glove and features an accelerometer that captures the users 3D swing data. That data entails the quality of the player’s swing, club speed, swing plane, tempo of the back swing/down swing and hip rotation. All of that data is sent immediately via a Bluetooth connection to any iOS or Android-based mobile device (where a beep sound signifies it has captured the data correctly), where the user can view all of that pertinent data and correct any issues they may have. A 3D representation of the player can be viewed showing the player’s swing and matches that with the user’s SwingScore, which allows players to set preconditioned goals of achievement. This allows players to gain an insight on what aspects of their swing they need to work on. According to some online reviews, the device works exceptionally well, however (like some software) the app tends to crash on occasion. Those looking to gain that extra edge over their opponents can get their hands on one for around $130, which is a small price to pay to gain that advantage.


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MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) are becoming more prevalent in the electronics we use today and will play an even bigger role in technology being developed for the near future. The tiny nano-sized (1 to 100 micrometers in size) devices usually incorporate its own microprocessor along with several components that are designed for interaction in its immediate surroundings. They can be found in mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) as sensors such as accelerometers, which can also be found in some game controllers as well, such as Nintendo’s Wii-mote. We can also see them being used for piezoelectric devices (found in inkjet printers and energy collection systems), displays (interferometric modulator display) for mobile devices and even biosensors and chemo-sensors used in the medical fields. As with all electronics, they require some level of protection and as devices continue to shrink in size and become mobile, that protection needs to increase as well. Electronics companies routinely perform a series of ‘damage’ tests (drop testing and simulation) on their products to see how robust they are and then adjust the design accordingly to lessen that damage. Typically, these include a robust protective casing usually made of polymer, rubber or both, which protects electronics from minor impacts.


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Uniformity and the ability to get at those "hard to reach places" is key to Parylene coating. The difference between the correct way and good enough. (via Diamond MT)

 

Otterbox, Body Glove and LifeProof (among a host of others) all provide cases for mobile devices, which usually incorporate a screen-protector, rubberized shroud along with a polymer outer casing to lessen impact usually dropped from just a few feet. While impact resistance is great for mobile devices and ruggedized laptops and notebooks (military grade), they don’t really protect those devices and their delicate electronics from the elements or other adverse conditions. Some companies have turned to protecting those electronics from the inside rather than focusing on the outside, in the form of conformal coating. The coating (silicone, epoxy, acrylic, polyurethane, etc.) is applied directly to the electronics PCB board along with the components connected to it, including embedded MEMS devices, in order to protect the device from moisture, dust, chemicals as well as temperature extremes (electronics have temperature threshold limits before the malfunction). There are many popular conformal coating solutions on the market today including offerings, from NeverWet and Liquipel, that offer protection for mobile and electronic devices. However, the results can vary and are sometimes ‘spotty’ at best.

 

When it comes to protective coatings for devices on a nano-scale such as sensors, actuators and mechanical structures, the coating needs to be impermeable against contaminants at the submicron levels. This is where Diamond-MT’s Parylene conformal coating shines, as the material offers superior protective properties than that of its competitors. The material is applied by vapor deposition inside of a vacuum and therefore can penetrate crevices down to an astonishing 0.01mm. This results in a tighter-fitting conformal layer than those applied by other methods such as spraying or dipping, which can result in an uneven layer and thereby negate the protective properties. The material is hydrophobic, making it water and liquid repellant on a very small scale free of pinholes. Parylene also features a low dielectric constant (electric insulator) as well as low current leakage (electrostatic lines are not impeded), which makes it ideal for incredible small electronics such as MEMS. Temperature almost becomes a non-issue using Parylene, as the material is able to retain its protective properties without degradation for 10-years at 800C and has a temperature threshold of an astounding 2000C! The polymer applies clear and stays clear while providing protection against UV rays that can damage sensitive electronics and optics. It’s no wonder that Diamond-MT has been coating sensitive MEMS-based electronics for the last ten years, as their Parylene coating is far superior to the other conformal coatings currently on the market.

 

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XFC UAV launched from the USS Providence (via Navy)


Drones have been making headlines almost on a daily basis concerning new advancements and capabilities, such as Amazon’s Prime Air package delivery system and Mark Mueller’s fail-safe system that keeps drones aloft after propeller malfunctions. When it comes to drone delivery systems however, nothing can top (at this point) the US Navy’s XFC UAV launch from a submerged submarine. Designed by the Naval Research Center, the drone, known as the eXperimental Fuel Cell, is a fully autonomous, all electric powered UAV that has a flight-time of over six hours depending on the payload. Unlike combustion-powered vehicles, the all-electric hydrogen-cell powered UAV is inherently stealthy making virtually no noise and is relatively free of a heat signature. Those features are impressive, considering the Navy plans on using them for ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) missions. The UAV’s wings are foldable, which allows the craft to be stored in what is known as a Sea Robin launch system that actually functions much like a targeting or sparing buoy on the ocean’s surface. The Sea Robin itself was designed to fit inside a submarines Tomahawk or torpedo missile tubes, which are standard platforms currently placed on most US submarines (both fast attack and nuclear). The SwampWorks program works by firing the Sea Robin out of one of the missile platforms where it floats to the ocean surface. Once there, it launches the XFC drone vertically into the air where it then unfolds its wings and transitions to sustained vertical flight to carry out its mission. The whole project took just six years to complete, from concept to realization, which was done in order to get the latest advancements in technology to those in the special warfare community.


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Mark Mueller’s fail-safe algorithm (via Mark Mueller)


Drones have a habit of dropping out of the sky no matter what size they are, including military UAVs such as the Predator and Reaper along with smaller civilian drones such as the hexacopter that crashed into a spectators face (Great Bull Run in Virginia). Like with all things mechanical, they fail sometimes, however when flying things fail it tends to be catastrophic, especially if they are airborne. Anyone who has ever seen a quadrocopter knows they are capable of performing incredible feats of acrobatic agility, like being able to flip on a dime, bank at incredible speeds and barrel roll two feet off the ground.

 

They too can suffer failure, especially when one of the four propellers malfunctions, which plummets the drone into the ground, which seldom leads to becoming airborne again afterwards. The only way a multi-propeller drone could survive the loss of a prop was through redundancy, meaning the drone needed to have more than four propellers (hexa and octocopters) to remain in flight. To help keep the quadrocopters aloft long enough to land safely, ETH’s Mark Mueller has developed an ingenious software algorithm that gives those drones a better chance of surviving propeller failure.

 

Known as the ‘automatic failsafe algorithm’, the software allows the drone to deal with the cost of losing a single propeller. Once the propeller malfunction is detected, the software kick’s in and drone recovers its flight and returns to its previous stable position. After which, the qudrocopter performs a controlled, soft landing at the operator’s command. Mark states that the system works on hardware that is readily available on standard quadrocopters and therefore could be used as a simple software upgrade to its existing control system. While the algorithm isn’t available yet for drone users, Mark is currently applying for a patent for his technology, so it’s likely we will see it on the market in the near future.

 

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Andy Rubin... Google pushing accessible robots on us all? (Google)


From the same company that brought the world one of the most popular search engines and mobile phone Operating Systems, Google recently announced a new project to take the world of robotics by storm, to be headed by the infamous Andy Rubin.

 

It may not be a coincidence that Google announced its robotics campaign shortly after Amazon announced its Amazon Prime Air drone project last week. Regardless, while Amazon’s project sets out to create flying robots to deliver packages to its customers, Google’s project is instead targeting the manufacturing industry.

 

With many manufactures, including big companies like China’s Foxconn, looking to robots for manufacturing production assistance, Google’s robotics project is expected to support this increasing demand. The project is expected to produce useful devices to help in mass production manufacturing plants, while decreasing the risk of personal injury to employees. The technology may also aid U.S.-based manufacturing plants increase production to keep up with the demand for U.S.-made products. Details about the new robotics project are being kept under wraps, but Google did officially announce this week that it recruited the services of seven robotics companies.

 

Over the past year Google has acquired Schaft, Redwood Robotics, Industrial Perception, Meka Robotics, Autofuss, Holomni and Bot & Dolly to provide capabilities to carry out its new robotics project. The vision is carried out by none other than Android developer Andy Rubin.

 

While most know Rubin as the man behind one of the most popular smartphone OS’s in the world, the design genius is also a hobbyist-turn-professional in robot engineering. Rubin has a professional background in robotics engineering with Carl Zeiss and Apple and hopes to eventually turn the robotics sector at Google into a provider of consumer-friendly products, such as a windshield wiper that detects rain and functions automatically. Rubin told the New York Times that he couldn’t be happier to lead Google’s robotics division and has turned a hobby into a career yet again.

 

While Google isn’t revealing too many details about its robotics project, it is estimated that the first manufacturing robots will be released in the new few years. It may be 10 years until Google begins producing robots for consumer use, if it does. The chances of it doing so are what Rubin calls a “moonshot.”

 

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Georgia Tech’s Tongue Drive System (via GT)


There is a limited selection when it comes to wheelchairs that can be self-driven and maneuvered by quadriplegics. Controlling them usually consists of ‘breath-power’, where the user blows or inhales into a tube and the pressure is translated into movement. Researchers and engineers have been designing and developing new systems that allow those without the use of their limbs to control their wheelchairs without the need of assistance.

 

Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, for example, is outfitted with a tablet computer that allows him to move and interact with appliances using an infrared switch (located on his glasses) to move a curser and select the appropriate app for interaction. Interactive Dynamics (Buenos Aires) is developing a thought-controlled chair that allows its users to move using a neural headset, however further development is needed before it’s fully realized.

 

Until that chair becomes available, engineers from Georgia Tech have designed a new method of self-propulsion that involves the use of the user’s tongue and tests have shown that it’s faster and more efficient than breath-powered setups. Known as the ‘Tongue Drive System’, the device uses a magnetic stud positioned on the users tongue for navigation and interaction (yes interaction as well). Sensors positioned on either side of the users head track the magnetic stud’s position, which acts like a biological joystick of sorts.

 

The tongue’s position is then translated into movement, allowing users to navigate their wheelchairs independently. The engineers also found that the magnetic tongue stud could also control curser movement, allowing users to interact with computer. Through a series of tests, the engineers found that their TDS system proved more efficient and easier to use over other systems currently on the market. It’s the engineers hope that their system can be refined enough to bring the technology to the market sometime in 2015.

 

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SkyJack: Raspberry Pi equipped Parrot AR.Drone 2.0


With the recent revelation that Iran had supposedly hijacked a US Navy RQ-170 Sentinel UAV by hacking its navigational systems, it wasn’t long before someone figured out how to do with hobbyist drones. Hobbyist Samy Kamkar has designed a unique drone that is capable of hijacking other drones that are nearby and taking control of them (a drone with its own drones). The UAV itself is actually a Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 that’s equipped with a 720p HD camera and is controlled with any smart mobile device. While the drone is interesting in itself, the real fun lies in the software that Samy created. The system he created, known as SkyJack, equips a Raspberry Pi single board computer to the drone, which has two wireless transmitters that it uses to seek out other Parrot drones and hacks their signals. Once the signals have been acquired, the user can then effectively take control of the hijacked drone/s (camera and flight controls) and do as they please. The SkyJack software (based on Perl) runs on any Linux-based PCs or any mobile device outfitted with Android or iOS. It uses aircrack-ng to turn the Wi-Fi card into monitor mode. It then detects all Wi-Fi signals in the area, deactivates any that have a Parrot signature, and then puts the user in control using node.js and node-ar-drone. With the recent announcement from Amazon regarding the use of drones (Prime Air) to deliver packages (UPS and Google are looking to do the same), it will be interesting to see if others will use something similar to hijack the drones delivering those packages. The SkyJack software is available for free from GitHub.



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Tallinn University of Technology’s U-CAT robotic sea turtle in action (via Tallinn)


Scientists and archeologists have been using submersible ROVs for decades to explore the oceans depths and those hard to reach shipwrecks. The problem with crafts/subs is that they are often too big and bulky to navigate inside those wrecks, which limits what we can learn from them. Another issue is the propulsion systems, which the ROVs use to navigate. Typically, they rely on thrusters for precise movement, however that method is not ideal when it comes to enclosed spaces. To overcome those limitations, scientists from the Tallinn University of Technology (Estonia) have created an incredibly maneuverable robotic sea turtle, designed to explore shipwrecks. The turtle, known as U-CAT, is part of the European Union’s ARROWS project, whose aim is to develop low-cost autonomous underwater vehicles for archeological operations. The robot itself, mimics the way sea turtles move underwater with four independently driven flippers, which allows the robot to move forward, upward, up, down and even turn on a dime. The locomotive aspect alone makes the U-CAT an ideal choice when navigating confined enclosures and limits the amount of silt that can decrease visibility. The U-CAT houses an onboard camera that continuously feeds video to scientists working topside, which allows them to inspect almost every aspect of a sunken ship’s holdings. Since the robot is autonomous, it requires no tether, which can become snagged or tangled, potentially destroying not only the sunken wreckage but also the ROV itself. The scientists from TUT plan on testing the U-CAT at archeological sites in both the Mediterranean Sea and the Baltic Sea and will eventually work in tandem with other larger ROVs outfitted with imaging technology to discover, identify and ultimately reconstruct (through software) those particular sites.

 

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Changes in industrial communications today are creating what some call a revolution in manufacturing automation. Key to these changes is Industrial Ethernet, which adds deterministic delivery, time-triggered support, greater distances and safer, more reliable operation to the advantages of traditional Ethernet. Owing to the many proprietary implementations of Industrial Ethernet, as well as legacy serial protocols, silicon and software solutions must provide a basic compatible technology that enables ease of design and promotes across-the-board communications.

 

Through semiconductor innovation, industrial customers can look forward to the advantages of speed, safety, efficiency and flexibility brought by advanced network communications.

 

Whether the new age of industrial automation is revolutionary, as some say, or simply a significant evolutionary advance, it is nonetheless bringing in an important new stage in equipment communications. Using Industrial Ethernet, factories are increasing the volume and variety of output while operating more safely and energy-efficiently.


Other areas such as transportation, automotive systems, power distribution and building installations are also benefiting from the same communications technology. As industrial communications start to move forward at a revolutionary pace, TI technology is significantly adding to the momentum.

 

To buy Texas Instruments products from Farnell element14 visit Texas Instruments | Farnell UK. For more information on Texas Instruments solutions for Industrial Automation, visit http://www.ti.com/automation. For more on how TI innovation is driving the future of electronics, visit www.ti.com/innovation.


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Thomas Leyrer

System Application Manager

Head of Industrial Automation Lab

Texas Instruments


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Amazon’s Prime Air octo-copter. Ready for package delivery! (via Amazon)


Just when you think there is nothing left that drones can be used for, comes a sci-fi like story that’s seemingly hard to believe. In this case, it’s Amazon’s Prime Air delivery system, which makes use of drones to deliver packages in 30-minutes or less! The shopping hub recently went on 60 Minutes to reveal their new shopping endeavor, which is clearly the first of its kind for retail outlets. The idea of drones delivering things is not new however, as the military and civilian SR (Search and Rescue) personnel have been using them over the past few years to deliver vital medicines, food and other supplies for soldiers in the field and people trapped in remote locations. Amazon plans to use a fleet of drones that will deliver packages directly to your location in the same amount of time it takes for a pizza to be delivered.


Amazon’s Prime Air will work by taking the customer’s order online, after which, workers at nearby outlets package your item in a plastic container. The container travels down a conveyor to a waiting octo-copter that grabs the package and flies to the customer’s location. The carry weight of the drones is limited to 5lbs and under so you won’t receive your next 50-inch flat panel screen by drone delivery. Amazon is currently waiting for the FAA to instil rules and regulations regarding the use of civilian drones, so we won’t see them buzzing around anytime soon, however the company is hopeful that their delivery system could be employed sometime in 2015. It will be interesting to see if any of those packages become lost or sent to the wrong address just like their human counterparts seem to do from time to time.


What a great way to promote Amazon on this year’s “Cyber Monday.”



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A short introduction from Martin Mienkina (Field Application Engineer) on Kinetis M series MCUs one-Phase Power Meter ref design.

Kinetis M series MCUs one-phase power meter reference design (DRM143) is intended for the measurement and registration of active and reactive energies in one-phase, two-wire networks. It is pre-certified and serves for evaluation of Kinetis M series microcontrollers in a real metering application.


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Over the past five years or so, heavy metal music has gone in a completely new direction. Not with the music mind you, but rather with band members who are neither male nor female but robots. Yes there are numerous robotic musicians breaking into the music biz with some playing more of a classical/pop-fusion style (California Institute of Arts’ MahaDeviBot, GlockenBot and BreakBot) as well as those playing covers of heavy metal classics like Germany’s Compressorhead. Following on the initial success of those robotic musicians comes yet another pneumatic band focusing more on synth-pop with a metal twist.

 

 

Known as Z-Machines, the three-piece band was created by some engineering students from Tokyo University and made their debut at Tokyo’s trendy Liquidroom club. The members include guitarist Mach, who’s outfitted with a total of 78 fingers and uses 12 picks to strum its instrument. On drums is the blue-metal clad Ashura, who uses 21 sticks with 6 arms to lay down the beat. Rounding out the trio is Cosmo, who plays the keyboard and flashes lasers from his head. The robots can play either by being programmed or independently controlled by humans using keyboards or other instruments connected to a MIDI device. An interesting facet of the band is it is able to interact with the audience based on their actions.

 

 

For example, if the audience raise their drinks in the air, the band plays louder and harder. How the band does this is currently unknown, however motion feedback sensors are certain to be involved. Z-Machines opened for this year’s Maker Faire Tokyo sponsored by Zima (that drink is still around?) with an interesting 10-minute set that captivated the audience. It’s certain that robot artists will continue to evolve into more elaborate performances in the near future and will most certainly perform alongside humans. Domo arigato Mr. Roboto.

 

 

 

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