Archive for January 22nd, 2007

Chaos: one tough robot – run for your life

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

I would not want this robot chasing me. Nothing stops it. Watch the videos after the jump to see it climb over piles of rubble and branches with ease.

From the Chaos Homepage:

Chaos is a highly mobile small robot useful for

* explosive ordinance disposal,
* surveillance,
* reconnaissance,
* search and rescue,
* hauling gear,
* and other dull, dirty, or dangerous tasks.

Chaos is a robotic platform with four configurable and independently controlled tracks. Its superior design allows it to go where no other robotic platform of its size can go. It can handle terrain like stairs, train tracks, rubble piles, gravel, and steep grades of loose debris. It was recently tested at Disaster City in Texas, the premier search and rescue training ground. There, in some of the most difficult terrain a robot will encounter, Chaos demonstrated its superior mobility.

The basic Chaos platform is fully JAUS compatible. Chaos has the volume and weight capacity to handle the load of a wide variety of sensor and robotic payloads, such as an arm for EOD applications or senosrs for Hazmat situations. Chaos is supplied with Mobi, ASI’s handheld operator control unit (OCU) loaded with the Mobius software, the universal control for unmanned systems. Mobius supports operational modes from simple tele-operation to multi-vehicle autonomous behavior. The combination of Chaos, Mobi, and Mobius provides the power, design and intelligence you need to go to more places.


Chaos, weighing in at 120 pounds, has more torque and payload capacity than any robot in its weight range. It uses an ultra-efficient motor and gearbox design to acheive impressive torque and an operational battery life of three hours. The design also makes it very quiet, with virtually no gear or motor noise.

Chaos uses an ultra-efficient motor and gearbox design to acheive impressive torque and an operational battery life of three hours. Chaos is modularly designed, so all components (tracks, arms, drive modules, electronics module, battery, and chassis) can easily be replaced in the field. All components connect solidly together without any velcro or straps.

VIA slashgear, technabob

Chaos homepage

NOVA program on the DARPA Grand Challenge available online

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

If you happen to have missed the NOVA hour long documentary on the DARPA grand challenge you can now watch it from their website. This is why we love the internet.


Diving deep: robot explores waters in central Mexico for life

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

From The Tartan Online by Michael M. Whiston
Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute recently developed software to be used in a deep-sea exploration project called DepthX.

Deep Phreatic Thermal Explorer (DepthX) is a mission to deploy an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to the bottom of Zacaton Cenote, a sinkhole in central Mexico over 1000 feet deep. Dr. David Wettergreen of Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute developed the robot’s navigational software. Wettergreen’s past research has focused on robotics exloration, but this is his first underwater mission with Carnegie Mellon.

Wettergreen said that the project’s ultimate goal is to study the sinkhole’s underwater environment by collecting water samples while also creating a three-dimensional map of the sinkhole. “We need a vehicle…that can move through complex cave systems without getting lost or trapped,â€? said Wettergreen.

The vehicle is seven feet in diameter, and it can spin and move in any direction. Also, its buoyancy is very high, and the center of mass is very low, making it ideal for underwater exploration. “It really wants to float upright in the water — it turns out to be extremely stable,� Wettergreen said.

In the DepthX project, Wettergreen helped develop software that enables the robot to map its environment. This particular kind of software is called simultaneous localization and mapping, or SLAM.

Project leader and Pittsburgh native Bill Stone of Stone Aerospace said that in the bottom of Zacaton Cenote, “things get very complicated, very fast.� He said that SLAM is a clever way to determine the vehicle’s location because it allows the vehicle to build a map of its three-dimensional surroundings. The map also includes information on the water’s temperature and salinity levels.

Wettergreen said that previous explorations into Zacatone Cenote have not gone deeper than 30 meters. Nonetheless, these exploration missions have turned up some interesting results. In particular, the water contains low amounts of dissolved oxygen, and the water’s temperature is unusually warm — 90°F. Wettergreen said that DepthX may provide some data that explains these findings.

In May of 2005, the robotics team tested the vehicle’s sonar equipment in Mexico. According to the team’s field report, the sonar successfully reached from wall to wall, and researchers were able to confirm that the sinkhole neither widens nor narrows at a depth of 200 meters.

This spring, the team plans to reach the bottom of the sinkhole. Wettergreen said that there could be life much deeper in the sinkhole.

Wettergreen said, “Probably, we’ll find various kinds of slime and that’s what we’ll be sampling, but no one really knows, this is really exploration into the unknown.�

If successful, DepthX might provide researchers with the tools that they need for robotics exploration elsewhere. In Antarctica, for instance, researchers are hoping to deploy the vehicle under perched lakes (lakes that are sealed off by a layer of ice).

“It’s more than just going from A to B to C to D,� Wettergreen said. “You need a model for what measurements are more important than others.�

The robot could also be used to explore Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa. Stone said that a half-dozen planets have bodies of water that could contain life.

“The software technology can be applied to a number of underwater exploration problems,� Wettergreen said.

Stone said that an environment must contain water, carbon, and electricity for life to exist, and there is reason to believe that Europa satisfies these criteria.

When microbiologists search for microbial life, Stone said, they look for changes in the energy levels of an environment, which could indicate the presence of a warm spring. Similarly, the DepthX vehicle looks for microbial life by tracking energy gradients. “We’re simply giving these behavioral characteristics to the robot,� he said.

After reaching its destination, the vehicle extends a probe to collect water samples. The robot then analyzes these samples under a microscope.

The vehicle is specially designed to handle extreme temperatures, such as those found in Antarctica and on Europa. On the other hand, Stone said, researchers will need to slightly modify the vehicle before sending it to Europa.

Stone said, “This system has to be able to survive the journey there, which is a completely different environment than we’re looking in right now.� In particular, the vehicle must be built to handle space shuttle vibrations and thermal cycling, or energy change within a robot’s motor.

The team will be heading to Mexico in February for further tests before deploying the robot into Zecaton Cenote this spring.

Wettergreen said that this is Carnegie Mellon’s first project involving an underwater vehicle. He said that he would like to build similar systems in the future.

“I’m hopeful that this is something we can continue,� he said.

Robot nurses could be on the wards in three years, say scientists

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

ROBOT nurses could be bustling around hospital wards in as little as three years.

The mechanised “angels” – being developed by EU-funded scientists – will perform basic tasks such as mopping up spillages, taking messages and guiding visitors to hospital beds.
Click to learn more…

They could also be used to distribute medicines and even monitor the temperature of patients remotely with laser thermometers.

Working in teams, the intelligent robots will be able to communicate with each other and co-ordinate their duties.

Scientists from the universities of Warwick, Cardiff, Dublin and Newcastle are among the engineers and software experts taking part in the “IWARD” project. They aim to have a three-robot prototype system ready by 2010.

It is hoped the machines will ease pressure on hospitals and free staff to spend more time with patients.

By helping to keep wards cleaner, they could also cut infections by hospital superbugs such as MRSA. Each “nursebot” will consist of a mobile platform mounted with a module of sensors and equipment for different tasks.

It might be fitted with a laser thermometer which can measure body heat from a distance, or cleaning equipment to mop up spills.

While the hardware and modules can employ off-the-shelf technology, making the robots sufficiently intelligent and autonomous will require ground-breaking work.

Project leader Thomas Schlegel, from the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany, has teamed up with experts from the University of Warwick to develop the advanced software.

He told The Engineer magazine: “The idea is not only to have mobile robots but also a full system of integrated information terminals and guide lights, so the hospital is full of interaction and intelligence.

“Operating as a completely decentralised network means that the robots can co-ordinate things between themselves, such as deciding which one would be best-equipped to deal with a spillage or to transport medicine.”

He said the robots could provide a valuable service guiding people around the hospital. A visitor would state the name of a patient at an information terminal and then follow a robot to the correct bedside.

If the nearest robot was not sure of a patient’s location, it could seek help by communicating with others in the right area.

The robots will be fitted with sensors and cameras, allowing them to avoid collisions while travelling through wards and corridors. High-speed lanes could allow them to move from place to place quickly.

The robots would also employ face and voice recognition technology to communicate with patients and spot unauthorised visitors.

“But the human-robot interaction will be tricky, as the robots will have to be able to deal with people with different injuries and disabilities as well as the elderly and seriously ill patients,” said Mr Schlegel.