robotics

Festo’s latest biomimetic robots are a flying feathered bird and ball-bottomed helper arm

Posted by | biomimetic, festo, Gadgets, hardware, robotics, robots, science | No Comments

You could be excused for thinking that German robotics company Festo does nothing but put together fabulous prototype robots built to resemble kangaroos, jellyfish, and other living things. They do in fact actually make real industrial robots, but it’s hard not to marvel at their biomimetic experiments; Case in point, the feathered BionicSwift and absurd BionicMobileAssistant motile arm.

Festo already has a flying bird robot — I wrote about it almost 10 years ago. They even made a flying bat as a follow-up. But the BionicSwift is more impressive than both because, in an effort to more closely resemble its avian inspiration, it flies using artificial feathers.

Image Credits: Festo

“The individual lamellae [i.e. feathers] are made of an ultralight, flexible but very robust foam and lie on top of each other like shingles. Connected to a carbon quill, they are attached to the actual hand and arm wings as in the natural model,” Festo writes in its description of the robot.

The articulating lamellae allow the wing to work like a bird’s, forming a powerful scoop on the downstroke to push against the air, but separating on the upstroke to produce less resistance. Everything is controlled on-board, including the indoor positioning system that the bird was ostensibly built to demonstrate. Flocks of BionicSwifts can fly in close quarters and avoid each other using an ultra wideband setup.

Festo’s BionicMobileAssistant seems like it would be more practical, and in a way it is, but not by much. The robot is basically an arm emerging from a wheeled base — or rather a balled one. The spherical bottom is driven by three “omniwheels,” letting it move easily in any direction while minimizing its footprint.

The hand is a showcase of modern robotic gripper design, with all kinds of state of the art tech packed in there — but the result is less than the sum of its parts. What makes a robotic hand good these days is less that it has a hundred sensors in the palm and fingers and huge motility for its thumb, but rather intelligence about what it is gripping. An unadorned pincer may be a better “hand” than one that looks like the real thing because of the software that backs it up.

Not to mention the spherical movement strategy makes for something of an unstable base. It’s telling that the robot is transporting scarves and not plates of food or parts.

Of course, it’s silly to criticize such a machine, which is aspirational rather than practical. But it’s important to understand that these fascinating creations from Festo are hints at a possible future more than anything.

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Software will reshape our world in the next decade

Posted by | Alexa, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, blockchain, Column, cryptocurrency, cybernetics, Education, Entertainment, food, Gadgets, iPhone, Opinion, payments, robotics, San Francisco, smartphone, Social, TC, technology, video conferencing | No Comments
Alfred Chuang
Contributor

Alfred Chuang is general partner at Race Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm.

As I was wrapping up a Zoom meeting with my business partners, I could hear my son joking with his classmates in his online chemistry class.

I have to say this is a very strange time for me: As much as I love my family, in normal times, we never spend this much time together. But these aren’t normal times.

In normal times, governments, businesses and schools would never agree to shut everything down. In normal times, my doctor wouldn’t agree to see me over video conferencing.

No one would stand outside a grocery store, looking down to make sure they were six feet apart from one another. In times like these, decisions that would normally take years are being made in a matter of hours. In short, the physical world — brick-and-mortar reality— has shut down. The world still functions, but now it is operating inside everyone’s own home.

This not-so-normal time reminds me of 2008, the depths of the financial crisis. I sold my company BEA Systems, which I co-founded, to Oracle for $8.6 billion in cash. This liquidity event was simultaneously the worst and most exhausting time of my career, and the best time of my career, thanks to the many inspiring entrepreneurs I was able to meet.

These were some of the brightest, hardworking, never-take-no-for-an-answer founders, and in this era, many CEOs showed their true colors. That was when Slack, Lyft, Uber, Credit Karma, Twilio, Square, Cloudera and many others got started. All of these companies now have multibillion dollar market caps. And I got to invest and partner with some of them.

Once again, I can’t help but wonder what our world will look like in 10 years. The way we live. The way we learn. The way we consume. The way we will interact with each other.

What will happen 10 years from now?

Welcome to 2030. It’s been more than two decades since the invention of the iPhone, the launch of cloud computing and one decade since the launch of widespread 5G networks. All of the technologies required to change the way we live, work, eat and play are finally here and can be distributed at an unprecedented speed.

The global population is 8.5 billion and everyone owns a smartphone with all of their daily apps running on it. That’s up from around 500 million two decades ago.

Robust internet access and communication platforms have created a new world.

The world’s largest school is a software company — its learning engine uses artificial intelligence to provide personalized learning materials anytime, anywhere, with no physical space necessary. Similar to how Apple upended the music industry with iTunes, all students can now download any information for a super-low price. Tuition fees have dropped significantly: There are no more student debts. Kids can finally focus on learning, not just getting an education. Access to a good education has been equalized.

The world’s largest bank is a software company and all financial transactions are digital. If you want to talk to a banker live, you’ll initiate a text or video conference. On top of that, embedded fintech software now powers all industries.

No more dirty physical money. All money flow is stored, traceable and secured on a blockchain ledger. The financial infrastructure platforms are able to handle customers across all geographies and jurisdictions, all exchanges of value, all types of use-cases (producers, distributors, consumers) and all from the start.

The world’s largest grocery store is a software and robotics company — groceries are delivered whenever and wherever we want as fast as possible. Food is delivered via robot or drones with no human involvement. Customers can track where, when and who is involved in growing and handling my food. Artificial intelligence tells us what we need based on past purchases and our calendars.

The world largest hospital is a software and robotics company — all initial diagnoses are performed via video conferencing. Combined with patient medical records all digitally stored, a doctor in San Francisco and her artificial intelligence assistant can provide personalized prescriptions to her patients in Hong Kong. All surgical procedures are performed by robots, with supervision by a doctor of course, we haven’t gone completely crazy. And even the doctors get to work from home.

Our entire workforce works from home: Don’t forget the main purpose of an office is to support companies’ workers in performing their jobs efficiently. Since 2020, all companies, and especially their CEOs, realized it was more efficient to let their workers work from home. Not only can they save hours of commute time, all companies get to save money on office space and shift resources toward employee benefits. I’m looking back 10 years and saying to myself, “I still remember those days when office space was a thing.”

The world’s largest entertainment company is a software company, and all the content we love is digital. All blockbuster movies are released direct-to-video. We can ask Alexa to deliver popcorn to the house and even watch the film with friends who are far away. If you see something you like in the movie, you can buy it immediately — clothing, objects, whatever you see — and have it delivered right to your house. No more standing in line. No transport time. Reduced pollution. Better planet!

These are just a few industries that have been completely transformed by 2030, but these changes will apply universally to almost anything. We were told software was eating the world.

The saying goes you are what you eat. In 2030, software is the world.

Security and protection no longer just applies to things we can touch and see. What’s valuable for each and every one of us is all stored digitally — our email account, chat history, browsing data and social media accounts. It goes on and on. We don’t need a house alarm, we need a digital alarm.

Even though this crisis makes the near future seem bleak, I am optimistic about the new world and the new companies of tomorrow. I am even more excited about our ability to change as a human race and how this crisis and technology are speeding up the way we live.

This storm shall pass. However the choices we make now will change our lives forever.

My team and I are proud to build and invest in companies that will help shape the new world; new and impactful technologies that are important for many generations to come, companies that matter to humanity, something that we can all tell our grandchildren about.

I am hopeful.

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TinyML is giving hardware new life

Posted by | arduino, artificial intelligence, artificial neural networks, biotech, Cloud, Column, coronavirus, COVID-19, deep learning, drug development, embedded systems, Extra Crunch, Gadgets, hardware, machine learning, manufacturing, Market Analysis, ML, neural networks, Open source hardware, robotics, SaaS, Wearables | No Comments
Adam Benzion
Contributor

A serial entrepreneur, writer, and tech investor, Adam Benzion is the co-founder of Hackster.io, the world’s largest community for hardware developers.

Aluminum and iconography are no longer enough for a product to get noticed in the marketplace. Today, great products need to be useful and deliver an almost magical experience, something that becomes an extension of life. Tiny Machine Learning (TinyML) is the latest embedded software technology that moves hardware into that almost magical realm, where machines can automatically learn and grow through use, like a primitive human brain.

Until now building machine learning (ML) algorithms for hardware meant complex mathematical modes based on sample data, known as “training data,” in order to make predictions or decisions without being explicitly programmed to do so. And if this sounds complex and expensive to build, it is. On top of that, traditionally ML-related tasks were translated to the cloud, creating latency, consuming scarce power and putting machines at the mercy of connection speeds. Combined, these constraints made computing at the edge slower, more expensive and less predictable.

But thanks to recent advances, companies are turning to TinyML as the latest trend in building product intelligence. Arduino, the company best known for open-source hardware is making TinyML available for millions of developers. Together with Edge Impulse, they are turning the ubiquitous Arduino board into a powerful embedded ML platform, like the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense and other 32-bit boards. With this partnership you can run powerful learning models based on artificial neural networks (ANN) reaching and sampling tiny sensors along with low-powered microcontrollers.

Over the past year great strides were made in making deep learning models smaller, faster and runnable on embedded hardware through projects like TensorFlow Lite for Microcontrollers, uTensor and Arm’s CMSIS-NN. But building a quality dataset, extracting the right features, training and deploying these models is still complicated. TinyML was the missing link between edge hardware and device intelligence now coming to fruition.

Tiny devices with not-so-tiny brains

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The future of deep-reinforcement learning, our contemporary AI superhero

Posted by | artificial intelligence, Column, deep-reinforcement learning, Extra Crunch, Gaming, Market Analysis, robotics, science | No Comments
Rish Joshi
Contributor

Rish is an entrepreneur and investor. Previously, he was a VC at Gradient Ventures (Google’s AI fund), co-founded a fintech startup building an analytics platform for SEC filings and worked on deep-learning research as a graduate student in computer science at MIT.

It was not long ago that the world watched World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov lose a decisive match against a supercomputer. IBM’s Deep Blue embodied the state of the art in the late 1990s, when a machine defeating a world (human) champion at a complex game such as chess was still unheard of.

Fast-forward to today, and not only have supercomputers greatly surpassed Deep Blue in chess, they have managed to achieve superhuman performance in a string of other games, often much more complex than chess, ranging from Go to Dota to classic Atari titles.

Many of these games have been mastered just in the last five years, pointing to a pace of innovation much quicker than the two decades prior. Recently, Google released work on Agent57, which for the first time showcased superior performance over existing benchmarks across all 57 Atari 2600 games.

The class of AI algorithms underlying these feats — deep-reinforcement learning — has demonstrated the ability to learn at very high levels in constrained domains, such as the ones offered by games.

The exploits in gaming have provided valuable insights (for the research community) into what deep-reinforcement learning can and cannot do. Running these algorithms has required gargantuan compute power as well as fine-tuning of the neural networks involved in order to achieve the performance we’ve seen.

Researchers are pursuing new approaches such as multi-environment training and the use of language modeling to help enable learning across multiple domains, but there remains an open question of whether deep-reinforcement learning takes us closer to the mother lode — artificial general intelligence (AGI) — in any extensible way.

While the talk of AGI can get quite philosophical quickly, deep-reinforcement learning has already shown great performance in constrained environments, which has spurred its use in areas like robotics and healthcare, where problems often come with defined spaces and rules where the techniques can be effectively applied.

In robotics, it has shown promising results in using simulation environments to train robots for the real world. It has performed well in training real-world robots to perform tasks such as picking and how to walk. It’s being applied to a number of use cases in healthcare, such as personalized medicine, chronic care management, drug discovery and resource scheduling and allocation. Other areas that are seeing applications have included natural language processing, computer vision, algorithmic optimization and finance.

The research community is still early in fully understanding the potential of deep-reinforcement learning, but if we are to go by how well it has done in playing games in recent years, it’s likely we’ll be seeing even more interesting breakthroughs in other areas shortly.

So what is deep-reinforcement learning?

If you’ve ever navigated a corn maze, your brain at an abstract level has been using reinforcement learning to help you figure out the lay of the land by trial and error, ultimately leading you to find a way out.

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US is preparing to ban foreign-made drones from government use

Posted by | aerospace, China, dji, drone, Gadgets, Government, hardware, Policy, robotics, Security, Trump administration, U.S. government, White House, wireless | No Comments

The Trump administration is preparing an executive order to ban federal departments and agencies from buying or using foreign-made drones, citing a risk to national security, TechCrunch has learned.

The draft order, which was drafted in the past few weeks and seen by TechCrunch, would effectively ban both foreign-made drones or drones made with foreign components out of fear that sensitive data collected during their use could be transferred to adversarial nation-states. The order specifically calls out threats posed by China, a major hub for drone manufacturers that supply both government and consumers, with the prospect that other countries could be added later.

The order says it’s government policy to “encourage” the use of domestically built drones instead.

If passed, federal agencies would have a month to comply with the order, it said. But the military and the intelligence community would be granted broad exemptions under the draft order seen.

When reached, a spokesperson for the White House did not comment.

It’s the latest move to crack down on Chinese-built technology, amid fears that Beijing is using its authority and influence to compel companies to spy at its behest. Huawei and ZTE among others have faced bans from operating inside the U.S. government, despite protests from the companies, which have long rebutted claims that they pose a risk due to their Chinese connections. Beijing responded in kind by banning from its state offices U.S. and other foreign-made technology.

The U.S. government’s prevalent use of predominantly Chinese-made drones has come under more intense scrutiny in recent months. In January, the Dept. of the Interior issued an order grounding its fleet of close to 800 foreign-made drones, except for in emergencies, amid concerns that any data collected would be “valuable” to U.S. adversaries.

But an email seen by TechCrunch dated July 2019 appears to show internal disagreements about the risks of using foreign-made drones, just months before the grounding order would come into force. Interior’s chief information officer William Vajda said in an email to two senior staffers that the department’s drone program “understands the risks” of foreign-made drones and has “taken appropriate steps to mitigate them.”

“The only more effective mitigation would be to use exclusively U.S. manufactured, non-foreign technologies,” he wrote.

Most of the department’s fleet is built by China-based manufacturers — including DJI — which stands to lose the most if the order is signed. DJI supplies some 70% of the world’s drones in a market said to be worth about $15 billion by the end of the decade.

A spokesperson for the Dept. of the Interior said the department was working to “further assess the risks” of foreign-made drones.

DJI spokesperson Michael Oldenburg said in a statement: “While we haven’t seen the document, this proposal is another attack on drone technology based on its country of origin, which recent reporting has shown has been criticized within federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service and even the White House Office of Management and Budget.”

“When communicating among themselves, these agencies’ officials have explained how such an approach damages American interests and does not solve any cybersecurity issues, and have acknowledged that DJI’s products have been validated as secure for use in government operations,” the spokesperson said.


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Relativity Space expands its rocket-printing operations into an enormous new Long Beach HQ

Posted by | 3d printing, Gadgets, hardware, launch services, launch vehicles, Relativity Space, robotics, rocketry, Space, TC | No Comments

Building a rocket is a big operation, even when you’re printing them from the ground up, like Relativity Space . The launch startup is graduating from its initial office, which is a bit cramped for assembling rockets, to a huge space in Long Beach, where the company will go from prototype to first flight.

We recently visited Relativity at their old headquarters, which had the scrappy (literally — there were metal scraps everywhere) industrial feel you’d expect from a large-scale hardware startup. But except for the parking lot, there didn’t seem to be anywhere to put together… you know, a rocket.

So it was no surprise when co-founder and CEO Tim Ellis said that the company was just starting the process of moving to a gigantic new open-plan warehouse-style building in Long Beach.

Relativity CEO Tim Ellis is obviously excited about the new HQ.

“It’s a big step,” Ellis told TechCrunch. “It’ll actually be the first factory we fully build out with 3D printers. This new space is actually big enough that we’ll be printing the first and second stages, and the fairing at the same time. The new ceiling height is approximately 40 feet, which will allow us to build taller — about twice the height of our current facility. We’re on track to start shipping parts to Stennis for testing later this year.”

In addition to the three “Stargate” printers that can print parts up to 15 feet high, they’ll have three more that can go up to 20 feet and two that can go up to 30. It’s a bit hard to imagine a single printed rocket part 30 feet tall until you’ve seen some of the pieces Relativity has already made.

Not only do the rockets take up a lot of space, but the company itself is growing.

“From two years ago to now we’ve over 20X-ed our entire footprint as a company,” Ellis pointed out. In other words, it was starting to feel a bit overpopulated in their old spot near LAX.

This the space as it is now; the image up top is a render of how it will look once active.

Assembly of the launch vehicle, called Terran 1, its Aeon engines and R&D will all take place in the new HQ. It’s nearly 120,000 square feet, and will be built as a very high-tech manufacturing operation indeed. There will be no fixed tooling, meaning the factory can be rapidly reconfigured, and will be highly automated. The company’s 3D printers aren’t like the simple ones used for rough prototyping, but enormous, carefully monitored robot arms that perform real-time analysis of the metal they are laying down.

“It’s really the first autonomous factory, and it’s not just for rockets,” Ellis said. “Once we prove out the factory with this first launch vehicle, we’re convinced this works towards our long-term plan of launching factories to Mars and building a wide range of products that you’re going to need there. It’s on the path for the long-term vision but also a way for us to be a pioneer in this new value chain for aerospace.”

“It’s going to be cool,” he added.

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ShapeMeasure’s smart tool and robotic cutter let contractors measure once and cut never

Posted by | Gadgets, hardware, hax, robotics, shapemeasure, Startups, TC | No Comments

As much as we’d all like to believe that our houses are built with perfectly square angles and other highly regular measurements, that’s rarely the case — which makes remodeling complex and tedious. ShapeMeasure hopes to alleviate that pain with a device that automatically measures a space and a robotic mill that cuts the required lumber precisely to size, shortening and easing the process by huge amounts.

Founder Ben Blumer, who was exposed to the art of building and repair early by his father, a general contractor, had a brainwave that became the company during some renovations of his own.

“I was shocked to see our flooring installer, who had 10 years of experience, and was excellent at what he did, take over an hour to install a single stair,” Blumer said. “I started thinking, ‘a little bit of technology could go a long way here.’ ”

Finding himself at the time free to work on such a project, he recruited a former general contractor friend and applied to HAX, which soon shipped them off to Shenzhen to pursue their idea.

The main issue is stairs: they’re tricky, and especially in older homes can be pretty off-kilter. So although you know each stair is about 35 inches wide, it might be 35 and 3/64 inches, while the next one could be 34 and 61/64. Likewise, the angles might be ever so slightly off the 90 degrees or whatever they theoretically should be. Painstakingly measuring every single stair and manually cutting wood to those many slightly different dimensions is extremely time-consuming. The tool ShapeMeasure built makes it literally a push-button affair.

The device they settled on is essentially a super-precise lidar that measures around itself in wide arc, and the exact details of which comprise part of the company’s secret sauce. This gives the precise dimensions and attachment angles of the area around it, in the first intended use case a stair. The design, helped along by HAX’s Noel Joyce, looks a bit like a giant Dust Buster by way of the original “Alien.”

Obviously his shirt contradicts my headline, but if you think about the cutting as an automated process rather than something a person has to do, mine makes sense.

“We were working with Noel Joyce, HAX’s lead industrial designer. We wanted a product that looked and felt like a tool. We figured, if you’re trying to convince contractors to try something new, it should feel familiar,” Blumer said. “We spent hundreds of hours sourcing parts and re-engineering our scanning mechanism so that it could fit into Noel’s beautiful form factor. Turns out, contractors don’t care what it looks like. They liked the design, but were way more excited for the functionality.”

Once the shapes are scanned in and checked, that information can be beamed off to ShapeMeasure’s other device, a robotic lumber sizing system that cuts wood into the exact size and shape necessary to fit together as stairs. Of course, the contractor still has to bring them to the location and attach them by whatever means they see fit, but what was once a process with perhaps hundreds of steps has been simplified by an order of magnitude.

The machine is similar to other lumber-cutting devices, but simpler and easier to operate.

“There are lots of automatic cutting systems — often big, heavy, expensive and operated by professional CNC technicians. To cut flooring on a machine like that involves setting up jigs, clamping and reclamping each board, and generating custom gcode for each stair we cut,” Blumer said. They can be several times more costly and difficult to employ. “The cutting solution we’re building is compact, requires no clamping, and can be operated with just a few hours of training.”

It’s not just about length and width, either — molding and other flourishes on the stairs can make complex cuts necessary that would be impractical or at the very least extremely time-consuming to attempt manually.

Examples of complex cuts made by the ShapeMeasure machine.

The result is that the installation process from start to finish is about four times faster, they determined. If this seems a bit optimistic, know that it isn’t just armchair theorizing — they were careful to back up these numbers from the start.

“We take our speedup data really seriously,” said Blumer. “This is our top metric! One of the first purchases I made for the company was a dozen stopwatches. We’ve done installations in the ShapeMeasure lab and on real, messy construction sites — filming, timing and logging every moment.”

Interestingly, the precut lumber made other improvements possible — the team designed a bucket to accommodate the increased rate at which the installer uses glue and other parts. It’s a bit like if you improved painting speed so much that your new bottleneck was mixing and pouring the paint into roller trays fast enough.

Currently the company is working on establishing standard practices and packaging so that a ShapeMeasure “microfactory” can be set up easily anywhere in the country on short notice. And they’re “considering” raising money before then to accelerate the process. Blumer built the prototype with his own money and they pulled in a bit from HAX and then a small pre-seed round to get things started.

With luck and a bit of elbow grease, ShapeMeasure could turn out to be a real differentiator in the contractor space — every hour counts, as does every dollar in an estimate.

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Maxar and NASA will demonstrate orbital spacecraft assembly with a new robotic arm

Posted by | aerospace, Gadgets, Government, hardware, Maxar, NASA, robotics, Space | No Comments

NASA has awarded Maxar an estimated $142 million contract to demonstrate in-orbit spacecraft refueling and assembly of new components using a custom robotic platform in space.

The space infrastructure dexterous robot, or SPIDER, program will be part of NASA’s Restore-L mission to demonstrate automation of proposed orbital tasks like reconfiguring or repairing a satellite or manufacturing new components from scratch.

The first thing the Restore-L spacecraft will do is show that it can synchronize with, capture, connect with and refuel a satellite in orbit, then release it into a new orbit. Afterwards the craft will use the Maxar-built robotic arm to assemble a multi-panel antenna reflector, then test it.

Last, a separate piece of hardware, Tethers Unlimited’s MakerSat, will extrude a beam some 10-20 meters long, which will be inspected by the parent satellite, then detached and reattached to demonstrate its robustness.

“We are continuing America’s global leadership in space technology by proving we can assemble spacecraft with larger and more powerful components, after launch,” said NASA’s Jim Reuter in a news post. “This technology demonstration will open up a new world of in-space robotic capabilities.”

There’s no hard timeline for the mission yet, but it’s intended to take off the mid 2020s. This isn’t a small-scale experiment that can fly up next week in an Electron — it’s a big, expensive one that will likely take up most of a large rocket’s payload.

Although it’s only a demonstration, a Maxar representative pointed out that it is very close to what would be an operational system on other satellites in the future. It has also been previously demoed on the ground, though of course that’s no substitute for the real thing.

Robotic arms are something of a specialty for Maxar, which has delivered six total for NASA, including the one on Insight (currently on the Red Planet) and the Mars 2020 Rover (due to receive its official, inspirational name any day now).

We’ll have Maxar’s head of space robotics onstage at TC Sessions: Robotics + AI in March at UC Berkeley, so be sure to join us there if you’d like to hear more about the business of building space robots.

SPIDER will be integrated with the spacecraft bus Maxar is building for @NASA Restore-L project, which will refuel a satellite in low Earth orbit. SPIDER will enable spacecraft components to be robotically assembled and reconfigured while on-orbit. Learn more: pic.twitter.com/XfPquzmsKi

— Maxar Technologies (@Maxar) January 31, 2020

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Stanford’s Doggo quadrupedal robot and siblings Pupper and Woofer are coming to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI

Posted by | artificial intelligence, bigdog, boston dynamics, Culture, doggo, Education, events, Gadgets, hardware, military robots, Python, robot, robotics, robots, sri lanka, stanford, Stanford University, TC, TC Sessions: Robotics+AI 2020 | No Comments

Animal-like, four-legged robots have been a crowd-pleaser since Boston Dynamics’ BigDog, and Stanford’s Doggo shows how the technology can be made open source, accessible and educational. Doggo’s creators will bring the diminutive robot, plus its smaller and larger siblings Pupper and Woofer, to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI on March 3.

P.S. Early-bird ticket sales end this Friday — book your tickets today and save $150.

We first heard of Doggo last year when the Stanford Robotics Club showed off the highly capable design, which uses mostly off-the-shelf parts and can be assembled by anyone… as long as “anyone” has considerable experience building robots and a couple thousand dollars to spend.

Still, a couple thousand is an order of magnitude or two lower than most quadrupedal robots go for, and project lead Nathan Kau told TechCrunch they’ve seen a ton of interest.

“I had no idea how many people were going to pick it up,” he said. “It’s complicated! But I get emails every day from people building this thing, from all over. The first team to get it running, to my knowledge, was in Sri Lanka.”

In order to further push the lower bounds of who can build and experiment with a robot like this, the team is building a smaller, even less expensive robot called Pupper. They hope to get the cost down to the level where even high school clubs can afford one.

“It’s less than $500 in development materials if you make it by yourself,” said Kau. “We imagine that if it becomes a kit and we have a partnership with the part manufacturers, it could be much less. We built it as a platform for learning, so it uses a Raspberry Pi and everything is programmed in Python. It’s about as complicated as building a drone, I’d say.”

You’ll be able to see Doggo and Pupper in action at the event, and they’ll be joined by one more robot: Woofer, a jumbo-sized step up from the others. It’s earlier in development than the other two, but to keep things simple it shares much of its codebase with the others.

Grab your tickets to the show today and get to see these awesome robots in person and hear from today’s leading minds in the industry. Early-bird tickets expire this Friday, January 31, so book yours today and save $150 before prices go up.

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