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The Assistive Robot Manipulator and Emotiv Epoc


As a given, some disabled people cannot perform daily tasks regularly. An amputee may not be able to even brush their teeth, or touch and hold objects, for example. On the other hand, conventional solutions such as prosthetics and service robots are expensive and difficult to control. What’s the solution?

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Oh, what do we have hear? First, some interesting headgear, and next a robotic arm made out of wood? What could this combination possibly mean?¬†People who are more familiar with neuroscience have probably heard of this nifty helmet. It’s called Emotiv Epoc, and it records a wide range of signals received from electrodes place on the scalp. But what do brainwaves have to do with robots?

Essentially, the goal is that people with disabilities can use Emotiv Epoc to control things without moving their bodies. In this context Emotive Epoc uses EMG (Electromyography) to pick up electrical signals through skeletal muscles. EMG is easier to translate than EEG (Electroencepholography) because it’s associated with physical motion; for example, lifting ones eyebrows makes the robot open the claw. There are other functions that are currently being controlled by a PlayStation 2 controller.

The robot itself is a cool arm in itself. It was made by researchers at Columbia University, with the goal of making an effective robot arm with a cost lower than $5,000. Thus, it is made of laser-cut wood, although the creators are considering using polycarbonate as an alternative as well. Everything else seems to be typical robot arm material, but one thing interesting is that evidently the robot gets better with practice.

From there, the total cost is currently $3,200. While better materials may increase the cost, overall this is much lower than provided by Medicare and Medicaid. So this robot has fulfilled the goal of being inexpensive while at the same time just being cool in itself, expanding more on the integration of the brain into robotics.

I seem to have issues embedding a video, so you should check it out here.

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My Automated Conversation coacH

A lot of the time, the way that you speak is just as important as the selection of words. However, analyzing speaking habits is much harder than diction, so how do you even prepare for that crucial job interview? Well, researchers at MIT have created a robot that can help you with that.

My Automated Conversation coacH (MACH) is a robot program that targets social interactions. Since more than 15 million adults in the United States suffer from glossophobia (fear of public speaking), such a robot is duly needed to help us get rid of any awkwardness in daily conversation.

On the surface, MACH is a 3D model of a person that can talk to a user with common scenarios, one being a job interview. However, MACH is unique in that it uses a camera and microphone to record video and audio input, and analyzes these parts. It uses facial recognition software to detect eye contact, as well as smiling, nodding, or even drifting away from the conversation. Voice recognition, on the other hand, detects not only the words that are spoken, but the tone and modulation (how much the tone varies) over time.

Such data from any social interaction is very valuable to the improvement of speaking. People were able to see how they responded, as well as detected visual cues and spoken nuances. The results are pretty solid as well.

To test the robot, the inventors created an experiment with MIT students. First, all of the students went through a fake interview. Then, the students were split up into three groups. The first group was not trained with MACH but was allowed to view advice videos about interviews. The second was trained with MACH but received no feedback from the robot. The third was trained with MACH and received the full set of feedback from the robot. A week later, when all three groups received a second interview, only the third group with training and feedback improved significantly; the other two groups showed little or no improvement.

MACH is planned to be accessible on an ordinary laptop; however, it will still take a while for the program to release generally. Until it’s released and everyone can enjoy the benefits of better social interaction, you’ll just have to grind your teeth and make it through that interview.

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Exciting Record for Miles Driven in Space

The last people on the moon were three: Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Harrison Schmitt. These three people piloted the Apollo 17 mission, and in December of 1972, Cernan and Schmitt were able to take a joyride on the moon in their Lunar Roving Vehicle. They traveled 19.3 nautical miles (22.210 “regular” statute miles) on the moon. This length has marked the longest distance traveled by any NASA vehicle has tread on otherworldly ground. That is, until now.

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Remember this little guy? He’s Opportunity, a rover sent to Mars in 2003. Since then, he’s been actively doing his duty on Mars and getting scientific samples, taking ¬†pictures, etc. His highlights are finding extramartian meteorites and extensive study of the Victoria Crater.

What’s really exciting, however, is that today, May 16, the little rover reported travelling 263 feet today exploring the Endeavor Crater. That brings its total distance traveled up to 22.220 statute miles.

Thus, this little robot has beaten the record for NASA’s extraterrestrial driving distance!

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Robot Octopus Movement

So from last year, we have this incredible robotic tentacle, able to grip things and move flexibly and naturally. The main purpose of that project was for fitting into tight spaces. But how can we emulate an octopus’ incredible movement?

This video shows the motion research that a group of researchers from the Foundation of Research and Technology in Greece presented at this year’s IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) held in Karlsruhe, Germany. The goal of this project was to emulate an octopus’ unique style of swimming, called sculling, which uses all eight of the tentacles at the same time for forward movement. In the video, this is the G1 gait.

At first, the researchers started with stiff joints, as seen in the video above. This video demonstrates how the computer model connected with the actual testing procedure, to see that the movement was effective. Then, in the final seconds of the video, the viewer can see the use of soft compliant legs with movement in the water.

The G2 gait on the other hand, is unique in and of itself. While an octopus only swims with the eight tentacles moving synchronously, experiments have shown that some artificial gaits produce much smoother movement compared to the bursts of forward motion in sculling. Thus, researchers are also testing movement such as the G2 gait to see the effects on motion.

Of course, this robot octopus still has a long way to go. To start it off, a real octopus has funnel that pumps water out at high velocity, which does wonders for forward motion. The equivalent on a robot would probably be something akin to a pump jet motor. In addition, octopus anatomy points out one main area that has not been researched that could have potential. The base of an octopus’ tentacle has a web that connects it to all of the rest, which has potential for motion efficiency. Of course, all of this will require more testing, and only time will tell.

Also something to note is that the tentacles look and probably feel real. So, any of you out there with cephalophobia, I’m so sorry.

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Geodesic Dome Robot

This year’s Maker Faire saw a variety of colorful inventions, and this one robot was definitely a cool centerpiece. It looks like a possessed dome on legs, but it gets even cooler than that.

To tell the truth, this robot doesn’t seem to have as much bite as its bark. It inches along at 0.02 miles per hour. Not exactly the amazing hulk that will chase people down during the apocalypse. But this ball-on-legs is cool on its own right.

The vehicle itself consumes 800 watts of power, carrying its 1,800 lbs of weight. The creator, welder Scott Parenteau, says that he’s always had an obsession with domes, and the geodesic dome is the easiest to build with metal, because it’s easy to put together and to deal with as a whole. The 12 legs on the other hand, move slowly but very smoothly, so if you just want to stroll around and take a look, this robot’s the way to go.

Just don’t really expect it go anywhere anytime soon.


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