Robotics

by Dr. Rob van der Bijl, Amsterdam, Netherlands

In May 2008 Rob van der Bijl (RVDB) launched the ROBBY Project which serves as the prologue of a 20year investigation into the use of robotics (2008-2028). Welcome at the Robotics-page of RVDB.

ROBBY


Views, news and links

Robot cars (part 1 – some history)
From the cover of Popular Science, October 1967.

August 2016: A dream. Talking (and smoking!) with your wife while your car smoothly continues the ride on a freeway in Los Angeles. This was the kind of dream depicted on the cover of Popular Science, October 1967. Much has happened since then, but the real breakthrough of automated cars still have to come. Despite all news and noise Tesla’s Autopilot Technology Package doesn’t represent mature self-driving technology as the fatal accident proved (May 2016). Note for hobby-engineers and nerds: Tesla’s technology is still in stage 2 (non-back-up & driver-support only) of the long, 5-stage road to full automation.


Dream of electronically guided Cadillacs, 1956.

We studied the automated Citroen DS of UK's Transport Research (1968), we enjoyed the long forgotten ‘dual-mode’ Urbmobile (first image) of Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, Inc. for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (1967). And we laughed our heart out at the optimistic almost childish predictions from 1956, where families played dominoes in bubble roofed, electronically guided Cadillacs (second image). See also this hilarious video of General Motors musical short ‘Key to the Future’, made for the 1956 Motorama auto show, which predicted self-driving cars in the far-off future of 1976 – here at YouTube ...
To be continued …

This is not a robot
Le robot qui ne rêvait pas… - photo by Rob van der Bijl, September 6, 2014.

September 2014: This is not a robot. It’s a simple, toy-like table-top object. Still it mirrors robot culture, it alludes to our techno-oriented culture, full of believes in engaged robotics and blessed technology. Will robots ever dream? A valid question or not. Will this clock-robot ever dream of electric sheep, or hairy cats? Watch our video from the French department of our Robotics Lab here...


Hexapod Mantis
Mantis at a demonstration.

July 2013: Early this year Micromagic Systems (Winchester, UK) unveiled Mantis, according to his creators "the biggest, all-terrain operational hexapod robot in the world." Mantis can be piloted or remote WiFi-controlled. We like our hexapod friend. He (or she?) is quite impressive. Turbo Diesel-powered Mantis stands 2.8 metres high with a five meter working envelope and weighing in at just under two tonnes.
Watch this walking machine at YouTube here...

Japanese Robots have a Soul!
Geminoid F at a concert.

February 2013: Famous Japanese 'Robo Prof' Hiroshi Ishiguro attempts to mimic shape, expression, motion, and behavior of human beings. His robots have a 'soul'. They act as closely as possible to human beings.
Japanese robots, including virtual computer girls, possess a spirit. Japanese animism and particularly Shinto-oriented 'conceptual systems', back the believe that robots and objects are more than just things. Geminoid-F of Hiroshi Ishiguro proves that the border between robots and people is not very sharp in Japan.
Watch his video at Vimeo here...

Printable Robots
3D printed robot-spider of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. (image courtesy Fraunhofer)

July 2012: Printable Robots are coming! Researchers of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (Munich, Germany) are working on a printable high-tech spider for hazardous missions. Spiders are very agile, and some can even jump. They owe this capability to their hydraulically operated limbs. The researchers of Fraunhofer have designed a mobile robot modeled on the same principle that moves spider legs. They are using a 3D printing process. The lightweight robot-spider could explore terrain that is beyond human reach.
Researchers of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) are also working on the production of robots by means of 3D printing technology.

Robodock

Robodock Fragment of a model during the day after, Amsterdam, Netherlands- photo by Rob van der Bijl, September 26, 2010.

June 2012: Robodock is again the pre-eminent art and technology festival of the Netherlands, with its awe-inspiring kinetic sculptures, pyro-installations, absurdist acts, robots, live-music and DJ’s.
http://robodock.org/


Robodock The 'Egg' construction, part of The Fenix project, during the day after, Amsterdam, Netherlands - photo by Rob van der Bijl, September 26, 2010.

The Fenix at Robodock 2010 was highlight of an event full of overwhelming mechanical sculptures, magical sounds and robots.
The Fenix, designed by 2012Architects, Césare Peeren & Arie van Ziel - Construction: Robodock team, Ruud Panhuizen & Bart Sabel.
Watch this video on backgrounds and footage of the burning Fenix during closing ceremony 2010:

Robodock's Fenix

Strandbeest

Strandbeest model on Orange Beach - photo by Rob van der Bijl, October 9, 2011.

Summer 2011 we encountered Theo Jansen and his 'Strandbeests' at the beach of The Hague (Netherlands). Theo is a Dutch artist who builds a kind of wind propelled robots that he calls "a new form of live". We tested a miniature version of 'Animaris Ordis Parvus' on Orange Beach at our Robotics Lab. Watch our video here... And surf to the site of Theo Jansen, strandbeest.com...

AIBO

AIBO at Robosquare, Fukuoka, Japan - photo by Rob van der Bijl, April 16, 2010.

AIBO, the robotic pet of Sony. Unfortunately production ceased in 2006. Still we do love the mass-marketed AIBO. See our little movie 'Aibo Dancing' (draft version!) made at Robosquare here...

PARO

PARO at Robosquare, Fukuoka, Japan - photos by Rob van der Bijl, April 16, 2010.

PARO is a Mental Commitment Robot, shaped as a seal. Unlike industrial robots, "Mental Commitment Robots" are developed to interact with human beings and to make them feel emotional attached to the robots. These robots trigger more subjective considerations, evoking mental impressions such as 'cuteness'. Link here...


Footage from PARO promotion video at Robosquare, Fukuoka, Japan - compillation by Rob van der Bijl, April 16, 2010.

PARO (part 2) - Mixed feelings certainly. The video proves more or less the effectiveness of PARO, but we're still not sure if this "Mental Commitment Robot" represents the ultimate solution. The human-machine relation is perhaps too artificial or at least very mechanical and poor. Discussion here…

TWENDY-ONE is another 'human symbiotic robot' that can support human daily activities, particularly the (non-)activities of old people This robot has been developed by the Waseda University in Tokyo. Link here...

PaPeRo


Our third example of a human-oriented robot is PaPeRo ('Partner-type-Personal-Robot') that has been researched and developed with the intention to function as a partner for human beings. PaPeRo is able to live together with people. For this reason, it has various basic functions for the purpose of interacting with them. Link here...

Military Robots

"Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century" (Penguin, 2009) is a book of Peter Singer, who is an American political scientist, well known for his knowledge on military affairs. Particularly we like Peter's presentation "Military robots and the future of war".
What happens when science fiction becomes battlefield reality?
An amazing revolution is taking place on the battlefield, starting to change not just how wars are fought, but also the politics, economics, laws, and ethics that surround war itself. This upheaval is already afoot -- remote-controlled drones take out terrorists in Afghanistan, while the number of unmanned systems on the ground in Iraq has gone from zero to 12,000 over the last five years. But it is only the start. Military officers quietly acknowledge that new prototypes will soon make human fighter pilots obsolete, while the Pentagon researches tiny robots the size of flies to carry out reconnaissance work now handled by elite Special Forces troops.
See the presentation "Military robots and the future of war" at YouTube here…

Robotface

We also like our other toy bots, particularly 'Robby Robot Face'. Is this robot a man or a machine? Dome Head Robby Robot is a reproduction of the famous Japanese original (like our Robby we used in the experiments presented below; see here...). With his cute human face and sparking neck he appears to be having a good day on an alien planet. We love to wind him up and then like watching his sparkling lights and sounds as he moves his feet and walks ahead. He has an on/off switch at his red and yellow front panel. His two brothers Cone Head and Dome Head share the same body and silver wrench-arms. More on this subject at the Osaka Tin Toy Institute here...


Collection of toy robots at Industrion, Kerkrade, Netherlands - photo by Rob van der Bijl, February 20, 2009.

There are many collections around the world. For example the 'Robot Hut'. Link here...

Androids

Androidworld.com; A site which is devoted to 'androids', or 'humanoids', thus robots that look like humans. Link here...

Robotcity.org - The mission of Robot City is to move Robots from laboratory to life. To do so, people work on robots and robots work for people at a facility with expansive land and diverse outdoor enterprise...but without the contrivances and limitations of laboratories and research centers that characterized the early decades of robot development. Link here...

Mobile Robot Lab

The Center for Robotics and Intelligent Machines (RIM@Georgia Tech) is helping define the new face of computing through a unique emphasis on education and research in robotics. Basic and applied research is at the heart of RIM@Georgia Tech. Link here...
Particularly
we like their 'Mobile Robot Lab' (MRL). Link here...

RoboThespian

Robothespian at Industrion, Kerkrade, Netherlands - photo by Rob van der Bijl, February 20, 2009.

RoboThespian™ is a life-sized humanoid exhibition exhibit, a robot actor whose primary function is theatrical performance. RoboThespian™ was created to educate, communicate, interact and entertain. Link here...

Robotics Platform
Academics Robotics Platform

Dr. Seth Quartey (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Purdue University, West Lafayette & Universität Hamburg) told us about his Academics Robotics Platform specially designed for universities to display their robotics videos and photos to the industry and public. Displaying your projects at this platform is free of charge. You’ll find here robotics projects from top universities such as MIT, CMU, Oxford, ANU, Essex, Reading, Cambridge, and many German, Canadian and Asian Universities. Thanks Seth for your link here...

Robot Ladies

"All Is Full of Love" is a song by Björk, from her album Homogenic. The video is a nice example of entertainment which alludes to the existence of human like robots - robot ladies actually as the video at YouTube proves here...

Robocleaner

Our encounter with the Kärcher RC 3000
Rob van der Bijl, Amsterdam, July 2009.

The 'Kärcher RC3000' RoboCleaner is one of our favourite robots, because it's a mature and superb product. The RC3000 cleans completely autonomously all standard domestic floor coverings. Side protectors prevent the robot getting stuck under furniture, whilst special sensors reliably prevent the RC3000 from falling down stairs. The Base Station not only re-charges the robot, but also empties the dirt container. As soon as the battery starts running low, or the dirt container is full, the RC3000 returns automatically to the Base Station. July 2009 we made a full and successful inspection of RC3000.

Roomba

The Roomba on duty at RVDB's temporary lab - photos by Rob van der Bijl, Amsterdam, March 2011.

March 2011 we bought the Roomba, an autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner sold by iRobot (329 euro) in stead of the Kärcher RC3000 (1200-1500 euro). According Wikipedia the Roomba under normal operational conditions is able to navigate a living space and its obstacles while vacuuming the floor. The Roomba Robocleaner was introduced in 2002; as of January 2008, iRobot claims that over 2.5 million units have been sold. Several updates and new models have since been released that allow the Roomba to better negotiate obstacles and optimize cleaning. In 2010, Roomba sales went global, and in February 2011, iRobot CEO stated "We have sold more than 6 million home robots worldwide."

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Mission

Mission of RVDB's Robotics Project is an investigation into the use of robots in the built environment, particularly within an urban context. This investigation represents primarily a non-applied research for the sake of intellectual exercise and fun. It's not funded or whatever and we don't have to serve a client. It overlaps substantially with another joyful activity, that is our Maze project. See this link…

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Backgrounds
The Robotics Project is rooted in our previous research to knowledge based systems (1988-1998) that was partially funded by the Dutch Foundation for Applied Technical Science (STW). This research project was finalized as a PhD in June 1998 (University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands). See this link…
RVDB applied knowledge based principles in several assignments and related projects (1998-2008). Predore - Precedent Documentation & Registration - represents a major enterprise in this field. See this link…

Our early references:

David Levy; Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships.
HarperCollins Publishers, 2007.
Or the PhD-version:
Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners. Maastricht University (Netherlands), October 2007.

Peter Menzel & Faith D'Aluisio; Robo Sapiens: Evolution of a New Species.
MIT Press, 2000.

More references:

Ian Yeoman, Michelle Mars; Robots, men and sex tourism. In: Futures, Volume 44, Issue 4, May 2012, Pages 365-371.

Lambèr Royakkers, Floortje Daemen & Rinie van Est; Overal robots: automatisering van de liefde tot de dood. Boom/Lemma, 2012.

Peter Singer; Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century. Penguin, 2009.

A classic reference:


Cover of I, Robot (left) and cover of 1950 original (right).

In the future of Isaac Asimov car parking wouldn't resemble anything from nowadays automatic parking systems such as developed by Toyota Motor Corporation. In stead they would look like classic 1950s American car parks, however served by human-like Robot-Attendants. Moreover, in the world of Asimov the ambiguity of natural language would causes fundamental misunderstandings between humans and robots.

In the anthology I, Robot (1950) Asimov published comprehensively his 'Three Laws of Robotics'. One: a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. Two: a robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. Three: a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Whatever the quality of their 'positronic' brains may have be, in real future life Asimov's robots would be incapable to act. The laws would be simply rule-out their ability to act according given commands due to contradictions between the laws itself. And moreover due to contextual constrains not taken into account by the very same laws. Still we do love the work of 'robot pioneer' Asimov. We have read the Bantam reprint of I Robot (May 2008) with great pleasure. Particularly we liked the struggle of both humans and robots so as to meet the requirements of the three laws.

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ROBBY
In May 2008 RVDB launched the ROBBY Project which serves as the prologue of a 10year investigation into the use of robotics (2008-2018).




ROBBY's Data - Weight: 0,325 kilo - Length: 214 mm - Average diameter of torso: 70 mm - Applied materials: metals and plastics - Propulsion: 3 volt electric motor - Average speed: 51 cm/sec


ROBBY is the name of a Japanese designed toy-bot. Our replica vintage model (bought at FAO Schwarz, 5th Avenue New York) is in exact scale to the original Piston Action Robot produced in the 1950's by Nomura in Japan. A wired remote control enables the robot to walk with bouncing lighted pistons behind its dome. RVDB subjected the robot to several experiments and loved the human form analogy which clearly resembles a still existing believe that real robots should behave and look like human beings. Though this isn't necessarily true, the idea that a robot should incorporate human characteristics is still widespread and in Japan the ground of a very successful robot industry and practice.



'Burned by the Sun' was our very first experiment, exposing ROBBY to natural sunlight. Due to this light the robot's forms and articulations were brightly visualized. We still love this experiment that offered us fun and moreover the insight that the human form analogy is powerful and expressive.



'Encountering Ricky' confronted ROBBY with an animal. This second experiment briefly addressed the robot-animal relation, as ROBBY was situated as close as possible to our cat Ricky (the brother of our other cat Rocky). Ricky didn't seem to have any problem with the robot. After having activated ROBBY the cat showed no emotion and the cat turned its head while ROBBY was waiting.





In our third experiment 'Reflected & Rayed' ROBBY was placed in a microwave oven. First we studied the interior's reflections while ROBBY was being rotated. Then we decided not to switch on the microwave utility as we feared that ROBBY would be rayed and roasted. Sometimes an experiment has to be halted at a premature moment. Non-applied technical science isn't always easy.



ROBBY's bouncing lighted pistons represent obvious dynamic characteristics of the robot. In 'Exploring Dungeons', our fourth experiment ROBBY was walking in the dark, while we were closely monitoring the visual patterns of the moving lights in its dome. We didn't analysed the pattern of ROBBY's beaming light, however we feel that our monitoring activities exposed a basic feature of toy-bots like ROBBY, that is its shining and attractive appearance due to the interaction of the light facility and the robot's metal skin.







Then the fifth and final experiment 'Walking Ways' that was subjected to measurements and analysis of ROBBY's basic quality, namely the ability to walk. A set of small wheels in the bottom side of each of ROBBY's feet allows the robot to walk. When the rotation of the axe within the on board electric motor is mechanically transferred to the 'joints' of both legs it really happens. Yes! ROBBY is walking. As his legs are moving forwards and backwards the wheels in both feeds start rolling and ROBBY is walking, and not riding as sometimes has been suggested. The walking capabilities are primarily linked to the movement of the propulsed legs and not the wheels as such.
We let ROBBY walking freely while marking his path. The considered route measured 68 centimetres. Allowed walking time was established at 80 seconds. These data allowed us to calculate the average speed of ROBBY: 0,51 meter per minute.
However, the main subject of this experiment was the analysis of ROBBY's path pattern. The manually added white bullets along ROBBY's path marked 16 segments. The sequence of virtual line segments visualised a basic feature of the way ROBBY walks. Not in a straight line! After several repeats of the experiment we were able to draw a conclusion: each of ROBBY's trips is more or less characterized by a similar pattern. ROBBY's way isn't straight, though predictable.


Original of the Piston Action Robot (ROBBY) at a shop in Nakano (Tokyo, Japan) - photo by Rob van der Bijl, April 4, 2009.

Epiloque - in Broadway, the famous mall of Nakano (Tokyo) we spotted an original of ROBBY (April, 2009). Built in 1950 and now for sale for 150.000 yen. ROBBY was and still is a special robot indeed!

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(C) Rob van der Bijl (RVDB's Robotics Lab), Amsterdam NETHERLANDS, May 2008 - January 2019


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