Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Let’s think collectively

In the Natural History of our planet, humans and organisms have collaborated among themselves to create societies, farms, entities. We call this activity collective intelligence, and in some cases it is deliberate and in others is a consequence.

MIT is actively pursuing research in this area with the Center for Collective intelligence, where they collect a number of works for everyone to take a peek on them.

Some of the most impressive shows of collective intelligence in the world are the flying duck flocks which present beautiful forms, can you think in any other way organisms create forms that appear to be work of a higher intelligence.

Remember you can follow our updates in our Twitter Account

Thursday, 18 March 2010

A Lost Rover Purpose is…?

As most of you should know, the mars rover, Spirit, was launched with the purpose to give us a better understanding of the mars soil and atmosphere characteristics. But now it is lost.

The Spirit Rover, one of the most famous robots of late,  was first deployed in 2004 with the simple, yet important, task of sampling Martian soil  and get important information for further missions.

Originally the rover was suppose to work for 90 days, yet the system was rather efficient and went on 20 times that time until it became stuck.

Because of that, the solar panel system used to power up the robot wont be able to be filled on time resulting in the robot cease of functions.

NASA is still suing the robot for some basic sensing functions, and they will till it becomes inoperable.

This is just an example on how robots, through expensive are also made to be recyclable, maybe in some 50 years we will be able to retrieve it, who knows, maybe sooner.

Remember you can follow our updates in our Twitter Account

Monday, 15 March 2010

The Smallest Robot arm

Last year at iREX 2009 Mitsubishi debuted a robot arm capable of building a lego piece in a rather fast way.

With this kind of advancements and precision, teleoperation and robotic surgery are surely deemed to become more reliable to the eyes of people.

As well more mundane tasks may be done by robots in a more efficient way and even faster than by humans.

What do you think, do robots are being built in the right direction??

Remember you can follow our updates in our Twitter Account

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

SPHERES: An approximation to the future of flight

We all have seen movies like Matrix, Star Trek and Star Wars where ships somehow land pretty much by themselves, the pilot has nothing but press a couple of buttons and the ship will land.

People at MIT in joint research with the NASA are working together to be a step closer to this reality.

SPHERES project aims to have autonomous mobile objects capable of autonomous flight and interaction, and are currently being tested in zero gravity environments in the International Space Station.

What are your thoughts on this, would you ride a vehicle knowing that most of the control is being performed by a computer.

Remember you can follow our updates in our Twitter Account

Monday, 8 March 2010

This blog has moved

This blog is now located at http://hashimotolaboratory.blogspot.com/.
You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here.

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to

Writing with your brain

Hello everyone and we hope you have a good Monday.

This time at CeBIT in Hannover there was a special display that catch everyone’s attention.

The Intendix from Guger Technologies (g*tec) is a device that uses a swimming like cap to detect EEG from the brain, and it uses specialized software to translate those signals into directed information.

For example, we have some applications using Second Life and the device where the avatar is being controlled by thoughts rather than conventional input.

As well the shown application was oriented towards spelling with the brain, where you do nothing but think about the word and it will appear in the screen.

Do you think these are good technologies, we hope to hear from you, meanwhile here are some videos of the applications.



Remember you can follow our updates in our Twitter Account

Friday, 5 March 2010

Texas Robot

Willow Garage is a startup devoted to develop a fully and integral OS for robots.

Their current work is called ROS, but this specific entry is to talk about the Texas Robot.

This robot is made to be able to help people working far from the company to have a more interactive dynamic with the people working at the headquarters, what started as an experiment now is a fully developed platform and probably with huge commercializing possibilities.

We leave you with a video explaining the concept behind the Texas Robot.

Remember you can follow our updates in our Twitter Account

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


Since we were kids, robots showing feelings have been in the grey area of the amazing and the creepy.  Being able to interpret how a robot is feeling have being an exiting and daunting idea.

Engineered arts a British company bring us a step closer to that realization. With their RoboThespian (Thespian is a word for actor) and a solid implementation of open source implementation like Blender they have been able to recreate theatrical scenes, as well as to imprint a degree of emotion to the robot movements and expressions.

The robots are for sale and fully available to research purposes, be sure to check them out, meanwhile we leave you with a couple of videos that show how the system is implemented and the degree of realism the robot can achieve.

Remember you can follow our updates in our Twitter Account

Monday, 1 March 2010

Cognitive Informatics at MTA SZTAKI

This blog post is about some of the work that’s being done at the Cognitive Informatics Research Group at MTA SZTAKI, in Budapest, Hungary. Hashimoto Lab is in loose but constant collaboration with this lab.

If we were asked to summarize what were are trying to do at the Cognitive Informatics Research Group, we would probably say that we are working on enhancing the flexibility of telemanipulation. Telemanipulation is the act of remotely controlling an actuator (which is located in a distant or possibly hazardous environment that cannot easily be accessed by the operator at any rate). A conceptual diagram of traditional teleoperation can be seen on Figure 1. As we can see, the operator handles a local master device, which is usually a replica of the actuator and is connected with the real actuator (the slave device) through telecommunication channels. Traditional teleoperation introduces many control and stability issues, to which many solutions have been proposed and these solutions have contributed to a huge body of literature on the subject.


Figure 1

Our goal is to enhance the teleoperation experience by introducing new channels of communication between the operator and the master device. In more traditional environments, generally we use exact replicas of the slave devices, and the modes of interaction between the operator and the master devices are analogous to the modes of operation that the slave device would require. In order to enhance these modes of interaction, we create an environment that aims to put the brain in the loop, as we like to say. The conceptual diagram of the master side of the telemanipulation setup can be seen in figure 2. In the figure, non-conventional communication channels are modes of communication that use sensory modalities to convey information that are different from the sensory modalities normally used for the task. For example, we could imagine force feedback to be provided through the visual cues or through audio. Provided that the channels are designed well, and the coding techniques used to code the transferred information are light enough not to overburden the operator’s cognitive capacities, the operator can quickly learn how to use the channel efficiently.


Figure 2

This example highlights an important aspect of our telemanipulation setup. By decoupling the feedforward (control) path from the feedback channels, we alleviate stability problems that could be caused by using the same device for actuation and feedback. In addition, by introducing a virtual reality between the master and slave side, we provide a means for software-based actuation. The software can be distributed in nature, so that several parties can contribute to the telemanipulation tasks simultaneously. Problems caused by feedback delays can also be alleviated by such a system, if blocking mechanisms are incorporated within the virtual reality in order to keep the operator from manipulating the system when it is still in a transient state.

Within the framework presented here, our research can be broken into the following 3 main branches:

  • Cognitive actuation

  • Cognitive communication channels for feedback

  • Eto-robotics

These research directions, while somewhat disparate, all contribute to the same goals of providing more flexible means for (remote) human-robot interaction.

  1. Cognitive actuation

We are developing a 3D virtual environment like the one shown in figure 2. It is highly modular and has well-defined interfaces for actuation devices. Any device can be incorporated into the virtual reality environment, provided that it is programmed to implement these interfaces. Currently we can control remote transportation robots by using more expensive devices such as position tracking data suits, or cheaper ones such as Nintendo Wii controllers and iPhones. The virtual environment has a distributed architecture, people can log on from different locations, connect their actuation and/or feedback devices (provided these devices implement a generic interface), and control devices that have been connected from different locations. Other forms of actuation include path control based on automated matching of human hand movements to CAD models.

In order to facilitate the control of various devices connected in various locations through our virtual environment, we have developed appropriate access mechanisms and distributed computational processing mechanisms.

  1. Cognitive communication channels for feedback

Currently we have three projects within the area running in parallel: force feedback through peripheral vision, tactile feedback using applied models of tactile nerve endings, and tactile feedback through sound.

Force feedback through peripheral vision provides a vision-based feedback method that is minimally invasive. After a short learning period, the user can learn to interpret the visual cues without paying much explicit attention to them.

The models of tactile nerve endings used in our tactile feedback project involve descriptions of time-variant characteristic functions of different kinds of tactile receptors, and also their relative distributions.

Finally, our study of sound-based tactile feedback deals with two aspects: the kinds of sound parameters that can be used to convey physical parameters of surfaces (we find that optimal sound parameters depend on the dimension of tactile perception we would like to convey), and the ways these sounds can be combined so that the end result is meaningful and at the same time does not overload the user’s cognitive capacities.

  1. Eto-robotics

Eto-robotics comes from the words ethology (the science dealing with animal behavior) and robotics. The goal of this research is to use models of animal behavior to create synthetic forms of robot behavior that users can sympathize with and relate to. The idea for this research comes from the realization that while humanoid robotics is a very impressive and dynamically evolving field, more often than not it produces robots that the user quickly becomes frustrated with. This is due to the contradiction between the user’s expectations and what the robots can do. The user’s expectations are unreasonably high because the robot looks like a human and is therefore expected to act like a human. According to some, the more human-like a robot becomes, the greater the tension will be between the user’s expectations and reality, because the robot will almost be human, but not a human (see uncanny valley effect).

The main idea of our research in eto-robotics is to create behavioral forms for robots that will help them to be perceived as a different species altogether. This way, the user will approach the robot with reduced expections, and a more realistic view of what kinds of tasks the robot can accomplish and how the user should interact with it in order to perform these tasks with greater efficiency. In a way similar to how we have learned to deal with cats, dogs and other pets (as a result of millennia of interactive experience), perhaps we can learn to interact with robots more efficiently by perceiving them as an eccentric, but somewhat loveable species.

Remember you can follow our updates in our Twitter Account