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Celebrating Everything Robotic

Remember how I told you that springtime always makes me think of robots? Apparently, I’m not the only one.

It’s National Robotics Week, and across the country, more than 225 events – competitions, expos, parties, workshops, classes and camps – will celebrate all things robotic. We’re doing our part here at UTARI, hosting a National Robotics Week Expo on Wednesday, April 9th from 10am-6pm. All of our robotics platforms, including PR2, Baxter, Kuka, DR20, and Parrot quadcopters, as well as our student robotics competition team vehicles, will be out and about throughout the UTARI facility doing demonstrations. And we’ll be joined by individuals and organizations from across the country – Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter, Innovative Conveyor Concepts, National Instruments, the Nolan Catholic School RoboVikes, OnPoynt Aerial Systems, Right Robotics, Vodik Labs, and Aldebaran Robotics, among others – to showcase the most innovative robotics technology. The resulting collection of demonstrations and systems will encompass everything from microrobots to Lockheed’s full-scale Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) – the largest unmanned vehicle ever deployed with U.S. ground forces. It’s UTARI’s version of a robotics “flea market,” with everyone showing off their wares from big to small, from costly to inexpensive, from corporation to Mom-and-Pop vendor.

National Robotics Week, organized by iRobot (creator of the Roomba) and industry partners across the country, highlights the role of the U.S. as a leader in robotics technology development, and seeks to inspire students of all ages to pursue careers in robotics and other Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) related fields. Naturally, you can see why we wanted to play a role in the celebration – those two goals are critical to UTARI’s everyday work and reflect the passion we have for technology development and education.

Not to mention that robots are just plain cool. The assistive technology work we do at UTARI is fascinating, functional, and honestly – incredibly fun. Take our work with Baxter. Baxter is a very functional robotic platform, used primarily for manufacturing and assembly applications. He’s also “affordable” in the world of robotics (running at about $25,000) and has a user-friendly programming interface. Our researchers are working with Baxter to extend his capabilities – looking at further manufacturing and assembly applications, as well as possible applications in the home and community. Our main Baxter researcher, Kris Doelling, has been utilizing source code from Rethink Robotics (Baxter’s creator) to test the platform’s capabilities within the UTARI labs – in this video, Baxter challenges Kris to a game of Connect Four.

While the demos of all things robotic commence at UTARI on April 9th, the University of Texas at Arlington will announce the launch of its Unmanned Vehicle Systems (UVS) Undergraduate Certificate Program. Offered by the College of Engineering, the interdisciplinary program will address ground-based, aerial, amphibious and marine systems. We’re looking forward to Associate Dean Pranesh Aswath’s formal announcement of the program at the Expo, and are excited to see the program begin in the Fall of 2014.

What robotic systems do you find most interesting? Have you worked with any particular robotic platforms that you believe are more relevant to future applications? In the near future, where do you think the most development will occur in the realm of robotics?

Look for more video clips to come featuring Baxter, PR2, and their robotic colleagues here at UTARI. And after the National Robotics Week Expo, we’re hoping that you’ll see a lot of demos that will make you as excited about robotics as we are every day.

Welcome

Writing a blog is a hit-or-miss proposition these days.  Some blogs have die-hard followers and thousands upon thousands of shares. Others? Well, you’ve never heard of them and likely never will.

I’m betting that this blog will be the former. Here’s why.

Assistive technology touches just about all aspects of life as we know it today. How many of us know someone who is elderly, or who has a disability? Or someone who has been hospitalized, has utilized products made by automated systems, has a prosthetic, uses products that are 3D printed, or has had surgery? Just about all of us have experience with one or more of those, and assistive technology impacts every single one of those experiences – and much, much more. More than you’ve probably ever thought possible.

At the University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute – or UTARI – we dedicate ourselves to the research and development of assistive technologies to help humanity. It’s a lofty goal, and one that we feel passionateabout. In particular, we work to provide affordable solutions to complex problems in the areas of Advanced Manufacturing, Biomedical Technologies and Robotics. Assistive technology is at the heart of each of those three divisions and is the driving force of the work we do at UTARI.

I suppose “Assistive Technology” can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. But here at UTARI, we’ve come to define it as advanced, affordable technology to help humanity perform dirty, dull, dangerous, or difficult tasks in the home, workplace, or community. Our assistive technology work encompasses everything from addressing manufacturing needs to helping the elderly and our wounded warriors live more independent lives.

In the coming weeks and months, this blog will look at some our work at UTARI and how it impacts and influences the larger scope of assistive technology. Among the topics we will discuss are:

  • 3D printing material and system development
  • Robotic skin technology
  • Real-time targeted wound healing
  • Automated assembly systems
  • Orthoscopic surgical simulators
  • Robotic partners to interface with children on the Autism Spectrum

Our researchers and staff at UTARI will be contributing blogs along the way and letting you know about the projects they’re working on and the assistive technology topics they find noteworthy.

Your thoughts and input will be the largest part of the blog, and I have a feeling that the discussion will be as dynamic and inventive as the topics we put forth.

I hope that you’ll join us for the discussion and discovery of the things assistive technology can and will do in the future.  – Rick

Lt. General Rick Lynch, U.S. Army (Ret.)

Executive Director

UTARI

Coming Soon!