Tag Archive for 'Robotics'

Springtime and Robots

Spring and Robots

I’m sure the mention of Spring conjures up a lot of images for most folks – flowers, sunny days and such. It makes me think of robots. Of course, I think of robots quite a bit since I work with them every day here at UTARI, but this time of year is when the pace picks up. It’s when there’s a buzz around the Research Institute. It’s when students crowd into our building to prep for competition.

2013 SUAS team

UTARI is home to five student robotics competition teams: IGVC (Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition), SUAS (Student Unmanned Air Systems), RoboBoat, IEEE Microrobotics, and the NASA Rover Competition team. The ground, air and water competitions are hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), which has a large outreach program at the K-12 and collegiate levels.

The requirements for all five competitions are impressive, requiring a combination of navigation, design, mobility and sensor capabilities that result in a robotics platform that can maneuver and conduct whatever tasks the competition requires. Our students work with UTARI researchers and affiliated faculty throughout the year to meet these requirements, and come May and June, they’re on the road to compete and test the design and functionality of their robotics. Industry partners, including QinetiQ North America, L3, Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control, sponsored the teams in 2013, helping them prep for contests in Maryland, Michigan, Virginia, and Karlsruhe, Germany.

President Vistasp Karbhari

President Vistasp Karbhari addresses the Consortium.

Propelling Forward

Teams are gaining momentum, not only from the support of faculty, researchers and industry sponsors, but from taking advantage of the resources and facility space in UTARI’s Autonomous Systems Lab. At the beginning of 2014, the Autonomous Systems Lab began to take shape, culminating in the Unmanned Systems Consortium at the end of January. UTARI student robotics competition teams had a huge impact on the event – providing demonstrations and talking to attendees about their work. Team members represented themselves well, and the participants at the Consortium (and Dallas/Fort Worth media) took notice.

And the media is bound to take more notice in the coming month with National Robotics Week set for April 5-13th. For our part, UTARI will join the celebration by hosting a National Robotics Week Expo on Wednesday, April 9th, giving Dallas/Fort Worth businesses and organizations the opportunity to showcase their most impressive robotics. Think of a Robotics Flea Market – no vendor fees, no price for admission – just folks coming together to look at the latest technology. We hope you will be able to join us – it’s bound to be an exciting event. And who needs flowers for Spring when you can have robots?

The Way Ahead

What organizations do you think would be interested in demonstrating at the National Robotics Week Expo? What type of robotics technology would you like to see at the event? How do you think we can more actively engage students in robotics?

Smart Homes Getting Smarter

Smart Home TechnologyAt the beginning of December, while a monster of an ice storm had most of us in Dallas/Fort Worth trapped inside, a group of people gathered in San Antonio to talk about helping our wounded warriors. The meeting, held at the headquarters of grocery retailer H-E-B, was about a specific initiative: building state-of-the-art Smart Homes for our severely injured service members.

State of the Art Assistive Technologies

The initial phase of the project calls for two homes to be completed in 2014 – homes like no others in the world. Using current technologies (think robotic vacuums, automated temperature control) and newly-developed technologies (single-purpose robots to take out the trash, network-enabled appliances, etc.), the homes will be specifically designed to suit the needs of the individual soldier and family that live in them.

General Lynch addresses Smart Home collaborators.

The companies that attended the H-E-B meeting have a passion for helping the disabled, and were particularly interested in how they could be part of the effort to better the lives of our wounded warriors. The discussion focused on everything from addressing the medical needs of the homeowner, to ways in which to automate house work and handle specific space considerations. And the conversation extended to what technologies are anticipated down the road – what the group hoped for in terms of research and development of Smart Home components as the initiative progresses.

Quality of Life Research

There’s quite a bit of noteworthy work going on in this type of assistive technology, of course. Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh’s Quality of Life Technology Center drives some impressive research into increasing the independence of the disabled and elderly. And UTARI’s own Living Lab re-creates typical home living conditions to allow for realistic study of how products and processes will perform under everyday circumstances. Not surprisingly, using a real refrigerator when testing how a robot will open and remove items from a refrigerator, makes a world of difference.

PR2 Unloading Dryer

PR2 Robot unloading dryer in Living Laboratory

The coming months will be filled with a massive amount of research and development for the H-E-B Smart Homes project (not to mention good, old-fashioned brick-and-mortar work). The hope is that this initiative is simply the beginning of hundreds of Smart Homes across the country for our severely injured soldiers.

What do you think would be the most useful technology in a Smart Home? If it was your home, what features and technology would be on your “wish list”? What companies do you think would be interested in this initiative?