Stanford’s Doggo quadrupedal robot and siblings Pupper and Woofer are coming to TC Sessions: Robotics+AI

Animal-like, four-legged robots have been a crowd pleaser since Boston Dynamics’ BigDog, and Stanford’s Doggo shows how the technology can be made open source, accessible, and educational. Doggo’s creators will bring the diminutive robot, plus its smaller and larger siblings Pupper and Woofer, to TC Sessions: Robotics+AI on March 3.

P.S. Early bird ticket sales end this Friday – book your tickets today and save $ 150.

We first heard of Doggo last year when the Stanford Robotics Club showed off the highly capable design, which uses mostly off-the-shelf parts and can be assembled by anyone… as long as “anyone” has considerable experience building robots and a couple thousand dollars to spend.

Still, a couple thousand is an order of magnitude or two lower than most quadrupedal robots go for, and project lead Nathan Kau told TechCrunch they’ve seen a ton of interest.

“I had no idea how many people were going to pick it up,” he said. “It’s complicated! But I get emails every day from people building this thing, from all over. The first team to get it running, to my knowledge, was in Sri Lanka.”

In order to further push the lower bounds of who can build and experiment with a robot like this, the team is building a smaller, even less expensive robot called Pupper. They hope to get the cost down to the level where even high school clubs can afford one.

“It’s less than $ 500 in development materials if you make it by yourself,” said Kau. “We imagine that if it becomes a kit and we have a partnership with the part manufacturers, it could be much less. We built it as a platform for learning, so it uses a Raspberry Pi and everything is programmed in Python. It’s about as complicated as building a drone, I’d say.”

You’ll be able to see Doggo and Pupper in action at the event, and they’ll be joined by one more robot: Woofer, a jumbo-sized step up from the others. It’s earlier in development than the other two, but to keep things simple it shares much of its codebase with the others.

Grab your tickets to the show today and get to see these awesome robots in person and hear from today’s leading minds in the industry. Early bird tickets expire this Friday, Jan. 31, so book yours today and save $ 150 before prices go up.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

The robot homecoming is upon us

Robots were everywhere at CES, as has been the case for at least a decade. But there’s a different tenor to the robots shown off at the recent annual consumer tech event: they’re designed for home use, and they’re shipping products, not just concepts intended strictly for trade show glam.

Home robots have already had a few false starts, including some high-profile flare-outs like Anki and previous CES darling Kuri (despite the backing of global technology giant Bosch) . But other robots, including autonomous vacuums, have already carved out niches for themselves within the domestic milieu. Between slow-burn but now mature categories and the sheer volume of newer products jumping in to establish new beachheads, it now seems certain we’re on a path at the end of which lie hybrid companion and functional robots that will become common household items.

Industrial to residential

One of the biggest signs that home robotics is gaining credibility as a market is the fact that companies which have found success in industrial technology are branching out. At CES, I spoke to Elephant Robotics founder and CEO Joey Song, who was at the show demonstrating MarsCat, a fully developed robotic cat designed to be a companion pet with full autonomous interactivity, similar to Sony’s Aibo.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

This robot scientist has conducted 100,000 experiments in a year

Science is exciting in theory, but it can also be dreadfully dull. Some experiments require hundreds or thousands of repetitions or trials — an excellent opportunity to automate. That’s just what MIT scientists have done, creating a robot that performs a certain experiment, observes the results, and plans a follow-up… and has now done so 100,000 times in the year it’s been operating.

The field of fluid dynamics involves a lot of complex and unpredictable forces, and sometimes the best way to understand them is to repeat things over and over until patterns emerge. (Well, it’s a little more complex than that, but this is neither the time nor the place to delve into the general mysteries of fluid dynamics.)

One of the observations that needs to be performed is of “vortex-induced vibration,” a kind of disturbance that matters a lot to designing ships that travel through water efficiently. It involves close observation of an object moving through water… over, and over, and over.

Turns out it’s also a perfect duty for a robot to take over. But the Intelligent Tow Tank, as they call this robotic experimentation platform, is designed not just to do the mechanical work of dragging something through the water, but to intelligently observe the results, change the setup accordingly to pursue further information, and continue doing that until it has something worth reporting.

“The ITT has already conducted about 100,000 experiments, essentially completing the equivalent of all of a Ph.D. student’s experiments every 2 weeks,” say the researchers in their paper, published today in Science Robotics.

The hard part, of course, was not designing the robot (though that was undoubtedly difficult as well) but the logic that lets it understand, at a surface level so to speak, the currents and flows of the fluid system and conduct follow-up experiments that produce useful results.

Normally a human (probably a grad student) would have to observe every trial — the parameters of which may be essentially random — and decide how to move forward. But this is rote work — not the kind of thing an ambitious researcher would like to spend their time doing.

So it’s a blessing that this robot, and others like it, could soon take over the grunt work while humans focus on high-level concepts and ideas. The paper notes other robots at CMU and elsewhere that have demonstrated how automation of such work could proceed.

“This constitutes a potential paradigm shift in conducting experimental research, where robots, computers, and humans collaborate to accelerate discovery and to search expeditiously and effectively large parametric spaces that are impracticable with the traditional approach,” the team writes.

You can read the paper describing the Intelligent Tow Tank here.

Gadgets – TechCrunch