2011-06-14

Playing Robots

Family | TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION GLOBAL WEBSITE

Partner Robot Family

Partner Robot, as its name suggests, is a robot that assists people with a combination of caring and intelligence.

Playing Violin

The instrument is delicately played like a human with a highly advanced cooperative control of both hands and arms. This tool is aimed to provide support in medical, nursing and housework areas.



ZeroMojo » Tech News : Robot plays pool



Thomas Nierhoff, a masters student at Technische Universit√§t M√ľnchen (TUM), relied on a human-sized mobile robot with dual 7-DOF arms to achieve this vision, and the arms are able to manipulate a pool cue just like how a human does – hopefully with better accuracy thanks to a camera that is located above the table to track the various positions of the balls, helping the robot plan its shots in the process.



The PR2 Plays Pool | Willow Garage


With only a small team of developers and a week's worth of development, the PR2 can now play pool! [...]  The Poolshark team dealt with numerous technical challenges throughout the week: engineering a special grip and bridge so the PR2 could hold the cue, a ball detector, table localization, visualizations and input tools, shot selector, and more.


DLR - Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics - Research

Mobile Humanoid "Rollin' Justin"

The mobile robotic system Justin with its compliant controlled light weight arms and its two four finger hands is an ideal experimental platform for dual handed mobil manipulation. The newly developed mobile platform allows the long range autonomous operation of the system. The individually movable, spring born wheels match the special requirements of “Justin's” upper body during manipulation tasks. Various sensors allow the 3D reconstruction of the robot's environment and therefore enable Justin to perform given tasks autonomously.


ETH - IDSC - Flying Machine Arena

A state-of-the-art platform for motion control research.
The Flying Machine Arena offers a safe, controlled sandbox environment allowing the testing and validation of mobile robots. Thanks to its large size, it allows the testing of fast-paced motions, be it on the ground or in the air. The Flying Machine Arena offers ideal conditions to test novel concepts thanks to a high-precision localization system, high-performance radio links, easy-to-use software structure, and safety nets enclosing the space (more information on the Flying Machine Arena infrastructure).




2011-06-13

Towards Thorium Nuclear Power

New age nuclear | COSMOS magazine

Nuclear energy produces no greenhouse gases, but it has many drawbacks. Now a radical new technology based on thorium promises what uranium never delivered: abundant, safe and clean energy - and a way to burn up old radioactive waste.

Named after Thor, the warlike Norse god of thunder, thorium could ironically prove a potent instrument of peace as well as a tool to soothe the world's changing climate. With the demand for energy on the increase around the world, and the implications of climate change beginning to strike home, governments are increasingly considering nuclear power as a possible alternative to burning fossil fuels.

But nuclear power comes with its own challenges. Public concerns over the risk of meltdown, disposal of long-lived and highly toxic radioactive waste, the generation of weapons grade by-products, and their corresponding proliferation risks, all can make nuclear power a big vote-loser.

A thorium reactor is different. And, on paper at least, this radical new technology could be the key to unlocking a new generation of clean and safe nuclear power. It could prove the circuit-breaker to the two most intractable problems of the 21st century: our insatiable thirst for energy, and the warming of the world's climate.

YouTube - Thorium Remix 2009 - LFTR in 16 Minutes

Thorium is readily available & can be turned into energy without generating transuranic wastes. Thorium's capacity as nuclear fuel was discovered during WW II, but ignored because it was unsuitable for making bombs. A liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) is the optimal approach for harvesting energy from Thorium, and has the potential to solve today's energy/climate crisis. This 16 minute video summarizes 197 minutes worth of Google Tech Talks on the subject of Thorium & LFTR.



Accelerator Driven System

Fission occurs in thorium when atoms absorb a neutron to become a heavier isotope and quickly decay into an isotope of the element protactinium and then an isotope of uranium, which is fissioned when struck by an additional neutron. The number of neutrons produced is not sufficient for a self-sustained chain reaction.

A particle accelerator could be used to provide the necessary neutrons for fission to occur in thorium and a nuclear reactor making use of such an outside neutron source would be known as an 'accelerator driven system' (ADS).

Electron Model of Many Applications: Technology which could save the world | Mail Online

Cryogenics engineer Rachael Buckley inside the 'Emma' (the Electron Model of Many Applications) accelerating ring at Daresbury

And this is Emma’s special significance. Making particle accelerators affordable means they could be built and used in practical, everyday settings – such as thorium power stations. The key to thorium energy is likely to be the further development of ‘pocket-sized’ machines – precisely the kind of accelerator that looks and behaves like Emma.
[...]
Last year, ThorEA published a report, Towards An Alternative Nuclear Future, which concluded it should be possible to build the first 600MW power plant fuelled by thorium with three attached ‘pocket-sized’ NS-FFAG accelerators within 15 years, at a cost of about £2 billion – making it highly competitive in relation to fossil-fuel or conventional nuclear alternatives.

2011-06-11

New Battery Design: The Semi-Solid Flow Cell

Battery Design Could Let EV Owners Say, ‘Fill ‘er Up!’ | Autopia | Wired.com



Battery technology under development at MIT could someday make recharging batteries as quick and easy as a trip to the gas station.

Known as semi-solid flow cells, the new battery design turns the chemistry of traditional lithium-ion batteries into quicksand-like tiny particles. The resultant slime — which researchers jokingly call “Cambridge crude” — has an extremely high energy density and is cheaper to manufacture than the innards of a traditional lithium-ion battery. The researchers claim battery cost and size could be cut in half as a result.


New battery design could give electric vehicles a jolt



The new design should make it possible to reduce the size and the cost of a complete battery system, including all of its structural support and connectors, to about half the current levels. That dramatic reduction could be the key to making electric vehicles fully competitive with conventional gas- or diesel-powered vehicles, the researchers say.

Another potential advantage is that in vehicle applications, such a system would permit the possibility of simply “refueling” the battery by pumping out the liquid slurry and pumping in a fresh, fully charged replacement, or by swapping out the tanks like tires at a pit stop, while still preserving the option of simply recharging the existing material when time permits.
[...]
In addition to potential applications in vehicles, the new battery system could be scaled up to very large sizes at low cost. This would make it particularly well-suited for large-scale electricity storage for utilities, potentially making intermittent, unpredictable sources such as wind and solar energy practical for powering the electric grid.

Nanoscale Conductors Enable New Battery Architecture: The Semi-Solid Flow Cell - IEEE Spectrum

The research, which was originally published in the Wiley journal Advanced Energy Materials, was able to overcome the low energy density of liquid-flow batteries by creating a semi-solid material that “kind of oozes,” according to Chiang. The new material is able to store energy in “suspensions of solid storage compounds” and the “charge transfer is accomplished via dilute yet percolating networks of nanoscale conductors.”

The result is that the cathodes and anodes of the battery are particles that are suspended in the liquid electrolyte. And the two different suspensions are pumped through systems separated by a thin porous membrane.

 The design also separates the storing and discharging of the battery into two different physical structures. According to Chiang, this separated architecture will enable batteries to be designed more efficientl

Since the design is expected to reduce the size (and cost) of a battery system by as much as half, it is being touted as a way to make electric vehicles more competitive with internal combustion engines.

2011-06-10

3D TV Without Glasses

3D TV Without Glasses - Revealing How No Glasses 3D TV Works.....

Everyone recognises that the need to wear 3D glasses is one of the major barriers to the mass acceptance of 3D TV as an entertainment medium. 3D glasses are expensive, uncomfortable for some, and the need to wear them means you'll need multiple pairs if watching with friends or family. In this article we'll look at developments in technology that will allow you to experience 3D TV without glasses.

The breakthrough technologies that solve this problem of no glasses 3D TV are known as parallax barrier or lenticular lens technology. These methods of delivering 3D TV without glasses are also known as autostereoscopy, and the 3D TVs that deliver them are built using what's termed as 'autostereoscopic screens'. LG's blog post 'A 3D Future Without Glasses' explores the two technologies in more detail.



Autostereoscopy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Autostereoscopy is any method of displaying stereoscopic images (adding perception of 3D depth) without the use of special headgear or glasses on the part of the viewer. Because headgear is not required, it is also called "glasses-free 3D" or "glasses-less 3D". The technology also includes two broad approaches used in some of them to accommodate motion parallax and wider viewing angles: those that use eye-tracking, and those that display multiple views so that the display does not need to sense where the viewers' eyes are located.[1] Examples of autostereoscopic displays include parallax barrier, lenticular, volumetric, electro-holographic, and light field displays.


Comparison of parallax-barrier and lenticular autostereoscopic displays. Note: The figure is not to scale.


A disadvantage of the parallax barrier is that because each eye is allowed to see only half the pixels, light travelling in the “wrong” direction – i.e. from an L stripe to the right eye or from the R stripe to the left eye – is absorbed by the barrier. This cuts the intensity from the display by about half and reduces the resolution. In practical terms, this means that when the display is being used in conventional 2D mode, the parallax barrier should be removed. In most 3D displays, such as Sharp’s 3D mobile phone, this is achieved by making the barrier from a liquid-crystal layer that can be turned on or off electrically.






Glasses-Free 3D: Sooner Than You Think? | PCWorld


In addition to the limited viewing range and angle problems mentioned above, the unfortunate fact is that the actual depth of the 3D effect in these autostereoscopic TVs is, frankly, disappointing. It's far too subtle to be exciting, and I often found myself looking for the 3D effect in an image or a clip when I should have been blown away.

In Video: Toshiba's 65-inch Glasses-Free 3D TV In Action



A Complete Review To 3D TV Without Glasses

Conclusion

At the moment, it is fair to say that 3D TV without glasses is very much at a developmental stage, and the small sets on offer are not going to be threatening the domination of 3D glasses in the very near future.
The speculation actually coming from within the technology players that produce TVs hasn’t been entirely positive either, with Samsung suggesting it may be as much as 10 years until they can release TV sets with the ability to provide 3D images without having to use 3D glasses, and Sony has also confirmed that the release of sets with this capability is years rather than months away.
Whilst the Toshiba Regza TVs that have been released in Japan are aimed at ‘early-adopters’, and are fairly successful in producing the results required, they aren’t going to be realistic commercial options for some time to come.

2011-06-06

Fun with Blender 3D Physics Animations




Blender (software) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Blender is a free open source 3D graphics application, available under the GNU General Public License for the Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, OpenBSD and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

Blender's features include 3D modeling, UV unwrapping, texturing, rigging, water and smoke simulations, skinning, animating, rendering, particle and other simulations, non-linear editing, compositing, and the ability to create interactive 3D applications, video games, animated film, or visual effects. More advanced tools include rigid, realistic body, fluid, cloth and softbody dynamics simulation, modifier-based modeling, character animation, a node-based material and compositing system, and embedded scripting in Python.



2011-06-05

LUNA RING: Solar Power via the Moon


Shimizu Corporation construction firm’s research branch, CSP, unveiled a long-term planning project to install a belt of photovoltaic panels across the surface of the Moon. Power gathered from the 13,000 terrawatts of continuous solar energy the Moon’s surface receives daily would be beamed back to an Earth-based receiving station via microwave or laser transmission, where it would then be used to power public offices, hospitals and schools across the globe. A staff of remotely controlled robots would be in constant rotation to make repairs and provide maintenance for the LUNA RING installation, though the structure would require some human personnel on-site. To make the process more efficient, the proposed plan includes building the LUNA RING’s solar panels on the lunar surface using local materials, rather than launching pre-built panels to the site.


LUNA RING/Shimizu's Dream - Shimizu Corporation




Robots will play a vital role in construction on the lunar surface. They will be tele-operated 24 hours a day from the Earth.

Construction and resource extraction

Assembling units in space

Work on the lunar surface