Tag: ‘AIST’

AIST develops dexterous hand for working class droids

27 Oct 2006

HRP-3P --

Researchers at Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have succeeded in boosting the manual skills of blue-collar droids by developing a robust and dexterous human-sized robotic hand.

AIST's multi-fingered hand, which is designed for use on life-sized humanoid robots, is a significant improvement over previous robot hands, which for the most part have either been too bulky or had fingers that were too weak. Humanoid robot hands in the past have tended to lack versatility and dexterity because they were designed to handle a narrow range of specific tasks or had too much emphasis placed on physical appearance.

AIST's four-fingered hand is about the size of an adult male human hand, measuring 18 cm from wrist to fingertip and 8.4 cm across the palm. Each of the three fingers and thumb are capable of exerting 15 Newtons of fingertip force -- also similar to the human hand. To mimic the movement of human hands, each finger has 4 joints and the thumb has 5 joints.

The hand is equipped with mechanisms that reduce backlash, resulting in smoother finger operation and higher-precision control of fingertip position. In addition, the drive mechanisms provide ample force to the fingertips for a strong grip, and compact sensors in the fingertips ensure the accurate application of force.

With further tests to improve the hand's mechanics and software, AIST aims to develop a human level of dexterity for the hand. This development could mean that with the android population explosion looming on the horizon, we may soon begin to see working class robots equipped with the right hands to take on our menial tasks.

[Source: AIST press release]

Aimulet LA: award-winning eco design

05 Oct 2006

Aimulet LA --

The 2006 Good Design Award for Ecology Design goes to Aimulet LA, a batteryless, light-activated handheld audio communication device with an outer shell made from molded bamboo. The environmentally friendly communication terminal was designed by the Information Technology Research Institute at Japan?s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).

The name "Aimulet" is derived from the word "amulet" plus the letter "i," which denotes "intelligent," "interactive" and "infrared," as well as "ai" (which means "love" in Japanese and refers to Aichi prefecture, the location of the 2005 World Expo). The initials "LA" stand for none other than Laurie Anderson, whose Walk Project installation for the 2005 World Expo featured the Aimulet LA. Visitors to the installation used the device to receive audio messages as they wandered the site.

Aimulet LA is designed to be held up to your ear like a cellphone. When you stand over special LED emitters set into the ground, Aimulet LA receives the light signals via an array of spherical micro solar cells (called Sphelar by manufacturer Kyosemi) set into the bottom of the handset. Aimulet LA translates the signals into audio messages that are transmitted through a tiny speaker in the device. In Laurie Anderson's installation, visitors used Aimulet LA to listen to poems in four different languages as they strolled through a Japanese-style garden.

According to AIST, the technology at work in Aimulet LA can be put to use in public spaces such as outdoor exhibits and events, amusement facilities, train stations and parks, where it can be used in interactive media or entertainment. In addition, the low cost of the device means it could also double as an entrance ticket, annual pass or ID card.

The Good Design Award judges gave high marks to Aimulet LA's design concept for its ingenious blend of new technology and natural materials. The device also earned points for its lack of external power source, a factor that contributes to the creation of a battery-free environment. Being light-activated also makes it highly versatile, and its use of bamboo makes it easily recyclable and environmentally friendly.

This award marks the first time for AIST to receive a Good Design Award in Ecology Design. AIST previously received a Good Design Award for Paro, the cuddly seal robot recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's most therapeutic robot.

Check out the Good Design Award page for more amazing designs.

[Source: AIST press release, AIST paper (English, pdf format)]

Intelligent wheelchair sees all

21 Sep 2006

SOS: Stereo Omnidirectional System --

On September 20, Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) unveiled an intelligent wheelchair that relies on an omnidirectional camera for a view of its surroundings, avoids collisions with people and obstacles, and knows when something is wrong with the chair's occupant. Developed with the cooperation of the National Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities, the new technology is expected to improve the safety and security of electric wheelchairs for the disabled and elderly.

While the increased prevalence of electric wheelchairs has improved the mobility of persons with serious disabilities, they have also resulted in an increased number of collisions and accidents. To boost wheelchair safety, AIST engineers incorporated elements of intelligent automotive systems, which are capable of calculating the risk of collisions before they happen and automatically applying the brakes when necessary.

The prototype wheelchair is equipped with a camera system -- interestingly dubbed Stereo Omnidirectional System (SOS) -- whose 360-degree field of vision has no blind spot. Relying on the camera images, the chair detects potential hazards that arise while in motion and decelerates or stops accordingly. The chair also checks the occupant for signs of abnormality (unusual posture) and is equipped with a function that allows the occupant to control the chair by gesturing (pointing). Check out the AIST press release for videos of the chair in action.

The wheelchair is currently equipped with a function for transmitting the camera's color video via wireless LAN, and AIST is investigating the possibility of enabling the video to be delivered via cellular phone and providing support for remote-control functions. AIST will soon subject the prototype to rigorous testing and continue upgrading the functions.

This intelligent wheelchair technology will be demonstrated at the 2006 Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition scheduled for September 27 to 29 in Tokyo.

[Sources: MYCOM Journal and AIST press release]

Micromotor harnesses the power of bacteria

30 Aug 2006

Bacteria-powered motorResearchers from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have developed a micromotor powered by the movement of bacteria.

The 20-micron (1 micron = 1 millionth of a meter) diameter revolving motor has 6 blades, each with a foot that sits in a 0.5-micron deep, 13-micron diameter groove etched into a silicon substrate. The surfaces of the feet and the groove are treated with proteins that cause the bacteria (introduced via a connecting groove) to move in one direction, pushing the feet (and spinning the motor) as they pass through the groove.

The researchers believe microbial motion can be harnessed as a power source for microdevices in the future, with potential applications that include motors for micromachines and miniature pumps for tiny medical devices.

The research results were published in the August 28 edition of PNAS (online edition).

[Source: Sanyo Shimbun, Jiji]

AIST develops 3D image projector

08 Feb 2006

3D image projectorJapan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) has developed a device that uses lasers to project real three-dimensional images in mid-air. The institute unveiled the device on February 7 in a demonstration that showed off the device's ability to project three-dimensional shapes of white light.

AIST developed the projector with the cooperation of Keio University and Burton Inc. (Kawasaki, Japan). Until now, projected three-dimensional imagery has been "artificial" -- optical illusions that appear 3D due to the parallax difference between the eyes of the observer. Prolonged viewing of this conventional sort of 3D imagery can cause physical discomfort.

The newly developed device, however, creates "real" 3D images by using laser light, which is focused through a lens at points in space above the device, to create plasma emissions from the nitrogen and oxygen in the air at the point of focus. Because plasma emission continues for a short period of time, the device is able to create 3D images by moving the point of focus.

3D image projectorAt the demonstration, bursts of laser light were emitted 100 times per second to form shapes in the air up to 50 cm above the device. Heat from the laser caused the air to expand, producing a crackling sound that resembled a series of tiny explosions.

At the moment, the distance at which the device can project images is limited to between 2 and 3 meters. Improved laser technology will enable images to be projected at greater distances and with more color, so we may soon see 3D images floating above our city skylines.

The chief scientist at AIST?s Photonics Research Institute says, "We believe this technology may eventually be used in applications ranging from pyrotechnics to outdoor advertising."

[Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, AIST press release, Burton Inc.]

UPDATE 1: The English translation of the press release is here.

UPDATE 2 (Aug 16, 2007): New and improved 3D projector

AIST develops autonomous humanoid robot

24 Jan 2006

On January 23, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tsukuba, Ibaraki unveiled its HRP-2 humanoid robot equipped with a new system that enables autonomous self-directed operation. The robot demonstrated the ability to respond to spoken human commands by retrieving a can of juice from a refrigerator and bringing it to the person who requested it.

The robot?s head is equipped with improved cameras, which serve as eyes, and it incorporates a system that enables it to perceive its environment, remove any obstacles it encounters along the way, and self-correct its direction if it strays off course.

At the demonstration, a person seated at a table instructed a robot to bring him some juice. The robot communicated the command to a second robot, which then walked to the refrigerator, moving chairs out of the way as it proceeded. It opened the door of the refrigerator, retrieved a can of juice, and brought it back to the table. A third robot was responsible for mapping the room. Data was exchanged between the three robots via wireless LAN.

The institute would like to integrate these functions into a single robot to create a machine that can provide assistance in real-life situations.

[Source: Asahi Shimbun]