Tag Archives: Lisa-Joy Zgorski

POD (print-on-demand) robots

I’ve heard of print-on-demand (POD) books before but not robots as per the April 4, 2012 article on BBC News online (link to National Science Foundation removed),

Researchers aim to build a desktop technology that would allow an average person to design and print a machine within 24 hours.

The team says that making it easier to create specialised robots could have a “profound impact on society”.

The effort is being funded by a $10m (£6.3m) grant from the National Science Foundation [NSF].

The Virginia-based organization [NSF] described the move as a “game changing investment”.

“It has the potential to democratise and personalise automation to meet the needs of individual users – whether for search and rescue workers in remote areas of the world or educators in classrooms around the US – possibilities for social impact abound,” said spokeswoman Lisa-Joy Zgorski.

The April 3, 2012 MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) news item by Abby Abazorius provides more detail,

“This research envisions a whole new way of thinking about the design and manufacturing of robots, and could have a profound impact on society,” says MIT Professor Daniela Rus, leader of the project and a principal investigator at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “We believe that it has the potential to transform manufacturing and to democratize access to robots.”

“Our goal is to develop technology that enables anyone to manufacture their own customized robot. This is truly a game changer,” says Professor Vijay Kumar, who is leading the team from the University of Pennsylvania. “It could allow for the rapid design and manufacture of customized goods, and change the way we teach science and technology in high schools.”

The five-year project, called “An Expedition in Computing for Compiling Printable Programmable Machines,” brings together a team of researchers from MIT, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, and is funded as part of the NSF’s “Expeditions in Computing” program.

It currently takes years to produce, program and design a functioning robot, and is an extremely expensive process, involving hardware and software design, machine learning and vision, and advanced programming techniques. The new project would automate the process of producing functional 3-D devices and allow individuals to design and build functional robots from materials as easily accessible as a sheet of paper.

Researchers hope to create a platform that would allow an individual to identify a household problem that needs assistance; then head to a local printing store to select a blueprint, from a library of robotic designs; and then customize an easy-to-use robotic device that could solve the problem. Within 24 hours, the robot would be printed, assembled, fully programmed and ready for action.

By altering the way in which machines can be produced, designed and built, the project could have far reaching implications for a variety of fields.

“This project aims to dramatically reduce the development time for a variety of useful robots, opening the doors to potential applications in manufacturing, education, personalized health care and even disaster relief,” says Rob Wood, an associate professor at Harvard University.

Thus far, the research team has prototyped two machines for designing, printing and programming, including an insect-like robot that could be used for exploring a contaminated area and a gripper that could be used by people with limited mobility.

Here’s a video demonstrating a few of the prototypes the team has developed (an “insect-like robot that could be used for exploring a contaminated area and a gripper that could be used by people with limited mobility”).

You can find out more about the CSAIL project at MIT here.

Other research collaborators on the five-year NSF project include Visiting Scientist Martin Demaine, Associate Professor Wojciech Matusik, Professor Martin Rinard, and Assistant Professor Sangbae Kim of MIT. Besides Wood (Harvard) and Kumar (UPenn), the team also includes Associate Professor Andre DeHon, Professor Sanjeev Khanna and Professor Insup Lee, all from UPenn.

Action Science Explorer (data visualization tool)

There’s a lot of data being generated and we need to find new ways to manage and navigate through it. The Dec. 8, 2011 news item by Ellen Ferrante and Lisa-Joy Zgorski on phsyorg.com describes a data visualization tool designed by the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory (HCIL) at the University of Maryland,

The National Science Foundation- (NSF) funded Action Science Explorer (ASE) allows users to simultaneously search through thousands of academic papers, using a visualization method that determines how papers are connected, for instance, by topic, date, authors, etc.   The goal is to use these connections to identify emerging scientific trends and advances.

“We are creating an early warning system for scientific breakthroughs,” said Ben Shneiderman, a professor at the University of Maryland (UM) and founding director of the UM Human-Computer Interaction Lab.

“Such a system would dramatically improve the capability of academic researchers, government program managers and industry analysts to understand emerging scientific topics so as to recognize breakthroughs, controversies and centers of activity,” said Shneiderman. “This would enable appropriate allocation of funds, encourage new collaborations among groups that unknowingly were working on similar topics and accelerate research progress.”

I went to the HCIL website to find more about the ASE project here where I also located a screen capture of the graphical interface,

A large-screen window layout of the overall interface of ASE. Credit: Cody Dunne, Robert Gove, Ben Shneiderman, Bonnie Dorr and Judith Klavans. University of Maryland

There’s also a video explaining some aspects of ASE,

For those who can’t get enough data, there’s a technical report here.

I expect we will be seeing more of these kinds of tools and not just for science research. There was this April 6, 2011 news item by Aaron Dubrow on physorg.com describing the US National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) new data visualization tools,

At the end of President George W. Bush’s administration in 2009, NARA received roughly 35 times the amount of data as previously received from the administration of President Bill Clinton, which itself was many times that of the previous administration. With the federal government increasingly using social media, cloud computing and other technologies to contribute to open government, this trend is not likely to decline. By 2014, NARA is expecting to accumulate more than 35 petabytes (quadrillions of bytes) of data in the form of electronic records.

“The National Archives is a unique national institution that responds to requirements for preservation, access and the continued use of government records,” said Robert Chadduck, acting director for the National Archives Center for Advanced Systems and Technologies.

After consulting with NARA about its needs, members of TACC’s [Texas Advanced Computing Center] Data and Information Analysis group developed a multi-pronged approach that combines different data analysis methods into a visualization framework. The visualizations act as a bridge between the archivist and the data by interactively rendering information as shapes and colors to facilitate an understanding of the archive’s structure and content.

I’d best get ready to develop new literacy skills as these data visualization tools come into play.