Tag Archives: Rapyuta: The RoboEarth Cloud Engine

RoboEarth (robot internet) gets examined in hospital

RoboEarth sometimes referred to as a robot internet or a robot world wide web is being tested this week by a team of researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Netherlands) and their colleagues at Philips, ETH Zürich, TU München and the universities of Zaragoza and Stuttgart according to a Jan. 14, 2014 news item on BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) news online,

A world wide web for robots to learn from each other and share information is being shown off for the first time.

Scientists behind RoboEarth will put it through its paces at Eindhoven University in a mocked-up hospital room.

Four robots will use the system to complete a series of tasks, including serving drinks to patients.

It is the culmination of a four-year project, funded by the European Union.

The eventual aim is that both robots and humans will be able to upload information to the cloud-based database, which would act as a kind of common brain for machines.

There’s a bit more detail in Victoria Turk’s Jan. 13 (?), 2014 article for motherboard.vice.com (Note: A link has been removed),

A hospital-like setting is an ideal test for the project, because where RoboEarth could come in handy is in helping out humans with household tasks. A big problem for robots at the moment is that human environments tend to change a lot, whereas robots are limited to the very specific movements and tasks they’ve been programmed to do.

“To enable robots to successfully lend a mechanical helping hand, they need to be able to deal flexibly with new situations and conditions,” explains a post by the University of Eindhoven. “For example you can teach a robot to bring you a cup of coffee in the living room, but if some of the chairs have been moved the robot won’t be able to find you any longer. Or it may get confused if you’ve just bought a different set of coffee cups.”

And of course, it wouldn’t just be limited to robots working explicitly together. The Wikipedia-like knowledge base is more like an internet for machines, connecting lonely robots across the globe.

A Jan. 10, 2014 Eindhoven University of Technology news release provides some insight into what the researchers want to accomplish,

“The problem right now is that robots are often developed specifically for one task”, says René van de Molengraft, TU/e  [Eindhoven University of Technology] researcher and RoboEarth project leader. “Everyday changes that happen all the time in our environment make all the programmed actions unusable. But RoboEarth simply lets robots learn new tasks and situations from each other. All their knowledge and experience are shared worldwide on a central, online database. As well as that, computing and ‘thinking’ tasks can be carried out by the system’s ‘cloud engine’, so the robot doesn’t need to have as much computing or battery power on‑board.”

It means, for example, that a robot can image a hospital room and upload the resulting map to RoboEarth. Another robot, which doesn’t know the room, can use that map on RoboEarth to locate a glass of water immediately, without having to search for it endlessly. In the same way a task like opening a box of pills can be shared on RoboEarth, so other robots can also do it without having to be programmed for that specific type of box.

There’s no word as to exactly when this test being demonstrated to a delegation from the European Commission, which financed the project, using four robots and two simulated hospital rooms is being held.

I first wrote about* RoboEarth in a Feb. 14, 2011 posting (scroll down about 1/4 of the way) and again in a March 12 2013 posting about the project’s cloud engine, Rapyuta.

* ‘abut’ corrected to ‘about’ on Sept. 2, 2014.

RoboEarth’s Rapyuta, a cloud engine for the robot internet

Described in a 2011 BBC news item as an internet/wikipedia for robots only, RobotEarth was last mentioned here in a Feb. 14, 2011 posting (scroll down about 1/3 of the way) where I featured both the aforementioned BBC news item and a first person account of the project on the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering) Spectrum’s Automaton Robotics blog.

Today, Mar. 12, 2013, there’s a news release on EurekAlert about a new RoboEarth development,

Researchers of five European universities have developed a cloud-computing platform for robots. The platform allows robots connected to the Internet to directly access the powerful computational, storage, and communications infrastructure of modern data centers – the giant server farms behind the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon – for robotics tasks and robot learning.

With the development of the RoboEarth Cloud Engine the team continues their work towards creating an Internet for robots. The new platform extends earlier work on allowing robots to share knowledge with other robots via a WWW-style database, greatly speeding up robot learning and adaptation in complex tasks.

Here’s how the cloud engine is described,

The developed Platform as a Service (PaaS) for robots allows to perform complex functions like mapping, navigation, or processing of human voice commands in the cloud, at a fraction of the time required by robots’ on-board computers. By making enterprise-scale computing infrastructure available to any robot with a wireless connection, the researchers believe that the new computing platform will help pave the way towards lighter, cheaper, more intelligent robots.

“The RoboEarth Cloud Engine is particularly useful for mobile robots, such as drones or autonomous cars, which require lots of computation for navigation. It also offers significant benefits for robot co-workers, such as factory robots working alongside humans, which require large knowledge databases, and for the deployment of robot teams.” says Mohanarajah Gajamohan, researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and Technical Lead of the project.

“On-board computation reduces mobility and increases cost.”, says Dr. Heico Sandee, RoboEarth’s Program Manager at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, “With the rapid increase in wireless data rates caused by the booming demand of mobile communications devices, more and more of a robot’s computational tasks can be moved into the cloud.”

Oddly, there’s never any mention of the name for the cloud engine project in the news release. I found the name (Rapyuta) on the RoboEarth website, from the home page,

Update: Join (or remotely watch) the Cloud Robotics Workshop at the EU Robotics Forum on Wednesday 20. March, 4-6pm CET. Details: http://www.roboearth.org/eurobotics2013

It is our pleasure to announce the first public release of Rapyuta: The RoboEarth Cloud Engine. Rapyuta is an open source cloud robotics platform for robots. It implements a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) framework designed specifically for robotics applications.

Rapyuta helps robots to offload heavy computation by providing secured customizable computing environments in the cloud. Robots can start their own computational environment, launch any computational node uploaded by the developer, and communicate with the launched nodes using the WebSockets protocol.

Interestingly, the final paragraph of today’s (Mar. 12, 2011) news release includes a statement about jobs,

While high-tech companies that heavily rely on data centers have been criticized for creating fewer jobs than traditional companies (e.g., Google or Facebook employ less than half the number of workers of General Electric or Hewlett-Packard per dollar in revenue), the researchers don’t believe that this new robotics platform should be cause for alarm. According to a recent study by the International Federation of Robotics and Metra Martech entitled “Positive Impact of Industrial Robots on Employment”, robots don’t kill jobs but rather tend to lead to an overall growth in jobs.

I’d like to see some more data about this business of robots creating jobs. In the meantime, there’s  more information about RoboEarth and the Rapyuta cloud engine in the links the news release provides to materials such as this video,

Unexpectedly, the narrator sounds like she might have been educated in Canada or the US.