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Robotics And Automation Conference Held In St. Paul

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Gordy Leach Gordy Leach
Gordy Leach graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1974 wi...
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ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Scientists from around the world are in St. Paul this week for the annual Robotics and Automation Conference. The conference is not open to the public, but WCCO-TV got a peek.

You may have seen robots before, doing many jobs, from building cars to looking for bombs in buildings. But this conference is about advances in computer programming and electronic miniaturization — things that may lead to more and better robots in our daily lives.

For example, there’s a heavy-duty robot platform under development by a Colorado company called Road Narrows. This machine will be able to do many jobs where it may be too dangerous to send humans.

“Right now, we have it remotely controlled by an X-box controller,” said the robot’s operator. “It has big tires and direct drive to all the wheels. It steers with what’s called skid steering.”

This robot is designed to do mundane jobs, like packing batteries, very quickly. This one uses a simple game to demonstrate a wireless control system that senses the operator’s motions.

Robots are no longer a novelty.

“If you look at the medical industry, robots are becoming more and more commonplace, and I will say actually they are necessary tools these days, like the DaVinci robot that you can see here in this exhibit,” said University of Minnesota Computer Science and Engineering Professor Nikos Papanikolopoulos.

Also, you can expect micro-robots in the near future.

“A tiny, tiny camera that can inspect, for example, for any signs of cancer cells in your body,” said Papanikolopoulos.

Then there is Robonaut Two, a copy of the robot currently working on the international Space Station.

“You haven’t got as much manpower on the space station as you might like, adding an extra set of hands is definitely an advantage,” said Ron Diftler of the Johnson Space Center.

There is a reason Robonaut resembles the humans in space

“If your goal is to help astronauts, and work with the same tools and same interfaces, you end up needing hands that can work with those tools and interfaces, arms for you to position those hands, cameras in a head to be able to look around at the environment, eventually you evolve yourself into a humanoid-like robot,” added Diftler.

Other robots include a robotic golf greens mower, which is being developed in Indianapolis, and a hair-washing robot is being developed in Japan, complete with “scrubbing fingers.”

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