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Author Archive | Amanda Geldhof

Automate Showcases Future of Industrial Robotics, And It’s Remarkable

Attending the recent Automate Show in Chicago was an extraordinary experience that allowed me and more than 20,000 other attendees an opportunity to peer into the future of industrial robotics. Being part of a company that is at the forefront of the industrial robotics and manufacturing automation industries still provides only one perspective, and Automate brought together leaders from all corners of the industry, such as Fanuc, ABB, Kuka, Keyence and Cognex, to showcase advances and share insights. The range of technologies on display that were designed to enhance processes, improve product quality and lower manufacturing costs was astonishing. I walked away from the show with a deeper sense of awareness of two notions: the rise of robots is upon us, and machine vision provides robots with the artificial intelligence that will forge the future of robotics in our increasingly globalized society.

The Rise of Robots

Material removal, end-of-arm tooling by Concept Systems

As many in automation are aware, robots are becoming an increasingly popular answer to completing dangerous or repetitive tasks: grinding, deburring, bin-picking, part inspections, etc. Several manufacturers and esteemed integrators assembled elaborate booths displaying various robot capabilities, many currently in use and others as possible future applications. This alone is indicative of the rise of robots, but it is only the beginning. The leading robot manufacturers all appear to be focused on making robots simpler to program/configure and easier to integrate with technologies that create incredible functionality. The result: collaborative robots.

The show floor featured a number of collaborative robots performing a wide variety of tasks from part handling to packaging, some even bagged candy to hand out or served ice cream in a cone. Using various sensing technologies, the applications for collaborative robots to work with human counterparts are infinite. Long gone seem to be the days of robots in hard guarding and being tucked away in the corner, wrapped in ominous metal fencing. Today’s robots are becoming more flexible in their range of applications, friendly in their interface, and free to be placed anywhere on the manufacturing floor.

Forging the Future

machine vision, part inspection, Concept SystemsAfter seeing the surprising versatility of machine vision applications on display at Automate, it became clear that machine vision is the technological advancement that will launch industrial robotics into the future. When combined with the interconnectivity of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and other smart tools such as mobile analytics, machines equipped with technologies like 3D embedded vision, multispectral and hyperspectral imaging, and deep learning will possess a primitive form of artificial intelligence that allows greater flexibility in application and the ability to actively learn processes without programming.

For example, Cognex and Keyence both have solutions that can compare 8-10 different part characteristics in a fraction of a second. These are designed to be mounted on the end of a robot so you have a complete solution that is capable of part picking and inspection. Part picking and part inspection are tasks that are often hard to fill and results can vary widely as operators tire throughout long shifts.

In another instance, Fanuc is working on developing the ability to configure a robot through learning instead of programming, specifically the capability to give a robot a task, like picking objects out of a bin and putting them into another container. In this scenario, once the robot it is configured it will spend some amount of time figuring out how to complete the task via trial and error, and within a short time the robot will have mastered the task as well as if it had been programmed by an engineer. It seems apparent that as we continue to combine advancing vision technologies with low cost, power processing abilities the future is endless as to what can be accomplished.

Although the next Automate isn’t until April of 2019, I highly recommend that you get this event on your calendar early and plan to attend. The Automate show attracts more than 20,000 visitors, all looking for new ways to enhance their manufacturing processes, lower production costs, and increase their competitive edges.

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HoloLens Review: Step into the Star Wars Universe

HoloLens review by Concept Systems

The HoloLens is kind of like a marriage of a holographic projector (ala Star Wars R2D2), a Kinect, a computer, and a stereo headset with other cool accoutrementsL

While Microsoft’s new HoloLens won’t replace the universe’s most loveable robot, R2D2, any time soon, it can give you a taste of what it might be like to live in a Star Wars universe.

Concept Systems’ Doug Taylor recently tested out the HoloLens, and here’s what he has to say about it: 

 The HoloLens is kind of like a marriage of a holographic projector (ala Star Wars R2D2), a Kinect, a computer, and a stereo headset with other cool accoutrements.  Basically, it is a 3D computer interface.  And it works.  It works really, really well.

 The device comes in a hard blob like case that has a device, a wall charger & cable, and a clicker.  The device fits many different styles of heads from my massive (but yet tasteful) pumpkin shaped head to my wife’s petite and attractive apple sized head.  Above the ears are a pair of speakers that aren’t too loud, but are pretty close to great.  The device has all sorts of lenses and whatnot and what looks like four Kinect style 3D mappers pointed in various directions. 

 First, let’s talk about localization, or basically how well does it know where it is.  Short answer: perfectly.  When you put a screen on the wall, it stays there regardless of how you move in the room and when you get closer to it, the screen gets larger and totally appears to be stuck to the wall.  If you place screens sticking out of things, they stay there.  You can place screens or what have you anywhere.  I fired up Microsoft Edge, logged into Netflix and started watching a movie.  I walked around the room and could hear the movie, but could only see it if I look where the movie was playing.  The localization engine on this device is as close to flawless as I could imagine.  No, I do not know how it does it, but I guess that it is just like a Kinect but with a 6 axis accelerometer.

 Next, lets talk specs on this bad boy:

Device Specifications

Optics

·         See-through holographic lenses (waveguides)

·         2 HD 16:9 light engines

·         Automatic pupillary distance calibration

·         Holographic Resolution: 2.3M total light points

·         Holographic Density: >2.5k radiants (light points per radian)

Sensors

·         1 IMU

·         4 environment understanding cameras

·         1 depth camera

·         1 2MP photo / HD video camera

·         Mixed reality capture

·         4 microphones

·         1 ambient light sensor

Human Understanding

·         Spatial sound

·         Gaze tracking

·         Gesture input

·         Voice support

Input / Output / Connectivity

·         Built-in speakers

·         Audio 3.5mm jack

·         Volume up/down

·         Brightness up/down

·         Power button

·         Battery status LEDs

·         Wi-Fi 802.11ac

·         Micro USB 2.0

·         Bluetooth 4.1 LE

Power

·         Battery Life

·         2-3 hours of active use

·         Up to 2 weeks of standby time

·         Fully functional when charging

·         Passively cooled (no fans)

Processors

·         Intel 32 bit architecture with TPM 2.0 support

·         Custom-built Microsoft Holographic Processing Unit (HPU 1.0)

Weight

·         579g

Memory

·         64GB Flash

·         2GB RAM

What’s in the box

·         HoloLens Development Edition

·         Clicker

·         Carrying case

·         Charger and cable

·         Microfiber cloth

·         Nose pads

·         Overhead strap

OS and Apps

·         Windows 10

·         Windows Store

What you need to develop

·         Windows 10 PC able to run Visual Studio 2015 and Unity

 

 Now for the downside.  The format of the image is 16×9 and the resolution of the device is something like 1080×607.  Also, the device draws the colors iteratively (one color after another) rather than like a TV does.  When you move your head quickly, the red image, the green image and the blue images are drawn at slightly different locations since they are drawn at different times.  When you hold still, it does a good job, but if you are moving around quickly, it offsets things a little.  Normally this is not a problem.  Since “moving” requires neck motion, moving quickly is not something you usually do.

 

The lower resolution is partly because the HoloLens does not have a single resolution, but has two, one for each eye, and when you think about a wearable device with 1080×607 times two, it is pretty impressive.  Think of it at 1080×1200 effective resolution, split between eyes.  The “actual” resolution (since it is a mobile device) is limitless, but the field of view is limited to the frame.

 

In reality though the HoloLens requires you to mouse using your whole head and hold your hand out in front of you to interact (so it can be seen by the cameras).  All this to say is that you would have to be pretty hardcore to use this instead of a TV when watching a movie.  Also, the device is not exactly heavy, but after 15 minutes of it sitting on your nose, you notice it for sure.

 

Enough with the downsides.  This thing is absolutely the coolest device I have ever seen, or even heard of.  It is many times better than I expected.  I giggled like a schoolgirl being asked on her first date as I gleefully played with it.  It is not just awesome, it is a ALL TIME MUST HAVE category device for any geeks who love cool, which means that when these things go on sale, we are all going to be out some serious coin because once you take a drink of the elixir, you will be transported down the rabbit hole and the world will never look the same again.