In the future, welding robots could be controlled by operators’ thoughts

Welding has always been a physical, hands-on job — but that may be about to change. That’s because researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have developed a new mind-control system that makes it possible for someone to control a welding robot by transmitting mental instructions via an electroencephalography (EEG) cap. While robot welders are already used in industry, this innovation could help make the process more efficient, in addition to keeping human workers at a safe distance from the potentially deadly machines they work with.

“Welding is a high-skilled task,” Thenkurussi Kesavadas, professor of Industrial & Enterprise Systems Engineering, told Digital Trends. “A skilled welder can identify the exact joints that require welding based on drawings of the part. But when robots are used to weld, programming requires additional skill set and time. Our research is focused on automating robotic welding by using human knowledge about welding and computer vision to carry out automation.”

This human knowledge is gathered using the aforementioned EEG caps. As the user watches images on a computer screen of different joints that can potentially be welded, the brain-computer interface (BCI) recognizes intent, based on how the operator responds to the most appropriate option.

“At the current time, this is a tech demo,” Kesavadas said. “We are using BCI and A.I.-based computer vision to automatically weld in a simulated environment. Our plan is to try this at an industrial setting. The problem it will solve is that robotic welding of small batch sizes are not economical. In high-volume welding, the time required for programming is negligible compared to [the] cost of welding millions of parts. But welding using robots is generally not economical for a small number of parts since programming takes too much time. This technology is looking at innovative ways to use human skill to create a low-cost way of introducing robotics to welding.”

Going forward, the team will be exploring more advanced welding techniques, including a wider range of 3D geometries. “We will also look at integrating more modalities of input to help the operator,” Kesavadas said. “We are couple of years away from commercialization.”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Business

4 women innovators who are using tech to help others live better lives

Meet four women leaders who are not only at the forefront of technology today, but also using tech — from robotics and medicine to food and undergarments — to help others.
Emerging Tech

This very talented robotic leg learned to walk all by itself

Researchers at the University of Southern California have developed a robotic limb capable of walking without preprogrammed knowledge of the task. It’s an impressive feat that could help future robots navigate the world independently.
Emerging Tech

Check out MIT and Harvard’s unusual new Venus flytrap robot gripper

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University have developed a new suction-based soft robot gripper that's capable of picking up an assortment of objects. Check it out.
Business

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.
Computing

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.
Emerging Tech

The U.S. Army is building a giant VR battlefield to train soldiers virtually

Imagine if the U.S. Army was able to rehearse battlezone scenarios dozens, or even hundreds, or times before settling foot on actual terrain. Thanks to virtual reality, that's now a possibility.
Computing

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 
Business

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.
Emerging Tech

A silver bullet is being aimed at the drug-resistant superbugs on the ISS

A bacteria which is benign here on Earth can mutate into a drug-resistant superbug once it enters space. Now this problem is being tackled by a team of microbiologists who have found a way to inhibit the spread of bacteria in the ISS.
Emerging Tech

Tombot is the hyper-realistic dog robot that puts Spot to shame

Forget Boston Dynamics’ Spot! When it comes to robot dogs, the folks behind a new Kickstarter campaign have plans to stake their claim as makers of man’s (and woman’s) newest best friend.
Emerging Tech

Researchers gave alligators headphones and ketamine, and all for a good cause

Researchers in Germany and the United States recently gave ketamine and earphones to alligators to monitor how they process sounds. Here's what it reveals about alligator evolution.