Ethics in robotics: an interview with Dr. Michael Anderson

Dr. Michael Anderson, from the University of Hartford, researches the principles and practices that inform the ethical behavior of autonomous systems. He is using our mobile manipulator TIAGo to undertake research involving machine ethics, and to develop and test some of his ethical theories.

Learning to trust Artificial Intelligence

“Artificial Intelligence might serve as a backup of human intelligence when Earth comes to its ultimate demise,” Dr. Anderson argues.

Technology might help us preserve something that has taken billions of years of natural design to achieve and may even turn out to be unique in the universe.

To garner trust in Artificial Intelligence, and thus permit its continued development, ethical values must be incorporated within artificially intelligent agents.

Incorporating ethical principles in limited domains

“We build principles, ethical principles that drive a robot’s behavior.”

Dr. Anderson says that incorporation of such principles in fully autonomous robots functioning within an unconstrained world present a very complicated problem, and suggests that we begin our efforts in simpler domains.

Currently, robots are being constructed to take part in limited domains, such as taking care of the elderly or taking inventory inside stores. These contexts are composed of a limited collection of actions and ethical duties, making it easier for the robot to take decisions.

The role of machine learning

“When ethicists discuss certain specific cases there’s often agreement. We use those cases to learn what the principles are underneath that agreement.”

Dr. Anderson gives an example: “Imagine that a robot has to charge, and at the same time someone asks it to play ball, or deliver a medicine that would prevent a great deal of harm to a person.

Every action that the robot takes satisfies or violates a collection of ethical duties. The robot would need to consider: what are the duties involved?”

Dr. Anderson and his team use machine learning to take the cases in which ethicists agree, analyze how these duties are balanced and then use the resulting abstractions to decide the ethically correct action to take in each situation.

The prima facie duty approach to ethics

Dr Anderson’s method is far from Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics”.

“Although the Asimov’s Laws themselves may hold some validity, they are represented as a hierarchy where the first law is always the most important. Furthermore, it is not clear that the duties represented by these laws are complete.

We use instead what is called the prima facie duty approach to ethics, where there is no one duty that always overtakes any other, since there are situations in which another duty might take precedence. Any number of duties can be equally taken into consideration.”

Setting ethical limits

Where should ethical limits lie for robots? Dr. Anderson asserts that robots should only appear in situations where there is agreement on the ethics involved.

“You should not put a robot in a situation in which the ethics are not yet clear. If we don’t understand the ethics involved, a robot should not be there – the ethics should come first.”

More details of Dr. Anderson’s research can be found on his website.

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#ERF2017: Scottish sightseeing, an exciting announcement and TIAGo in a kilt…

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From 22nd – 24th March, over 800 researchers, engineers and robots descended on Edinburgh for the European Robotics Forum (ERF). One of the most exciting events in our robots’ calendars, this year TIAGo and REEM-C, along with some of the PAL Robotics team, were lucky enough to attend.

European collaboration

ERF is an important meeting point for universities and industrial partners involved in ongoing European projects, as well as future proposals, and this year saw a record number of attendees. The number of participants from industry has increased year-on-year, highlighting the growing importance of robotics in providing efficient, successful and innovative commercial and public services.

Here at PAL Robotics, we’re involved in a number of exciting European projects, including Enrichme, Co4Robots, RobMoSys, and GrowMeUp, and ERF was the perfect opportunity to catch-up with our collaborators and share the latest developments and insights.

ERF 2017 2

Mainly work, a little play

The team wasted no time getting into the Scottish spirit. While the humans spent their free time taking in the sights (the weather was perfect!), TIAGo took the opportunity to wizz around the venue in a traditional Scottish kilt… Not normally one to dress up, everyone agreed TIAGo suited tartan.

Throughout the three days, workshops were held on a wide range of topics, including AI, regulation, Human-Robot Interaction and use of robotics in industries ranging from logistics and healthcare to disaster response and agriculture. Discussions were dynamic and collaborative, and they certainly got the PAL Robotics team thinking!

ERF 2017 3

The European Robotics League

Without a doubt, the team’s personal highlight was the opportunity to announce our sponsorship of the European Robotics League (ERL) - Service Robotics over dinner at the National Museum of Scotland. As a sponsor, we’re offering a limited amount of TIAGo robots at a reduced price under a rental scheme for those who want to compete. PAL Robotics will also hold one of the local tournaments for the ERL – Service Robotics in Barcelona, Spain.  We will make the full details publicly available within the next weeks.

Fully customizable and adaptable, the platform’s perception, navigation and manipulation skills make it perfect for use in the ERL Service Robots tournament. If you’d like more information on TIAGo’s capabilities and uses, please do get in touch.

ERF2017

Did you miss us at ERF?

Having just got back from a very busy few days, TIAGo, REEM-C and the PAL Robotics team are taking a well-earned break back at our office in Barcelona. There’s no rest for the wicked, however! We’ve got a whole host of events coming up in the next few weeks, including Advanced Factories in Barcelona and ICRA 2017 in Singapore.

If you’d like to know when and where you can meet and interact with our robots, just send an email to marketing@pal-robotics.com. We’d love to hear from you!

 

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The humanoid robot TALOS has been officially presented at LAAS-CNRS (Toulouse, France)

This Thursday TALOS robot made the first steps towards the future! The high-performance humanoid robot developed by PAL Robotics has been officially presented at the LAAS-CNRS in Toulouse (France). A first demonstration of capabilities such as walking, grasping advanced control took place at the leading French research institution.

This is the first platform of the TALOS robot series from PAL Robotics, and is named PYRENE. It will be used by the LAAS-CNRS’ Gepetto team to perform research about navigation, anthropomorphic movements and interaction with the environment. The mission is to put TALOS in a new concept of factory, in which can take part in tasks that are physically demanding or performed in hostile conditions for humans.

The following developments that Gepetto team will make with PYRENE consist on making the robot walk in accidented surfaces, lift heavy weights and improve its interactions to be safe and efficient. PAL Robotics designed TALOS to become the next generation of humanoid robots by integrating advanced electronics and sensors on the inside.

TALOS is fully torque control, which is enabled by torque sensors in all its joints and, in the end, makes the robot suitable for safe Human-Robot Interactions. This is also enhanced with EtherCAT communications, a system that makes its data network faster (its control loop running at least at 1KHz) and facilitates fast reactions to any external force.

TALOs Robot

The PAL Robotics’ humanoid robot can also walk dynamically at a maximum speed of 3Km/h. Its 7-DoF arms have a 6Kg payload each with the arm stretched, being able to nimbly use heavy industrial tools. TALOS’ software is 100% ROS capable, like all the other robots of the PAL Robotics’ family.

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Merry Robotic Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Merry Robotic Christmas and a Happy New Year 2017 from PAL Robotics’ robots and team!

Robotic merry Christmas

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TIAGo ROS Simulation Tutorial 2 – Autonomous robot navigation

The second pack of open-source ROS tutorials for TIAGo’s simulation in Gazebo enables the robot to navigate autonomously in indoor spaces. Learn how to create a map with gmapping, localize itself in the space and do path planning avoiding obstacles in real time with the TIAGo Tutorials. PAL Robotics team puts available tutorials in TIAGo robot navigation among other tasks that TIAGo can perform in its public simulation to make it accessible for everyone interested.

Creating a map with gmapping

TIAGo can create a map of the environment around it by using the laser range-finder on the base. The map is required to use afterward AMCL based localization to match laser scans with the map to provide reliable estimates of TIAGo’s pose in the map. All steps are detailed on the Tutorial in order to map the area commanding TIAGo with the keyboard. After completing the map, it can be saved and can be used to perform autonomous localization and path planning. This is an example on how the map is created by TIAGo:

ROS Tutorial: TIAGo gmapping in simulation.

ROS Tutorial 2: TIAGo gmapping in simulation.

Localization and path planning

Make TIAGo locate itself and plan a path between two points of interest with the second part of the ROS Navigation Tutorials for TIAGo. This tutorial shows how to make TIAGo navigate autonomously provided a map. The collaborative robot is able to detect and avoid obstacles using the base laser and the RGB-D camera on its pan-tilt head.

ROS Tutorial: TIAGo localization in simulation.

ROS Tutorial 2: TIAGo localization in simulation.

First, the built up of laser scans map should be created using the previous mapping Tutorial. Second, the map created in the previous tutorial should be opened following the steps here, which will show it in rviz as a result. Different kinds of information will be overlaid on top of the map, amongst other:

  • Particle cloud: a cloud of small red arrows representing the amcl filter particles, which spreads around the robot. A concentration of the particles indicates a growing confidence on its position estimate.
  • Global costmap: regions around obstacles which are used by the global planner in order to compute paths to navigate from one point of the map to another without getting too close to the static obstacles registered during mapping. More details can be found here.
  • Local costmap: similar to the global costmap, but it is smaller and moves with the robot, it is used to take into account new features that were not present in the original map. It is used by the local planner to avoid obstacles, both static and dynamic, while trying to follow the global path computed by the global planner. More details can be found here.
  • Laser scan: lines in dark blue represent the points measured with the laser of the mobile base. This scan is used to add/remove obstacles both in the global and local costmaps.
  • RGBD scan: lines in magenta represent the projection of the point cloud reconstructed by the RGBD camera of the head onto the floor. This artificial scan is also used to add/remove obstacles to the global and local costmaps. This scan is useful to obtain a 3D information of the environment, detecting obstacles that are higher or lower than the laser scanner plan.
Autonomous TIAGo robot navigation path.

ROS Tutorial 2: Autonomous TIAGo robot navigation path.

All this information is used as described in the Tutorial to enable TIAGo locate itself correctly in the given space. Besides, this enables as well the TIAGo autonomous navigation with rviz, that sends the robot to a desired point that it needs to reach. The action should be completed through the shortest path and avoiding obstacles as well.

We want to see your developments!

Find other tutorials on Control, MoveIt!, Open CV and PCL at TIAGo’s ROS Wiki, which will be detailed soon in our blog as well. Share your awesome results with us by sending them to: marketing@pal-robotics.com.

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#ERW2016: PAL Robotics’ Open Day, Robots at Your Service & HispaRob Day!

This year’s European Robotics Week broke all records in terms of organized events and participation. At PAL Robotics we also broke records of the assistance at our Open Day, last Friday 25th of November. Two tours were held at our offices, gathering together more than 150 people that were interested in robotics and wanted to know more about PAL Robotics’ projects and platforms.

Attendees could discover our mission, origins, robots and the projects we are involved in. The most exciting part came with the live demonstrations of the humanoids REEM-C and REEM, TIAGo and StockBot, where people could control the robots, play with their applications and ask any doubt to their Product Managers.

At the end of the tour the visitors and the PAL Robotics’ team shared a catering where they could exchange opinions and ask more questions about the company. We hope you enjoyed the visit as much as us. Looking forward to receiving you next year at PAL Robotics!

PAL Robotics at Robots at your Service and HispaRob Day

PAL Robotics also attended to the EU Robotics Week central event in Amsterdam, the Robots at your Service conference about assistive robotics, where TIAGo was presented as one useful platform for Ambient-Assisted Living environments, and the EU Project GrowMeUp was introduced too. Very interesting debates took place at the Maritime Museum. You can find some of the panel discussions ideas given by robotics experts on this RoboHub article.

The first HispaRob Day was also celebrated in Madrid, bringing together the main robotics universities, companies and institutions. HispaRob Day analyzed the robotics sector in Spain and debated on how robots are going to transform our lives in both domestic and industrial environments.

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A robot localization system solely based on distance sensors

A robust localization system that uses only distances to a small set of non-synchronized radio beacons at very small update rates. This innovative location system has been developed by Professor Fernando Caballero (Universidad de Sevilla) and Professor Luis Merino (Universidad Pablo de Olavide) with the collaboration of PAL Robotics, in a successful example of the benefits of University/Industry cooperation. We had the pleasure to receive both Professors at PAL Robotics’ offices, where they gave us a presentation on their achievements.

The localization system’s code is open-source and ROS-based, it is publicly available at GitHub. During the visit Prof. Caballero, Prof. Merino and our team successfully integrated the location system with StockBot, using PAL Robotics’ radio beacons from Idolink.

Even without synchronization of the radio beacons, and at a low measure frequency of 0.1Hz, the localization system proved to be very robust and efficient, successfully replacing AMCL. The video shows Stockbot using the range_only_localization system for navigation (no AMCL) and how this localization system can recover the robot from a wrong initial position.

Possible applications of this system are countless, as localizing the robot in very dynamic and cluttered environments or as a recovery tool for AMCL, for example. We are confident that this is an important and very useful contribution to the robotics community.

Prof. Fernando Caballero and Luis Merino with StockBot team for localization system integration ROS

Prof. Fernando Caballero (University of Sevilla) and Luis Merino (University Pablo Olavide) with StockBot team after the integration of the localization system to StockBot.

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EU Robotics Week 2016: Find PAL Robotics in Amsterdam, Madrid and Barcelona!

This Friday the European Robotics Week begins! Europe will be full of robotics events with more than 500 activities registered, which make sure that robots are the continent’s focus. PAL Robotics will be present in Amsterdam, Madrid and Barcelona, where you can meet us and interact with our robots.

PAL Robotics with the EU Robotics Week 2016

 

  • Robots at your service: ERW2016 Central Event (Amsterdam, Nov 18-22)

The ERW2016 Central Event, Robots at your service, is starting today in Amsterdam. Robots at your service is debating about the role of assistant robots in our future and how they can benefit people by taking care of the elderly, ill and disabled people at home. The event brings robots closer to society with Meet the robots exhibition. PAL Robotics’ TIAGo will be there, a robot suitable for Ambient Assisted Living applications which is used for different EU Projects on this area.

Since the event is focused in healthcare and robotic assistance, it will also be a good moment to present the EU Project GrowMeUp, which has the goal of creating a robot companion to assist the elderly at home. The robot, called GrowMu, is aimed to encourage old people to stay longer active, live independently and be socially involved.

The panel discussion Our Robotics Future (14h) will count on the participation of PAL Robotics’ CEO, Francesco Ferro. Debate will be focused on what we can expect of robots, Europe’s role in the robotics evolution and the effects that this transformation will bring.

  • Jornada HispaRob (Madrid, Nov 22)

Are you in Madrid next week? Meet PAL Robotics’ team and TIAGo collaborative robot at the HispaRob Robotics Day, held in the Carlos III University (Leganés campus) on Tuesday 22nd. The event highlights the Spanish role in robotics and will discuss about assistive and collaborative robots, as well as its function contributing with education and society’s cohesion.

TIAGo’s Product Manager, PhD Jordi Pagès will also participate on a panel discussion about collaborative robotics. TIAGo will perform live demonstrations at the collaborative robots demo time, showing how easy it is to command this modular robot for Industry 4.0.

  • PAL Robotics Open Day (Barcelona, Nov 25)

PAL Robotics Open Day ERW2016

The week will end with PAL Robotics’ Open Day on Friday 25th. We are opening our doors to everyone who wants to discover our passion!  We want to share with you our vision regarding the role of robotics, and the knowledge and expertise we have gathered in this field since 2004. The humanoids REEM-C and REEM, the collaborative robot TIAGo and the inventory-taking robot StockBot will perform live demos for all the attendees.

Join us by sending an e-mail at marketing@pal-robotics.com and let us know which tour you would be interested in:

  • Technical tour (12:00-14:00h)
  • General tour (16:30-18:00h)

Looking forward to receiving you at PAL Robotics!

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TIAGo ROS Simulation Tutorial 1 – How to control the cobot?

TIAGo’s ROS open tutorials for its open-source simulation in the Gazebo start with TIAGo’s control. This collaborative robot is open in simulation to anyone who has an idea for him. PAL Robotics describes everything needed to use TIAGo in simulation, from the basic steps to control it to more complex motions and commands. Tutorial blocks will be detailed periodically at the blog, starting with the robot’s control.

How can TIAGo cobot be controlled?

Three tutorials show different options to command TIAGo’s Degrees of Freedom:

move_joints_title_PAL_Robotics

 

Make TIAGo wave, shake hands… even lift weights!

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TIAGo reaching its maximum in a pre-recorded motion in Gazebo.

PAL Robotics makes available a list of pre-defined upper body motions of TIAGo, based on simultaneous trajectories in multiple groups of joints. TIAGo can play various movements with the hand besides closing and opening it, like pinch, point or put the thumb up. Other motions show its large manipulation workspace, reaching the floor or lifting the arm up to 1.75 m high. On this tutorial you can also command TIAGo to make movements such as TIAGo waving, shaking hands, or even lifting weights!

Find other tutorials on Navigation, MoveIt!, Open CV and PCL at TIAGo’s ROS Wiki, which will be detailed soon in our blog as well.

PAL Robotics TIAGo robot controlled by velocity commands.

TIAGo robot controlled by velocity commands leftwards.

PAL Robotics Open Day 2016

Remember that on Friday, November 25th PAL Robotics opens its doors to everyone! Two tours will take place at our offices, with a presentation of the company and some demos with REEM-C, TIAGo and StockBot. The tours are divided according to the attendee’s profile:

  • Technical tour (12:00-14:00h)
  • General tour (16:30-18:00h)

Register to the Open Day tour you would like to attend by sending an e-mail at marketing@pal-robotics.com. Don’t miss the opportunity!

PAL Robotics Open Day

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PAL Robotics at 2016 ROS-Industrial Conference

ROS-Industrial project aims to apply ROS (Robot Operating System), the de facto standard in robotics, to the industry. Having a shared open operative system in robotics gains relevance when it is applied to manufacturing applications and opens new possibilities for robots to be integrated in assembly chains.

PAL Robotics was invited to the annual ROS-Industrial Conference held last week in Fraunhofer IPA (Stuttgart, Germany) as a company that successfully bases all of its robots in ROS and uses tools such as Rviz or ros_control. PAL Robotics’ CTO Luca Marchionni shared our expertise in the field and explained the advantages and challenges of applying open-source software to the robots we develop and commercialize.

TIAGo robot in simulation performing a pick&place task.

TIAGo robot in the open-source simulation performing a pick&place task.

The active community that contributes to ROS is key for creating a common reference and share the knowledge in robotics to push its evolution. At PAL Robotics we believe on a general-purpose robot operating system that can benefit multiple fields, industry among them. That is why we base all of our robots in ROS and provide their simulation packages in freely available on github. The new open TIAGo tutorials are the latest initiatives we are doing in the direction of extending ROS usage to absolutely everyone.

Come to the PAL Robotics Open Day!

The EU Robotics Week is coming and PAL Robotics is preparing many different activities in Amsterdam, Madrid and Barcelona! On Friday, Nov 25th, we are opening the doors to everyone who has the same passion as us. Our team wants to share with you our vision, knowledge and expertise in robotics, and REEM-C, TIAGo and StockBot will perform live demos. Join us by sending an e-mail at marketing@pal-robotics.com and let us know in which tour you would be interested in:

  • Technical tour (12:00-14:00h)
  • General tour (16:30-18:00h)

We are waiting for you at PAL Robotics!

PAL Robotics Open Day

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