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ADAM with IT: Robotics (by Jim Corlett)
N.B. The URLs in this article were valid at the time of input; given the nature of the Internet, sites come and go, so it is possible that some of the addresses will be unobtainable by the time you read this &endash; as will be some of the links on the sites highlighted. This is a fact of Internet life.
My first article in this series attempted to point a path through the jungle of Web search tools towards the most efficient way to approach Web searching, in general terms &endash; i.e. which of the many search tools to use and in what order. This current article &endash; on robotics - and other articles in the series will highlight sites on specific topics of potential interest to manufacturing and design engineers. It lays out the types of resources available, with significant examples for each.
There are many areas in which robotics have been applied &endash; industrial, biomedical, space, environmental/waste management, military, medical, rehabilitation, office, entertainment, hobby, etc. This article will focus on the industrial and space aspects, with occasional nods in the directions of some of the others.
For a very basic overview of what robots are and how they work, visit The Tech's "hands-online" interactive museum, in which you can find an exhibition entitled Get A Grip On Robotics (http://www.thetech.org/exhibits_events/online/robots/teaser/). Another very short and simple introduction, What is a robot? may be read on the Australian Robotics and Automation Association site at http://www.araa.asn.au/intro.html.
Other such introductions to the topic may be found in the Robotics section of Robert Ramsdales excellent Engineering Zone (http://www.flinthills.com/~ramsdale/EngZone/robotics.htm), in Patrick McInerneys Introducing Robotics (http://www.geocities.com/ResearchTriangle/2659/select.htm), and in Hugh Jacks Engineer On A Disk which has a section on Robotics within its Mechatronics pages (http://claymore.engineer.gvsu.edu/~jackh/eod_new/mechtron/robotics/robotics.html). The U.S. Department of Energy Occupational Safety and Health Technical Reference manual Chapter 1: Industrial Robots (http://tis.eh.doe.gov/docs/osh_tr/ch1.html) includes a Robotics Overview.
Many of these sites will also contain a glossary of terms; for what aims to be the most comprehensive online reference available for robotics terminology, try the University of North Texas Robotics Glossary at http://www.unt.edu/robotics/reference.htm.
Local lists, resource guides and FAQs
My introductory article mentioned local lists, collections (often compiled by individuals) in very specific subject areas, and slightly more "official" (often produced by companies) specific resource guides and directories.
Local lists include
A useful list at the level of "lower secondary students" is Zinat Jalaies Application of Robots and Robotics (http://www.bf.rmit.edu.au:81/Dimals/rguides/robots.htm
In terms of resource directories, Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library (EEVL) (http://www.eevl.ac.uk/) has a significant section on robotics, including descriptions of the sites. Other directories include:
Specialist directories include:
Frequently Asked Questions can be a useful source on information. FAQs in the robotics area include the Robotics Frequently Asked Questions List (http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/robotics-faq/).
Professional societies and trade organisations with Web sites include:
Further organisations, not all of which by any means have Web sites, can be found in the Robotics Frequently Asked Questions List under the Robotics Organisations heading (http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/robotics-faq/3.html)
More specialist institutions exist, examples being:
[These last two are part of the Robotic Industries Association umbrella].
There are further lists of institutions and associations, together with many robotics clubs and societies, which can be found from the general resource guides and directories above.
Conferences and Events
Many of the Institution and Association sites listed above contain details of conferences and events in the robotics area. One other site which provides similar information is the Artificial Intelligence Conferences and Publications (http://www.gmd.de/FIT/KI/AI-Conferences/conferences.html) which includes a substantial section on robotics.
Thousands of companies are now producing their own Web sites. Directories of companies can be found, often on general resource sites such as those mentioned above and others in the same vein, e.g:
Similarly, the BARA On-line Directory (http://www.bra-automation.co.uk/directory.htm) contains details of products and services offered by robotics and automation companies worldwide
Chuck Rosenbergs Robotics Companies (http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~chuck/robotpg/robo_corp.html), which lists some commercial mobile robotics companies
Robot Manufacturers from Bucknell Universitys Robotics Lab (http://www.eg.bucknell.edu/~robotics/manufctr.html)
Robot commercial pages are not generally the most exciting Ive seen. They do not seem to offer very much beyond details of products and services and the odd download or brief case study. (For case studies, see the Courseware section below). The following are examples of individual Web sites:
Research Centres & Higher Education Departments
Areas of current research, and the people involved in them, can be traced via directories such as:
Most individual academic departments will also include details of their research.
N.B. See also the full-text - section, which indicates some of those departments and centres whose complete publications are available on the Web &endash; I have not duplicated those entries here; they are some of the major centres for research, and should also be consulted.
Examples of the variety to be found among other sites include:
The Robotics Internet Resources Page (http://www-robotics.cs.umass.edu/robotics.html) has a useful list of mostly research-based robotics-related Web servers, divided into Australia, Canada, Europe, Asia and the USA.
Outside research, academic sites often provide more than just a list of their courses, offering links to sites of relevant interest. There are many sites listing academic institutions, but very few which list courses. One such in the UK is UCAS (http://www.ucas.ac.uk/ucc/index.html) which offers a facility to search for courses on Robotics in the UK (13 entries at the time of writing).
Good examples of the Web as an environment for practical work with robots can be found on the various sites which allow you to control a robot online.
Other courseware, notes and tutorials provide a valuable source of understanding of field of robotics. Useful overviews of the topics have already been mentioned in the Introduction. Other pages include:
Case studies - are also useful for enhancing the understanding of the potential of robots. Here are a few:
E-Journals, Full-Text and Bibliographies
There seem to be few free full-text e-journals devoted to robotics. Apart from ADAM with IT, the one in which this Web Corner appears, most are either subscription-based
or just contain contents and/or abstracts such as the
EEVLs Engineering E-journal Search Engine (http://www.eevl.ac.uk/eese/) searches the full text of one hundred engineering e-journals on the Web which are free, full text (or offer most of their content as full text) and available without registration.
Other full text publications and articles can also be found. Their discovery can be a bit hit-and-miss using global search engines, but are much more easily traceable in more focused services such as EEVL (http://www.eevl.ac.uk/ - use the Document resource type as a filter). The following is just a small representative sample of whats available.
Some conference proceedings, workshops, etc have their papers available on the Web. The Department of Computer Science at the University of Manchester has a technical reports series which contains three sets of proceedings:
The robotics area seems a particularly fertile area for full text online publications. Examples range from single specific items like:
Bibliographies are also obtainable online. Many of the sites mentioned in the introduction will contain general bibliographies as part of their pages. Other, more specialised bibliographies include:
In addition, there is a specific site which gives details of robotics books - Robot Books.Com (http://www.robotbooks.com/).
E-mail discussion lists can provide a valuable source in information. Relevant lists include the comp.robotics.misc and comp.robotics.research lists (there are archives for the latter, at http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/robotics-faq/, but they are currently not being updated, although the intention is still to do so eventually).
EEVL's Engineering Newsgroup Archive (http://www.eevl.ac.uk/cgi-bin/nwi/) is a search system which queries a 40-day archive of News articles from Engineering newsgroups such as those above and provides access to the text of the postings.
Standards, Patents and Guidelines
Standards &endash; the International Federation of Robotics contains a section on International Robot Standards (http://www.ifr.org/standard/standards.html) which lists ISO documents pertaining to robots, and also the activities of Subcommittee 2 of the ISO Technical Committee 184. In addtion, the already-mentioned RIA T15 Committee on Safety Standards for Intelligent Assist Devices (http://peshkin.mech.nwu.edu/iad/) has information on safetuy standards issues in this area.
The World Standards Services Network http://www.wssn.net/WSSN/index.html) offers a network of publicly accessible Web servers of standards organisations around the world. Individual international and national standards bodies include the:
The Technical Standards Services Ltd (http://wwwtechstandards.co.uk/) is an example of a company providing a (fee-based) service to the engineering and technical community in Europe and the Middle East, while ILI (http://www.ili.co.uk/) has a free searchable web catalogue of standards linked to an Internet ordering facility.
Patents &endash; there are some patents specific to robots available at http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Park/9772/patlink1.htm, but they are all over 20 years old and the pages are not the easiest to read. As with standards, various international and national bodies may be found, such as the:
Various American sites cover patents, two of which, the IBM Patent Server (http://patent.womplex.ibm.com/ibm.html) and the US Patent and Trademark Office (http://www.uspto.gov/) offer free searching of US patent databases, complete with images.
Patent searching tutorials (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/Libs/ENG/PTUT/ptut.html and http://scilib.ucsd.edu/electclass/patsearch/index.html) also exist, while the Patent Portal (http://www.law.vill.edu/~rgruner/patport.htm) is an entry point to (US) patent resources on the Internet. It includes a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.
Guidelines - There are a number of guidelines available in the area of robot safety, including the NIOSH publication Safe Maintenance Guidelines for Robotic Workstations, (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/88-108.html), and the Section IV: Chapter 4 of the OSHA Technical Manual, Industrial Robots and Robot System Safety (http://www.osha-slc.gov/dts/osta/otm/otm_iv/otm_iv_4.html).
This listing is necessarily just a taste of the ingredients on the Net which could succour the manufacturer or designer. Trying to find precisely what you require can take time. If the individual resources listed do not satisfy your requirements, then using the focused information gateways like EEVL, together with the resource lists as indicated, should make your task that much easier.
For further reading, you can trace articles on robotics, both applications and research oriented, in non-electronic journals by using the free Recent Advances in Manufacturing (RAM) (http://www.eevl.ac.uk/ram/) bibliographic database.
Manufacturing Information Services Manager
The Nottingham Trent University
Nottingham NG1 5LS
(For more information over the Internet search the entire web via our continuously growing directory of updated Advanced Design And Manufacturing with IT websites and search engines listed by topic).
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