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Hyundai and Kia venture into robotic future

As a key part of Hyundai Motor Group, KIA Motors is innovating with robotics technology through development of the Hyundai Vest Exoskeleton (H-VEX) wearable industrial robots.

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Following the Hyundai Chairless Exoskeleton (H-CEX) demonstration conducted at the Hyundai-KIA North American factory last August, the company plans to verify H-VEX’s success through extensive testing at the end of 2018.

In early 2018, Hyundai Motor Group identified Robot-Artificial Intelligence as one of five areas of future innovation and growth. The company established a designated robotics team in its strategic technology headquarters to focus on the development of related tech, and is expanding its cooperation with associated sectors.

Hyundai Motor Group is developing technology in three areas of robotics: wearable robots, service robots, and micro-mobility. The company is also working in partnership with other talented domestic and international companies that possess robotic and artificial intelligence technology.

The first H-CEX was developed for industrial use. It is a knee-joint protective device that helps maintain a worker’s sitting position. Weighing in at 1.6kg it is light yet highly durable, and can withstand weights of up to 150kg. With waist, thigh and knee belts it can be easily fitted and adjusted to the user’s height.

Along with the H-CEX, the Hyundai Motor Group team plan to test and apply the H-VEX in its North American factories at the end of the year. H-VEX is a device that alleviates pressure on workers’ neck and back by adding 60kg of strength to the user when their arms are used overhead. It is expected to be very effective at preventing injury and increasing work efficiency.

There are a variety of applications and fields that robots can be developed for, such as wearables, service robots and micro mobility. Hyundai Motor Group showcased the Hyundai Medical Exoskeleton (H-MEX), which assists paraplegics and elderly people with walking and traversing staircases, at the 2017 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It is currently in the process of being approved by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in Korea, and by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, for commercialization as a medical device.

Another Hyundai Motor Group development in robotics, the Hyundai Universal Medical Assist (HUMA), can be applied to the waist and legs to strengthen the muscles while walking, enabling users to achieve a running speed of 12km/h and making it one of the fastest wearable robots in the world.

Other than wearables, robots that can improve the quality of a user’s life are being created. The ‘Hotel Service Robot’ can, among other functions, take care of room service and guide guests around a hotel. The robots will be tested at the end of the year at South Korea’s Haevichi hotel and resort, and the Rolling Hills hotel.

The ‘Sales Service Robot’ that was modelled last year can explain car details to customers. It is equipped a with natural language conversation system, artificial intelligence, and a mobility function, providing the ability to consult with customers about vehicle models in showrooms. It is currently in the design and development stage, and a prototype is expected to be available early next year. A prototype ‘electric vehicle charge manipulator’ that automatically charges an electric vehicle when it stops in front of the device, will also be previewed by 2020.

Hyundai Motor Group’s ‘robotic personal mobility’ is a next-generation single-person mobility platform so versatile it can slowly traverse with two wheels to avoid obstacles indoors, and then morph into a three-wheeled mode of transport with improved stability for use outdoors.

Hyundai Motor Group is making substantial investments in the robotics field, considering it one of the promising fields for mobility, and actively securing related technologies. On 10 September 2018 it initiated a strategic investment in the US-based artificial intelligence technology start-up Perceptive Automata to secure human movement prediction technology. The company is also cooperating with China’s top vision technology equipped artificial intelligence start-up, DeepGlint.

A $4.5 million (US dollar) ‘AI Alliance Fund’ was created in cooperation with SK Telecom and the Hanwha Asset Management company to invest in promising start-ups with competence in artificial intelligence and smart mobility.

Dr. Youngcho Chi, Executive Vice President of Strategy & Technology Division and Chief Innovation Officer of Hyundai Motor Group said, “The field of robotics has the potential to usher in a new era in our industry. The possibilities for the technology are endless – from future mobility solutions and industrial productivity aids to vital military applications, we think the future is better with robots. The huge collective experience within the Hyundai Motor Group will facilitate rapid progress in the coming years. We are excited about current developments, and very optimistic for the use of this technology to improve lives around the globe.”

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Project Bloodhound saved

The British project to break the world landspeed record at a site in the Northern Cape has been saved by a new backer, after it went into bankruptcy proceedings in October.

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Two weeks ago,  and two months after entering voluntary administration, the Bloodhound Programme Limited announced it was shutting down. This week it announced that its assets, including the Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC), had been acquired by an enthusiastic – and wealthy – supporter.

“We are absolutely delighted that on Monday 17th December, the business and assets were bought, allowing the Project to continue,” the team said in a statement.

“The acquisition was made by Yorkshire-based entrepreneur Ian Warhurst. Ian is a mechanical engineer by training, with a strong background in managing a highly successful business in the automotive engineering sector, so he will bring a lot of expertise to the Project.”

Warhurst and his family, says the team, have been enthusiastic Bloodhound supporters for many years, and this inspired his new involvement with the Project.

“I am delighted to have been able to safeguard the business and assets preventing the project breakup,” he said. “I know how important it is to inspire young people about science, technology, engineering and maths, and I want to ensure Bloodhound can continue doing that into the future.

“It’s clear how much this unique British project means to people and I have been overwhelmed by the messages of thanks I have received in the last few days.”

The record attempt was due to be made late next year at Hakskeen Pan in the Kalahari Desert, where retired pilot Andy Green planned to beat the 1228km/h land-speed record he set in the United States in 1997. The target is for Bloodhound to become the first car to reach 1000mph (1610km/h). A track 19km long and 500 metres wide has been prepared, with members of the local community hired to clear 16 000 tons of rock and stone to smooth the surface.

The team said in its announcement this week: “Although it has been a frustrating few months for Bloodhound, we are thrilled that Ian has saved Bloodhound SSC from closure for the country and the many supporters around the world who have been inspired by the Project. We now have a lot of planning to do for 2019 and beyond.”

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Motor Racing meets Machine Learning

The futuristic car technology of tomorrow is being built today in both racing cars and
toys, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The car of tomorrow, most of us imagine, is being built by the great automobile manufacturers of the world. More and more, however, we are seeing information technology companies joining the race to power the autonomous vehicle future.

Last year, chip-maker Intel paid $15.3-billion to acquire Israeli company Mobileye, a leader in computer vision for autonomous driving technology. Google’s autonomous taxi division, Waymo, has been valued at $45-billion.

Now there’s a new name to add to the roster of technology giants driving the future.

DeepRacer on the inside

Amazon Web Services, the world’s biggest cloud computing service and a subsidiary of Amazon.com,  last month unveiled a scale model autonomous racing car for developers to build new artificial intelligence applications. Almost in the same breath, at its annual re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, it showcased the work being done with machine learning in Formula 1 racing.

AWS DeepRacer is a 1/18th scale fully autonomous race car, designed to incorporate the features and behaviour of a full-sized vehicle. It boasts all-wheel drive, monster truck tires, an HD video camera, and on-board computing power. In short, everything a kid would want of a self-driving toy car.

But then, it also adds everything a developer would need to make the car autonomous in ways that, for now, can only be imagined. It uses a new form of machine learning (ML), the technology that allows computer systems to improve their functions progressively as they receive feedback from their activities. ML is at the heart of artificial intelligence (AI), and will be core to autonomous, self-driving vehicles.

AWS has taken ML a step further, with an approach called reinforcement learning. This allows for quicker development of ML models and applications, and DeepRacer is designed to allow developers to experiment with and hone their skill in this area. It is built on top of another AWS platform, called Amazon SageMaker, which enables developers and data scientists to build, train, and deploy machine learning quickly and easily.

Along with DeepRacer, AWS also announced the DeepRacer League, the world’s first global autonomous racing league, open to anyone who orders the scale model from AWS.

DeepRacer on the outside

As if to prove that DeepRacer is not just a quirky entry into the world of motor racing, AWS also showcased the work it is doing with the Formula One Group. Ross Brawn, Formula 1’s managing director of Motor Sports, joined AWS CEO Andy Jassy during the keynote address at the re:Invent conference, to demonstrate how motor racing meets machine learning.

“More than a million data points a second are transmitted between car and team during a Formula 1 race,” he said. “From this data, we can make predictions about what we expect to happen in a wheel-to-wheel situation, overtaking advantage, and pit stop advantage. ML can help us apply a proper analysis of a situation, and also bring it to fans.

“Formula 1 is a complete team contest. If you look at a video of tyre-changing in a pit stop – it takes 1.6 seconds to change four wheels and tyres – blink and you will miss it. Imagine the training that goes into it? It’s also a contest of innovative minds.”

AWS CEO Andy Jassy unveils DeepRacer

Formula 1 racing has more than 500 million global fans and generated $1.8 billion in revenue in 2017. As a result, there are massive demands on performance, analysis and information. 

During a race, up to 120 sensors on each car generate up to 3GB of data and 1 500 data points – every second. It is impossible to analyse this data on the fly without an ML platform like Amazon SageMaker. It has a further advantage: the data scientists are able to incorporate 65 years of historical race data to compare performance, make predictions, and provide insights into the teams’ and drivers’ split-second decisions and strategies.

This means Formula 1 can pinpoint how a driver is performing and whether or not drivers have pushed themselves over the limit.

“By leveraging Amazon SageMaker and AWS’s machine-learning services, we are able to deliver these powerful insights and predictions to fans in real time,” said Pete Samara, director of innovation and digital technology at Formula 1.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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