September 25, 2007

Yoky Matsuoka Wins $1/2-Million MacArthur Award

Barrett Alum, Yoky Matsuoka<, Recognized for Leadership in Advanced Robotics

US National television news covered the founder of the field of neurorobotics, Prof. Yoky Matsuoka, last night as she received the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Genius Award. Yoky Matsuoka joined Barrett to lead the engineering team during the company's formative years in the 1990s, contributing to some of its most important technical achievements. Barrett's year-over-year growth today is due in large part to the enormous energy Yoky put into Barrett and its products. Yoky has continued to be a close friend ever since. Her persistent vision and encouragement have guided Barrett to its leadership role in advanced human-interactive robotics. According to Barrett founder, Bill Townsend: "the MacArthur Foundation could not have chosen a more deserving award recipient. In addition to the intelligence, drive, and creativity presumed of a MacArthur Fellow, Yoky is also a terrific mother, professor, advisor, role model, loyal friend, and person of deep professional integrity. Congratulations, Yoky!"

June 11, 2007

Barrett Wins Competitive NSF Grant

Highest Performance ServoElectronics Module is also World's Tiniest and Most Efficient

Barrett has won a competitive grant from the National Science Foundation to commercialize its Ultra-Miniature Puck Brushless ServoElectronics Module. The "Puck" project has been multi-year project at Barrett to develop the world's smallest and most power efficient high-performance servomotor controller.

Barrett has been shipping Pucks™ in all of its robotic WAM™ arms for 2 years now with excellent results. The unique Puck-enabled features of its robotic arm are: 1. Absence of any controller cabinet (internal or external to the arm) improving reliability and portability. 2. Incredibly low power consumption (an order of magnitude less than any other arm in its class) for safety, portability, and the environment. 3. Ultra-high brushless-servo performance enabling application such as force-field enabled medical surgery.

With the huge success of its own use of the Puck in its WAM arm, Barrett is openly soliciting feedback from potential end users who seek ultra-power-efficiency and tiny size. Nearly all industrial precision machines rely on brushless servomotors that must be housed in a large separate "controller cabinet." While the Puck is not available outside Barrett's WAM™ arm today, NSF funding over the next 3 years will enable Barrett to develop features to make this module universally adaptable to a wide range of brushless-servomotor applications.

The hermetically sealed Puck is based on an innovation that makes a servo amplifier so power efficient that the size can be collapsed dramatically. The present PUCk (powerful universal controller) is black and shaped like a hockey puck, but is only 1/10th the volume. The new Puck will be even smaller and handle from 1 horsepower (700 watts) of motor power at the high end down to the tiniest brushless motors made. The Puck innovation also integrates precise rotor-position sensing and has its own 32-bit CPU, eliminating most of the wiring normally associated with brushless applications.

March 16, 2007

History Channel Unveils WAM Arm's Core Technology

History Channel's Modern Marvels

Barrett Technology, Inc.'s robotic WAM™ arm and the striking technology that drives it will be examined on the History Channel's Modern Marvels series on the evening of Wednesday, May 16, 2007. The show, called "It Came from Outer Space," explores key technologies funded by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

A portion of the show highlights Barrett's struggle to design the robotic arm that achieved the title of "most advanced robotic arm" in the special Millennium Edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. The program also unveils the most striking breakthrough in Barrett's history: "Puck™" motor technology, funded since 2000 under additional competitive awards from the US National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy.

The History Channel is rated 3rd among 147 media brands, is a leading cable television network featuring compelling original, non-fiction specials and series that bring history to life in a powerful and entertaining manner. The Guinness Book of World Records is one of the most popular annual publications of all time.

January 25, 2007

WAM™ Code Gets Even Better

Prof. Rui Cortesão Integrates Task-Based Dynamic Model

Robot touch-control designer, Rui Cortesão, visits Barrett Technology from Portugal for three months this winter raising the touch performance of the WAM™ to a new level. Unique in robotics, the Whole-Arm Manipulator (WAM™) enables intrinsic touch sensitivity over the whole arm-- just like people. Harnessing this capability for real tasks though requires an enhanced control system, and that is where Cortesão's contributions fit in.

According to Cortesão : "Why did I come? I was compelled to come to Barrett. The WAM™ is the ultimate machine for breaking new ground in touch control. Other robot arms have far too much joint friction and other issues for intrinsic touch control. Fortunately, the tendon drives in the WAM's limbs are like mine: light and virtually frictionless. After I purchased a WAM™ for my university last year, I emailed Bill to propose my visit."

Townsend responds: "It seemed like an unusual request. Initially I was concerned about the logistics, but Rui's proposal was convincing. Now he seems like part of the family. It's been an exciting two months so far with simultaneous progress on WAMs™ here and in Europe. We are seeing and feeling dramatic results."

Rui Cortesão leads his research group at the University of Coimbra. He finished his Masters and PhD degrees in robotics under Prof. Gerd Hirzinger (head of the Robotics Institute at Germany's Space Agency, DLR) and completed his post-doctoral work in robotics under Prof. Oussama Khatib (Professor of Computer Science) at Stanford University. He regularly publishes papers in top robotics conferences and journals.


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