TUE AM News: UW-Madison scientists developing robotics with NASA support; ‘Smart glass’ focus of new study

— With grant support from NASA, a team of scientists at UW-Madison is seeking to improve “shared control” robotics, in which robots and humans work together to do complex tasks. 

Led by Prof. Bilge Mutlu, a professor of computer science, industrial engineering and psychology, researchers are partnering with Boeing to design robots that could perform certain tasks required for manufacturing aircrafts. 

“We identified a number of processes in aircraft manufacturing where this shared control could help,” he said. “Take riveting. There are thousands and thousands of rivets that have to be banged in there to join the metal of an airplane together. That’s hard, repetitive work.”

His team has also identified sanding metal, painting and piecing together components in tight areas as areas of potential improvement. Having a human-guided robot perform these tasks could reduce risks to health and safety, without sacrificing the skilled personal touch that human workers bring. 

The robots they’re working on are different from industrial robots used in many manufacturing assembly lines, as they are less physically powerful and dangerous to people but also more versatile. 

See more: http://www.wisbusiness.com/2019/scientists-developing-shared-control-robotics-with-nasa-support/ 

— Researchers at UW-Madison have developed a type of “smart glass” that can recognize certain images without needing the computer systems usually required for image recognition technology. 

“We’re using optics to condense the normal setup of cameras, sensors and deep neural networks into a single piece of thin glass,” said Zongfu Yu, a professor of electrical and computer engineering. 

Yu and colleagues recently published a proof-of-concept study in the journal Photonics Research documenting how their specialized glass was able to identify and differentiate between handwritten numbers. 

According to a release from the university, this technology could be used to improve and streamline facial recognition technology. 

Ming Yuan, a professor of statistics at Columbia University and a contributor to the research, says the “true power” of the specialized glass is that it can classify complex information with no energy consumption. 

The study was supported by a Young Faculty Award grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. 

See the full study: http://www.osapublishing.org/prj/fulltext.cfm?uri=prj-7-8-823&id=415059 

— A trade group representing oil refineries is running a 30-second TV ad in Wisconsin that calls on President Trump to deliver on his promise of a “win-win energy policy for all Americans.” 

American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers said it has made a six-figure buy that also will run in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. But the group declined to provide additional details. 

The ad features images of small-town life, industrial machinery and smiling workers going by, with a male voice saying ethanol mandates are “hurting the backbone of our manufacturing economy.” 

“Our workers are fueling the country’s manufacturing comeback,” the narrator says. “We can’t go backwards now. President Trump, only you can fix this. Please keep your promise to refinery workers. Keep ethanol mandates from killing our jobs.” 

The petrochemical and refining industry in Wisconsin both directly and indirectly support nearly 9,000 jobs, and contribute about $900 million to the state’s economy. That’s according to Geoff Moody, vice president of government relations for AFPM, whose members represent about 95 percent of U.S. refinery capacity. 

The ad relates to small refinery exemption waivers, or SREs. These were put in place to offset ethanol requirements for certain refineries. They’re not explicitly mentioned in the ad, but Moody says if the waivers are eliminated, these refineries would face a higher regulatory burden. 

Moody said national reporting from several weeks ago indicated Trump was considering reducing or eliminating those waivers. He adds the ethanol industry has been calling on the administration to roll those back, but AFPM wants to make sure the waivers continue. 

In general, he said the ethanol mandate is “precisely the type of regulatory burden [Trump] pledged to reduce.” 

“He has the ability to release some of the burden on small refineries as they’ve done for the last couple years,” Moody said. “Our message to him is, use all the tools at your disposal to reduce the burden on U.S. manufacturing.” 

Watch the ad here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joA18EDNdsA 

— Gov. Tony Evers says he vetoed a provision that would’ve allowed electric car maker Tesla to sell directly to consumers instead of through dealers as part of a broader goal of eliminating earmarks from the budget and because it was a “payoff” to get a vote. 

“It was one of many earmarks; we tried to catch as many as we could,” Evers said yesterday. “Frankly, it was a payoff for a vote to get the budget passed. But most importantly, it was an earmark, and we decided that wasn’t worth having in the budget.” 

The provision was added as Republicans sought to secure the vote of Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, who has pushed a similar proposal in past legislation. Kapenga owns a business that refurbishes Teslas and sells parts for the cars but has said the business is a hobby and he doesn’t profit from it. 

Kapenga’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Evers’ suggestion. 

Evers also said he’s confident his partial vetoes are valid and will stand. 

Evers made his comments to reporters after signing a bill in Milwaukee that would allow electric scooters to be operated on roadways, sidewalks and bike paths in the state while allowing municipalities to regulate their use. 

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who joined Evers at the event, said the Milwaukee Common Council is to take up a measure today that would establish a pilot program for companies wanting to offer scooters for rent in the city. 

See a release from Evers on the scooter bill: 


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– Fuel makers launch ad criticizing Trump ethanol mandates



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– Evers signs bill regulating electric scooters



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