Sunday, May 31, 2009

Aiko gets a new, Starbucks-ready hand prototype

Apparently that sexual harassment suit had a big payoff for Aiko: she's getting a hand. The developers of the fembot have created a hand for her botness, with five movable fingers, 15 movable joints, feedback sensitivity, low power consumption and palatable material cost of $1800. Oddly enough, the appropriate testing grounds for such a hand is Aiko's local neighborhood Starbucks, where she apparently regularly is required to grab straws, cups and cardboard sleeves for coffee she can't drink. How cruel. On the bright side, this hand isn't just for Aiko: it can also be attached to an amputee's forearm muscles, allowing for particularly low cost replacement hand -- though we're guessing it's going to need a bit more work before it's ready for mass human consumption. Video is after the break.

Continue reading Aiko gets a new, Starbucks-ready hand prototype

Autosub6000 to explore deep undersea volcanoes as only a robot could

The UK's National Oceanography Center in Southampton is prepping to launch a new autonomous underwater vehicle (also known as a robo-sub, landlubber) capable of exploring undersea volcanoes in the Cayman Trough up to 20,000 feet deep. It'll only run for about a kilometer at a time though, so while it does have quickly replaceable lithium polymer battery packs, it still won't exactly be roaming the briny deep for months on end without human supervision. And you know how we feel about unsupervised self-directing machines.

Elmo Live ready for pre-order by dutiful parents

Although it hits retail on Thursday, you might want to get your pre-order in now given the way these things tend to go scarce near the Xmas rush. We're talking about Elmo Live of course, the singing, dancing, and story telling robot with wobbly red limbs and interactive sensors scattered around the monster's face and ticklish belly. Available now for about $65 pre-tax at all the usual on-line shops for our tiniest consumers. We've dropped in the video after the break as a reminder of things to come.

[Via I4U]

Read -- Amazon
Read -- Wal-mart
Read -- ToysRUs

Continue reading Elmo Live ready for pre-order by dutiful parents

Harbor Wing AUSV can sail into the sunset all by itself

Autonomous seafaring vehicles may not be quite as common as unmanned land or air vehicles, but Harbor Wing Technologies looks to be doing its small part to change that, with it now apparently pretty far along in the development of its self-named Autonomous Unmanned Surface Vehicle (or AUSV). Among other things, it employs a specially-designed "WingSail" that can rotate a full 360 degrees to let the vessel maneuver efficiently upwind or downwind, and it uses a custom-made guidance system that can relay vital navigational and situational data to a "semi-portable" command station, which can apparently also be used to pilot the vessel in a pinch. Be sure to head on past the break for an interview with Harbor Wing's Ken Childress courtesy of Engineering TV, which also includes a glimpse of the current prototype in action.

[Via Engineering TV]

Continue reading Harbor Wing AUSV can sail into the sunset all by itself

Nokia's Jeppe video "pet" concept

No matter how much we do it, video conferencing is still one of the most awkward internet-related tasks we undertake on a regular basis. Nokia hopes to bring a more casual air to the event with its Jeppe video conferencing robot pet concept. Similar to most telepresence bots, Jeppe can be controlled remotely -- through a Nokia interface, conveniently -- and zips through the home with its digital compass and sound sensors seeking humans to bother. Unfortunately, the video is at a fixed angle and there's no option wipe that creepy grin of its face, but obviously Nokia has some refining to do before it brings Jeppe to market, if ever. There's video after the break of a couple Finnish engineers proving once and for all that there's no solving the awkward video conferencing problem.

[Via Core77]

Continue reading Nokia's Jeppe video "pet" concept

Japanese researchers craft "e-skin" to let robots feel

The folks at the University of Tokyo have been trying to create more touchy, feely robots for what seems like ages, and they now look to have made some real progress with their so-called "e-skin," which promises to give robots a more human-like sense of touch. To do that, the researchers created a bendable rubber sheet filled with carbon nanotubes, which lets the "skin" conduct electricity even when it's stretched. When combined with sensors, that would let robots feel heat or pressure, which the researchers say is essential "as robots enter our everyday life." They also, not surprisingly, see a whole host of other applications for the technology, including on steering wheels that could judge whether people are fit to drive and in stretchable displays that could start out as a tiny sheet and be stretched to a larger size when you want to watch TV.

Robot arms do battle... Medieval Times-style

Sure, it's not uncommon to see one robot arm take a break from productivity to engage in some shenanigans potentially fraught with peril, but two robot arms slacking off and wielding weapons? Well, that's cause for some sort of celebration. As you can see in the video after the break, however, whomever was responsible for this madness didn't completely let the arms loose on each other, which we can only hope means they're saving the arms for the inevitable Wiimote-controlled version.

[Via Boing Boing Gadgets]

Continue reading Robot arms do battle... Medieval Times-style

UK researchers give robot a "biological brain"

It looks like a group of researchers from the University of Reading are making a solid run at the title of mad scientists of the year (in the best sense, of course), with them now boasting that they've developed a robot that's controlled by a "biological brain." That's not quite the sci-fi sight you may be imagining, however (though it's close), with it instead made up of some 300,000 neurons taken from the neural cortex of a rat fetus, which are contained in multi electrode array that packs 60 electrodes to pick up the signals generated by the cells and, in turn, control the robot. According to the researchers, they are particularly interested in using the robot to study how memories are formed in the brain, and how the brain stores specific data, which they hope will lead to a better understanding of Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, stokes, and other brain injuries.

[Via Emerging Tech, New Scientist]

ESA's six-wheeled Mars bot prototypes ready to kick some martian ass

ESA is showing off its new "ExoMars" bots, Bruno and Bradley, who are being prepped for a 2015 mission to the red planet. The six-wheeled bots are being designed to carry a significant scientific payload, oriented around the search for life, but won't slouch in the maneuverability department, with six independently rotating wheels. In addition to independent movement, the wheels can also be locked into "wheel walking mode," where treacherous terrain can be traversed by crawling instead of rolling over it. On the AI front, Bruno and Bradley have significantly better AI than their progenitors, being able to plot their own courses and therefore cover more ground. The mission will involve traversing the planet and drilling six feet into the ground for soil samples, which the rover will be able to examine in its on-board laboratory. The only problem now is funding: ExoMars is looking to cost about double the 650 million Euros initially approved for the project in 2005, and there's no guarantee (yet) that the extra cash will be there when they need it.

Terminator head DVD player returns from the future to stop itself from playing a DVD of 'The Terminator'

Color us stumped and incredibly excited. We've discovered this totally useless yet endlessly amazing DVD player / Terminator head out in the wilds of the internet, but finding any information deeper than people exclaiming "this is awesome" is, in a word, difficult. Look, we're not saying that we want to find the company that makes these, order 100 of them, rip out their guts and replace them with those electronic rat brains, swap the eyes for stereoscopic cameras, tack on Darth Vader-esque voice boxes, and then mount them to the unkillable bodies of an army of robotic warriors we've been building, but... uh, well... okay you got us.

Miniature "balancing" robot is sad, hilarious

What could possibly provide us more joy and mirth than a Segway? How about a Segway-inspired bot that fails spectacularly on a consistent basis? The tech in play here is quite simple, and the fact it can stand as long as it does being that top heavy is actually pretty surprising. The best news? Hit the read link for a guide to making your very own fail bot at home. It's fun for the whole family.

[Via technabob]

Continue reading Miniature "balancing" robot is sad, hilarious

British bots battle it out, Army-style

Robot designers are currently duking it out for the British army in hopes of nabbing the hearts (and pocketbooks) of the UK's fighting force. In a makeshift "wartime European village," scientists and researchers are putting their helper-droids to the test as Army officials look on and investigate how the automatons might serve alongside troops. Some of the robots being looked at include a "Moon buggy" which remotely patrols for enemies via thermal imaging and then sends the data back to a command center, a helicopter that can be maneuvered in tight urban spaces, and a RC car with what appears to be a pile of digicams mounted on top of it. The winners of the competition will be announced Monday, but you can hit the read link and see a video -- replete with annoying British television presenter -- of some contestants.

[Thanks, Jack]

New modeling technology breathes life into animation

Ask any animation modeler about the "uncanny valley," and you're sure to get at least a grimace, if not a groan. Said term describes the long-standing barrier which refers to the perception that "animation looks less realistic as it approaches human likeness." Image Metrics is hoping that a newfangled approach used to create Emily (pictured) will finally allow animations to look more like humans and less like "corpses." As you could probably surmise, the secret is the tech's ability to survey and replicate the most subtle of movements, though even Raja Koduri, chief technology officer in graphics at AMD, doesn't see the line between reality and fiction being blurred before 2020. We'll see what Emily's posse has to say about that.

[Thanks, Przemek]

OC Robotics debuts half-inch diameter snake-arm robot

As we've seen, snake-like robots have long since move beyond the realm of nightmares into a frightening reality, and they just seem to keep on getting more and more plentiful. This latest one comes to us from UK-based OC Robotics, and has the notable distinction of being just a half-inch in diameter and a full 24 inches long, which is apparently just the ticket the US Department of Defense was looking for (it's currently testing the bot). Like other similar bots, this one boasts a camera and tool on its tip, and it can be operated using a joystick, which actually controls each of the independant "vertebrae" that makes up the arm. As you might have guessed, the company is already hard at work on even longer versions of the bot, but if you're not willing to wait for that, you can apparently put in an order for one of its current models right now.

[Via Crave]

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ganzbot reads Twitter feeds aloud, looks fashionably low-rate

We've seen methods for hooking house plants up with their own Twitter account, but there's hardly anything more satisfying that building a robot to read back all those feeds from the thousands of people you're undoubtedly following. Ganzbot is a decidedly low-budget robot that relies on an Arduino Decima to control the head actions and a USB cable to receive up-to-date status information. Have a look at the innards as well as a few words being spoken just after the jump.

[Via MAKE]

Continue reading Video: Ganzbot reads Twitter feeds aloud, looks fashionably low-rate

Bossy assembly robot says you're doing it wrong

Industrial robots are big, stupid, and dangerous. Walk between an automated welder and the SUV it's assembling and you'll find yourself fused to the frame, destined to sit unwanted at the back corner of some dealer's lot. But, keeping bots and humans separated on an assembly line isn't always practical. Enter ARoS, a machine that's not only capable of working safely with people, but being totally condescending while doing it! In a demonstration video it repeatedly tells its hapless helper how incompetent he is, then, after putting on one lousy nut itself, says "I enjoyed your help!" We figure he says that to all the meat-bags, but you can see and decide for yourself after the break.

[Via Digg]

Continue reading Bossy assembly robot says you're doing it wrong

VIA shows off EPIA Pico-ITX-based robots

VIA may be ditching its traditional motherboard business, but it looks like its not wasting any time in stepping up its efforts to get its more specialized boards and chipsets into as many devices as possible, and it's now taken advantage of the Taipei International Robot Show to show off their potential for robotics. Leading the way is Lynxmotion's Johnny 5 robot above (yes, that's actually its name), which has been outfitted with VIA's new EPIA P700 board and VX800 unified chipset just for the show. That, VIA says, offers a whole host of advantages over other systems, including "far easier" software development. Of course, VIA also sees plenty of potential beyond hobby kits, with it also showing off an EPIA Mini-ITX-based version of the Vecna Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (or BEAR), and it touting the benefits of its Pico-ITX platform for all sorts of "extremely space constrained robotics designs."

[Via Far East Gizmos]

Erector's $300 Spykee gets a ship date: October 15th

We're not even going to front -- we had all but forgotten about Erector's Spykee. Granted, it didn't do itself any favors by showing off at CES and then doing nothing for the next seven months, but we digress. If a pre-order page on Amazon is to be believed, the Spykee Spy Robot should be released on October 15th. It's sporting a hefty $299.99 price tag and a recommended age of 8-years and up, but we'll need to see some actual shipment notifications later this fall before we really get our hopes up. C'mon Erector, don't let us, um, down.

[Via I4U News]

Furby Gurdy makes "music," trips you out

The Nervous Squirrel's Furby Gurdy (version 2) isn't the first music maker we've seen that's better understood when viewed during an out-of-body experience, but it's certainly one of the strangest. The circuit bent Furby sequencer, which is linked to a Korg SQ-10 in the demonstration vid after the break, combines centuries-old musical methods with some of the strangest characters to ever grace planet Earth. We could talk for hours on end and still not do this thing justice, so just click through and mash play to see what we're referring to. We're warning you, though -- we haven't seen anything this weird since Smash Mouth's lead singer showed up at an Intel press event.

[Via Hack-A-Day]

Continue reading Video: Furby Gurdy makes "music," trips you out

New Aiko hand sheds the clumsy glove, attains exciting new levels of creepiness

It's official: Dr. Trung doesn't have a day job. He's been tweaking his fembot "Aiko" for almost a year now, and his latest creation is a rather amazing hand that can be used for Aiko or for human augmentation. The last time we saw them the hand was a clumsy golf glove affair, but now Trung has slimmed it down to more feminine, creepo proportions, while keeping the five movable fingers and pretty stunning dexterity for what seems to be a primarily individual effort on the part of Dr. Trung. The next step seems to be feedback sensors, and we still haven't seen this bolted onto Aiko, but we like where this project is headed. Video is after the break.

Continue reading New Aiko hand sheds the clumsy glove, attains exciting new levels of creepiness

Stanford's autonomous helicopters learn new tricks by watching

While a great many scientists are attempting to create autonomous bots for uses in surgery, a team of Stanford whiz-kids are having a bit more fun with it all. The crew in question has concocted an artificial intelligence system that "enables robotic helicopters to teach themselves to fly difficult stunts by watching other helicopters perform the same maneuvers." Dubbed a demonstration in "apprenticeship learning," the robots can actually learn by observing rather than having to be programmed, meaning that entire airshows could be reeled off by planes that simply keep an open mind when warm-ups are underway. Of course, they could also be used for more serious applications -- mapping out hot spots of California wildfires, finding land mines in war zones, etc. -- but even if none of that pans out, we're cool with inventions being used purely for entertainment.

iRobot CTO steps down -- ironically, looks to "rehumanize" US manufacturing with robots

iRobot -- the company best known to consumers as the creator of Roomba and to soldiers as the creator of Packbot bomb disposers -- just lost its CTO and co-founder, Rodney Brooks. While Dr. Brooks will continue to serve on the board of iRobot and serve as chairman of a new technical advisory board, he'll be devoting most of his time to Heartland Robotics, a new, non-competing company with the following corporate mantra:
"Heartland Robotics is combining the power of computers - embodied in robots - and the extraordinary intelligence of the American workforce, to rehumanize and revitalize manufacturing."
By "rehumanize" we assume they mean replace the American manufacturing workforce with robots. Come on Brooks, grow a pair of Ayn Rands and just say what you mean.

[Via Maximizing Progress]

iRobot's Roomba Pet torments the dog, sweeps away dander

iRobot just announced its new Roomba Pet robotic vacuum cleaners. Boasting the core tech found in the 530 and 560 series of vacuums, the Roomba 532 ($349) and more advanced 562 ($399, includes on-board scheduling) Pet series feature higher capacity sweeper bins; counter-rotating, carpet-digging brushes; and additional accessories to keep those brushes hair and dander free. We hear it's pretty good at herding the kids too. Available now.

Caption contest: Teddy bear torture -- the photographs the FCC didn't want you to see

Featured Story

Hide the children, folks. We've just uncovered some atrocities, and we don't think they're appropriate for the preschool-and-under crowd. The FCC is performing unspeakable acts of torture upon this Step n' Shine "Snuggle n' Shine" bear, and we think it's time the public knew about it. More gruesome pics after the break.

Chris: "We're going to ask you one more time: where is the spurious 2400MHz radiation coming from?" or "Repeat after me: Bounce has a fresher scent than Snuggles. That's all you have to do."
Paul: "How about now, huh? Do you still 'wuv us vewwy much?' Didn't think so."
Don: "I see you, Tickle Me Elmo. You won't get away with this!"
Josh T.: "Reaction to Build-A-Bear's new competitor was mixed."
Nilay: "Where is the one they call 'Teddy Ruxpin'?"
Josh F.: "This was to be my final hit, but let's be clear about this. There's final hits and final hits. What kind was this to be?"

Continue reading Caption contest: Teddy bear torture -- the photographs the FCC didn't want you to see

Ginormous robot spider invades Liverpool, England

Nope, we aren't sensationalizing anything -- that creature you see above really has made the streets of Liverpool its home. According to an in-the-know tipster, it's reportedly going to be stalking citizens and making all sorts of ruckus, possibly the kind involving pyrotechnics. So what's with England and these totally random stunts? First a full-sized UFO crashes in Potters Fields Park, now a gigantic spider shows up as part of La Machine. Be honest here: are any of you terrified?

[Thanks, Chay]

La Machine's spider-mech traipses through the streets of Liverpool

France: it's like Canada, only with less hockey, and more boring mechanical spiders. Those hosers have foisted this amazingly-styled and yet utterly dull "La Princesse" piece of street theater on the innocent, unsuspecting people of Liverpool, and the travesty is set to continue for another couple of days. Hit up the read link for BBC's video of the mundanity.

Wakamaru robot to help / freak out UNIQLO SoHo shoppers

Shopping robots aren't totally unheard of from a global perspective, but we certainly haven't seen too many out and about in NY boutiques. Reportedly, that's about to change -- UNIQLO SoHo will soon be home to Mitsubishi's Wakamaru, a humanoid that can look you in the eye, communicate on a very basic level and somehow help you decide between this dress or that other one over there. Word on the street has it arriving sometime next week, so if any of you regulars happen to see it, let us know just how convincing it is / isn't.

[Via TokyoMango]

New robot leg design becomes more human, more deadly

Your regular, inefficient robot legs getting you down? Maybe you should check in with researcher Jonathan Hurst and his robo-leg project under development at Oregon State University. Apparently most jointed legs driven by motors have a tough time recycling energy due to a lack of snapback from proper tendons, but Hurst's work hopes to clear all that noise up. By utilizing a new design powered by steel cable tendons with built-in springs, roboticists want to get closer to the 40 percent retention of energy our fancy human legs get up to. While a student at CMU, Hurst created "Thumper," a single leg attached to a boom that puts his theories in motion, and he's collaborated on bi-pedal models more recently. The hope is to eventually create robots with more natural, animal-like gaits, which will allow them to run towards or chase their human victims and terminate them with a more ruthless intensity. Check the video after the break to see exactly what we mean.

[Via Medgadget]

'Photo real' robotics to keep toddlers and the elderly from freaking out

We know what you're thinking: your Roomba 532 really does a number on the carpet, but where is the love? At this year's SIGGRAPH in Los Angeles, Taisuck Kwon (from the Kyushu Institute of Design) demonstrated his latest work in the realm of "photo real" robots: robots designed to reproduce the facial expressions that human beings take for granted. Unlike the robots that assemble consumer electronics or detonate IEDs, the photo real robots convey emotions, using articulated humanoid facial features designed to put people at ease, "especially seniors and toddlers." The robots have an underlying mechanical configuration that mimics the muscle structure of the human face, involving 26 moving units in total, with servomotors and actuators used to manipulate "muscles" beneath the "skin." Our only regret is that this technology wasn't available when Disney World last updated its Hall Of Presidents.

Cythbot Guitar Hero robot uncomfortably demonstrated on video

Not that we haven't seen robotic Guitar Hero masters before, but Cyth Systems' egotistically named Cythbot is just a full cut above the rest. Boasting some of the most advanced, high-dollar equipment known to mankind (okay, so maybe that's a stretch, but just barely), the creation uses a highly sophisticated viewing method to determine which notes to hit, and it can even decide whether slamming the whammy bar is a good idea or not. Too bad you'll be entirely too distracted by the introverted hosts to even notice how awesome this thing is, but the video's in the read link if you care to try.

Robo-spyplanes put to more altruistic use, still keeping a loose eye on your shenanigans

Those pesky spyplanes, always catching you in the act. Denel Dynamics built these two GPS-guided robot snoopers for the military, but it turns out they're well-suited to the world of rural medicine. They're being prepped for use by clinics in South Africa as carrier pigeons of sorts, taking medical samples from remote areas to labs for testing, or ferrying antivenom to snake bite victims. The mini-UAVs can carry a 500-gram payload through a stiff wind, and can land at a predetermined spot on auto-pilot or manually. We want one. You know... for, um, to do other good things for humanity. Video is after the break.

[Via Gearlog]

High schoolers create face-tracking spiderbot, Tom Selleck comes out of retirement

We're not entirely sure that you can call a six-legged arthropod a spider, but let's not quibble over biology: this robot looks pretty cool. At the moment about all it can do is poise for attack and track faces using a built-in webcam (and what looks like proprietary face-recognition software), but the designers (high school students David Benhaim and Owen McGarry) assure us that they will be implementing the ability to walk -- and terrify your little sister -- shortly. One thing's for sure: we wish we'd done something like this in high school (they machine-lathed the parts themselves!) instead of playing Ultima and stealing beer... but you can't win them all. Check a video of the bot in action after the break.

Continue reading High schoolers create face-tracking spiderbot, Tom Selleck comes out of retirement

WowWee's FlyTech Bladestar can govern your home autonomously

Indoor flying toys aren't hard to come by these days, but WowWee's hoping you'll still be willing to drop a little bit of coin on indoor aerial supremacy. First introduced at CES, the $50 FlyTech Bladestar has helicopter-like blades for hovering, and built-in infrared sensors to avoid obstacles. You can control the Bladestar with the included remote, or stick it in autopilot mode to watch it avoid obstacles and even "push" it yourself by walking up to it. If it's war you're after, you can put the toy in "dogfight" mode to use the infrared signal as a weapon against an unfriendly Bladestar: three hits and you'll be testing WowWee's claims of crash-resistance. The Bladestar is available now. Cheesy Saturday-morning advertisement is after the break.

Continue reading WowWee's FlyTech Bladestar can govern your home autonomously

Robot Partner 2.0 shuffles objects around the table so you don't have to

This is Robot Partner 2.0 by Slovenian artist Stefan Doepner. Recently exhibited at the 2008 ARS Electronica Festival, Robot Partner is billed as a robotic "living table installation." The table can clumsily shuffle objects around itself using an undisclosed technology (magnets, perhaps?) and is intended to showcase the "absurdity" of "service-automation." We're not entirely sure what that means, but you can see for yourself after the break.

[Via Make]

Continue reading Robot Partner 2.0 shuffles objects around the table so you don't have to

WowWee's $300 Rovio robotic sentry ships this month

The Rovio -- one of WowWee's finest if we should say so ourselves -- is finally ready to roam around domiciles and keep baddies at bay. First announced (and spotted) at CES 2008, this long-awaited robotic sentry is up for pre-order right now, and it comes packing a 640 x 480 webcam to stream back live video in MPEG4 format. Furthermore, it can snap stills, head out on a customized patrol route and avoid obstacles with its infrared sensor. Get ready -- this sheriff's rolling into your town next Friday for $299.95.

[Via Random-Good-Stuff, thanks Juergen]

Popular Mechanics offers preview of Singapore's TechX robot challenge

We haven't heard a whole lot about Singapore's DARPA-esque TechX robot challenge since it first kicked off early last year, but with the final round getting underway on Sunday, Popular Mechanics has now thankfully offered up a preview of what's in store. Among those set to compete is the so-called Uni-Seeker bot (pictured above) from Nanyang Technological University, which is a heavily modded incarnation of iRobot's ATRV Junior robot, and one of only six bots that managed to make it through all the qualifying rounds. Others include the considerably more intimidating AZROBOWAR Sharp Shooter, built completely from scratch, and a pair of robots built on iRobot's popular PackBot platform. From the looks of it, they'll each have their work cut out for them in the big event, with them required to start outside and navigate their way inside a building, then climb a flight of stairs, travel up an elevator, touch a few targets, and then exit the building again -- without any human intervention, and in less than an hour. That $700,000 prize should provide plenty of motivation, though.

WowWee's patrolling Rovio gets unboxed

WowWee's Rovio isn't due to start shipping to the general populace for a few days still, but the mighty important folks over at RobotsRule were somehow able to procure one a hair early. Thankfully for us, it took the time to neatly unbox this home sentry and give us an up-close look at what it's made of. A full-fledged review is promised within the next few days, but for now, just hit the read link and enjoy the shots.

Robot skull auditions for role in LEGO Terminator

This little creation here might not be the most impressive homebuilt Terminator bot we've seen, and a certain DVD player may have it beat for realism, but as far as talking LEGO robot heads go, it's certainly at least in the upper ranks. Apparently, this one was pieced together from a whole slew of different LEGO Mindstorms sets, and it even includes a LEGO ice pick that can be stuck in his eye if he really starts to get on your nerves, which seems a near certainty. Somewhat interestingly, the bot's creator only decided to build the skull after abandoning another mysterious LEGO project that's only described as "too ambitious." Head on past the break for a video of the bot doing its thing, and hit up the link below for a complete overview of the project.

Continue reading Robot skull auditions for role in LEGO Terminator

Murata's new balancing robot loses a wheel, gains a trick

Murata's new balancing robot loses a wheel, gains a trickRiding a bicycle isn't exactly easy, especially if you're made of circuitry, wires, and a gyroscope. That was Murata Seisaku-kun's one trick, and now he's sadly obsolete. Meet Seiko, a 20-inch tall, 11 pound unicycle riding robot. Like her, uh, "cousin" Keisaku-kun, Seiko relies on a chest-mounted gyro to stay upright and uses Bluetooth to communicate with a PC that gives instructions. (Yes, she's a PC.) Lucky robot lovers can watch the whole family of robo-carnies do its stuff at CEATEC Japan 2008, but even luckier you can check out the elder bot on his bike in motion after the break without having to leave your chair.

Continue reading Murata's new balancing robot loses a wheel, gains a trick

Erector's WiFi-enabled Spykee Spy Robot unboxed and toyed with

Erector's WiFi-enabled Spykee robot hasn't even begun to ship to mere mortals just yet, but through some random acts of wizardry, Sven was able to grab hold of one and give it the ole unboxing / impressions treatment (on video, no less). It could be the novelty factor, but he seemed pretty stoked with the whole package, and the clip waiting in the read link gives some real hard-hitting insight as to whether or not this $300 character deserves a spot in your family. Give it a watch, won't you?

[Via RobotsRule]

NTUST's humanoid robot walks into your nightmare

Look National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, we understand this is your first walking, bi-pedal robot -- but why the peel-away face? Just slap in some big manga eyes and button-mouth and we might be able to sleep at night. But no, you show up at the Taipei International Invention Show with this creepoid, capable of singing via synthesizer and walking 2-meters in a straight line -- presumably in preparation to celebrate our demise.

Salvador DaBot: robot portraitist extraordinaire

Leaps and bounds have been made with Sylvain Calinon's robotic portrait artist since we first caught a glimpse of this amazing AI being -- and no, we're not just referring to the stylish beret and mustache. Now dubbed "Salvador DaBot", the portraitist has developed far more advanced conversation skills, along with a voice that sounds a lot less like Steven Hawking. We kinda miss that feather pen he was sporting before, but his movement's a lot more natural now and his new marker seems to have helped his drawing style -- similar to old-school comic art. See this awesome little guy in action after the break.

[Via Sylvain Calinon]

Continue reading Salvador DaBot: robot portraitist extraordinaire

Nissan shows off bumblebee-inspired, crash-avoiding robot "car"

Nissan's already hard at work on some crash-avoidance systems for regular, human-driven cars, but it looks like it's not stopping there, with it now also showing off its BR23C robotic "car," which apparently takes its inspiration from the humble bumblebee. That comes in the form of the BR23C's laser range finder (or LRF), which acts like a bee's compound eye to detect obstacles up to two meters away within a 180-degree radius. When combined with the slightly mysterious crash avoidance system, that apparently lets the car react "instinctively" the split second it detects an obstacle and maneuver accordingly. Of course, as you can see above, Nissan doesn't seem to be quite ready to test the system with any human passengers just yet, but the company has some big plans for the future, with it aiming to cut its rate of car crashes in half by 2015 compared to its stats from 1995.

[Via Autoblog]

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Keepon dancing robot going commercial

The Keepon dancing robot has already managed to win the hearts of most anyone that's seen it in action, and it looks like it could soon be winning plenty more, as the bot's creators have now formed a company, dubbed BeatBots, with the intent of commercializing it. While they eventually hopes to get the cost down to a reasonable level, they'll apparently first be marketing a $30,000 Keepon Pro model to research institutes studying human-robot interaction -- and anyone else with thirty grand to burn, we suppose. Somewhat curiously, it'll be built with the help of Japan's Kokoro Company, which is better known for its slightly creepy robots like the Actroid than those of the cute and cuddly variety.

ExoFly: Mars' first tourguide

You know those insect-like micro air vehicles (MAV) we've been seeing? Well, the ExoFly aerobot is based on that camera-equipped DelFly design, only this time it's gearing up for a trip to Mars -- maybe even Titan or Venus. Turns out flapping-wing flight is perfect for the low-density Martian atmosphere. The current prototype -- weighing 17g with a wingspan of 350mm and flight time of twelve minutes -- is being tweaked for use in future missions to Mars. The folks at Delft University of Technology and Wageningen University, who've teamed up with Ursa Minor Space & Navigation, plan on increasing the weight to 20g and adding an on-board solar cell, which they reckon should extend the flight distance to 15km. There's also talk of using the digital terrain and image data gathered to simulate a 3D immersive environment for detailed analysis of extraterrestrial destinations -- hopefully viewable by those of us who don't have the billions to drop on a flight to Mars.

[Via New Scientist Space]

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WowWee's Rovio gets reviewed: it's one awesome robotic sentry

WowWee goes out of its way to make one thing very clear about the Rovio: "this is not a toy." That being said, it doesn't make the patrolling sentry any less fantastic, as critics over at Robots-Dreams proclaimed that it was "intuitive and a pleasure to use from the moment you first open the box." From the painless setup process to the unparalleled mobility, reviewers sounded like they were grinning from ear-to-ear during the entire writeup process. It performed its robotic sentry duties with vigor and valor, and the review crew couldn't help but note that this bugger was "positioned to be the hottest robot for the upcoming holiday season, and for a long time to come." In other words, if you've been on the fence about dropping three bills on this thing, all your worries about it potentially sucking just got thrashed.

HAL robotic suit rental is ready for Tony Stark wannabes, the elderly

If you'll recall, Tsukuba University professor Yoshiyuki Sankai designed a robotic suit called HAL-5 a few years ago. Production of this handicap-overcomer began back in 2006, and as promised, manufacturer Cyberdyne (not to be confused with Cyberdyne Systems, best known for its genocidal Skynet AI and army of Terminator robots) is finally ready to crank it out in large numbers. Starting this Friday, HAL will be available for rent in Japan at the modest rate of $2,200 per month. Sankai hopes it will prove useful to the elderly and folks with disabilities by providing super-strength mechanical assistance when they send brain signals to move their limbs. HAL may be used for good but it won't be used for awesome; Sankai has turned down military-types who've expressed interest.

[Thanks, Evan]

Kota the Triceratops ships from the land before time to your home

Playskool's Kota the Triceratops is a robot dinosaur that uses 11 sensors to respond to touch and sound by wiggling its horns, wagging its tail and turning its head. It also plays a few "adventure themed songs." Best of all, it can't stampede or impale anyone; like the animatronic Triceratops in Jurassic Park, Kota can't get up and move around. That won't stop kids from adoring it though. Like Pleo before it, Kota's cuteness overpowers all. Don't believe us? Shipments have begun, so you can buy the cuddly robot and see for yourself. All you need is 300 bucks. Or you could just check out the video beyond the cut.

Continue reading Kota the Triceratops ships from the land before time to your home

WowWee's Mr. Personality robot is now ready to charm you out of $300

WowWee's Mr. Personality bot made its debut way back at CES in January but, like some other WowWee products announced at the show, it's only just now made its way into availability. As you can see above, the bot's a close relative of WowWee's Tri-Bot, with it boasting the notable addition of an LCD screen for a face, which promises to "display his personality with animated and synchronized facial features." The bot also includes an SD card slot than can be used to add additional personalities, plus 64MB of internal memory, a remote control, all the usual sensors and, of course, plenty of fortune and joke-telling features that promise endless hours of fun / annoyance. Just be prepared to shell out for that robot companionship, as Mr. Personality's company will cost you a hefty $300.

[Via Robo Community]