Friday, June 26, 2009

Aiko: world's first sexually harassed, disabled Fembot

Ok we get it Dr. Trung, you're trying to show off Canada's supposed "first android." But did you really have to go for the jiggly bits to prove your point? If she hadn't taken a swat at your jaw, we might have. Check the video assault after the break while we prepare a robot ethics charter for the good doctor.

[Via The Raw Feed]

Continue reading Aiko: world's first sexually harassed, disabled Fembot

Ladybug-styled robot to clean restrooms, give travel tips

Japan's no stranger to a wide variety of service-oriented robots, and it looks like it could soon become home to yet another mechanical being that does our dirty work. The Lady Bird prototype, which is set to hit production sometime in 2009, would scour the floors of public restrooms and keep things looking clean throughout the day. Reportedly, the bot stands about 1-meter in height and is equipped with amenities such as a water tank, brushes and a few other grime-busting tools to boot. Furthermore, it boasts obstacle detection sensors to avoid patrons while on the clock, and it even includes voice recognition software along with access to current traffic information in case someone has the urge to spark up a conversation. There's no word on what this thing will do should someone try to stuff it in their trunk for at-home use, but if all goes well, the creature is expected to sell for around ¥3.5 million ($31,713) when it goes commercial.

[Via PinkTentacle]

Hitachi's EMIEW 2 humanoid runs errands, could easily replace Michael Scott

While we thoroughly enjoyed hearing of EMIEW's (presumably) short-lived career as a hotel clerk, it looks like Hitachi's EMIEW 2 has some seriously large aspirations. In a recent demonstration in Hitachinaka, the two-wheeled robot wowed onlookers as it received commands wirelessly and happily ran office errands without too much trouble. The creation, which stands some 31.5-inches tall and weighs 29-pounds, did crash into a desk and stand motionless momentarily while being previewed, but developers didn't hesitate to inform the crowd that kinks were still being ironed out. Nevertheless, it was able to avoid obstacles while rolling about, understand and respond to human speech and move around for an hour before needing a recharge. The company refused to spill details surrounding its eventual price and release date, but we're hearing there may soon be an open spot in Scranton that this fellow could certainly fill.

[Via Inquirer]

ICM's Climber robot ready to ascend

International Climbing Machines' Climber certainly isn't the first of its kind, but we'll admit, this thing can handle some pretty daunting tasks. After successfully lasting through a number of field deployments this year, this wall climber is reportedly ready to take on the world in assignments such as "climbing the surfaces of C-5 / C-137 airplanes, decontaminating a vessel in a Nuclear Power Plant and removing paint from concrete walls for the Department Of Energy." Apparently, this iteration trumps many similar alternatives due to its ability to scale ceilings, rounded / rough surfaces and overcome obstacles that protrude up to 1-inch from a given surface. The rig can be controlled from the ground with a handheld remote, and attachments can be added for painting, cleaning, drilling or just capturing imagery from above. Mum's the word on pricing, but feel free to check out a couple more shots after the jump.

[Via Gizmag]

Continue reading ICM's Climber robot ready to ascend

The Mindstorms NXT gramophone, or, If Edison played with LEGOs

Lying somewhere between the roboflusher and LEGO car-producing LEGO factory on the practicality scale, José Pino's Mindstorms NXT gramophone brings together all the fun and tinny sound of this antiquated music system with today's modern DIY sensibilities. Using little more than an off-the-shelf NXT kit running at 25% power, and, um, a fast food beverage cup, Pino was able rig together a very basic platform for spinning his vinyl, although scratching is probably not recommended on this rather delicate setup. Keep reading for a quick video walkthrough accompanied by those old-timey tunes so popular among today's seniors.

[Via Hacked Gadgets]

Continue reading The Mindstorms NXT gramophone, or, If Edison played with LEGOs

Jeremy Mayer turns inoperative typewriters into art

Nah, Jeremy Mayer's typewriter-based creations aren't anything new for him, but he's used his years of practice to get a few installations on display at the Nevada Museum of Art. Most notable is the human-like creature above, which was assembled head to toe with now-defunct typewriter parts. So if you just so happen to be in the area, why not stop on by (before December 2nd) and see if you can hack it to send out an email or something.

[Via MAKE]

Researchers create "perching" robotic aircraft

Sure, your average helicopter can land in a whole mess of places, but what if you really need to squeeze that sucker onto a steep incline? Normally, you'd be out of luck if the slant were anything more than a measly 20-degrees, but some Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have managed something a bit more extreme. Eric Feron, an aerospace engineer, and colleague Selcuk Bayraktar have created a new breed of robot helicopter which can land, or "perch," at inclines up to 60-degrees. On a similar tip, MIT researcher Jonathan How has fashioned another unique unmanned aircraft which can take off and land from a "prop hang" position, wherein the plane stands on it's tail in midair. The hope is that these new technologies will help get aircraft into -- and back out of -- complicated spots with a new level of maneuverability. Also, the engineers probably just love blowing people's minds. Check the videos after the break to experience the gravity-defying moves yourself.

Continue reading Researchers create "perching" robotic aircraft

Sarcos' military exoskeleton becomes a frightening reality

Have you been waiting for a legion of half-man, half-machine storm troopers to descend upon your city and blaze a round of hellfire in all general directions? If you said yes, that's kind of weird. At any rate, you can consider yourself one step closer to cyborg annihilation thanks to a company called Sarcos and its semi-scary exoskeleton -- which will make any regular old soldier into a Terminator-like killing machine (as far as we can tell). Sure, they demo the unit lifting heavy equipment and reducing fatigue of the user, but we know what this thing is really for -- and it doesn't involve food drops. Check the video after the break to have your mind shattered into a million delicious pieces.

Continue reading Sarcos' military exoskeleton becomes a frightening reality

The Murider dancing media robot: so apropos

Check your servos Rolly and Miuro, there's a new media playing robot in town by the foreboding name of "Murider." The new bot from Woori features a 4.3-inch display for watching DMB mobile television and support for audio playback when sourced from USB-connected devices or SD cards. Details are scant but it's said to stand (not roll) and a bust out a little dance with appropriately timed flashing lights. Oh, and it'll do so for a fraction of the price of its peers. Just don't be surprised to find little rolly muttering "Redirum, redirum" in response to this budget repetition of past events.

Christmas Rolly rocks to holiday favorites

Breaking News

Most Americans have yet to get a taste of Sony's Rolly speakerbot, and while we may finally see the little critter, um, roll our way sometime next year according to company prez Stan Glasgow, Japan is already getting its first special edition of the lively MP3 player. Christmas Rolly -- on sale immediately for ¥41,800 ($380) and shipping December 19th -- comes preloaded with Japanese takes on traditional holiday favorites such as Santa Claus is Coming to Town and White Christmas, along with the accompanying pre-programmed "dance moves" -- though frankly we're at a loss as to how a two-wheeled robot gets down to Silent Night. Those folks on a budget who can't live without the special six-pack of tunes will also be able to find them on Sony's Christmas edition of the NW-E013 DAP, on sale next month for only ¥10,980 ($99).

[Via Impress]

"Justin" humanoid robot gets shown off, no one harmed

It may just be for demonstration purposes for now, but this humanoid robot dubbed "Justin" certainly looks like he means business, and we can all be thankful that's he's confined to a table or there's no telling how things might have gone down. Apparently, Justin's biggest claim to fame is his pair of DLR-III Light-Weight arms which, in addition to making other robot arms look positively retro, are dexterous enough to pick up a trash can and dump it or twist a lid off a jar. No word as to when Justin might be let loose from the lab, but you can get a better look at what he's capable of in the video at the site linked below.

The RIBOGU Q guard robot authenticates faces -- the rest you can imagine

Meet the RIBOGU Q guard robot with "face authentication technology" -- a world's first with such a lethal combination. Developed by Japan's ALSOK, the robot snaps photos of the filthy human stench in the vicinity in order to identify "terrorists, wanted fugitives" and anyone else on the corporate or government "blacklist." Presumably (they don't say), RIBOGU Q juices any identified villains with those wee, Tyrannosaurus arms. Of course, the ability to recognize specific faces is obvious overkill -- we know the real intent is to pare back the blacklist criteria to: "has a face."

[Via Impress]

Monkeys take their robot-wielding powers international

It's been a while since we've heard from the folks at Duke University and their robot-controlling monkeys, but it seems that they've remained hard at work on their potentially perilous collaboration, with them recently showing off some of their latest tricks at the Neuroscience 2007 conference earlier this month. This time, they had the monkeys control a pair of robot legs through the use of some electrodes implanted in their brains which, apparently, went off without a hitch. But that's not all! The legs the monkeys were controlling just so happened to be located at the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International in Kyoto, Japan, which the monkeys were linked to via the Internet. No word on what they plan to attempt next, although taking the robots and/or monkeys into space would seem to be the next logical step (at least to us).

[Photo courtesy of NASA-JSC / Wikimedia Commons]

Robot with soft hands can prepare meals, gently enslave humanity

Sure, this ET-looking robot from Japan called "Twendy-One" looks adorable, but that doesn't mean we trust it -- even if it does boast hands gentle enough to grip bread and enough smarts to respond to greetings and serve breakfast. Designer Shigeki Sugano says Twendy-One is "the first robot in the world with this much system integration," and the five-foot tall, 245-pound bot doesn't pack all that tech in there on the cheap -- several million dollars have gone into development over the past seven years. The team is hoping to get costs down to $200,000 by 2010, but first they need to extend Twendy-One's 15 minute battery life and sort out some heat issues. We're willing to give them all the time they want -- anything to delay the inevitable toast-bearing robot apocalypse.

[Via Washington Post]

Simroid robot lets dental students know what hurts

We've already seen medical students operate on robots that bleed, yap and flat-line, but it's about time dental students underwent the same kind of scrutiny, don'tcha think? If things go as planned, future dentists in Japan could soon be practicing on Simroid, a humanoid that resembles a young woman and can talk back when students hit a nerve. Reportedly, the bot can exclaim "it hurts" and move her eyes / hands whenever discomfort is felt, but best of all, engineers included a "breast sensor" to determine if that area has been touched inappropriately during training. Nothing wrong with ensuring the ethical treatment of robots, we suppose.

[Via Physorg]

Microsoft-powered biped robot makes its debut

It's taken a little while, but it seems that the first robot based on Microsoft's Robotics Studio package is now available for sale, although it's far from a consumer bot. Running a hefty $5,345, the so-called "e-nuvo WALK" robot from Japan's ZMP (makers of the e-nuvo WHEEL, as well) measures 14 inches tall and is apparently intended primarily for research and education although, as you can see above, it also seems to be a strong candidate for the next RoboCup. According to the AP, those in Japan can place their orders for the robot now, but they'll have to wait until sometime in January before they actually gets their hands on one.

The Wooden Menace: DIY robotic arm on the cheap

Oh yeah, we've seen our fair share of robotic arms, but it's not everyday that a craftsman posts an eight-page tutorial on how to construct one of your own for less than $60. The Wooden Menace was designed to show that an inexpensive robotic arm could indeed be constructed using household junk and a few store-bought parts, and while its utility is relatively limited, there's a certain level of cool to having such a device guarding your paperwork at the office. Aside from a cloned PS1 controller and a few hunks of wood, you'll only need a voltage regulator, microcontroller, five servos, a 20MHz oscillator and a few other parts to make it all come together. No need in giving you the run down here -- there's eight pages chock full of details (videos included) awaiting you in the read link below.

[Via MAKE]

Researchers set sights on uber-dexterous robotic hand

Dr. Honghai Liu, one of the two researchers heading up a project to craft an exceptionally deft robotic hand, has called such a device "one of the holy grails of science," and honestly, we can't say we disagree. He, along with Professor Xiangyang Zhu, was recently award a Royal Society grant to further research the possibility of using artificial intelligence to create software that could "learn and copy human hand movements." A sensor-laden cyberglove has been used to capture data about how the human hand moves, and the duo hopes to eventually use the findings to produce the "perfect artificial limb." Of course, there's no telling how long it'll take for such technology to actually be perfected, but we can already see the line forming with folks eager to swap out their own hand for one a bit more adept.

[Via The Raw Feed]

Robo-One Grand Championship sees battles, carols

Sure, this may be the twelfth time that the Robo-One Grand Championship has taken place, but each year it seems to get even zanier. This go 'round, Tokyo was home to 25 finalists built by amateurs lusting for a little piece of the limelight, and the whole lot apparently put on quite the show. Hundreds of onlookers watched as "Arichyon," decked out in Christmas lights, belted out carols, only to get pelted by a penguin-headed bot who wasn't exactly feelin' the holiday cheer. If you missed out on this year's event, you've got over 360 days to prep for the next one -- just make sure your creation speaks, er, sings softly and carries a big stick, okay?

[Via I4U News, image courtesy of ITN]

DIY'er creates homegrown mini mech

We've seen mechs of all shapes and sizes, but typically, they either aren't for sale or are priced right out of most budgets. Thankfully, Andres Bella has created a "mini mech" that can be replicated by anyone with a few extra dollars, a decent understanding of robotics and a bunch of unused vacation time. The creature was built using a Basic Stam II microcontroller, a couple of high gear motors / pneumatic cylinders, a power supply, pressure gauge and a bunch of metal (among other things). We won't pretend to know exactly how he went about constructing this thing, but we'd certainly love to have one to take the load off our own feet (and part the seas of holiday shoppers).

[Via Hacked Gadgets]

SmartPal V robot, now with additional lumbar units!

Straight out of Japan comes the latest mobile robot to ease our daily lives while threatening our jobs, Yasukawa Electric Corporation's SmartPal V. The 1.3-meter tall rolling bot is loaded with all the proximity, speech recognition, and object-detecting sensors we've come to expect from today's modern mech, along with improved dexterity thanks to additional joints and lumbar units as compared to previous models. This latest SmartPal, which was introduced at the 2007 International Robot Exhibition, also rocks its own accessories, such as a head-mounted projector to push the world's last remaining tour guides into early retirement.

[Via Engadget Chinese]

Carnegie Mellon's "Crusher" military bot getting $14 million upgrade

Carnegie Mellon's so-called "Crusher" unmanned military vehicle already had quite a bit going for it in its previous incarnation, but it now looks to set to expand its robotized arsenal even further, courtesy of a $14.4 million grant from the Army. According to the university's National Robotics Engineering Center, the updated bot will make use of the "latest suspension, vehicle frame, and hybrid-electric drive technologies to improve upon its predecessor's performance" while also promising to, somewhat ominously, "push the envelope for autonomous and semi-autonomous operation." That the NREC says, should allow the bot to begin working alongside troops in five or ten years, with it initially confined to convoy roles before it puts its autonomous skills to use in "tactical" missions.

[Via CNET Military Tech]

Robovie-X is coming to get you

Remember the cock fighter we peeped back in August? He's far more deadly than we had imagined and now up for pre-order in Japan. At least his Robovie-X underpinnings are. The 13.5-inch / 2.86-pound bot manufactured by JR Robotics should start shipping in February for a pre-order price of ¥94,500 (about $856). This robot features the impressive pliability of his lessor RB2000 brother while including new voice response sensors and weaponry. In fact, the two can share parts in a mutant servo mashup only a mother robot could love. Oh did we mention this one can track targets and then blast it with missiles? Gulp, see for yourself in the video after the break.

[Via Impress]

Continue reading Robovie-X is coming to get you

"Robot" firefighters get put into service

We've seen robot firefighters before, and even a robot firefighting contest, but it looks like some brave bots from the folks at Qinetiq are among the first to actually see service, although their roles are decidedly limited for the time being. According to Popular Mechanics, the robots are only being used to put out fires involving Acetylene gas, which had previously simply been left to burn themselves out due to the risk of explosions. With the bots, however, they're able get things moving along far more quickly, which is especially useful when the blaze is causing train delays. It seems that's a job too big for just one robot, however, as Qinetiq has reportedly been commissioned to put three bots into service during a six month trial period, including a Talon bot that uses thermal imaging to asses the situation, a 2,160-pound Brokk 90 robot that can "tear through walls or shove vehicles out the way," and last but not least the ATV-sized "Black Max" that actually douses the situation. Sadly, it seems that the bots are all remotely-controlled for the time being, and not fully autonomous, but we're sure it's only a matter of time before they really get to show what they're capable of.

Toyota unveils violin-playing, personal transport robots

We can't say we totally understand the reason for unveiling a violin-playing robot alongside one that assists in personal mobility, but nevertheless, the aforementioned duo is indeed being trumpeted today by Toyota. The two bots are the newest members of the firm's Partner Robots, which are being developed "to support people's everyday life." As for the mobility machine, it enables individuals to take a seat while it rolls along uneven ground and navigates around obstacles, while the musician in the bunch is apparently being created to stroll into nursing homes / medical facilities in order to soothe and entertain patients. Reportedly, the outfit is hoping to have both of these units put to "practical use" by 2010, so if you're tired of overpaying that disgruntled pianist to sit around and play for your guests, unpaid help is on the way.

[Via Yahoo / Reuters]

Sarcos humanoid robot learns how to take a shove

We've already seen some of Sarcos' robotics gear put to some slightly frightening use in the form of a military exoskeleton, and it now looks like one of the company's full-fledged robots is getting a chance to strut its stuff as well, with a little help from the folks at Japan's Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute. As New Scientist reports, they've developed some software that allows the robot to stay on its feet when its bumped, shoved or even kicked (which makes mere dynamic balancing robots look positively inadequate). The key to that, it seems, is that the robot's joints are never kept rigid, which allows them to give slightly when any of the array of sensors detect the slightest jolt, giving the software a chance to then adjusting the robot's feet as necessary to keep its balance. Not surprisingly, they don't seem to have given the robot the ability to shove back just yet, but you can check out its current capabilities in the video available at the site linked below.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Crowd-monitoring humanoid helps lost mall patrons, likely freaks them out

We've witnessed our fair share of Robovies, and let's just say we've a healthy fear of 'em. That being said, we're fairly certain we'd come darn close to fainting or reacting violently should the creature pictured above approach us while shopping ever. Nevertheless, this humanoid is apparently allowed to run amok at Universal Citywalk Osaka as the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute tests out its ability to interpret signals from cameras, sensors and RFID readers and determine which patrons are thoroughly lost. When it recognizes a stumped individual, it wheels over, confirms their state of confusion and politely offers directions to their destination of choice. Still, tell us you could seriously look down at those eyes and not completely forget where you were trying to go -- we triple-dog dare you.

[Via Tech Digest]

Puppy vs. Roboquad: the ultimate man-machine showdown

Ever wondered what would happen if you were to pit the Wowwee Roboquad against an excitable, yapping puppy? Wonder no longer, friends, as the answer to this age-old question has been captured on video -- replete with NES sound effects and 8-bit scorecard. Watch the battle for ultimate supremacy after the break... our money is on the dog.

[Via Digg]

Continue reading Puppy vs. Roboquad: the ultimate man-machine showdown

Pollen-sniffing robots put on duty in Japan

In yet another example of robots getting the short end of stick, a Japanese weather forecasting company is set to deploy a swarm of some 200 pollen-sniffing robots throughout the country, which will warn us humans of any impeding pollen-related dangers (and no doubt scare a few unsuspecting animals in the process). As you can see, the robots are of the spherical variety, and measure a scant one foot across and weigh in at about 2.2 pounds. Sticking true to creepy robot conventions, they also boast glowing eyes, which light up in one of five different colors to indicate the level of pollen in the air. Somewhat curiously, that information takes a rather roundabout way back to the company's headquarters, with 200 allergy suffers volunteering to keep watch on the robots and rely their status back to the company.

Shape-shifting magnetic bots take a page out of the Dharma playbook

Research is still in the early stages, but the concept renders are straight out of science fiction. Some friendly folks at Carnegie Mellon University are working towards electromagnetic microscopic bots that cling together and can assume virtually any shape. Down the line that means rapid prototyping, the promise of "claytronics," and the mysterious deaths of plane crash victims, but current examples of the tech are anything but slick. The primary uniting element is that the bots being developed have no moving parts, instead using magnetic forces to pull themselves around in relation to each other. Peep the video after the break for some samples.

Continue reading Shape-shifting magnetic bots take a page out of the Dharma playbook

Dean Kamen's robo-arm awaits clinical trials

Apparently somewhere along the way Dean Kamen's robo-prosthestesis came to be called the Luke arm (care to guess why?), and according to the IEEE Spectrum blog, it's gearing up to undergo Food and Drug Administration trials pending DARPA's final thumbs-up, which would put the project in motion. Be sure to check out the rest of the profile of the arm's development, which is well worth the read.

TeMo robot carries mobile, takes orders from anywhere

We know just how attached humans can become with their robots -- particularly ones they have had a hand in creating. Thankfully, the advent of mobile broadband is allowing us to stay closer and closer to our mechanical critters, even when we're away. All gushing aside, the homegrown TeMo is indeed a pretty swank concoction -- it's constructed primarily from Lego Technic blocks and features five servo motors, an arm (you know, for doing stuff), a microcontroller and it's very own cellphone, complete with an unlimited data package. Put simply, the creature's handset runs a webserver that can be accessed from anywhere, theoretically giving its owner the ability to beam out commands halfway (or fully) across the globe. Best of all, the lowdown of how TeMo ticks is sprawled out in the read link below, so be sure to give that some attention if this sounds like the perfect solution for that strained long-distance relationship.

Posey makes playing with snap-together blocks okay for adults

C'mon, be honest -- the unofficial cutoff age for playing with Legos sans kids is sometime way before puberty, but thanks to a new development from Carnegie Mellon University, we adults may soon be able to unashamedly indulge in those desires once more. Posey, hailed as a "hands-on way of interacting with computers," features a plethora of snap-together, sensor-laden parts that can communicate with PCs through ZigBee. When a user attaches a leg to a body, for instance, an on-screen representation immediately mimics the movement, providing hours of fun and some real promise for future applications. No word on whether these things are set to go commercial anytime soon, but we'd sure love to replace this aging (and seemingly busted) voodoo doll with one of these critters, pronto.

[Image courtesy of Posey Code Lab Wiki]

Dutch robot promises to fill your gas tank, won't clean windshield

As if robots didn't already have enough of our jobs, a group of Dutch inventors have now taken the wraps off their new car-fueling robot, which they hope will one day be filling up your tank at a gas station near your. Coming in at the relatively bargain price of €75,000 (or $111,100), the bot can apparently identify cars as they pull up, and reference them against a database to determine the type of fuel cap and the fuel type to use, which should avoid any mishaps. Somewhat interestingly, the inventors admit that the technology isn't an entirely new idea, and they give credit for the inspiration to the robots used for milking cows, saying that "if a robot can do that then why can't it fill a car tank." While it's apparently not a done deal just yet, the team say they hope to roll out the robot to a "handful" of Dutch gas stations by the end of the year.

[Photo courtesy of Reuters/Michael Kooren]

DS-controlled robot works six different ways

Sure, we've seen DS bots before, but some youngsters in France have taken the whole control issue to the "next level." Apparently, six engineering students decided to pull a fast one on a Pekee Robot (an open, modular, Roomba-like bot) which was collecting dust, and mainline DS controls into its tiny brain. The end result is a multi-use control rig based entirely on Nintendo's portable console, offering wireless command of the bot with the D-pad, touchscreen, motion sensors, and stylus strokes, as well as a target mode modeled after Super Mario 64 DS, and voice commands via the system's mic. You can watch the video after the break to see the little guy in action, but you might want to avert your gaze when he becomes self-aware, determines humans are inefficient, and goes on a kill-crazy rampage.

[Via DS Fanboy]

Continue reading DS-controlled robot works six different ways

Dean Kamen's "Luke" artificial arm gets demoed on video

It's still awaiting formal clinical trials, but Dean Kamen's so-called "Luke" artificial arm has already gone through its share of tests, which we can now thankfully catch a glimpse of courtesy of a new video from the folks at IEEE Spectrum Online. That same video also helpfully provides a few more details on the arm, including word that it can be controlled through a variety of means including foot pedals, nerves or muscles, and that it packs force feedback to give the wearer an indication of grip strength, among other suitably sci-fi-like things. Of course, none of this exactly does the arm justice, so be sure to check out the video at the read link below to see it in action for yourself.

[Thanks, Sarah]

Innovation First intros VEX RCR Mini, WiFi control system

Innovation First sure looks to be keeping up a steady pace with its VEX robotics system, with the company now following up its recently released ROBOTC programming kit with its new VEX RCR Mini kit and a new WiFi control system. The former, as you've no doubt surmised, is a smaller and less expensive version of Innovation's standard VEX system, which it thinks will be particularly appealing to students from elementary school on up. The VEX WiFi Control System, on the other hand, will apparently work with all VEX robots, and somewhat ominously, allows for "simultaneous operation of hundreds of robots wirelessly." No word on a price or exact release date for the WiFi system just yet, but you can look for the VEX RCR Mini to be available this August for "less than $100." [Warning: PDF Link]

[Via Gizmag]

HARV gives soldiers a robot's-eye view

While battlefield robots are certainly plenty capable with their current control systems, the folks at Chatten Associates seem to think they can do things one better, and they're now touting their so-called HARV (Head-Aimed Remote Viewer) system as a potential alternative. That consists of a gimbal-mounted video system on the robot itself, which gets paired with some gyro-equipped goggles that let the robot to look around wherever the soldier moves his head. Of course, they didn't stop things there, with the setup also offering a 36x optical zoom, night vision, and other advantages that Chatten says can improve mission performance by 300% to 400%. As if that wasn't enough, the firm's also now apparently hard at work on an updated system set for delivery to the military next year that'll add a thermal imager, a higher resolution, and a laser rangefinder, among other things they're probably not willing to tell us. Head on over after the break for a video of the system in action.

Continue reading HARV gives soldiers a robot's-eye view

New Elmo Live can sit, stand and tell stories -- is in league with your three-year-old

If you hadn't noticed by now, Elmo is rapidly on his way from being a creepy laughing toy -- and annoyingly difficult to find during the holidays -- to being a full-fledged creepy robot... and even more difficult to find during the holidays. The new Elmo Live, which Fisher-Price is announcing at Toy Fair 2008 this week, can mouth his words like a real-live Muppet, and can sit, stand and gesture as he tells stories, jokes, sings and play games. Of course, we're sure you can still tickle him and set him on fire, but the depth of interaction Elmo Live brings should surely bring the creepiness factor to whole new levels. Which is why this is potentially the best toy ever. Hopefully you can re-program him to drop kick your Pleo. Elmo Live will be out on October 14th for $60.

Robots could replace live bunnies in chemical testing procedures

We don't know about you, but to us, there's nothing cuter than a warm, cuddly bunny -- save for Hello Kitty, of course. Thankfully, the National Institute of Health and the EPA have teamed up to jumpstart a five-year research program that "will use high-speed automated screening robots" instead of live animals to run chemical tests on cells grown in a laboratory. Reportedly, the long term goal here is to "reduce the cost, time and number of animals used in screening everything from pesticides to household chemicals," but according to those involved with the initiative, it'll be quite some time before non animal-based testing becomes the norm. Hang tight, dear bunnies -- there's hope for you all yet.

[Image courtesy of Flickr]

Kota the Triceratops makes our childhood toys look like wooden blocks

As if there weren't enough toys out there already to make us grown-ups incredibly envious of kids today, Playskool's now taken the wraps off its new Kota the Triceratops "toy," which looks to be the closest thing to a Pleo that you (or, rather, your kids) can actually ride. While we're guessing Kota's few notches below Pleo on the robo-evolutionary ladder, the 40-inch tall toy at least has movement sensors on nine areas of its body, and is able to react to you by moving its head, tail, mouth, and horns, not to mention play "adventure-themed songs" at the push of a button. Look for it to be available this fall for about $300, with six D cell batteries required to power it.

[Via Popgadget]

Humanoid acts out your dreams, encourages insomnia

Forget controlling your dreams -- after all, isn't the idea of having a mechanical buddy act out whatever your off-kilter brain thought up last night much more appealing? In an interesting endeavor, Fernando Orellana and Brendan Burns have teamed up to design a humanoid that actually takes sophisticated dream interpretation results (garnered by analyzing data from a variety of sensors) and acts out whatever was going on in one's mind. Quite frankly, we're not even sure we'd like to remember some of those overnight journeys -- let alone see some bot play it back -- but if you glanced this headline and immediately crossed your fingers for a video, head on past the jump to get just that.

Continue reading Humanoid acts out your dreams, encourages insomnia

Robot chef whips up delicacies we wouldn't dare touch

Nonhuman chefs are far from extraordinary, but the latest culinary guru crafted in Japan has a taste for the extreme. Reportedly, the EZ Order Robot was spotted in Osaka whipping up octopus balls (of all things), but apparently, the creature was able to concoct the dish totally from scratch. Interestingly, the demonstration wasn't really established to showcase its kitchen prowess, but rather to highlight other capabilities such as speech recognition and the ability to perform routine tasks without human intervention. Click here for the video, but remember, we're not responsible for ruining your appetite.

[Via Live Science]

Kurzweil predicts that machines will match man by 2029 -- bring it on

Famed technologist and futurist Ray Kurzweil is on the record about human-machine intelligence parity: it's going down by 2029, so be prepared to get digital on entirely new levels. Apparently, machines "will have both the hardware and the software to achieve human level artificial intelligence" by then, but even if it's not in the form of meatbag-terminating cyborgs, Kurzweil thinks one future of intelligent machines is on the nano scale, with interfaces to enhance our own physiology and intelligence. Oh sure, this stuff is completely pie in the sky -- but it's still absurdly fun to think of what kinds of crazy crap the 21st century's going to hold.

[Thanks to everyone who sent this in]

Elmo Live breaks it down on video, seems too smart for his own good

We were warned that Elmo Live was pretty much a full-fledged robot, but we can't say we envisioned this. This critter sings, dances and does a decent job of freaking us out with his innate intelligence. Seriously, you've got to see it to believe it -- good thing the video's just one click away.

Continue reading Elmo Live breaks it down on video, seems too smart for his own good

Gesture-controlled robot is at your service

Tokyo University engineer Tsuyoshi Horo has developed a novel system for controlling robots (or in this case, a moving stool) using a simple set of hand and body gestures. The researcher is utilizing a circular array of cameras to track and detect body movement within a controlled environment, and then translate those movements to actions for an automaton. The cameras are used to create a real-time, 3D, volumetric model of objects or people in the space, which is then converted into a psychedelic stack of virtual cubes which are read and processed as data. Viewed movement allows a user to control something like the direction of a bot simply by pointing which way they'd like it to go. Sure, that's all well and good, but we're more interested in getting ourselves Tron-ed into a highly complex Rubik's cube -- where do we sign up? Watch the videos after the break to see the system (and the blocks) in action.

[Via technabob]

Continue reading Gesture-controlled robot is at your service

Mattel's D-Rex wants a piece of Pleo, your leg

If you're content with letting time pass you by, you may not realize that this year's holiday shopping season is but ten months away, and apparently, Mattel thinks it's got the whole hottest toy thing figured out already. Granted, we'd place our bets on that wildly animated Elmo Live fellow (and yeah, Kota is a legitimate dark horse), but the $150 D-Rex dinosaur is still pretty slick. Aimed at kids ages six and (way) up, the interactive dino reportedly features 100 different roars, "lifelike" skin (saywha?) and the ability to respond to a variety of commands or simply take a chunk out of your ankle if he prefers. Looks like Pleo's got its work cut out, eh?

[Thanks, Braden R.]

Absolut Quartet: robots making music with ping pong balls and brandy glasses

Prepare to be amazed. Thank the good lorf for embedded video because any words used to convey our awe in Dan Paluska's and Jeff Lieberman's ping pong ball hurling, robotic Absolut Quartet orchestral machine would fall limp upon your liquid crystal cells, rods and cones. Should have sent... a poet. Video after the break.

Continue reading Absolut Quartet: robots making music with ping pong balls and brandy glasses

WowWee Dragonfly bots being hunted by hawks

We wouldn't have believed it, either, but the WowWee Dragonfly is attracting some unusual attention -- owners are reporting their bots are being attacked by hawks. WowWee says 45 people have reported hawk attacks in the past two months, and there's even a few pictures of the birds with their robotic prey out there -- like this one taken by fifth-grader Danny McGorry. We always knew the Dragonfly was fun, but this takes it to another level -- all we need now is a remote squirt gun mounted on the thing and we'll be ready to go. Check the whole article below.