Wednesday, August 5, 2009

WowWee's Robopanda snuggles up to the FCC

WowWee's lovable Robopanda has been making the rounds since CES earlier this year, but it looks like it's just recently wound up in the hands of the FCC, which could possibly signal a US release sooner rather than later. As you can tell by the mugshot above, it doesn't appear to be too happy with its unfamiliar surroundings, but it did manage to pass through with flying colors, and has the test reports to prove it. Also up for your perusal is Robopanda's user manual, which doesn't appear to have any surprises but will give you a chance to familiarize yourself with it in advance, cause you just know you're gonna have to get one.

LANdroids offer autonomous radio relay on the battlefield

DARPA's proposed LANdroids won't be the first installation to offer up expendable data gathering pawns on the battlefield, but these "intelligent, autonomous radio relay nodes" could be used to "establish and manage mesh networks in urban settings." Essentially, these critters would be cheaply produced and handed out en masse for warfighters to drop at random in order to create temporary and continually evolving network infrastructures that could lead to better communication over various occupied regions. It even sounds like these creatures will sport self-healing design cues, and while we're not sure if they'll be immune to imminent EMP blasts, we can already envision bored soldiers futilely hooking these things up to their PSPs and searching for an open game room. [Warning: PDF read link]

[Via El Reg]

German firm unveils the world's strongest industrial robot

Bringing our terrifying nightmares of robots peeling the roof off our house like a tin of sardines one step closer to reality, German firm KUKA Roboter celebrated the launch of what it claims to be the worlds fastest and strongest robot yesterday. The KR 1000 "Titan" bot -- which earned itself a place in the Guinness Book of World's Records for being so, uh, mighty mighty -- can lift up to 1000kg (2,204 pounds) and has a reach of 3.2 meters. All that power is supplied by a nine-motor drive system that can twist out 44,200 pound-feet of torque, enabling the Titan to do jobs that formerly took two bots in places like auto plants, foundries, power plants, and materials factories. Here's hoping all those out-of-work robots don't start a revolution in protest -- we'd much rather they just start drinking.

[Via GizMag]

Stanford's "Junior" Volkswagen passes first DARPA test

While it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise given that they've already won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, we're sure that the team from Stanford is still pretty stoked that they've passed the first test on the way to DARPA's upcoming Urban Challenge. Or, more specifically, that "Junior" the autonomous Volkswagen Passat passed the test. It apparently wasn't entirely smooth sailing though, as the car got stuck once on a course while passing a car, although it eventually managed to recover -- it never did push it past 15 mph though. As with the other contenders, however, Junior still has a ways to go before the big race, with another, more challenging test in store later this summer that'll narrow the field down to the top thirty.

[Photo courtesy of CNET]

RoboGames 2007 to commence in San Francisco

Just as in years past, the "planet's largest robot competition" is about to get underway in San Francisco. This time around, over 800 robots from 30 countries will be competing in 61 various RoboGames events, the most notable of which include combat, fire-fighting, android acrobatics, android kung-fu, and iron-man exoskeleton weight lifting. Best of all, the mayhem is actually open for the public to enjoy, so drown your kids' whining and head on over to watch metal-framed machines put your skills to shame. Check out a few more peeks of the action after the jump.

[Via Physorg]

Continue reading RoboGames 2007 to commence in San Francisco

Take G's wooden robot toys

Those looking for a little robot companionship but wary of them potentially turning on you when you least expect it may want to consider the latest creations from Japan's Take G, which boast plenty of style without any of that pesky "technology." From the looks of it, there's plenty of different stationary contraptions to choose from, ranging in size from just a couple of inches to over two feet tall. Unfortunately, there's no word on pricing or availability, although we're fairly certain they won't come cheap, if they're even for sale at all.

[Via Boing Boing]

Robot to be master of ceremonies at South Korean wedding

Getting a robot to host a wedding, an event that many see as the ultimate demonstration of humanity, may seem a little weird to some, but to Seok Gyeong-Jae, one of the designers of Tiro the robot, it's perfectly natural. Gyeong-Jae is soon to be married in Daejeon (around 80 miles from Seoul), with Tiro taking the role of master of ceremonies. In order to completely, 100% remove any possibility that Tiro will come off as harsh or inhuman, he will simulate a female voice as he attempts to move proceedings along -- as the logic goes, if it works for in-car GPS, why not for weddings? There's no mention of how the bride feels about all this, so we're assuming one of the robot's alternate tasks is to keep her happy by acting as a personal servant until the big day: let's just hope that she doesn't mind if her "wedding in white" is realized via blinking LEDs.

[Thanks, HyperPC]

Congress calls for robot caucus

Apparently adrenalized by Bill Gates's rousing Scientific American manifesto A Robot in Every Home, Congressmen Mike Doyle and Zach Wamp have called for the first robot caucus to convene in Washington. Spurred into action by the idea that "the robotics industry is developing in much the same way as the computer business did 30 years ago", Doyle hopes to promote robot awareness, work on robot policy, and educate Congress on issues in robotics to ensure "that our nation remains globally competitive". Wamp added that he looks forward to the caucus's first order of business: identifying which congresspeople are, in fact, robots themselves.

Kawada HRP-3 Promet workerbot gets upgraded to Mk-II

It's been a pretty long time since we've heard from this guy, but the HRP-3 is back with a fresh coat of paint and a redesign that bears a notable resemblance to Optimus Prime. The new waterproof bot, shown showering, walking on a floor scattered with sand, and using a screwdriver as a human would, is meant to take on typical jobs at construction sites, such as driving (?) vehicles. Kawada hopes to court contractor clients by 2010 with the attractive introductory price of $120,000 per robot.

Read - Translated Robot Watch story
Read - Physorg article

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Nike robotic hand: there is no finish line

Gulp. Meet the 5-finger, robotic hand. We don't know much about it, and quite honestly, we're resisting our every urge to cower in the darkness of our thumb-sucking fear. The flimsy premise seems to be that robotic hands will one day be required to replace the aging work force since so many manufacturing processes have been designed around the dexterity of the human hand. Still, why the uncanny likeness Japan? How about a nice shade of gunmetal grey?

NASA funded robots to search for life under Arctic ice

In a mission that is apparently similar to searching for life under the ice of Jupiter's moon Europa (sans the space travel part), three robots are set to start a mission to explore the underwater hot springs under the ice of the Arctic: because someone else did the Antarctic last year. On a 40 day expedition in July, researchers from Cape Cod hope to use three new robotic vehicles -- two that can operate without cables under ice -- to find life that resides in the hot streams along the techtonic boundary between Eurasia and North America. Although the robots can descend over 3 miles under the water working just meters from the bottom to photograph objects and collect samples, the task of the NASA-funded $450,000 Puma and Jaguar robots will be hindered by the rough terrain and their inability to surface through the ice. Sounds like NASA's got quite a while to go until it can submarine around Europa -- they probably won't be able to surface there at all.

Squse shows off robot hand with "air muscles"

Japan's Squse looks to be doing its best to keep robots from (unintentionally) crushing anything they get their hands on, recently unveiling a new robotic hand that uses so-called "air muscles" to keep all that superhuman strength in check. Specifically, the hand is packed with artificial fibers that are controlled using air pressure, which makes its movement precise enough to pick up a raw egg without breaking it, yet still no doubt strong enough for it to toss that rule book out the window and go on a five-fingered rampage. While it's one-of-a-kind for the time being, according the the AFP, the company expects to soon ship 50 prototypes to various firms and research institutes, after which it apparently plans to market the hand overseas.

Robotarium X zoo: don't feed the autonomous robots

Although WowWee's theoretical zoo of robotic creatures is indeed impressive, our hats are off to Leonel Moura. This visionary has created a vivid yellow structure which is home to some 45 robots -- most powered by photovoltaic energy while the others are plugged into the ceiling or ground -- that were all created in the name of art (and science, too). The autonomous creatures represent 14 species in what's being dubbed the "world's first zoo for artificial life," and the Robotarium supposedly provides an "ideal environment" for peaceful robotic development. Of course, our imaginations can certainly run wild with the fear of these suckas forming a coup and running amok, but be sure and click through for a video of caged life on the robotic side.

[Via NewScientist]

Continue reading Robotarium X zoo: don't feed the autonomous robots

Robotic hand presented in Japan: death by Powerpoint

Remember that creepy robotic hand we saw terrorizing Japan last week? Well now it's on the loose in some conference room picking up eggs, shaking hands, holding a pencil and crushing a cup with its super action Kung Fu Grip. No video of it crushing skulls but we know what's really going on, we know. Its purpose still isn't any clearer (manufacturing-only or also prosthetics?), only that its functionality is meant to exceed that of the human hand. See just one of many videos after the break.

Continue reading Robotic hand presented in Japan: death by Powerpoint

Mini-robot swims through bloodstream

Two Israeli scientists may have created the catalyst for a medical revolution with their new project: a tiny, 1-millimeter-diameter robot which is capable of crawling through human veins and arteries. The bot can cling to vessel walls using small, powerful arms which protrude from a hub in its center. Manned control is accomplished by using a magnetic field outside of the body, and the robot is able to swim against the flow of blood, as well as squeeze through a variety of arterial openings. Right now the doctors don't know what the medical applications might be, though they speculate that a large number of the bots could be used to fight certain types of cancer. Other ideas on the table include using the bots to exact revenge on anyone opposing their crazy ideas.

[Thanks, Ralph]

Nikko's R2-D2 projector abducted by Jawas -- on sale this fall

Oh you know you want it. Ever since his January debut at CES, you've been pining for the iconic friend of righteousness and home DVD projector. Let's just hope you saved up the ¥388,500 (about $3,160 or 43,000 galactic credits) to take him home. The 1/2 scale DLP projector features a slot-loading DVD player, 1,800:1 contrast, 1,500 lumen brightness, and resolution of 1,024 x 768 pixels. But you're not buying this based on specs alone now are you. Limited production run of 1,000 units begins "this fall." Prepare.

Sega Toys' MIO pet robot: might chew slippers, jugulars

Sega Toys has another in a long line of personal robotic pets: the MIO. This deer/dog (deg?) sells for ¥9,240 in October or about $75 whenever it escapes Japan. Like any good robopet, the MIO features big doleful eyes capable of expressing joy, anger, and grief in response to your tender grace or heel of your boot. No doubt, the latest entry in Sega Toys' dream pet series helps ease you into the grave by washing away the empty ennui of your existence.

iRobot and Taser to produce (non)lethal bots

Another day, another step towards the inevitable robotic resistance: iRobot and Taser announced plans today to collaborate on weapons-capable bots. The first model off the line will be the venerable Packbot Explorer, fitted with a Taser X26 stun gun, to be sold to police departments and the Pentagon. No plans are being made to develop robots capable of inflicting lethal force, according to the two companies, but given Taser's somewhat spotty reputation and the obvious demands of the military, we're beginning to trust our Roomba even less than before.

Vortex's wall climbing robot peeks in windows

While not the first wall climbing machine we've come across, Vortex's VRAM Mobile Robot Platform (VMRP) machine weds ascension and undercover surveillance in fine fashion. Aimed at law enforcement tasks, military missions, and fanatical hobbyists, this clinger is remotely controlled with the capacity to add "onboard intelligence and sensors to monitor VMRP status and health." It utilizes a vortex vacuum to suction itself to vertical surfaces, and then relies on the wheels to get it movin'. Moreover, this bot was built to withstand mild weather hazards and communicate wirelessly back to the user, and its ability to wield microphones, video cameras, and proximity sensors make this the ultimate eavesdropping tool. Sadly, we've no idea how much it'd take to get one of these in your needy palms, but free free to indulge in the video waiting after the break.

[Via OhGizmo]

Continue reading Vortex's wall climbing robot peeks in windows

TU Darmstadt develops hopeful Aibo successor

It's no secret that robotic pets can bark right alongside the real deals, but unfortunately for those hoping to adopt an Aibo, the pickin's are indeed slim. While details on this one are admittedly scant, a photograph of a robotic dog prototype reportedly displays the brainchild of scientists at TU Darmstadt in Germany. The team had been working on said creation for six months prior to now, and is finally ready to present the pup to a "special audience" in a robot competition in Atlanta next week. Unfortunately, we've received no word on whether or not this canine is actually being bred for the mainstream, but we'll be sure to let you know if any litters crop up.

[Via TheRawFeed]

Rocobo perfects the "annoying robot" concept

The Roboco is a robot toy that seems to exist for no other purpose than to annoy flesh-based lifeforms, with its whole premise being to "react" to the owner's mood. For example, if you're angry and shout at it, it'll flap its wings and aggravate you even more: if you're nice and stroke it, it'll aggravate you again by "singing," or displaying a smile graphic -- let's just say at least it can't compose lullabies. At ?1,130 (under $9) it won't exactly break the bank, but if you're just going to throw it out the window within five minutes of buying it, you might as well hold onto your bucks.

[Via TechDigest]

Massive Gigantor statue coming to Japan

Erecting an 18-meter high robot statue in Japan may not shock and awe as it would in the US of A, but a brightly colored, 70-ton Gigantor is still apt to catch quite a few eyes. Kobe, Japan is set to be the home of the mammoth tribute statue, which will simultaneously commemorate the life of the late Mitsuteru Yokoyama and the revitalization of the surrounding areas since the 1995 Kobe earthquake. The project will cost an estimated ¥135 million ($1.09 million) and should be completed next Spring, but how it will affect property values (or tourism from fanboys and girls) remains to be seen.

[Via SciFiTech]