We just had to share these unique lamps for kids who are robotically inclined. Available in pink and yellow or red and blue, they are made of wood and need a 25W bulb (not included) to turn on. At a size of 11.5 x 5 x 5", the little guys come with a coordinated shade and a 6.5' cord. We're thinking with a price of $98.00 each, these must be hand painted or at least programmed to shut themselves off.
For kids over 21, this USB Drive Robot attaches to your key chain, briefcase, or backpack. Made of metal and plastic, and at a size of 3 1/2 x 2", the 256MB flash drive can include your business logo. A very cool giveaway for corporate types for $28.50, less if you buy in quantity.
Want to test your Robo-knowledge? Boston.com has a little quiz to see if you remember onscreen bots from the past. While most of them are fairly simple, like our friends here, if you get them all, watch out, you are either dating yourself or watching too many movies.
Times have certainly changed since "It's a Small World" was created at Disneyland. Take a peak at this huge Mr. Potato Head, part of Disney's new attraction at two of their theme parks. The animatronic veggie took about two years to create, features the voice of comedian Don Rickles, and is the barker in the Toy Story Midway Mania. Disney worked with Pixar to create the head who speaks about 20 minutes worth of banter and is the first animatronic figure to move its lips. He can also remove and replace his own ear. Too strange!
Talk about awesome! The team at bit-tech came up with their own Wall-E to celebrate his coming out. They used an old Gamecube, added a movable platform, acrylic, and plexiglass, then airbrushed their mod for the complete effect. Both his arms and legs are movable. We understand that even some of the folks at Pixar got to see their creation. Props to the clever designers.
Can't get enough of Wall-E? We found all kinds of stuff that you can get to feed your cravings. There are already hundreds of products out that include the soundtrack, books on the making of, a plug and play toy/game, plushies, party supplies, posters, masks, remote controlled toys, mini-figures, and tattoos! If you get to see the flick before we do (you can even pre-order that,) save us some popcorn and let us know what you thought about it.
We declare this honorary Wall-E Day! If you are going to miss the premiere or want to avoid the audience of screaming kidlets, here's a taste of what you missed. You go, bot!
We figure this is a great way to introduce Must Have Robot Friday, because how could you not want this little guy to hang with?
By the way, Ben Burtt speaks for the diminutive robot. He is mostly known for his creaturely voices that include Chewbacca, E.T., and a host of sound effects for various movies. Don't tell anyone, but we hear the lightsaber noise from Star Wars came by mixing the sound of an old 35mm projector with a TV tuned between channels.
Check out Panasonic's new robotic appendage. The DSM-Hand (which stands for Differential Shaft Mechanism,) can grab objects with the use of gears rather than motors. The company hopes that they will someday be used as prosthetics. Considering all the times we have spilled drinks during some overly heavy partying, this is one prototype that we would love to invite to our next get-together.
Sometimes the best bots never leave Japan. Bandai's Tachikoma can read your e-mail, play mini-games with you, and devise and use applications. The 4-legged, 2-clawed creature connects by USB. Even if you manage to hit the country and score one for $185.26, you had better pick up a translator, as both the manual and software are in Japanese.
Sega and Hasbro have collaborated on A.M.P. Automated Music Personality (aka Ampbot,) a robot that can dance. The 2.4 foot tall bot gets down while bobbing his head and flashing red lights on his LED. Hook the Ampbot up to an iPod or MP3 player and his tunes will come out of his stereo speakers. The turntable-like hands control volume, scratching, and sound effects. Clearly this is the companies' version of Rolly, but he is certainly more user friendly. Ampbot will become available in Japan this November and go global in about 18 months for ¥80,000 (~$745.00.)
VEX Robotics is an excellent source for students who want to learn more about the science. Not only do they offer instructional tools and materials, they also host a yearly competition. Teams can take part in the next one which is being held the end of the summer. These events take place in many different cities, states and countries, and the fee is only $75.00 to register a team. The next time your science teacher suggests that it's time to dissect a frog, tell him/her that you would rather win accolades by taking part in the 2008/2009 Challenge.
Surgeons in Ilinois seem to have the upper edge when it comes to using robotics in medicine. This could be because they now have a $2 million training center, at the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago, and the "da Vinci," a $1.5 million robot that is used for minimally invasive surgery. About 85,000 robot-assisted surgeries were performed last year nationwide.
Dr. Enrico Benedetti, UIC's head of surgery, says "Until we train the next generation of surgeons to do this, we cannot meet the demand. At the end of the day, it's just a better way to do surgery."
They say the plusses are less blood loss and post-surgical complications, and a shorter recovery period. Most of those procedures are prostate removal, although Benedetti looks forward to the day when they can use da Vinci for heart-bypass, lung, stomach, and chest surgery.
And yet another kewl gadget devised by someone using Lego's NXT Mindstorm has been introduced. Mike D'Amour had the original idea, and Will Gorman built and kindly provided instructions so that you can build your own toilet flushing robot. The RoboFlush gives you the option of a manual flush as well. If the duo could figure out how to get it to clean the thing, now that would be worth the investment.
When your Roomba has cleaned your house completely, why not let it work in other mysterious ways? Hacking Roomba seems to be obsessed with the idea, and not only has released a book on the subject, but also shows you various mods and hacks. For example, you can turn it into a midi-player, a Bluetooth adapter, and even a Battlestar Galactica Cylon, although that one is a bit of a stretch. Check out the site if you are not quite ready to invest in the book, for there are many projects that are displayed there. And the best part is, even after you hack away, your Roomba will still clean your floor.
We know that every time you see a robotics competition taking place you would rather participate than watch. So here's the thing. Stop being a Monday Night Football couch potato and hit the Zagros Robotics site. For a mere $139.95, you can create your own RFL (Robotic Football League) wireless player. Check out these features:
Built-in Wireless 2.4GHz
Speaker and voice synth chip
Four high speed, high torque motors
Think of it this way. You can feel the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat personally rather than living vicariously through the boob tube.
The Israeli company Linceus designs security devices in the form of monorail robots for large-scale detail such as airport perimeters like the Ben-Gurion-Airport in Tel Aviv. Even better, it can be used in mines as a safety device. The system uses search and track regional RF (radar) sensors and transmits video to a remote control room. It can also provide first-aid packages if necessary. With such an interesting concept, we are surprised that with all the millions spent by the U.S. Border Patrol, they haven't bought up a few.
If you always wanted to build your own bot, but won't admit you are geeky enough, a good place to start is the Society of Robots. The site has step-by-step tutorials, articles from other members, links to journals and conferences, and sources to help you find materials to create your new best friend. The SoR also helps you to incorporate hardware such as batteries, sensors, microcontrollers, and other materials. Their forum can help you ask real people real questions, unless you can get your bot to do it for you.
Meet The Trons, a robot band that only need humans for programming. It seems that the unique musical group has its own following and MySpace page with over 200 friends. Made from recycled and salvaged parts, and based in New Zealand, Ham (vox and rhythm guitar,) Wiggy (single string lead guitar,) Swamp (drums,) and Fifi (one hand keyboard) are proof positive that music is in the ear of the beholder. And by the way, if a robotic band plays in a club with only a robotic audience to hear it, does it still make a noise?
We know that there are just as many adults as kids that dig Lego's Mindstorm NXT, so we applaud the efforts of Anders Søborg's NXT Image Scanner. Utilizing a HiTechnic color sensor, the scanner saves in 24-bit true color, 8-bit color, or gray scale. The design also has a small LCD menu to set up properties. Best of all, Anders shares his knowledge with the world, so the very least we could do is pass on his instructional DIY video.
Korean researchers from the ETRI (Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute) have produced a bot that can see, hear, touch, and smell. POMI (Penguin rObot for Multimodal Interaction) can move his eyes and lips, and utilizes LED lighting and built-in scent sprays for facial expressions. We figure that must be close to aromatherapy. The robot can move his arms, express emotion, and has a ka-thumping heart. Since ETRI can also talk through his speaker, we wonder if he can smell those tomatoes we bought and let us know if they are edible.
We have found a DIY Kit that will surely ace you through your science fair, or make a charming companion when no one else is interested. The BotBrain Animatronic Head turns right and left and has a mouth that changes expressions. It can move its eyes and eyelids and features sensors for environmental reactions. At a whopping $449.00, the BotBrain is temporarily out of stock, but pre-order to get your own kit in time for the next geekfest. If that's a bit pricey, check out the Discovery Channel's Kit, although we have to admit their bot doesn't have the same charm.
Tomy's iSOBOT has the distinction of being Guinness' "smallest humanoid robot in production." The 6 1/2" high bot can do somersaults, push-ups, stand on one leg, and a smattering of kung fu. With 80 pre-programmed movements that can result in 240 in a sequence, he will respond to verbal commands. The little guy can say over 200 words and phrases, can recognize up to ten different voices, and plays a mean air guitar. iSOBOT has been created with 17 servomotors, a gyro-sensor to keep his balance, and 17 different points of sensitivity. Best of all, he can be yours for $199.99.
Sega Toys has created a new fem humanoid bot in Japan. E.M.A., which stands for "Eternal, Maiden, Actualization," is 38cm tall. She can hand out business cards, sing, dance, walk "like a lady," and even kiss if someone gets close enough. E.M.A. is battery powered, can move her elbows, shoulders, knees, and waist, and has sensors for avoiding obstacles. The $175.00 bot will become available this September. We suspect if E.M.A. receives the same publicity for Sega as ASIMO does for Honda, we can expect her to come stateside.
What do you get when you cross an iPhone with a Lego Mindstorm NXT Robot? You get a Legophone or perhaps it is an iNXT programmed with NXJ and a Safari Web application. Whatever you call it, we think it is too cool. As soon as we can afford all the necessary ingredients, we just may make one for ourselves. Our props to "willgorman" and his cleverness. You can find the DIY instructions at BattleBricks.
We are always pleased when we hear that bots are being used to help clean up the environment, and the OSP is proof of this. Think of it as a Roomba on steroids. Designer Ji-hoon Kim has created modular oil-cleaning robots that, because of their minute size, can be transported to an oil spill by boat or helicopter. Powered by solar panels and controlled by algorithms, the mini-bots connect up and and contain the spill so that human clean-up teams can do the rest. Although this is still in the prototype stage, we hope this is one that has enough funding to make it a reality.
Oddly enough, only a couple of hours after finding the Stickybot, we discovered Waalbot, fresh out of Carnegie Mellon. The wireless, tetherless bot is also based on a gecko, with tri-legs of fiber-made foot pads with spatula tips to help it stick to a surface. The creature can go up to 90º on walls and ceilings with a PIC microcontroller to help it move along. Researcher Mike Murphy says that they are working on a balance between small size and the ability to carry items (i.e. cameras.)
Biomimetics takes creatures of nature and turns them into automatons. Boston's Northeastern University biologist Joseph Ayers claims that animals have evolved to handle their environment and we should study them to make more efficient robotics. The simpler mechanics replace complicated software and sensors.
Stanford's Dr. Mark Cutkosky's Stickybot was built on that principle when his team duplicated the hairs on geckos' feet so that they can hang on any surface.
"If you're controlling a robot with a computer program, unless you've anticipated every possible situation it's going to get into, it will eventually get into a situation where it has no escape strategy and it will be stuck. Animals never get stuck," says Dr. Ayers. "What animals do is they wiggle and squirm [until they escape]."
Yeah, that sounds logical to us, at least until some unfeeling elephant wanders by and stomps on the robotic reptile.
Next time you hit a Dutch library, you just may see Jelte van Geest's Take_a_Seat prototype. Created for the Openbare Bibliotheek Endhoven, a library design project, each chair is designed with an RFID chip. When a user passes his card over it, the friendly furniture follows him/her around until the sittee decides to settle in. Best of all, when the person is done, the Take_a_Seat returns to its charging station, a la Roomba. We think this would be a nifty idea in a crowded bar or when waiting in line for tickets, and we hope that Jelte's next design features a backrest.
Vladimir Konishov, the President of the Neurobotics company, and his team in Zelonograd have devised a bot that is controlled by thoughts by reading electrical charges from the users brain. They say that is only takes a few sessions to master the headset are hoping that eventually it can used to play
video games, and control wheelchairs, and cars.
Researchers at England's Royal Veterinary College, and the Germany's University of Ulm are using a dragonfly as a model to create flying bots with cameras and sensors for military applications. Because they have four independent wings, they can hover, glide, move backwards, and change directions rapidly. Although not completely successful, we suspect that the scientists will eventually come up with a utile robotic spy, at least until the enemy brings it down with their robotic fly swatter.
We heard the rumor about the return of Robocop in film. What fun! Sure enough, we did some checking around and it seems to have been mentioned at the Licensing International Expo 2008 in NY, and we found this bit in a press release from MGM itself:
It seems that ASIMO has a new trick up his sleeve. Hiroshi Okuno and Kazuhiro Nakadai have devised HARK, a new software that allows the bot to differentiate between 3 humans with 70 to 80% accuracy. Known as the "cocktail party effect," the technology utilizes 8 mics to isolate one from the others by speech-recognition. ASIMO is so far only involved in rock-paper-scissors contests but imagine the next step when it can not only tell who is who, but starts carrying on conversations.
University of Washington Asst. Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Kristi Morgansen has three Robofish that she can program with basic instructions. Probably more remarkable is the fact that the fish can communicate between themselves without her intervention. She sees her technology being effective in super-cold or dangerous underwater environments. The Robofish may not be as cute as Nemo, but at least it won't have to worry about being chomped down by a wayward shark.
Want a dog, but don't want to train it? Hasbro has a new line of robotic pups in their FurReal Friends collection. Biscuit, recommended for kids over 5, is about 2 ft. tall and has sensors in his head, nose, back, and ears. Pet him and he wags his tail. He will also respond to 6 other commands, barks, and has a MSRP of $179.99.
Tumble is a one-trick pony puppy that will respond to you if you pat him on the back or rub his tummy. He also yelps a bit and comes with a price of $39.99. Look for both this fall.
Great news for those who still play with their kids' toys and are proud to admit it. Amazon has decided to let some of its Transformers go and you get to save 70% if you decide to adopt one or several. For example, this Transformers Real Gear Robots High Score 100 changes into a game controller (non-working, of course,) and back into its robotic form. At a price of only $6.99, that's a lot of bot for the money. Better hurry, as it appears there are only a few of these left. If you miss out, there are others to choose from as the sale will be going on until June 18.
Bennett Robot Works sculptures combines the past with the present. On display at the City Foundry in Brooklyn, NY, artist Gordon Bennett uses wood, metal, glass, plastic, and bakelite objects that he finds at garage sales, garbage dumps, and other trash-filled places.
Inspired by the industrial designs of Norman Bel Geddes and Raymond Loewy, each bot stands between 14 and 25", is an exclusive, and takes about a month to build. If you cannot afford one of his pieces, you can also get a poster of some of his work. While they have no
moving parts, we think they are pretty kewl nonetheless. (We are particularly fond of Edward and Kenmore, shown above.)
One can never have enough Star Wars bots. Who knew that R2-D2 is available in paper form? These plans come full size on the Japanese site for downloading, and we got the idea from the translation that there is both a 3 and 4 inch version available. This may take some skill with the scissors and previous origami projects to get the instructions down. We figure it will make an awesome companion to our Pez C3-Po.
It didn't take long to get the star of KungFu Panda to become an animatronic buddy. Mattel's Kickin' Po has sounds and sensors to react to your feeble attempts at ninja moves. Apparently, he wields his nun chuck and will attempt to roundhouse kick you when you least expect it. And of course, Jack Black provides the voice. About 13" tall, he is available for about $29.99.
Love bots but hate the batteries? Take a look at Robot-a-Day, a site that does just what it says, offers a limited-edition stuffed bot daily from Erin Wilk, who also runs Etsy anatomyofaskirt. We especially liked her Invisibot, because we figure it has less chance of being stolen by those who would covet our purchase. At a size of 3 x 5 1/2 x 3 inches, there are only 5 of them available. Most of Erin's bots retail for $40.00 apiece and come in lots of 5 -10.
Since Dad's day is coming up, we wanted to share our fave commercial so far. Craftsman puts out some great tools anyway, and now we give them props and all our business this year. If the tune in the background sounds familiar, it is the theme song to the late 60's/early 70's show "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" that starred Bill Bixby, written and sung by Harry Nilsson.
We waded through a couple of hours over the weekend watching "Finding Nemo" just to catch a preview of Pixar's "Wall-E" between commercials, which is premiering June 27. If you are as excited as we are, you can now build your own with 50, count 'em, 50 step-by-step instructions. The clever bot has flashing eyes, a midriff stash box, and requires mattracks as the main drive unit. The Wall-E clone is amazingly detailed, down to its lackluster finish. If you do not have the necessary talent for this there are already a whole slew of Wall-Es out there.
BotJunkie featured this robot on Friday, and this resulted in me watching this video Saturday, and Sunday am with the kids over and over and over. It's just pure robot drumming genius. My daughter proceeded to take the advice of the folks over at BotJunkie, and made up various lyrics to the drumming as we watched.
One can never have enough R2-D2's around. Plug this USB 4-port hub into your computer and the Star Wars bot lights up, moves his head, and speaks in that animated language we have all grown to love, even if we can't understand it. The hub will be out in August, but you can pre-order now at Geek Stuff 4U for $67.72 if the force is with you.
This security robot dog isn't that scary, or looking all that secure either. It does however have one of the creepiest walks we've ever seen. Developed in Japan, there's a set of three videos but the one we've picked really does show the creepy walk.
We've been following the Wall-E Toys robotic toy roll out over at Toyology, and we're now posiitive there's going to be more Wall-E toys than any other Pixar movie inspired toys to date. We think the majority of the figures look dead on, but many of the features of the toys fall short. We'll give you our impressions as we get a few of the more advanced toys, and have time to see if they actually feel like sentient robots or just talking toys.
RoboGames 2008 the world’s largest open robot competition will be taking place at the Ft. Mason Center in San Francisco from June 13-15. There will be 70 events, including combat robots, autonomous combat, soccer, hockey, sumo, navigation, fire fighting, and too many other events to list here.
Tickets are only $20 for adults and $15 for kids, per day, with discounts for all three days. We're not going to be able to make it this year (our California trip is a few weeks later), but if your in the Bay area this is a must for any Robot Snob.
Check out this video featuring some highlights from the competition.
Created by five interaction design master students, this robodog responds to positive / negative scenarios going on around it. The creature will drop its head, whimper and collapse down if faced with "carbon monoxide, cigarette smoke, alcohol, too much dark lighting, hitting and yelling." He'll then perk right up, when you get him out of the situation. I think anyone can learn about the environment and how to treat an animal with this robodog.
Our first official month of posting closes here at Robot Snob. It's been a fun month of robotic weirdness, and we look forward to more months, years, and decades of ahead of robot news, views, and reviews. May had lots of lawn robots, house robots, and of course symphony conducting robots. We'll keep the robot news flowing in June, and expect some hands on reviews in the weeks ahead.