September 30, 2008
Robot Snob Monthly Round-Up - September 2008
There have been lots of unique bots this month, including the Limited Edition Hello Kitty Roomba and Spitting Debby, our contribution to your Halloween decor. Doesn't reading about others' creations out of Mindstorms NXT make you want to DIY? Look for more design ideas, holiday gift suggestions, and perhaps some silly bots in October.
Lego Mindstorms NXT
Lego NXT Mindstorm
Make Your Own Robot
Must Have Robot Friday
September 30, 2008
Posable Robot Webcam Keeps You Company
The Posable Robot Webcam will connect you to your buds with 360º of movement. The CVSCT-8902 has a 350 kilopixel CMOS sensor and built-in microphone, and comes with 3' cable and 2 sports balls, just to make him look jockish. At a size of 140 x 95 x 40mm, he is compatible with both Windows and Mack OS and is plug-and-play with USB 2.0. Each is $15.00, less if you buy in quantity.
September 30, 2008
iRobot Gets Over $5 Million for PackBot Parts
iRobot has announced that it was given a $5.8 million order from the U.S. Army to deliver spare parts and accessories for their PackBot 510 with FasTac Kit. The bots investigate suspicious objects, identify roadside bombs and other explosive devices, and allow humans to keep a safe distance away. iRobot has already delivered over 1,800 PackBots, and with this latest contract they will be providing them with updated controllers, manipulators and cams.
Via Market Watch
September 29, 2008
MechRC Robot Can Move It
Cross a robotics engineer and a Transformer artist and you end up with the MechRC Robot. Pre-assembled, it has over 100 pre-installed motions and sounds and has 180º movement. Manipulate the bot on your PC (not Mac compatible,) add sound effects, soundtracks, and voices from music files, and they will shout out through MechRC's chest. At a size of 36 x 32 15cm, the robot comes with a lithium battery pack and charger, IR remote, and USB to serial adapter. You can pre-order now for £399.00 (~$800.00) and expect delivery in about 8 weeks.
Via I Want One of Those
September 29, 2008
Autonomous Wheelchair Works by Voice Command
MIT is working on an autonomous wheelchair that will memorize locations by WiFi in a building, then go to it by verbal command. Funded by Nokia and Microsoft, the system learns and adapts to the user so that each wheelchair is personalized. The chair is first taken on a "guided tour" of the facility for the first time with certain sites, such as "my room," "cafeteria," etc. The user need only say, "Take me to my room" and it will do so. Already being tested in the Boston Home in Dorchester, the team would like to add such features in the future as collision avoidance and mechanical arms to assist the users.
September 26, 2008
Wakamaru to Debut in SoHo
A while back, we told you about TMSUK-4, the shopping bot used in Japan. It turns out that Wakamaru, a similar bot created by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, will be making is debut in the States at the UNIQLO SoHo store in NYC. While we cannot visit the robot personally, if you are in NY and happen to be passing by, let us know if Wakamaru has arrived and send pix!
Via Tokyo Mango
Must Have Robot: Tomy Croaking Crooner
We once lived in a house that had a small pond in the back where frogs would mate twice a year. It about drove us crazy. Now you can do the same for others with the motion-activated Tomy's Croaking Crooner, our Must Have Robot of the week. Battery operated, the Cornell School of Ornithology authenticated its voice, and the water-resistant amphibian is so realistic that his throat inflates and deflates. Available in brown or green, he can be yours for $16.79.
Via Croaking Crooner
September 25, 2008
Aquaman Not So Far Away
Peter Neuhaus and Jerry Pratt have gotten a team together at the University of West Florida's Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. They came up with PISCES (Performance Improving Self Contained Exoskeleton) that should put even Michael Phelps to shame. They borrowed swimming movements of sea turtles, dolphins, and penguins to create the lower body concept that can be operated hands-free at a speed of 1m/sec. using silver-zinc batteries.
Pleosaurus Rex Goes on Rampage
It's hard to believe that anyone would want to make the normally sedate Pleo into a screaming monster, but the folks from Ugobe has a new download, Pleosaurus Rex. If you have an SD card you can grab yourself 1MB of tin soldier and mini-building crushing as he screams in that Japanese movie way. Check out their forum to find out how to destroy your pet (temporarily) when he wreaks too much havoc.
Via Pleo World
September 24, 2008
Capacitor Robot Charms - Mini Friends
ObviousFront has designed Capacitor Robot Charms out of recycled components from TVs, VCRs, and computers. Each one is unique and comes on an 18" nickel ball chain so that you can carry them and let everyone know that you are robotically correct. The CRCs are available for $12.00 apiece.
Via Maker Shed
Mindstorms NXT Talking Robotic Scull
Once an NXT fan, always an NXT fan. Although he hadn't done so in 20 years, "thinkingbricks" took a few Lego Mindstorms NXT sets and built a programmable talking robot. He demonstrates the results as well as kindly offering the DIY instructions. The clever man claims that it has been "hastily documented" so that he could tear it apart and build another one. Take a look at some of his other designs on his website.
September 23, 2008
Army to Test MULE
While spending our hard earned tax dollars, at least this time the military is thinking energy efficient. The U.S. Army is about to begin testing its MULE (Multipurpose Logistics Vehicle.) The Unmanned Ground Vehicle senses its environment, cars, people, and weapons. Built by Lockheed Martin, the UGV is controlled by GPS and a mapping system to plan its route. It runs on hybrid electric/diesel power and each of its six wheels contains its own electric hub motor.
Via Robot Magazine
Highlights from the Tokyo Toy Show
Take a look at C-Scout's video tour of the recent Tokyo Toy Show. On display were plenty of robotic goodies, from Tomy's I-SOBOT to Sega's new Live Dream. The musical device contains 30 tracks that are expandable and can play up to 18 tracks simultaneously. The sound comes from where the instrument is placed so that you can play conductor. Proof positive that robots are being built with adults in mind.
Via C Scout
September 22, 2008
e-Juba Delivers in Africa
The south African National Health Laboratory Service is testing the e-Juba, a prototype UAV that can be used for specimen transport or drop in rural areas of the country. The device is made up of sensors and gyroscopes and can be programmed with specific routes. The largest can carry 12 jars for a load of up to 500g as far as 40km. So far, two have been tested with positive results. The NHLS feels that the aircrafts could also carry medicine, anti venom, or blood.
Limited Edition Hello Kitty Roomba - Meow!
Cutesy alert! iRobot has a new Roomba. The Limited Edition Hello Kitty version will be available September 30. At a price of ¥84,500 (~$810.00,) only 500 are available. If you want one to get your kids to clean up, visit the Japanese iRobot page for this version of their Classic Roomba.
September 19, 2008
Spitting Debby Barfs for Halloween
It's time to start thinking Halloween. One of the coolest sites we know for animatronics is the Fright Catalog. Take Spitting Debby, for instance, who makes Linda Blair look like Pollyanna. She bobs her head, noisily chews her food, then commences to upchuck with a blast of air and water. Anyone within 8 and 12 feet is not safe. The 30" tall Debby needs AC power and a 100-125 psi air compressor to work and comes with digital control, a sound system, amp with speaker and water reservoir. Plan on a pre-order 4 - 8 weeks ahead. With a price of $1,295.00, she's not cheap, but we are wondering if we could fill her with some watered down pea soup.
Via Fright Catalogue
Must Have Robot: Mattel SBD 3000
Our Must Have Robot honors goes this week to Mattel's SBD 3000, aka Secret Bank Deposit Robot. Save your coins while the dude dances, raps, tells jokes, and plays games. Take some money out and he starts all over again. The SBD comes with 4 AA batteries and will surely be a fun gift for kid or adult for $14.99.
Via SBD 3000
September 18, 2008
Jeppe - Blobby Videoconferencing Buddy
The NRC (Nokia Research Center) has designed Jeppe. He seems pretty much a standard bot to us (and his base is a Lego Mindstorms NXT!) He can patrol or act as surveillance in your home or workplace. The prototype consists of a digital compass and ultra sound sensors, video cam, and can make gesture controlled movements. Jeppe's two-way audio makes for "active videoconference" but, the way we see it, he is just your basic blob. Back to the drawing board, Nokia, until you can get him to roll over, vacuum, or find our missing keys.
ScanRobot Automatically Copies One Book at a Time
The German robotics firm Treventus Mechatronics has come up with ScanRobot. True to its name, it can scan an entire book all by itself. It holds the book open at a 60° angle, scans pages, and air jets turn them. The bot works at a pace of 25 ppm and keeps working until the entire book has been digitized. While we realize this is something the average Joe or Jane cannot afford, think how nice it would be to have your entire library at home in one single bot.
September 17, 2008
DIY Wall-E, Take 3
Another DIY Wall-E has captured our attention. Made by Lego Forum user "bazmarc," it is fully automated, animated, and programmed. Among the parts he used was the NXT Mindstorms System, Labviews NXT-G software, 10 AA batteries, and lots of Legos. This is his third version of the movie bot and it is certainly impressive, don't you think?
Deep Green, Pool Hustler
The first robotic snooker machine was created in the late 80's. Times have changed and although others have been made, Deep Green has to be considered state of the art. Using a standard 4 x 8' coin-operated table, the Queen's University system is a 3º DOF industrial gantry robot mounted on the ceiling. A digital cam, GVS, and various directional lights are attached. The system strategizes by predicting and planning future table states. Considered at a better-than-amateur level, the team is hoping to bring it up to championship level.
September 16, 2008
Takara Tomy's Tiny QFO
Takara Tomy's latest R/C toy is the QFO. At the minute size of 65 x 65 x 43mm, the mini-copter may resemble a miniature space ship until it hits a few feet up when it will probably be out of sight. Expect a launch of the QFOs sometime this month.
Via Akihabara News
HC Gilje's Wind-Up Birdbots
HC Gilje and team have created Wind-Up Birds, as part of the UT-21 project in a Lillehammer, Norway forest. The automated avians tap like woodpeckers every 5 minutes. We have included some of what the experiment was meant to do, because we certainly can't convey it as well as they do.
"How will nature treat them, with hostillity or acceptance? How will the wind-up birds adapt to heat/cold wet/dry conditions? Will small insects creep inside the
circuitry creating possible short circuits, beetles eat the wood, squirrels use the wood slit as nut storage (or the roof as a slide?), birds use it as a shelter, etc.? Will they be treated as foreign objects or accepted into the local eco-system? How do real woodpeckers react? Are they threatened, attracted, or not bothered? Will they use the roof as a pecking drum?"
After 15 minutes, an authentic woodpecker joined in, but perhaps he simply wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Via Wind-Up Birds Project
September 15, 2008
This is One Big Mother Truck
Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute has gotten together with its DARPA sponsor, Caterpillar, to create two mining trucks with autonomous control. The 797B can haul 380 tons of rock and weighs 1,375,000 lbs. It has a 117 liter, 3550 hp V-24 engine and can travel as fast as 42 mph. Due out in 2010, the trucks are being developed for BHP Billiton, a global resources company.
Via Aviation Week
Le Trung Builds Aiko to Serve
Canadian Le Trung was so inspired as a kid with Robot Anime that he decided to build Aiko. She can move around, "feel" pain, and speaks both English and Japanese. Trung plans to add other features in the future, including facial expressions, the ability to make tea, coffee, and bacon and eggs, clean his toilet, feed him sushi, and be able to massage his shoulders and neck. Uh-huh.
via Project Aiko
September 12, 2008
R/C Mini Tank, to Harass Your Other Bots
Want something to compete with your R/C bots that merely walk? The R/C Mini Tank charges on its remote. The vehicle can go forward, backward, left and right, and needs 3 AA batteries to run. Available in camouflage or green, it is about 65 x 43 x 36mm and weighs 30g. The price is a mere $14.50.
Must Have Robot: Playskool Kota Triceratops
Look what we found for our Must Have Robot of the week! It is the Playskool Kota My Triceratops Dinosaur, shown here with a kidlet, but much too sophisticated to waste on one. The creature is over 3 feet tall and responds to voice and touch with sounds, and tail, head, eye, mouth, and even horn movements. It also plays music. Go figure. We suspect the kid comes in because it can handle up to 60 lbs. of weight. Kota can be yours for $299.99 and you can pre-order for its October 15 release.
Via Playskool at Kota
September 11, 2008
Sundial Robot Tells the Time, Kinda
Genius certainly runs in this family. Jim Kelly created a Sundial Robot after being inspired by his son. It was made out of a Lego Mindstorms NXT, 3 motors, and compass, light, and touch sensors, and about 270 other parts. The bot rotates 360º in 5º increments. Without going into details that even we don't understand, suffice it to say that it is accurate within 15 minutes.
Via The NXT Step
BigDog Hauls for the Army
Take a peek at BigDog, dubbed by its makers as the "alpha male" of robotic animals. About the size of a Great Dane, it can go 4 mph and carry over 300 lbs. The robotic canine was sponsored by the the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Controlled by remote on army bases, he has a computerized brain, a small gas engine, and legs that can reposition. Boston Dynamics claims that it is now working on a faster and stronger robotic pup with eye-like sensors to make "intelligent decisions."
September 10, 2008
Rodney Brooks to Start Heartland Robotics
MIT and iRobot's Rodney Brooks is about to start his own company, Heartland Robotics, which will assist American workers to become more productive. He believes, as do we at Robot Snob, that the industry is about to take off.
"Just as computers we interact with personally transformed our lives over the last 25 years, so, too, will robots transform our lives over the coming 25. And it just so happens that Massachusetts is the epicenter of this nascent industry," Brooks said.
We hope we will be around to see the change.
Via Information Week
Jeremy Mayer's Typemonstriters
Jeremy Mayer, from Tahoe City, CA, was so fascinated with typewriters that he used them to create artsy cats, crickets, skeletons, and Typemonstriters. He used parts that he acquired from eBay, flea markets, and second-hand stores. Each sculpture takes about 40 typewriters and up to 1,000 hours to create. We were thinking that it wouldn't take too much incentive to turn them into bots. What do you think, Jeremy?
Via Jeremy Mayer
September 9, 2008
Helicopters Learn Stunts by "Watching"
File this under more autonomous bots. Scientists from Stanford University have developed an artificial intelligence program that teach ordinary toy helicopters to fly. This is accomplished by them "watching" a regular R/C vehicle flown by a human pilot. The copters were recently tested doing such maneuvers as rolls, flips, loops, stall-turns and other difficult feats. The researchers say that future applications could include land mine searching or wildfire spotting.
Muwi Mows While Saving the Planet
This is the latest innovation in lawn mowing that, coincidentally, is also energy efficient. The Muwi cuts, then collects the grass inside. Its designers, Yong Hee Cho, Yuli Sung, Jee Won Lee, and Seung Hee Son, say that it compresses the green stuff into balls to play with or blocks to sit upon that naturally biodegrade in time. Don't get too excited. Although this looks like something you want in your backyard, the Muwi is still a prototype.
September 8, 2008
Toby Atticus Franley's Robot Series are Illuminating
Pennsylvanian artist Toby Atticus Fraley creates original, one-of-a-kind artwork from reclaimed "Junke," as he calls his materials. Each light-up sculpture is based on a unique theme such as the Rocketship Robot that pays tribute to the movie "Dr. Strangelove." The piece is 28 x 28 x 19" with a six foot cord and was built out of recycled aluminum, steel, and wood. Sizes in general range from 28 to 58" and 4 of them can be had for $1,800.00 to $1,900.00 apiece at Uncommon Goods. To see his entire collection, visit Toby's website. And drop him a line if you would like him to create one especially for you.
Via Toby Atticus Fraley
iRobot Breaks Out New Roombas
iRobot has launched its newest Roombas in the form of Pet robotic vacuums. The two models have higher capacity sweeper bins, brushes for digging into thick carpeting, and counter-rotate to make cleaning easier. Designed for those who have pets that shed or more dirt than the average family, they feature iRobot's three-stage cleaning that automatically adjusts to type of flooring and light-touch bumper.
The 532 comes with Virtual Walls for guidance, can clean up to three rooms on a single charge, and is available for $349.99. The 562 carries a price of $399.99 and includes on-board scheduling. Both come with an extra set of brushes to help dig out that doggy dander and furrballs that were found in a corner, as well as 2 additional filters and cleaning tools.
Via iRobot at iRobot
Roomba 532 Pet Series Vacuum Cleaning Robot and iRobot
562 Pet Cleaning Robot
September 5, 2008
Daniel Deutsch - Robotic Artist
Daniel Deutsch doesn't just build ordinary robots. Not only did he create an R2-D2 and a Stars Wars Landspeeder, he produced Drip, the Fire Hydrant bot, Tom Morrow 2.0, and what has to be the coolest tribute we have seen to the ATHF, Frybot. Then again, maybe his version came first. Head to his site for the rest of his collection.
Via Daniel Deutsch
Must Have Robot: WowWee Mini Wrex the Dawg
Standing at a height of 5.5", Mini Wrex The Dawg, is based on WowWee's original mutt and our Must Have Robot this week. He needs 2 x AAA batteries (not included) to run his wheels and spinning eyes. He also has a poseable head and legs, and can be your buddy for $29.99.
Via Mini Wrex The Dawg
September 4, 2008
Wii Balance Board + Roomba = Surfin'ba
Check out the demo of a the Surfin'ba with a Wii Balance Board and an iRobot Roomba. In his third hack, "longjie0723" manages to play "Surfin U.S.A." while they go through their paces. The guy seems to be having a good time, but we suspect the Roomba feels a bit foolish.
Via The Raw Feed
September 3, 2008
SuperVision 250 Scans Sewers
The EPA seems to be concerned about sewer and storm pipes that are leaking. So they have employed the Envirosight SuperVision 250 to go where humans would rather not. It can be put in 10 - 72" diameter pipes while its operators watch the feed from a 10x optical zoom auto-focus camera. They can also pan and tilt the device. The crawler is made of stainless steel and a sapphire window for protection against sewer evils and can travel as far as 1,640 ft. before running out of cord.
Slide Rule Wall Alarm Clock
Greg Blonder has created a Slide Rule Alarm Clock. The man is an inventor, physicist, designer, and former Bell Labs scientist, so it is easy to see why this timepiece is as much art as it is a functioning device. He created it with Lego Mindstorms NXT and a foam core. Hours and minutes are on each of the rulers and they meet at a central slider. We want one!
Via The Watchismo Times
September 2, 2008
The Dark Knight Attack Bat
Terrorize your friends with this Dark Knight Attack Bat. Let him sleep until they come in, then press a button to make his eyes glow and he begins to verbalize. If they are not yet afraid, another button will make the winged mammal fly around the room. At a size of 12 x 8 x 3 1/2", you can get one for your belfry for $27.99.
Via Entertainment Earth
UC Davis Scientists Teach Bots to Follow
UC Davis researchers have been working on robots picking up cues to follow one another. While humans unconsciously move their heads a fraction of a second before turning, Sanjay Joshi and his team have developed a control system that takes those cues into account. Although the bots shown here are not the ones used by UCD, we looked at them and thought, "Aha, this is the first step in robots taking over the planet." Our thanks to Spaceboyjordo, etsy and his robotic pals.
Via UC Davis
September 1, 2008
Kevin Kelly and Son Create Styrobot
Kevin Kelly was so inspired by Michael Salter, an artist who created 2 Styrofoam robots, that he decided to make one himself. You are looking at the 20 lb. result that took him and his son over 5 years to construct. Built in 5 parts for easy disassembly (a torso and 4 limbs,) they used a foam cutter and about 4 tubes of Lexel silicon to glue the pieces together. We think everybody should build her/his own as a kind of protest of the material, since it is on our top ten list of things that don't recycle.
Via Kevin Kelly
Robot Snob Monthly Round-Up - August 2008
It's hard to believe that summer is ending. It just flew by, but there were plenty of botty things going on between DIY projects, scientific advances in robotics, and of course the best news that one of our Must Have Robots
, is available to pre-order. Stay tuned! With the holidays creeping up, we will try to find the best and most creative deals for those who are robot obsessed.
Lego Mindstorms NXT
Make Your Own Robot
Must Have Robot Friday
Remember Mr. Machine?
Those of you who can date yourself and remember B/W television in the 60's will surely recall Mr. Machine. We caught the ancient commercial a couple of nights ago on a local bad movie program and forgot how kewl we thought the wind-up Ideal toy was at the time. Robotics have come a long way since then! Oddly enough, we checked around and you can still purchase Mr. Machine, although the $89.98 price seems somewhat inflated. But then again, Poof Slinky re-manufactured him with the intention of targeting nostalgic adults as a collectible.
Via Mr. Machine