June 30, 2009
Monthly Round-Up - June 2009
We are continuously surprised and pleased that there are such advancements in robotics, both here and worldwide. What seemed like Sci-Fi only a couple of decades are now becoming fact. Check out our June Round-Up if you missed any of the fun, not the least of which was the saving of our beloved Pleo. And visit our new Facebook page! We would dig having you as a friend, even if you are a human.
Make Your Own Robot
Must Have Robot Friday
June 30, 2009
Blacklist Studios Comic "Robot 13"
Writer Thomas Hall and Artist Daniel Bradford have teamed to create Blacklist Studios. The result of the pairing is "Robot 13", a comic that is small on price but big on talent. Basically the hero, a skull headed robot, fights Greek Mythological monsters. A copy can be yours for $5.25 and that includes shipping.
Via Blacklist Studio
June 30, 2009
Giant Gundam Takes Over Odaiba
This past March, we mentioned that the Gundam franchise is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a giant 18 meter tall version of the robot that lights up at night to freak out Japan. It is now here and located on Odaiba, a human made island. From the images, the real thing looks freakin' awesome!
Via Pink Tentacle
June 29, 2009
MyDeskFriend Shares Facebook
MyDeskFriend is a prototype penguin that will be available from the Swiss company Arimaz. Place him next to your PC in his docking station and he will interact by following your finger without falling off your desk, respond to voice commands and can memorize up to 15 short key words. His eyes change color depending on his mood. Connect him to your Facebook profile and you will actually have to take care of him, virtually anyway, since he displays when he is hungry or tired. If you invest the $99.00 and can get your friends to interact with him on the social site, you will know you have a winner.
June 29, 2009
Robots Adorn Onesies
Next time you are stuck going to a baby shower, show your robotic love with the organic cotton Robots Dancing Onesie from Foco Loco. Choose between five colors and 2 sizes. The same design also comes in a long sleeve version and t-shirt, both with the same options.
Via Foco Loco
June 26, 2009
Must Have: Robot Alarm Clocks
We can think of nothing we would like better than to wake up to the sound "Beep, Boop, Bop." Luckily we found this Robot Tech Alarm clock. With a dark blue frame, at least it will great you with a smile and comes with 3 AA batteries. But if you like your robots the strong silent type, you might want to opt for the Silver Robot Tabletop Alarm that stands all of 4" tall and needs 1 AA battery (not included.)
Via Robot Alarm Clocks
Medical Bot Detects Shrapnel Autonomously
This incredible medical robot can locate shrapnel and guide a needle to the location in the body without human assistance. Developed by bioengineers at Duke University, they used a basic tabletop bot with a 3D ultrasound probe and an AI program. They attached an electromagnet to the probe so that when the shrapnel vibrated, its motion was detected. The autonomous medical bot may also have future applications as placing and removing radioactive "seeds" when treating cancer.
Via Science Daily
June 25, 2009
Beware the Abominable Snowbot
Get ready for winter early with the Snowbot. He has an adjustable scan light in either red or blue, rotates his arms, has a control knob and an "authentic snowbot sound." Hook him up to your USB port and he will defend you against the Summerbot. (We figure there must be an arch nemesis out there somewhere.) The toy comes with a cable that extends to 30" and an off-seasonal price of $7.99.
Via Think Geek
Buzz Lightyear Doesn't Quite Hit Infinity
Probably our first exposure to robotics was the procuring of a toy demo for Mr. Gameshow in the 80s. When he got too annoying, I gave him away, but now he appears to be back in the form of Buzz Lightyear, who will be available for the holiday season for about $140.00. It has two modes, puppeteer and voice command, but we expect he will soon become as obnoxious as Mr. Gameshow, for a whole lot more money.
June 24, 2009
JAST Robots Anticipate Human Needs
The European Commission's Joint-Action Science and Technology researchers built a service bot that they say can anticipate needs of humans. The robot is programmed to help them put together a toy, pays attention to what part the person has, then finds the right tool to use. If a piece can be used in multiple ways, the bot will ask what the human is building to try to deal with a possible mistake.
The JAST team is hoping that it will lead to cooperative service bots who can anticipate and question human actions, as opposed to those that are pre-programmed. We figure that if they can let us know where our keys are, we are all for it.
Movie Cyborgs We Love
If you like cyborgs (who doesn't?) and anime, you will love the flick "Appleseed Ex Machina." Produced by John Woo and directed by Shinji Aramaki, it is based on the science fiction manga by Shirow Masamune ("Ghost in the Shell",) so put them both on your must see movie list. Want to complete the series? See the original "Appleseed", not nearly as gruesome or flashy as the other two, but fun nonetheless.
Via Shirow Masamune
June 23, 2009
Robotic Iguana Not Too Scary
We are not sure that it looks all that realistic, but this Iguana bobs its head up and down and crawls around your floor and may freak out your cat or the neighbors' kids. At a size of about 19", it has soft, pliable skin, needs 2 AAA batteries (not included) and can join your household for $19.98.
Via Things You Never Knew
Studio Mister Robot-o Webcam
Last week it was the Mr. Roboto Watch, this week we pay tribute to the Mister Robot-o Webcam. Okay, so it is not technically a robot, but the sucker automatically follows you around, so it is close enough for us. At a size of 2.2 x 3.5 x 2.5", it adjusts 204º horizontally and 140° vertically. Easily mountable, it works with Skype, Windows Live, AOL, Yahoo and other IMs.
Via Mister Robot-o Webcam
June 22, 2009
Ferret Narc Seeks Out Evils
The University of Sheffield is in the midst of creating a robotic narc. This "ferret" uses lasers and fiber optics to find drugs, weapons, explosives and illegal immigrants! (Do you suppose it checks for a green card?) The 30cm long cargo sniffing bot will be placed in a container at airports or seaports and relay information as it moves inside. Sensors can detect evil drugs and carbon dioxide, which indicates a human. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the prototype will be tested in about 2 years and ready for work in about 5 years.
Via University of Sheffield
Willow Garage Self-Feeding PR2
Willow Garage's alpha robot PR2 (Personal Robot 2) has some amazing abilities. On display at the beginning of June, he walked through 8 doors and maneuvered around obstacles, including humans, that may have been in his way in less than an hour. But the kick here is that PR2 also plugged himself in for a recharge 9 times and knew enough to not break into a door that was locked. Attaboy!
Via Willow Garage
June 19, 2009
Must Have: It's All About Transformers
In honor of the new Transformer movie, which has tons of bots, we declare them our Must Have of the week. The Takara Music Label Headphones turn into Frenzy and Rumble and can be used with the Soundwave MP3 Player that can play music in either mode.
The Convoy iPod Docking Bay with Speakers is licensed by Apple and is compatible with all models but the shuffle. When transformed to a robot, it's a whopping 6" tall. And, although you may not be able to covet the new movie, you can get the the Complete First Season (25th Anniversary Edition) of the animated series.
Mr. Roboto Watch
Every time someone mentions Mr. Roboto, it's the Styx song that comes into our heads. But, hey, there's a new one in town, inspired by all those 1950 tin bots, in particular the Lantern robot. Azimuth's watch has a left eye for the hour, the right one is GMT, and the nose and mouth are retrograde minutes and seconds. Mr. Roboto Watch is made of steel with beveled edges and runs on a modified ETA 2836-2 movement. Water resistant, it is available for $4,800.00. "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto..."
June 18, 2009
FOOMA Exhibits Kitchen Bots
At the recent FOOMA (International Food Machinery and Technology Exhibition) in Tokyo, robots displayed their talent in preparing and serving food. Attendees included a sushi-picking bot, one that can slice veggies, a pancake maker and a serving bot.
Ninomiya-kun Book Reader
Waseda University has produced Ninomiya-kun, a small bot capable of reading paper printed books. Named after Kinjiro Ninomiya, a 19th century agricultural leader and philosopher, he stands 1m tall and weighs 25kg. The bot reads by camera, has character recognition software stored on a computer on his back, then translates into spoken words. Because the voice comes from a synthesizer, it will be a while before Ninomiya-kun is available to read to kids, seniors, or those who need someone to help them with a difficult cookbook recipe.
Via Pink Tentacle
June 17, 2009
Psikharpax, Giant Robotic Rat
France's AnimatLab has created a robotic rat dubbed Psikharpax (named after Homer's king of the rats,) with working paws and whiskers. The researchers felt that they should start at the bottom and allow the bot to perform simpler tasks, such as navigating, avoiding danger and seeking robotic cheese, we suspect.
"The rat is the animal that scientists know best, and the structure of its brain is similar to that of humans," said Steve Nguyen, a doctoral student at ISIR. Perhaps they will create a robotic cat to keep it in check as their next project.
Rock-afire Explosion Not for Tots
Forget the G-rated animatronics at Country Bear Jamboree or Showbiz Pizza. We hear that Rock-afire Explosion had so much demand from acid rock fans that they came up with new models that can perform hip hop, rock and indie music. We dig that they are currently playing tunes like the Nine Inch Nails' "1,000,000," and we will surely try to catch them if they are in our area.
June 16, 2009
IDF Develops Explosive Carrying Snakebot
Watch out. The next robotic snake you see may blow itself up. Developed mostly for surveillance, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) 2 meter long snakebot can send audio and video and raise itself up to check out the war scene. Covered in camouflage, it can slither around tunnels, caves, buildings and cracks while being controlled via laptop. It was meant to find those who are buried under collapsed buildings, but in case the enemy's robotic hawk finds it first, it can self-destruct with its packed explosives.
Via Jerusalem Post
iRobot One-Day Hot Deal
iRobot is having a special sale today only. Purchase a Roomba Scheduler for $279.00 (marked down from $329.00) and you get a free accessory kit (worth $100.00) and free 2nd day shipping. You also get a 30-day trial, but we think if we can get some
one thing else to vacuum, it's our new best friend. The company also has other goodies for Father's Day, June 21.
June 15, 2009
Koeda Improves Locomotion in Robot
Masanao Koeda created a bipedal robot with the express purpose of teaching him to move more like humans and to be able to turn around more easily. Now it seems that the Associate Professor at Osaka Electro-Communication University has now taught him some new tricks. He has smoother locomotion and the ability to know the difference between surfaces. Check out the video here.
Via Digital World
Jetta Saves Pleo From Extinction
Woohoo! Jetta Company Limited, the company that manufactured Pleo, has saved it from extinction. They bought both the property rights and assets at the Ugobe bankruptcy sale last month. Spokesperson Steve Ohler says that the company will relaunch the dinosaur as well as accessories for him, including a vital battery and charger. It may be a while before he is up and about again, still we find this to be very good news as his price has dropped dramatically. In other words, even though his demise may have been caused in part by his being a luxury in a recession, this might be the time to splurge.
Via Robots Rule
June 12, 2009
Must Have: Phoenix Hexapod - Outplay All Others
If you are thinking of entering the Robogames this weekend in San Francisco, Trossen claims that their Phoenix Hexapod is one of their best sellers and a fine contender. Looking at the video, we would agree. Too late for this year? That will give you a 365 days edge on the other guys as you practice with your Phoenix.
Dancing Manoi Go!
Robotic experts Dr. GIY and Okamoto got together to make this hybrid breakdancing MANOI GO! Because we don't speak Japanese, we needed Robots Dreams to alert us to the fact that "go" means "5" and may suggest that the bot costs about 4 times the amount of the original. Be that as it may, this is one fine example of humanoid robot capability, even if his mother dresses him funny.
Via Robots Dreams
June 11, 2009
DARPA Self Creating Robots
DARPA has yet another project, this one downright spooky. Just as in nature, SELF (the Self-Explanation Learning Framework) is so far only a proposal but it entails having robots that can take part in their own construction, and perhaps repair themselves when needed.
Via The Register
Snail Window Cleaning Bot
This bot does windows and walls, and any other flat surface a human cannot reach easily. The Snail by Yasunori Goto, Ibe Tommokichi and Hirata Ichiro, climbs and sticks to surfaces with the help of air compression suction. It connects with a safety cable that houses a power cord and communication cable. Attachments are added to clean, paint, carry tools and take pictures, thereby making it rat on itself should it do a lousy job.
Let Bomo Mind the Baby
New moms and dads, rejoice. There is a new baby carriage in town. Bomo acts as an adjustable swing (moving horizontally,) a comfortable chair and best of all will maneuver through a room while dodging obstacles. The Korean carriage from BMGK Co., Ltd. can be controlled either manually or automatically and has a battery life of 6 hours with a 3 hour charge. Recommended for indoors only, the device has an anti-biotic, anti-odor cover that can be removed for cleaning. Bomo can be yours for $780.00, a bit pricey, but well worth it for any frustrated parent.
June 10, 2009
Three Robots For Toddlers
We noticed this week that there are robots for your youngest family members. The Neopet Series 6 Keyquest Virtual Prize Plush-Robot Kacheek is recommended for ages 4 and up. The Manhattan Toy Beep Bots Robo may not be quite as soft but we dig the personality and the fact that it is surface washable. This Robot Basket was intended for Easter, but we think it would be a nifty container for a kidlet's other small toys. At a size of 7.5 x 8 x 8", it comes in blue.
Via Plush Robots
June 9, 2009
ROBOTOPS Construction Crane
ROBOTOPS, built by the Japanese company Tadano Ltd., has been designed to work in construction sites or disaster areas. The bot is an automated crane that has a 3-chip CCD camera, remote control and 29 functional joints for picking up rocks, wood or other additional material, not to mention any wayward humans. Not out in public yet, the company plans to sell them ASAP. If you see one, run the other way.
Milo, the AI of Xbox 360
At the recent E3 Video Game Conference, Peter Molyneux introduced Milo. This AI reacts with real people and will be featured in future Xbox 360 Games. He works with Microsoft's Project Natal, a full body controller. The demo certainly looks good, but we are not sure we are ready to relegate that kind of power to a video game.
Via Live Science
June 8, 2009
R2-D2 Quadruplets Attend Maker Faire
The Bay Area R2 Builders spent about $10,000 and 2 years to construct 4 fully functional R2-D2s. Displayed at the recent Maker Faire, clink on the link to check out how they did it and what reaction they received when they were unleashed.
DustBot Takes Out the Trash
Shades of Wall-E! A group of European scientists got together to design and develop the DustBot over the past 3 years to help clean up narrow streets. Have a bag of trash? Summon one and he will come to take your refuse away, hopefully to a place that will either recycle or turn it back into the earth. They also monitor pollutant levels with onboard sensors. It pretty much resembles a glorified Segway but hey, anything that cleans up is okay in our book. Turn a few loose on the streets of NY and the residents will probably yell, Huzzah!"
June 5, 2009
Must Have: Drink up With Robotic Water Bottles
What better gift for the health food freak that always carries her/his own water bottle? Choose between Globally Cute's Stainless Steel, the Blue Aluminum or the Supermom Aluminum style.
Robotically inclined kids will dig Bilt Vite's Stainless Steel, 3d Rose's Kids Stuff or SIGG's Space Robot bottle.
Via Robot Water Bottles
MIT To Apply Robotic Theraphy to Kids With CP
A group of MIT engineers are working on robotic therapy that they feel can "help reduce impairment and facilitate neuro-development of youngsters with cerebral palsy." The team's robot collection of shoulder-and-elbow, wrist, hand and ankle robots have been in trial for over 15 years in stroke victims and say that the same principal can be applied to those with CP to help rebuild brain connections.
June 4, 2009
US Army to Spawn Petman
There is always a new move from DARPA and the military when it comes to robotics. This time it is Petman, a humanoid that can stand and walk and react like a human. The Army, who claims Petman is BigDog's big brother, will be using him to test chemical protection clothing. When an agent is released the robot simulates human responses within the suit such as sweating, temperature control and humidity. The robosoldier should be ready by 2011. Maybe by that time, he won't be necessary.
Via Gizmo Watch
Robot Fight iPhone App
We know you got an iPhone just for apps like this. Robot Fight is your basic Rock 'Em Sock 'Em game that you can play with a buddy. You only need one phone to see which of you can punch the fastest. Get the battling bots at Apple's App store.
Via iPhone Application List
June 3, 2009
Nurse Kobian, the Emotional Bot
Waseda University researchers have created Kobian, a Kyushu based robot that can express emotions. The bot can walk around, is aware of its environment and can perform tasks. He can show seven different feelings such as surprise, sadness and dislike and poses to match the mood as well as moving his facial features. The team claims that its expressiveness makes for better interaction and they may put him to work in nursing.
Ray Kurzweil, The First to Merge With Robots?
Ray Kurzweil, inventor, author and computer scientist, considers himself a futurist. He says that computer intelligence is progressing at such a rapid rate that soon they will be as intelligent as we are.
Kurzweil also is into what he refers to as "The Singularity," the next leap to humankind. He believes that people will merge with technology somewhere around 2045 and is trying to "reprogram" his body with a strict diet and 150 supplements so that he will be ready to accept microscopic nanobots. We are not sure we would agree with all that he says, still it might be worthwhile to check out some of his books to be on the safe side.
Via Newsweek and Ray Kurzweil books
June 2, 2009
Transformer Netbook Hub
Is there no end to new Transformer gadgets? Apparently not, as we found this Qosmio Netbook-looking 4-port USB 2.0 hub. The hub has a phony image of the Windows XP desktop on the display and is available in Japan for ¥3,980 (~$42.00.) We expect it won't be too long before someone will actually come up with a real transforming laptop.
Via Amiami (translated)
Shigeo Hirose's Robot Recues Earthquake Victims
Professor Shigeo Hirose, who won the prestigious Engelberger Robotics Award, is working on a robot at the Tokyo Institute of Technology that can help rescue earthquake survivors. The BBC recently checked that out as well as some of Hirose's other slinking, walking and crawling creations.
June 1, 2009
iRobot Applies for Patent
iRobot applied for a patent in November of 2008 that, if they decided to actually make it, would give their Roomba a new look. The company says in its application, "The robot has a rectangular front form factor that facilitates cleaning along wall edges or in corners." Whether or not it comes to fruition remains to be seen. Maybe they should reverse the design, the way real street-cleaning vehicles are constructed.
Via Robot Stock News
Soldiers Bond With Robots
Defense analyst at the Brookings Institution Peter (aka P.W.) Singer recently wrote the book "Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century." In it he claims that soldiers tend to bond with robots such as Packbots and Talon robots. He says that some will risk their own lives for their bots and that some have given them promotions, Purple Hearts and military funerals. We thought all this sounded a bit farfetched until we saw him on the "Late Late Show" with Craig Ferguson last week.
Via P.W. Singer