August 31, 2009

Faceless Mannequins Strut Their Stuff


Japan's Flower Robotics has come up with mannequins that do a lot more than talking like the ones in Old Navy commercials. The full size Palette uses motion-capture technology to show off its fashion in a variety of poses when it suspects a human is near. Its "intelligent system" allows it to remember which poses the buyer liked best and so can duplicate them again. Both the full torso Palette and the smaller UT (upper torso) are available to rent starting at a cost of about $4,200.00.

Via Flower Robotics

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August 31, 2009

MIT Creates Robo-Fish

MIT engineers Kamal Youcef-Toumi and Pablo Valdivia Y Alvarado have created robotic fish to be used for monitoring pollution, pipelines and sunken ships. Each is less than 12", are autonomous and made with less then 10 parts. The polymer casing is flexible and makes them water resistant and low cost. The fish move with the help of a motor that starts a wave-like motion to push them forward. MIT has plans to create robotics manta rays and salamanders in the future, undoubtedly to keep their robofish company.


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August 28, 2009

Must Have: Panasonic's Evolta

We mentioned recently how the Evolta, Panasonic's battery mascot, broke the record at LeMans and now he has his own YouTube channel. You can see his performances as well as some behind-the-scenes footage. We can't wait until they decide to make them for the masses, although we understand they they are going to release some mini-cell phone straps in Japan for those who purchase the batteries.

Via Evolta YouTube Channel

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August 28, 2009

Robots Assist Autistic Children


When Nilanjan Sarkar's nephew was diagnosed with autism, he took what he had learned about robotics and physiological measurement (skin response, temperature, muscle response) and decided to apply it to kids with ASD. Teaming with Wendy Stone, they developed a robot that was not only sensitive to the kids' emotional state, but could be responsive to their needs. Working from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, they found that they became more positive when the computer was responsive. We call that one small step and a huge leap.

Via Vanderbilt University

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August 27, 2009

Robots Learn to Lie


We are not exactly sure why scientists want future robots to be more human, but every time we turn around we find someone who is doing just that. Engineers Sara Mitri and Dario Floreano, along with evolutionary biologist Laurent Keller programmed robots to find a "food source" ring located at one end of an arena. The other side had a ring that was "poisoned." Not only were the robots awarded points based on how much time they spent near either ring, they were taught to communicate with each other and lie to them about the position of the "good" food, because there was only so much room for them to feed.

This is quite an extensive study, and definitely worth a read if you are into the study of foraging and natural selection, but hey, robots don't eat, shouldn't lie, and should perhaps spend more time being buddies than adversaries.

Via Science Blogs

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UWE Professor Walking With Robot Fellowship


We often comment on how robots will take over the world when they become too powerful, but we make them in jest. We know that robots are machines run like computers on GIGO (garbage in, garbage out.) So we found it more than amusing when we heard that Alan Winfield of the University of the West of England was given a fellowship to further his research on his Walking with Robots project that teaches kids not to be afraid of them by building their own.

Stay with us here. Professor Winfield claims,

"Some fictional views of the future paint a very bleak picture of what could happen with intelligent robots, but equally robots could change the world for the better. The point is that we have a choice. The future is too important to be allowed to just happen - instead we and our children must own it."

How about we start out by giving our kids credit to know that a fairy tale is just that?

Via Walking With Robots

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August 26, 2009

iRobot Develops Warrior 700


iRobot is working on a larger and more talented version of its PackBot. The Warrior 700 can actually carry a PackBot and, when standing, can deliver one through a window. Should it trip and fall, it can get itself upright and go on with its robotic duties. Here's hoping that the Warrior doesn't trip and fall on its way to its evil spy missions.

Via iRobot

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Wanda the Whale Cleans Your Pool


Wanda the Whale does more than keep your kids amused in the pool. She has a SmartDrive programmed steering system and acts as a main drain by pulling water from the bottom as she moves along. Installation takes less than 10 minutes without tools and no additional booster pump is needed. Hayward promises that Wanda's turbine/gearing system makes for a quieter operation. Additional filters are also available.

Via Wanda the Whale Pool Cleaner

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August 25, 2009

Drones, Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid


We were watching an episode of "60 Minutes" recently that seemed very jazzed to visit Creech Air Force Base and show us all how their drones are used to destroy the "bad guys." They were very proud to show how a silent Predator could stay up for 24 hours pursuing its "prey" while, back in Nevada, the trigger is pulled when the "pilot" is sure that its 500 lb. laser guided bomb has found its target. When one of the pilots was asked if he felt that flying a drone was similar to playing a video game, he responded that there was no reset button.

Via CBS News

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BowGo, Super Pogo Power


Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute has developed a pogo stick that bounces higher, farther and more efficiently than the ones out now. BowGo is a variation on the Bow Leg that is being developed for running robots. The stick gets its ability to jump from a fiber-reinforced composite bow that uses up to 5 times the springiness as its steel counterpoint. They plan to debut their new toy in the next Pogopalooza held in Pittsburgh, but don't look for it to be on the market any time soon.


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August 24, 2009

Bum Bot and Rufus Terril Run for Office


We have heard about Rufus Terril and his Bum Bot, a somewhat glorified meat smoker designed to protect his bar and the surrounding neighborhood by its evil presence and water cannon. It turns out that Rufus is running for mayor in Atlanta and will appoint his robot Chief of Staff if he wins. Comments about puppets in politics, anyone?

Via Gadget Lab

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Robot Salt and Pepper Shakers


Feed your face with the Robot Salt and Pepper Shakers Set. Each stands 2.5 x 2 x 4" and uses magnets to keep itself together. They even come gift boxed so you can get a pair for your closest buds.

Via Robot Salt and Pepper Shakers

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August 21, 2009

Must Have: Create a Robotic Nursery


Mom and dads to be, pay attention. Ya gotta love a designer that carefully coordinates your baby's first room with robots. Sumersault's Robots Bedding Collection is unisex in red, blue and green and is made of 100% cotton. The Robots Wallhanging is a set of 3 squares, each 11 x 12". The Valance (short curtain for us common folk) have three baby bots and measures 11.3" x 8.1" x 0.8".


The Decorative Cushion (pillow) is 11.4 x 11.1 x 4.5" and don't forget the Diaper Stacker.

Via Sumersault Bedding

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Guardian Robot Tweets

Ken Lim obviously loves to tweet but just didn't have all the time for it he wanted. So he built the Guardian Robot for the chore. When the bot gets a positive tweet, he raises his head and arm and holds it until he gets a high five (hitting a switch.) A negative tweet results in a head lowering. Give it a hug and it forwards a reply. GR cost Ken about £60 (~$99.00) and you can follow him on his Twitter account. Send him a "#high five" or "#ineedahug" if you don't feel too foolish.

Via Guardian

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August 20, 2009

Share Your Tunes With Splitterbot


Splitterbot is not only a cutesy bot, it doubles as a headphone splitter. Decapitate him to find the audio in jack and poke two pairs of earbuds into his eyes. While this may sound a bit sadistic we have to remember that even the most endearing robots were made for a reason. Get yours for $19.60.

Via Tesora

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Build-a-Robot Online Game


We know that we have too much time on our hands, but we found a clever little game that allows you to build your own robot, online at least. Using your mouse, you can customize until you are happy with your creation and can then share on As simple as the game is, put the eyes on last as they follow you around the screen like those nasty puppies pictures.

Via Build-a-Robot

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August 19, 2009

KITRO is Ecologically Friendly

Yura Sugiura, a student at Keio University's Graduate School of Media and Design, decided to build a bot that is eco friendly. The 200mm KITRO is certainly people oriented and weighs in at 450g, including his batteries. Made of 90% wood, he is partially named for the Japanese word for wood which is "ki."

Via Robots Dreams

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Cyborg Skull - Smoke and Die


This is the gift to give if you want someone to stop smoking as it is sort of an odd cause and effect reminder. The wicked-looking Cyborg Skull has the functionality of an ashtray. At a size of 7 x 8 1/2 x 6", the skull is made of cold cast resin. Part of it has a bone finish while the rest is covered in metallic silver paint.

Via Cyborg Skull

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August 18, 2009

Jin Sato Creates Inexpensive DIY Kit

Jin Sato, JS-Robotics' founder, was asked to develop a robot kit by educators for those who could not afford much or had limited resources. He came up with one that can be programmed without a computer. It runs on an inexpensive cell phone vibrator, has tooth brush heads instead of wheels and programming that allows it to sense pencil marks on a page. It can follow a line and play robot sumo, among other capabilities.

Via JS-Robotics

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Himawari Interacts With The Hand


Himawari, Japanese for sunflower, is a creation of Akira Nakayasu of Kyushu University and is on display at Robosquare in Fukuoka. With 48 white LED placed in its head and a camera to capture movement, instead of seeking out the sun, the robotic flower follows a hand and has the assistance of 80 actuators that move other parts of the flower as well. Nakayasu says it seeks that hand the way a real flower seeks sunshine. We see it as sort of a glorified iFlower.

Via Ander

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August 17, 2009

Army Wants More PackBots


iRobot Corp. says it was given a $5.1 million order from the U.S. Army, making this the 11th as part of its $286 million xBot contract. They will be supplying them with 14 more PackBots and spare parts, to be used in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Via Forbes

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Indonesian Students Break Bot Assembly Record


Last Saturday, Indonesia celebrated its Independence Day by breaking a robot-assembling record. While that country is not noted for its robotics, 550 primary school students of the Penabur Christian Educational Foundation (the BPK Penabur) met at Ciputra Mall to do just that. In order to qualify, each robot had to run on "s"-shaped tracks. We wonder if they celebrated with pizza and root beer after the event.

Via The Jakarta Post

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August 14, 2009

Must Have: Slobots


We dig Slobots so much that we had to find out more about them. We got in touch with their creator, Mike Slobot (aka Heisler.) Needless to say we found them all so endearing that they earned our Must Have this week.

Tell us the truth, is Slobot your real name? How did you come up with that particular name?

Of course its my real name :) - Actually, the moniker "Slobot" was added to my real name, which is Mike, when I started making my robot sculptures. It just seemed appropriate as when I would send out my Slobots, invariably I would see Mike and Slobot together and it stuck.

How long have you been involved in robotic sculpturing?

I sculpted my first Slobots in 2004. The first Slobot was nothing like the current crop, being mostly paper mache, but the spirit was there. After that first one I started collecting bits and pieces of stuff and making new ones. It has definitely become something of an obsession.

You also paint them?

Yes, I paint with oil, acrylic, and also pastels. I have been painting for most of my life, being mostly an abstract painter fascinated with color and especially with the process of putting paint on canvas. Lately, about 90% of my creative output is focused on the Slobots.

What was your inspiration?


My wife asked for the first drawing. I remember looking at the drawing and thinking that I should sculpt one of those, so I dug around the house for parts and made it. Compared with the way they look now, it was very primitive, but it has a special place in my heart, so I keep it around.

Your bots look so friendly for the most part. We are not so sure about Slofoot.


The Slobots are all friendly, including Slofoot. I don't subscribe to the notion that robots have to take over the world and enslave all of mankind. I think we can all get along. Slofoot would never really hurt anyone, but he was definitely created to be protective of his trees.

Your SLOMiCRO-02 bears a striking resemblance to Elmo.


Hmm, Elmo. That's funny. I have had several questions about why he didn't need arms, but that's the first one about looking like Elmo!

Each Slobot seems to have its own personality and story. Where does that come from?

It really just seemed natural to give them stories and a life of their own. Most of the time the story comes to me as I am making the Slobot, almost as if he or she is telling me about themselves as I make them. A lot of their stories are centered on very human emotions and experiences, loss of jobs, searching for meaning, love.

Which is your favorite?


I think my favorite usually becomes the most recent one I have worked on. It seems like each time I make a new one, I learn something new or the slobot reflects something that I am feeling at the time. All in all, though, if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Sloqee7b. He has four arms, a big LED light in his head, and I think the shape of his head is really cool.

What kind of materials do you use in your work?

I use lots of different things in the creation of a slobot, but may favorite by far is plastic. I try and take items that don't seem particularly robotic, like plastic cups, and use them to build a robot.

Tell us about the Munny.


There have actually been 7 "Slomunnys" of various styles over a couple of years. I just did a post gathering most of them together for the first time on my blog. The most famous so far has been "Slomunnyv3". It made the rounds on the Net, at one site being called a "post-apocalyptic cyborg lemon." The base figure is a Kidrobot Munny, but I heavily modify it, add legs and extend the arms, so that it hardly looks like the a Munny anymore. There is a chance to purchase a custom made Slobot Munny in my Etsy Shop. It is a one-of-a-kind, made to order Slobot.

We understand that you were involved in the Stitch Experiment 626 project at this year's San Diego Comic Con.


Yes, I did a custom for the SDCC leg of the show. Quite a few artists were given a blank Stitch figure from the Lilo and Stitch franchise and asked to customize it in their own style. I pulled the ears off, cut off the arms and legs, and added my Slobot touches. I really like the way it turned out. I didn't get to go out to SDCC this year, but I saw some pics from the show, and I think he really stood out.

Do you have any future showings coming up?


Yes, there are 3 shows on the books over the next few months. The first starts off in Turkey at Milk and then travels around Europe. Everyone was given a base figure to customize in their own style called a "Robolucha". There is a show opening in Charleston, WV, USA on August 20. Info for that one can be found here, and I will also be participating in Toy Karma 2, a show centered on Japanese Toys and their influences on art. That opens September 5 at Rotofugi in Chicago. More info on the show is available at Max Toy. Also coming up next year in Japan is the Kaiju Comrades show. That one is in February 2010 and I am really excited about it. Robots are huge in Japan and that will be the Slobots' first trip to Japan.

How can someone get his or her own Slobot?

Custom and pre-made Slobots can be purchased on my Website and in my Etsy shop. I can custom make a Slobot out of pretty much anything, and am open to commissions. Just drop me a line and we can work something out.

How can people get in touch with you?

The best way to reach me is via my website.

Thanks for the time Mike, and good luck making your Slobots as famous as ASIMO!

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Yummy! Robot B-9 PEZ Dispenser


Who doesn't love giant robots? Who doesn't love PEZ? Put them both together and you get the Giant PEZ Robot B-9. The 12" tall robot from "Lost in Space" comes with 12 packages of candy and will be your best friend when you need a quick sugar high.

Via Giant PEZ Robot B-9

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August 13, 2009

ASIMO Learns Navigation

Part of the charm of ASIMO is lost once you know that he is still being guided by someone behind the red curtain, but he continues to make headway in the intelligence department. He can now navigate around objects in his path thanks to researchers at Carnegie Mellon. The system uses algorithms and a camera that views both hazards and robot. We expect that eventually every family will have its own ASIMO once he reaches that totally independent stage.


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Cornell's Nova Wins AUVSI Competition


Cornell has won this year's AUVSI Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition. Nova went through the entire course autonomously by going through the validation gate, following pipes, hitting a buoy, going under a wire, firing torpedoes, and surfacing with a carried briefcase in the recovery zone. We are exhausted just listening to the description. The 12th annual competition winners are already envisioning their entry for 2010.


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August 12, 2009

Cybraphon Literally Feels the Music


It is not a proper robot per se, but Cybraphon is a musical cabinet that cares. Three UK artists built the autonomous emotional robot band that houses a Shruti box, chimes, cymbals, other percussion instruments and a record player. Connected to the Interweb, it monitors its popularity on Facebook and can readjust its music based on that and mood. Check out its tunes on Facebook and if you like what you hear, there are plans in to works to release actual albums by the furniture/robot.

Via Cybraphon

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Enter X Prize Moonbots Challenge


Get serious with your Lego Mindstorms and enter the Google Lunar X PRIZE Challenge dubbed MoonBots. Both adults and kids (with a leader 18 or older) can form teams of 6 to design, program and construct bots that can perform simulated lunar missions. The purpose of the contest is to inspire and develop the "builders of tomorrow." There is no charge to enter and more details will become available in the near future.

Via MoonBots

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August 11, 2009

iCub Learns a New Trick

The 5 year project RobotCub, funded by the European Commission, is a work in progress. The purpose is to study cognition in an open source platform and they are hoping to share the knowledge and work with other humanoid creators. Not only does the iCub, designed to resemble a 3 1/2 year old, play the drums, he has learned to recognize objects a second time once he sees them.

Via RobotCub

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Sony Partyshot Turns Your Cam Into a Bot


Now there is a robot for your camera. If you purchase a Sony Cybershot TX1 or WX1, you can also opt for the Partyshot. The mount, which is controlled by the camera, pans, tilts and zooms, has face detection and will snap photos automatically while you and your buds party on. Sony claims that it works by using the rule-of-thirds which can't be any more difficult than pictures shot by an inebriated host. The Partyshot and cams are available for pre-order now.

Via I4U

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August 10, 2009

CIA Drone Takes Out Mehsud


Last week, one of the CIA's drones was apparently responsible for the death of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud when it fired two Hellfire missiles at a farmhouse where he and his wife were staying, moving us one up on the evil terrorists. Meanwhile, on a recent "Meet the Press," Pakistani president Asif Ali Zadari mentioned that he wanted his own killer drones. And the remote control war continues.

Via Guardian

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FuA-Men Restaurant Serves and Entertains

The FuA-Men (Fully Automated raMen) Restaurant in Nagoya, Japan has a chef and assistant that not only create 80 bowls of ramen a day, but entertain in a manzi stand-up comedy play during the customers dining experience. They also spin dishes and perform mock duels. The shop sells a regular noodle bowl with a pork broth-based soup for about $7.00 which is made in about a minute and forty seconds. Although it has yet to make a profit, diners note that they cannot tell the difference.

Via Technovelgy

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August 7, 2009

Must Have: Two Robots to Help Beat the Heat


Those fortunate enough to be in an area where the sun is shining and the ocean beckons should take advantage of it and show the robot love with the Transformer Towel. Made of 100% cotton, it is 30 x 60" and fiber reactive.


And while you are lazing by the pool remember to include your RC Cooler. Recently reduced in price, it holds up to 12 brews and works both indoors and out with a 30 ft. range. When you finished the partying, the cooler collapses for storing.

Via Coolers

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Drunken Robots Party On

Since he figured he was too old and big to get away with it, Steve Hoefer decided to make Drunken Robots that could do it for him. Each is 3/4' tall and made of a pager motor, a watch battery and some tin. Check out his plans on Instructables if you would like your own drunken robot party.

Via Steve Hoefer

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August 6, 2009

Markku Lahdesmaki Robot Photographs


Finnish photographer Markku Lahdesmaki obviously digs bots as much as we do and has some incredible work on display in the Canvas Boutique and Gallery. You can purchase his art from the gallery at prices beginnng at $1,850.00.

Via Canvas Boutique and Gallery

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An9-PR, at a Mall Near You


Sohgo Security Services in Japan has a new bot. An9-PR has a 19" touch panel LCD monitor, 2 12" LCD monitors in the back and an electric bulletin board on top. He can provide both shop info and coupons to cell phones that have FeliCaHe and, with his camera, has face recognition and will approach perhaps unwilling shoppers. (It's kind of like when you don't want the team's mascot to notice you.) At least he has a sponge-like chassis so if he runs into you, it will be minimal anguish.

The service/security robot will be placed in shopping centers and other public places as a guide and can run for an hour at about 1km/h before automatically returning to his charger. An9-PR doesn't come cheaply and will cost ¥10,436,000 (~$109,587.00), with an additional ¥3.9 million for five years of maintenance costs.

Via Tech-On

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August 5, 2009

Kondo + iPhone = Robochan

When you have all the basics of your iPhone down, why not turn it into a robot? After creating an app, "ogutti's" Robochan is a combination of a Kondo KHR-2HV humanoid and an iPhone 3GS head. He can be programmed to dance or to make other moves. While we find his demeanor enchanting, we are not sure about the leek-spinning dance music used in the demo.

Via Pink Tentacle

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Dr. Ronald Arkin Interviewed on Robot Warrior Behavior


We told you a while back about Dr. Ronald Arkin's book "Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots" and his rules for engaging them in war, his main premise being that "intelligent robots can behave more ethically in the battlefield than humans currently can."

He was interviewed in h+ magazine recently and more of his ideas, an updating of Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics which includes:

    1. Engage and neutralize targets as combatants according to the ROE.
    2. Return fire with fire proportionately.
    3. Minimize collateral damage -- intentionally minimize harm to noncombatants.
    4. If uncertain, invoke tactical maneuvers to reassess combatant status.
    5. Recognize surrender and hold POW until captured by human forces.

You can read the entire interview at h+.

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August 4, 2009

Moon Publicity Strives to Plaster Moon With Ads

This idea is wrong in so many ways. Moon Publicity wants to utilize robots to create ridges in lunar dust on the moon and then use Shadow Shaping technology to form logos, domain names or other advertising. Claiming to have a patent on this technology, the company has gone as far as selecting areas for prospective buyers to choose from. Their spiel reeks of strange, anti-environmental greed, don't you think?

"Creating images on the Moon provides a commercial incentive for turbo charging space travel technology. Shadows are only the beginning. These advancements will eventually place robots on other worlds building space stations and planting crops."

Via Moon Publicity

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Giant Gundam Suffers Injury


Bandai's Giant Odaiba Gundam has had such a heavy schedule of appearances (twice an hour, 16 hours a day) that he had to get some ACL reconstructive surgery. We think he looks rather classy with that cane.

Via 3Yen at Bandai Gundam

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August 3, 2009

Welfare Robots Donated for Rehab


Last June, KAIST's System Research Center gave some of their Human-friendly Welfare Robots to the National Rehab clinic. "Joy" is part of an automated bedroom that includes voice activated appliances. The clinic's director said at the donation ceremony that the gift will help the rehabilitation of its patients.

Via Plastic Pals

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Team of Robots Fight Chemical Fires

QinetiQ has developed a team of firefighting robots and recently gave a demonstration in London of the 4 putting out fires from industrial gas acetylene cylinders. Talon, who has done duty in Iraq, runs on tracks, can climb stairs and takes images with video and thermal cameras in tight spaces. Bison has grippers and cutting tools for accessing sites and directs a small jet of water on a cylinder. His camers let his users know if there is steam coming out, which indicates a danger. Black Max, a remote controlled 4 wheeled vehicle, puts out the fire with a hose while the industrial Brokk can pick up and move the cylinders with its claw. Qinetiq is hoping that the team can also be used for chemical spills or biological contamination.


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