November 30, 2009
Cyber Monday Rules!
The National Retail Federation reports that 46% of humans shop online Cyber Monday and that 87% of retailers are offering deals. Our Holiday Gift Guide is a great place to start as we have scoured the Interweb to save you a few bucks. eToys has something for every age and Amazon Cyber Monday extends Black Friday and makes it easy to shop.
November 27, 2009
Must Have: Erector Spykee
Wait long enough and the price of almost anything will come down. Erector's Spykee costs about 50% less than last year. He acts as surveillance, takes pictures and video, has sound effects, plays music and has an IR auto-parking recharging system. Compatible with Skype 3.0, he is equipped with a WiFi card for Internet access. In true Erector spirit, he can be constructed 3 different ways from the same set.
Via Erector Spykee
November 26, 2009
GeckoSystem Tests CareBots
GeckoSystems has begun in-home evaluation trials for their CareBot. They will be monitoring and reporting on the social interaction between the service bot and its care receiver. We are not sure who gets the first batch for testing, but hey Gecko, we could certainly use one around here if you have a spare.
Via Gecko Systems
November 25, 2009
Robot Cafe Serves Defense Bot Builders
IMTechnology's Robot Cafe System may be a better way enjoy a meal while avoiding the H1N1. The mini-robot, wearing a chef's hat, delivers coffee to the Korean diners. When they aren't busy creating cute bots, the company mainly concentrates on military defense bots.
November 25, 2009
Expliner Hits the High Wire
Tokyo company HiBot, working with Japan's Kansai Electric Power Co., has developed and is testing Expliner, a robot that can move on and inspect power lines. The bot can provide feedback while avoiding spacers and suspender clamps. It is powered by two SH2Tiny, one SH2 Controller, six boards TitechDriver ver.1 and one Mini2Axis. The company is hoping to release them on the public by next year.
November 24, 2009
Atlantis Utilizes Giant Arm
Atlantis successfully reached the ISS last week in one of the last of 6 projects from NASA. During its flight, four of the crew used a 50 ft. long robotic arm and orbiter boom sensor system to make sure the spacecraft wasn't injured during its flight.
Monica, the Multi-tasking Robot
Taiwan has created a robot that can be used as a receptionist, tour guide, doctor's aide and security guide. The 39.4", 132 lb. Monica films visitors then either recognizes them and lets them in or calls for a real security guard. Her sensory functions can alert doctors to patients who have fallen down and can't get up, and she can also be called upon to give directions. Monica is available to those who can afford the $12,500.00 price. Although we could not find an image of Monica, we pictured her looking a lot like the above image.
November 23, 2009
Robonica Launches New Gaming System Roboni-i
Robonica, a South Africa-based toy manufacturer, launched its new Roboni-i Action Game last week at California University in Pennsylvania. The programmable, 2 wheeled bot has 16 sensors. Users can program the robot and design games with its PC based Command Center software, then play alone or join an online community. The entire system comes packed with a bot, controller, gun, scoop, ball, "unihubs" and more. It carries a MSRP of $249.99.
MIT Building Robotic Cheetah
Sangbae Kim, a robotic designer and professor at the Biomimetic Robotics Lab at MIT, is trying to build a lightweight carbon-fiber-foam composite robotic cheetah. Kim is hoping that the robocat will be able to run at a speed of 35 mph, the same as its real life counterpart. Check out his site for previous projects Stickybot, Spinybot and iSprawl.
Via Trend Hunter
November 21, 2009
Robot Snob 2009 Holiday Gift Guide
We know that holiday shopping can be a major hassle, so we went all out to find robotic stuff to fit every budget. The good news is that almost every company has lowered their prices and when you shop online, tax and shipping charges are often non-existent. That being said, we present our 2009 Holiday Guide.
After building the Elenco Follow Me Robot, its 4 built-in microphones detect sounds and it will move towards them. For kids 12 and older, it needs no soldering and needs 4AA batteries (not included.) The Discovery Kids Biped EZ Robot kit has 15 pieces to assemble and a remote for those over 8.
Why get a usual Waldo when you can get a Darth Vader Robotic Arm? The snap together kit grips and holds objects, needs no batteries and includes a stand with built-in control. With the Rockit Robot kit, you can build one that has a touch sensor that learns not to run into walls, a sound sensor for responding to your voice and instructions with more than one project.
For serious robot builders, Trossen has some great deals. Their Phoenix Hexapod Kit is as state of the art as it can get with several walking gaits with omnidirectional translation and body rotation on all axis. The SumoBot Kit provides you with everything you need to become a competitor in the realm of Mini-Sumo tournaments.
Movies, including Blu-ray, are completely affordable these days. We can never get enough of the original "The Day the Earth Stood Still" with Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal, even better now that it comes in a 2-disc set. Younger generations will appreciate the 2008 version that stars Keanu Reeves.
Kids will also dig the effects in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Terminator fans, we haven't forgotten you. The Director's Cut of "Terminator Salvation", starring Christian Bale, will soon be out. And we never get enough of viewing "Wall-E".
Of course, no one can compete with iRobot when it comes to vacuums, and for the holidays they are offering special deals. In fact, this year we are putting one under our tree. Purchase a 400 series and get a free pet upgrade. A 500 series includes a brush pack and a 300 series Scuba will get you either cleaning solution or replenish kit. And, by the way, shipping is free with purchases over $59.00.
There is no way to compete with Schylling. We recommend the Small Lilliput, the High Wheel and our fave, the Chrome Planet Robot. This R2-D2 is part of the original figures from the first Star Wars and is a limited edition with its interlocking base and electronic beeps.
WowWee's Alive White Tiger Cub has realistic fur with sensors in his head and back to respond. He makes baby feline noises and works by remote. The company puts out a whole slew of robotic pets including their Mini Leopard Cub.
Also furry is Playskool's Stomper's Triceratops that we recently reviewed and personally adored. Playskool also puts out Monty T-Rex who not only moves and roars, he sneezes and plays tunes.
We had to include one of this year's hottest toys. Zhu Zhu Hamsters may replace Elmo. They chirp, zip across the floor and each has their own personality. Choose between Mr. Squiggles, Pipsqueek, Num Nums and Chunk. Try to remember at some point that your kid(s) will want the Go Go Funhouse and the Adventure Ball. (Hurry up when ordering these guys as they were featured on "Nightline," so you know they are going to sell out quickly.)
The FurReal Chocolate Lab Puppy can be a fun and worry free pet. And, although he has no fur, we had to include Interactive Wall-E.
The 10 1/4" Robbie the Robot Talking Alarm Clock says, "Wake Up Wake Up" as his chest moves, strobe lights go off and his antenna spins. Clocky will amuse kids or force your spouse/partner out of bed in the a.m. as he jumps from your nightstand up to 3 feet high.
The first robot designed for girls (and boys who like them,) Tekno's Sakura
tells fortunes, gives compliments and fashion tips, dances and answers "yes" and "no" questions. The macho XPV R.A.D. Robotic Air Defense flies as fast as 30 mph and up to 20 stories. It comes with rechargeable battery and includes repair kit.
Now that Toy Story has been re-released in 3D, you probably know someone who would love this electronic Buzz Lightyear. He talks, makes sound effects, his wings pop out and he can take anyone to infinity and beyond. Don't forget about Tribot, who is about half the price that he was last year.
The Unofficial Lego Mindstorms NXT Inventor's Guide (Paperback) will give any robotics freak fresh ideas. If history is more to his/her liking, Robot traces back AIs from their roots.
Wind-up Gort will walk even if you forget to say "Klaatu barada nikto." The Hog Wild Robot Calculator displays up to 8 digits and will be your best friend. His arms can hold pens, pencils and included nightlight, while his magnetic back holds paper clips.
We already told you about Chuck, the talking truck, and it seems that Tonka has an entire series of his pals (a couple of them a bit over $20.00.) Choose from Rowdy, the GarbageTruck, with spinning wheels, Boomer, the Fire Truck, who has lights and makes noise, and Handy, the Tow Truck, that can fetch the other three should they get lost. They may not respond like Chuck, but they are just as cute and colorful.
The 9" Mini-Femisapien runs on batteries, is posable and trots around the room. We didn't realize that Shrinky Dinks were still around until we found these robotic ones.
Nerds will love the fact that Olive Kids customized their Robot Bookmark. Remember to include a Kikkerland Cranky Desk Toy on your list for any friends who are stuck in cubicles all day.
Stocking Stuffers Under $5.00
Dover's Create Your Own Robot Sticker Activity Book would make a great stocking stuffer. Wind-up Volt is about 2" tall and can repair your other robots. The Cool Robot Note Pad measures 5 x 6" and has 50 sheets per pad.
The Mini Robopanda is only 7.5" but is tall enough to have poseable head and legs and blinking LED eyes. Wear your robot on your
sleeve jacket or shirt with an Iron On C3PO.
We cannot imagine any kid (or adult) wouldn't love a LEGO Mindstorm this year, especially since the NXT 2.0 was released. For the princess (or Prince) in your life, think Butterscotch the Pony that moves her head, blinks, wags her tail and responds to humans.
Dino freaks will prefer the roaring, laughing and movements of the 3 ft. tall
Kota and Pleo has been newly reborn. Tomy's I-SOBOT is half the price that it was last year.
Last but not least, don't forget the batteries! This should be your year to go eneloop. We have been using them for 2 years now in various small electronics and they are still going strong.
November 20, 2009
Must Have: WowWee Roborover
WowWee's Roborover may look a little strange but speaks up to 5 minutes of content, including letting you know that he has fallen and can't get up. He also plays driving-based games and either avoids or runs over obstacles. The 9.1 x 10.6 x 14.5" RR comes with a remote to send him where you want him to go.
Carl, the Roborat
UC Irvine Scientist Jeffrey Krichmar and former Hollywood animatronics engineer Brian Cox have teamed with UC San Diego to produce CARL with a computerized rodent brain. The programming is based on the brains of real rats and was designed to analyze how they interact when learning through a "biologically plausible nervous system." Put in situations where they have to adapt, the team is hoping that this will bring a better understanding of human behavior and robots that will need decision making skills.
November 19, 2009
Music Tank Follows Tunefully
Mint Robot #3: Music Tank was inspired by Caterpiller's tractor tread movements. Remote controlled, it will follow its human around by playing music. The musical bot runs via a WiFi handheld or PC with a 2D map. A USB port allows for charging or loading tunes into the the prototype. Add more Tanks and get different instruments or vocals, turning it into a veritable surround sound robot.
Via Mint Pass
Mr. Wake Rouses Sleepers
Take Clocky one step further and you end up with Mr. Wake. "isotope" created this robot that gets you up and then runs for the hills, or at least the next room. His Basic V2.0 contest entry took him about 18 hours to build at a cost of about $80.00 and is still a work in progress.
Via Let's Make Robots
November 18, 2009
Tango No Threat to Roomba
Samsung's newest generation Tango has been loaded with 13 sensors, an improved gyro sensor, a camera, better brushes and a crash avoiding sensor. Looks pretty complicated, but we need not worry as the robotic vacuum is available only in Korea.
Via Akihabara News
"Beyond AI" Sees Robot Takeover as a Good Thing
While many see a robotic takeover as a bad thing, Dr. J. Storrs Hall, head of the Foresight Institute, sees it as a plus. The molecular nanotechnology expert has outlined 4 classes of them in "Beyond AI", here with fake species names.
- Robo insectis: rote, mechanical gadgets (or thinkers) with hand-coded skills, such as Roomba or industrial robots or automated call-center systems or dictation programs.
- Robo habilis: Rosie the housemaid robot level intelligence, able to handle service level jobs in the real world but not a rocket scientist.
- Robo sapiens: up to and including rocket scientists, AI researchers, corporate executives, any human capability.
- Robo googolis: a collection of top R. sapiens wired together in a box running at accelerated speed, equivalent to, say, Google (the company and the search engine together.)
We are all for his hypohumans, diahumans, epihumans, and hyperhumans, even if the names are difficult to pronounce. You can read more of his thoughts on his site.
Via Foresight Institute
November 17, 2009
R-O-B Heads to the Big Apple
Last week, R-O-B, a bricklaying robot from Swiss architects Gramazio & Kohler of Zurich's ETH Faculty of Architecture, came to New York City. It will be constructing a wall with more than 7,000 bricks in an infinity loop. Head over to Pike Street if you would like to view the ambitious project which will be on display until January 2010.
AWE Adjusts to its User
Clemson University's School of Architecture has been working on a robotic wall. The AWE (Animated Workplace Environment) rearranges to fit its users needs with eight degrees of freedom. With a touchscreen display and powered by motors, 6 configurations are offered when someone makes a move towards its motion sensors.
November 16, 2009
Life Looks at Robot History
Take a peek at Life's collection of "trippy space-age toy art." There are 32 images of early bot posters. We have certainly come a long way in robotics, eh?
Strike With 900 Bowling Ball
When those around you are scoring bigtime and you keep throwing out those gutter balls, whip out your 900 Global Bowling Ball and show 'em who is the man. The remote controlled ball has an internal weight on a threaded shaft inside it and it was designed for kidlets and those with physical limitations. Pulling this one off will cost you $1,500.00.
Via Popular Mechanics
November 13, 2009
Must Have: RC Bump N Chuck Bumper Cars
Next time you get bored in your cubicle, pop out your Kid Galaxy RC Bump N Chuck Bumper Cars and let the RC fun commence. Hit the other driver and he ejects amid sounds of pain, we assume. The cars have working fans on the back to enhance the effect. At a size of 4 x 4 x 6", these bumper cars won an award for their originality and are recommended for those over the age of 3.
Via RC Bump N Chuck Bumper Cars
Takahashi Masakazu Papercraft Robots
Takahashi Masakazu is either an artistic genius or has too much time on his hands, or both. His papercraft is amazing as evidenced by this distant cousin of R2-D2. Check out his site that features buildings, insects, animals and airplanes.
Via Craziest Gadgets
November 12, 2009
Toyota Robot Designed for the Infirm
Toyota's latest solution in robotics is the Delivery Robot, geared towards the elderly and disabled. The one-armed bot responds with speech recognition, laser range finder and stereo cameras to perform some of the more banal tasks like opening a door, taking out trash or cleaning up. Just don't ask it to open that child-proof pill bottle.
Attack with Maxus Draganoid
Tired of Transformers? A combination of 1 Bakugan and 6 Bakugan Traps combine to make a Maxus Draganoid. The collection consists of Grakas Hound, Dark Hound, Grafias, Brachium, Spitarm, SpyderFencer and Neo Dragonoid and they can also be used in the game itself.
November 11, 2009
Cyborg Astrobiologists to Tend Mars?
Patrick McGuire, a University of Chicago geoscientist, believes that "cyborg astrobiologists" could be sent into space where no human has gone before. His team uses a Hopfield neural network to compare data found on other planets. At this point, the wearable AI system with digital eyes can already identify lichen from rock by color, but McGuire has future plans to be able to differentiate texture. Since this may not make to Mars any time soon, the cyborgs could be used on Earth for a while to identify materials that may have come from beyond and landed on our mere planet.
Brush Robot Helps Clean Up
The folks who brought you the Robot Duck have now decided that robots can be useful as well. Toysmith's Brush Robot, at a size of 6.5 x 9.4 x 2.4", helps you clean up mini messes while ogling you with a curious stare not unlike the money you could be saving if you switched to Geico. The kit comes with wooden and paint brushes, motor, battery case with wires, eyes and miscellaneous parts.
Via Toysmith DIY
November 10, 2009
Rubik's Cube Comes in Transformer Style
We are not sure why there is a seemingly never ending succession of Rubik's Cubes. We only know that the Transformers have been seen hanging out on one. The Transformers Allspark Rubiks Cube doesn't need a robot to solve it, but it would probably help.
Via Entertainment Earth
Bad Robot, Coming Soon to a Theater Near You
Ruairi Robinson, producer of "The Silent City", "Breakfast on Pluto" and other filmstuff, has come up with a new one. The Academy Award nominated director is currently in post-production on "Bad Robot," after being filmed in LA. Aside from this quick peek and the fact that it is billed as comedic sci-fi, not much else is known. We did happen to catch a glimpse of an accompanying poster that seems to label it a cross between Chucky and Sonny from "i,Robot."
Via Quiet Earth
November 9, 2009
Licensed R2 Q5 USB Hub
Looking around for a new USB hub? The licensed R2 Q5 has 4 ports, connects to your PC and when plugged in, does the usual eye flashing, head spinning and noise making. Compatible with both Windows and Mac, the 5.9" droid comes with a $127.00 price tag.
Via Japan Trend Shop
MSU Swims With the Fishes
More robotic fish are in the news as Xiaobo Tan and Elena Litchman of Michigan State University have gotten funding to research their patrolling bots. A 9" yellow perch prototype is already swimming in Tan's tank. The finished product will have sensors to record temperature, oxygen content, pollutants and algae. Litchman claims, "It will bring environmental monitoring to a whole new level." Yeah, unless a robotic shark has the munchies.
November 6, 2009
Must Haves: Hasbro Newborns and Playskool Stompers
It is with large amounts of glee that we played with the two robotic pets from Hasbro and Playskool sent to us by Litzky PR .
Hasbro's FurReal Chipmunk is almost real enough to freak out our cats, who spend endless days watching squirrels from windows. The Newborn chirps and threatens vocally while wagging its tale and moving up and down. We gave it the pats on the back to get it to go through its paces and we swear that it decided to move a bit on its own although it does not claim to be voice activated. Designed for kids ages 4 years and older, it comes with its own adoption certificate and bottle.
By the way, one cat wouldn't come in the room. Obviously, the other one was clearly unimpressed, but then he is rather mellow 90% of the time. Hasbro has other Newborns, such as a Guinea Pig, Piglet and Lamb.
I really loved Playskool's Stomper Triceratops . For kids 3 and up, this little dinobot is really soft and when you pet him, he moves his head and mouth when he roars. It becomes pretty obvious why they named him a Stomper. This guy one pretty much scared away both cats at first until I quit making him perform.
Playskool has other Stompers, like their Hatchling T-Rex and Stegosaurus that are also soft to the touch. Each one comes with a discovery sheet with facts and batteries. When your kids beg you for a puppy, we suggest substituting one of the above as an alternative. No house breaking, no chewing shoes, and no pet food expense. Besides, your real pets will find them nonthreatening after a first or second encounter.
AIDA Talks You Through Traffic
MIT, in conjunction with their SENSEable City Lab and Volkswagen Group of America's Electronics Research Lab, has decided to make GPS user-friendly with the The Affective Intelligent Driving Agent, a head with an articulated neck that mounts on the dashboard. AIDA can smile, look sad, wink, and learns your routes to help you on your way. It also records data concerning events and traffic and will help you route around the obstacles. AIDA will even tell you that you need gas.
We are all for making our commutes easier, but we hope this idea will not be so distracting that when observing the travelbot it blurts out, "Hey, watch out for that tree!"
November 5, 2009
Ibn Sina to Unite Physical and Virtual World
Named after a Persian physician and philosopher from 1000 years ago, Ibn Sina is the first Arabic speaking humanoid bot. He is being developed at the IRML (Interactive Robots and Media Lab) of the United Arab Emirates University. His vocal engine, dubbed Nizar, was built by the French company Acapela.
The center claims that its ultimate mission is "to achieve harmonious and mutually beneficial co-existence (symbiosis) between the natural (humans), the artificial (robots), and the virtual (virtual agents), and to support seamless integration between the physical and virtual worlds."
Robots Go Plushy
This is a robot you really have to (g)love, the Manhattan Toy Robotos Pink Hand Puppet. Wear it to communicate with your fave toddler, let them play with it to find an alternative to eating their vegetables or simply give it as a gift for those who want to sing along with Craig Fergusen.
The company has other plushy robots as well, such as Beep Bops Twir , Tron and Robo.
Via Manhattan Toys
November 4, 2009
VAIL and Stanford Devise Autonomous Parking
The new Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Laboratory (VAIL) has teamed with Stanford to create an autonomous parking system. It consists of front radar, a camera mounted on the rear view mirror and two LIDAR units on the sides. Tell your car to park itself and it obeys your orders and when you want to leave, ask it to return. The plan here is to work on a two button system but unfortunately for us all, the car can't yet detect obstacles such as trees, lamp posts and real valets.
Via Singularity Hub
Pleo Resurrection Continues
Robert Oschler at RobotsRule recently interviewed Derek Dotson, one of Ugobe's founders, on the tragic story of Pleo's demise. The good news is that the robotic dinosaur is back this year with these improvements:
* The problem with neck wires breaking which affected some Pleos has been fixed.
* The problem of the skin separating has been fixed.
* The premature wearing of the paint from Pleo's skin and teeth has been fixed. The new paint should last 3 times longer than the old one.
* The packaging Pleo comes in no longer uses Styrofoam and is biodegradable making it friendly to the environment.
* The battery chargers have a new switch with two positions, one for regular charging and another that uses a special charging mode created specifically for those batteries that don't charge properly.
Via Robots Rule
November 3, 2009
Nemo Gould's "Going Nowhere Fast"
We have long been fans of Nemo Gould's robotic art and are now reminded why we hold the sculptor in such esteem. One of his latest pieces of work is entitled "Going Nowhere Fast." We just had to share.
Via Plastic Pals
Robo Garage Gives Birth to ROPID
ROPID is the Robo Garage's latest creation, with design by Tomotaka Takahashi. The humanoid bot has gyros in its legs and chest and servos with belts that help the little guy stand up, walk, jump and jog. Made of carbon and plastic, he stands 38cm high, weighs 1600g, has 30º of freedom and, as of all of RG's bots, is almost too cute.
Via Robot Garage
November 2, 2009
Braundo Wins NASA Challenge
Offer half a mill and eventually someone will win the prize. Such was the case with Braundo, a robot with conveyor belt and scoops that won NASA's third Regolith Excavation Challenge. Built by Worcester Polytechnic Institute students, the bot dug across an artificial lunar field and deposited over 440kg of fake lunar dirt. While NASA was only expecting 260kg, Braun certainly earned its $500,000.00 prize.
Via New Scientist
Robotic Patient Used To Train H1N1 Workers
As is often the case in Japan, if you want people to take notice, you develop a robot for the cause. In this instance, a life-size humanoid was built for training health care workers how to respond to the H1N1. On display at the Security and Safety Trade Expo (RISCON) in Tokyo, the robotic patient sweats, cries, moans, goes into convulsions and, if the workers don't perform correctly in time, stops breathing. We wonder how many times he had to 'die' before they got it right.
Via Pink Tentacle