February 28, 2010
Robot Snob Monthly Roundup - February 2010
Well, another month has passed and spring will soon be sprung. February found the NY Toy Fair awash with robots and the Zhu Zhu pet was named Toy of the Year. If you missed any of the news, check out this month's roundup.
Lego Mindstorms NXT
Make Your Own Robot
Must Have Robot Friday
February 26, 2010
Robot Snob Must Have: Mighty Beans
We remember playing with actual jumping beans as kids and finding out that they were really worms inside a cocoon trying to get out. Somehow the cheapy plastic ones back them weren't nearly as much fun. Mighty Beanz one up that concept. They can race and flip down a tilted surface. Sold in 6-packs, they are technically not robots, but we bet the next generation will be.
Via Mighty Beanz
February 26, 2010
Feeny Almost Attends the Olympics
LG's mascot now has a name. Feeney, chosen after a recent contest, is not only a Whisen air conditioner spokesbot in print, he has his own Olympic commercial in all his CGI splendor.
Via Tech Fever
February 25, 2010
TUBO Service Bot Hails from Korea
TUBO (Tungmyong University roBOt) may become a Korean's best friend in the future. The researchers have given him stereo cameras for face recognition, SLAM, language comprehension (but only in Korean) and reading capability. The service bot moves on 2 wheels and runs by 2 manipulators.
Via Plastic Pals
February 25, 2010
Pipe Inspection Bot Gets Through All Sizes
Osaka Gas has teamed with Osaka University Professor Koichi Osuka to develop this pipe inspection robot. The body can adjust to different sizes of pipes by expanding or reducing its size, moves in a spiraling motion and can make turns and get through joints. Mounted on wheels, it can hold a camera for remote viewing by the operator.
Via Mainichi News
February 24, 2010
Senario's Zibits Almost Too Cute
Senario thinks tiny with their new line of Zibits. At a size of about 2.5" tall, the 12 different robodudes, with the help of a IR remote, can move forward or turn 360º while chattering in a botty kind of way. Three button batteries come with them but you will need two AAA batteries to get them to go. At a price of only $9.99 each, look for them next month.
Dr. Who Daleks Talk, Tell Time
"Dr. Who" fans can now rule the planet with the 13" Talking Dalek. Remote controlled, it moves pretty much as it does in the show and makes happy robot sounds.
The bot also comes in a smaller 2.5" version and a Sculpted Wall Clock.
Via "Dr. Who" Dalek
February 23, 2010
UK Plans Drones for 2012 Olympics
The UK is developing a fleet of modified military aircraft drones for surveillance. Including miniature tactical crafts like the AirRobot and the HERTI drone, already in Afghanistan, they will be used on bad motorists with road rage, protesters and others that wreak havoc. Look for them to be in place by the 2012 Olympics and to be equipped with tasers, disorienting strobe lights and non-lethal projectiles.
Quasi Visits the NY Toy Fair
Interbot brought Quasi (aka Q,) to the 2010 Toy fair in NY. Originally developed at Carnegie Mellon in 2006, the $80,000 bot is controlled by a wireless tablet PC with touchscreen. He can talk and make facial expression originating from the user, and can even change eye color and wiggle his ears. The company has plans to make a smaller version for real folks with real budgets.
February 22, 2010
TIROL-CHOCO Robots Compete
Witness the 4th annual TIROL-CHOCO Robot Competition that pits bipedal robots made with candy boxes. The bots race on a 2m track, compete in chocolate target practice at paper cups and carry chocolate. And you thought bon bons were just for eating.
Via Biped Robot News
"Surrogates" Vs. Bruce Willis
We are not big Bruce Willis fans but we screened "Surrogates" last weekend anyway because we never miss an opportunity to see a film that even hints at robotic takeover. The plot concerns a future that finds robots appearing for humans in public so that the perpetually lazy can remain couch potatoes. Willis gets involved in that world when it is found out that when a surrogate is destroyed, its human suffers the same fate. Not a great flick, but worth a 90 minute investment for those who dig action and robots.
By the way, you can create your own surrogate on a Virtual Self Industries' site.
Via "Surrogates" Official Site
February 19, 2010
Must Have: Zhu Zhu Pets 2010 Toy of the Year
Even with the vague threat of too much lead in their noses, the Zhu Zhu Pets were announced overall best from the 2010 Toy of the Year Awards. Lego's Mindstorms NXT 2.0 took top honors in the Educational category and was deemed "an outstanding toy that helps children develop special skills and knowledge through play." But then, we already knew that, right?
Other awards went to Mattel's Mindflex game, Spin Master's Air Hogs Zero Gravity Laser Car and Techno Source's Rubik's TouchCube.
Second Gen ApriAttenda More Flexible
Toshiba recently released a second version of their ApriAttenda. The newest bot has two arms with 3-fingered hands that can hold simple objects and a head cam for navigation and recognition. While the original was designed to follow its user around, this one is designed to take a more active role. The company is also testing the iArm, a super-waldo designed to assist in grabbing, eating and other "handy" duties.
Via Plastic Pals
Illinois Police Bot Discovers Gunman
Never send in a deputy when a robot can do the job. A gunman entered a Macomb, Illinois Farm King and supposedly demanded guns and ammunition. Although Jonathan J. Labbe fired several shots during a standoff with the Sheriff's Dept. that lasted six hours, none of the 6 people inside the store were injured and no hostages were taken. The gunman was found dead in the housewares section by the police's remote controlled tactical robot.
February 18, 2010
PFU Kiosk Becomes More User Friendly
Fujitsu's subsidiary PFU Limited has created a more personal kiosk. The screen features a eerie-looking face created by Big Towns, a company that specializes in computer graphics. The lower touchscreen interface contains Omron software that can determine a person's approximate age and gender and can better suggest products that fit the data. Look for the Robokiosk at a shopping center or carnival in Japan in the future.
Via robo-fan (translated)
February 17, 2010
Wearable Robot Hangs on Shoulder
Don't look now but there is a robot crawling up your arm. Tsumaki Telerobotics Laboratory at Yamagata University in Japan has developed a wearable Robot that can sit on a co-worker's shoulder during a teleconference and looks where you do, well almost. Watch out for bullies that threaten to knock, smack or otherwise try to remove Telecommunicator T1 off your shoulder.
Keep Time with Robot Clocks
While anything red on a robot (especially eyes) tends to denote evil, we will
forgive this tabletop Alarm Clock. At a height of 4", he needs a AA battery to do his thing (not included.) If you prefer something a bit larger and more whimsical, this 10 x 10" Wall Clock is handcrafted and comes with mounting hook. You supply the AA battery.
Via Robot Clocks
February 16, 2010
EveR-3 Finds Success on Stage
The 5 ft., 2 inch EveR-3 (Eve Robot 3) took part in several dramas in South Korea including "Robot Princess and the Seven Dwarfs." The acting bot can speak both Korean and English and has 16 different facial expressions.The government funded Korea Institute of Industrial Technology says that she will once again grace the stage this year, without the worry of forgetting a line or needing an understudy bot.
Via Space Daily
Hexapod Teaches Itself to Walk
It would seem everybody watches YouTube robotics videos, including Intel. A couple of days after University of Arizona student Matt Bunting posted a video of his hexapod robot, the company ordered two of them for trade shows and meetings. The robot works on Intel's 1.60GHz Atom Z530, a US15W chipset and Ubunto, and sees through a Logitech Webcam.
Bunting wanted his creation to be able to walk without the usual algorithms. Instead it works by reinforcement learning. The company CrustCrawler was also impressed and asked him to develop software for many of their products, including hexapod kits.
February 15, 2010
Attend BarBot 2010 - Skumps!
If you are fortunate to be in the vicinity of the DNA Lounge in San Francisco this Wednesday, be sure to attend their third annual Cocktail Robot Festival. Tickets for the BarBot 2010 are only $10.00 ($15.00 at the door) and the fee entitles you to an evening of being served by robots, sung to by same and perhaps a dancing bot or two.
Via DNA Lounge
Texas Alphas Telecommute for Willow Garage
Willow Garage developed Texas Alphas, open-source robots designed for telecommuters. Mostly a computer on wheels, a monitor displays the user's face and a webcam allows her/him see what's going on. Communication is done via Skype. The company has 25 "Texai" that will be used for Human-Robot Interaction research and sent to other companies to study. Best of all, the robots dock themselves at night to be fresh and ready for that morning meeting. Hold the donuts.
Via Willow Garage
February 12, 2010
Must Have: The New and Improved Pleo
Pleo is back with new improvements and was shown off at the CES 2010 by his new owner, Innvo Labs. Changes include improved skin, a better paint job and a new charger. This is good news for both old and new fans who don't want the dinobot to become extinct.
Robots Evolve Via Darwinian Selection
A Swiss team from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and University of Lausanne have developed robots using Darwinian selection. After a few hundred generations, the bots evolve "collision-free movement, homing, sophisticated predator versus prey strategies, coadaptation of brains and bodies, cooperation, and even altruism." Perhaps the scariest part of the study is that when the researchers were "breeding" for a predator they included strategies such as lying in wait and circling walls.
February 11, 2010
HERB the Butler
Meet HERB (Home Exploring Robotic Butler.) He can open doors, clean tables and fetch your pipe. He was built on a Segway platform, then human-like arms were added by the Intel Research Group. Using algorithms, he searches for objects, avoids obstacles, grasps objects and passes them around. Future applications include being used to assist the disabled and elderly.
Via Intel Research
Palro Runs on Atom Processor
Palro (pal + robot) is 15" tall, has 20º of freedom, an integrated camera and is Fuji Soft's latest entry into robotics. The autonomous bot can carry on conversations and is expected to hit the streets mid-March. Add to that an Atom processor and software with plenty of options and a hefty price tag of about $3,300.
Via FSI (translated)
February 10, 2010
Samu Cleans People and Animal Waste
Designed to almost resemble a dog, the Samu Robot Trash Can will dispose of both human garbage and animal poop. The glorified composter uses both additives and heat to automatically take care of 600 to 1,000g of the problem daily with the assistance of a timer. At a size of 555 × 283 x 447mm, the $900.00 container can be used for months before it needs cleaning up. Available in 4 different colors, the Samu seems to be available only in Japan for now. (Is it just us or does having a pooper scooper shaped like the pooper seem weird?
Via Tohoku Kankyo (translated)
Wearable Girly Robots
Wear your robot proudly with this Pendant Necklace with eyes of crystal. It's available in blue or pink. And if you want to give one as a gift, this Dangling Bot has pink and ice crystals and movable joints.
Via Robot Jewelry
February 9, 2010
Robonaut 2 - Building Better Cars in Space
Team GM and NASA together and you end up with Robonaut 2, the second generation of service bots that can be used as both an astronaut and assembly plant worker. Developed at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, it can lift 20 lbs. with each arm and has nimble hands, fingers and opposable thumbs. We don't expect that unemployed auto workers will be cheered by his release, but he will cut down on the amount of Tang needed in space.
Proto-2 Walks Better But is No Beauty
It's Advanced Robotic Systems Laboratories' turn to release our choice for creepy-looking robot of the week. Proto-2 has an "expressive" face (looks pained to us,) and a better waling gait thanks to ARSL's dynamic toe-joint. At a height of 81.3cm, the humanoid bot is made of plastic and aluminum and features a 1.3 megapixel camera, directional microphones, joint positioning, and temperature and load feedback. Future applications may include using Proto-2 for research, in medical facilities and as Diego-San's new best friend.
February 8, 2010
Super Bowl XLIV Ads Feature Robots
We cannot imagine that anyone missed the 2010 Super Bowl, but for those of you who may have missed a commercial or 2, robots were predominate in several of them. They had cameos in the spot for the Sorento, Intel and Waldos made an appearance in the ad for Vizio Apps. You can catch those and others via the link.
RP-7 Communicates With Patients
If you happen to be at the Ryder Trauma Center at the University of Miami/Jackson Medical Center in Florida, you may run into InTouch Technologies' RP-7. The 5 ft. tall wireless robot allows patients and staff communicate to with doctors through a monitor mounted on top. Electronic tools, such as stethoscopes and ultrasound, can be connected to the robot's expansion bay in order to transmit medical data. Future applications may include using more of the robotic dudes on a battlefield to treat injured soldiers.
Via InTouch Health
February 5, 2010
Robot Snob Must Have - Tribot
We are thinking that WowWee must be getting ready to debut a new bot as they are offering their Tribot at an amazingly
cheap inexpensive 79% discount. Use his remote to get him to tell lame jokes or play games. The 15" high robot has 3 wheels, making him omni directional, and has multiple activity/alarm modes, several sensors and LED indicators. He also needs 8 AA and 3 AAA batteries, not included.
CalcBots Teach Students by Calculation
NASA has generously donated CalcBots, miniature Mars rovers, to the Takoma Park Middle School Science Club in Washington. By using TI-84 calculators, students, under the guidance of naval mechanical engineer Michael Britt-Crane, must figure out equations to allow the robots to function on a "mission." Perhaps one of their projects could include getting the full-size and now defunct Spirit to stop spinning its wheels and move along.
Via Washington Post
February 4, 2010
Candy-05 Tees Off
The Hajime Research Institute, with funding from NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization,) developed Candy-05, a 120cm tall robotic caddy on wheels. His cameras help him find a golf ball, determine the location of the hole and putt. Designed for Japanese golfers, maybe we should import one to bring back the fun of the game that seems to have suffered with Tiger's withdrawal from the sport.
Via Plastic Pals
NAIT Redesigns Edmonton Police Bots
The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology has improved on the Edmonton Police Service robots that they use for emergency operations. The result is an all wheel drive bot that can open doors, run over curbs and move at 16 mph. Woody weighs 100 lbs. and has a mast mounted camera that can act as eyes in hazardous situations. The cost was $10,000 but would be less if they were mass produced. This is certainly a step up from Edmonton's current bots that cost from $79,000 to $350,000 each. NAIT says that Woody should be complete in 1 - 2 years.
Via Edmonton Sun
February 3, 2010
ASIMO to Show Off Singing Skills
Is there no end to the talented ASIMO? It seems that a patent is in the works that will allow the Honda humanoid to name that tune and sing it. The patent has been filed by Stamoulis & Weinblatt, admirers of karaoke, no doubt.
Via US Patent Office
Techno Robot Kit - Simplified Learning
The Techno Robot Kit includes everything you need to build a 9.5" workable bot. Included are snap-together outer body, engine, wheels and adhesive. When complete, you only need to add 2 AA batteries to get your new best friend to get going.
Via Techno Robot Kit
February 2, 2010
Eat Less With Mandometer
There are lots of toys out there that talk to you, like clocks and singing bass on the wall, and now the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden has devised an electronic plate that watches and responds to what you eat. The Mandometer connects to an electronic scale that weighs your food so your portions are limited and the speed that you eat it. Eat too fast and it tells you to slow down. So far the talking scale has been tested and found to be effective on younger children and teens.
Via My Digital Life
M-3iA Assembly Robot Picks and Chooses
FANUC Robotics America has an answer to making a better assembly bot. The M-3iA is lightweight, portable and can carry weights of up to 6kg. With a three axis wrist, the glorified Waldo is flexible enough to assemble or pick up electronics, pharmaceuticals, supplies, etc. Because it is in an enclosed structure it can also be used in food environments. (Shall I pick you some fries to go with that Big Mac?)
Via FANUC Robotics
February 1, 2010
May The Spirit RIP
NASA's rover Spirit has been stuck in one place since last spring and its mission managers have finally given up trying to set it free. On Mars since its 2004 landing, it has taken over 100,000 pictures and will continue to take readings if it can. It's botty twin, Opportunity, is on the opposite end of the planet and still can function. We are thinking that perhaps the Oppbot can free the Spiritbot by giving it a gentle nudge or two, but then we are not exactly rocket scientists.
Robot Snob Monthly Roundup - January 2010
Out with January and in with February. In case you missed anything last month, here is our roundup with lots of bots to celebrate. Thanks for hanging with us and let us know if you have any comments, questions or robots to share.
Lego Mindstorms NXT
Make Your Own Robot
Must Have Robot Friday
Feed Your Face With Robot Bowls and Plates
Make mealtimes fun with French Bull's Robot Kids melamine set, each of which are lightweight and heat/shatter-resistant. Each bowl is 5 3/4" in diameter. Match them up with an set of 8" square plates that are also made of durable melamine.
Via French Bull