Last Thursday, February 24, the first robot marathon began in Western Japan. Organized by robot technology firm Vstone Co., in cooperation with Osaka, five 2-legged bots had to complete 422 laps around a 110-yard indoor track. That equals out to 26 miles. The "Robo Mara Full" race found the winner to be Vstone's "Robovie-PC" on the 27th, the first day of the human Tokyo marathon. He completed his walk in 54 hours, 57 minutes and 50.26 seconds. The group is hoping that the event will go worldwide yearly, but we think it might be a good idea to get them outside first.
Cars 2 will soon be coming out with a new character (voiced by Michael Caine) named Zero Gravity Finn McMissile. Debuting at the recent Toy Fair in NY, a copy of the real thing will soon be available to kids everywhere to drive up the wall and drive their parents crazy. Look for the RC car to debut in May for about $35.00. In the meantime, you can let your kidlets watch the original "Cars" out now on Blu-ray and DVD.
The Google-promoted Lunar X-Prize has been narrowed down to 29 teams from 17 countries. The winner of the $30 million will get to send their low-budget robot to the Moon, where it will send back photos. The competition was first announced in 2007 and has a target date of completion by 2015. The teams vary in make-up from University groups to commercial businesses and some of them have already contacted spacecraft companies to transport their bots. Break a robotic leg and let the games begin.
DARPA's latest funding has gone to a hummingbird drone, a tiny spybot that can fly forward, backwards and sideways, and rotate both clockwise and counterclockwise. And like its real counterpart, with a wingspan of 6.5" and a weight of only 19 grams, the Nano Air Vehicle can hover and spend up to 8 minutes in the air. Built by AeroVironment, it may be awhile before the NAV appears on a battleground near you.
If you find yourself tiring of your icon that looks like an M & M, you can now Androidify yourself with a free app. Make one and share with your buds on Twitter, Facebook or other social networking site.
The well-intentioned Imagination Station has raised $50,000 to build and install a Robocop statue in Roosevelt Park in Detroit. This came after a rogue tweet to Mayor Dave Bing that suggested the superbot would make a great representative of the Motor City. The Mayor claims that there are no plans in the works to build it but we shall see.
Local comics creator Ron Marz felt that the money could be used more effectively and set up the Twitter hash tag #robocharity to raise money to Forgotten Harvest, an org. that helps feed the less fortunate in Detroit. Because of Marz' efforts and caring Michigandars, Forgotten Harvest reported donations are already enough for 10,000 meals. Considering that a single dollar provides 5 meals, we think this is a very good thing. If you would like to contribute or volunteer, hit the link.
So we are tooling around Amazon the other day and noticed that the ranking (how many purchased) of the original 1966 Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots recently increased 486% in a 24 hour period. This is no doubt partially due to the upcoming Real Steel, due to be released November 18, 2011. We suggest that the production company come up with an updated version of the game and really clean up.
If you watched 'Jeopardy' this week, then you already know that Watson trounced humans Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. While Rutter seemed somewhat bitter about the defeat, Jennings took a more humorous approach, at one point wanting to unplug IBM's computer, then giving in during the Final Jeopardy question by commenting on his chalkboard that he was ready to "welcome our new computer overlords."
The latest ugly babybot to take the prize is AFFETTO, a robotic head modeled after a toddler's face, from Osaka University. The intent is to produce realistic facial expressions and the team has been working on the project for about a year. Intended to be used for studying interaction with human caregivers, he does have a certain Winston Churchill look about him. You can read the entire story via the link.
Invest in an iRobot Create and a netbook that can Skype and you can get a telepresence robot for about $500.00. Google employee Johnny Chung Lee has previously worked on the Kinect so the dude knows what he is doing. He has posted instructions as well as VideoChatRobot software for downloading, so maybe you can get your own bot for fetching scones.
The company that produces the telepresent Anybot decided to put one to the test when Aaron Blumenstein craved a scone from Red Rock Coffee. This video was taken by the engineer to document the occasion. We would add that this is free advertising that is as good as it gets because the company now boasts a backlog of 4-6 weeks.(We suggest future outings should be recorded by another Anybot with a Steadycam.)
After a study of 56 stroke survivors with paralysis on one side, it was determined that those who received robotic therapy gained more arm and shoulder function. Kayoko Takahashi, ScD at Kitasato University, says that robot therapists are better at repetition which re-educates the brain. The team presented their study at ASA's International Stroke Conference 2011.
Last chance to order your Robocards for Valentine's Day. For your fave sweetheart, we found a Pop-Up Card affectionately entitled "Love Struck Robot." This card will make anyone fall for you. For the kidlets, there are Robot Valentine Cards by eeBoo. The package contains 32 cards with two for the teacher included. There are 6 different designs and each card is 4.5 x 4.5."
DARPA has a new project in the works. They are developing an autonomous robot that would assist troops in danger. While there are bots like the Dragon Runner already in place, they have yet to create one with visual intelligence, the ability to interpret what it sees. That way, it could tell the difference between a farmer planting crops and a terrorist planting bombs. Twelve research teams from universities and tech schools are working on the problem, but it may be a while before they have their answer.
If you happen to go through London's Luton Airport, watch out for holographic announcers. The female Holly and male Graham (get it?) are Tensator Virtual Assistants and will work in security as part of a project meant to simplify checking in. Somehow being able to stick an entire hand through the projection wouldn't make us feel more secure but then we understand the greater scheme of things.
TiaLinx's Cougar20-H is a remote controlled surveillance bot that can scan through concrete walls with an ultra-wideband RF sensor array in its arm. This is not your typical securitybot as he can find a human by biorhythmic patterns. In other words, if you breathe, you are caught. Cougar moves along on tracks and uses its two cameras to find and send back information as far as 300 feet away, whether the person is moving or standing still. It seems the demand has already reached the supply as the DOD, Homeland Security and several law enforcement agencies will be using them soon.
Just in case you missed it, somehow Chevy managed to combine NASA's R2 with football as the astrobot selected his MVPs for this Superbowl. On the pre-game show at 3:18 p.m., his choices were Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers or Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Did you notice how they kept him behind a table so that nobody would notics he was legless?
Since he has not yet left the planet, NASA's Robonaut 2 will make its first public appearance at the Superbowl. Due to take off on Discovery Feb. 24, the torso will appear with Howie Long during the preshow activities at 2 p.m. on Fox. No info is available on which side he favors, although he might want to make nice with the team that represents metal.
Robots now come in gift baskets. Janna Salak's Love Does Not Compute Robot Gift Basket is the star of this assemblage that comes with a 15 oz. mug, five types of gourmet coffee, biscotti and 4 coasters.
Researchers of the German Aerospace Center built a robotic hand that is similar to a human one with five individually moving fingers and 38 tendons connected to a motor located on the forearm. The limb can withstand collisions up to a 66 G impact. It can also determine the amount of hardness in the objects it picks up. Lead designer Markus Grebenstein claims that the cost will come to 70,000 - 100,000 euros. The team will be working on a DLR Hand/Arm System next, a two armed torso.
Bangkok University, Thailand is developing robotic waiters for MK Restaurant. The concept robot Yumbo carries food on trays and maneuvers around by following lines on the floor. He also avoids collisions with IR range detection. Rit Thirakomen, the managing director of the MK Restaurant, says that they will perform the "less glamorous tasks" of the eatery, not to mention they won't ask for tips. Watching the video, it looks like the project has a ways to go.
Our old bud ASIMO now has the proud distinction of breaking a Guinness world record. He has been awarded the planet's Most Advanced Humanoid. Nice to think that his million dollar price tag finally paid off. Other awards went to Papero as the Earliest Robot Babysitter and a sketch by Leonardo Da Vinci was awarded the Oldest Design for a Humanoid Robot