Dr. Peter Lyons, acting assistant secretary for nuclear energy with the DOE, told a Senate panel Tuesday that the US is sending some radiation-hardened robots to Japan to assist inside their at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants. The bots can measure radiation and send images with cameras to their operators. Also being sent are trainers to instruct the workers in their operation.
iRobot informed us that they sent four robots (2 iRobot 510 PackBots and 2 iRobot 710 Warriors) to Japan early last week and they arrived about March 22. Six iRobot employees also made the trip to train Japanese authorities on how to use the robots. They had no information about specific projects, though.
Public Relations Specialist Charlie Vaida told Robot Snob, "Both the PackBot and Warrior give the operator situational awareness in dangerous environments. They are outfitted with a variety of cameras and sensors, and any information it captures is relayed back to the operator who can remain at a safe standoff distance."
This also makes us wonder if Japan actually employed its own Monirobo as we reported earlier, as it seems a lot of the information coming out of the country regarding the state of its plants seems to be erroneous.
How sad that a country that is tops in robotics seems to be lacking in that area and instead concentrates on consumer usage, like those that are hyped on the site of JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization.)
Stay tuned. We also contacted JETRO but have received no response as yet.
Take a look at an up and coming robot artist Meg (aka Gee) and her customizable Gee-bot Pendants. The images are a bit fuzzy but the heart is in the right place, so special order one for yourself or a loved one. Visit them at Etsy or on Facebook. By the way, the profits go to her chinchilla/wildlife rescue center so she is more than alright to us.
There is a new orthodontist in town and he is a robot. The SureSmile robot creates a 3D model of a patient's mouth via software and adjust braces according to a desired outcome. It uses heated Copper Ni-Ti metal and bends the wires and the body heat of the patient does the rest. The result is a great smile in 34% less time than normal braces.
Festo's new Smart Bird could practically pass for a seagull. Made of light material like carbon fiber and sensitive control electronics, the mass is about 0.4 kilograms (a third less weight than an iPad.) The wings move up and down and also twist at angles like real ones. The bird sends data back to its operator so that they can adjust for optimum flight.
Robot Chicken: Star Wars III will be released on July 12 on Blu-ray. This is the final part of Seth Green and Matthew Senreich's stop-motion comedy and includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, a making of and behind the scenes material. While you are awaiting its release, the first and second seasons are available now.
A team from Purdue has turned a 59 lb. Fanuc arm into a robotic scrub nurse. The team has spent the past 5 years creating code and teaching it to use natural language and gestures so that it can assist doctors. So far, the bot can handle scalpels, retractors, scissors, hemostats and forceps by using a series of hand gestures. The robonurse should be available to hospitals in another five years.
He's out! The ISS crew finally released Robonaut 2 from his packing crate last week and attached him to a pedestal in the Destiny research module. They even let him tweet, "It feels great to be out of my SLEEPR (crate,) even if I can't stretch out just yet. I can't wait until I get to start doing some work!"
R2 will commence with some maintenance chores and the hope is that eventually he can do a bit of spacewalking, er, hovering.
Japan has sent Monirobo, a 5-foot, 1,300-pound rescue bot, into the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to measure radiation levels, humidity and temperature. The bot runs on tank treads to easily maneuver over debris and sends 3D videos to its operator, although it can only travel about 3/4 mile away from it. Even though the country is said to have about 50 robots available for rescue, Moni is the first to get to work.
You have to love Robotime's latest wooden Dinosaur Kit. You put it together and when it is complete it moves by RC and roars, leaving any small pet quaking in its path. The triceratops snaps together so no gluing or solder is needed. Other dinosaur kits are also available.
Students at the Olin College of engineering came up with a robot that can pick a lock. Designed to break Master Locks, the user puts in as much of the combination as it can (or none of it) and LockCracker does the rest. It also displays the number, further humiliating the human. Built as a class project, Team JARJ has no future plans for the bot but we can see them creating something that can open locked cars or find safe combinations.
If you have never seen the remake of The Stepford Wives, this is the time. They don't just lobotomize these women, they turn them into ATM machines. ("She gives singles." Matthew Broderick quips.) There is a puppybot Rover 3000 and Mike, the head of the group, played by Christopher Walken, gets his name from his former place of employment, Microsoft. I don't want to give too much away but you are going to love this ending if you were not satisfied with the one in the first Stepford.
In a step up from Popchilla, Kaspar (Kinetics Synchronization in Personal Assistance Robot) is used with kids in the UK that have autism. He talks, laughs when touched and cries "Ouch" when someone slaps at him. Parents report that their kids are more affectionate with humans after playing with the bot.
This car doesn't just run by RC, it runs via your smartphone. Compatible with Android and some Nokia Symbian smartphones, BeeWi's Mini Cooper is controlled by orientation sensor and touchscreen buttons. The 179 x 98 x 74 mm BBZ201-A0 zips along on 3 AA batteries for up to 3 hours before needing a recharge.
For those kidlets who bugged you for Wall-E Action Figures until you relented, there is now a Truck Play Set built to their scale. The truck makes noise when moving forward and its roof and back door opens. There is also a button for sound effect and the voices of Wall-E and M-O. The 13" vehicle needs 3 AA batteries, not included.
If the US Navy has its way, swarms of semi-autonomous robots will build objects in the field. Each robot will have a specific task, such as picking and placing, joining components or removing trash. Collectively, they will cooperate with each other to create a finished product. Phase One of the project requires about $60,000, more than enough to get the first aggregate to secretly plot the eventual demise of humans.
Shades of "Silent Running." The 5-legged Prospero is a clever bot that is being used as an Autonomous Micro Planter. It joins with others to make a swarm that can plant seeds, tend them and harvest the finished product. Controlled by a Parallax Propeller chip mounted on a Schmart Board, it can walk autonomously while avoiding objects. Prospero can also communicate with other robots and can carry fertilizer and herbicides in its tummy.
After a teasing call from President Obama, the team from the Space Shuttle plan to put Robonaut 2 work earlier than planned.
"I understand that you have a new crew member, this R2 robot. So I don't know whether you guys are putting R2 to work, but you've got a lot of attention. That helps inspire some young people when it comes to science and technology. Are you making him do chores up there? Washing the dishes or something or does he have more exciting jobs?"
After the pres is told that he is still in packing foam, he tells the crew that it's a shame and unpack the guy to help him stretch his legs (oops.) Commander Lindsey replies that he has been in there for about four months and every once in a while they hear some scratching noises. Truly, there seems to be a bit of the geek in Mr. Obama and the sense of humor in the ISS is a welcome relief to the state of the real world.
U.S. Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey, who was an actual rocket scientist, actually beat Watson in a private 'Jeopardy' match at a Washington hotel. After beating the IBM computer during a round of competition, Watson managed to beat other Reps by about $10,000 after Final Jeopardy. Holt claims that he participated in the event simply because it would draw attention to the need for the government to invest in research and science, but we know that secretly he was doing the happy dance and saying, "Goody, goody."
Hasbro's latest contribution to the robotic pet population is its Furreal Friends Walkin' Kitty. Load her up with the 3 included AA batteries and she will walk over to you. Pick her up or pet her and she will respond by meowing or purring. Unfortunately, she also kneads, which we find to be an annoying trait in a real cat. At least you will not have to invest in kitty chow.
If you watch "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" regularly, then you already know he is the timidest of hosts. He cringes at wild animals brought on his show and turned down an offer from Jeff Probst to be a celeb Survivor. So watch how he reacts when Mike Tyson takes him on with the game Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots.
You have already seen most of these robots, but you should check out PBS' Nova Science Now for their recent program on that very subject. Included is David Hanson's Phil, named and fashioned after sci-fi author Phillip K. Dick. He is human-looking to the point that he seemed real to the interviewer, a scary thought that makes you think that the robot takeover is coming anytime now.
By the way, the episode also tallied up all the songs they could find written with robot in them. Their count was 44, but we suspect that was a low estimate.
GM has been busily working on the EN-V, a battery-run vehicle that does its own thing if you are too tired or drunk to run it yourself. The car has a wireless antenna and GPS sensors that connect with a network to become autonomous. Chat it up with other En-v owners or push a button and it parks itself (six of them can fit in a standard space.)
Not only can the vehicle run itself, it is in contact with others so it will not collide with them. Of course, the EN-V doesn't chat with current cars, so they must have their own roadways. With all the potholes that are in disrepair in our neighborhood, we don't see that happening any time soon.
i-Dog now has a younger brother, Wappy Dog, born as a result of a mating of Sega and Activision. Due out later this year, the robopup can interact with a NDS game or alone. You can pet, chat and play with your pet and he will react almost in kind. Wappy was introduced at the recent NY Toy Fair 2011, but no price has been released.