Last week Jimmy Fallon challenged Tyler Perry to an air swimmer race on his Late Night show. It was a little difficult to determine the winner but it seems that the shark edged out the clownfish by a nose.
Nevada has become the first state to authorize autonomous vehicles. The recently finalized regulations originally signed into law last June by Governor Brian Sandoval state that companies and individuals can test their riderless cars after licensing. An operator must be present in the self-driving car in case of an emergency and even though this is Nevada, there will be no magic button to push should someone imbibe a little too much. Cellphone usage is acceptable though. A black box must be included in the that can track the vehicle.
Google, Carnegie-Mellon and most of the main players in the automotive industry are certainly happy about the news as they have already been testing the technology. So if you see a red license plate (test vehicle) or green one (licensed) give it a wide berth.
Plans for allowing US military drones to invade our airspace have been finalized. Congress passed legislation and President Obama signed the law that allows the FAA to govern the skies. Within 90 days police, firefighters and other first response agencies will begin flying UAVs weighing less than 4.4 pounds with certain restrictions. By May 2013, drones weighing less than 55 pounds will be allowed and full integration will occur by Sept. 2015.
At that time rules will be set as to where they can fly and a bandwidth for UAV radio communications will be set. Gretchen West, Executive VP for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International trade group promises that they will be used for "law enforcement, to monitor traffic, for search and rescue and to track suspects," not widespread surveillance.
Faber Castell's Robot Kit not only encourages the arts of construction and decoration, it becomes a 7" x 5.5" nightlight when complete. Made from durable printed plastic, it has battery operated LED lights that change color as they protect the room from any horde of dark and evil bots that are hiding under the bed. (Two AA batteries not included.)
This Transformix LED Flashlight turns into a stationary lamp in three different styles. The company claims that the bulbs will last over 100,000 hours so if a disaster occurs, there will still be light for all. It needs a button cell battery (not included) to run.
With inspiration from actual pop-up storybooks, some Harvard scientists can almost literally build a hive of robotic bees. The Mobees (Monolithic Bees) can be mass produced from sheets of carbon fiber, plastic film, titanium brass and ceramic and laser cut into a sheet of 18 layers with flexible hinges. They can then be "popped up" into 3D, 2.4mm tall bots. Just like their living counterparts, they are autonomous and can interact as a colony. Because they can be mass produced quickly, do not be surprised if someday you find them in a neighborhood or war near you.
Adults who cannot get enough time playing with RC toys will surely sympathize with Joe from Saskatchewan, Canada who began cultivating his hobby in 1996. For the past 7 years he has taken it to the utmost level by gradually digging out his basement. Each year he excavates about 2 - 3 cubic yards of material, crushes and screens it, and then hauls it outside during the summer, all by miniature vehicles. While the majority of his time is spent farming, how nice to have something to do after the cows come home.
Avatar has finally arrived realtime. Japanese researchers came up with a combination visor/gloves that puts the user into a robot. Telesar V relays audio and video via sensors and the glove delivers heat or texture through semiconductors. Its body has 7º of freedom, the head 8º and the arms 7º of movement. Professor Susumu Tachi and team from Keio University plan to use the system for post-disaster purposes.
This being hockey season, it seems an appropriate time to introduce the world to Jennifer. Built by Prof. Jacky Baltes and University of Manitoba grad students, the hockeybot was named after the Canadian Olympic star Botterill. Created as part of the Robotis competition in Korea, Jennifer is 58cm tall with her skates on and can skate, shook and stickhandle. The team believes that the skating creation will help them better understand traveling over complex surfaces.
Every roboticist needs at least one decent set of Bookends and these multi-colored ones are perfect for kids of every age. Each is 5.5 x 3.5 x 8", is hand-carved and painted and can be personalized.
And if time is your thing, this 9.5 x 9.5 x 9.5" Mudpuppy Wall Clock is made of fiberboard, printed with nontoxic ink and is phthalate free. Designed by Barn Eyes, it needs one AA battery (not included.)
A team from Boston University have been working on flexible origami robots, made of paper and silicone rubber. Powered by air, they can turn, bend, grab and lift things 100 times their weight. The video shows an early application and they are moving forward with others. As is often the case when a new robotic form appears, Darpa has its hand in things and would love to develop it for weaponry or spying. The team is thinking that they could also work on miniaturizing their creations, which could be beneficial in science and medicine.
Our old bud Jaime Mantzel recently showed up with a toy based on his incredible Giant Robot. We were relieved to find that his disappearance wasn't due to the large bot, in a fit of rage, snatching him up and chewing him into itty bitty pieces. It seems that Jaime is working with Wowstuff who want to help him market his creations. Hit the site if you would like to help name his bots that will be released this summer. If they select the name you suggest, you get one autographed by the robo-master himself.
As per usual, we were slightly late to attend a live viewing of the ISS as they were putting the Robonaut 2 through its paces this morning. But we can all still attend tomorrow's testing if we can just get that extra cup 'o java. See the action at Ustream.
The talented folk of the Real Art Design Group have created a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em event where you are in control of actual bots. After you sign in on Facebook or Twitter, you select either the Barely-Believeable Bot or the Almost-Autonomous Robot and wait your turn. You can even invite a bud to fight against. Using your keyboard, you land the first 10 punches in real-time video, you win. At the end of the competition, Feb. 22, there will be a Ro-Bros Championship Belt awarded and it could be you, so get your Real Steel on now.
Japan's Gundam Mini-Theme Park is finally opening its doors April 19 at Diver City Tokyo. The giant Mobile Suit RX-78 will find a permanent home there as well as a dome theater for showing videos, photo ops and displays. The entire park measures about 2,000 sq. meters and includes some Bandai gift shops and café. Adults admission is ¥$1,000 (~$23.00) and ¥800 (~10.00) for kids.
As long as we are on the subject of oversized toy robots, this commercial came on at the end of the Super Bowl and guess who its biggest star was?
In a recent study by research consultants Latitude, 350 students between the ages of 8 - 12 were asked to write and illustrate a short story depicting "What would happen if robots were a part of your everyday life at school and beyond?"
It turns out that 38% of them wanted one to learn with and another 38% preferred playing with one. However, kids in that age group tended to mix the two as they often see a robot as more human than adults. The study, Robots @ School, was supported by the LEGO Learning Institute and Project Synthesis, an Australia-based idea consultancy. No surprise there.
Jerome Mack ran a company that made robotic tools. In 1998, his best friend died in a grain bin accident and he formed Mack Robots to make bots that could do the work. Last year the $15,000 - $17,000 Bin Bots began selling and were featured at this year's Minnesota Grain and Feed Association convention and trade show.
The service bot measures 6 x 2 feet, weighs 800 lbs. and can both fit through a grain bin door and is strong enough lift heavy buckets. It can be operated by a worker from outside with an optional video camera and lights.
Via Mack Robots
If you are fortunate to be able to access the Discovery Center Museum before May 6 you can visit Robots: The Interactive Exhibition in Rockford, IL. Based on the 2005 movie of the same name, you can meet Rodney Copperbottom and his Rustie friends and build a robotic probe on a touchscreen monitor. There are also exhibits like MIT's Leonardo and C3PO. Tickets are $4.00/person in addition to $7.00 general admission, $3.00/person for groups (in addition to group admission to the museum) and $2.00/person for members.
Robots are already becoming caretakers and there is no more evidence of this than in "Robot and Frank", a recipient of the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at last month's Sundance Film Festival. This award is given to films that "explore science and technology themes or that depict scientists, engineers and mathematicians in engaging and innovative ways." The film, directed by Jake Schreier and starring Frank Langella, concerns a man and the robot his children give him as a health care aide.
We also found another film, "The Meaning of Robots", a stop-motion robot sex film that took director Mike Sullivan 10 years to complete and became one of Sundance's Official Selections.
There seem to be an abundance of movies that feature robots and we keep coming across them, so of course we are going to encourage you to also enjoy the outdated effects and convoluted plots. This time we found "Making Mr. Right" from 2008 with John Malkovich as both a scientist and inventor of Ulysses, a robot made in his own image. Asimov is undoubtedly very restless in his grave right about now.
Check out this 1963 video from Muppeteer Jim Henson. He created it for Bell as a promotional tool to show the relationship of robots and humans (aka "Man and the Machine".) Recently discovered in AT&T's archives, Computer H14 may think he can do it all, but we know better.