It isn't enough that they put out new products every time a new movie or craze is born. Lego is now taking its building acumen and turning it into games. One of the first is Robo Champ that not only teaches kids how to build a bot, its gameplay is thinly disguised as a contest at a robot factory. The first player to assemble one correctly wins. One of the rules involves stealing your needed pieces from another because you can never learn too early that thievery pays.
Toshiba has developed a robot to help inspect the Fukushima nuclear reactor which is still a do not enter site a year and a half after the disaster. Looking a bit like Boston Dynamic's Big Dog, the bot is operated remotely and has a camera for inspection. Three feet tall and weighing about 143 lbs., it has four legs and two arms that can unpack a second, smaller robot for exploration. Still a prototype, the company is working on its positioning skills, giving it shielding and teaching it to stop water flow and remove obstacles.
Hubo II is Korea's Advanced Institute of Science and Technology robot that they are preparing for the next DARPA Challenge. He has been taught to do some basic dance moves, walk, run and other practical tasks like valve turning. And since KAIST is located in Korea, you know that they have taught him Gangnam Style, a more advanced routine than the one executed by Charli 2. By the way, you can get your own Hubo for a cool $400,000.
Watch out! That mannequin may be watching your every move. Almax's EyeSee has facial recognition and can log age, gender and race of those who are shopping. This is useful in determining shopping habits of retail customers and keeping an eye on would-be shoplifters. The Italian-based company also plans to add screens nearby to inform customers to purchase items relevant to their profile. We suspect that puts them one step away from the ability to speak out with comments like, "Step down. We know what size pantyhose size you wear."
HEARBO (the HEAR-ing roBOt) has the unique capability of being able to distinguish all kinds of sounds from voices to sound effects. Utilizing HARK technology, it can distinguish those sound by localizing, separating and recognizing them. The bot is so talented that it can already identify 4 different sounds within 1º of accuracy. This gives HEARBO an advantage as a service bot since it can will when to answer a doorbell or feed a whining child. The video also shows his ability to turn on and off music, adjust the volume and wave his arms a bit to keep time.
The Rover Spy Tank creates its own WiFi connection and can be controlled by iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. An adjustable camera streams video and takes photos while a built-in microphone sends back audio. The device has night vision capability and runs on 6 AA batteries (included.) Also included is access to a free app to control the tank.
Japanese researchers discovered and published images taken by one of their satellites orbiting the Moon about 3 years ago. It depicted a large hole below the surface. Enter William 'Red' Whittaker, a robotics expert that has been testing a bot in a defunct coal mine near his home in Pennsylvania. His 4-wheeled Cave Crawler is still a prototype at this point but NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is funding the project to turn it into a reality by 2015.
Momentum Machines is working on a robotic system, nicknamed Patty, that can cook burgers and toast buns, then slide them down to a compartment where veggies get sliced and placed on the burgers. It then adds condiments and bags them. Apparently the entire operation takes less than 30 seconds, thereby leaving the human burger worker to join the ranks of the unemployed. The 5 foot tall prototype is still a work in progress and judging by the unappetizing imagery, it will be a while before a Pattyburger is actual competition.
Leave it to Takara Tomy to come up with yet another robotic toy that does not need tending. The Robo Fish depends on two watch batteries that propel it up and down. That movement makes it appear that it is randomly rooting around for food. So far only available in Japan, the fishbots come in 4 different models and carry a MSRP of ￥2,980 (~$38.00)
On the other hand, if you don't want to wait for it to be imported, Fincredibles put out a Fish Bowl with a pseudo clown fish that will annoy swim endlessly with an additional benefit of changing LED lighting. The electronic bowl needs 3AA batteries (included.)
Foxconn, the Taiwan-based manufacturer that has had complaints of poor working conditions to the point that there were 16 suicides, had promised better conditions and higher wages. It seems that they are opting for robotic workers that will never complain to replace some of their 1.2 million employees. About 10,000 Foxbots were reportedly delivered to one of the factories, with another 20,000 expected by the end of the year. While each costs around $20,000, about three times the average worker's salary, they certainly will not complain about unsanitary bathrooms or nutritionless meals.
Make your own robot family with mix and match decals for your vehicle. A total of 50 pieces can used to make parents, kids and pets. The kit is large enough for at least two cars and a few windows. Find them for $11.99 per set.
We also found a 12" wide Star Wars Decal that includes Chewbacca, Hans Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, C3PO and R2-D2. White is the default color but you can specify another color or even a different size. The VinylDisorder decal will set you back $8.00.
CIROS is a kitchenbot created by the Korean Institute of Science and Technology. He chops, he dices, he slices. Okay we embellish, but we hear he can grab some ingredients from the fridge, slice the veggies, add dressing, serve the salad and tea, and scrub up afterwards. Stereoscopic cameras and sensors help him recognize objects. From the video it looks like he could use a bit of quality control but hey, he is the one wielding the knife.
From the ISS, NASA Commander Sunita Williams tested a Lego robot located on Earth, specifically at the European Space Operations Center in Germany. She used a laptop with NASA's Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocol to manage the bot. They are hoping to develop this further as presently control on other planets, like the rover on Mars, must be in one particular part of the planet to be able to communicate and, of course, there is a time delay.
Researchers from Georgia Tech have used a dragonfly as a basis for a micro UAV. The four-winged TechJect is small enough to fit in a palm but has the capability to be used as a quadricopter, helicopter and fixed wing aircraft. Four years of research and development went into the project with $1 million dollars worth of funding from the Air Force and some from Indiegogo. The 6" long insectbot weighs 0.88 oz. it can be flown by RC or an iPad, smartphone or computer.
Last month we told you about Charlie, the robot that was gaga for Gangnam. It seems that he was recently entered in a dance contest in China and the little bot won first place. We guess that they are not as saturated as we are with the dance but we definitely think it's time to move on, dude, at least as far as changing it to Mokiki's Sloppy Swish.
Vtech's Cogsley is a clever learning bot for kids aged 3 to 6 years old. He comes with 30 computer chips that trigger responses, including sounds, images, movement and LCD animation. When the kidlet claps her/his hands, sings or talks, the toybot responds by moving various body parts like his nose and eyes. And when ignored, Cogsley makes a funny comment to get some attention. He needs 4 AA batteries (included.)
JAMES (Joint Action for Multimodal Embodied Social Systems) is a robotic bartender that not only serves drinks, he serves up jokes. At about a meter tall, he only has one working arm and is programmed to serve customers in order. We dug up his first demo that was done in November 2011 by his creators Manuel Giuliani and the Munich Research and Transfer Institute for Software-Intensive Systems.
This second video was made in May 2012. He seems to have improved but only in skills. (He still looks and sounds similar.) We are not sure if he can yet distinguish between the bottles he picks up or just grabs them in order. Either way, he is clearly a service bot in progress.
Check out PBS' Nova Science Now November 14, 10:00 pm ET to see "What Will the Future Be Like?", a study of robots, 3D machines, thought controlled video games and more. David Pogue hosts the encore video event and you will undoubtedly find both familiar and unfamiliar ideas created by scientists and engineers.
A team from the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany built a robotic ping pong player. It consists of an arm suspended from the ceiling with a camera to watch the area. Team leader Katharina Muelling physically made the movements for several ball returns then the bot improvised. Within an hour, it had an 88% success rate.
While others have taught robots to play table tennis, the biomimetic robot is the first that was taught this way. They plan to display the sportsbot at next month's AAAI Symposium in Arlington, Virginia.
It seems that one of the unsung heroes of Sandy was Mercury, a wave glider from Liquid Robotic that was in the Atlantic, about a hundred miles east of Toms River, New Jersey. While the Frankenstorm did its worst, the intrepid service bot not only kept floating, it reported a 54.3 millabar drop in pressure. It continued to report the barometric pressure every ten minutes and is out there still.
Egads -- we were wrong. Putting out an early holiday ad for Let's Rock! Elmo was only the precursor for LOL Elmo. He tells jokes, makes silly sounds and of course giggles if you press his feet or tickle him. Dorothy, the goldfish remote, is included and squeaks. Recommended for ages 18 months to 4 years, he needs 4 AA batteries (demo batteries included.)
For older kids and adults, the 2012 documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey is a must see. Whoopi Goldberg narrates the story of Kevin Clash and how he finally made his dream come true with the help of a furry red Muppet.
How cool is it that finally Jamie Mantzel is a father? We say extremely as Wow!stuff has launched a toy line of Combat Creatures, based on Mantzel's original giant robot. The 10", 6-legged battlebot Attacknid has a 360º rotating head and comes with weapons that can fire up to 30 ft. away. Included is both Bolt 'N' Battle Combat Armor and a Battle Brain. Hit the brain of a contender three times and you win. While the first batch seems to have sold out you can still pre-order and with luck you can get one for £69.99 (~$112.00) soon, even if you are not a boy.