Kare Halverson (aka Zenta) has shown his creativity with a robot that literally does what its name implies. The MorpHex started out as a globe that the Norwegian engineer turned into a hexapod. The bot can crawl forward and turn back into itself for now and he plans to get it to roll in the future. Check out his blog to see details of the building of his inspired creature.
If oversaturation can make for a successful product, then mission accomplished for the Fijit, a soft creature that has voice recognition and can sing and dance. You cannot look in any catalogue or toy commercial without noticing Willa or one of the other little buggers that come in various colors and have 100 built-in phrases and jokes.
Toys 'R Us figured the Fijit prominently on this year's catalogue (upper right corner, front page.) We guess that Mattel figured that if the original was hot, then Friends Newbies could extend their bankability. Tika is one of those friends and can sing. Put two together and you get a duet.
Beginning in October, an English-speaking classroom in Los Angeles and French-speaking one in Montreal teamed to create Robot Heart Stories, a learning project from storyteller Lance Weiler and producer Janine Saunders. The 40 students were encouraged to make a "heart pack" and write stories to fuel a robot named Laika who crash landed in Canada and had to make her way back to her ship in CA.
The robot was "fueled " by the students' creativity as they decided where the journey would go. A picture was taken at each of 56 cities for a total of 2010 miles and 397 photographs. Future plans include NASA sending the project to the ISS and to chronicle the experience in a coffee table book.
Visitors to France's FRAC Center in Orleans get the privilege of witnessing "Flight Assembled Architecture," a 20 ft. high building being assembled by flying robots. Four quadrocopters are placing 1,500 polystyrene foam blocks into the futuristic city that could house 30,000 humans if it were real and to scale. Although they are autonomous they learn placement according to the blueprints. The exhibit is the brainchild of ETH Zurich, roboticist Raffaello D'Andrea and the architect team of Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler, and will run through February 19.
Shades of Andy Kaufman! Masato Takahashi of Keio University built the Ondz Clapping Robots, hands that he hoped would actually sound like humans. Not only can they can applaud their own performance, if you put enough of them in a room, you wouldn't need an audience, The real question is if there is no one in the room when the hands are clapping, is there a sound? Hit the link for more videos, one of them downright scary.
Take a look at NSK's robotic guide dog. It has wheels for flat areas that, should it need to take some steps, can become utile legs. Its graspable handle is used to maintain stability and it has a sensor to identify steps by converting it to shape, position and attitude info into 3D space. Because it takes about 10 years to raise a real guide dog, this is an excellent addition to a service area that could use, um, a leg up.
NASA's most advanced space rover will lift off this Saturday and be on its way to Mars. Developed at the Jet Propulsion Lab, the $2.5 billion Curiosity will do more than look for water. Over a 2 year period of time it will be analyzing the planet's geology and atmosphere to see if there are any elements and/or chemical compound that can be found in life. Godspeed, Cur!
Shades of Silent Running! In a time when farmers and landscapers could use some extra help in a struggling economy, Harvest Automation is in the process of beta testing a small mobile robot that, as part of a team, can assist. Each grips a pot, has a deck for carrying, sensors to know where it is and spaces each plant. It can work 24/7 in all weather and when harvest time comes, can retrieve the finished product. The Massachusetts based wheeled farmbot is field testing now and should be available for consumers next year.
In 2007, Vancouver's eatArt Lab first unveiled their Mondo Spider, a human run robotic arachnid that weighs 1,700 lbs. Now some of their members have created the 50 ft. long Titanoboa, a robot snake. They put them inside a warehouse next to their studio to see how the two got along. While nothing really happened (even if you thought it was going to,) project leader Charlie Brinson says they are going for art, not killing machines.
That may change when they next release Prothesis, a walking exoskeleton also controlled by a human. It may be too much for the feeble controllers who feel the need to challenge each other in a minor metal duel.
UCSD's Coordinated Robotics Lab is working on their latest generation of the iFling, an R/C robot they call a "self-righting Segway-like vehicle." It picks up a ping pong ball, rolling over it and wedging it between body and wheel, then tosses. Its makers are hoping to get several to play catch and make them different sizes for larger balls. Look for the iFling in a toy store near you sometime in the future next to their other creations iHop and iceCube.