Bless Willow Garage and their PR2s. The one that belongs to the University of Pennsylvania's GRASP lab will do one of the worst human jobs. He even has the telling name POOP SCOOP (Perception of Offensive Products and Sensorized Control of Object Pickup.) It identifies them based on color against a green field then heads on over there and grabs its prize.
PS is somewhat limited in his endeavors and can only manage high fiber scooping. They will soon be posting their ROS stack and you can assist and make it a super-scooper. With a success rate of about 95%, the $400,000 bot can practice in our backyard anytime.
It may look like a runaway from a Puffs Tissue commercial, but it is in fact a very coordinated, humanistic Mekabot unveiled at last month's IROS 2011 event in San Francisco. There are hi-res FireWire Cameras for eyes, DSP controllers that are integrated and amazingly lifelike torso and head movements. Founders Aaron Edsinger and Jeff Weber formed Meka after developing Domo at MIT.
If you like your movies overly long and 90% CGI, then Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon is for you. With inside references that range from Al Pacino to Spock's famous line "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few," this film has more great character actors (including Leonard Nimoy as the voice of Sentinel) than any high budget movie needs.
Don't try to keep track of the various plots, but watch for the special effects. There is so much of it that Shia LaBeouf and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (who does the film in heels) rarely do anything but run across a set or scream. And if you have a big screen and Blu-ray, so much the better.
You would think that there would finally be an end to the ways R2-D2 can be exploited licensed, but at the Christmas Toy Fair 2011 in London, Sega introduced the 3.9 x 8.3 x 3.5" Home Star R2-D2 Planetarium. It will project about 10,000 stars out of his head and onto your wall or ceiling. Four AA batteries are needed to light up the LED (not included) and look for a price of $104.00.
Panasonic has created a hair-washing robot with 24 fingers. It resembles a regular salon chair and sink, and shampoos, does scalp massages and rinses with a total time of 3 minutes. It takes a mere 5 more minutes to condition and blow dry hair. Designed for the elderly or infirm, it was originally conceived two years ago and the new model should be available to those that have the need next year.
The University of Tokyo has taught their PR2 to fetch a sandwich. If one is not available in the fridge, he goes to the Subway in another building. The bot is using "semantic search," the ability to use common sense when seeking an object. It can also add to the knowledge as it gains more experience. So, although he did have a bit of a bind at the elevator, we still call this a $5 footlong success.
You know that the holidays will soon be upon us when new toys start to appear, including the latest Let's Rock Elmo. The Sesame St. muppet certainly has evolved and now comes with a microphone, tambourine and drum set, and sings 6 different songs. This will be one of the hot toys this season, so shop early.
Note that Hasbro also wants your kids to play along with separately sold Let's Rock Guitar, Keyboard and Mic , but you can save those for birthdays.
Recently updated, 'Robot Wants Kitty' is a platformer with the user helping the bot collect kitties and enhance its abilities. Made by Raptisoft, the app is good with iPhone/iPod touch and iPad iOS 3.1 or later. The first level is free with other levels at $.99 each.
The University of Maryland has teamed with DARPA and come up with two jumping robots. One is a 4mm bot with power source control system and light sensors that goes up 8 cm, equal to 20 times its height. The other has microfabricated elastomer springs that store up energy and release it when it is ready to take off. This mini-bot can go 80 times its own height. We call that a super spy.