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.
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.
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.
Dr. Guero's Primer-V2 has already learned to ride a bike and walk on stilts, so it's really no surprise that the robotocist taught programmed him to walk a tightrope. His feet have a slit in them for the cord and keeping his balance was a special challenge. The humanoid was built out of a Kondo KHR-3HV hobby kit and while the clever bot may not make it across Niagara Falls, it's still fun to watch him maneuver on that 4mm wire suspended a meter above the floor.
"Prometheus", a movie that involves a group of humans in space trying to discover the extraterrestrial roots of the planet, was recently released on Blu-ray. Directed by Ridley Scott, it is a sort of prequel to the 1979 "Alien". David, played by Michael Fassbender, is an android with a aberrant personality that works for Weyland Industries.
While we have not yet seen the epic sci-fi thriller, we did recently re-view Stephen Spielberg's 2001 "A.I." with android Haley Joel Osment wanting to become a real boy. It is worth checking out if only to appreciate the melding of the minds of Spielberg and Stanley Kramer, who originally planned to make the film.
Accrea Engineering, working with Technische Universität München, ETH Zürich, and the University of Salzburg, has done a 360 with the social Iuro (Interactive Urban Robot) that is sent outside with absolutely no knowledge of its surroundings or any form of GPS. So instead of being a guide, he asks humans to help him navigate around the area.
The bot has a large body with shock-absorbing wheels that work on almost any type of surface. His head is packed with 21 actuators to control face movements while stereo cameras and a Kinect sensor helps him interact with those he meets. Introduced at the IROS Expo in Portugal earlier this month, he is currently practicing on unassuming humans. Let's hope that as the project continues, Iuro becomes a little less disturbing in his facial expressions.
The Chiba Institute of Technology has been working on a robotic wheelchair with 4-wheel drive that can be lifted off the ground and "walk" up stairs while remaining steady with onboard stabilizers. It has the ability to turn 360º, can be controlled by a joystick and has sensors imbedded for dealing with obstacles. The chair is still a prototype at this stage and will undergo trials before meeting the public.
German solar company PV Kraftworker has put robotic arms to work to mount solar panels in the field. The arm has suction cups on the end and can therefore lift and position the panels with the aid of video cameras. Because it is mounted on a track vehicle it can work on any terrain.
Kraftwerkes says that the work that was done by 35 workers can now be done with only 3 workers in an eighth of the time for about half the cost. Future plans involve using robots to make electrical connections to panels that are glued to frames rather than screwed in.
Another German based company, Gehrlicher, also uses robots for the task as the video demonstrates. The obvious advantage here is that they can work in any kind of weather.
Can't get enough Gangnam? Then take a look at Virginia Tech's Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory's (RoMeLa) CHARLI-2 that has the audacity of simulating the basic steps in its Autonomous Shipboard Humanoid. The bot is usually found at RoboCup soccer matches but we guess that the 4 1/2 ft. tall ASH just needed to take a break from the sport and kick up its heels dance.