We are always pleased when we hear that bots are being used to help clean up the environment, and the OSP is proof of this. Think of it as a Roomba on steroids. Designer Ji-hoon Kim has created modular oil-cleaning robots that, because of their minute size, can be transported to an oil spill by boat or helicopter. Powered by solar panels and controlled by algorithms, the mini-bots connect up and and contain the spill so that human clean-up teams can do the rest. Although this is still in the prototype stage, we hope this is one that has enough funding to make it a reality.
Biomimetics takes creatures of nature and turns them into automatons. Boston's Northeastern University biologist Joseph Ayers claims that animals have evolved to handle their environment and we should study them to make more efficient robotics. The simpler mechanics replace complicated software and sensors.
Stanford's Dr. Mark Cutkosky's Stickybot was built on that principle when his team duplicated the hairs on geckos' feet so that they can hang on any surface.
"If you're controlling a robot with a computer program, unless you've anticipated every possible situation it's going to get into, it will eventually get into a situation where it has no escape strategy and it will be stuck. Animals never get stuck," says Dr. Ayers. "What animals do is they wiggle and squirm [until they escape]."
Yeah, that sounds logical to us, at least until some unfeeling elephant wanders by and stomps on the robotic reptile.
Next time you hit a Dutch library, you just may see Jelte van Geest's Take_a_Seat prototype. Created for the Openbare Bibliotheek Endhoven, a library design project, each chair is designed with an RFID chip. When a user passes his card over it, the friendly furniture follows him/her around until the sittee decides to settle in. Best of all, when the person is done, the Take_a_Seat returns to its charging station, a la Roomba. We think this would be a nifty idea in a crowded bar or when waiting in line for tickets, and we hope that Jelte's next design features a backrest.
Researchers at England's Royal Veterinary College, and the Germany's University of Ulm are using a dragonfly as a model to create flying bots with cameras and sensors for military applications. Because they have four independent wings, they can hover, glide, move backwards, and change directions rapidly. Although not completely successful, we suspect that the scientists will eventually come up with a utile robotic spy, at least until the enemy brings it down with their robotic fly swatter.
It seems that ASIMO has a new trick up his sleeve. Hiroshi Okuno and Kazuhiro Nakadai have devised HARK, a new software that allows the bot to differentiate between 3 humans with 70 to 80% accuracy. Known as the "cocktail party effect," the technology utilizes 8 mics to isolate one from the others by speech-recognition. ASIMO is so far only involved in rock-paper-scissors contests but imagine the next step when it can not only tell who is who, but starts carrying on conversations.
University of Washington Asst. Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Kristi Morgansen has three Robofish that she can program with basic instructions. Probably more remarkable is the fact that the fish can communicate between themselves without her intervention. She sees her technology being effective in super-cold or dangerous underwater environments. The Robofish may not be as cute as Nemo, but at least it won't have to worry about being chomped down by a wayward shark.
Bennett Robot Works sculptures combines the past with the present. On display at the City Foundry in Brooklyn, NY, artist Gordon Bennett uses wood, metal, glass, plastic, and bakelite objects that he finds at garage sales, garbage dumps, and other trash-filled places.
Inspired by the industrial designs of Norman Bel Geddes and Raymond Loewy, each bot stands between 14 and 25", is an exclusive, and takes about a month to build. If you cannot afford one of his pieces, you can also get a poster of some of his work. While they have no
moving parts, we think they are pretty kewl nonetheless. (We are particularly fond of Edward and Kenmore, shown above.)
RoboGames 2008 the world’s largest open robot competition will be taking place at the Ft. Mason Center in San Francisco from June 13-15. There will be 70 events, including combat robots, autonomous combat, soccer, hockey, sumo, navigation, fire fighting, and too many other events to list here.
Tickets are only $20 for adults and $15 for kids, per day, with discounts for all three days. We're not going to be able to make it this year (our California trip is a few weeks later), but if your in the Bay area this is a must for any Robot Snob.
Check out this video featuring some highlights from the competition.
The Associated Press is not in love with the new Rolly music robot from Sony.They have this to say..."it's a conversation-starter if your dancing hamster has run off" and "like all eggs, it's hard to figure out the point." Between calling it a dumber R2-D2, their verdict? "The world's most advanced (and expensive) cat toy." Harsh.
I actually visited the Sony Store here in Burlington, MA yesterday, and I don't think Rolly totally sucks. Overpriced at $399 - yes. Suck no. But the AP can have their opinion. We'll have our thoughts next week.
KumoTek is shipping it's latest robot kit, and it looks to be a winner. The “KumoTek-X” (KT-X) robot was designed to offer an entertaining, low-cost alternative to high-end robotics, while combining the latest in sleek design and cutting-edge robotics engineering.
The KT-X is the first low-cost bi-pedal robot platform of its kind to be offered in the U.S. that (a) can be controlled using a standard wireless PS2 gamepad controller, (b) is easy to use and (c) offers endless hours of entertainment.
The robot is capable walking, running, somersaulting and standing up from a face-up or face-down lying position. It can even be programmed to pull itself up autonomously after it has fallen over. It stands 13” tall, has 17 servo actuated joints (i.e., 17 degrees of freedom), a powerful 60MHz HV processor with 512kB ROM / 64kB RAM and comes fully loaded with over 75 preprogrammed acrobatic motions.
Best of all, the “KumoTek-X” (KT-X) robot can be purchased as a kit or fully assembled. Prices range from $990 to $1,490