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.
Google continues to map where no mapper has mapped before. This time it is the Grand Canyon. A 360º view of the Bright Angel Trail to the Colorado River means a ten mile hike that ranges in elevation from 6,900 feet in elevation to 2,400 feet, courtesy of Luc Vincent, Google engineering director, his team and handy trekker on his backpack. They then hiked back up from the Phantom Ranch through the South Kaibab Trail. Other trails were shot as well.
The automatic trekker captures images every 2.5 seconds with 15 5 mp cameras. Because the GPS data is limited, sensors record temperature, vibrations and orientation before turning them into images. Google wants to continue mapping in national forests, Mount Everest and even ancient edifices.
We haven't heard from Jim Quinlan for a couple of years but it seems he is back at work and recently created Roger, a battle droid garden art sculpture. His body is in a fixed sitting positing but his elbows, wrists, head and shoulders are movable. You can adopt him for $5,500.00, trumpet and butterfly included.
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.