No, this isn't a tutorial on creating a robot. It's a new music video from a group called the Robotmakers and here's what they have to say about their creation, ""Building a Robot" is the result of a long evolutionary process that resulted in successive generations of forms, some of which we call music. Natural selection and repeated lethal mutations winnowed the results. We are left with the Robot Maker's opus, which cannot be used as proof of intelligent design." A whole pile of interesting electronic gear was used to produce the music, including one of Rog-a-matic's own modular synthesizers. Oh, and did I mention there are some robots in the video?
An Ebay auction for a giant collection of Transformers stands at $100K. Included in this incredible batch of mint, still-in-box, robots are approximately 275 Transformers and Transformer licensed products collected by the late Anthony Lindgren as he recovered from a motorcycle accident back in the Mid-80s. 101 Autobots, 81 Decepticons, the highly sought-after Transformers Toothbrush, and my personal favorite, Transformers Shrinky Dinks! The bidding battle will end on Aug 1 at 12:33 PDT, unless someone clicks the $1M Buy-It-Now button.
The Microcontroller Hobby blog has posted a handy new tutorial by Eric Wolf explaining how to control high current devices from a microcontroller. Eric explains how to use what he describes as "the cockroach of transistors", the NPN BPJ 2N3904 to drive up to a 170ma load. Robot builders may question the idea that a 170ma load should be described as "high current" but reader comments at the end of the article point out that a MOSFET could be used to controller devices in the 30A-50A range.
We seem to have a history here at robots.net of reviewing unusual robot-related art forms. Last time it was robot poetry and today it's a machine-made movie about machines. Stolen Life is an example of machinima. It's an animated movie but it isn't animated in any traditional way. It was rendered on a computer but not in the way you'd expect. Rather than rendering the scenes one frame at a time at the highest resolution possible in the way Hollywood does, machinima goes the opposite direction, rendering in real time at low resolution. The rendering is done not by specialized animation software but by repurposing a videogame rendering engine. The upside is that it's fast and inexpensive compared to Hollywood's method. The downside is that it looks like, well, a video game. It doesn't look real like the CG you see in typical theatrical movies. It looks more like the earliest attempts at computer rendered animation such as Tron. Aside from the unusual animation, Stolen Life has an interesting story, a great score, and voices provided by real actors. Read on for a more detailed review and an interview with the producer.
MedGadget gurus are reporting an active ankle/foot Orthosis from MIT and Brown University. The novel robotic prosthesis provides not only a mechanical structure but also a powered joint to aid in the walking process and eliminate the unnatural gait of the typical amputee. The ankle utilizes multiple springs to capture and release energy along with a small electric motor for an extra boost. The robotic ankle is scheduled to be available mid-2008 from iWalk, Inc.
Dean Hall needed an inexpensive GPS module that could interface with a microcontroller for use on his outdoor robot project, named Argonaut. He started by comparing the two least expensive USB GPS modules, the Holux GR-213 and the EverMore GM-R900, both of which use the SiRFstarIII chip. Indoor reception, outdoor reception, and other details were compared before selecting the GM-R900. Dean then offers photos and technical details of the GM-R900, revealing that the board itself has a serial connection which goes through a serial to USB adapter in contained in the cable. The serial interface uses standard NMEA protocol and should be easy to connect to virtually any microcontroller. Dean has also written some Python code to communicate with the GM-R900.
A Canadian Globe and Mail article details the motivations of Stanford University roboticist, Sebastian Thrun. His elderly father caused a car accident while driving, resulting in the loss of his father's driver's license and a gradual decline in his health. This got Thrun thinking about how robots could help and eventually led to his work on autonomous robot cars. He predicts we'll see a gradual transition from the totally manual cars of today to cars that assist with parking, accident avoidence and, eventually, can handle the entire task of driving if we want. The article also talks about other robots that could help the elderly get around such as robot wheel chairs that are smart enough to avoid obstacles and navigate their occupant safely to the desired destination.
Nelson Bridwell sent us links to interesting video from last month's Robots and Vision 2007 conference including the Velodyne HDL-64E Lidar system that may be used by several DARPA Urban Challenge teams, the Motoman 2-armed robot, and the Barrett Technology WAM Arm. Charlie Kondek of MS&L wrote, "We're working on a new campaign ... that I thought might be of interest to your readers because it features a robot." Seed Magazine published an article on roboethics recently that includes a little uncredited input from yours truly. Elsewhere, researchers have finally perfected an unbeatable checkers algorithm but Chess and Go are still beyond the grasp of machines. Another reader pointed out an Engadget story with photos of a full-size Gundam robot replica at a Japanese amusement park. Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report? Send 'em our way please.
The Edge has published an speculative essay by Kevin Kelly of Wired magazine. In it, he explains his use of the word technium to describe the whole system of technology as it exists in our world. Technium, he says, "has its own inherent agenda and urges, as does any large complex system, indeed, as does life itself." He explains his idea further by saying that technium is the child of humanity but that with each new technology like AI, robotics, and genetic engineering, it challenges our notions of what it means to be human. And the bit about the 7th kingdom? "There are roughly six kingdoms of life according to Lynn Margulis and others. As an extropic system that originated from animals, one of the six kingdoms, we can think of the technium as a 7th." An essay full of interesting, if unusual, ideas.
Guitar Heronoid is a robot built to play the Guitar Hero video game on a PS2. The brains, developed by Rafael Mizrahi, analyses video from the PS2 and detects the fretting. Data is then sent via TCP to the robot where Tal Chalozin used solenoids to activate aluminum fingers attached to a life-sized mannequin. The guitar and PS2 were left unhacked. Video.
I’ve come across this interesting movie clip called The Google Master Plan in Youtube quite some time ago. It’s a movie directed and produced by Ozan Halici & Jürgen Mayer for their Bachelors’s Thesis at the University of Applied Sciences Ulm, Germany. The movie basically talks about how Google can use their free services like Google [...]
Online shopping has gain its popularity all around the world nowadays with the advance of the Internet. Just like the amount of websites we can find on the Internet, there are too many online deals for us to choose from. Hence we do need a search engine which helps us to aggregate all merchant offers, [...]
I’m sure many of us are thinking of upgrading our computer operating system to the latest Windows Vista. Apart from wondering will the current computer hardware be compatible to Windows Vista, probably we are facing the dilemma of choosing which version of Windows Vista. Basically, there are 5 versions of Windows Vista to choose from, they [...]
Yellow pages is often the source for us to search for local stores and services, be it online yellow pages or printed yellow pages. I particularly like online yellow pages very much, as usually I am just a few clicks away from what I want to find in my local area. However, in many cases accurate [...]
A Newsweek article covers the changing definitions of death. It used to be that when you reached "clinical death", that was it. Then it became possible to restart the heart. Doctors moved on to declaring "brain death", when cerebral function stopped. But it seems that even after the brain stops working, all the information is still there and, provided cellular death can be stopped or reversed in time, it's possible to boot the brain back up. Normally, unrecoverable brain damage occurs within five minutes but by lowering the body temperature, doctors can significantly extend that time. More interestingly, apoptosis and necrosis take time to destroy the information in the brain, during which it may be possible to reverse the process or cryogenically preserve the information making up the mind and transfer it to a new receptacle; perhaps a cloned brain or a robot. This leads to a new term: "information-theoretic death" is the point at which the physical structure of the brain succumbs to entropy and the mind can no longer be reconstituted. This moral uncertitude as to when death occurs is interesting in light of recent suggestions that organ donation should be mandatory or done on an "opt-out" scheme. Another article suggests individuals be allowed to accept the legal definition of death or define their own meaning. To learn more about the endovascular temperature modulation techniques described, see the Medical News Today article on the subject.
Matt Fisher of KumoTek writes, "We just won a bid to provide 50 Bioloid Kits to the US Naval Academy". The Bioloids will be used at the US Naval Academy for classroom instruction in robotics. The Robotis Bioloid is a robot kits consisting of RC type servos and joints that can be assembled into a variety of robots such as bipeds, quadrupeds, snakes, hexapods, robot arms and about any other type of jointed robot. KumoTek also sells to the general public through their Roboporium website. For more details on KumoTek's Navy contract, read on for the full text of their press release.
Touted as a next-generation prosthetic device, the
i-LIMB Hand from Touch Bionics is a fully articulating bionic hand that is commercially available right now. Built with high-strength plastics, the hand is lightweight, strong, and aesthetically pleasing. Control signals are detected by two electrodes implanted under the skin, then transmitted to a battery-powered processor which in turn controls actuators and monitors gripping force. Programmed grip patterns improve movements required in modern-day life such as operating computer keyboards, ATM machines, and telephone dial pads. Patients are also appreciating the life-like appearance of the i-LIMB hand while at rest and in motion. A patient gallery and videos are available.
Artificial muscles made with electroactive polymers simply don't hold up to the rigors of constant shape-changing, but a new class of carbon nanotubes may remedy this says Victor Pushparaj at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. Initial tests with a two-millimeter block containing millions of vertically-aligned nanotubes endured 500,000 cycles while maintaining its shape, and electrical and mechanical properties. The goal is to build the next generation of actuators for robot arms and prosthetic limbs that will last longer and offer smoother, more life-like motion. See the story at NewScientist
Inspired by the recent Transformers movie, a CBC.ca article offers a list of robots that have appeared in pop culture over the years. The author lists many of the most well known movie and TV robots, throwing in a few vaguely related mentions of robots in music as well. Gort, Bender, Mr. Data, Marvin, Robby, Astro Boy, they're all here. Or are they? What robots would you add to the list?
Acorrding to a NorwichBulletin article, Christi Jacobs, a Purdue graduate student, is trying to get more girls interested in technology. And not just any girls. Christi is the former captain of the Prudue cheerleading squad, so she's after other cheerleaders. She's created a summer camp for high school cheerleaders where they'll work with small humanoid robots. Each robot is issued a cheerleading outfit and programmed by the girls to do a routine. The girls and the robot will perform the routine together. Beyond robots, cheerleaders will learn about the physics of music, construction management, computer graphics motion capture technology, and even avaiation technology. More details can be found in a Purdue University press release. While it's targeted primarily at girls, the program is open to anyone in 8th through 12th grade, so if you like robots and cheerleaders, this may be the perfect summer activity for you.
According a Wired article, humanoid robots are being used in British schools to teach social skills to autistic children. It's a perfect match because robots don't grow impatient with the children and autistic children frequently don't react well to human teachers. The humanoid robots offer much easier to understand interactions to the child, providing a stepping stone to dealing with the more complex interaction needed with other humans. The teacherbots are known as KASPAR robots (Kinesics and Synchronisation in Personal Assistant Robotics) and cost about $4.3 million each. They consist of a silicon-rubber mask over an aluminum frame with 8 DOF in the head and neck, 6 DOF in the arms and hands. It also has 2 DOF eyes with integrated video cameras.
A LinuxDevices article mentioned a new PC/104 form factor ARM9 microcontroller made by EMAC that might be useful for robot hobbyists. The board, called the iPac-9302 is based on the Cirrus EP9302 SOC, which uses a 200MHz ARM920T CPU with a MaverickCrunch floating point math engine. The board supports up to 64MB of SDRAM, 32MB of flash, 256KB EEPROM, and a PLD which can be reprogrammed to support quadrature decoding, stepper control, or other custom tasks. It supports a lot of I/O including AC97 audio, 10/100 ethernet, 1 RS-232, 1 RS-232/422/485, 2 USB 2.0 port, 16 processor I/O lines, 16 PLD digital inputs (5v), 8 digital outputs (25ma), 8 high-drive digital outputs (500ma), 9 synchronous serial I/O lines (SPI/I2S), 3 PWM I/O lines, 5 channels of 12 bit A/D, and 2 channels of 8 bit D/A. You can also get an optional JTAG adapter and screw terminal board for all that I/O. And, yes, it runs Linux. The best part is that the pricing starts at $150 in single unit quantities. For more details see the iPac 9302 manual (PDF format).
If you are a frequent online buyer who purchases computer stuffs and digital devices via the Internet, you don’t want to miss out this website called Dealighted! Its name doesn’t explain much of its operation. Dealighted is a free tool to help online buyers to find the best bargain for the products they are looking for! [...]
Work at Aarhus University in Denmark hopes to produce a bolt-on accessory
package for mowing robots to provide both simple weeding tools and possibly even lasers for zapping undesirable plant growth. The system can also be used to dispense chemicals in a very focused way in order to reduce environmental impact. Hortibot is not completely autonomous but still claims an improvement in work efficiency. The project list includes squeezing Hortibot's Linux-based controller into the size of a credit card, and allowing a mobile phone to retrieve system status - iMow anyone?
Hannes Drexl writes "I haven't found a link to the article w/video on the ESA website from July 6 about their three-legged EUROBOT on your great news site yet". The ESA EUROBOT is being developed to support the International Space Station and has just completed underwater trials. It will be capable of autonomous locomotion across the exterior of the ISS modules using three appendages which serve as both arms and legs. The robot also has a teleoperations mode that will allow astronauts to handle ISS repairs remotely through the robot when needed. More photos of recent underwater weightlessness simulation tests and of earlier autonomous and teleoperation tests are also available on the ESA site.
The Sony Aibo is very popular among robotics researchers and University RoboCup teams. When Sony discontinued the Aibo, researchers were left scrambling to find a replacement. Jan Wedekind wrote to let us know the successor to the Aibo is here and sent us a pile of related links. The new robot dog was developed by Oscar von Stryk and others at TU Darmstadt, where an official news release was posted recently. The Hajime Research Institute in Japan helped with the mechanics. Gotha Design created the robot's exterior shell. The robot is powered by a LiPo battery, weighs 2.5kg, and has 15 joints. It includes a 500MHz Linux-based AMD Geode LX800 with LAN, WLAN, USB, VGA, memory card interface, an LCD panel and four push buttons. The dog also includes a 640x480 camera capable of 90 FPS. No word on pricing and availability yet. What's the new robot dog called? For now they're referring to it only as der neue Roboter - the new robot. For even more details and links on the new robot, see Jan's blog entry.
iPod’s fans have made history as Apple announced yesterday that there have been 100 million iPods sold to date, since its launch in November 2001! 100 million sold in five and a half years is incredible and there is no doubt iPod is still the pioneer in music player industry.
According to a ComputerWeekly.com article, MIT robot expert Rodney Brooks suggests two things are needed for wider adoption of robots in home and business. The first is to move closer to truly autonomous robots. He notes that most robots still need human intervention or teleoperation. Today's robots are closer than ever to being autonomous but we're not there yet. He also suggests that the data storage capacity of computers needs to increase a bit more to make robots practical. He expects a typical robot to have 40,000 GB of internal storage by 2015, allowing the storage of such things as a highly detailed map of the entire Earth. Brooks made these comments in a lecture at the BCS/Royal Signals Institution recently. Video of the entire lecture (Flash format) is available online.
Gentle on people and gentle on the pocket book. Taking cues from the 40,000 muscles and unique agility of an Elephant's trunk, Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation in Stuttgart has developed the
ISELLA prosthetic arm. Two motors per joint help prevent undesired motion and an interesting drive system uses a high-strength cord wrapped around a double helix drive shaft. It's claimed that the drive system is more energy-efficient than a typical geared setup, has a high strength-to-weight ratio, and is more cost-effective to manufacture.
Ever think of using a “mouse-like” device as pointing device for your TV instead of the dull TV remote control? You know, like having a cursor moving in your TV just like what we have for PC? Hillcrest Labs actually has this revolutionary pointing device for TV called HōMETM Interactive Media System.
Quoted: Hillcrest Labs’ HōMETM Interactive Media [...]
Remote computer support can be provided either via Windows Remote Assistance or software that specially designed which we have to install on our PC. As a result, there is always a hassle to install a separate software onto the PC in order to provide or receive remote assistance. To save the one who provides or receives [...]
Cost of making local and international call using phone/calling cards is quite cheap nowadays. I like to use phone cards to make international call especially when I’m traveling instead of making expensive roaming calls. There is one thing I don’t like about ordinary phone cards is that we need to remember the PIN number on [...]
TechBlog has put together and amusing collection of photos and video featuring recent robot cats and cat-like robotic products. They mention the Philips iCat audio and video player, an unnamed Japanese robot cat that may be either the somewhat creepy-looking Sega Near Me Cat or the cat-of-the-living-dead-creepy NeCoRo Cat, the Dynamizer's Robot Cat, and Pussy Cat, a cross between a mobile PC, a robot, and an air freshener, all in the shape of a cat.
It's common for robot manufacturers to claim a "world's first" for one of their robots. It's rare to seem them offer proof. So it's not surprising when there's an exception that Lem Fugitt of the Robots-Dreams.com blog writes, I thought you might find this interesting and newsworthy. He has posted some details about a joint Taakar/Tomy and Sanyo press event in Osaka, Japan in which Guinness is revealed to have certified the i-SOBOT as "the smallest humanoid robot in production". Lem included some photos and video of the tiny robot in action. The i-SOBOT is expected to retail for about $350 in the US and Japan later this year.
A stuff.co.nz story tipped us off to some interesting research being done by Albert Yeap at the Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research at Auckland University of Technology. Yeap has created a robot, named Albot, that navigates much like people and other biological creatures. It uses symbolic reasoning rather than precise distances and coordinates. For example, as we walk around, we might notice an obstacle such as a wall but, "We don't care if the wall is 1 metre, 1.2 metres or 0.9 metres away from us. It's somewhere out there roughly at that distance." So Albot is able to navigate successfully using the same type of error-ridden data that animals use. To learn more about how Albot navigates, see the research paper, Using a Mobile Robot for Cognitive Mapping (PDF format).
The Shadow Robot Company has issued a press release (PDF format) about their new project to develop robotics technology for rehabilitation of patients suffering from chronic pain. Randy Dumse of New Micros, Inc. sent us links to several stories including an Electronic Design story on Robot Cars and a PhysOrg story on the MIT entry in the upcoming DARPA Urban Challenge. Randy also noticed a PhysOrg article about the debut of Nano Soccer at the 2007 Robocup. Meanwhile, Roland Piquepaille reported on two more robot stories in his blog: a 1mm medical robot and a story on cyborg insects (also see our previous story on the cyborg bugs). And The Swirling Brain has been swirling with stories too, including a Fox news story on a Taser-equipped Packbot, and a tiny robot at a Japanese toy show. Know any other robot news, gossip, or amazing facts we should report? Send 'em our way please.
David Gelernter has made a name for himself by being as pessimistic about AI as researchers like Kurzweil are optimistic (the two debated each other last year). He describes himself as an "anticognitivist" (presumably he's only opposed to cognition in machine, not humans, however, so a label like anti-machine-cognitivist might be more accurate). Gelernter's latest rant against AI says AI researchers are missing the "most important fact", something he calls a "cognitive continuum", something that "connects the seemingly unconnected puzzle pieces of thinking". Without this cognitive continuum, "AI is lost in the woods" according to Gelernter. He goes on to bring up the usual anti-AI arguments like the Searle's Chinese Room. Interestingly, considering yesterday's post on definitions, he talks about consciousness, intelligence, and emotion without offering any definitions.