BOCCO Family Robot Kickstarter Project Successfully Funded

BOCCO The family robot that brings your loved ones closer by Yukai Engineering Kickstarter

I first ran across BOCCO at Maker Faire Tokyo last year, and I have to say that I was a little skeptical about its potential as a product and as a business. Although BOCCO incorporates quite a few communication functions, like delivering a message to your loved ones while you are absent, many other devices that are capable of doing the same things, like smartphones and tablets, already exist.

Yet, BOCCO drew big crowds at Maker Faire, and continued to gain fans and supporters over the months that followed. And, when the BOCCO Kickstarter project launched, a significant percentage of those fans demonstrated their love of the robot by opening their wallets and supplying funding. As of this evening, 20 hours before the project closes, they have already exceeded the original goal of raising $20,000 by a considerable margin.


What makes BOCCO so unusual? Why were people willing to fund the project when logically there are already many ways to satisfy the core communication functions with existing technology like smartphones?

BOCCO is emotionally attractive and welcoming. The robot’s ‘cute’ and non-threatening personality makes it perfect for situations involving people that are either too young, or too old, to be comfortable using a smartphone. For example, BOCCO could be your personal remote avatar interacting in an engaging manner with an elderly grandparent living in a full care facility, even if they happened to be a 1,000 miles or more away. BOCCO is fun. BOCCO is friendly. And, BOCCO is caring. When it comes to robots and people, that’s enough - it’s more than enough.

Via: BOCCO: The family robot that brings your loved ones closer by Yukai Engineering — Kickstarter #robotsdreams
More information at Robots Dreams

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Japanese Robot Pro-Wrestling Invades RoboGames 2015 (Video)

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Robot Pro Wrestling during RoboGames 2015 in San Mateo, California. Ryuketsu-Kamen, piloted by Yoshifumi Omata, and Thunderbolt, piloted by Yoshihiro Shibata face off in the ring to give the crowds a taste of what real robot pro wrestling in Japan is like.

Omaha and Shibata love introducing their humanoid entertainment robots to children of all ages in hopes that it will inspire some of them to get involved in robotics and STEM learning opportunities, or even purse a career in engineering or science. They are so dedicated that they took vacation time off from their regular day jobs, bought plane tickets, and flew half way across the globe just to compete in RoboGames.

Via: Robot Pro-Wrestling Dekinnoka!23 -Thunderbolt VS Ryuketsu-Kamen- - YouTube #robotsdreams
More information at Robots Dreams

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New Digital Recorder – TASCAM DR-22WL

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Picked up the new TASCAM DR-22WL digital recorder to capture better audio for interviews and videos. From the specifications, and most user reviews, it should be a good fit for my needs. I’ll be able to give it a few field tests before I make the international trek to MakerCon and Bay Area Maker Faire this May.

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The built-in WiFi capability and free iOS and Android apps were the major selling point for me. Being able to remotely control the recorder from my smartphone will be a huge improvement. That will allow me to position the recorder in the best spot to capture audio while giving me the freedom to move around with my camera as I shoot the action.

My initial tests, though short, indicate that the smartphone control not only works, it actually is simpler and more straightforward to use than the buttons on the recorder itself.

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All though the DR-22WL only supports two channels compared to it’s bigger, and more expensive brother, the DR-44WL, it weighs less, fits in my hand and backpack nicely, and has all the functions I am likely to need built right in.

The build quality is acceptable, though not at the top of the range. For example, you have to look closely at the mini-USB connector to confirm the orientation - something that should be more obvious if the access hole in the case matched the connector. 

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Powered by two AA cell batteries that are easily available almost anywhere on the planet, I shouldn’t have to face unexpected charging problems onsite, which is a significant plus.

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Included in the DR-22WL package are the recorder, batteries, a mini-USB cable, and the instruction manual in both English and Japanese. The more expensive DR-44WL also includes a cloth case for the recorder, which would be nice. Looks like a quick trip to the local 100¥ (dollar store) will fix that shortcoming. 

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With only a few hours use under my belt, I’m pleased by what I’ve experienced with the DR-22WL so far. The display could be a little brighter, especially for outdoor use, and the menu fonts could be much larger - still the recorder is more than adequate in both respects.

The WiFi remote control apps, at least the iOS version, work as advertised and were easy to setup and use. There is also a WiFi file transfer app available for free download from the TASCAM website. That will get tested tomorrow. Of course, coupling your smartphone or computer to the recorder means that you don’t have WiFi access to the internet simultaneously unless you setup a separate router. This isn’t a significant problem for my intended uses, but could impact those that want to broadcast the audio real-time from events.

In addition to recording interviews and audio for event videos, I also plan to use the DR-22WL for article dictation processing the output through Dragon Dictate. It would be nice if the recorder could also be used as an active microphone for direct use with the same application, but I’m not sure if that is possible, and it isn’t a deal killer since I have a Blue Snowball microphone I typically use in the studio.

Related links: TASCAM DR-22WL Digital Recorder


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Game of Drones Call for Combat Pilots @ Bay Area Maker Faire

Game of Drones Combat Arena Maker Faire San Mateo Game of Drones San Francisco CA Meetup

Game of Drones - the fantastic aerial combat competition where multicopters take to the air and try to knock each other out of the sky - is currently accepting pilot and team applications for the May 15th competition that will take place at the Bay Area Maker Faire in San Mateo.

Even if your courage isn’t up for it, you’ll want to put it on your ‘must-see’ list when you attend Maker Faire next month.

Via: Game of Drones Combat Arena @ Maker Faire San Mateo - Game of Drones (San Francisco, CA) - Meetup #robotsdreams
 More information at Robots Dreams

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Queensland University of Technology Offers Free Online Robotics Courses

QUT Open online learning

More and more universities are offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) where anyone, anywhere in the world, can benefit from exactly the same courseware and resources as local students. Of course, they have to have relatively high speed internet access. Typically these courses are free, though some require a minimal charge.

For example, Queensland University of Technology in Australia will be offering two information rich courses in robotics early in 2015. Introduction to Robotics covers the world of robots along with the necessary underlying mathematics and algorithms, while Robotic Vision  explores computer vision in robot designs and applications. Instructor for both courses will be Professor Peter Corke.  

Via: QUT - Open online learning #robotsdreams
More information at Robots Dreams

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Japan ‘Robots in the Home’ Guru to Headline at Innorobo 2015

110923 Lady Ada at RT 001 jpg Flickr Photo Sharing

Fascinated by robots as a young child, Yuki Nakagawa, founder and CEO of RT Corp, has been involved in Japanese humanoid robotics and robots in the home for almost her entire career. Her life’s mission is to improve and enhance people’s quality of life through the use of robot technologies.

This July she’ll be sharing her unique observations, insights, know-how, and vision for the future at Innorobo 2015 in Lyon, France. It’s a rare opportunity to meet and interact with a Japanese expert in the field to gain insight into why Japan has earned a high reputation for human/robot interaction and co-working, and to talk about what the future may hold. 

Innorobo conferences Innorobo

Via: Innorobo conferences | Innorobo and RT Corp. #robotsdreams
More information at Robots Dreams

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‘Battlebots’ Set To Burn Up The AIrwaves On June 21st

Battlebots reboot will air on ABC June 21st

Battlebots, the modern day robotic version of ancient Roman gladiator combats in the coliseum, will hit the airwaves via ABC on June 21st broadcasting at least six episodes. The program producers are promising a much richer and deeper viewing experience with lots of ‘behind the scenes’ segments to hopefully create more of a bond between the robot creators and their viewing fans.

Unfortunately those of us living outside the U.S. will have to wait until the series makes it to iTunes or does an individual deal, country by country, for rebroadcast.

Via: 'Battlebots' reboot will air on ABC June 21st #robotsdreams
More information at Robots Dreams

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New Co-Working Space in Chiba

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It’s not unusual to find good co-working spaces around Tokyo, or most major urban areas for that matter. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a very large and comfortable co-working space just a short distance from my home in the suburbs of Tokyo.

Located less than 2 minutes on foot from Inage Kaigan JR Station in Chiba, the SHI TSU RAI Co-working Space is an excellent shared office space. Open 7 days a week from 10 am until 7 pm, in addition to a clean, well lit work area, the facility offers free high speed WiFi, power, coffee/beverages, plus attractive discounts. You can use the facility by the hour, day, or month.

Basically, for ¥1,000, about what you would spend for a coffee and cookie at Starbucks, you can use the facility all day . It’s so reasonable and pleasant, that I’m signing up for a monthly membership.

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The staff is extremely pleasant, knowledgeable, and helpful. Keeping in mind that this is the suburbs, their English speaking level was certainly sufficient to handle all of my needs and requests.

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This would be perfect for meetings, training sessions, or other similar events. Of course, that type of use would have to be booked in advance.

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The free drink bar is including in your access fee and includes water, tea, coffee, and other beverages.

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When I used to work for big corporations, everyone fought over the offices with windows to the outside world. Now I can enjoy that environment every day.

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The building entrance signage leaves a lot to be desired and tends to be a bit dark, but don’t let that put you off.

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The SHI TSU RAI Co-working Space is on the 3rd floor along with several restaurants. Since it’s located close to a major train station, there is lots of shopping, convenience stores, restaurants, and even a Mister Donut shop just a few quick steps away.

Via: SHI TSU RAI Co-working Space 
More information at Robots Dreams

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Robotic Beer Brewing System – Bierre

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Robots Can’t Bring You A Beer, But They Can Brew It!

Beer brewing can be fun, and is something that is easily accomplished at home. However, like many complex processes, brewing beer that tastes good and has consistent quality requires an attention to detail that is often challenging for hobby beer brewers.

Thankfully, affordable technology exists to assist home brewers in their quest for tasty beer on a repeatable, predictable basis. Utilizing off the shelf components along with

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smartphones that almost everyone carries around in their pockets these days, Leo Innovations LLC successfully designed and launched Bieree: Smartphone Beer Brewing System.

Constructive Feedback Yields Results-

Driven by their passion for beer brewing, the founders at Leo Innovations spent years experimenting and refining their approach. Their initial attempts, though successful at producing quality beer, met with some criticism. The main complaint was that the system was too automated, too robotic. It produced the beer with a minimum of interaction from operators - as if it was on autopilot, so users felt isolated from the process.

Responding to this valuable feedback, the developers came up with the latest Bieree version expanding its user programability and data display/collection. Not only can users set parameters like temperatures and times, they can also expand the system to include other types of sensors or controls.

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What’s Inside?

The Bieree beer brewing system has five basic elements. The heart of the system is a Bluetooth enabled micro controller with two power FETs. Fluid is pumped through the system using dual food grade coffee machine pumps. A temperature probe monitors operating temperatures, which are extremely critical for brewing. Devices are switched on or off using a power relay.

Users control the system using custom software applications available on both Android and iPhone/iOS platforms. Using the app of their choice, users setup the controller to measure temperatures, turn pumps on to circulate water through the different brewing vessels, and control refrigerated cooling. Communication between the smartphone and the Bierre process controller is via Bluetooth.

Successful Kickstarter Project-

Setting modest, yet achievable, goals, the company introduced Bieree to the world via a Kickstarter project in the summer of 2014. The project attracted 57 backers, primarily through word of mouth among beer brewing hobbyists, and exceeded it’s project funding goal of $6,000.

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The People That Made It Happen-

Leo Innovations was founded by Leonardo Estevez who was born in Uruguay, became a naturalized US citizen, and holds both a PhD in Electrical Engineering and a Masters degree in Cognitive Neuroscience. He is committed to helping students to develop STEM based products that improve users quality of life.

Using open source hardware and software developed by Leo, Sam Dalong, the Leo Innovations project lead and designer, produced the Bierre kit. Sam holds a Masters degree in mathematics, and like Leo, has a strong interest in STEM development and motivating users.

Related links:

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