IEEE Spectrum Automation Blog Publishes Amazing Inside Fukushima Robot Report

nuclear robot

The IEEE Spectrum Automation blog just published a really amazing report that includes photos, videos, and detail blog entries from an anonymous worker responsible for operating robots at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

The original Japanese language blog posts have disappeared from the internet, though remnants still exist online thanks to Google cache. It's not clear what rights the IEEE has to translate and publish the source material, and that isn't likely to become clear in the immediate future.

Nevertheless, it is fascinating reading. There's a lot to be learned from the pages of material about conditions within the reactors, how the robots have performed, ways that they need to be improved to do their job better in the future, and of course the feelings and experiences of the human workers exposed to the extremely hazardous nuclear environment.

If you have any interest at all in rescue or surveillance robotics in real world situations, this is an absolute must read.

(Via Fukushima Robot Operator Writes Tell-All Blog - IEEE Spectrum.)

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Fluffy FuwaFuwa Sensor Technology Opens Exciting New Possibilities (Video)

music soft sensor

Technology development today faces some serious limitations that constrains its application and successful deployment, especially in non-traditional sectors. The two biggest limitations, at least from my perspective, are battery capacity/life and sensors. While there has certainly been a lot of progress in both areas over the past two decades, the core technology and design approach hasn't really changed very much.

In order to achieve radical improvements in the way we put technology to practical use some significant breakthroughs in both areas will be critical. Along those lines, one of the most interesting and surprising "thinking out of the box" sensor developments I've run across recently is the FuwaFuwa sensor module developed as a part of the Igarashi Design Interface Project under the auspices of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) ERATO.

"FuwaFuwa" in the Japanese language is a kind of onomatopoeic word that roughly translates as light/airy/fluffy, and that's exactly what the FuwaFuwa sensor module does.


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Data the Robot Comedian and his Comely Creator (Video)

data the nao robot

A couple days ago I blogged a photo of Data The Robot doing stand-up comedy routines at the Lincoln Center. Data's owner/operator/muse is non-other than Heather Knight, a.k.a. "Marilyn Monrobot". Heather modestly describes herself as a "Social Roboticist" but her talents go way beyond that humble title. She's pursuing her doctoral research at CMU in Pittsburgh, doing applications design with Aldebaran Robotics, creating interactive installations, while somehow finding the time to put on engaging and entertaining robot and technology gigs that artfully combine traditionally cold/sharp/hard technology with soft/feeling/emotional art and creativity.

Check out Data The Robot, and Heather, in the video below recorded live at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City earlier this summer.


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Google Grabs Motorola Mobility for a 63% Premium

google motorola

This was definitely a surprise, especially given the fact that Google was willing to pay a 63% premium over last Friday's market price for Motorola Mobility Holdings. Of course, no one has any doubts that Google is totally committed to Android and fully intends to make it the defacto standard, ubiquitously connected, operating system for cell phones, mobile computing, robotics, and the cloud.

At the same time, I have to wonder what the primary motivation for the extremely high evaluation was. It can't be based on Motorola Mobility's existing product lines since customers for mobile products tend to be fickle and change phones and makers almost as if they were seasonal fashion items instead of technology gadgets.

Perhaps Google is buying the talent, though that's a risky move. Highly talented developers and managers often jump ship when a major change in management or ownership happens. The most likely factor, in my opinion, is the patent base and position controlled by Motorola Mobility.

"Google said that access to Motorola, which makes phones that run on Google's Android mobile operating system, will "enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem and will enhance competition in mobile computing.""

No matter what their reasoning, the move has to be great news for the robotics community. You can be sure we'll see lots Android enhancements and features coming down the road that will spur robot connectivity to all types of devices and to the cloud.

(Via Google to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion - Aug. 15, 2011.)

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Old Electronics Kit Concept Made New (Video)

arduino sensor starter kit

My personal fascination with electronics and technology started at a very early age when Santa brought a simple electronics experimenter kit one Christmas Eve. All the components were laid out on a board and each one had small wire springs for terminal contacts. The instruction book included diagrams showing how to hook up the wires to complete each circuit.

I can't remember all of the experiments exactly, but I do know there was a switch triggered burglar alarm, some light circuits, and a crystal radio, among others. The 'radio' used a rough crystal with a cat's whisker probe with no application. Luckily we were living in Southern California at the time with at least one 50,000 watt broadcast radio station that I could pick up.

I was very intrigued, and pleased, to discover Andrew Alter, a leading humanoid robot designer, Mech Warfare organizer, and RoboGames champion, explaining the Electronic Brick Starter Kit, since it shows that the same basic approach is still very much in use today.


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Lockheed Martin Promotional Video Features NAO Robot (Video)

lockheed martin robot

I didn't realize that Lockheed Martin, one of the world's largest aerospace, defense, security, and technology companies, has projects underway utilizing the Aldebaran NAO humanoid robot, but they must have because their latest corporate promotional video, titled "Visions of Tomorrow" features the easily recognizable, and extremely cute, robot from France.

According to the video caption:

"Visions of Tomorrow" reflects the Corporation's dedicated workforce, growing technology portfolio, and innovative spirit. The video is a tribute to those innovators and the sense of greater purpose they share.


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ARS Electronica Festival to Kick-off With A Bang (Video)

Tesla Orchestra

If I had no budgetary and time constraints it would be fantastic to jaunt around the world experiencing all the fantastic technology, robot and science exhibitions I could find. Number one on my personal wish list, at least at the moment, would be the Ars Electronica Festival, scheduled for August 31st through September 6th, in Linz, Austria.

The long running festival goes back to September, 1979 when it was originally staged as a "pilot project was designed to take the Digital Revolution’s emergence as an occasion to face important questions about the future and to focus these inquiries on the nexus of ART, TECHNOLOGY and SOCIETY."


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“My Robot is Better Than Your Robot” Rock and Roll Meets Science Head-on (Video)

my robot is better than your robot

People, especially kids growing up, respond emotionally to role models. They see through the rules, regulations, and official words, and respond directly to people they respect, admire, and want to be like. You can lecture them all day, and all night, and never convince them that studying science and technology is 'cool' and that they should dedicate themselves to a career in robotics.

But, what if major personalities, the most popular and well known rock stars, people like Miley Cyrus,, Britney Spears, Snoop Dog, Jack Black, and even heart throb Justin Bieber, delivered the same, positive, compelling message about studying technology to make a difference?

We're about to find out...


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AutoDesk Offering Free 123D Sculpt iPad App

ipad 3D modeling software

Michael Overstreet, one of our regular readers, RoboGames champion, and hacker extraordinare, alerted us that AutoDesk is currently offering the 123D Sculpt iPad app for FREE. It's likely to be a limited time promotional offer, though we can't be sure. Even if they do eventually charge for it, the feature set looks very impressive.

  • Multi-Touch tools let you sculpt and experiment with the details of your creation, just like real clay
  • Pull – add bumps and create raised areas to exaggerate details like noses, claws, and fins
  • Smooth – soften out rough areas or blend details into one another
  • Push – create grooves and valleys by pushing into the shape
  • Pinch – create hard edges and ridges to add sharp details
  • Grab – grab hold of the shape and stretch it out
  • Flatten – make curvy or lumpy surfaces flat
  • Bulge – create large or small bulging effects
  • Personalize and detail your sculpture using built-in brushes and textures, or use your own images to create exactly the look you want
  • Paint – use a bold color palette to add shades, tints, and hues
  • Image rub – use your finger to rub areas of a photo directly onto your creation to add realistic details
  • Import your own images from your Photo Library or take photos using your iPad 2 camera to use as custom textures
  • Create and Share your creations as images or movies on Flickr, Facebook, Dropbox or YouTube
  • Email your images directly from the app or save to your Photo Library
  • Save transparent PNG images for incorporating into other digital art compositions, or for further processing in apps like SketchBook Pro
  • Create 720p HD QuickTime turntables of your sculptures for sharing on YouTube or for import into iMovie projects.

I just downloaded the app and will be exploring it later in the day.

(Via 123D Sculpt for iPad on the iTunes App Store.)

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RoboDance Fundraiser Hot Domain Auction

robosapien robot dance

Software development isn't cheap, and it's particularly difficult if you happen to be a sole developer committed to supporting and enhancing a popular open source software project out of your own pocket.

For years Robert Oschler has contributed to the robot community in many ways, including freely sharing his knowledge and expertise, creating hilariously entertaining robot videos and unique new robot songs, in addition to developing the RoboDance project that enables users to control a wide range of robots from their PC or other devices. He's even gone to the extreme of adding voice recognition capability and Skype functionality to the open source system.

While his dedication and commitment to the project have brought him some level of recognition and fame, like being featured in the New York TImes, it hasn't attracted funding to underwrite the project. As a result, he's putting several very attractive internet domains on the auction block, including potentially strong SEO ranking properties like,,, and

It's a great chance for the right person to pickup a hot, highly relevant, domain at bargain pricing, while helping out the robot community in the process.

(Via RoboDance fundraiser.)

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