Affordable Stretch Sensor from AdaFruit Industries

Adafruit stretch sensor

I'm so incredibly jealous. Lady Ada over at AdaFruit Industries has all these great toys to play and experiment with, and she's figured out how to do it while enriching all of our hacker lives and making a little money to find more great stuff.

The 'toy' that triggered this post for me is some conductive rubber stretch cord that acts as a sensor. It's like being able to pull on the end of a resistor and have it's characteristics change linearly as it gets longer and shorter. Way cool! And it is incredibly cheap. She's priced it at less than ten dollars for a full meter and even includes a pair of alligator clips and a 10k resistor. Science teachers, for example, could dice it up and have enough for each student to have a piece for experiments.

The only drawback that I can see is that the sensor takes a little while to recover after being stretched, though I guess that could be compensated for in some applications by using two sensors in opposition.

As usual, the AdaFruit website has a great related tutorial page so you can learn while having fun.

(Via Conductive Rubber Cord Stretch Sensor + extras! ID: 519 - $9.95 : Adafruit Industries, Unique & fun DIY electronics and kits.)

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Art && Code 3D Conference at CMU

art robot

One of the great things about publishing a popular technology blog is that people frequently contact me about fantastic events and conferences that I would really love to attend. Unfortunately, since I happen to live and work in Japan and have finite budget, getting to many of the events is out of the question.

The most recent 'Darn I Really Want to Go" moment was when I received notification of the Art && Code 3D conference scheduled for late October at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh - a hotbed of robot development, research, and creativity:

ART && CODE: DIY 3D Sensing and Visualization (#artandcode) is a festival and conference concerned with the artistic, technical, tactical and cultural potentials of low-cost 3D scanning devices — especially, but not exclusively, including the revolutionary Microsoft Kinect sensor. This highly interdisciplinary event will bring together, for the first time, tinkerers and hackers, computational artists and designers, professional game developers, and leading researchers in the fields of computer vision, robotics and human-computer interaction. Half maker’s festival, half academic symposiumART && CODE will take place October 21-23 at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and will feature:

(Via Art && Code 3D » Presenters.)

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KC Robot Builder Featured in Maker Faire Promo (Video)

boomer robot maker faire

Michael Overstreet has been a good and respected friend since the first time we hooked up several years ago at RoboGames in California. So, I hope he doesn't mind if I make some frank, and well deserved, comments.

When we first met Michael seemed like a typical robot geek, very talented with lots of expertise, but a bit shy and withdrawn. You really had to push him to get him to tell you what he thought. I'm sure he had lots of valuable and useful things to share, but they didn't flow easily.

Over the years, with experience, learning, and success, Michael has really blossomed and come out of his shell. He's become a key member of the Cowtown Computer Congress - Kansas City's leading hackerspace, a frequent exhibitor and participant in Maker Faire events all over the US, and a strong proponent of the DARwin-OP humanoid robot platform.

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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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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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Unusual Humanoid Robot Turn (Video)

humanoid robot turn

Humanoid robot motion sequences are difficult to create, especially when they require moving several different degrees of freedom at the same time. More often than not, the robot will lose it's balance and go crashing over. Turns involving twisting the upper body via the limited number of servos in a humanoid robot is really tricky to do well. That's why we were a bit surprised, and impressed, by the slick turn executed by robototakuTEAM's design below.

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Humanoid Robot Stair Climbing (Video)

robot climbing stairs

In the early days of hobby humanoid robotics even simple tasks, like walking up a couple of stair steps, was a major challenge. The first robots lacked gyros for balance and used servos that weren't specifically designed for robot use. Later, as gyros became more commonplace, the top robot builders were able to accomplish climbing stairs, with varying results, but the servo power left something to be desired.

Now, with the benefit of high power servos and better, easier to use and program, some off-the-shelf humanoid kit robots, like the Kondo KHR-3HV, can conquer the task fairly easily, as Shibata-san with LIGHTFOOT Robotics demonstrated below.

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Teaching The NAO Robot Japanese Calligraphy (Video)

110720 NAO Robot Calligraphy 043

A little over a week ago we had the opportunity to sit in as a member of the Robot Japan team preparing for the August robot performance competition. One of the centerpiece exhibits will be the NAO robot drawing traditional Japanese kanji calligraphy - known as "Shado". This was the first attempt, so there were a few false steps and mistakes, but those are to be expected.

Over the course of the afternoon, and with everyone's help and support, NAO was able to draw the correct kanji with quite a bit of style and enthusiasum. The high points of the afternoon are in the video below.

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Ishiguro Laboratory Looking For Scientific Engineer

ishiguro robot lab

Hiroshi Ishiguro's famous robotics laboratory situated in Kyoto, Japan, is looking for an outstanding international scientific engineer that can make a major contribution to their development in teleoperated robotic systems. Demonstrated expertise with state of the art robotics projects is one of their key selection criteria. The exact definition of a 'scientific' engineer isn't immediately clear - at least to me, though they are looking for candidates with experience in hardware/software humanoid robot construction; teleoperation; computer vision, and/or spoken language processing.

The laboratory is world famous for pushing the edge with startling, sometimes almost frightening, android creations including the Geminoid series, Telenoids, and Elfoids. While other robotic researchers tend to shy away from the boundaries of the Uncanny Valley, Ishiguro's laboratory seems to have staked out the territory as their own personal hunting ground.

All things considered, it looks like a real plum job for the right candidate, the opportunity to work with the leading experts in the field and potentially gain a lot of invaluable know-how, experience, and visibility in the robot community.

Thanks to @mspetitegeek for the heads-up.

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