We have no idea how long the supplies will last - they may have already run out - but Makerbot Industries has dropped the price of their original CupCake CNC 3D printer kit to an amazingly low USD$455.
We want to be perfectly clear up front. This iPad remote telepresence robot isn't a product yet, but it is very, very close to becoming one, as you can see from the video below.
The creative folks over at Taptic Toys have married up an iPad 2 with a balancing robotic platform that brings the Anybots product line or a Segway to mind. Since the iPad 2 incorporates FaceTime using its built-in camera and microphone it seems like a natural fit.
The minimalist styling appeals to us a lot also. Using fairly standard, off-the-shelf components a configuration like this should be quite easy to deploy and maintain almost anywhere across the globe, as long as you have sufficient WiFi (or a reasonable facsimile) access for FaceTime to operate.
You can tell when a grassroots movement has really caught on when big companies start to roll out their own initiatives and products following the lead of pioneers that have already broken trails into the new frontier.
That definitely seems to be the case with AutoDesk's new 123D software platform. The free Windows based software product is specifically targeted at "makers". According to the AutoDesk 123D news weblog:
"With Autodesk 123D, anyone can explore, learn and create highly precise 3D models. Makers can bring ideas to reality by combining powerful digital design with services for creating physical objects. From both within the application and through the 123D website, individuals can discover and download content to start, complete or visualize a project, and then access for-purchase personal fabrication services through Autodesk 123D partners. Makers can also purchase pre-fabricated products to explore 3D printing or assemble models from 2D laser cut materials like cardboard—the first of a variety of custom fabrication options coming soon to Autodesk123D."
Now we're on a roll...
The chopstick spider robot got us thinking about simple (and very low cost) ways to prototype robots and other stuff. That brought polymorph (the low heat moldable plastic) back into our consciousness. Then, while researching polymorph, we discovered that it can be used to create screws!
Why was this so intriguing? The immediate reason is that using polymorph we should be able to create some custom camera mounts. Camera gear is always pricy, if not down right expensive, and it never quite matches your particular application. This technique might be a good alternative since we should be able to quickly experiment with several designs and tweak them as necessary without having to run back and forth to the local camera shop, leaking money along the way.
As it turns out, we picked up a GoPro Hero point of view camera during our US trip and have some ideas about using it to capture robot events from some unique perspectives. Mounting the camera is going to be critical. Of course, GoPro sells a lot of mounting accessories but some of them have a few known limitations and short comings. Besides, wouldn't it be more fun to hack something together ourselves rather than making them rich?
In case you're wondering how the fellow working with the polymorph in the video above managed to get different color plastic, the answer is simple - he made it. Here's his technique:
It turns out that polymorph is sold under several different brand names. You can even order it direct from Amazon.
How about playing peek-a-boo with an eight-legged, chopstick robot with independently operating eyes?
One thing that really attracted our attention to this robot was the creative use of readily available building materials. Creating a body, eight multi-jointed legs, plus two additional multi-directional linkages for the camera eyes, isn't a trivial task. If they were made out of metal or even plastic the design/prototyping lead time could be extremely lengthy. By using inexpensive wooden chopsticks the development time had to be cut to a small fraction of the time it would have taken using metal frames.
Here's another look at the robot in operation chasing its very attractive handler:
In many ways the design technique reminds of the old ham radio days when prototype radio circuits were laid out on a wooden board and secured using nails. The prototyping board was usually stolen from the kitchen (when the woman on the house wasn't looking). Over time this technique became known as "bread-boarding".
Perhaps, one of these days, we'll refer to this new robot prototyping technique as "Chopsticking". I wouldn't be surprised at all.
Looks like DexHand is building something really interesting....