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.
’Old Electronics Kit Concept Made New (Video)’ continues
Without exception every robot distributor that we've had the pleasure of talking to over the years has expressed a strong commitment to school education and encouraging young people to get involved with science, technology, and robotics. Most of them have special programs, educational discounts, or actively participate in school events donating their time and effort to the cause.
A good example is Michael Gruber with the RoboteShop located in Australia. There's a major School Education Expo coming up in Sydney next month, so the company decided to design a very simple, low cost hexapod robot to dramatically get the message across that robot education doesn't have to be expensive. It can be accomplished with parts and tools as basic as ice-cream sticks, a glue gun, and a few items 'borrowed' from an off the shelf kit.
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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I've used Google Sketchup in the past to design robot parts and sometimes to create 3D graphics to illustrate articles and manuals. It's extremly handy, easy to use, and the price is right. From time to time I run across other robot builders using it, but I'm not aware of any forum, blog, or website specifically devoted to robot design using Sketchup.
A good example would be the 'Design. Click. Build' Blog that features all types of tips, tricks, and techniques for applying Sketchup for woodworking. If anyone knows, or publishes, a similar website for robotics, please let me know.
The Hasegawa Group located at the Tokyo Institute of technology has been able to integrate artificial intelligence into a semi-humanoid robot enabling it to think, learn, and act by itself. The robot uses a self-replicating neural network to learn in much the same way as its human counterparts. It is able to extrapolate based on its past experience and knowledge combined with observation of its surrounding environment, then make educated guesses. In that sense, it learns from its mistakes, just like a child, and consistently corrects and adjusts until it can successfully perform required tasks.
’Robot Learns, Thinks, and Acts By Itself (Video)’ continues
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.