Raphael's Crazy Hacks: Shocker Swords! (Video)

Raphael, one of the founders of the infamous NYCResistor hackerspace has what many of us would considered to be a dream job. He gets paid to make totally off the wall creations that some would consider to be a bit bizarre, if not totally deranged. His most recent assignment was to create "Shocker Swords" capable of delivering 800 volt zaps:


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Creatively Demolishing Robot Misconceptions (Video)

How do you measure or compare robots? Ever think about comparing the tonnage? Or how effectively and dramatically your robots can pound the heck out of a dead coyote carcass? Or how it may make a startling impression on a youngster that will last their whole lifetime?

Survival Research Labs has a totally unique, and surprising, approach to robotics. They focus on the artistic, the dramatic, and the memorable aspects and tend to ignore traditional engineering and approaches that might stand in the way of doing what they want to accomplish. Along the way they manage to crack, fracture, and sometimes demolish common misconceptions about robots and their role in society.

From Simone at Suicidebots: "Mark Pauline, punk rock übermensch of Survival Research Labs gave a talk at the Sono­ma County Museum of Art the other day, in which he related his experiences starting up SRL,trials and tribulations along the way, and how the damn kids can’t even fix a toilet nowadays."

Mark Pauline: Grampa Shows The Whipper Snappers How It’s Done

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Trossen Robotics Releases PhantomX Hexapod Robot Line

They may be a bit pricey, but the new PhantomX Hexapod robot lineup from Trossen Robotics features incredible price performance for dedicated robot fans, research labs, and educational institutions:

Check out the Specs-
Speed (AX-12+): 1.44 fps / 0.44 mps
Speed (AX-18F): 2.82 fps / 0.86 mps
Weight: 4.6 lbs / 2.1 kg 
Dimensions: L 19, W 20, H 7.5-9 
Payload: 4 lbs / 2 kg

Feature List:
3 Degree-Of-Freedom Legs
Arduino-Compatible ArbotiX Robo controller
Open Source Software
Advanced Inverse Kinematics Driven Gait Engine
6 Different Walking Gaits Available
High Quality LiPo Battery
Rugged ABS Construction
Totally Hackable!
Add Arms, Grippers, Cameras, Pan/Tilts, even Computers!
Wireless Xbee Control via PC or Handheld
Tons of I/O available and fully programmable for autonomy
Control Wirelessly from RC or PC
Extra nuts and bolts provided for repair
High payload means you can load up add ons
Great platform for hobby, education, research, and Mech Warfare.

PhantomX Hexapods Have Arrived

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3rd ROBO-ONE Humanoid Helper Project: More than just bipedal robots (Video)

Although the large, almost life-sized, humanoid robots like Doka Harumi tend to capture most of the public attention, the ROBO-ONE organization hasn't limited it's initiatives to only bipedal designs. Many of the events and special projects include multi-legged or wheeled robots. For example, the main event on the agenda for the first day of the ROBO-ONE Humanoid Helper Robot Project competition last month was dedicated to "Table Top" robots. The goal was to demonstrate how robotics could be utilized in a domestic, senior care, or hospital setting to provide help and assistance. The rules were fairly open and accommodating, allowing robot designers to enter a wide range of different configurations. A good example is Dynamizer TT, operated by Tomio Sugiura famous for creating the ROBO-ONE champion humanoid Dynamizer:

Purists might argue that it doesn't duplicate the functionality of a human doing the same tasks, but that is exactly the point. A washing machine doesn't clean clothes the same way that our great-grandmothers did by hand. A Roomba doesn't push around a heavy vacuum cleaner. And, a car isn't a carriage without a horse. Our robotic future is much more likely to be populated by numerous small, affordable, dedicated purpose robot assistants than humanoid shaped Mini-Me's. Of course it will be great to have humanoid companions, teachers, and friends, but they are likely to be in the minority, perhaps limited to only the very rich, or the extremely needy.

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Aldebaran NAO Robot Developer Program Generates Strong Response (Video)

Response to the Aldebaran NAO Robot Developer Program has been quite strong, much stronger actually than anyone predicted. And, we have to say that the caliber of the applicants is extremely high. We're definitely impressed.

As of earlier today, the program is still accepting qualified participants. If you're interested, and think you're up to the most exciting robot initiative we've seen in years, then review the requirements and put in for a possible invitation to join the program.

Here's the Nao Developer Program video created by the guru's at Aldebaran:

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1st Kondo Land Robot Competition: Tic Tak (Video)

Servos are invariably the most expensive component in robot design. Of course, as you increase the number of degrees of freedom, which typically requires one or more servos for each additional degree, the total robot cost quickly skyrockets. At the same time, you want to optimize the robot's performance and ability.

Leave it to Azusa Amino, a champion ROBO-ONE competitor and designer of the delightful Toko Toko Maru humanoid robot, to come up with a hexapod robot design called “Tic-Tak” (Tic Tac) that only requires six servo motors yet was able to capture 3rd  place in the 1st Kondo Land Robot Contest, an extremely challenging steeplechase/obstacle course that defeated almost all of the competitors.

Amino is very active with robotics at the hobby, professional, and academic level. He's traveled all over the world demonstrating his robot creations, including participating in ROBO-ONE Gran Prix exhibitions in Hong Kong and South America.

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Using the Kinect with Willow Garage ROS as a Master/Slave Robot Control (Video)

Taylor Veltrop explains and demonstrates his Master/Slave implementation of the Kinect with the Willow Garage ROS system to control a Kondo KHR-1HV humanoid robot, including a few surprises.

The contest description says:

“We invite you to combine an RGB-D sensor (e.g. Kinect, PSDK5.0) with ROS to produce something new, interesting, and fun. It could be anything, from a novel robot control interface to a data-driven art project to pure computer vision. Bonus points if it's also useful (see below). We're offering $8K in prizes. We encourage participants to share, and our rules and judging will reward participants who act in the spirit of collaboration.”

Pretty sweet with $8K in prizes.

Related links:

Official Taylor Veltrop website

ROS 3D Contest Wiki

Taylor's Contest Entry

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ROBO-ONE Humanoid Helper Robot Project: THKR-4 Parties! (Video)

THKR-4 may look more 'robotic' than some of the other entries in the ROBO-ONE Humanoid Helper Robot Project, but that doesn't detract a whit from it's ability to perform useful domestic tasks like greeting guests, opening the refrigerator, serving drinks, popping party poppers to celebrate, and giving a shoulder massage:

The surprising thing about THKR-4 is that it was built completely from off-the-shelf parts with very little modification. It's evolved quite a bit over the past 18 months or so as the robot's developer accumulated valuable knowledge and experience from events like this as well as real world trial runs.

Here's longer close-up view of THKR-4's full demonstration seen from the ROBO-ONE audience projector screen thanks to andonoblog:

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Taylor Veltrop: Willow Garage ROS + XBox Kinect = Robot Master/Slave Control (Video)

Taylor Veltrop, pretty much working on his own in a suburb of Tokyo, has accomplished very professional and noteworthy work in humanoid robotics including integrating the Willow Garage ROS system and the Roboard with a Kondo KHR-1HV; publishing detailed information enabling others to replicate and improve on his work in an Open Source fashion; and making tons of previously obscure information, like Kondo UART configurations, clear and easy to understand and work with. If that wasn't enough, he's also a high level LEGO Mindstorms robot designer, and recently qualified as an official participant in the Aldebaran NAO Robot Developer Program.

We caught up with Taylor at the ROBO-ONE Humanoid Helper Robot Project event on Saturday and asked him about his latest project implementing the Willow Garage ROS system with Kinect to act as a Master/Slave control for his humanoid robot:

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