Outsourcing Illustrations at a Reasonable Cost

While developing a new website I needed some custom graphics, primarily anime style illustrations, based on story lines that I've been keeping in a desk drawer for at least a decade or more. Several of the stories involve robots, of course. They could have been published just as plain old text, but since I'm a huge fan of Scott McCloud and believe in the core principles of effective communications that are embodied in his work, I wanted to wait until I could locate a good artist to work with. And, it had to fit within my very limited budget.

Then last week I ran across a reference to the Fiverr.com website. Fiverr's approach is pretty unique. Suppliers offer to do a specific task, like create a drawing, web research, take a photo, etc. for exactly USD$5. There are no guarantees, other than the money you pay is held by Fiverr until the task is completed (please refer to the exact terms on the Fiverr.com website). Figuring I had very little to lose, and a lot to gain, I placed several $5 orders with different Fiverr suppliers asking them to create a manga type drawing based on a photo of me holding Mondai-noid, my MANOI humanoid robot.

Perhaps I just got lucky, but the first drawing I got back was definitely encouraging. It convinced me that it will be possible to outsource the drawings I need, and to get my stories out of the drawer and into print (or on the internet). We'll see what the other suppliers come up with.

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Robots to celebrate the holiday by cleaning beaches…

Beach cleaning robot

July 19th  is “Marine Day”, a national holiday here, and what better way to celebrate than to hold the National Coast Clean-up Robot Contest 2010. This year's event is the 13th in an unbroken series of nation-wide robot events.

Based on the 3R's (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle) the event emphasizes Environmental Education, Manufacturing, and Teamwork. There are two primary classifications:

Marine Rescue Robot, where the robot enters the water and attempts to save a floating doll made of foam.

Coast Disposal Robot, where the robot clears cans, PET bottles, and other litter off a predefined area of the beach. The robot size is limited by the rules so that it has to fit within a cube with equal sides of 1 meter. The robot weight isn't specified, and there is no restriction on the power source, though caution is strongly urged. Apparently during one of the previous competitions a robot using a car battery ran into a potential safety hazard. 

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The 'BrinBot' goes where some men have gone before… (Video link)


Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, used a remote telepresence “robot” to participate in the recent Singularity University executive session. While the event was captured in this New York Times video, we have to say that we're pretty underwhelmed. 

Many of us use remote video conferencing via Skype or other similar services. A few of us have been using global video conferencing since the early 1990's –  though the lag and video hiccups back then made the experience barely tolerable.

The BrinBot appears to be an LCD monitor screen and camera stuck on a post mounted on a small mobile robot platform controlled by Brin and his cohorts over the internet. No new surprises, other than how wobbly the upper part of BrinBot seems to be, and how entranced other guests at the party were by it. You would think that industry executives and leaders would already be very familiar with the technology.

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Robots accelerate genome research


One of the side effects of automating processes is that they can operate faster than we are able to deal with, at least initially. The Human Genome Project, just ten years old, is a good case in point. Made possible through the use of robotics and specialized scientific instrumentation, the project has generated a massive amount of data and information that companies are struggling to sort out and turn into practical and effective products.

Without the technology the project wouldn't have been possible, but a decade later some researchers, and companies that have invested millions are wondering when, and if, all the promise of the project will ever materialize.

Awaiting the Genome Payoff –  NYTimes

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