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
It's been a long, hot, and extremely humid summer here in Japan. The weather, the economy, and the general mood has been depressed and languid to say the least. As I have mentioned before, a lot of the plans for regular robot competitions, like ROBO-ONE, had to be cancelled or postponed indefinitely after the triple disasters (earthquake, tsunami, & nuclear) that took place on March 11th.
All of that is about to change big time, and all the pent-up robot energy and enthusiasum is going to explode on the scene over the next few weeks in a frenzy of exciting competitions with a new mega robot battle double-header that promises to totally blow away all standing records.
’Mega Hobby Robot Event Coming Up’ 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.
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
The BBC recently visited the Cognitive Robotics lab at the University of Ulster, Intelligent Systems Research Center and broadcast a short news segment (see below) covering the advanced robotics research work underway in the lab. While it doesn't disclose anything dramatically new or exciting, the video does provide an additional views of the Willow Garage PR2 preparing coffee and solving a Rubik's cube along with a researching shaking hands with the one of the famous Shadow robotic hands.
That being said, the vintage footage that starts off the video makes it all worthwhile - classic robot camp stuff.
Security Camera Warehouse, located in North Carolina, contacted us about their "Securing the Future" program, designed to encourage and support robotics teams as well as physics labs and science programs by providing free video cameras.
According to the program details:
"You have to be a University or High School to have guaranteed acceptance to receive the free cameras*. Club level robotics teams, optics labs, physics labs, and other programs can also apply but will be approved on a case by case basis. Club level teams need to be primarily educational in nature and have an emphasis on youth and young adults."
The program lists quite a few qualifying cameras and many of them appear to be easily adaptable to suit the needs of a robot surveillance project or remote telepresence application. Understandably, there are several restrictions shown on the website, including the requirement that receipients are limited to the US. Nevertheless, we think it's a great program and a great way for the company to support the robotics community. We wish other companies would follow their lead.