Old Electronics Kit Concept Made New (Video)

arduino sensor starter kit

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.


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Australian Robot Shop Creates Simple Hexapod for Education Expo (Video)

cheap hexapod robot desgin

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.


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Unusual Humanoid Robot Turn (Video)

humanoid robot turn

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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Humanoid Robot Stair Climbing (Video)

robot climbing stairs

In the early days of hobby humanoid robotics even simple tasks, like walking up a couple of stair steps, was a major challenge. The first robots lacked gyros for balance and used servos that weren't specifically designed for robot use. Later, as gyros became more commonplace, the top robot builders were able to accomplish climbing stairs, with varying results, but the servo power left something to be desired.

Now, with the benefit of high power servos and better, easier to use and program, some off-the-shelf humanoid kit robots, like the Kondo KHR-3HV, can conquer the task fairly easily, as Shibata-san with LIGHTFOOT Robotics demonstrated below.


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Robot Learns, Thinks, and Acts By Itself (Video)

thinking learning robot

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.


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Teaching The NAO Robot Japanese Calligraphy (Video)

110720 NAO Robot Calligraphy 043

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.


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The BBC Checks Out Robot Research at the ISRC University of Ulster (Video)

BBC visits the Ulster ISRC robot labs

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.


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Free Surveillance Cameras for Robotics Teams, Physics Labs, and Science Programs

free robot video camera for schools

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.

(Via SCW's Securing the Future -- Free Surveillance Cameras for Robotics Teams, Physics Labs, and Science Programs.)

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Ishiguro Laboratory Looking For Scientific Engineer

ishiguro robot lab

Hiroshi Ishiguro's famous robotics laboratory situated in Kyoto, Japan, is looking for an outstanding international scientific engineer that can make a major contribution to their development in teleoperated robotic systems. Demonstrated expertise with state of the art robotics projects is one of their key selection criteria. The exact definition of a 'scientific' engineer isn't immediately clear - at least to me, though they are looking for candidates with experience in hardware/software humanoid robot construction; teleoperation; computer vision, and/or spoken language processing.

The laboratory is world famous for pushing the edge with startling, sometimes almost frightening, android creations including the Geminoid series, Telenoids, and Elfoids. While other robotic researchers tend to shy away from the boundaries of the Uncanny Valley, Ishiguro's laboratory seems to have staked out the territory as their own personal hunting ground.

All things considered, it looks like a real plum job for the right candidate, the opportunity to work with the leading experts in the field and potentially gain a lot of invaluable know-how, experience, and visibility in the robot community.

Thanks to @mspetitegeek for the heads-up.

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Long Anticipated 3D Motion Capture User Interface Device Coming to the Market (Video)

robot user interface design

Moriyama-san alerted us to a press release from SoftEther that shows a lot of promise in harnessing 3D motion capture technology for a wide range of applications including robotics, graphic design, simulations, and other fields. The new product, named "QUMA", which we first posted about back in late 2009, makes dramatic improvements to the user interface for 3D designers. The core concept is so simple and intuitive that we're amazed that someone didn't come up with it before and beat SoftEther to the market.


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