Peeking into the NASA JPL Robot Lab (UStream video)

Ever wonder what it would be like to be inside the NASA JPL labs as they put together a space robot? As a kid who grew up spending more time in school doodling spaceships, aliens, and astronauts when I should've been studying in class, the chance to look over the shoulder of the NASA engineers and technicians as they assemble one of the rover robots destined to drive across the surface of the red planet would be absolutely mind blowing. Well, now I, and everyone else with Internet access, can share in the experience.


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Exclusive Close-up Look At The World's Fastest Half-size Micromouse Robot (Video)

100925 Kato half size micromouse 002

The annual All Japan Micromouse robot competition is just a little over a month away, so everyone here has been watching the regional preliminary contests like a hawk. And, the one builder that everyone has their eye on is Kato-san, who demonstrated unbelievable expertise in all categories of last year's competition, but due to a small miscalculation ended up not winning the big prize.

We were lucky enough to get an exclusive close-up look at his latest half-size micromouse design, named "Egg Torte". (more…)

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Modular Robotics Cubelets Beta Kits Available for Pre-Order

The Beta Cubelets robot kits are currently available for pre-order on the Modular Robotics website.

The initial Beta build was limited to only 100 sets, and almost half of them are already spoken for as we write this report.

According to the website:

"The cubelets standard kit comes with 20 magnetic blocks that can be snapped together to make an endless variety of robots with no programming and no wires. You can build robots that drive around on a tabletop, respond to light, sound, and temperature, and have surprisingly lifelike behavior. But instead of programming that behavior, you snap the cubelets together and watch the behavior emerge like with a flock of birds or a swarm of bees."

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Is a Slot Machine a Robot? (Video)

Today's pressing question is "Is a slot machine a robot?"

It has gears, lights, motors, and electronic brain, and sometimes it takes on a mind of its own. Yet, we are sure that some people would quibble over whether a slot machine could be classified as a true robot.

But, for the guys at NYC Resistor, whose slogan is "We learn, share, and make things", academic arguments don't hold any relevance and never stand in the way of creatively having a ball.

Watch as they take on the challenge of creating the ultimate robotic mash-up: A 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' themed bar bot with spinning wheels, flashing lights, building tension, stomach twisting concoctions, and even a running commentary.

And, some photos of the awesome robot contraption taken during our September trek to the NYC Resistor lair in Brooklyn:

bar robot


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Hobby Robot Projects Take To The Sky (Video)

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds...and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of...wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence.“

Excerpt from “High Flight” by John Gillespie Magee Jr.

FPV with a micro-sized tricopter (Shrediquette DLXm) from W. Thielicke on Vimeo.

The Shrediquette DLXm is an amazingly clean and efficent tricopter design weighing a scant 628 grams yet capable of carrying a payload of up to 550 grams in sustained flights lasting as long as 18 minutes. It has a lift to weight ratio of 2.87:1 and incorporates features that make it an absolute pleasure to operate and experience (at least from the video since we haven't had the opportunity to fly it in person, yet…).

The tricopter designer, W. Thielicke, is a PhD student and research assistant at the University of Applied Sciences, Bremen, Germany. He's generously posted the latest versions of the project publically on his blog including the instructions and manual, source code, PCB layout (Eagle format), configuration tool (GUI), and PC -> PWM converters.

Via the Amateur and Hobby Robot Builders Discussion on LinkedIn thanks to William Cox

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Robot Investment Needed BEFORE Disasters Happen

Major events, especially those that capture tremendous public attention because of the potential damage to the environment like the recent Gulf Oil Spill, often highlight the need for more investment in robot research and development that can provide practical clean-up solutions. After potentially catastrophic disaster occurs, it's way too late to realize that we should have developed the technology years in advance.

At the same time, depending totally on the companies, like BT, that are focused on maximizing profitability by exploiting an oil deposit is very high risk since their management priorities often turn out to be heavily weighted towards the decisions that will help them achieve their goals while minimizing the risks.

Some pundits have suggested that a portion of any oil lease, or related government licenses given to private companies, be dedicated to the development of preventative and emergency response technology. At a time when our leading universities and research facilities are struggling to find funding for even the most basic robotic research projects the need for investment of this type is abundantly clear.

SeaSwarm - Robot swarm to clean-up oil spills

A good example might the the MIT SeaSwarm project - the type of work that, had it been actively developed and in place prior to the Gulf spill, may have gone a long way towards containing and mitigating the disaster. According to a Forbes article: "Their newest project, a swarm of robots called SeaSwarm, proposes to skim the ocean surface and remove oil. The robots use "a photovoltaic-powered conveyor belt made of a thin nanowire mesh to propel itself and collect oil," MIT said in a statement. The first prototype was successfully tested in Boston's Charles River in August, and it responded well to the water's changing surface."

Related links:
MIT SeaSwarm - Forbes article

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Kindergarten Size Robot Interacts With Humans (Video)

In addition to the two smaller, dare we say 'younger' infant robots we covered in our earlier post, the Asada Synergistic Intelligence Project team also demonstrated “M3–Kindy”, approximately the size of a five year old.

To emulate the motions, sensing, perception, and interaction of a kindergarten age child, the robot was equipped with microphone ears, video camera eyes, and over 100 tactile sensors as well as 42 servos.

Thanks to KMoriyama, here are a series of videos from today's symposium:

M3–Kindy waking up, rolling over, and starting to crawl:

Seeing another person smile, responding with a smile, and interacting with others:

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Serious Challenge To Humanoid Robot Builders (Video)

It’s difficult enough for most of us that experiment with bipedal robots to get our creations to stand and walk reasonably well. The easiest solution is just to increase the robots footprints. Make the sole of the foot larger, up to a point, and the balancing challenge becomes simplier.

That’s the major reason why many of the lower cost, entry level humanoid robot kits have feet that are out of proportion with their bodies. It’s also the reason that the ROBO-ONE organizing committee consistently changed the competition’s body proportion guidelines, making the allowable soles smaller, over the years to make the challenge more difficult.

But, what if we went to the other extreme and shrank the soles to just points? Could a robot walk on tippy-toe just like a ballet dancer? What would it take to accomplish that feat? Is it even possible? There are numerous two wheeled balancing robot designs including everything from low end kits like the Vstone Beauto Balancer series all the way up to pricy Segways:

While they aren’t trival to design and construct, the solutions are well known and can be implemented even by Lego hobbyists. Bipedal point balancing is a totally different story, and an opportunity to break new ground, as some ROBO-ONE on PC challengers are finding out:

The 4th ROBO-ONE on PC event focused on integrating simulation with operation in the real world, and the balancing challenge proved to be extremely insightful.

Anyone out there up to the challenge? Let’s see what you can do!

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Nakamura's JO-ZERO robot sets a new performance standard (Video)


To the untrained eye, Motohiro Nakamura’s latest humanoid robot creation, JO-ZERO, may look just like any other biped robot kit, but once it starts moving the differences are startling.

Nakamura, a long time ROBO-ONE champion, founder of Himeji Soft Works, and father of the WR-07 transformer robot that captured attention world-wide and logged over 6.5 million views on YouTube, has definitely given birth to a new star in the world of humanoid robotics.


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