Subscribers to ROBOT Magazine are receiving their copies of the latest issue right about now, and the store copies should be in bookstores very soon.
This particular issue, with the Kumotek KT-X humanoid robot on the cover, will prove to be quite interesting and exciting since it includes coverage of robots at the Maker Faire, animatronic dinosaurs, a how-to on programing servos, Arduino Bot Brains, a chance to win a Parallax robot, a look at the latest Kondo hexapod robot, and our detailed coverage of RoboGames 2011.
We realize that it's a stretch to call a vending machine a robot, but it isn't stretching the definition so far that it would break. Without a doubt the Japanese are leading the world in the creation and deployment of robotic vending machines. They seem to be on almost every corner, sometimes in groups of three or four, and offer every type of beverage you could imagine. Warm corn soup in the winter, cold grape juice with real grapes inside the can. You name it, and you can find a vending machine here ready to deliver.
But, after the recent earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis, the vending machine companies came under a lot of criticism. Many thought that they wasted electricity and were way too prolific. Anxious to respond to their critics in a positive, proactive way, the companies came up with a novel approach.
Under the heading of "robot business", we were very pleased to see that even in today's extremely challenging business climate, robot ventures are continuing to attract substantial investment.
While increased use of robotics isn't likely to result in a corresponding increase in employment for their human counterparts, contrary to popular belief, it will open up new applications and open the door to exploring new opportunities that were previously considered to be too hazardous, risky, or beyond the keen of available economical technology solutions.
A good example is Liquid Robotics, the creator of marine robotic drones that utilize ocean waves and solar arrays to generate the power required for their operation. These unique platforms are almost totally self-sufficient and can automatically maintain their position in the ocean, kind of the sea-going equivalent of the geostationary satellites positioned in space over the planet.
Everyone agrees that the most promising future for robotics is in the service sector. So far, practical applications have been limited primarily to fairly mundane domestic tasks like robot vacuum cleaners.
What will turn out to be the "killer application" for household robotics? How about a humanoid robot toilet like the Toto GG1-800?
This robot has so much character and expression that we almost considered buying it at the Design Festa show so we could hang it on the wall at home. But that would mean having to get rid of at least one of the robots we already have there...
This beautiful robotic like creature was on display at the Design Festa event here last weekend. Although it is primarily a work of art, we'd love to see someone turn it into a fully functioning, ocean-going robot.
How about playing peek-a-boo with an eight-legged, chopstick robot with independently operating eyes?
One thing that really attracted our attention to this robot was the creative use of readily available building materials. Creating a body, eight multi-jointed legs, plus two additional multi-directional linkages for the camera eyes, isn't a trivial task. If they were made out of metal or even plastic the design/prototyping lead time could be extremely lengthy. By using inexpensive wooden chopsticks the development time had to be cut to a small fraction of the time it would have taken using metal frames.
Here's another look at the robot in operation chasing its very attractive handler:
In many ways the design technique reminds of the old ham radio days when prototype radio circuits were laid out on a wooden board and secured using nails. The prototyping board was usually stolen from the kitchen (when the woman on the house wasn't looking). Over time this technique became known as "bread-boarding".
Perhaps, one of these days, we'll refer to this new robot prototyping technique as "Chopsticking". I wouldn't be surprised at all.
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