OK, what with the whole iRobot Scooba announcement, the press around iRobot probably was going to be ramped up a bit. But now you've got two sides of iRobot: the good, with the article on Engadget about a swarming robot called SwarmBot in development, along with a SwarmOS -- very very cool stuff.
We have developed a large library of these behaviors, and have used them to perform group tasks such as clustering to a location of interest, surrounding an object to measure its perimeter, navigating long distances using neighboring robots as landmarks, and exploring and mapping a large building.It's also scaleable in architecture, uses IR communication over 125kbps, and are packed into a 5" cube. Sweet!
And then the bad, with iRobot developing with John Deere a battlefield robot -- aside from their current military robot, the PackBot. Granted the second article is really an interview with Helen Greiner, one of iRobot's cofounders, and mentions the project in passing. Her interview, while CNN's usual fluff, is pretty interesting as well, and worth a look through.
Well, it was bound to happen. We got sick of the old people, so we decided to give them to our alien robot overlords.
Toyota Motor Corp. ... aims to start selling robots that can help look after elderly people or serve tea to guests by 2010, the Asahi daily reported on Tuesday.(Psst... it's in the tea. Don't drink the tea!)
Well, medicine has evidentally taken to robots like a duck to water, and I wasn't watching. So, sometime last year, someone developed a crawling pill, complete with worm-like movement, enabling the pill to move around inside of you once swallowed. (Yep, that'll give the kids nightmares. "That vitamin? It's going to crawl into your spleen and nest there.") Then, sometime this year, someone released a swallowable wireless camera, just so you could really get to know what's inside of you, and have evidence to back it up (take note, those who have been called heartless and gutless.) But evidentally, that worked so well, you now have someone developing legs for the swallowable camera, to get those pictures of your colon you always wanted.
Metin Sitti, director of the NanoRobotics Lab, is developing a set of legs that could be incorporated into the swallowable camera-in-a-pill that has become available in the past four years for diagnosing gastrointestinal disorders in the small intestine.
It's a little scary how close to Patrick Farley's "Spiders" this comes. According to O'Reilly Radar, the US government has created a set of RDIF sensors shaped like rocks that can detect enemy combatants. They're placed around an area by dropping them from airplanes... although I'd ask the question, do you really want to drop rock-like objects from airplanes, to detect people without them knowing it.
Well, if nothing else, someone has very big guts, pun unintended: a surgeon performed an organ transplant (from a few feet away) via telerobotics. But he's not the one with guts. If I'd seen that thing in the picture aiming towards me, I'd have performed the surgery on myself instead.
Woods Hole is launching an autonomous underwater vehicle from Bermuda to cross the Gulf Stream. The AUV, called Spray, was first sent across the Gulf Stream last fall, making history and setting an example that robots can be used for longer term scientific exploration. "Longer term", simply because the thing moves 12 miles a day... approximately 1/2 mile per hour. An interesting start to proving that robots can be autonomous.
Imagine putting a logical robot up against an obnoxious drunk; the only thing I can imagine is the episode "Mudd's Women", where Spock uses illogic to destroy the robot.... and then imagining some drunk doing that to the machine stopping him from getting another beer.
Yep, someone's gone and invented a robot barman, and is selling it in the UK.
Bowes, 23, dreamed up the concept three-and-a-half years ago after spending 30 minutes waiting for a drink while out on the town with university pals.Invention is the mother, I guess.
Well, it can only improve the acting. Someone's built a color-blind or Mondiran-obsessed robot to co-star on a soap opera. Reports are, the robot will be decapitated, have two babies, get a fatal disease and miraculously recover. In the first two weeks.
Oh yeah. Robotic hand goodness, all on sale. Looks like the robotic hand is using pneumatic controlled "muscles" to control the fingers, and it's using a Debian Linux installation for a controller... although the actual microprocessor for the hand is a PIC 18F458 with a reprogrammable flash. So... if you were looking for that hand to do surgery or art, now's the time to buy. There's also video on the product page, just to get a good look at it.
A live hand grenade tossed into a crowd in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi last week posed "a threat to the health and welfare" of President Bush...Yes, I would say that a grenade tossed towards the president would be a threat to the health and welfare of the president. For a follow-up, try checking out grenades tossed towards a badger. Are they truly a threat the badger, or are badger-bits a natural badger state?
Atlanta, the city where the big news is when Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston are not involved in a criminal act:
And in a twist, the oft-troubled Brown was not--we repeat, not--involved in the incident.Well, you have to admit, he's getting better. At least it wasn't Bobby directly, just the people he hires. Which, to bring about the inevitable pun, is his perogative.
Wil Wheaton posted an interesting commentary he gave to a reporter on this being "the end of a golden age for geeks". The logic being, with Star Trek, Star Wars and Lord of The Rings all made, there's nothing left for anyone of a geek persuasion to watch. Now, the logic's a bit weak: I'm not going to stop being a geek just because George Lucas finally decided to finish what he started, and that Paramount finally decided to stop milking a dead cow. Most death tolls are either blatantly obvious or way premature (Apple has been dying for nearly 20 years now, according to the press). Sci-fi falls into the latter, by far. As Wil points out:
There was an explosion of geeky goodness in the last few years, and now it's time to step back, and . . . well, thin the herd, I guess. We're at the dawn of a new geek era. The sun is only setting on the prologue.It's worth a read for all of his commentary, plus his follow-up.
You have to love Charles Schulz, if nothing else, for his dedication to showing how kids view the world. Every comic strip has it's idiosynchracies, and Peanuts was no exception: adults were never shown as faces, except, it appears, in rare circumstances. In this case, it looks like a comic strip proposal, using a Peanuts pre-formatted page, was created using adults rather than kids.
Of course, for some other interesting and rare things that have occured in comic strips, note Beetle Bailey's eyes, Lena the Hyena's face, and BD without a helmet (much more recently, he's been permanently without one, something that, a strip in the 90s said, required outpatient surgery).
Artbots announced the participants in Artbots 2005, the "Robot Talent Show". Some of the participating robots look a little goofy in pictures, but then again, most robots look goofy until they move. The one pictured at left is called "Outerspace": "Its motivation is based on curiosity, the desire to explore the surrounding space looking for contact". If nothing else, being able to search it's localized area is very neat. I like the idea of robots who are curious, and want to learn more about what's surrounding them -- plus, the simplified lines and the interactive feature make me fascinated. If this is representative, it should be really cool... sadly, though, this year's is being held in Ireland, making it a bit far for me, at least, to reach it.
Why does this make me think of the Kodoma from the movie Princess Mononoke? I mean, aside from the fact that they're round and squishy like them, as well as short, and the same color? And is it just me, or is it not creepy that, according to Gizmodo, "It has no arms but can scream..."
Announced today, the guys who make the Roomba introduced Scooba, a mopping version of their robot. Looks very cool, although it's using a "specially formulated" version of floor cleaner -- can anyone say Gillette's Rule Of Marketing?
Despite that, the idea of a mopping robot is wonderful -- who doesn't want to have someone or something that can do the mopping for you? I'd like one that does *both* vacuuming and mopping, though. In order to do both now, you'd have to buy a Roomba and a Scooba; unless you have a larger place or a place with a lot of hardwood floors, that's overkill.
Back a while, I posted something about Gumstix, an extraordinarily small computer about the size of a pack of gum. Someone has taken a newer version of these, which contains Bluetooth, and built a set of flocking, flying robots. These robots are connected using something called a piconet, an ad-hoc localized network using Bluetooth. Each robot becomes both part of a swarm (in meatspace) and part of a grid network (in electronic space). I'm not sure which is cooler, the swarming idea, the piconet idea, or the flying robotics with off-the-shelf parts idea. Rapture!
Well, it had to happen; instead of building the brain, then surrounding it with a container, why not build a container that works with the standard "computer" brain. Enter the Model 914 from White Box Robotics. Of course, now the PC has to have it's drive train fixed and an oil change, but now you can have your own R2D2, just in time for Star Wars to end...
Last week, I got wind of the RealID bill, and I was concerned about it; specifically, how it probably won't fix a thing but will make it easier to steal your identity without touching you, and how it will costs states a ton of money when the states are already struggling. Who do I, a very anti-establishment kind of guy write to? Like an idiot, my senator, using UnrealID and EFF's Action Center.
Earlier last week, I got a reply from my Senator, one Saxby Chambliss (only in the south would you get a name like this.) The reply was a form letter, telling me that My Senator was Doing Good by Keeping The Terrorists Away and Thank You For Your Support, pretty much confirming that I was being ignored.
Well, I was nonplussed, to say the least. So, I reply to the Good Senator a little letter... OK, a long screed detailing why he's an idiot and I'm right... and then I send it. Mind you, I send it to the address he sent it from. And this is what I received in reply:
This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.
Delivery to the following recipients failed.
Well, I figured I'd go over a few things I've been listening to lately. In April I got two compilations from Rhino Records, their 80s-alternative compilation Left Of The Dial and their 70s-punk compilation No Thanks!. Seriously good music, with some I'd heard and liked, a relative few I'd heard and not liked, but a TON I'd never heard of. On the 80s album, The Replacements (I'd heard The Replacements but never had connected them with the songs I'd heard), Wall Of Voodoo (yes, yes, Mexican Radio; but they had Back In Flesh, which just flipped my lid), Meat Puppets' Lake of Fire (I'd heard Social Distortion's version, but not the Meat Puppet's version), The dB's Amplifier, The Cramps, The Chameleons UK, and the Butthole Surfers. The 70s album had Stiff Little Fingers (Suspect Device is getting a lot of replay), The Undertones, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Tom Robinson Band, Blondie, X, and Sham 69. It's a real education.
On the flip side is podcasting, which I'm getting into, especially Coverville, a sweet little podcast of covers of songs; it's had some wonderful stuff on lately. The all-Disney show was a tad offputting with the Ric Ocasek cover of "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah", but it also had Gene Simmons doing "When You Wish Upon A Star", so I felt a little less squeaky clean after that. And show 85 makes up for that, with an all Jimi Hendrix show, aside from the several inbetween those.
And finally, I've gotten through the Audible.com audiobooks of "Bill Baldwin's The Helmsman" (WOW bad. Think the worst space opera you can think of, then add in some really freakish wording. Bad guys just do not say "I capitulate" when they surrender), and "Freakanomics" (it's OK -- but the best parts are in This American Life's 3/25/2005 episode, "Know Your Enemy". The rest is pretty much a wash, the author applies statistical analysis from economics to "real life situations", and comes out with results which are meant to startle. They don't, and the authors end up looking pompous because of it.) I'm going to "On Intelligence", "Conspiracy Of Fools", "Time and Again", and "Lost Light".
Lots of groups have been reporting on self-replicating robots... which I'm finding a little tedious. If you take a look at the Wired link, it's not exactly what they're reporting....
The robot has to be fed -- receive new modules -- at just the right location and time in order to reproduce itself. To the biologically minded, that might not sound like true reproduction, but Lipson says all self-replication is dependent on the correct environmental conditions. Without food, animals can't reproduce. Without new modules, the Cornell bot can't make new versions of itself.But, it's not really self-replicating then, is it?
Self-replicating means it can, given the right unfettered conditions, reproduce itself without material help from external sources -- or, at least, that's what I believe. That's not what you have in this situation. The modules which make up the robot are placed at "feeding stations", to be picked up by the robot. If you dropped these robots in the wild, it could never reproduce itself.
Having said that, I can see how it really *is* amazing on three points. First, it's design is very flexible and intelligent, allowing for fluid movement and close-quarters directional changes. Second, it's magnetic attachment is extremely cool, in that it allows for parts to be added dynamically to the robot, and those parts become part of the whole. That alone is worth a mention. And finally, it's made up of duplicates of a single part, which act in concert with one another. All of these are really difficult robotics tasks which are completely unique.
Just don't call it "self-replicating".
This is not Bud Plant, the comic book seller; this is a "sister company", which, as far as I can tell, just sells classic and contemporary illustration books. To show some examples of classic illustrators, the site has an extensive catalog of illustrators. And some really amazing ones as well: aside from perennial comic book favorites Frank Frazetta, Burne Hogarth, Wally Wood and Harvey Kurtzman, they also have comic strip favorites like Hal Foster, Windsor McKay & Walt Kelly, as well as classic artists like N.C. Wyeth, Heinrich Kley, Joseph Clement Coll, James Montgomery Flagg, and Maxfield Parrish. It's truly an amazing set of pages, especially to get some insight into classic illustration.
Looks like "smart dust" isn't as far off as you might think. The New York Times talks about wireless sensor "motes", airborne and floating, are being built and used in science. (Also noted are robots being used to unobtrusively take readings.)
This, of course, brings up images of Neil Stephenson's The Diamond Age, which finds some of the most interesting and most scary uses of airborne, miniature sensors. The interesting is, what can you find out about people if you're watching the world as a mass group? That alone could bring group psychology a whole new set of data that would keep them busy for years (and, possibly, something like psychohistory?) The scary is, what can you do to keep your life private if the things that are watching you are as common as dust?
RoboBusiness was this week; I'd never heard of it before, but it looks like personal robotics is becoming a bit of a cool niche market, as is, sadly, military robotics. Pretty light on the technical details, but it looks like that off-the-shelf robotics products are getting to be a big deal.
Fascinating note about how monkeys with neural implants to a robot arm have switched their brain from using the robot arm as if it was their own arm, to growing a parallel path which allows them to use their arm, the robot arm, or both for a given task.
The implication is that monkeys, and by extension humans, could attach electronic appendages, which could be incorporated into the brain as an extra appendage.
Yep, you too may be able to add on that extra hand that you've always needed.
I was maybe 6-7 at most when the 2-XL came out. My parents got me one for my birthday; I distinctly remember it. It was a plastic robot with an 8-track tape in it's stomach, and 4 buttons. You hit the buttons to answer the question being asked, which switched the track that was playing. I played with it, and the single tape that came with it, for two days, to the point of memorizing it. Then I remember my dad telling me he was taking it back, because he didn't think it was going to get much use after this. I was upset at this at the time, but later I realized it was a compliment, really, when I recalled what my dad had said: "Yeah, I kind of thought you'd get bored by that pretty quick. There weren't enough questions for you."
Well, looks like someone else will let me get all the tapes now. It's a Macromedia Flash simulation of 2XL, complete with tapes. And having taken a moment to play it I realize... Dad was completely right. The questions are really dumb.
In it's most basic, robotics is the construction of electronics in an effort to mimic human beings. And because there's a ton of different opinions on how humans work, naturally, there's different opinions on how robotics should work.
BEAM robotics starts with simpler machines, and are built up. By building simple to complex, these robotics tend to be cleaner in design, and less expensive. First, for more details, see Solarbotics.net, an info site on BEAM robotics sponsored by Solarbotics, a company selling them.
It's definitely an interesting approach, definitely not the standard "build the software and attach to the hardware" approach.
In case you were worried about your Bluetooth-enabled car ending up trashed by Cabir or any other Bluetooth-spread virus, have no fear of that. Turns out they're more secure than most phones. On the other hand, they don't handle dead batteries nearly as well as cell phones...
Nice little radio piece on Homestar Runner.com, home to some hilarious Flash animation built by two guys in their basement, literally. If you haven't heard of it, it's about a dense "jock-type" and his pals, who range from strange to seriously deranged. The star of Homestar Runner, despite the name, is Strong Bad, which is the focus of the piece. Strong Bad is a character dressed up in a Mexican wrestling match and wearing boxing gloves, but otherwise looks pretty harmlessly cartoonish. It goes on to describe Strong Bad as loveable, which I'm sure he'd take offense at. But aside from that little problem, the piece is not too bad. Gotta love it when a good thing gets press.
The Mac web site MacZealots has posted an interesting article talking about the begginning steps in Mac development, including a short dissection of the various languages that can be used; naturally it concentrates on Objective-C, but it's a good starting point for learning how to make your Mac *really* do what you want.
If you need a summary of the dangers of blogging, here it is:
We have a modern digital analogue to getting drunk and phoning old girlfriends...and its name is LiveJournal.Ladies and gentlemen, Andy Ihnatko, profound philosopher and writer on technology.
Open Source robotics, anyone? When you put together robotics, the hardware and software usually are pretty tightly integrated, often having to be built for the specific project. Naturally, this grates on a hacker's soul: why do the same thing twice? Hence, ORPP, an open source robotics peripheral standards project. This project "is to provide modular components that are easily outfitted with various hardware and software features in the same manner as the modern-day personal computer."
My best understanding is that it's an attempt to build a set of standards for components for robotics. So, say a robot needs to use a camera; if the camera follows those standards, any computer platform supporting those standards can use that camera. Which leads to some interesting what-ifs: what if I need a robot that can cut my grass? I get the Grass Cutter peripheral to my standard robot, which uses Robotics OS. The Grass Cutter comes with a Robotics OS extension, which then allows me to issue a set of commands to the robot through the Robotics OS. Definitely doable, and not unworthy.
Of course, since it's on Slashdot, every other project doing the same thing was mentioned, so try looking at Open Automation Project, Player/Stage, and Robobricks (which wasn't working at the time I tried it, YMMV). And naturally, the government's doing it already: one post pointed out that NASA has built tons robotics software -- on multiple platforms and with multiple languages as well -- but can't open source it due to company/government reticence.
Looks like the gang over at Engadget -- to paraphrase a Southernism -- is getting "all het up". A Japanese company, Omron, is using RDIF, video cameras, and security systems to monitor employees and analyze work performance. It's not a new development, per se: employee monitoring has been going on for years.
Half of me wants to scream out that this is offensive as can be, The Man using gadgetry to slap down the little guy -- just as the Engadget guys do:
This new bit of “production management” technology in use by Japanese company Omron aims to squeeze every last morsel of productivity from you peons.I've heard stories from friends who've worked at companies which used these sort of tags to do phone following (as you walk through a building, phone calls will be routed to the nearest phone to you, making it impossible to get away from your phone) and bathroom break monitoring.
The other half of me asks, if you employ someone, don't you want to get as much productivity out of them as possible? It's definitely a very control-freakish thing for a company to do, but is it any worse than the common things done in companies today? Things like badges for security access and watching what an employee does on their computer?
What do you think? Slap those opinions into the comments section.
Well, no one said that you couldn't build Transformers. Looks like someone's set up a page describing the building of a "vehicle to autonomous biped robot conversion for the Mini Cooper r50". That's right, taking an Mini Cooper r50 and building a larger-than-human robot out of it. The page contains short movies, sketches, and pictures of the robot as it goes through various walking tests, moving tests, and building stages, as well as conversations with the engineer.
The movies are especially interesting, containing things like arm dexterity tests and tracking tests, as well a very impressive car stopping test, consisting of one robot, the engineer in a car, and a wall. Talk about hitting a wall with your work.
Sadly, though, it's a fake. The videos tend to have a little too much smooth action and gloss to the robot -- it's computer animated. Especially check out the light tracking in a dark environment (reminds me of Halo), and the car stopping test (who's lighting doesn't reflect the environment that well -- the light sources on the robot are a little bright for the flat light scenario of the workshop).
This scares me:
That tool has a name, by the way, that I was unaware of until I arrived here at GaTech. I kept asking my labmates to pass me the "IKEA Tool Thing." However, that is not its techinical name. It is more properly known as an Allen Wrench.OK, I'm willing to admit I may be an aberration. My dad is a tool nut, has a tool for every possible situation. My grandfather sold car manuals and worked with tools for most of his life. I've owned my own tools from a young age, working on bikes, then art projects, and now cars and electronics.
But when you go to the south's "top technical school", one which promotes the idea that it's students are infallible, tools like allen wrenches should be second-nature. I'm *shocked* that a Georgia Tech student wouldn't know what an allen wrench is -- and more shocked that he would be so lacking in curiosity as to never find what that "Ikea Tool Thing" is properly called.
Please tell me that if I say "wankel rotary engine", you won't have to click on the link to find out what it is, Mr. Georgia Tech?
Dori Smith has started a pretty interesting conversation about why not to go into programming. It's something I've been thinking about myself lately, especially with a lot of developers learning Java from birth. It's worth a look through; both Dori and the person taking counterpoint, Jim Roepcke, both have good points: to wit, programming specifically is kind of a dead-end, while developing beyond programming is going to get difficult as the major programming languages start to get more and more mainstream (Java, PHP, etc.) It's an interesting, if short, read.
I haven't been reading the wonderful weblog 43Folders lately, and now I'm paying for it. Here's a dirth of wonderful links from the website:
And if I haven't mentioned it before, definitely check out 43Folders -- it's really a fantastic read.
This isn't technically robotics, but it's of a robot-like figure, and it's very interesting. The WEEE Man is a sculpture consisting of the waste electronics of a typical Briton. The calculations come out to something like 35 mobile phones, 6 appliances, 26 computer mice, and a whole lot of other things. (All of which is interesting to me, because I've owned exactly 1 phone, I can only recall purchasing about 4 mice (not including as part of a computer purchase, and not including the 30 or so that I have received from other people), and I own 1 appliance. So, am I just on the lower part of the curve, or am I actually abnormally sparse?)
And while I'm very hip to the stuff behind the sculpture, the sculpture itself is very beautiful and incredibly dynamic. I'm impressed by the thrust of it -- it almost looks as if it could stand on it's own and start tromping around London like Godzilla. It's heft and weight are extraordinary -- it feels solid, like the tubing is really wiry tendons, like the body is ribs not electronics. On it's own, it's a fantastic art piece.
Finkbuilt has a little piece on using a technique I've always called "grid painting", creating a grid to allow you the ability to see the whole painting as a series of smaller parts. But in all the years I've been making art, this is one technique I haven't used, and I knew few people who did. I'm certainly not knocking it -- if it works, ignore me and my biases -- but I've never heard of it being generally used. I might use it as an underpainting technique at best, but not for the whole.
My best theory on why grid methods aren't commonly used, is that most artists want to paint seeing the whole of the painting, rather than as parts. By concentrating on the whole painting, the artist sees what the viewer will see, which is what is important. The grid method focuses the artist towards individual parts.
Maybe it's better expressed like this: I've been taught, and firmly believe, that when you're doing an artistic piece, the artist should try not to concentrate on one part until it's finished, but work on the painting as a whole. When I first heard this, I thought it had to do with how if you do a really good job on that one part, the rest may not live up to that part, and you'll get disappointed. Nope, that's just me.
No, it's a little different from that. As an artist create a piece, if one part is very good, he or she is going to try to match the rest of the painting to that piece, and will hesitate to change that part, subconsciously. When the artist isn't willing to destroy anything on a piece that doesn't fit in with the cohesive whole, the piece won't work.