July 30, 2005

Robot Roundup

Here's a few more robot links from around the web:

  • Jumping robot. Something about "jumping robots" must attract people. It's in video games, it's in cartoons, and now, it's a proposal. Assuming the translation is OK, it's a proposal for a "kick-leg" which pops out during the robot's rotation. The robot's purpose seems to be to avoid obstacles, but who knows.

  • China announced in a weird, propagandistic way that they've developed a spherical robot. The Swedes also have a spherical robot, first reported on in February.

  • Gizmodo mentions that the big brouhaha over the Repliee Q1 lately is odd, considering it's six years old. Anyone else feeling a little behind?

  • And, someone's gotten a patent for robot mission planning, which should be a patent like the certificate I got for guessing most beans in a jar should be a PhD.

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Posted by Ted Stevko at 09:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Amazing Amanda "Doll" -- Like Chucky, Only Electronic Instead Of Possessed.

The Amazing Amanda doll via Engadget

8895793935745558It's like a creep movie... if you wander around the room her eyes follow you... as does the body, and the rest. Yep, it's a kids toy, complete with facial recognition, object recognition, evidentially some PDA functionality, and frankly, a creepy look that reminds me of Children of the Corn. Which then goes to ask: why on earth do we go to the trouble of building something with so many close relations to human beings, but forget to leave off the crap we hate about humans?

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DaVinci Robot Update: 'A robot saved my sex life'

'A robot saved my sex life'

When just "marital aids" won't do. Actually, it's an article on the DaVinci robot surgeon, plastered all over the net earlier this month. The surgeon has specialized, and is now being used for prostrate surgery. Yep, you too can get your happy place operated on by a machine built by people who tend to find bugs by letting the thing run first. Yeah, that should take the wind out of your windsock.

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July 28, 2005

Lego self-adaptive hand

Lego self-adaptive hand via hack a day

IrviewNow, how cool is this? What got me started in this whole mess is that I wanted to build an articulated hand, but never could figure out how to do this without a whole hell of a lot of pneumatics -- something that's absolutely a pain to use with Mindstorms, because getting the pieces are annoying and expensive. Now, along comes an under-actuated hand, built using Legos. It's not fully articulated, but it's interesting to see how the builder used not pneumatics for the whole thing, but only 3 pneumatics for controlling the grip.

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iRobot going public

MAKE: Blog: iRobot going public via Gizmodo

Yeah, the makers of the most popular home robot in existence right now are going public. The API is swell, but do you really think that stockholders will let you play with such cool things as the Packbot? No. Petty jealousy because I couldn't get into an IPO without holding the owner's pet Roomba hostage? Absolutely. And if I don't, the moving hoover gets it. Yeah, yeah, you can listen to it on Marketplace as well.

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Robot Camel Jockeys, Updated

Robots replace child jockeys in Arab camel race | CNET News.com

A little late -- or very early. As reported in April, Abu Dhabi started using robot camel jockeys this month. Nothing good to be said about robot camel jockeys, except that replacing live child jockeys will save a few kids from flaming deaths in those wild camel crashes. Yes, the amazing advances robots are making: in the last 75 years, from an idea in a science fiction story to vacuums and camel jockeys.

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July 19, 2005

MAKE: Blog: Mousey the Junkbot PDF

MAKE: Blog: Mousey the Junkbot PDF

Make posted the specs and details via a PDF for building a Mousey the Junkbot mouse-based robot. This was in Make #2 -- a robot-heavy edition, which is well worth getting (heck the whole magazine is a great one, but that one is especially good for robotics junkies) -- and the PDF that they put up contains detailed instructions on how to build a light-sensitive robot using a mouse case and some fairly simple installation proceedures. "Simple", meaning 14 pages of instructions, 18 multi-part steps.

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

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Humanoid Robotics, Almir Heralic

Humanoid Robotics, Almir Heralic via Robots.net

Humanoid 3 Link Neat bot creating by someone at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden; it has 22 degrees of movement, stereovision, a neural network, can speak and has facial recognition and tracking. Also, it appears it can go to the bathroom reading Make.

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Biologically Inspired Robotics

Owen Holland via del.icio.us

We talked about the flying swarms subject a little while back, but it seems that a professor at the University of Essex teaches a class called "Biologically Inspired Robotics", which covers flying swarms, humanoid robotics, Machine Consciousness and "Extended Particle Swarm Optimisation", the last of which has me practically drooling. If anyone's taking this class, please please give a shout.

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July 13, 2005

Robot Videos

Robot videos via Metafilter

Looks like someone had just one too many robot music videos this week. The link lists several videos containing, surrounding, or about robots and music. Included are

There's more on Metafilter, but these were some of the better ones.

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Guitar Playing Machine, From Georgia Tech

Crazy J Guitar Playing Machine

Guitar TopThis made the rounds late last week, but since it's in Georgia, and it's about robotics, well, I'm giving myself license to do a "me too" post and take a look at this pretty neat project. It's a combination of a MIDI sequencer and a series of mechanical solenoids, levers, "pluckers" and "fingertips" which, when pressed in combination, make the guitar emit sound. The MIDI sequence is fed into a microcontroller, which then is used to press or pluck as needed. The mechanical, electrical, and code explanations are off of the web site, and an interesting read. Worth a check.

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Posted by Ted Stevko at 01:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Robot Makes 200-mile Autonomous Run

Carnegie Mellon's Sandstorm Robot Makes Unprecedented 200-mile Autonomous Run

Now how's this for impressive? Carnegie Mellon's robot for the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge was put to a test run, and went 200 miles in seven hours without a driver. Speaks volumes about this year's entries, really -- from a "no one finished" to a real race in only a couple of years is downright astounding.

The drive was an endurance evaluation for the robot's computers, sensors and mechanical systems. The machine averaged 28 miles per hour and hit a top speed of 36 miles per hour to complete its 7-hour, 200-mile marathon.

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July 10, 2005

An Interview with Steve Bartman

Searching for Bartman via MetaFilter

This story was fascinating. During the 2003 Baseball season, Steve Bartman caught a ball and gained a run for the opposing team, keeping the Cubs once again from the World Series. Suddenly a pariah in Chicago -- and reviled and tortured by Cubs fans -- he basically disappeared from view. In this article, an ESPN reporter goes in search of Steve Bartman, and finds him...

"Steve," I tell him, "I've got one thing before I leave. Regardless of what I do for a living, regardless of the way this all might seem to you, I want to apologize. I want to genuinely apologize, on behalf of all Cub fans, for all the crap you've had to deal with.

"I think it could have been any one of us. And I truly wish you the best. I truly hope you're able to move on and live a happy and prosperous life."

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Teasing Wal-Mart

Why so nervous about robots, Wal-Mart? via Engadget

Oh, this is just funny. An article on News.com mentions that Wal-mart seems to be investing in robotics... which then prompted the following interesting exchange:

As soon as I mentioned robots, Gallagher seemed eager to end the call. "We are not looking into robots in any way, shape or form," she said abruptly. I tried probing for more, but she had nothing further to offer.
Not surprisingly, Wal-mart probably doesn't want to even imagine that they might not be the home-spun, friendly local employer, especially as of late. So the use of robots in place of humans probably won't go over well.

Which, of course, leads me to a very nasty thought. I say... go into your local Wal-mart and complain to the manager that you don't want Wal-mart to bring robots in to work at the place. Seriously. Walk into your local Wal-mart, and tell the manager you don't want them to bring robots in to work at Wal-mart.

What's the point? Assuming *anyone* pays attention to this, Wal-mart will then be in the odd position of promising not to use robots -- and then following up on this. Then, any use of robots at Wal-mart -- or any even partial use of robots -- will get Wal-mart bad press. I'm not a Wal-mart fan to say the least, and this is just one more way to be nasty to them. Petty, but fun.

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Posted by Ted Stevko at 12:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cool Phone Tools

Amabuddy and Google SMS via Cool Tools

Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools is a gem of a site; lots of interesting toys have popped up on this site, and it's a blast to see. Two that popped up recently were Amabuddy and Google SMS. Amabuddy allows you to make a phone call and check Amazon prices on something via phone, presumably your cell phone. Google SMS allows you to do Google queries via SMS for certain bits information, which is pretty sweet for anyone not having an internet-capable phone. For me... OK, it's a python/SOAP call. I'm a geek, I like doing these things.

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July 07, 2005

Prairie Home Companion MOVIE?

IMDB: A Prairie Home Companion

Ahem: All I can say is, what the @#$#! is this? OK, a movie, I could theoretically see; but one starring, I swear, Woody Harrelson, Lindsey Lohan, Kevin Klein, Meryl Streep, and Lily Tomlin? This cast is all over the place; Klein and Tomlin are fantastic comedic actors, Streep's a great actress but has done only a few comedies, Harrelson is middlingly funny as a clueless midwesterner, and Lohan... I can't imagine how she would fit into being in the Midwest *not* acting, much less when she's acting. This is downright strange.

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iRobot CEO Interview

The leader of the robot pack

CNet has an interview with the CEO of iRobot, Colin Angle. It's not very enlightening, but on the upside, it does talk more about iRobot's military division than most articles on iRobot do, and mentions both their PackBot and swarming robots technology, along with a fairly sound rationale on why humanoid robots are neat but commercially uninteresting.

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Amazon's Wish List Updated

Amazon Wish List

Found out today that, among the other Amazon 10th Anniversary news, Amazon's added multiple, private and invitation-only wish lists to their system. As someone who's indulged (and over indulged at times) on Amazon's Wish List system, with 500+ items on the ol' list and the screams from relatives to prove it, I couldn't be happier; now I can keep those 100 CDs of "Music I Probably Need To Try Someday" in a wish list separate from the "Things For Relatives That, If They Get It For Me For Christmas, They Won't Complain About The Price" category.

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Patch Of Orange

Patch Of Orange

23 I go over to Drawn! for "inspiration" sometimes, although about 90 percent of the time it ends up in jealousy and depression -- I mean, what can you say about a site which shows you the coolest drawings, and all you can think is, "gee, I want to do something as cool as that."

An example of this is Patch of Orange, which is both wonderful to behold, and soul-crushingly good. He's an animation student and a wonderful adherent to the strange eyed and wandering pen characters of early-ish Ronald Searle. It's well worth a look, I posted just one of a ton of amazing pieces of art. His animation sketches remind me of the original "101 Dalmations" in overall feel, but uses that smooth-line-ish quality I keep seeing from animation schools lately. Whatever -- it's definitely fun.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)

The Robot Zoo

Robot show reveals animals' survival secrets

050629P009JpgWow. Why couldn't my teachers have taken me to see this instead of taking me to George Rogers Clark National Historical Park -- a fine but less than interesting the third time around national park. This is the Robot Zoo, a traveling museum exhibit which allows kids to interactively explore robots, while learning about biological construction.

Visitors can not only observe the exhibits, they can also manipulate them. For example, they can trigger a joystick to move the robot chameleon's eyes, tongue and head. They can even change the robot's body colour by pressing different buttons.
And the robots in of themselves are fascinating. The chameleon's body is made up of television screens, which show the "changed color", and give kids an example of what's happening when chameleons change their colors in terms of mechanical systems. Very cool.

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Posted by Ted Stevko at 12:10 AM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2005

Fencing Robot

Robot Helps Develop Kendo Skills

Nothing says "technology" like the ancient art of Japanese fencing. Seems a group of students at Seoul National University, led by a professor, have developed a practice robot for kendo, complete with sensors to detect power on hits, sensors to see attacks, multiple levels of difficulty, and "the ability to move like a human."

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Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:55 PM | Comments (1)

Robot breast checker

Robot hand performs remote breast checks

99997630F1 Yeah, I knew guys in high school who put on t-shirts with "Honorary Gynecologist" and thought those would be good for "picking up chicks". I know a couple went to Michigan State, from which this item comes. I don't think the two are connected in any cup, shape or form. Really.

Seems that someone has developed a robot to perform remote breast checks. Tactile gloves and feedback from the robot allow doctors to remotely examine breasts for signs of things like cancer. On the other hand...

But Brewster adds that the system would need to match a doctor’s bedside manner when dealing with patients. “There are of course issues with powerful robots coming into direct contact with people,” he told New Scientist. “It would have to be very carefully designed and tested to make sure that it could not exert inappropriate forces and so cause harm.”

Well, let's just say it's something to keep in mind when volunteering. Imagine a 16 year old pimply-faced boy making the exam, but without the ability to understand "ouch" or "those aren't made of rubber, you know."

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Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)

Yes, A Plan!

Yep, it was a plan. I had a great plan, full of ideas and wonder. It was a plan to stun the ages, to make the world a better person, to make the world magical again, or at least semi-magical with sprinkles.

In other words, I was a little busy. My apologies, updates to start again.

Posted by Ted Stevko at 11:31 PM | Comments (0)