Robot Throws Flying Discs at the Maker Faire

AGHS RobotThe Maker Faire “is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth – a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. It’s a place where people show what they are making, and share what they are learning.” I attended the Mini Maker Faire in San Luis Obispo, California this weekend. It certainly lived up to its description!

There were plenty of robots to be seen. Many of them were accessible to the people who attended the Faire and who wanted to control them for a little while. Adults and children were handed controllers and given brief instructions on what to do.

There were two robots that had been designed to shoot flying discs into the air. The one in the photo was created by the Arroyo Grande High School Eagle Robotics FRC Team 1388. Students controlled the robot and fired off flying discs to a small crowd of boys and men who hoped to catch them.

The Maker Faire had a 3D printer that was on display as it created plastic lizards. A second 3D printer, at a different booth, was set up to offer people the opportunity to have their head and shoulders scanned. That 3D printer would then create a bust of the person. There also was a demonstration set up by a man who had figured out how to use solar power to cook bacon!

I had a lot of fun at the Maker Faire in San Luis Obispo, California. It was the first time I attended one of these, and I would like to see more. You can find out if there will be a Maker Faire near you by checking the list on the Maker Faire website.

Soloshot Robot Cameraman Enables Awesome “Selfies”

SOLOSHOT logoSoloshot is the leader in personal robotic cameraman devices. At NAB 2014, they announced their SOLOSHOT2 Camera Controller accessory. It is a robotic arm that can control your camera and track you from a distance. In other words, it lets you take some really awesome “selfies” in photo or video format.

The SOLOSHOT2 Camera Controller accessory has an automated pan/tilt/zoom platform. It lets you take 4K action content of yourself, by yourself, from up to 2,000 feet away without the aid of an assistant cameraman. To do this, the SOLOSHOT2 tracks the user who is wearing a lightweight, waterproof and shockproof transmitter.

You can pair the SOLOSHOT2 Camera Controller accessory with cameras like the new SONY AX-100 camcorder and their VG line of interchangeable lens camcorders. It can also be used with some other types of camcorders, DSLR’s and smartphones. It is possible to link together a network of multiple SOLOSHOT2 Camera Controller accessories and transmitters to create an entire robotic production crew.

Five Moneual Products are CES Honorees

CES-Round-UpMoneual has five new futuristic gadgets for connected homes. Each one has been named an International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree. That’s quite impressive! The products are: Smart Robot Vacuum System, RoboSpin, X-Pillar, 4S PC, and Smart Wristband Baby Monitor.

The Smart Robot Vacuum System is the next generation in robot cleaners. Its features include dust recognition and cleaning, self-diagnosis, and smartphone integration for cleaning status updates. Use your smartphone to set times and customize modes. You can even schedule automatic cleanings.

RoboSpin is a robotic cleaner for hard floors. It is wheel-less, and intended for both sweeping and mopping of hard floor surfaces. RoboSpin has two rotating pads, and can preform concentrated cleaning and polishing work. You can program the cleaning mode and place sensors around your home to protect the RoboSpin from collision (and protect furniture from damage).

X-Pillar is a modular 2.1CH speaker. You can attach your television to it, and suspend the TV in the air. It gives the appearance that it is mounted on the wall. The X-Pillar includes a tweeter, mid-woofer, woofer amp, SMPS, and a motion sensor. It is Bluetooth and HDMI ready.

The 4S PC is a compact desktop PC. 4S stands for “slim, shelf, stand, speaker.” It is a dual purpose monitor stand and keyboard shelf. This is a great product for people who have a limited workspace. It offers an elegant design with heavy impact-resistant glass, front panel acrylic, and steel inner brackets.

Smart Wristband Baby Monitor is a specialized baby monitor for the hearing impaired. It remotely alerts the user by an LED light and vibration on a wristband. The main console is made of plastic, and the wristband is made from urethane and rubber. It is water-resistant. The Smart Wristband Baby Monitor uses Bluetooth capabilities for short-range communication. It will vibrate based on the intensity and frequency of the baby’s cry.

You can check out Moneual at the 2014 CES exhibition in Las Vegas. They will be at Booth #13035 in the Central Hall. Their products will also be at CES Unveiled in the Venetian Level 2, Hall D, Booth #72063

Modular Robotics: Cubelets Robotic Construction Kits

Modular Robotics Modular Robotics have created small robotic cubes that can be hooked together using magnets. Each cube is program to do a different task including a drive block, a battery block, a block that senses distance and more. The cubelets can be used by young kids who simply snap the blocks together, but they are also programmable making them great for a student or adult that is learning to code. The newest cubelet is a bluetooth block which can be controlled remotely. There is an Android app, the Cublet Control which you can use as a control.  The bluetooth cubelet can be re-coded using C code. Modular Robotics have found that when they give the cubes to kids, they just attack them and start linking them together. Adults are more cautious in using them.

The starter kit has six blocks in it and is sold on the website for $160.00. Modular Robotics also sells individual cubes. They hope to have the product in toy stores by the holiday season. All production is done in Boulder, Co. If you a young child who is interested in how things work or a student who is starting to learn basic programming then Modular Robotics’ cubelets maybe the perfect gift for them.

Interview by Nick DiMeo of F5 Live.

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Combat Creatures Attacknid at CES

Combat Creatures' AttacknidThe mechanised carnage and wanton destruction of Battlebots and Robot Wars is great fun but you need some serious robotics chops to build that level of machine. The Attacknid is an affordable toy alternative from from Combat Creatures – Andy McCaskey finds out more.

The Attacknid is a remote-controlled insect-like robot with a modular gun that fires discs or balls. The premise is simple…you and a friend (or friends) control the robots, shooting at each other’s machine. Three hits to the “battle brain” of the robot and it’s dead. Lots of fun and I can imagine this will be a great Christmas present.

Available in the UK now and will be coming to the USA in the fall for around $100.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News for the Tech Podcast Network.

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Dreambots WheeMe Massage Robot at CES 2013

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There’s nothing quite like a really good massage to relax and remove all the stress from your body but few of us have a masseuse on hand, Jeffrey excepted. The WheeMe Massage Robot from Dreambots might be able to help with this problem, as Jeffrey Powers finds out from Cobi.

The WheeMe is a small massage robot that runs over the back of a person lying down to give them a massage. Completely autonomous, the WheeMe uses tilt sensors to ensure that it doesn’t fall off and it has a couple of programs for different types of massage. The WheeMe uses vibrations, wheels and the long fingerettes to give different sensations.

Available now in a choice of red or blue from retail stores worldwide and online for around $100 (or €70). Additional accessories are coming soon.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine for the TechPodcast Network. Robyn must have the best job in the whole of CES!

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Bird Buggy Amuses a Parrot

This unique little robot is exactly what every parrot owner needs! The Bird Buggy was created by Andrew Gray, who is a student at the University of Florida’s College of Engineering. He is the owner of an African Grey parrot named Pepper. The primary purpose of the Bird Buggy was to give Pepper something to do other than squawk loudly all day. Bird Buggy was built in the University of Florida’s Intelligent Machines Design Lab.

The Bird Buggy has a joystick that Pepper has learned to control with his beak. The parrot can make its robotic “ride” go forward, backward, and turn from side to side. There is an IR sensor that prevents Pepper from ramming into things to hard, and bumpers that respond to collisions by backing up. The Bird Buggy is equipped with a camera that enables it to return to a docking station when Pepper is done using it.

I don’t have a parrot, but I do have several cockatiels. They are smaller than an African Grey, (and not quite as intelligent). My little birds would probably have one reaction to the Bird Buggy – fear. They dislike things that are new. They also would be too small to use the joystick in the way that Pepper can. There are some similarities between cockatiels and African Greys, though, so I can tell from watching the video that Pepper is greatly amused by, and enjoying, the Bird Buggy.

Roomba Picks Up a Mint

The cleaning robots have joined forces! No, I don’t mean the robots connected to each other in the way that the individual parts of Voltron did in order to form a larger, more powerful, form. I am referring to a press release from iRobot Corp. that states that the company has acquired Evolution Robotics, Inc. for $74 million. Together, the two companies can make the floors and carpets of the world a little bit cleaner.

You might be aware that iRobot is the maker of the Roomba, (and the Scooba, the Looj, and the Verro). I had a Roomba once, that was given to my husband and I from his sister. The round, red, disc-like robot tried its hardest to keep up with the birdseed shells that our cockatiels threw out of their cage.

Unfortunately, the configuration of furniture in the room prevented the Roomba from doing much more than traveling in a small circle. It did a nice job of confusing our cockatiels, who seemed to be trying to figure out if it was some sort of flat, non-barking, dog. It did manage to keep the small space it could get to relatively clean.

Evolution Robotics makes an automatic floor cleaner called Mint. It is square shaped and comes in two colors: white and black. The Roomba is good at sweeping, and the Scooba is good at mopping. The Mint can do both at the same time, if you attach a Swiffer cloth to the little robot. It will be interesting to see what these two companies can come up with when they start working together. Personally, I’d like to see a little robot that can clean your bathtub for you.

Image: empty-new-room by BigStock

Robot Ascending Staircase

If you ever find yourself running away from an evil robot army, one way to evade them is to climb the stairs. Robots that use rolling wheels as a form of locomotion are going to be stuck at the bottom of the staircase, with little more to do than to wait for you to walk back down.

Robots that can walk on legs also tend to have trouble with stairs. It takes a lot of calculations of depth and distance, a good sense of balance, and a reasonable amount of coordination for a human to successfully navigate their way up a staircase. Most adults don’t consciously think about all those little pieces of the puzzle, because they have mastered the skill of climbing a staircase long ago. The skill set required to climb stairs is an elusive one for most bipedal robots.

Researchers from the University of Freiburg’s Humanoid Robots Laboratory have created a robot that can not only climb a staircase, but also can successfully navigate its way up a spiral staircase. The robot is named Nao, and, fortunately for us, doesn’t appear to be the least bit evil. Personally, I think it is very cute. As a gamer, my first thought was that Nao resembles Megaman, (but is a different color).

The video of Nao in action was created by the Humanoid Robots Laboratory. Watch as Nao figures out how to get up onto the next step. I find it amusing that he raises his arms over his head, as a sign of victory, after he makes it all the way up the stairs.

How is Nao able to do this task that has perplexed many of the robots that were created before him? It makes use of the laser range scanner that is located at the top of its head. This gives Nao a global estimation of its current position. It also uses a 3D model of the staircase to match up the image it “sees” from the laser with the physical step that it is about to ascend. A lower camera, located on its “face”, is also used to help coordinate the data from the two sources. Our potential future robot overlords are adorable!

Robot Plays “Rock, Paper, Scissors” and Always Wins

The game “Rock, Paper, Scissors” sounds simple. Two players quickly choose one of the three potential options, and both players reveal it at the same time. Scissors beats paper, paper beats rock, and rock beats scissors. Children play this game on the recess field when trying to make a decision about something.

The game just got a whole lot tougher to win! Researchers at the Ishikawa Oku Lab at the University of Tokyo have created a robot hand that has been taught how to play “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. The robot can beat a human opponent 100% of the time. You can play the game, over and over, as many times as you like, but the robot will always win.

Why does the robot always win? The simple answer is that it wins because it has been taught how to cheat. The robot recognizes a human hand with the use of a high speed camera. It takes the computer 1 millisecond to recognize the position of the hand of its human opponent. The robot quickly detects which of the three potential choices the human player has made and then selects the option that will allow it to win the game. This happens faster than the human eye can track it.

The purpose of this robot is not only to have a high-tech way to play a children’s game. Instead, it is an example of how robots and humans can work together in a cooperative effort that involves motion detection. The robot can follow the movement of a human hand without their being a time delay before the robot moves.