VEX Robotics Ant by HEXBUG

Hexbug LogoMy children love their Hexbug Nanos and I doubt a few days go past without the distinctive buzz and rattle of the bugs banging round their habitats. It’s amazing what a fairly simple machine can get up to and the entertainment it brings. Their motion is surprisingly realistic too.

Older children and grown-ups will enjoy Hexbug’s more advanced robots, in particular the Vex Robotics Ant, a remote controlled robot with an autonomous mode. In the latter function, the Ant will use its bump sensors on the head and tail to veer away from obstacles and generally scurry about, scaring household pets.

Hexbug Ant


The Ant has over 60 programming variations that can be adjusted using switches on the robot so it’s quick and easy to see the changes in behaviour without having to learn any programming. Assembly is required with 150 snap together pieces but that’s half the fun!

The Hexbug range has moved into fingerboards too, with the Tony Hawk Circuit Board. That’s their pun, not mine. This set comes with a power axle and remote control to drive the board round the skate park.

Tony Hawk Circuit Board

Available from major toy retailers everywhere, the Vex Robotics Ant has an RRP of GB£49.99 and the Tony Hawk Circuit Board comes in at GB£14.99. Definitely good gifts for Fathers Day – if my wee ones are reading, I’d like an Ant please.

Meccanoid Robot Comes to Life at CES

Meccano logo

We’ve all dreamed of owning our very own robot. Imagine, having a mechanical friend who’s always there and won’t mind when you tell it to fetch another cold drink from the fridge. Well, those robot dreams are quickly becoming real thanks to the efforts of companies like Meccano.

Nick had a chat with Fraser from Meccano. Fraser explained that many people are probably already familiar with the Meccano brand, as it was known as Erector for many years in the U.S. He also gave details on an incredible new product, the Meccanoid, that Meccano will bring to stores in August of this year.

Meccanoid is a four-foot tall humanoid robot that’s built from an easy-to-assemble kit. Once constructed, users can program Meccanoid by using a simple “record-and-playback” system built right into the bot, or via bluetooth-connected smartphone, or USB-connected computer. The potential of Meccanoid is endless as the kit can be broken down into a number of configurations, limited only by the imagination of the builder.

Interview by Nick of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology for the TechPodcast Network.

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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: Refreshing Technology.

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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


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