Category Archives: Robotics

Code Your Crab and Train Your Tortoise with BinaryBots at CES 2018

Self-assembly robots and smart toys are great for introducing and teaching children the basics of coding. It’s a hot area at the moment, especially with Nintendo Labo coming soon, but here we have British outfit BinaryBots and their animal-themed programmable robots. Todd and Chris play with the smart pets.

The team at BinaryBots have a range of robotic toys starting with straightforward cardboard-based models through to more complex creations using the Totem construction kits. There are crabs, spiders and tortoises, each will unique actions. The robots can be connected up to a BBC micro:bit computer for coding and programming. Children can code their robot and to see how it responds to light and other stimuli.

The cardboard-based robots are available now with the new Totem-based ones arriving in April. They’re priced at GB£40 / US$55 for the cardboard models and GB£60 / US$80 for the Totem, though you’ll need to buy your own micro:bit for the latter.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at

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All-Girls Robotic Team from Afghanistan Granted Entry to U.S.

FIRST Global organizes a yearly international robotics challenge to ignite a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among more than two-billion youths across the world. The all-girls team from Afghanistan has now been granted entry to the United States after the team’s initial visa applications were denied.

The FIRST Global Challenge is an annual robotics game that addresses the 14 Grand Challenges identified by the United States of America’s National Academy of Engineering. Each year, a different Grand Challenge will take center stage as the theme of that year’s FIRST Global game, which will be held in a different nation’s capitol each year.

Team Afghanistan is the first robotic team with The Digital Citizen Fund (DCF) based on Herat, Afghanistan. The team members are from Towhid, Malakai Jalalai and Hoze Karbas High Schools. All of the members of Team Afghanistan are girls.

The girls went through the visa process twice, with both attempts resulting in a denial. The Washington Post reported that, after persuading their parents to let them attend the FIRST Global Challenge, the girls made two 500-mile trips from their hometown of Herat in Afghanistan to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to apply for visas.

Forbes reported on June 29, 2017, that the team’s robot had permission to travel to the United States for the competition, but the girls themselves were not allowed to go. The girls had planned to watch their robot compete via Skype.

The Associated Press reported today “The White House on Wednesday said President Trump intervened to allow the team to come to the U.S. after looking at several options, the National Security Council eventually settled on “paroling” the girls, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.”

The 2017 FIRST Global robotics game will be held at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The opening ceremony is in the early evening of July 16, and the two days of FIRST Global gameplay are July 17, and 18. The closing and award ceremony is in the early evening of July 18.

Milo and Lego Education Brings STEM to School

Lego LogoLego have a history stretching back to the 1930s and for the last few decades, Lego has run an education program to bring Lego to the classroom in relevant way for all levels of schooling. Nick learns from Leisha Hoot about Lego Education and how it gets students interested in science.

At CES, Lego announced Lego Education WeDo 2.0, an elementary level STEM program that uses robotics to work with children in science. Through Milo, a small robotic rover, it gives them experience of programming, sensors and motors. It’s all very easy to use partly because children are already familiar with Lego bricks, but Lego has taken great care in designing the software too. In addition, WeDo 2.0 is going to be part of the First Lego League. The WeDo core set starts at around US$160 and is available now.

Nick DiMeo is a video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Intel Brought a Segway Robot to CES 2016

IntelThose of us who have dreamed about having our very own robot probably didn’t imagine that it would roll along like a Segway. Intel has teamed up with Segway to reimagine the Segway in the robotic world.

Nakia spoke with Platform Architect for Intel, Han Heng Jeun, at the Intel Real Sense Technology Section at CES 2016. They talked about the unique personal robot assistant that was on display.

The robot has two main functions. One is that it can transform into an SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) that you can ride. The robot has a Segway as its base. People can step onto it and ride around. When a person no longer needs the robot to be an SPV, it can be transformed back into robot mode.

The robot uses the Intel RealSense RGB-D camera to enable depth sensing. This helps it to do real time 3D mapping that it will use to navigate a room. It also has a microphone array that allows you to send voice command to the Segway robot from anywhere in the room. It can be programed to understand a command like “follow me”.

The robot has an open SDK on Android platform that developers can use create cool new things that the personal assistant Segway robot can do. They will launch the platform and SDK to makers and developers in the second quarter of 2016.

Nakia Mann is a video host who specializes in covering live events for Plughitz Live.

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Ziro – World’s First Robotics Kit That You Can Control with Your Hand

ZeroUI logoZiro is the world’s first hand gesture controlled robotics kit for everyone. With a few hand gestures, you can make a robot move. Ziro brings the Ironman type of quality, or brings “The Force” to everyone that wants to enjoy it with some really cool robots. This type of technology is great for STEM education.

John Rocha, VP, Marketing at ZeroUI spoke with Jamie Davis and Daniel J. Lewis at CES 2016. The mission for ZeroUI is to remove the barriers between people and technology. They want people to interact with mechanical things and other types of devices in a way that is extremely intuitive. The only way to do that is through hand gestures and other simple ways.

The Ziro kit comes with four actuator modules and one smart glove. The kit enables people to build 3 different robots that they can configure. One is a mars rover robot, another is a humanoid robot, and the third is a robotic dog. A person can use the smart glove to steer the robot in a direction with just the flick of a hand. Pricing for the kit will run about $199. Those that are interested in Ziro can get on a list to be informed when it will become available. It is expected to retail this summer.

Jamie Davis is the host of Health Tech Weekly which can be found at He is a nurse, paramedic, and health journalist.

Daniel J Lewis dares you to get started in podcasting with The Audacity to Podcast.

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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