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Dorkbot SF: SLR Fundraiser Roundup

Dorkbot

By Evan Ackerman

One of the participants in the Robodock festival in Amsterdam (besides the Gigantic Car Crushing Robot Hand, of course) was Survival Research Labs. They put on a spectacular show with some of their machines, including an acoustic V1 rocket engine, a shockwave cannon, and something called the flame hurricane, which “utilizes five LOUD 150 LB thrust Pulsejet engines and a system of 8 by 8 foot louvers arranged in a 45 ft circle to produce a rapidly rotating column of hot, high velocity hurricane like wind. Gasoline is injected into this swirling vortex of hot air at a pressure of 1000 psi and a flow of 1.5 gallons per second, producing a flaming layer on the exterior of the rotating air column.” Sadly (very sadly) I haven’t been able to find any pictures of that monster in action.

After the Robodock show, SLR production director Todd Blair was seriously injured in an accident while helping to disassemble the set. Last Wednesday, a fundraiser was held on his behalf in San Francisco by dorkbot, a society for “people doing strange things with electricity.” The fundraiser included a number of strange electricity related (and not related) presentations… I showed up to donate some money on Todd’s behalf, and you can read about some of the weird stuff that was on display after the jump.

Pac-Man TableGrand Idea Studio

Joe Grand is the sort of hardware+software geek that I wish I could be… He’s been hacking both hardware and software since the age of 7, and is currently on the technical advisory board for MAKE and is rumored to be working on co-hosing a super secret show for the Discovery channel. He showed off his 15 favorite electronic art projects in the space of 15 minutes, including a dinner table made out of a functioning Pac-Man console and the infamous hackable DEFCON-15 badge. More of his creations can be seen here.

Massive Multiplayer Thumb WrestlingMassive Multiplayer Thumb Wrestling

This isn’t an especially new concept, but it was cool to see the actual inventors give a presentation on how to thumb wrestle within different network topologies. Johannes from Monochrom rounded up enough people from the audience to put together a death star reactor thumb battle, which ended much as the movie depicted: in a gigantic screaming explosion. Rules and thumb network configurations are available here.

ACONEWoodpecker Watching With Automated Cameras

The Ivory billed Woodpecker is the sasquatch of the bird world. Supposedly extinct by 1940, there have been numerous recent unconfirmed sightings of the birds in the southeast US. The problem with finding them is that they live in swamps, and swamps suck for sneaking up on woodpeckers (or for doing anything at all). Project ACONE uses motion sensing robotic cameras placed in strategic locations to try to capture images of the Ivory-billed in flight. Presenter Ken Goldberg talked about the numerous advantages of remote controlled robotic cameras when it comes to field work, the chief advantage being that you can make observations from your warm and comfy couch. If you’re interested in the concept, you can give it a try for yourself here. More information about Project ACONE is available here.

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