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Monthly Archives: November 2008

Recently, On BotJunkie…

By Evan Ackerman

If you haven’t been checking out out BotJunkie lately, you totally should, ’cause we’ve been covering lots of exciting robot-y stuff. Here’s a little review of some articles that we’ve posted on BotJunkie recently:

Keepon Now For Sale- Keepon, the cutest robot in the universe, is now up for grabs if you’ve got the dosh, which you probably don’t.

Drive a UGV In Australia- Try your hand at driving a miniature unmanned ground vehicle around a little world, over the internet. Sponsored by BP, the UGVs are located in Australia and completely solar powered.

Robotic Milk Extractor- Good cheese comes from happy cows, and happy cows are milked by robots.

Firefighting RoboSnake- Need to put out a candle or a tunnel fire? Ana Konda is a 10 foot long robotic snake that spits water, and we’ve got video.

Cyberdyne Exoskeleton Available In Japan- For a mere $2200 a month, you can now rent a battery powered exoskeleton that increases your strength anywhere from 2 to 10 times.

Robot Flutist- Better find another hobby for your kids… This robot is equipped with the lungs, lips, and tongue it takes to play the flute, and it probably does it better than you can.

Recon Scout- Surveillance robots are getting smaller and more clever. The Recon Scout is the size of a can of soda, and you chuck it like a grenade. Two wheels, one camera, fully controllable. Macroswiss even has one with an integrated mini-Uzi.

$100 i-SOBOT- Want a humanoid robot of your very own? It doesn’t get much cheaper than this. Makes a great gift.

Hexapod Dance Off- Hexapod robots dressed up in costumes try to outstep each other. Plus, they can carry beers while navigating an obstacle course.

And that’s just a taste of what’s been going on recently. Last week, we were at the 2008 RoboDevelopment Expo and saw a huggable robot teddy bear straight out of the movie A.I., as well as a Rubik’s Cube solving robot trounce a Rubik’s Cube solving human.

BotJunkie: chronicling Man’s inevitable descent into cybernetic slavery.

One robot at a time.

[ BotJunkie ]

RisiLights & RisiSounds – High Tech Retaining Wall Blocks

RisiLights & RisiSounds (Image courtesy Risi Stone Systems)By Andrew Liszewski

If you thought your meticulously landscaped back garden or patio was the one place you could escape from all the high-techery of everyday life, I’m afraid you’d be wrong. Thanks to a company called Risi Stone Systems, you can now install a retaining wall that features integrated lighting and speakers via these RisiLights and RisiSounds faux-concrete blocks.

The blocks are actually made from a high strength fiberglass housing with acrylic faceplates, and are designed to blend in with standard concrete paving blocks so that they leave your retaining wall with a uniform finish. It looks like they can be installed as easily as standard concrete blocks, though you’ll have to plan ahead since the RisiLights blocks require a power cable, while the RisiSounds blocks need the appropriate audio hook-ups.

Unfortunately at around $140 each, the RisiLights aren’t cheap, which foils my plans for creating an awesome pixel board retaining wall. And the RisiSounds blocks are even more expensive at around $175 a piece.

[ RisiLights & RisiSounds ] VIA [ Nerd Approved ]

2008 LA Auto Show: Concept Cars

By Evan Ackerman

Exotic cars are impressive, but they tend to be bound by reality and practicality… If you’re going to buy one, you expect certain things. Things like the ability to drive it somewhere. On a road. Legally. Concept cars suffer no such restrictions, which is why I like to ogle them so much. They’re all about being incredibly super awesome looking and nothing else. After the jump, I’ve posted a gallery of concept cars from the 2008 LA Auto Show… Click on the thumbnails for big versions.Continue Reading

2008 LA Auto Show: Exotic Cars

By Evan Ackerman

The number one reason I went to the LA Auto Show was to see exotic cars. I’m not a car nut, not really… I mean, my vehicle of choice (of choice, not necessity) is a 1994 Volvo 940 Wagon. Swedish turbo bricks FTW! But still, exotic cars get my juices flowing just as much as the next guy (or gal), and I spent a significant amount of time at the show doing silly things like measuring the size of the brakes on a Ferrari or repeatedly opening and closing the doors of a Lamborghini. They open UPWARDS, it’s SO COOL! Check out a bunch of pics from the show, after the jump… Click on them for high res versions.Continue Reading

2008 LA Auto Show: Eco Cars

By Evan Ackerman

Looking forward to this year’s LA Auto Show, I was hoping to see something to reassure me that things are seriously happening towards innovating our way out of a gasoline dependent transport economy. Aaaaand I didn’t really get that, at all. There were lots of impressive concepts, to be sure, and a lot of talk about sustainability and green initiatives and crap. But what are people actually producing? Nothing especially remarkable, with a few exceptions.

First of all, just about everything is a hybrid. Which is good, I guess… Or I should say, it’s better than things not being hybrids. The thing is, though, that just because something is a hybrid doesn’t mean it gets significantly better (or even good) gas mileage. At least, that’s the way it seemed from just walking around the show looking at the EPA estimated mpg stickers. Why is this the case? I think it’s because car manufacturers (and car buyers) are still for some silly reason concerned with maximizing horsepower, which is most of the time useless after a certain point. But maybe my 95 Volvo and I are just jealous. Most new cars were distinctly unimpressive when it came to gas mileage, whether they were hybrids or not.

Also, everybody’s got a fuel cell car or light SUV now, but most of them are sort of “hey look, we can do it too!” vehicles rather than a serious production effort. And of course, nobody’s been able to solve the crucial problem: distribution. I think BMW has had the most promising interim solution (and has for years) in the Hydrogen 7 gas/hydrogen hybrid, but it wasn’t at the show… Rather, BMW was promoting a system to make gas engines up to 20% more efficient by dynamically controlling power output. That’s nice and all, but gasoline should be the past, not the future.

Is it too much for me to expect that automakers asking for a financial bailout should be trying new things and not just taking existing cars and retrofitting them with hybrid engines to eke out a few extra MPG? Maybe it is, I suppose it’s cheaper to do that than to make a serious commitment to a new technology that might not prove to be adoptable mainstream. But there is some good and important work going on, using technology that makes a substantial difference to efficiency and eco-friendliness. Have a look, after the jump.Continue Reading

Miniature Mario Kart Wiimote Projector Lights

Mario Kart Wiimote Projector Light (Images courtesy ThinkGeek)
By Andrew Liszewski

I’ve seen these types of mini projector flashlights before, but a) they weren’t shaped like a miniature Wiimote and b) they didn’t project characters from one of the greatest video game racing franchises of all time. So if you happen to be as big a fan of Mario Kart as I am, and don’t need a pocket-friendly flashlight that’s particularly bright or useful in any way, head on over to ThinkGeek who are selling these mini projectors which are actually fully licensed by Nintendo. It seems you don’t get to choose which of the 6 characters they’ll send you (Mario, Princess, Luigi, Yoshi, Wario & Baby Mario) but at just $5.99 I don’t see how you can go wrong.

[ Mario Kart Wiimote Projector Light ]

iMuffs Cut The Headphone Cord But Probably Won’t Keep Your Ears Warm

iMuffs MB210 (Image courtesy Wi-Gear)
By Andrew Liszewski

Despite the product name, iMuffs are unfortunately not designed to keep your ears warm, which is unfortunate given that many of us have already seen the thermometer drop well before the freezing mark. They will however allow you to listen to your iPod Nano, iPod Classic, iPod Photo, iPod Touch, iPod Mini and all 3rd generation iPods without having an annoying headphone cable dangling from your head. You will need to attach the iMuffs Bluetooth transmitter to your iPod since they lack that connectivity by default, but once paired you’ll be able to stash your MP3 player in your pocket while still controlling volume and playback via the headphones themselves.

The iMuffs can also be paired with a Bluetooth equipped smartphone, and include a built-in echo and noise canceling mic allowing you to make calls in-between listening to your music. Their built-in battery can be recharged via USB, and provides a decent play time of about 16 hours. The iMuffs MB210 are available in black or white, and can be bought directly from the Wi-Gear online store for $129.99.

[ Wi-Gear iMuffs MB210 ]

R2-D2 Speaker Set

Star Wars R2-D2 Speaker Set (Images courtesy ThinkGeek)
By Andrew Liszewski

What’s better than having a miniature astromech droid sitting on your desk pumping out your tunes? Why 2 miniature astromech droids of course. This run-of-the-mill desktop speaker set makes you forget how crappy they probably sound with an awesome R2-D2 and R2-D1 design. The domes flip up revealing the actual speaker, and since they’re powered by the stereo headphone jack connector, don’t expect a THX experience from this pair.

You can pick them up from ThinkGeek for $39.99.

[ Star Wars R2-D2 Speaker Set ]

DIY Nerf Lancer

This post is syndicated with permission from

Man, I remember some of my favorite toys as a kid being made by Nerf. No, I’m not talking about their footballs and stuff. My brother and I had all sorts of guns and weapons that we used on each other all the time. I recall one of my favorites being a belt-fed chain gun that could fire off something like 5 rounds per second. That thing was awesome. But as far as looks go, nothing can top this excellent Nerf Lancer.

If you’ve ever spent any time playing Gears of War, you’ll understand why this hunk of plastic is so cool. Unfortunately you aren’t going to find this sitting on any store shelves, as it is a custom piece. Luckily its creator was kind enough to document every step they took, complete with picture. So if you’re looking to make your own Nerf Lancer, this is how its done.

[ Nerf Haven ] VIA [ GamerFront ]