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Category Archives: Robots

Vortex Bots Suck Bigtime

By Evan Ackerman

My apologies for the lame (but obligatory) headline. Vortex Regenerative Air Movement Mobile Robot Platforms (that would be VRAMMRPs) employ patented “tornado in a cup” technology to suck themselves onto flat surfaces including walls and ceilings. They then use 6 drive wheels to get around, and can send back video via secure Bluetooth. Current versions are controllable with a joystick, but they have the capacity for autonomous operation and room for a variety of payloads. Although the website says they’ve “minimized audible sound emission,” if you made it to the end of the video above (the first two scenes are muted, as far as I can tell), I think you’ll agree that they sound more like a dust buster. These bots may not quite be ready for stealthy deployment, but as the video above shows, being able to drive on walls does have distinct tactical advantages.

[ Vortex VMRP ] VIA [ Robot Living ]

“Blubber Bot” Autonomous Blimps


By Evan Ackerman

These helium blimps, nicknamed “Blubber Bots,” are fully autonomous robots that gracefully float from place to place, searching for food ( represented as LED lights) and companionship. Created by Jed Berk, the fat and happy form factors of these ALAVs (Autonomous Lighter than Air Vehicles) belies the hardcore wireless brains that are slung beneath them. Their blimp brains are powered by Sun SPOT chips, which are able to sense and react to movement, sounds, lights, and heat. In addition to being equipped with blinking LEDs themselves, they have cell phone vibrators attached to their helium envelopes, and when the vibrators go off, the blimp resonates at a specific frequency, allowing it to “talk” to other blimps, and to you. That’s right, besides interacting autonomously with each other, the blimps are able to socialize with humans via cellphones. You can chose to talk to the blimps as individuals or as a group, and based on your actions, they’ll react with different behaviors. Check out the video to see what I’m talking about:

If you happen to be in the LA area, you can sign up to make your own Blubber Bot (with the help of the designer) for $185.

[ ALAVs ] VIA [ Wired ]

Decapitated Gundam Serves Speaker Duty

gundam robots head speakers

By David Ponce

Hysteria is rising over the upcoming Transofmers movie. It’s understandable. So maybe it makes sense to see some Korean company trying to cash in on the action… by releasing Gundam speakers. No, Gundam is in no way related to Transformers, but they share many of the same elements: robots, anime and awesome 80s looks. That’s of course where the similarities end, and these Gundam Head Speakers aren’t really all that exciting once you get over their looks. The speakers use batteries for power, and the actual speakers are revealed only once you open the flaps on the back of the head.

No word on price or availability, but chances are this is Korea only.

[ Product Page (translated from Korean) ] VIA [ UberGizmo ]

Robot Legs Kick Seven Times More Ass

By Evan Ackerman

Power PedalMatsushita Electric’s Power Pedal robot suit is a wearable exoskeleton (exo-lower torso, anyway) that provides the wearer with up to seven times more leg power. The robot legs are controlled via foot pedals, and with six axes of movement, the legs will remain stable even over rough ground. It’s designed for a good cause of course (namely helping disabled and elderly people to walk), but you can get your own for any good or evil cause you want for about $167,000 in August of this year (which is pretty darn quick). In under ten years, Matsushita expects the price to drop to around $30,000.

There’s no detailed info on how fast these things move or exactly what they are capable of, but it’s good to know that we’re making strides toward an alien queen ass kicking machine (Aliens movie clip most likely NSFW).

VIA [ Pink Tentacle ]

LANdroid Wireless Battle Net

By Evan Ackerman


Ever wish that your wireless network could follow you wherever you went? Yeah, so does the US Army. DARPA‘s LANdroid is a palm-sized, totally autonomous network router on cute little tank treads. It’s designed to be used in urban environments which have all sorts of inconveniently placed buildings that block more conventional wireless access points. These little guys are actually designed to be disposable; the idea is that they get dropped by advancing troops, whereupon they wander around at about half a meter per second until they find the most effective place to act as a network node. The bots work together to cover “shadowed” and indoor areas, and if one of them gets blown up, the rest will move themselves to keep the network operational.


The details are trickier than it might seem… For example, the bots will be powered by disposable batteries, so power management will definitely be an issue, especially in a package that can’t be heavier than 1 kilo or larger in volume than 1 liter. The final product should only cost $100 per bot at small production volumes (i.e. 1000 units). This concept is a public solicitation by DARPA, which means that they don’t have one of these yet, but they really want one (and so do I). If you think you can put one together, proposals are due to DARPA by August 16.

[ DARPA LANdroid Proposal (*.pdf) ] VIA [ The Register ]

WowWee Roboquad On Preorder, Roboboa In The Works

By Evan Ackerman


WowWee‘s Roboquad is now available for preorder for $99, with delivery in August. If you were a fan of the modable Robosapien, you might want to check out the specs on this spidery quadraped. You can either control it via the remote, or let it run around autonomously. In autonomous mode, Roboquad will navigate with it’s infrared sensors, reacting to objects and light and noise based on how you’ve set it’s “personality,” which is a function of levels of activity, awareness, and aggression. The remote lets you access 72 preprogrammed functions, and of course, you can customize movements and functions to the nth degree.

Even if you’re not really interested in the Roboquad, it’s worth watching the video for the synchronized dance sequence in the middle:

WowWee is also working on a Roboboa; more info on that (and a vid) after the jump.

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Optimus Prime Turns Into A Shoe

optimus prime nike partnership

By David Ponce

Probably due to the upcoming movie, we’re starting to see a fair share of Transformer paraphernalia going around these days. The latest is a partnership between Nike and Takara Tomy, which has produced the awesome figuring you see above. It’s Optimus Prime (or Convoy, as he’s known in Japan), who transforms himself into a half-scale shoe. We’re pretty sure that Optimus would be miffed at the idea of being able to morph into a rubbery bacteria sponge, but marketing dollars speak loud and do miracles.

The toy will be available starting today for about $22. In Japan.

[ Yahoo! Article ] VIA [ Tokyomango ]

Gundam To Get Pimped In Platinum

platinum gundamBy David Ponce

Gundam is apparently a God to some. And now, Bandai and Ginza Tanaka have teamed up to create a Gundam made from pure platinum.

Called Gundam Fix Platinum, the 12.5-cm (5-in.) tall, 1.4-kg (3-lb.) work features 89 separate parts and a head adorned with a 0.15 carat diamond. Hajime Katoki, a mechanical designer and illustrator noted for his work in a range of anime and games, oversaw the two-year long production process.

Of course, this is a one-of-a-kind piece of jewellery, which will be on display at an upcoming exhibition called Baselworld 2007 in Basel, Switzerland. While there are no plans to ever sell the pimped out little fella, estimates of its value place it in the $250,000 range.

[ Press Release (In Japanese) ] VIA [ Pink Tentacle ]

Mospeng-kun Robot To Dispense Tissue Paper; Slower And More Expensive Than Human Equivalent

mospeng kun By David Ponce

You’d think that the impetus behind our slow walk towards complete robotic annihilation would be fueled by our desire to have stuff done for us more cheaply, and more efficiently. And, of course, you’d be right. This is unless you’re looking at Mospeng-kun, a Japanese worker robot that can be rented and placed at any location you’d want to distribute tissue paper to passersby. Developed by InterRobot Inc. from Japan, the bot’s rental fees start at 100,000 yen ($835) for 5 days, which indeed is much more than a regular human doing the same task would cost. Of course, the human wouldn’t have the same eerie psycho-cartoon smile on its face while it does its job, less his blood be pumped with a fistfull of Prozacs before his shift starts. Additionally, the bot is able to collect and store information about its patrons (something humans are quite bad at), though we’re not sure about this: our Japanese sucks (meaning we don’t speak it).

Sadly, the bot is painfully slow in doing its job. To witness this for yourselves by way of a dandy video, as well as to get the links, keep reading.

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