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Category Archives: Robots

Subaru Develops Tondon, A Floor-Moppin’ Bot

snipshot_e4vok0h6ug1.jpgBy Ryan Nill

Subaru, (aka Fuji Heavy Industries) and Sumitomo have teamed up and created a robo-janitor! His name is Tondon and he currently resides in the the outdoor hallways of a new 14-story Bali-themed luxury apartment complex in Tokyo. Tondon works unsupervised, sweeping and cleaning, and relies on an optical communication system to control the building’s elevators, allowing it to move from floor to floor. It has also been strengthened, to better endure the elements, and has added cameras, to prevent unwanted collisions. It also pulls double duty as a security guard. Looking at this thing’s ink I know that it has been to prison before. At least twice.

No word on commercial availability beyond this.

[ FHI Press ] VIA [ Pinktentacle ]

RoboCup 2007: As Good As The Real Thing


By Evan Ackerman

The RoboCup soccer tournament in Atlanta has drawn to a close; congrats to team NimbRo who won the “kidsize” 2v2 competition. There are of course lots of videos of RoboCup 2007 kicking around on YouTube, but here’s an especially close quarterfinal match pitting NimbRo against the Darmstadt Dribblers. If you’re a soccer fan, you’ll appreciate the dramatic saves from the goalies (well, sometimes dramatic) as well as the unbridled robot-on-robot brutality. And of course, just like real soccer players, you’ll catch these robots taking dives from time to time when nobody is anywhere near them.

[ RoboCup ]

Robot Soccer On A Grain Of Rice

Robocup Nano Field

By Evan Ackerman

This is a photograph of a soccer field for robots, part of the RoboCup games taking place though July 10 at Georgia Tech. There are various size brackets for different robots to compete in, and this particular field is smaller than a grain of rice (each of the ‘defenders’ are about the width of two hairs), designed to challenge robots smaller still, called nanobots. Nanobots generally weigh in the tens to hundreds of nanograms, while your average grain of sand is a hefty three hundred thousand nanograms.

The Nanobots face three challenges (while spectators watch under microscopes):
-The 2-Millimeter Dash:
Each nanobot chooses the optimal time for a goal-to-goal sprint across the playing field.
-Slalom Drill: Robots race from goal to goal while avoiding “defenders” (polymer posts) that block the path.
-Ball-Handling Drill: Robots “dribble” as many microdisks as possible into a goal within a 3-minute period.

Here’s a video of a Swiss nanobot practicing the ball-handling drill:

VIA [ USA Today ]

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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