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Category Archives: Robots

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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Robotic Arm Ride Is A REAL Ride, Not Just Some Guys’ Hack

By David Ponce

A lot has been made lately of this robotic arm ride. It’s about these guys who strap themselves up to a robotic arm (the kind that you find in car assembly lines), and fling themselves about the room. Looks like fun, but it also looks dangerous, with the guy’s head nearly scraping the floor several times.

Well, guess what? It turns out this is pretty old. There’s a real ride like this, for random people, in a mall in Dubai.

I went there over the Holidays, and got some footage of the beast in action. It’s called “Robo Coaster”, and features a large robotic arm, with double chairs at the end. When you get in, you tell the operator just how crazy you want your ride to be. He then dials it in, and the flailing begins. Anything from old-people-sedate to brain rattling. A two minute ride costs 15 Dirhams, which is about $3.5US. It’s completely safe, and looks fun as hell.

It’s in Magic Planet, in The Emirates Mall, in Dubai… if you feel like looking it up. The video you see above was shot with a Nokia N93.

And man… I wish we had this sort of stuff over here.

Judgement Day is almost here


By David Edney

Look people. We need to quit making robots that can think for themselves right now! Apparently researchers at NEC System technologies and Mie University designed a robot that can identify wines, cheeses, meats and hors d’oeuvres. At the end of the robot’s left arm is an infrared spectrometer. When objects are placed up against the sensor, the robot fires off a beam of infrared light. The reflected light is then analyzed in real time to determine the object’s chemical composition. A reporter stuck his hand in front of the sensor, as a joke and the robot preceded to tell him in a creepy child like voice that he tasted like bacon; the cameraman tasted like proscuitto. Does anyone else see this as a sign?!?!

VIA [Table of Malcontents]

KONDO KHR-2HV Humanoid Robot Kit

KONDO KHR-2HV (Images courtesy
By Andrew Liszewski

As a child of the 80’s I’ll always have a soft spot for robots thanks to years of watching Go-Bots, Transformers, Voltron, Tranzor-Z and even G.I. Joe since the B.A.T. characters were always my favorite. Sadly though it’s now the year 2006 and my childish dreams of having a robot sidekick have gone pretty much unfulfilled.

There is still hope that one day my dream will come true when I see robots like this being released. The KONDO KHR-2HV is actually an upgrade to the KHR-1 model and besides being lighter and faster it now has 17 adjustable joints which allow it to do things like back-flips and cartwheels. And for anyone involved in underground robot fighting the KHR-2HV also has a bigger chest for a muscular look which is sure to strike fear into the stickers used to represent their opponents eyes.

Like most robots that actually do something impressive the KONDO is not cheap and the kit will set you back $1,199.

[KONDO KHR-2HV Humanoid Robot Kit] VIA [I4U News]

Build Your Own Coat Hanger Robot

Coat Hanger Walker (Image courtesy Andrew Liszewski

If you’re into robotics but don’t like your creations to have that corporate-polished look then this simple robot walker tutorial on will probably fit the bill nicely.

The parts list includes things you might actually have lying around the house in old electronics like plastic gears, AAA battery holders and toggle switches plus other things that might require a trip to your local hobby shop like resistors and servo motors. And of course a heavy gauge wire like you can find many coat hangers in your closet made out of. (Unless your mother is Joan Crawford.)

Keep in mind though as simple as this robot looks this project is not really aimed at the beginner from what I can tell. If you don’t know what a breadboard is or are surprised to hear they involve wiring you might want to just move along.

[Coat Hanger Walker] VIA [The Red Ferret Journal]

BalBot – Build Your Own Segway-esque Robot

BalBot Advanced Robot Kit (Image courtesy Edmund Scientific's)By Andrew Liszewski

Ok, so the downside of this kit is that even though this robot can balance like a Segway, it can’t actually be ridden like one. In fact I think even a G.I. Joe figure would be hard pressed to find a place to sit without toppling this thing over. Other than that it’s perfect if you’re the type who’s into DIY projects, and especially DIY projects that actually end up working and not just falling over and catching fire.

The kit includes all the parts needed to build this fully autonomous robot that can not only balance but also navigate around a room and avoid obstacles. And the best part I think is that there’s no soldering required to build it. However you will need a working knowledge of programming in C if you want to customize it at all, but on the plus side the kit also includes a development environment with a compiler, IDE and device programmer which supposedly makes things a little easier. I can tell you for sure though that doesn’t help me at all.

The BalBot robot kit is available from Edmund Scientific’s for $549 but at the time of writing they seem to be sold-out.

[BalBot Advanced Robot Kit @ Edmund Scientific’s]

Claudia Mitchell First Woman To Receive Bionic Arm

claudia mitchell bionic arm

By David Ponce

Claudia Mitchell lost her arm in a motorcycle accident some time ago, and she is the first woman to replace the severed limb with a “bionic arm”. In other words, she can move the robotic arm simply by thinking about moving it. The device is designed by The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, which is part of a multi-lab effort, funded with nearly $50 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to create more useful and natural artificial limbs for amputees.

Now, although this is very cool, and very good news for Mitchell, don’t go thinking there’s any kind of mind-reading involved.

[The arm] works by detecting the movements of a chest muscle that has been rewired to the stumps of nerves that once went to her now-missing limb.

What this means is that every instance of the robot arm has to be custom built for the patient, what with every amputation being different from the other. That said, this is fascinating technology nevertheless.

Someday she hopes to upgrade to a prosthesis, still under development, that will allow her also to “feel” with an artificial hand. She is ready for it now.

Last summer, surgeons took the first step by rewiring the skin above her left breast so that when the area is stimulated by impulses from the bionic arm, the skin sends a message to the region of her brain that feels “hand.”

[Washingto ost Article] VIA [Engadget]