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Category Archives: Robots

The Virtuoso Self-Playing Violin

virtuoso self playing violinBy David Ponce

Far be it from us to suggest that technological advances might be doing too good of a job in replacing humans at whatever it is humans do. We envision a future where our days are filled with vigorous naps, enthusiastic lunches, much beer guzzling and not much else. And, the Virtuoso self-playing violin seems to us like just another step in that direction. Costing $17,500, and having taken the engineering prowess of a retired president of a military technology company, along with a former NASA administrator to design, the device simply eliminates the job of “violinist”.

The high cost is explained by the fact that creating a self-playing violin is a lot more complex than a self-playing piano. Nevertheless, there you have it. And for those of you screaming “Balderdash!”, we’ve included (yet again) a video for your watching pleasure… after the jump.

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The Snakefighter, aka “Snakes on a Firetruck”

snakefighter anna konda

By David Ponce

While Snakes on a Plane not only sounds like a bad idea but also happens to be shaping up to be a box office flop, Snakes on a Firetruck is a different story altogether (it’s a bad pun, in case you’re not catching my drift). In 2003, some researchers at SINTEF began a project called “Snakefighter”, which sought to develop a self-propelled snakelike robot with the ability to shoot water. This would evidently allow it to extinguish some fires that would otherwise be too dangerous for human firefighters to get close to.

The ingenious aspect with this idea is that the energy the system needs in order to move is already available inside the fire hose, which contains water pressurized to 100 bar. The advantage of serpentine locomotion instead of wheel- or leg-based propulsion is greater flexibility and traversability.

SINTEF now has developed a prototype, which is 3m long and weighs 70 kg. The water hydraulic actuators give the robot enormous power. It moves like a biological snake and can raise its head above the ground to spray water. It is however at the moment only used as proof of concept, and there seems to be no concrete plans for commercialization.

[Snake Firefighting Robot] VIA [Prylfeber]

Remote Controlled Mario Figurines

famicon mario figurines

By David Ponce

Here’s a good idea poorly implemented. There’s a whole bunch of people who would have jumped at the opportunity to control “real-life” Marios or Toads with a Famicon controller, making them run, and jump on command, just like in the game. But instead, Brando turned what could have been a runaway hit, into a cheap, corny novelty item. The problem is that the figurines’ movement is really, really lame. They doddle forwards and backwards, like drunken 90-year-olds. Hell, they look like they belong in a Happy Meal.

To see what I mean, just come inside for a video. Just know that they’re about $17.

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The Ballbot Balances Itself On One Ball

ballbot

By David Ponce

Never underestimate the power of untapped potential. While the Ballbot might not look like it’s doing much (balancing itself on one ball and rolling back and forth, willy-nilly) we are confident that the robot is simply the first few steps in what may be a whole new way for the bots to interact with us. Matter of fact, this is the main reason it was developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon, and as such might be considered exploratory research in robotic locomotion, rather than commercial prototype.

The research was prompted by the realization that no matter how complex today’s robots are getting, they still usually move like a drunkard on acid. They compensate for their lack of stability by widening their base, which makes them less practical in a human environment. The Ballbot is at the very least the potential preliminary answer to this problem.

For a video demonstration of the bot being pushed around, come right inside.

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Hibiscus, A Rescue Bot

hibiscus rescue bot

By David Ponce

Being trapped beneath a pile of rubble is a bad way to spend your weekend. And while people in earthquake prone areas are more likely to benefit from the Hibiscus rescue bot (a design of Chiba Institute of Technology), rescue agencies worldwide should look into its purchase, seeing as it costs a mere $26,800. A pittance, really.

The bot is pretty standard when it comes to its basic features: it measures 370 x 650 x 180 mm and weighs 22.5 kg. It is powered by a 3700 mAh Lithium Polymer battery which lasts for 60 minutes. It communicates via Wi-Fi 802.11g and is powered by a SH-4 processor. To find the trapped survivors, it uses an infrared camera.

But its appeal resides in its surprising agility. Having six independent crawler arms along with two flappers allows it to navigate just about any surface.

Don’t take my word for it, come inside and check out the video.

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ASIMO’s 20 Year History

history asimo

By David Ponce

Honda’s ASIMO has come a long way in its 20 year history, looking more and more human along the way. There’s really no reason (other than our anthropomorphilia (I like big words)) to equate a robot’s ever more human appearance with its apparent evolution. ASIMO might just as well have evolved into the form of a T-Rex, an arguably fitter and stronger animal specimen than us.

But I digress.

The point here, is that Honda’s put up a neat page of the robot’s history. A fun fact? The first model in 1986, called the “E0, Experimental Model D”, took five seconds between each of its steps, and all it did was walk in a straight line.

[ASIMO History] VIA [Gizmologia]

Gameboy LEGO Robot Hybrid

robot legoBy David Ponce

Not smoking new, still cool. Let me make an appropriately old and lame South Park joke as an intro, you know, to break the ice.

1) Make a LEGO/Homebrew-enabled GameBoy Advance robot.
2) ?
3) Profit

Yeah, so that’s the deal. The boys at Charmed Labs inserted a Xport 2.0 into the cartridge slot of the GBA, which essentially turned the device into a robot’s brain. Then, just slapped it on top of some LEGO (or anything else really) body, and watched the action unfold.

These robots are able to do a few nice tricks, the most interesting of which is called “Teach”. You push it around on the floor, in whatever pattern you like, and it’ll reproduce that same path at the press of a button. For a video demonstration, come inside.

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Draganflyer V Ti Pro Helicopter

draganflyer.jpg
By Bruce Eaton

We here at OhGizmo love our flying machines. But being able to fly is just one feature on the Dragonflyer V Ti Pro Helicopter. Able to shoot 460 lines of resolution on its CCD Video Camera and a 2.4GHz FM video transmitter, the Dragonflyer is not messing around in the aerial surveillance department. One of the best features though has to be its seven electronic sensors and the use of “Thermal Intelligence” to make sure its safe. This ensures that if it happens to go out of range or start running out of batteries, the device will land itself automagically.

The Thermal Intelligence (Ti) is a patented system which pretty slick: using 4 infrared sensors, it measures the thermal patterns of Earth vs. the sky to gain orientation. Ti then uses a thermal pattern of Earth’s horizon to calculate how much pitch and roll is needed to level it out and set down gently. More can be read here (warning, pdf).

This flying invasion of privacy is not cheap, coming in at $1500. There are loads of nice add-ons, such as their military grade “indestructible” [I want one of you readers to test that] cases. Time to fill the skies with these and live in a police state I say. Viva la 1984!

[Draganflyer V Ti Pro Helicopter] VIA [Uncrate]

NXTWay – An Early Look At The New Mindstorms

NXTWay (Image courtesy Philippe Hurbain)By Andrew Liszewski

If you’re like me you’re patiently awaiting the release of LEGO’s new Mindstorms NXT and already have your kit preordered. And odds are you’ve also been following the Mindstorms community for a few years now and are familiar with Steve Hassenplug’s LegWay which was basically a Segway-like self-balancing robot built with the original Mindstorms kit, and a few custom parts.

Well not onlY does Mindstorms enthusiast Philippe Hurbain already have his hands on the new NXT kit, but he’s also gone ahead and created his own balancing bot called the NXTWay. While not nearly as sophisticated as the original LegWay, the NXTWay was built with all standard parts (save for a couple of shortened cables) and shows what new tricks the updated robotics kit will be capable of right out of the box.

For those interested the LEGO website claims the Mindstorms NXT kit should be available by July of this year for $249.99.

[NXTWay] VIA [TechEBlog]