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Category Archives: Robots

Toyota Develops Robot Leg That Can Jump Like Humans

monopede robotBy David Ponce

Erm… Well, we’re more than a little disturbed by the latest robot news coming out of the Land of the Rising Sun. Seems Toyota Motor Corp.’s been working on developing a robotic leg that can jump like a human. It’s 3.3 feet (one meter) and has a joint on its toe that allows it to jump as high as four centimeters (1.6 inches) by bending and stretching its toe and another knee-like joint. This is a considerable amount of progress over previous, stiff-jointed bots, and will be eventually incorporated into more normal looking bipedal bots. A representative said “the company is also developing on new prototypes that would allow robot to run faster and handle unpaved roads more smoothly. Jumping is just the beginning.”

If you ask us though, there’s something oddly disturbing about a lone jumping robotic leg coming right for you (think futuristic horror flick), benefit to the progress of robotics research or not.

[Read the Press Release] VIA [The Raw Feed]

Video Of Asahi’s Beer Pouring Robot

By David Ponce

We usually hide videos after the fold, but this is special. See, a lot of people got weak at the knees, back in December of last year, when news that Japan’s Asahi Breweries were giving away 5,000 beer-pouring robots as part of a special contest. Check out the comments on that article to get an idea of the level of excitement. Well, it’s eight months later, and obviously, there are some lucky Japanese now owners of said robot. And, one of them was kind enough to post a video of it in action to Youtube.

In case you can’t see the video, here’s the skinny: you don’t have to place the beer on its hand, but you do have to place the mug yourself. It fetches the beer from its refrigerated belly itself and pours it in your mug all by itself. It takes for freaking ever, and yelps little high-pitched Japanese things at you while it’s doing this.

It’s awesome.

You could do a much better job yourself, sure, even at a fraction of the time. But, then, you’d be missing the whole point.

VIA [Gizmodo]

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


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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