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Tag Archives: Robots

[CES 2012] Ecovacs Winbot Goes All Roomba On Your Windows

By David Ponce

Through a combination of good marketing and of actually being available in America, the Roomba vacuuming robots are well known. But they’re not the only cleaning bots on the block. Ecovacs has been making these for years, but at CES this year I stumbled onto something I hadn’t see before. It was a cleaning robot that cleaned windows. Vertically. It’s called the Ecovacs Winbot and it’s a robot that splits in two. Both halves are joined together by strong magnets, with your pane of glass sandwiched in between. The cleaning is done through a 3M cleaning cloth, so I’m not sure how much dirt or grime it can handle. But it does work as expected, making its way across a window until it’s clean. Of course there’s a bit of a problem in that you’ll probably need two people to get it going in the first place, one inside and the other outside, each holding one half. But if manual cleaning is something you really hate, there’s a robot for that now.

The Winbot is currently available in China and Europe and a representative said it should come to America within a year. It’s $399.

HexBug Larva Is Meant To Be Robotic Toy

By David Ponce

A toy!? How is a giant (relative to the insect) freaking maggot ever be construed as a toy of any kind? Is this being marketed to entomologists’ kids? This wonderful little creation is the product of HexBug. One of their self-described goals is to “give children a positive experience with robotics at a young age.” Positive experience, eh?… Well, to each their own we suppose. The Larva is but one of a range of creepy crawly robots, with other members being The Ant, The Spider and The Inchworm to just name a few. The Larva itself just barely qualifies as a robot in that it’s autonomous enough to at least avoid obstacles. It does come in 5 colors and is mercifully inexpensive at around $12. Hey, the Holidays are coming and maybe you’ve conceived a little strange one who might appreciate this.

[ Product Page ] VIA [ Crave ]

These Are Rock’em Sock’em Bots On Steroids

By David Ponce

Got $17,000 burning a hole in your wallet? How bout these Rock’em Sock’em inspired “Bionic Bopper Cars”? They are large (400lbs!), manned, motorized cars with “two pneumatic-powered, tire-tread-fisted arms”. The goal? Hit your opponent in the face, of course! Not his actual face mind you, but that of the “robot” he’ll be driving around. To this end, you’re provided with buttons mounted atop two independent joysticks. Each time you score a hit, a front-mounted display in each robot’s mid-section will keep a tally. There’s a protective steel cage to keep the humans inside safe, while a full tank of gas will provide up to 5 hours autonomy. You can use an area as small as 16 square feet and you should place your order by December 1st for Christmas delivery.

[ Product Page ] VIA [ Uncrate ]

This Robot Plays Angry Birds. That’s it.

By David Ponce

While you tend to think of robots doing useful things, like building your cars or scooping your pets’ poo, this robot created by Jason Huggins does nothing but play Angry Birds. It’s called the BitbeamBot and consists of a finger-like rod connected to two servos. The rod is tipped with skin-like material (we think it’s sausage; sausage works great on iDevices and is also delicious) and moves on a simple X-Y plane in order to sling the little avians to their destructive doom. It’s not as exciting as it appears though, because the BitbeamBot is entirely controlled by Jason, who sends commands to it via a remote. It’s as much of a robot as those remote controlled metal mechs from that battle bot show, or whatever it was called.

Still, there may be a purpose to the madness since “he is the co-founder of Saucelabs, and the creator of Selenium. Selenium is a portable software testing framework for web applications.” The ultimate goal? Perhaps to create farms of game-playing robots that would take care of one of the most tedious parts of software development: debugging.

You know what this means, kids? You dreaming of being a video game tester when you grow up? Please, stay in school and do something useful: your dream job is toast.

[ Bitbeam’s Website ] VIA [ Geek.com ]

Human Powered Walking Robot Exoskeleton

Human-Powered Stable Bipedal Walking Robot (Images courtesy DigInfo)
By Andrew Liszewski

Researchers at the Nagoya Institute of Technology in Japan have created a bipedal walking exoskeleton robot that’s completely human powered. The rider simply has to shift their weight around to get the thing to locomote, but besides that there’s no other source of propulsion. Oddly enough, another one of the researcher’s goals was to create an exoskeleton that didn’t walk with the awkward gait that’s typical of the ones you see in films like Avatar or The Matrix sequels. And while I guess their creation tends to ‘walk’ more naturally like a human. If you take a gander at the video I’ve embedded below, its movement is just about the most awkward thing I’ve ever seen.

The exoskeleton’s secret is a zig-zag triangular design on the three-dimensional metal pipe frames that make up its feet. Imagine that if instead of being perfectly round, a rubber tire had a triangular faceted pattern on its outer surface. So when you rolled it forward, it would tend to wobble from side to side as it transitioned from triangle to triangle. That’s basically the same idea here. Apparently the design makes for a walking gait that’s very stable, though, remarkably slow and cumbersome. The researchers feel it could assist those who can only walk with a shuffle, letting them move about more freely, or battle a gigantic alien queen in the cargo hold of a spaceship.

[ DigInfo – Human-Powered Stable Bipedal Walking Robot ] VIA [ Ubergizmo ]

LG RoboCyking Canister Vacuum Automatically Follows You Around

LG RoboCyking Vacuum (Image courtesy LG)
By Andrew Liszewski

LG’s new RoboCyking canister vacuum might not be completely autonomous like the Roomba or other robotic cleaners. But instead of having to drag the canister around your home while you clean the floors, it automatically follows you like a dust-filled puppy. While the company doesn’t go into the details of how exactly the system works, I’m assuming it simply senses the ‘tugging’ that comes from the hose attachment while you clean. I’m also hoping it’s smart enough to avoid getting caught on corners, which often makes me want to hurl my vacuum off the balcony.

But following you around the house isn’t the RoboCyking’s only trick. It also operates at a relatively quiet 57dB, which LG promotes as being ideal for “dual-earner couples” who typically have to clean at night after work. It also packs a HEPA filter, carbon air purifier, and an automatic dust compression system using rotating plates that minimizes the amount of dust being blown back out. Available soon, in South Korea at least, for ~$400. (₩469,000)

[ PR – LG RoboCyking ] VIA [ Newlaunches ]

Autom Personal Weight Loss Coach

Autom Personal Weight Loss Coach (Image courtesy Intuitive Automata)
By Andrew Liszewski

Sticking to a diet or weight loss plan is a lot easier when you have a little positive reinforcement. And that seems to be what inspired MIT alum Cory Kidd to create Autom. She’s billed as a robotic weight loss coach, but that’s maybe being a little generous with the term ‘robot’. Her head and eyes do move, but otherwise she’s mostly just a stationary touchscreen tablet that lets you keep track of your nutritional and exercise habits. It’s her software, though, that makes Autom really effective. Every day multiple users can have conversations with her where they input their meals, or how much physical activity they got in throughout the day. Autom will then provide praise, or encouragement, depending on how close they are to achieving their weight loss goals.

I actually think it’s a great way to help a diet be successful, I just wish Autom wasn’t so expensive. She’s available for pre-order for just $195, but when she ships the remaining balance is an additional $670. For a total of $865, plus a monthly subscription plan of $79.95! I’m not sure how that compares to other weight loss plans, but it seems all of Autom’s functionality could also be provided via a considerably cheaper iPad app.

[ Autom Personal Weight Loss Coach ] VIA [ Automaton ]

Kid-Friendly Robotic Teddy Bear With Soft Animated Limbs

Robotic Teddy Bear With Soft Animated Limbs (Images courtesy DigInfo)
By Andrew Liszewski

Remember Teddy Ruxpin? For his time he was pretty advanced as far as animated toys go. But as a stuffed animal he was the last thing you wanted to take to bed with you. He had enough ’80s technology inside him to stop a car if left in the middle of the street, so I don’t think he ever became any kid’s best friend. A group of researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology are hoping to right history’s wrongs though, and are working on an animated stuffed animal that’s still soft to the touch.

Strings running through the bear’s arms and legs are connected to motors hidden inside its padded torso. By pulling on the strings with varying amounts of force, the limbs are able to move in different directions, creating a fairly convincing life-like effect. Furthermore, because the strings are under tension, the electronics in the torso are also able to detect and register when the limbs have been touched or moved externally, allowing the bear to react and move in response. Most importantly, it’s these kinds of advancements that will give mankind the upper hand and advantage when robots eventually become self aware and rise up. Arms and legs made of steel make punches and kicks very dangerous. But arms and legs made of fabric and stuffing? They make being attacked feel like getting an overzealous hug!

[ DigInfo – Teddy Bear Robot With Soft Arms and Legs ]

LG’s Roboking Vacuum Tries To One-Up Roomba With 3 Built-In Video Cameras

LG Roboking Vacuum (Image courtesy LG)
By Andrew Liszewski

It’s hard to debate the superiority of an autonomous vacuum called the Roboking, but that’s not the only ‘trick’ LG has up its sleeve when it comes to challenging the incumbent king of robovacs, the Roomba. To ensure their latest model does the most efficient job of cleaning your floors on a given charge, the Roboking comes equipped with 51 sensors and 3 video cameras allowing it to create a detailed map of its surroundings, and keep track of areas it’s already cleaned.

It’s also wifi equipped, which seems rather pointless for a vacuum until you realize it provides remote access to the Roboking’s cameras allowing it to serve as a roving home security system when you access the video feed from an app on your smartphone. And a limited number of voice commands, like telling it to stop, recharge or requesting weather forecasts will make you feel like you live in a futuristic Jetsons-like world. On paper it certainly outperforms the Roomba in terms of features, but the one area where LG doesn’t seem too concerned about competing is price. As the Roboking will set you back a fairly hefty $830+. (899,000 WON)

[ PR – LG Roboking Vacuum ] VIA [ Newlaunches ]