Archive for January, 2008

Modular RFID Readers/Writers from IB Technology

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Here at Trossen Robotics, we like modularity.  It's been part of our philosophy from day 1.  So needless to say, when we first discovered IB Technology's series of modular RFID reader/writer boards, we knew we had to have them.  IB Technology is a British company, with limited distribution and relatively little promotion  in North America.  We'd like to change that, so we are proud to announce that we are now carrying this fine line of RFID products!

What's so special about IB Technology?

  • Modularity:  Start with the "Universal Socket Board," which has built-in antennas for both 125 kHz and 13.56 MHz, and add whichever reader/writer module is necessary for the protocol(s) you'll be using.  You can also add external antennas if you need to increase range or reliability.
  • Affordability: IB Technology's RFID products are affordable, fitting in to the same price range as the rest of the RFID readers we sell.
  • Flexibility/Versatility: The ability to use one base board and swap out reader modules is great for prototyping, when you may have to evaluate a number of different formats to decide which is best for the system you're designing. 

After the fold: A rundown of the available hardware, and what it can do.


Robots Evolve And Learn How to Lie

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Last month's issue of Discover Magazine featured the "Top 100 Science Stories of 2007," a look back at some of last year's important discoveries, developments, and advancements in scientific fields.  Not surprisingly, a few of these stories were robotics-related; and one that I found particularly fascinating was titled "Robots Evolve and Learn How to Lie."  In a swarm of robots, whose behavioral software was evolved by successive generations of natural selection, the tendency to deceive others for personal gain arose naturally in some of the robots.  Of course, if this were the predominant outcome of natural selection, the species would fail.  Thus, it's also interesting to note that altruism developed as well, allowing the swarm as a whole to survive.

Though it wasn't mentioned explicitly in the article, a little digging revealed that this experiment was carried out by the team that developed the "Swarmbot" and "Swarmanoid" projects.

Check out Discover.  For a limited time, their online archive of articles (from 1992 up to the current news stand issue) is available for free, no subscription or registration necessary.  Regardless, I urge you to pay for a subscription.  It's a fine publication.

[Edit:] Found another article about this from New Scientist, with a few more details:

"Robot swarms ‘evolve’ effective communication"

Cool robotic projects from the TR forums

Friday, January 11th, 2008

I spent the first half of the week checking out cool products at CES then I come home and find the forums full of even cooler projects by creative roboticists. It’s almost enough to make one forget we are all going to die a violent death during oil shortage wars in the next few decades… anyway, time for a forum dump of all the awesomeness that people are up to these days.


Shineling is working on his interactive AI teddy bear:

Watching the disembodied jaw talking is either funny or eerie, I can’t decide.

Here it is a little less disturbing as a bear reporter reporting on bear stories. Cute.


SN96 posts his bad ass humanoid with custom mechanoskull head and Metallica soundtrack. The bot is missing one arm, but somehow this adds to it’s coolness factor. As if it was ripped off in battle and he doesn’t have time to worry about it because he was created to kill and that’s what he aims to do. Check out the post to see all the specs and watch another video of it watching movement and talking.


Tyberius is a robot building madman. He has been posting tons of pics and vids of his incredible project which is a Pico-ITX based Johnny 5. Here are just two vids, visit the thread to see a lot more stuff.

Pico Johnny 5 says, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. How about you go find your own [email protected]$#%g chair.”

Object Tracking



As if building Pico Johnny 5 isn’t enough… Tyberius is also working on a
cute teeny tiny quadropod.

“Please don’t step on me!”


Rodger Cleye has decided to one up the Segway by creating the Leviskate. A ONE wheeled riding device. I’m not sure how you can best this other than creating the hover board from Return to the Future…


Eski posted his Autonomous Foosball Table which was a senior project. I don’t recall school being this cool. I think for our senior project we were given a battery, an LED, some wire,
Dixie cup, and a balloon then told to create something interesting. We didn’t
have as much technology back then.


Don’t forget that we run a contest for cool projects like these. The current contest is running until leap year day, Feb 29th. If you’ve made something cool, brag about it here. More info about the Submit Your Project and Win contest can be found here.

CES 2008: More Veronica and Robots

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

This is exactly why we don’t run around at CES with cameras. Actual news bloggers like Veronica do a pretty good job of it already and also manage to look good doing it. While I, on the other hand, would look like a frigtard that somehow snuck in through the back docks. Thus we leave it to the professionals :)

More link love for Veronica: Veronica highlights robots at CES.

Veronica Robots

PS: Nice joke about the models slipped in at the opening 😀

CES 2008: Veronica Belmont interviews a robot

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

Veronica Belmont has a fun interview with Sunny, a promotional robot that works for the national weather association. If this is actual AI and not someone with a mic behind a curtain then I’m really impressed. But Sunny is a total slut cause he says he loves her after like one minute. We all know robots don’t love, they just use humans and manipulate our emotions. Cruel cruel creatures.

Veronica Belmont interviews robot

Onion News: Do Robots Have Too Much Power?

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

Onion News: Are We Giving The Robots That Run Our Society Too Much Power?

Onion News

CES 2008: Jeffrey Stephenson custom case mods

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Jeffery Stephenson of Humidor PC fame was also at the press lunch with his latest creations the Pico Bayard and the G-metric Nano. Jeffrey specializes in making really beautiful custom PC cases using small ITX boards that combine modern technology with classy old world style. His creations are vaguely steampunk without the steam. Jeffrey has a whole pile of his projects profiled on his website

Jeffrey describes his Pico Bayard: “This computer was inspired by a design by the French clockmaker Bayard. It is an example of the art deco skyscraper school of design that flourished between the world wars. The clock’s landscape orientation was rare for the period.

The Pico Bayard and the G-metric Nano by Jeffrey Stephenson

More pictures after the fold…

CES 2008: VIA Mobile ITX board – SO SMALL!

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

I added this to our nanotechnology category only in half jest. This board is so small my brain has a hard time recognizing it as a computer. Seriously, when being shown this modern marvel this was the conversation in my head:

Brain: “Oh, that’s cool, it’s the insides of a cell phone or digital camera or something.”
Me: “No, that’s a computer!”
Brain: “Shut the hell up. That’s not a computer and I’m not filing it away as such.”
Me: “For real, it’s an actual computer that can run an OS and plug into a monitor and keyboard and everything.”
Brain: “I don’t think so, I believe you are mistaken.”
Me: “I’m really not kidding, it IS an actual computer.”
Brain: “Computers aren’t that small, look for yourself, you have it right there next to a business card and it’s smaller. Are you using the same eyes that I am?”
Me: “Yes, I’m telling you IT’S… A… COMPUTER…”
Brain: “You believe what you want, I’m filing it under cellphone guts.”
Me: “You never listen to me!”
Brain: “That’s probably because you are an idiot.”
Me: “Look, it has USB ports on it and a CPU and a sound jack!”
Brain: “Just looking like something doesn’t make it so.”
Me: “Oh, back to Mardi Gras again. Will you ever let it go?”
Brian: “I was traumatized, I will never trust you again.”
Me: “It wasn’t my fault! She had adams apple surgery! What am I? A psychic?”

Anyhow, here is a picture of the Mobile ITX board below. Unfortunatly, these are only available in Asia. :(

The mobile ITX from VIA! Actually smaller than a business card.

CES 2008: VIA ARTIGO Pico-ITX ultra-compact computer!

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

We’ve been pretty quiet about CES 2008, mainly because the other tech blogs are doing such a good job covering it.  However, this is definitely something that warrants some attention.  While at CES, we swung by a great little press lunch held at Piero’s restaurant. (Martin Scorsese fans may be interested to know that some scenes from Casino were shot there) VIA had a large presence there and they were showing off all kinds of computers and fun stuff using their infamous line of tiny mainboards. They had a box of the new ARTiGO there and I dove on it like a spastic kid at Christmas. I’m not tech press so you will have to make do with a pile of poorly lit pics :) . We have been ranting about using mini-PCs for years in robotics and VIA continues to push the envelope shrinking their boards down smaller and smaller. With powerful single-board systems like the Pico, computers are truly getting small enough to compete with microprocessors as the brain of choice for mobile robotics. Click pics for larger versions.

The ARTiGO specs list. Since I’m incredibly lazy I’ll just post a pic instead of writing them out :)

We’ll tease you with the stats first.  More pictures after the break…

A visit to the RT Corp. robot shop in Tokyo

Monday, January 7th, 2008

Our friend Dr. Daniel Schroeder is currently spending some time in Tokyo, and he took some time out of his busy schedule to stop in at the RT Corporation robot shop to say hi to the folks there and take a few pictures of robots in their natural habitat.  Unfortunately, he's a globe-trotting adventurer, and not a roboticist, so he couldn't offer much insight on what he was photographing.  Nevertheless, he sent us some nice pictures, which I've arranged below for your viewing pleasure.

Here's a fine pile of humanoids.  From left to right in the shelves, you've got a Manoi AT01 (unpainted), a Kondo KHR-1 with some wicked looking grippers, a KHR-1 with aftermarket chest plate, and a couple of KHR-2HV's.  Also a few more 2HV's on the floor, a nice little white i-SOBOT, and R2-D2.  If someone can tell me which one of the myriad R2-D2's that is (Hasbro maybe?), I'd appreciate it [Editor’s note: Confirmed! This is Hasbro’s "Star Wars R2-D2 Interactive Astromech Droid."  We sell this thing now!]  Also worth noting is the VariBo humanoid barely visible at the left side of the top shelf.  Manoi PF01's knees are also up there at the top right of the pic.

R2D2 vs. the KHR horde.  GO!

They carry the whole line of Kondo replacement parts, including servos and various colored brackets for the 2HV.  We're jealous.  They don't seem to have any KHR-1HV's in the store though.  Take that, RT!

Kondo cornucopia.

Here's some RC helicopter stuff.  Interesting, but not really what we came here for.

I have nothing interesting or witty to say about this rack of Hirobo products.

The back room contains a Micromouse maze and a 3-meter dash track.

Not much action in the shop today, I guess.

JR has been making the RB1000 and RB2000 for a year or so now, and they're some cool bots.  I like the RB2000 because it's fast, agile, and affordable (about $750).  They're tough to market in this country though, due to the lack of any info in English.

JR's RB100, RB200, and the diminutive RB300.

More JR stuff here.

Well, there you have it.

This is "Choromaru."  This neat little walker is a flexible, programmable, and expandable platform.  The stumpy little legs are 2 d.o.f., and its brain is an Akizuki Electronics AKI-H8 development board.


Next to Choromaru, we have the "Pi:Co" micromouse.

RT's Pi:Co Micromouse kit.

You gotta love Bioloid.  Kondo's toddler and arm are also shown.

Bioloid and Kondo getting along.

Describing our proficiency with the Japanese language as "insufficient" would be generous.  Luckily, we already know a lot about Robonova.

Ah, Robonova.  Tried and true.

Tokyo is like the Valhalla of hobby robotics.  Keep in mind, this is just a few pictures of one robot shop, and represents only a fraction of what's available out there.  We're always impressed with how fast the robotics community is growing in the U.S., but it's clear that we have a long way to go.  If you see anything in these pictures that piques your curiosity, or anything you'd like to see in our catalog, let us know!  We love to get suggestions from the community.  Email us, or drop us a line in the forums.