Archive for August, 2008

Robots that shoot other robots, and interns

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Now some of you may have heard of Mech Wars, which is a new robotic competition slated for debut at Robogames 2009. What you may not have heard, is that it’s being organized by a very sexy Yeti of a man named Andrew Alter (yours truely). My boss was bored today and decided to stop by my desk to see exactly what he pays me for, so we shot a quick video of the aforementioned Yeti explaining a bit about the Mech Wars competition and a Mech being built and sponsored by Trossen Robotics. “The Trossenator” is a Mech that can be piloted by members of the Trossen Robotics Community who are attending Robogames 2009, but do not have a Mech of their own to compete with. Think of it as a perk for those who help keep our community growing and always interesting.

For more information on the Mech Wars competition at Robogames 2009 check out the official Mech Wars Forums hosted at the Trossen Robotics Community!

Micro Spy Car says: “I spy because I love”

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

We have some pretty cool toys laying around in the bowels of the Trossen Robotics R&D department. Late last night I had a stroke of genius and combined two readily available electronic gadgets to make a VERY cool little toy, the Micro Spy Car. Afraid of Big Brother watching you? Well now you’ll have to look out for Little Brother too.

While digging around for a spare Anti-mass Spectrometer I came across an awesome little wireless camera, the Swann Black Hawk Wireless Color Camera with Built-in Battery and 2.4ghz Receiver (which has a product line about ‘keeping an eye on loved ones’. Sure.):

The camera itself is TINY, measuring a little over 2″ long and with a built in lithium battery. Like any self respecting geek, thoughts of mounting this to a small R/C car and driving it into the girls locker room immediately filled my head. Except, I’m not in highschool anymore and I certainly don’t want to see my hairy ass coworker naked. Oh well, spying on clothed people around the office will have to suffice.

We just so happened to have a TINY Team Losi Micro-T R/C car sitting around the office:

TINY Camera? Check!
TINY R/C Car? Check!
TINY R/C Spy Car?? Check!

Check out our Tutorials Section to see a step by step on just how easy it is to make one.
For size comparison, here’s the Micro Spy Car with an Ultra-Exclusive Limited Collectors Edition Official Trossen Robotics Coffee Mug:

Click Here for bigger picture

Now for the fun part- driving around the office with it! I plugged the video receiver into a little portable LCD display we had laying around and went nuts.

You can also plug the video receiver into a USB video capture device to view and record your shenanigans on your computer. Here’s a quick video we shot of the Micro Spy Car driving around our back room:

Giant robots terrorize city in Australia

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

That’s right folks, you heard it here first. Except instead of giant think ‘tiny’, and instead of city think ‘scale model town’. The guys over at BP have created an amazing web based demonstration called BP Explorer using the Surveyor SRV-1 kit. Between the hours of 9AM-9PM GMT+10, you can pilot one of five Surveyor robots through a very detailed scale town and offroad area, exploring to find clues to unlock a code which allows for extended playing time. The kicker is that these bots are completely powered by BP solar panels, so everyone can have the pleasure of cruising through this hippy-fueled-utopia without the guilt of burning up our precious fossil fuels!

I’m sure this can’t last forever, so make sure to check it out while it’s active!

August TRC Project Contest Winners!

Monday, August 4th, 2008

As many of you may know by now, the Trossen Robotics crew hosts project contests every few months, where the winners are awarded in lavish gifts such as gift cards, robot kits and trips to the Playboy Mansion! (Okay, maybe not that last one. But they won’t put me in charge of picking out the prizes for some reason)

Members of the Trossen Robotics Community (TRC) face off in a battle of robotic wits! They come up with all sorts of great inventions, document their work, take a ton of photos and video, and post about it all in our Project Showcase Forum in hopes of being whisked off to the Playboy Mansion! Or…in hopes of winning fantastic robo-prizes.

The time is nigh to pick out winners. We flew our finalists out here to Chicago and determined the winners the only fair way we could think of: We put their projects on the sidelines, armed the inventors with sporks, and threw them into an arena in a fight to the death ala Bloodsport! (Okay, again, this didn’t happen.. who makes these contest rules anyway?) The TR crew locked wits in the discussion as to who would place these past few weeks. Heated public debates were held, dirt-throwing campaign commercials were made, friendships were torn apart… and in the end we finally came to an agreement. Without further ado, here are the runners-up and winners, in suspense-building ascending order!

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Honorable Mention:
Swashbot!Flapper Fish!

Project: Swashbot(s) & Flapper Fish
Creator: CrabFu

You’re probably wondering: “Wait, why didn’t The Great Crabfu win??” Well, that’s exactly why. He’s too great! It wouldn’t be fair to let “Geppetto Emeritus” steal away first place, so we took him down a notch and gave him an honorable mention. This man might not even be human the way he produces robots, it seems like we had a new invention from him every other week! Keep em coming Crabfu!


Project: Walking CNC Router Robot
Creator: Matt Denton

Matt Denton, animatronics whiz of MicroMagic Systems is known for his incredible hexapods. If you’re not familiar with them, I suggest you check them out here. Well simply walking, dynamically balancing, and snapping pictures of people to post on it’s site (yes, the robot has a website) wasn’t enough for this Hexapod. Matt went ahead and taught it how to be a CNC router. That walks. Flashbacks from “Runaway” aside, this project is really amazing and shows how far robotic technology is progressing. He went all out and cut a 3D image of a face out of foam using the robot’s I.K. engine alone. Big kudos!

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Project: Butler Robot
Creator: airman00
Average Score: 7.1
Prize: $25 Gift Card to the Trossen Robotics Store

Everyone always wanted their own Rosie the Robot as a kid right? Well meet Chives the Butler Bot. Good ol’ Chives here can pour drinks, respond to voice commands, has onboard vision processing and can be controlled via laptop or iPod Touch! To make things better, you can even build your own. Airman00 wrote up a comprehensive step by step guide to build your very own robotic butler! He even is provided all of his code as open source. Great job!

RC Truck

Project: RC Truck Robot Conversion
Creator: Orac
Average Score: 7.3
Prize: $25 Gift Card to the Trossen Robotics Store

Leave it to one of our members to steal an R/C Truck from his kid and slap a computer on it. Regardless of this R/C Truck’s origins, its obvious that it is awesome. Orac took this car, modded it and added a fully functioning PC and a webcam to it. This not only gave it the option for off-road telepresence, it made it simultaneously chase and run away from orange colored balls. Like a puppy! A really ugly puppy. Made of plastic and metal.

Project: iLush Bartender
Creator: metaform3d
Average Score: 7.5
Prize: $25 Gift Card to the Trossen Robotics Store

Okay, first of all, this robot serves booze. Do we really need to continue as to why this kicks ass? Metaform3d impressed the judges at Robogames 2008 with his iLush Bartender, which serves up mixed drinks and is controlled via a touchscreen computer. He ended up walking away with a gold in the Bartending category (Yes, there is a robo-bartending category). Wow!

Project: RoboCam
Creator: Norris56
Average Score: 7.7
Prize: $25 Gift Card to the Trossen Robotics Store

This isn’t your average telepresence bot, creator Steve Norris took this one to the next level. Starting off with just an iCreate base, he built a very professional looking robot that can be driven from anywhere there is internet. That’s right, the entire robot can be remotely piloted from across the globe via a custom web interface that Steve designed. He even armed it with a laser to assist with depth perception (I thought lasers were only supposed to be mounted on sharks?) I guess our only question is, when can we buy one?

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Third Place:

Project: XR-B3
Creator: lnxfergy
Average Score:8.7
Prize: Wowwee Alive Elvis

This cool little bot runs a custom microcontroller onboard that has a wireless link back to a computer, which handles the heavy lifting. And by heavy lifting we mean machine vision and room mapping capabilities. Not only is this impressive from a technical standpoint, it also has a very slick aesthetic, and overall a very impressive build quality to it. Be sure to check out the project page on this for more information and updates!

Second Place:

Project: AMOS-WD06
Creator: AMOS
Average Score: 9.3
Prize: Silverlit R/C X-UFO

This Hexapod is just downright impressive. The AMOS-WD06 (Advanced Mobility Sensor Driven-Walking Device) contains 21 actuators and 28 sensors and at its brain is a neural networked PDA. The programming behind this bot is what really makes it impressive as it is being designed to act and react like an insect. It exhibits Phototaxis, has a dynamic obstacle avoidance routine, will shy away from ‘predators’ and if you flip it on its back it can flip around and keep walking! We expect to see even more great things as this project develops.

First Place:

Project: Homebrew Wall-E
Creator: 4mem8
Average Score: 9.7
Prize: SG-5UT Robotic Arm

Well what can we say, we fell in love with this bot at first sight. We got to watch 4mem8 bring this guy to life and document every painstaking step that he took building this Wall-E robot from scratch. That’s right, this was not a kit, in fact he had the majority of it done far before the movie actually hit theaters and the toy stores were flooded with Wall-E merchandise. The robot itself is carved and crafted largely out of wood, and the rest from random parts found here and there… like a true ‘junk-bot‘ should be! 4mem8 has made a great contribution with his knowledge and experience in building bots, so we’re very proud present to him with the first place prize in this round of the TRC contest. Good job 4mem8! You earned it! Be sure to also check out 4mem8’s project on RoboCommunity.

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We would like to take this time to congratulate and thank everyone who participated in this round of the contest. Not only have we seen some amazing projects entered, but we’ve gained some really incredibly talented members in our community as a result. We look forward to the next round of our contest, keep tuned in for more info. You can stay up to date on contest rules and regulations at the Trossen Robotics Project Contest page, and start posting your projects in our Project Showcase Forum.

Talk about innovative marketing!

Friday, August 1st, 2008

So everyone has probably heard of the ‘outside the box’ marketing schemes companies come up with. Ranging from forehead tattoos to Penguins boxing Bill Gates impersonators to Lite-Brite Terrorist Devices setting cities into a panic (I’m looking at you Boston), companies continue to raise the bar in what lengths they will go to get their name out there.

Trossen Robotics is proud to present the next evolution of viral marketing:

Baby Billboards!

Baby Billboards!

That’s right, now you can earn extra cash by making use of all that unused real estate on your precious bundle of joy! “My kid is an honor student” bumper stickers are a thing of the past, *Your* baby can build Robots! Beat that honor roll suckers!

We’ll take a moment to stop basking in the glorious light of our sheer marketing genius to congratulate one of the founding members of the Trossen Robotics Community, Droidworks, on his new baby girl! Congratulations! By our count that puts him outnumbered by women in his household 3:1, the only solution is to build more robots to even things out.