Archive for July, 2010

Acroban Humanoid Robot Project

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Meet Acroban, a compliant humanoid project being developed by the Inria Flowers Research team in France. This humanoid robot, made mostly from RX-64 Dynamixels from the look of it, is impressive in that it uses a semi-passive dynamic locomotion and reliance on natural backlash compliance (along with structural flex & elastics) to portray some very lifelike movements.

Acroban is a lightweight compliant humanoid robot capable of robust semi-passive dynamic locomotion, life-like movements, and offers the possibility of a new kind of playful physical human-robot interaction. We developped this platform to explore how morphological constraints can simplify the developmental acquisition of complex sensorimotor skills, as well as to explore novel kinds of human-robot interaction.

The video demonstrates this very well, bringing a rather mechanical and utilitarian looking robot to life. Inria Flowers calls this the ‘Luxo Jr. Effect’ named after the pint size companion of Pixar’s lovable Desk Lamp mascot. It really is true though; something about the way this robot moves reaches out to our primal emotional response, making our brain think it’s something actually alive. In doing this, the robot effectively leaps over Uncanny Valley by coming across as very human-like without the increasingly creepy aesthetics that many humanoids fall victim to.

The Luxo Jr. Effect

Furthermore, Acroban provokes spontaneous highly positive emotional reactions, especially in children. Yet, as opposed to many other robots, its morphology is neither roundish nor cute. He has no big eyes. He is just made of metal, and its appearance shows it explicitly. At first glance, its visual appearance creates low expectation of intelligence and life-likeness. But when it begins to move and one can touch it, its natural dynamics, much more life-like than most other robots, triggers a high contrast and positive surprise. Life unexpectedly appears out of a neutral metallic object, much as Pixar’s Luxo Jr. This is the Luxo Jr. effect.

Enough talk, check out the demonstration video (especially the interaction with kids later on). If you’re looking for more info, the Acroban Page has a wealth of videos and writing on the project.

JJ Abrams Bringing “Boilerplate” to Big Screen

Friday, July 30th, 2010


It’s like Forest Gump Meets Short Circuit or something. We assume many of our readers are also JJ Abrams fans, so it looks like these two world meet in one of his new projects. Heat Vision reports:

“Boilerplate” purports to tell the story of the world’s first robot, who, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, fought alongside Teddy Roosevelt and Lawrence of Arabia, journeyed to the South Pole and was involved in the silent movie business before disappearing on the battlefields of World War I.

Via I Watch Stuff

Robot Eyeballs!

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Sourcing the right eyeballs for your bot can be a pain. With the help of our awesome community of roboticists we have identified some great cameras for each level of price point and quality from low cost to high end research.

We have the cameras in stock now. Stay tuned because soon we will offer them with custom made brackets for mounting solutions making your life just that much easier!

Need something cheap and small?

Grab the Microsoft LifeCam VX-800 Webcam for a mere $19.95

CAM-JSD-00001Quality Webcam more your pace?

The Microsoft LifeCam Cinema Webcam – 720p HD is an AMAZING BUY giving you HD for $59.99

CAM-H5D-00001Need to go wireless for teleprescence or offloading processing? The perfect video solution for your next Mech Warfare entry?

We got you covered with TRENDnet TV-IP110W WiFi Camera for $119.95


and coming soon, the Firefly research camera from Point Grey.


Zenta Strike Again! Archer the Biped!

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

If you’ve read this blog at all over the past few years, you’ll know we’re big fans of Kåre Halvorsen’s (aka Zenta) work. Father of the very popular Phoenix Hexapod Kit, A-Pod the ant bot, and more recently the T-Hex Hexapod (available soon in kit form), it’s very obvious that our Norwegian friend has an incredible grasp of Kinematics. Some might even call him a Kinematics Kung Fu Master. It’s only natural that he would blow us away with his insane math-kinematics skills when he decided to take a shot at a biped walker. Well folks, he did not fail to impress. Utilizing the new Arc-32 board from Basic Micro, armed with only standard hobby servos and an inhumanly good grasp of math, Zenta has created a new biped named Archer.

Okay, so bipeds have been done before, what makes this special? Not only does it have some of the most impressive Inverse Kinematics I’ve seen on a non-professional level, it utilizes a pretty innovative COG-Shifter mechanism that can slide the battery and onboard controller from side to side to assist in walking. Want to see it in action? Look no further!

Also, if you can’t get enough of Kåre and his awesome Norwegian accent, check out this ‘behind the scenes’ video where you’ll be treated to his very impressive workshop and a demo of how he controls his various robots:

Low Cost Headset Reads Thoughts for Brain HID

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010



File this under “WOW this technology is advancing nicely”

Tan Le gives a product demo at TED of their EPOC Headset. Jump to about five and half minutes in for the good stuff.

Nice job Emotiv!

TED talk Link

Product Link

New Products – Tools & Phidget Goodies

Monday, July 26th, 2010

S-300-P1049PhidgetSpatial 0/0/3 is a 3 axis Accelerometer which measures static and dynamic acceleration in 3 axes, up to 5g, and provides a high sampling speed of up to 1000 samples per second.

S-300-P1056PhidgetSpatial 3/3/3, 9 Axis IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) measures static and dynamic acceleration in 3 axes, up to 5g.; it also measures magnetic field in 3-axes up to ±4 Gauss and finally measures angular rotation in 3 axes, up to ±400° per second.

toolsYou have to use the right tool for the job Beavis. We now have American made JIS Philips head screwdrivers and Hex keys which are extremely tough and won’t strip or wear. Great news for those of you who have had to deal with the annoyance of cheap imports that barely make it through a single build. We also now stock Turbo Lock for a great low price of $9.95 per 10ml. Be a manly geek and git yourself sum new tools!

The RFID Experimenters Kit is Here

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010


RFID is an exciting new technology that is finding its way into a variety of different industries; pet identification, keyless entry, hospitals, inventory management and tracking, tollway collections, security, data collection, wildlife tracking, and much more.

Beyond that, RFID is just plain cool and fun to play with. RFID has found its way into many DIY and interactive art projects over the last few years as people experiment with the possibilities of the technology. Now anyone can learn about RFID with this great RFID Experimenters kit.

This kit includes everything needed to get started:

  • RedBee RFID reader
  • RFID tag variety pack (13)
  • Project CD with 5 Projects
  • USB Cable

The projects disk comes with 5 great projects to do at home including RFID Login for your computer!

RFID-login-300The 5 Projects Include:

  • RFID Login (Windows 7)
  • RFID Deadbolt
  • RFID Safe
  • RFID Racers
  • RFID Logger (With database integration)


The RedBee RFID Reader is a ground breaking first in many areas. Capable of being used as a tethered device to a PC or microcontroller OR as a preprogrammed stand alone device it is the only hobby reader with both options. The RedBee also comes default with USB and TTL serial with the ability to add Xbee for wireless communication. Very cool!

Checkout the Huge feature list for the RedBee RFID Reader:

  • Supports all EM41xx family 125 kHz RFID tags
  • USB, XBee, and TTL Serial communication
  • Serial Communication Protocol and Shared Serial Devices Protocol (SSDP)
  • .NET programming API
  • Operates as a slave device to PC or microcontroller
  • Onboard programmable microcontroller
  • Xbee point to point
  • Xbee Mesh networking
  • 3 power input options (Barrel Connector, USB, or Vcc)
  • 4 Configurable I/O pins
  • Valid/Invalid Tag LED
  • Xbee Comm LED

Introducing the Desktop Robot Turret!

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

We’re proud to introduce the first of many products on the horizon, the Desktop Robot Turret! This Pan & Tilt platform is based around the custom designed Arduino-Compatible MosquitIO microcontroller!

The Desktop Robot Turret is the perfect starting point for experimenters, roboticists, and hobbyists alike to get started in the exciting field of physical computing! This easy to build kit is based around the exclusive MosquitIO Pan & Tilt Microcontroller and includes everything needed to build a fully programmable, Arduino-compatible Pan & Tilt platform. Add webcams, lasers, airsoft guns, a variety of sensors to the available I/O, up to two small motors, and switch things on and off with the built-in solid-state relay! The MosquitIO can also be custom programmed using the Arduino IDE for autonomous behavior using sensory input, or a variety of other custom applications- your imagination is the limit!

We are also working with Roborealm for a fully supported module for the MosquitIO, but for those of you who can’t wait; We’ve created a preliminary colored object tracking demo using Roborealm. Stay tuned for a full-featured Roborealm Module as well as special packaged deals!

The Holy Grail of Robotics

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Man’s ultimate goal in robotics has been officially achieved. PR2 from Willow Garage can now fetch beer. I guess this spells the end of the entire robotics industry, there is nothing left to achieve. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go cry tears of joy. Big, manly, tears of joy.

Korean Robot Games Festival!

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

I was lucky enough to attend the 2010 Korean Robot Games Festival, and let me tell you; it was an absolute blast! I’ve never before seen so many humanoid robots under one roof, and the competition there was really fierce. Builders from all over S. Korea, Japan, and a number of visitors from across the globe showed up for the Humanoid Kung-Fu tournament held there. Everything from smaller Bioloid bots to the massive Red Devil (which stood close to 3 feet tall and weighed well over 20lbs!) duked it out!

Here is a quick video that highlights some of the cool stuff to be seen there, be sure to check out our photo gallery as well!