Archive for July, 2011

DARwin-OP Robot prefers Tecate?

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

With every new family member it starts with excitement and love. They bring joy and laughter into the home. There are cards and gifts and parties to celebrate. But then the reality begins to settle in and you discover that every personality has a dark side. Something deep and hidden in their past…

Darwin-OP Humanoid Research Robot

Crazy People Freaking Love Robots and RFID. PS – Mom, I’ve Arrived!

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

I always wanted to be famous when I grew up, just like any other well balanced kid. So when I started receiving emails addressed to me and the pope and Bill O’Reilly of Faux News, I knew I had finally arrived. The sad part was that this was merely in the head of a poor schizophrenic man. But hey, it is a start right?

When people ask me what I do for a living I sometimes respond that I deal with crazy people all day. They chuckle and ask, “No really?” When they see my humorless, dead, bloodshot eyes starring back at them the laughter dies down. I then begin to weep into my beer. I don’t get as many party invites as I used to.

Besides robots we also sell hobby RFID readers and tags. RFID is a harmless technology that we primarily sell to people who tinker at home and students doing school projects. Then one day Amal, a completely sane friend of ours, decided to implant some tags into his hands using our products. This created a flurry of media buzz and this of course stirred up the crazies. Suddenly my name started popping up on mark of the beast and end times religious fear mongering sites. I didn’t know whether to change my address or never feel more proud.

The RFID thing gets a decent amount of attention from the mentally unstable, but robots also pull their fair share of crazy. We have the emails, phone calls, order comments, and forum posts to prove it.

Welcome to my inbox…

Take this gem for instance. As a three page single paragraph stream of conscious rant about androids, cabbage worm brains, and mining mars it veritably breaks through the wall of crazy into artistic genius. I have seriously pondered reading parts of it as a spoken word piece. Good artists borrow and great artists steal. I could try for years and never come up with something this randomly generated. A snippet for your enjoyment:

It is possible to build an android automition that is controled by both computer and a cabbage worm. The worm knows how to look for food and eat. If a person designed the control part to reward the worm with a tiny piece of food each time it found the cabbage. The android would then pick the cabbage and put it in the wagon… the worm would then be allowed to search for food again. The cabbage worm would be the controller of choice for picking cabbage. God already put a cabbage monger here with the cabbage worm…. might as well enslave them! To think a cabbage worm could do it you realize the wasted human potencial. I think that these androids will give us the tools we need to not waste our God given talents!

Need more? Androidthinktank.com has a slew of websites online.  There is even a school for pixies in the works apparently.

Some don’t give up very easily. This gentleman sent many emails informing us he has “the need for my wife and I to be in two places at the same time”. Hey buddy, don’t we all. He also has a website with 98,000 words and counting.

This one here wrote us his message in poem form. I think that was very thoughtful.

here’s a simple scientific test you can experiement
with.

wear black clothes and go to a busy mall
you will notice your mind really hurts, this
is because black colors (or dark colors)
are pulling other humans imagination and bringing
them to close to you and you read it.

this causes stress especially when you are
surrounded by religious people or something.

but when you WEAR WHITE CLOTHES..
the opposite is true, you reject everyones idealogy
and you get to feel free with your own science.

This one here, which could also be in my post about not sending us your ideas, wanted to give us ten blockbuster robot product ideas.

IDEA #8) ANDROIDS THAT CAN GIVE BIRTH TO CYBORGS

“A female appearing android could have intercourse with a human male, synthesize his DNA in the sperm to form biosynthetic DNA that is part human and part mechanical”

Our community members have seen it first hand too. (6th post) Through popular demand we were asked to make this thread a sticky. We did.

Keep in mind, these are just the ones we have kept over the years. Most get deleted. So what about you people? Does anyone else have jobs that attract the crazy?

PS – I do want to be clear about something. I am making fun of OUR jobs here since we have to deal with this stuff. Schizophrenia is a horrible affliction I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. But those end of the world and mark of the beast nut jobs. Well, screw them.

The Darwin-OP hath arrived!

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Darwin_OP_1

We’ve waited a long time for Robotis to globally release a research-grade humanoid to the academic market, and they have delivered. The wait is over and the Darwin-OP (Open Platform) is here!

The Darwin-OP is a joint initiative project funded by the National Science Foundation and a collaborative effort between Robotis, Virginia Tech’s RoMeLa, Purdue, and Penn Engineering.

So what makes it so special? First off, it’s entirely Open Source. All of the software, the hardware, and of course the OS it runs (Ubuntu 10). The code is well organized and well written, making it easy for programmers to jump right in with custom development. It uses the new MX-28 servo, which is well, awesome. The MX-28 is Robotis’ first 360 degree rotation, magnetic encoder based actuator. Onboard the Darwin-OP boasts a 1.6ghz Intel Atom based FitPC computer. That means your Darwin-OP not only runs a full-fledged operating system, but it has USB and and an HDMI Port. That’s right, your robot can have an HDMI port. I love the world we live in today.

We have our own personal Darwin-OP at the office here to develop on as well as to help us learn this amazing robotic platform inside and out. Lots of videos are incoming! In the mean time, check out Darwin-OP playing with some kids at the KC Maker Faire last month!

– Andrew – “Rocket Surgeon”

Robot servos, how do they work?!?!

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

We thought it might be helpful for some of those new to robotics to learn about the difference between old school hobby servos and the newer robot servos. So Andrew breaks it down for everyone in this aptly titled video “Differences Between Robot Servos & Old School Hobby Servos”.

Enjoy :)

Summer Sale – Every order over $100 gets 10% off

Monday, July 25th, 2011

JulySale2011

Excuses to tell why we are having the sale

Robots have turned against us, need to get rid of them fast

Feeling generous today for once

We make too much money around here, it is eroding our moral foundations

The weight of the warehouse is creating diamonds under the foundation

Our customers are awesome and we want to say thanks!

(FYI- when you hear a store saying ^^^this^^^ it is really code for this:  Why aren’t you people buying anything in July?!!! We still have bills to pay you know! Just because it is 152 degrees celsius lately doesn’t mean you should stop building robots. Geeks don’t get summer off from being geeks. Get back inside and work on a geeky project. Your skin cannot handle direct sunlight anyway vampire boy/girl. It is dangerous out there. Look at all the shiny stuff in our store! Ohhhh, isn’t it beautiful? We know you want some. Yes! Time to upgrade your servos and sensors. Now you are thinking correctly. There will be cake served at the end of checkout. Just follow me here into the store. That’s good. Just enter summer2011 when you checkout. Hurry along now.)

Ohhh, YAY! Take me shopping!

EDIT: Andrew here. Hey guys, I hate to be the one to break bad news, but Matt is a liar. There is no cake. It will not be served upon checkout. Sorry guys. This communication was not authorized. Please forget what you have read. Here is a companion cube to help your feeble minds remain calm.

Daddy I Need Eyes! (Free stuff!)

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

freecameras

Security Camera Warehouse emailed us to mention they are giving away free cameras as a promotion and asked if we knew anyone who might be into that. Well, yeah, we sure do! We love telling our readers about free stuff and we think their promotion which helps education is pretty awesome. So here are the deets.

Security Camera Warehouse, a video surveillance systems company, is giving away security cameras for educational purposes as part of their Securing the Future initiative.

The rules are pretty simple:

Any group dedicated to educational advancement of youth and young adults can apply. SCW specifically includes any school sponsored and club level teams, but also mentions that they will be rather liberal with the rules. Any group dedicated to science education for college age and younger students can apply.

Each group is eligible to receive one camera up to a value of $150.

They are giving out the cameras in a first come first serve fashion.

To apply and see the eligible cameras please visit Security Camera Warehouse’s Securing the Future Program.

Thanks for thinking of our community SCW!

CHARLI-L2 First Walking Test

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

I had the pleasure of meeting up with the Virginia Tech RoMeLa crew at Robocup 2011 earlier this month, where they were showing off not only a Kid-Size team full of Darwin-OP robots, but also their new CHARLI-L2 humanoid. Popular Science already did a nice write-up of CHARLI’s performance in the Adult-size league, but I found this video of CHARLI-L2 taking his first steps (in the nude) to be equally interesting.

We’ll have a bunch of content on my trip to Robocup 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey in the very near future! Stay tuned!

– Andrew “Robot Sexpert”

How not to get a discount…

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Things not to say to businesses when looking for a discount:

“…this is just a prototype order.  I was hoping to get a discount or get a sample for free. When this takes off I will come back and order hundreds or thousands from you.”

Yes, we make money from giving stuff away for free. It is part of any good retail store business plan.

“…I need a quote for 50,000 units of your XYZ sensor. I’m sourcing parts for my product I’m going to invent and sell.”

Really? You are going to be a big business mogul, but you want to source your parts from a retail shop? Not the actual manufacture? Hmmmm.

We hear these lines fairly often here. People have this great idea and call up thinking everyone else will also be convinced of their genius. They want us to sit around crunching numbers for absurd quotes on orders that will never happen. These comments are often followed up with things like, “I’ll need someone to help distribute and sell. We should discuss partnering up.” Um, no, we shouldn’t. I already own a business that has turned all my hair gray. I don’t want yours.

Our floor mat switches are probably one of our greatest draws for the kooky garage inventors of the world. For whatever reason, people love these things. Which is great, because we like selling them and we see lots of cool projects with them. However, it also seems every project of a questionable or odd nature needs a floor mat switch as well and that brings in some interesting questions. We have had every question under the sun about the floor mats. One would think that you could find these distributed in applications from deep sea mining to NASA simulation rooms from what people ask. “Can it support a car?” “Can it be under water?” “Will it detect a cat or raccoon?” “Can I cut it into pieces?” Everyone else in the office knows we are on one of these calls because the response has a very clear thumbprint to any seasoned TR employee. It goes like this, facepalm plus muffled sigh, “No sir, it is not an industrial level sensor. Our products are hobby level products. We don’t know how it would handle detecting agitated cattle in a barn. I doubt it can.”

A classic often retold inquiry was the gentleman who wanted to know if the mats could handle a 120V power supply going through it. Why? We asked. Because he wanted to set up something to scare the kids on his front porch at Halloween. Seriously. He wanted to electrify a mat outside on a day infamous for rain so that every child in the neighborhood could stand on it. THIS IS WHY THERE ARE WARNING STICKERS ON EVERYTHING people. Because companies like us get calls like that.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the big idea people. My favorite was the very elderly gentleman who called up asking about the floor mats. He wanted to know what kind of discount he would get if he orders ten bazzilion of them etc etc.

“Why are you asking sir?”

“I’m going to make a product.”

“Oh, what kind of product.” My morbid curiosity kicks in, I sense a live one.

“Well, I’ll tell you but I don’t want you stealing it!”

“I can assure you I won’t sir. I have too many products behind schedule of my own.” (But I can’t promise it won’t get mocked in a blog a few years later.)

“Well, I have an idea for visitors that miss me when I’m not home.”

“Go on…”

“Well, I’m going to create a doormat that can sense when there is a visitor and then it will play a little recording telling them to leave a message and record it from them. This way when people come home they can see who visited them and listen to the messages.”

“So, like a telephone answering machine doormat?”

“Precisely!”

“And you plan to sell a few dozen of these?”

“NO!” He barked back, “I plan to sell thousands!”

At this point in these types of calls we just go for the entertainment value, because well, this is how we make it through some days.

“Oh, wow, do you really think you can sell that many?”

“Hell yes. This is a great idea.”

“I see. So do you know electronics or programming or anything?”

“No.”

“So how do you…”

“Well, obviously I need to partner with someone. You guys deal with this stuff. Maybe you would be interested in working on this with me?”

Aaaaand there it is. The money shot. We have a winner.

So, the moral of the story is, if you have a crazy idea and you need a floor mat switch to pull it off. We have them. They are sturdy, but not buffalo-stampede-detecting sturdy. You are welcome to buy them, and we wish you luck on your inventing adventure, but chances are we won’t be investing. We are too busy chasing out of control robots…

Bioloid GP Don’t Care.

Thursday, July 21st, 2011
This is the Bioloid GP. Watch it run in slow motion. It’s pretty bad-ass. Look, it runs all over the place. “Woah, watch out!” says that bird. Ew it’s got a snake? Oh, it’s chasing a jackal? Oh my gosh! Oh the Bioloid GPs are just crazy! The Bioloid GP’s been referred to by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most fearless animal in all the animal kingdom. It really doesn’t give a shit. If it’s hungry, it’s hungr-ew what’s that in its mouth! Oh it’s got a cobra? Oh it runs backwards? Now watch this, look, a snake’s up in a tree. Bioloid GP don’t care. Bioloid GP don’t give a shit, it just takes what it wants. Whenever it’s hungry it just- ew! And it eats the snakes. Oh my God watch it dig. Look at that digging. The Bioloid GPs really pretty bad-ass. They have no regard for any other animal whatsoever. Look at him just grunting and- ew! Eating snakes! Ew what’s that, a mouse? Oh that’s nasty. Oh, they’re so nasty! Oo look! It’s chasing things, and eating them.
The Bioloid GP’s have a fairly long body, but a distinctly thick set, broad shoulders, and you know, their, their skin is loose, allowing them to move about freely, and they twist around. Now look, here’s a house full of bees. You think the Bioloid GP cares? It doesn’t give a shit. It goes right in to the house to bees to get some larvae. How disgusting is that? It eats larvae. Ew, that’s so nasty. But look, the Bioloid GP doesn’t care, it’s getting stung like a thousand times. It doesn’t give a shit, it just, it’s hungry. It doesn’t care about being stung by bees. Nothing can stop the Bioloid GP when it’s hungry. Oh what a crazy fuck! Look! Ew, it’s eating larvae, that’s disgusting. There it is running in slow motion again. See, now what’s interesting is that other, other animals like these birds here the just like to wait around until the Bioloid GPs done eating and then it swoops in to pick up the scraps. It says, “You do all the work for us Bioloid GP and we’ll just eat whatever you find, how’s that? What do you say, stupid?” Look at this bird. “Thanks for the treat, stupid!” “Hey, come back here” says the Bioloid GP. Birds don’t care, and you know what, the jackals do it, too. Look at these little dogs. They’re like, “Thanks, Stupid! Thanks for the mouse! See ya later!” The Bioloid GP does all the work while these other animals just pick up the scraps.
At night time, the Bioloid GP goes hunting, cuz it’s hungry. Look! Here comes a fierce battle between a king cobra and a Bioloid GP. I wonder what will happen. Look at this, there’s the Bioloid GP just eating a mouse. And then look. “Get away from me!” says the snake, “Get away from me!” Bioloid GP don’t care. Bioloid GP smacks the shit out of him. The snake comes back and it lashes right at the Bioloid GP. Oh! Little does the Bioloid GP know, FYI, it’s been stung! It’s been bitten by the snake, so while it’s eating the snake- ew, that’s disgusting- meanwhile the poisonous venom is seeping through the Bioloid GPs body, and it passes out. Look at that sleepy fuck. Now the Bioloid GPs just gonna pass out for a few minutes and then it’s gonna get right back up and start eating all over again, cuz it’s a hungry little bastard. Look at this! Like nothing even happened, the Bioloid GP gets right back up and continues eating the cobra! How disgusting. And of course, what does a Bioloid GP have to eat for the next few weeks? Cobra.
The Bioloid GP.

Bioloid_GP

This is the Bioloid GP. Watch it run in slow motion. It’s pretty bad-ass. Look, it runs all over the place. “Woah, watch out!” says that bird. Eww it’s got a snake? Oh, it’s chasing a jackal? Oh my gosh! Oh the Bioloid GPs are just crazy! The Bioloid GP’s been referred to by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most fearless robot in all the robot kingdom. It really doesn’t give a crap. If it’s hungry, it’s hungr-EWW what’s that in its mouth! Oh it’s got a cobra? Oh it runs backwards? Now watch this, look, a snake’s up in a tree. Bioloid GP don’t care. Bioloid GP don’t give a crap, it just takes what it wants. Whenever it’s hungry it just- ew! And it eats the snakes. Oh my God watch it dig. Look at that digging. The Bioloid GP is really pretty bad-ass. They have no regard for any other robot whatsoever. Look at him just grunting and- ew! Eating snakes! Ew what’s that, a mouse? Oh that’s nasty. Oh, they’re so nasty! Oo look! It’s chasing things, and eating them.

The Bioloid GP’s have a fairly long body, but a distinctly thick set, broad shoulders, and you know, their, their wires are loose, allowing them to move about freely, and they twist around. Now look, here’s a house full of bees. You think the Bioloid GP cares? It doesn’t give a crap. It goes right in to the house to bees to get some larvae. How disgusting is that? It eats larvae. Ew, that’s so nasty. But look, the Bioloid GP doesn’t care, it’s getting stung like a thousand times. It doesn’t give a crap, it just, it’s hungry. It doesn’t care about being stung by bees. Nothing can stop the Bioloid GP when it’s hungry. Oh what a crazy robot! Look! Ew, it’s eating larvae, that’s disgusting. There it is running in slow motion again. See, now what’s interesting is that other, other animals like these birds here the just like to wait around until the Bioloid GPs done eating and then it swoops in to pick up the scraps. It says, “You do all the work for us Bioloid GP and we’ll just eat whatever you find, how’s that? What do you say, stupid?” Look at this bird. “Thanks for the treat, stupid!” “Hey, come back here” says the Bioloid GP. Birds don’t care, and you know what, the jackals do it, too. Look at these little dogs. They’re like, “Thanks, Stupid! Thanks for the mouse! See ya later!” The Bioloid GP does all the work while these other animals just pick up the scraps.

At night time, the Bioloid GP goes hunting, cuz it’s hungry. Look! Here comes a fierce battle between a king cobra and a Bioloid GP. I wonder what will happen. Look at this, there’s the Bioloid GP just eating a mouse. And then look. “Get away from me!” says the snake, “Get away from me!” Bioloid GP don’t care. Bioloid GP smacks the crap out of him. The snake comes back and it lashes right at the Bioloid GP. Oh! Little does the Bioloid GP know, FYI, it’s been stung! It’s been bitten by the snake, so while it’s eating the snake- ew, that’s disgusting- meanwhile the poisonous venom is seeping through the Bioloid GPs body, and it passes out. Look at that sleepy robot. Now the Bioloid GPs just gonna pass out for a few minutes and then it’s gonna get right back up and start eating all over again, cuz it’s a hungry little bastard. Look at this! Like nothing even happened, the Bioloid GP gets right back up and continues eating the cobra! How disgusting. And of course, what does a Bioloid GP have to eat for the next few weeks? Cobra.

The Bioloid GP.

And just in case anyone is wondering what the hell is going on. Click here.

–Andrew “Robot Biologist”

A Teacher and Some Robots Walk into a Bar…

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

We aren’t dead! We have just been very, very busy and very, very bad bloggers. We do have some great content coming soon however, we promise. Until then, here is a guest post from one of our awesome community members  (darkback2) who came to hang out with us for a few weeks. Che, a teacher in Washington state, is an active pro-hobby robot builder who participates in Mech Warfare and is known for shooting himself to entertain others. We were delighted that Che came to hang out with us and he was a huge help in moving some projects forward that we needed to get done. Expect some new products soon that we can all thank Che for helping make a reality before 2098.

Che  Visits Trossen Robotics

Che Visits Trossen Robotics

Teacher seeks real world experience and finds it at Trossen Robotics.

I am a high school science and robotics teacher.  A few months ago a friend of mine asserted that teachers couldn’t last two weeks in the real world.  I took that as a challenge and set out to prove him wrong.  I called, emailed, and wrote a number of robotics companies around the world.  Matt Trossen answered the call, offering me an internship at his Chicago-based robotics business.

As a result, I got to spend two weeks working at Trossen Robotics.  To be honest, I got to do the fun stuff while Matt Trossen, Andrew Alter, and Alex Ward were stuck doing the hard day-to-day stuff.  I quickly learned how hard it is for the Trossen team to get things done because of how much they have to multitask.  Every time they tried to work on a project, they were interrupted by phone calls, product orders, and the constant stream of people delivering parts, or picking up orders.

In addition to the normal intern duties, I got to do my favorite thing which is, of course, building robots.  During my two-week stay I built an army of robots including an Interbotix Hexapod, a Bioloid Premium, and a Bioloid GP, and shot product videos of each.

Most importantly, this was a wonderful experience that will have a profound effect on my classroom.  As a teacher, it is easy to get bogged down in the how and what of our curriculum.  I am always focusing on teaching the students how to do things and what they should know.  The most important thing I am taking away from this experience is that I need to focus much more on why.  Why things are done the way they are.  I am also much more keenly aware of how meticulous documentation is key to working collaboratively with others.  Because we recorded everything that we did through photographs, notes, and discussions, we were all on the same page and capable of addressing issues that arose as we went along.

The Trossen team made me feel more than welcome.  The hardest part was leaving at the end of my two-week stay.

Che

We missed Che after he left too! We did consider locking him in… Thank you Che for all the awesome hard work you did during your visit!