Archive for the ‘News / Articles’ Category

The PhantomX Hexapod is ‘Insanely Futuristic’

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

hexapod

The folks over at io9 recently put the PhantomX Hexapod on their 10 Real Technologies That Look Insanely Futuristic list. Everything on their list is a real, working product or prototype, and there are some awesome projects included. We’re humbled that io9 saw fit to include us on the list.

Stay tuned, we’ve got some new code for the MK-II hexapods in the pipeline and we’ll have some new video to show off.

The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Sorcerers and Apprentices 450

Innovation is what new technology is all about. Innovation is a tricky mistress. Where does one place their bets and their time and energy? How do you decide when a new technology might be ready for implementation? How do you spawn productive creativity in scientists, students, and engineers? These are questions those of us in new technology struggle with all the time.

Frank Moss, former director of the MIT Media Labs, has a new book out which is a fascinating look at the workings of the Media Lab and the innovation that has gone on there for the last 25 years. We were asked to mention the book to our readers and we think it is pretty darn relevant to our community so we recommend checking it out :)

The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices

From the Jacket -

If you’ve ever read a book on an e-reader, unleashed your inner rock star playing Guitar Hero, built a robot with LEGO Mindstorms, or ridden in a vehicle with child-safe air bags, then you’ve experienced first hand just a few of the astounding innovations that have come out of the Media Lab over the past 25 years. But that’s old hat for today’s researchers, who are creating technologies that will have a much deeper impact on the quality of people’s lives over the next quarter century.

In this exhilarating tour of the Media Lab’s inner sanctums, we’ll meet the professors and their students – the Sorcerers and their Apprentices – and witness first hand the creative magic behind inventions such as:

* Nexi, a mobile humanoid robot with such sophisticated social skills she can serve as a helpful and understanding companion for the sick and elderly.
* CityCar, a foldable, stackable, electric vehicle of the future that will redefine personal transportation in cities and revolutionize urban life.
* Sixth Sense, a compact wearable device that transforms any surface – wall, tabletop or even your hand – into a touch screen computer.
* PowerFoot, a lifelike robotic prosthesis that enables amputees to walk as naturally as if it were a real biological limb.

Through inspiring stories of people who are using Media Lab innovations to confront personal challenges – like a man with cerebral palsy who is unable to hum a tune or pick up an instrument yet is using an ingenious music composition system to unleash his “inner Mozart”, and a woman with a rare life-threatening condition who co-invented a revolutionary web service that enables patients to participate in the search for their own cures – we’ll see how the Media Lab is empowering us all with the tools to take control of our health, wealth, and happiness.

Along the way, Moss reveals the highly unorthodox approach to creativity and invention that makes all this possible, explaining how the Media Lab cultivates an open and boundary-less environment where researchers from a broad array of disciplines – from musicians to neuroscientists to visual artists to computer engineers – have the freedom to follow their passions and take bold risks unthinkable elsewhere.

The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices can serve as a blueprint for how to fix our broken innovation ecosystem and bring about the kind of radical change required to meet the challenges of the 21st century.  It is a must-read for anyone striving to be more innovative as an individual, as a businessperson, or as a member of society.

The Kinect Can Fly!

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Or rather, it can be placed on robots that are capable of flight. Pretty sure this is a world first here- Quadrotor from UC Berkeley using a Kinect for autonomous navigation. How cool is that? I bet Microsoft never realized just how many people would be hacking these in short time. Given my own circle of friends, I know more people using them for robotics than playing videogames!

This work is part of the STARMAC Project in the Hybrid Systems Lab at UC Berkeley (EECS department).http://hybrid.eecs.berkeley.edu/

Researcher: Patrick Bouffard
PI: Prof. Claire Tomlin

Our lab’s Ascending Technologies [1] Pelican quadrotor, flying autonomously and avoiding obstacles.

The attached Microsoft Kinect [2] delivers a point cloud to the onboard computer via the ROS [3] kinect driver, which uses the OpenKinect/Freenect [4] project’s driver for hardware access. A sample consensus algorithm [5] fits a planar model to the points on the floor, and this planar model is fed into the controller as the sensed altitude. All processing is done on the on-board 1.6 GHz Intel Atom based computer, running Linux (Ubuntu 10.04).

A VICON [6] motion capture system is used to provide the other necessary degrees of freedom (lateral and yaw) and acts as a safety backup to the Kinect altitude–in case of a dropout in the altitude reading from the Kinect data, the VICON based reading is used instead. In this video however, the safety backup was not needed.

[1] http://www.asctec.de
[2] http://www.microsoft.com
[3] http://www.ros.org/wiki/kinect
[4] http://openkinect.org
[5] http://www.ros.org/wiki/pcl
[6] http://www.vicon.com

IRC2010 in Korea- Too Much Robotic Awesome For One Show.

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

We’re still reeling from our trip to Korea; jet-lag, last minute flu bugs, and a tad too much Soju really did a number on us. One thing is for sure- Asia has the US beat handily on robotic presence. What we didn’t know when heading to the competition was that IRC2010 also was attached to Robotworld 2010, the single largest Robotics Convention we’ve ever seen. Literally hundreds of booths and double or even triple that number of robots ran wild in a convention hall bigger than an aircraft hanger. It’s going to take us a few weeks to sort through all the video, but we’ll give you a sneak peak at the hundreds of pictures we took. There is some SERIOUS robot-eye-candy in these galleries, be sure to check it out.

Hall 1 Gallery – This is mostly the competition pictures.

Hall 2 Gallery – This is the convention hall. They had robots we didn’t even know existed.

And here’s a few choice pics for those of you too lazy to check out the above linked galleries!

AIST’s Latest Humanoid “HRP-4″ is AMAZING!

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

I’m nearly at a complete loss of words at this humanoid robot. WOW. Absolutely brilliant show of progress for humanoids across the globe. It’s not just the movement, it’s how compact the entire robot is. No bulky joints, backpack, etc. Very slim, aesthetically pleasing humanoid robot!

More info found here!

Robot Pioneers: A Documentary

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Robot Pioneers is a short documentary about people who are passionate about robotics. We’ve had the privilege of meeting a plethora of fantastic innovators over the years; through our own online community, at Robogames, via various business communications, universities, techshops, hackerspaces, and at a number of tradeshows.

Each of these makers has a story to tell, and with this short documentary we hope to showcase even just a glimpse of the inspiration we draw from connecting with our fellow grassroots engineers. The future of technology is often grown in one’s own backyard and is open for anyone with the will and want to get involved. Build. Create. Innovate. Make. Join the Robot Revolution!

Arduino: The Documentary (trailer)

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

If you’ve read the internet at all in the last 2 years, you’re probably well familiar with the Arduino Microcontroller movement. This simple micro has brought together industries from every stretch of the world, bringing physical computing to the mainstream. Robots, 3D Printers, CNCs, data-loggers, LED Blinking, Clocks, UAVs, you name it- the Arduino can do it. Coming this summer, you’ll get to see how the grassroots movement all started, and how the Arduino become the DIY world’s most popular microcontroller!

TRAILER Arduino: The Documentary (available on HD) from gnd on Vimeo.

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.

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.

Mech Warfare featured on WIRED Video!

Friday, May 21st, 2010

When we were out at Robogames 2010, the multimedia crew from WIRED Magazine showed up and hung out with us for a bit. They loved the Mech Warfare competition and asked if they could do some interviews with the competitors. Here is the result!