Boing Boing 

Yep, Boston Dynamics' humanoid robot is just as scary as the dog

He's called "PETMAN".

Used to test the performance of protective clothing designed for hazardous environments. The video shows initial testing in a chemical protection suit and gas mask. PETMAN has sensors embedded in its skin that detect any chemicals leaking through the suit. The skin also maintains a micro-climate inside the clothing by sweating and regulating temperature.

And you shall know the jazzercise of your new masters, meat.

Apollo F-1 engines recovered from Atlantic ocean floor by Bezos Expeditions

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has exciting news out today. Apollo mission F-1 enginges have been recovered from the bottom of the sea.

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Los Angeles is not full of self-driving pod cars (and other disappointments from a 1988 view of 2013)

In April 1988, the LA Times Magazine published a cover article predicting what the spring of 2013 would look like for the typical Angeleno family. In a story that is bound to give you disconcerting flashbacks to Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains", a family of four (and their automated house full of whirring robots) goes about a full day — from mandatory staggered work times beginning at 5:15 am, to 11:00 pm, when the lady of the house sits down with her laser disc of The Collected Works of Jackie Collins. (Creepily, the story ends with the house catching fire. I'm not kidding about the Bradbury shout-outs.) Not all the predictions were totally off base, but, as a whole, it's definitely a neat example of how hard it is to look at current technology trends and correctly extrapolate them out to the future.

Brainless bots exhibit swarming

Harvard University researchers show how simple, brainless "bristle-bots" (like those you can make yourself or purchase for $6 as a "Hexbug Nano") exhibit swarming behavior when contained in a small area. According to the scientists, when this kind of behavior is seen in the natural world, among termites for example, it's "linked with insect cognition and social interactions. Our study shows how the behavioral repertoire of these physically interacting automatons controlled by one parameter translates into the mechanical intelligence of swarms." "Swarming, swirling and stasis in sequestered bristle-bots" (PDF)

Poplocks and Paper Pose-Ables: papercraft joints for pose-able robots


Poplocks are a very clever system for making movable papercraft fastenings with die-cutting and folding. The Paper Pose-Ables site has a bunch of downloadable papercraft toys you can print out and make, as well as pre-cut/scored kits you can buy, for making fabulous poseable robots and other cool figures.

The Pose-Ables people came out to one of my signings last month and gave me a couple of GUPP-E robots, which I've put together this week, with help from my five-year-old daughter Poesy. The robots were fun to put together -- just intricate enough to be challenging without being frustrating -- and the Poplocks system really makes for a great, semi-rigid joint for the toys.

The Poplocks themselves are CC licensed for use in your own models.

The Poplock pushes the two pieces of paper tightly together, creating lots of friction! It can also stay put, and won't pop out on it's own, unless a good amount of force is used to bend it out of place.

Combine the Poplock Wedge with the special Locking Flaps hole, and you will create a nigh-invincible connection. Seriously, you won't be able to get the connection apart with torsion or pulling forces unless you rip or crumple the parts. Even then, the Poplock will probably stay put... holding two mangled pieces of paper together!

Poplocks

How to get ahead in robotics

Swiss social psychologist Bertolt Mayer views 'Rex', a two metre tall artificial human, at the Science Museum in central London February 5, 2013. Mayer, a who uses a prosthetic hand himself, was used as the model for the 'bionic man', whom the British roboticist designers claim is the world's first complete bionic man, featuring artificial organs as well as fully functioning limbs. It will be on public display until March 11. Photo: REUTERS / Toby Melville

Welcome to your Awesome Robot: instructional comic turns kids & cardboard boxes into AWESOME ROBOTS!


Welcome to Your Awesome Robot is a fantastic book for maker-kids and their grownups. It consists of a charming series of instructional comics showing a little girl and her mom converting a cardboard box into an awesome robot -- basically a robot suit that the kid can wear. It builds in complexity, adding dials, gears, internal chutes and storage, brightly colored warning labels and instructional sheets for attachment to the robot's chassis.

More than that, it encourages you to "think outside the box" (ahem), by adding everything from typewriter keys to vacuum hoses to shoulder-straps to your robot, giving the kinds of cues that will set your imagination reeling. For master robot builders, it includes a tear-out set of workshop rules for respectfully sharing robot-building space with other young makers, and certificates of robot achievement. I read this one to Poesy last night at bedtime, and today we're on the lookout for cardboard boxes to robotify. It's a fantastic, inspiring read!

You can get a great preview of the book at NoBrow. It's out in the UK now, and it comes out in the US next month.

Welcome to your Awesome Robot by Viviane Schwarz [NoBrow]

Welcome to your Awesome Robot [Amazon UK]

Welcome to your Awesome Robot [Amazon US - pre-order]

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Another look at Fukushima's legacy

Recently, I linked you to a report on the World Health Organization's estimates of the long-term risk of cancer and cancer-related deaths among people who lived nearest to the Fukushima nuclear plant when it went into meltdown and the people who worked to get the plant under control and into a cold shutdown. The good news was that those risks seem to be lower than the general public might have guessed, partly because the Japanese government did a good job of quickly getting people away from the area and not allowing potentially contaminated milk and meat to be consumed. The bad news: That one aspect isn't the whole story on Fukushima's legacy or the government's competency. Although the plant is in cold shutdown today, it still needs to be fully decommissioned and the site and surrounding countryside are in desperate need of cleanup and decontamination. That task, unfortunately, is likely to be far more difficult than anybody thought, with initial estimates of a 40-year cleanup now described as "a pipe dream". One key problem: The government cut funding to research that could have produced the kind of robots needed for this work, because it assumed that nobody would ever need them.

C3PO dress


The "Gold Metal Man Dress" by Etsy seller GeekyU1 is a pretty good stab at a C3PO frock. Made to order for $200.

Gold Metal Man Dress (via Neatorama)

A gravity map of the Moon

Gravity isn't uniform. Denser planets and objects in space — that is, things with more mass to them — experience a stronger pull of gravity. But even if you zoom in to the level of a single planet (or, in this case, our Moon), gravity isn't uniform all the way around. That's because the mass of the Moon isn't uniform, either. It varies, along with the topography. In some places, the Moon's crust is thicker. Those places have more mass, and thus, more gravitational pull.

This map, showing changes in density and gravity across the surface of the Moon, was made from data collected by Ebb and Flow — a matched set of NASA probes that mapped the Moon's gravitational field before being intentionally crashed on its surface last December. By measuring the gravitational field, these probes told us a lot about how the density of the Moon varies which, in turn, tells us a lot about topography.

You can read more about the probes (and see some videos they took of the lunar surface) at the NASA Visualization Explorer.

Electronic salvage junkbots


Marco Fernandes's R3bots are absolutely sweet little light-up junkbots made from electronics salvage. They're even poseable! They run about €350 each.

R3bot series (via Colossal)

Building a "bionic man"

IMG 2209 This is Rex, a $1 million "bionic man" built in the UK by roboticists Richard Walker and Matthew Godden. Rex was the star of a new Channel 4 documentary titled "How to Build A Bionic Man." Rex is outfitted with a variety of synthetic systems and appendages, from prosthetic limbs to a cochlear implant, artificial pancreas to retinal implant. He's now on display at the London Science Museum but will visit America in October to promote the Smithsonian Channel's US premier of the documentary, retitled "Cyborg/Frankenstein."

Possibly the greatest ad for books, ever


I, Robot

Meet Curiosity rover's earthbound sibling


Photo: Glenn Fleishman

Go and check out Glenn Fleishman's fantastic set of photos from the Jet Propulsion Lab's sandbox, where the scientists get to hang out and play with one of Curiosity rover's siblings.

Manchurian robots (ok, they're "non-lethal") rising from the ocean floor

The US Department of Defense is launching a research effort to develop underwater robots/sensor platforms that would hibernate on the ocean floor until they "wake up when commanded, and deploy to surface providing operational support and situational awareness." DARPA has dubbed the research effort the Upward Falling Payloads program. (The image below, from the DARPA press release, seems to be illustrating, um, a robot's-eye-view as it's surfacing.) From their announcement:
NewImageDepending on the specific payload, systems would provide a range of non-lethal but useful capabilities such as situational awareness, disruption, deception, networking, rescue, or any other mission that benefits from being pre-distributed and hidden. An example class of systems might be small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that launch to the surface in capsules, take off and provide aerial situational awareness, networking or decoy functions. Waterborne applications are sought as well.
"FALLING UP: DARPA TO LAUNCH JUST-IN-TIME PAYLOADS FROM BOTTOM OF SEA"

A video featuring "Vomiting Larry"

By popular demand (and the help of intrepid readers Broan and theophrastvs), I present you a video clip of the humanoid robot known as Vomiting Larry.

Larry is used to study the way particles of puke become aerosolized, and how those particles spread and help infect other people. That's important, because it explains one of the ways that viruses spread by vomiting manage to end up in everyday things like, say, frozen raspberries. Aerosolized vomit isn't something you can spot. It doesn't clean up easily. And even just a drop of it can pass on plenty of viruses.

Carl Zimmer had a great piece up yesterday on norovirus, the virus that researchers are studying with the help of Vomiting Larry. His story has more info on how that virus spreads and will give you a better idea of why Vomiting Larry is so important.

Meet Vomiting Larry

Vomiting Larry is a humanoid robot designed to projectile vomit all over a lab at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Derbyshire, England. He's helping scientists learn about how diseases spread. Warning: If you read this Reuters story by Kate Kelland you will be forced to acknowledge the existence of "aerosolized vomit". (Via Microbe World)

Robots are taking your job and mine: deal with it


Two striking articles on the roboticization of the workforce: first is Kevin Kelly in Wired, with "Better Than Human", an optimistic and practical-minded look at the way that robots change the jobs landscape, with some advice on how to survive the automation of your gig:

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Survival Research Laboratories in Los Angeles, December 22

Pioneering machine performance group Survival Research Laboratories are holding a rare full-scale performance in Los Angeles on December 22. If you're not familiar with SRL, the video above gives a short, sharp taste of their 34 years of robotic mayhem and black comedy. "Each performance consists of a unique set of ritualized interactions between machines, robots, and special effects devices, employed in developing themes of socio-political satire. Humans are present only as audience or operators." Survival Research Laboratories

Transform Robot from Japan's Brave Robotics brings "Transformers" to life

Above, the 1/12 scale Transform Robot Version 7.2 from Brave Robotics of Japan. There's an article about this creation in Wired Japan by Francesco Fondi, who saw the invention in action at the recent Maker Faire Tokyo.

The wirelessly remote-controlled Transform Robot took some ten years to develop, and includes wireless internet connected cameras for remote monitoring, and the ability to steer its arms and shoot little plastic darts from them.

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Pop-up assembly of micro-robots and other devices

NewImage

NewImageAs multiple researchers continue their efforts to make micro-robotic flying insects, Harvard's Robert Wood has made strides in self-assembling systems with the robobee above. Inspired by his child's pop-up books, Wood's device starts flat on a scaffold. More than 100 hinges enable the 3D structure to "pop up" into the robot seen here. This is only one of the Origami-like approaches that researchers at Harvard, MIT, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaig, and elsewhere are using to create small, complex objects at scale, from drug delivery systems to solar cells. Science News surveys the field. "Into the Fold"

Call for papers: Robots and the Law at Stanford

Ryan Calo sends his call for papers for a Stanford Law School conference on robotics and the law. "This is our second year---the first conference took place in Miami. This year's focus is on legal and policy issues surrounding the immediate commercial prospects of robotics, including personal robots, drones, driverless cars, telepresence, and robotic surgery. We're calling it 'We Robot: Getting Down To Business.' The program committee, which consists of both law professors and roboticists, seeks submissions on a range of topics of relevance to the burgeoning robotics industry, as well as demos of robot prototypes or products. Legal scholars and technologists alike are warmly welcome to submit papers and/or attend. Hope to see you there!"

Call For Papers: Robotics and the Law Conference at Stanford Law School

Robots app

IEEE Spectrum just released a fun iPad app that's all about real robots! You can learn about 126 robots from 19 countries, hear interviews with roboticists, and, of course, watch videos of our future overlords in action. "Robots for iPad" (Thanks, Ken Goldberg!)

Radio Police Automaton

Here's a miraculous Radio Police Automaton from the May, 1924 issue of Hugo Gernsback's Science and Invention. It will be useful for dispersing mobs, and for war. Note the built-in tear-gas tank. Also the "loud-speaker used to shout orders to the mob." Mr Gernsback notes, "They will be well-nigh irresistible."

There's something decidedly pre-Ewok about this design and the bold claims of irresistibility.

Gernsback Radio Police Automaton (via Wil Wheaton)

The electric dog delights and astounds


No one will suspect that your well-behaved dog is actually a robot! Full build instructions included.


Recapping ‘The Jetsons’: Episode 04 – The Coming of Astro (Via Nerdstink)

Little droid dress

If you need a party frock to go with your R2D2 bathing suit look no further, for this is clearly the dress you've been looking for.

Artoo Dress

Quadcopters playing catch

The ETH Zurich quadcopter folks have added to their already impressive collection of videos of cooperative, autonomous quadcopters doing exciting things (previously) with this video of the adorable little gizmos throwing and catching balls together.

To toss the ball, the quadrocopters accelerate rapidly outward to stretch the net tight between them and launch the ball up. Notice in the video that the quadrocopters are then pulled forcefully inward by the tension in the elastic net, and must rapidly stabilize in order to avoid a collision. Once recovered, the quadrotors cooperatively position the net below the ball in order to catch it.

Because they are coupled to each other by the net, the quadrocopters experience complex forces that push the vehicles to the limits of their dynamic capabilities

Cooperative Quadrocopter Ball Throwing and Catching - IDSC - ETH Zurich (via JWZ)

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong: YA webcomic "full of teenagers building homemade robots in their basement"


Comics awesomecreator Faith Erin Hicks (Zombies Calling, Friends With Boys) is serializing a new comic online called "Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong," adapted from a Prudence Shen YA novel. When the serialization is done, the whole thing will be published between covers by the marvellous FirstSecond books. FirstSecond's Gina Gagliano describes it as "full of teenagers building homemade robots in their basement." Sounds like my kind of thing!

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong (Thanks, Gina!)

Toyota's new robot

NewImage

This is Toyota's new arm-wresting robot. Apparently, its other application is for "human support" such as assisting disabled people and caring for the elderly in their homes. The robot's body can raise up and down and its tablet head is well-suited for telepresence. Toyota's Human Support Robot (via IEEE Spectrum)

Junebug-like robotic pack mule

Here's a DARPA video showing a robotic pack-mule prototype. I think you're supposed to imagine this thing being on your side, but when I see videos like this, I always find myself imagining what it would be like to be crouching in the underbrush with a couple of terrified children, trying to keep them silent while this thing motors through the uncanny valley around us.

This video depicts field testing of the DARPA Legged Squad Support System (LS3). The goal of the LS3 program is to demonstrate that a legged robot can unburden dismounted squad members by carrying their gear, autonomously following them through rugged terrain, and interpreting verbal and visual commands.

DARPA Legged Squad Support System (LS3) Demonstrates New Capabilities (via JWZ)