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 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!
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!
Welcome to your Awesome Robot [Amazon UK]
Welcome to your Awesome Robot [Amazon US - pre-order]
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.
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.
Depending 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"
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.
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
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.
As 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"
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!"
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.
No one will suspect that your well-behaved dog is actually a robot! Full build instructions included.
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.
Cooperative Quadrocopter Ball Throwing and Catching - IDSC - ETH Zurich (via JWZ)
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
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!)
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)
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.
Here's Katy Levinson's semi-drunken robotics tutorial from DEFCON XX in Vegas this past summer. To get a sense of Levinson's presentation style, imagine if Bill Hicks was a young, female roboticist. Watch this presentation and you will learn that four-way linkages are pimp, bolts are zinc-plated turds, and all robots should wear sunglasses. Levinson's last gig was designing an autonomous robot for the aborted US lunar mission, and now she works to save Hacker Dojo, the embattled hackspace in Mountain View that incubated Pinterest.
By popular demand, Defcon's angry little roboticist is back with more stories of robot designs gone awry that make practical lessons on making better robots. Drinking will happen: vodka-absconding scoundrels are not invited.
This talk will cover material assuming the average audience member is a relatively intelligent coder with a high-school physics/math background and has seen linear algebra/calculus before. The intent is to navigate people new to robotics around many lessons my teams and I learned the "hard way," and to introduce enough vocabulary for a self-teaching student to bridge the gap between amateur and novice professional robotics. It will not cover why your Arduino doesn't work when you plugged your USB tx into your RS232 tx.
Cui Runguan, a Beijing inventor and restaurateur, has created a "robot chef" for slicing noodles: it's basically an automated dough-shaving knife encased in a charming retro-robot shell with superfluous blinking eye-lights. Something about the combination appeals, and the enthusiastic diners in the news segment seem to treat the noodles as "hand-cut by a mechanical person" and not as "sliced by an industrial machine."