Robotic Faces are Here! [Michael Jackson]

Now you too can own Michael Jackson’s robotic face! According to DVICE: Michael Jackson’s auctioning off a bunch of movie props and expensive toys this April, including the robotic head, pictured above, that brought robo-Michael to life in his singer-turned-superhero movie, Moonwalker. Never saw it? It’s worth a rental (watched in fast forward), if only to see him turn into a car as he flees from Joe Pesci’s stormtroopers. The head opens up and flashes a bunch of lights at the press of a button and will start at $2,000 to $3,000. Maybe you can combine it with that thing we were talking about...

Robotic Faces are Coming

Here’s an interesting post from Slashdot today: “New Scientist reports on a patent application that suggests implanting polymer muscles beneath the skin of people suffering paralysis of the face to give them control of their features. The technique has already been used successfully to reanimate the eyelids of human cadavers. Movement could be returned to other facial features and even paralyzed limbs in the same way, the surgeons at University of California Davis say. The full patent application is also available on the WIPO site.” More from the New Scientist: Now surgeons Craig Senders and Travis Tollefson of the University of California, Davis, plan to change that by using artificial polymer muscles to reanimate the facial features of people suffering from severe paralysis. “The face is an area where natural-appearing active prosthetics would be particularly welcome,” they write in a recent patent application. They believe their approach provides a solution, and report having tested it successfully on cadavers. A polymer muscle anchored to the skull, labelled “41”, pulls on cords that connect to the upper and lower eyelids of both eyes. If a patient tries to close their eyes, the effort triggers electrical activity in the muscles that would normally close the eyelids. The polymer muscle detects this activity and contracts, pulling on its cords to fully close the eyelids. Offer methods could be used to control the polymer muscle for differing circumstances, they say. If a person has lost control of only one eye (after a stroke, for example) the system could monitor the activity of the healthy eye and synchronise the actions of the paralysed one to...

Cylops Pong Robot [Robot Art]

I actually spent a good deal of time today just surfing around and storing up a bit of backlogged robot artwork for you to enjoy in the coming several weeks (see the first in the series here and here)… but it’s not often you come across a robot project that itself almost looks like a bit of concept art. John Mahoney unearthed one such piece today over at Gizmodo. Pong Robot from Ivo Vos on Vimeo. The bot plays pong and plays it well, which in and of itself isn’t particularly impressive given that twenty year old gaming systems can do that. What is cool is the way it is constructed. The bot uses a webcam for eyes, and has solenoid fingers for typing, and a laptop installed for the brain. The serpentine appearance is what’s most attractive to me.  Just clever and sleek all...

Robot Art 0002: Robogorilla and the Pugeot

I’ve seen more than a few interesting bits of robotic art and short films come across my radar since I’ve been doing this blog, so I decided to make a regular feature of this. I’m betting we can do this a few times a week at least.  Send me your finds, and I’ll post them. Here’s one from a French car commercial, courtesy of...

Robot Art 0001: Broken Robot Girl

[via JWZ – Broken Robot Girl] From Tamar Levine: This is the first photograph in a series that Rob Sheridan and I are  collaborating on together. I am shooting the photos and Rob is doing the special effects in Photoshop. There will be four or five in all. Modeling credits: Dawn BatsonMakeup credits: Erica...

Wild Wild … Vermont?

Jaimie Mantzel is a man after my own heart. The guy is into building robots, but he’s not just satisified with the robots most of us have running around our houses. He’s trying to make a twelve foot version of the robot you see pictured here to the right in the wilds of Vermont. Definitely a cool idea. If you want to help him pull it off, he only needs one thing: aluminum.  Lots and lots of...

A Roomba for Cheapskates

Another cool bot forwarded to me by Steven Hodson (he’s been on a roll sending me stuff lately), is a much smaller version of the Roomba for those with limited budgets and small areas to clean called the Mini Robo Vacuum. It runs about $20, it’s powered by only a couple AA batteries, and he’ll pick up “pencil shavings, breadcrumbs or other debris.” My wife thinks it’s pretty cool, so it’s probably going to end up being a new addition to the family soon. Hopefully I’ll have some video and a short review so you’ll know if it’s worth a couple...

Veronica Belmont Looks at the Spykee

If you recall, just before Christmas I was drooling over the Spykee robot.  Unfortunately Santa didn’t bring me a telepresence bot for Christmas, but that hasn’t stopped my obsession. I was poking around online today, and James Lewin has a clip of Veronica Belmont from CES getting a quick run-down of the current Spykee...

Ghost in the Shell: SAC Tachikomas Become Reality

One of my absolute most favorite anime series of all time is Ghost in the Shell. Aside from the groundbreaking first movie, the slightly disappointing sequel and the outstanding series Stand Alone Complex, there are very few other entertaining programs that contain the depth of analysis combined with spectacular art and story. One of the characters from the series is the Tachikoma, which essentially is a set of sentient hive mind controlled armored tanks. They are one of the more “cuddly” characters on the show, since their intelligence and persona are evolving from an innocent starting point, constantly questioning it’s own existence. Apparently, according to Impress, the Japanese are actually on the job trying to get a real one of these knocked out. It’s a “personal edition,” and fully contains the driver, with the outside view projected inside the one-person cockpit. It’s a bit of a far cry from the fully-autonomous battle tank controlled by a AI hosted on a server on a satellite, but it’s one heck of a start. I’m definitely interested in hearing more about this one, and so far, it’s just this one 10 second video and a bit of rough translation making it’s rounds around the blogosphere.  Anyone heard any more on this? So far, I haven’t even found out the company or research group behind...

Name the Next Mars Rover [Essay Contest]

There’s no denying that the Mars rover was a great success in both raising awareness of interplanetary travel as in scientific numbers. The way NASA promoted the mission via social media avenues like Twitter and displayed their flawless engineering and execution has raised the interest levels in the Mars program quite a bit. According to a recent post at robots.net, NASA is already working on the next rover, and is going to further cash in on the public’s interest by engaging students in an essay contest, with the reward for winning being the privilege of naming the next rover. K-12 students can write a short essay suggesting a name, and may even win a trip to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to meet the engineers who built it. The winner will also have the chance to sign his or her name on the rover prior to its launch. Have a kid interested in traveling to Mars (at least in name only)? You can find the details at the JPL...

Trossen Robotics is Planning Something Nefarious [Ahh Jou Sarah Connah]

I can definitely relate to the need for boasting whenever you have a whole bunch of new kit to show off to all your other geeky friends, particularly when they’re the parts for a new robot you’re building. [spoiler alert: I’ll probably be doing that soon] One of the sites I follow pretty regularly for my robotics news is the company blog for Trossen Robotics. They’re a shop that sells robot kits, parts and a few bots that are put together. Today, though, on their blog they’re a little proud and a little worried about an upcoming project, the parts for which are pictured above: Luckily, Sarah Conner hasn’t showed up yet … [b]ut we’re preparing for when she shows up to blow us away, because this might very well be the start of Skynet. Well, at least nobody can accuse us of under-engineering. Yup, that’s a pyramid of RX-64s. This is a teaser photo of a new project brewing in the Trossen Robotics Lab for the upcoming Mech Warfarecompetition. A fully custom aluminum frame and bracket system is being machined courtesy of Big Blue Saw, our sponsor on the project. Did we mention we’re giving it weapons? /snicker Good stuff. Do....

Chobu 01: 1950’s Era Parallel Time Transportation Unit

You’ve seen the pictures of this somewhat bizarre and interesting looking bot, but you’ve probably not heard the backstory yet. I’ve seen the images on every gadget blog there is, but Evan Ackerman at BotJunkie has translated enough of the original Japanese to make sense of the story: Imagine if you will a world where human beings drive giant mechas around to get from place to place. Imagine also that the humans drive these giant mechas from seats mounted in a place that, if the bots were humans, you wouldn’t be allowed to straddle in public. The Chobu 01 was created by Japanese 3D artist Kazushi Kobayashi, and is from “a parallel 50s where the robots are the most popular transport system.” Pardon me, can you point me in the direction of this parallel universe of which you speak? There are only 200 of these 1/12 scale models, and if you want one, they cost $315 and you’ll have to assemble it yourself. Lots more possibly naughty pics of Japanese schoolgirl types riding piloting the Chobu can be found over at Hobbymedia.it. The models in the images are of impeccable quality, and without reading the Japanese (and without sufficient English posts to divine if it was a bot or a model), I couldn’t even determine the scale.. It’s a cool concept bot, and you gotta know I’d love to ride one of these to work, if I...

CES 2009 Robotics Round-Up

Rather than restate what is an excellent roundup of the 2009 CES robot items, I’ll point you to Andrew’s excellent writeup at Trossen...

Robots and Human Expression

I’ve actually been looking at telepresence robots, in anticipation of the fact that I might actually invest in one.  More on that later, but a couple of bots I saw profiled today has turned my attention to the expressiveness of robots, in human terms. I was watching the BBC’s Where’s My Robot? the other day on the Science Channel (a great channel to tune into if your cable provider has it). Remember that Japanese professor some time back created that robotic doppelganger? In watching the robot in action on the show, it was very clear that there still is a great deal of work to be done in making humanoid robots that look like humans and aren’t distractingly slightly less than perfect. That’s why these clearly not human robots are very interesting and fun to watch in action. The first one is the TOFU, which is squishy and very reminiscent of the type of stuff my kids watch on Nick and Noggin. It looks a little like a Furby in the still pictures, but watching it make expressions in the video really sells it. The second bot is an inevitably prohibitively expensive yet still awesome bot focused on emotional expression named Nexi (pronounced Nix-ee). From watching both, it’s very clear that these robots do a much better job than any of the bots you see from the Where is My Robot? show impersonating a human, in spirit at the very...

Breaking the Fourth Wall of Robotics

I’m mainly posting this here because I’m tired of my friend Rich stealing all the rare and cool phrases from Google and monopolizing them. At some point, I’ll write a very scholarly sounding paper under this title. Until then.. enjoy...

Are We Doomed with Inevitable Utopia?

People like me are often accused of being terminally “glass half-full” because we’ve made peace with the fact we’ll be living under robot overlords by the end of our lifetime. I’ve made no secret of the fact I’m a huge fan of Ray Kurzweil and put a lot of stock in his predictions of the inevitable fusion of the race of machines and humans. Michael Anissimov at The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies has put out a piece entitled “Inevitable Positive Outcome with AI?” that talks about how people like me trivialize the idea that “benevolence or moral common sense” is a foregone conclusion when it comes to our new robot overlords. If you read anything by Kurzweil, or most of his supporters like me, I think you’ll find that the potential for catastrophic disaster is acknowledged every step of the way, though. I think that the probability is that we’ll figure out how to make it all work without creating a technologically induced second dark age, just based on our past performance throughout history… and by it’s very nature, predicting the nature of the future assumes that there will actually be a future to predict.  I think that any prediction of existence in 30, 50, or 100 years is sort of preceded by the obvious proviso “if we haven’t completely blown ourselves up by then …” As an interesting sidenote, SlashDot had a pretty interesting look at how Kurzweil’s predictions look ten years in last week: marciot writes “It’s interesting to look back at Ray Kurzweil’s predictions for 2009 from a decade ago. He was dead on...

iRobot’s Brand Spankin’ New YouTube Channel

iRobot, the maker of the Roomba and the Scooba, have launched a YouTube channel for those of us who just can get enough footage of robots in action. Aside from the generic “here’s my vacuum robot doing something cool,” it also acts as a forum for iRobot product users to interact with the engineers. Of course, the channel also serves as a place for funny videos of your kids doing things with your iRobot as...

Have a Very Robot Christmas

I’m going to bed now – all the presents are safely under the tree for the kids, and I’m going to bed with visions of Spykees and Roveos dancing in my head. Special thanks to all my readers, new and old – it’s been a great year filled with incredible highs and lows. Here’s to hoping that next year is as interesting as this one! I’ll just leave you with this robotic note I found on FriendFeed from the Queen of Spain: Merry Christmas, and may all your trees have robotic whirrs and mews emanating from them in the...

Play Robot Soccer Online!

Yet another short and sweet post while I am packing my belongings for the move to Dallas. Remember the i-SOBOT I was raving about the other day? Here’s one you can play soccer with, online, right now.. [Robot Services Group via...