In honor of Robot Day on Make: Blog, I’ve posted my “Rules for Roboticists” from my 2004 book Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building. It’s a playful list of operating principles, rules of thumb, and words o’ wisdom about bot building. The piece is accompanied by robot scientist “trading cards” illustrated by Mark Frauenfelder for the book.
Check out these incredibly cool solarrollers posted to the MAKE Flickr Pool. This one’s built in an old wireless phone chassis. Love the use of gears as wheels.
In last year’s Holiday Gadget Guide, I reviewed the wonderful then-new LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT system. It’s a year later and my admiration for this product has only grown. It has been enthusiastically embraced by robot hobbyists and professionals, educators, kids of all ages, R&D departments looking for quick n’ dirty prototyping components — 1,001 uses. It’s also been embraced by publishers, who’ve followed the product with a felled forest worth of books. Three of may favorites are from No Starch Press (disclosure: O’Reilly, the publisher I work for, distributes No Starch titles).
is a New York artist and prosthesis engineer. Like his early inspiration, HR Giger, he likes smudging the boundaries between flesh and machinery. His site features some of his impressive sculptures and BEAM robots. Seen above are (top to bottom): His “Singer Insect,” made from antique instrument and sewing machine parts, the “Steam-Powered Insect,” made from cast bronze and stainless steel components, and a “Microbotic Insect,” a vibrobot
made from watch parts, a pager motor, and piano wire.
While on his site, make sure to take a look at the gas-powered R/C helicopter he outfitted with four model rocket missiles. A pyromaniacal kid’s wet dream!
You may have seen my posts on MAKE: Blog about the Tomy i-Sobot, the US$300 mini-humanoid that looks pretty damn full-featured for the dough. The English version of the i-Sobot site went live today. On it, you can see videos of the bot, how its button-sequence programming works (very similar to Robosapien), read some tech specs, etc. Some interesting tidbits, such as the fact that the bot is 6-1/2″ tall, has two gyroscopic sensors, the gearboxes on the 12 servomotors have metal gears, and that the run-time on the included NMH batteries is an hour (which probably means less than that in real-world operation). The bot has three CPU chips for general control, voice recognition, and motor control. No other details on these, as far as I know.
This looks like a decent robot that does the lion’s share of what other humanoid bots can do that cost three or four times as much. Can’t wait to see what sorts of hacks and mods people come up with.
…and you will too when you see him rolling on the floor in hysterics (at least I did). Really funny. Impressive movements, body expressions. The rowdy robot in question is a Speecys SPC-101C. You can find out more about “him” at Robots-Dreams.
One of my favorite BEAM builders, Harold Ilano, has posted a new project on his site. It’s an awesome little bugbot he dubbed Mercury (being a light-seeker that wants to be close to the sun). The design is based on a circuit by BEAM whiz Wilf Rigter, using a single 74AC/HC240 chip to create a reversing photovore (the 74*240 is the same chip family that I used — the HCT — in my single-motor walker from my robot book).
I love the way Harold always builds on established BEAM circuits. Here, he’s made his photovore with two tactile sensors (Wilf’s had one), added a dark-detecting behavior (with two dark-activated LED “predator” eyes), and a stop and go behavior (which makes him seem more organic), all with the single 74*240 control chip.
The Mercury is made from scavenged pieces from a Playstation (including the two motors), a Li-Poly 3.6V cell phone battery, and some misc analog components. Looking at the numerous pics and videos on his site, you might get the impression that this was an easy build, but getting that much “behavior” out of so few components involves a bit of electronic origami. Harold says it took weeks of long hours every day to finally get it all working smoothly. Sheesh. Maybe I don’t have the patience to become a real BEAM master. No worries. I’m more than happy to sit at the feet of guys like Wilf and Harold, and marvel at what they do (and write glowingly about it in cyberspace).
More pics after the jump…
“Oh, waiter, there’s a bolt in my soup.” According to a piece on Spiegel Online, a Munich restaurant has gotten rid of a waitstaff (in a country known for its crappy service) and replaced it with an automated food delivery system. Patrons order by computers at their tables and a rail system that works on gravity (the kitchen is above the restaurant) sends meals directly to the tables. No word on what you do when your food is cold, or you get the wrong item, or have other complaints. I’m guessing ejection seats are involved.
[Via Wired Gadgets]
Artist Ben Rollman, who’s been involved in the 100 Artist Project, 700 Things, 700 Robots and a number of other online drawing projects, is now offering robot portraits for a dirt-cheap price of 10 PayPal’d dollars. Nice work, too. The top one’s called “Battlebot Vulture.” The second one is “Sammy 12-Switch.” He did these two for Simone of Suicidebots/ RoboGames. You not only get a piece of art for your tenner, Ben also records a video of him drawing the portrait and uploads it to YouTube. I’m so squirting over my ten creds!