Robopet Control Via Voice

Robert Oschler, from RobotsRule, writes:

Here’s a video that shows a Robopet being controlled via voice using Robosapien Dance Machine, the free open source program for scripting Wow Wee’s robots and controlling them by voice.

This short demonstration video shows the Robopet being put through its paces and shows how talking to the bot is much more fun and lifelike than using the remote control. Most importantly, the vid shows what happens when a Robopet encounters the average computer geeks’ socks.


Hanger 101 Crazy-Cool Sci-Fi Casemod

There’s something somewhat unsettling about the fetishistic devotion to your PC implied in a casemod this detailed, this overwrought. But at the same time, there’s undeniable skill and artistry at work here. And these construction techniques can be applied to all sorts of modeling and fabrication. The modder’s inspiration here was the engine room of the NX-01 Enterprise on ST: Enterprise.


Free PDF Books on Open Office

I’ve been really groovin’ on the Open Office apps of late, the final nail in the coffin of Microsoft on my desktops (excluding XP on one machine). Wanting to go deeper with the OO suite, I went in search of books or other resources, and discovered there are some great PDF manuals on OO’s Documentation site. You can also get a number of them in dead tree editions, such as the third edition of the OO Writer Guide, a 450 pg tome, via Lulu, for US$20.

The Documentation site has some really good How-To pieces, lots of templates, articles about OO, FAQs and other useful stuff. Worth spending some time poking around there, especially if you’re new to OO.


Mouse the Junkbot at MAKE:Philly

I just found out that MAKE:Philly, is running a contest for their next gathering based on my Mousey the Junkbot project from MAKE Vol. 2. MAKE:Philly is a local gathering of Makers, and like Dorkbot, they have regular meetings with presenters and projects, in their case, using MAKE magazine as a chief inspiration. For the March 18th meeting, they’re hosting a Mousebot Challenge. The winner’s mousebot will be judged on speed, construction, and design. The winner gets a boxed set of the first year of MAKE. Cool. I can’t wait to see the entries.

The group’s forum has some discussion and tips and includes a PDF with a clear, corrected schematic which also includes instructions for adding a second bump switch in the back. You could use this to make a tail (out of a piece of guitar string and a paper clip) like the Solarbotics Herbie the Mousebot has.


Mark Tilden on Aussie Podcast

Robotics engineer and Wow Wee toy designer Mark Tilden was the guest on the Australian podcast TekTime. It’s a 42-minute segment, so you get to hear a lot more about Mark’s background and other aspects of his life and career than he’s had the time to divulge in previous media coverage. Unfortunately, the fidelity of the audio is rather poor. Some of the things covered in the interview include:

* His history as a robotics physicist including his time at NASA.
* Funny and interesting stories relating to the original Robosapien, which has now sold over 6 million units.
* His upcoming robots ,such as such as the Roboquad and Roboboa, which will increase the total number of robots sold by Wow Wee beyond the current 20 million mark
* His opinions on the Japanese style of building robots, compared to his style which is based on nature, a style which he calls “analog”.
* Why the robotics industry has not taken off yet and what needs to happen for it to do so.

Thanks, Robert!


How-To: Build a Steampunk Keyboard

Jake von Slatt just sent us this how-to on turning an old IBM Model M keyboard into a surprisingly usable steampunk-styled keyboard with raised manual typewriter keys. Jake used actual antique keys, but needed additional Enhanced keys, so he bought brass-rimmed buttons and glued on printed key labels. Jake includes a couple of video segments, and Lady von Slatt even makes an appearance, to demo the board’s typing ability.

As I was typing this, my Bluetooth wireless keyboard lost its connection with my computer. I think it’s jealous of this bitchin’ board.


Adding Remote Control to a B&O Linear Turntable

Ross Hershberger (RHERSH12), laid up with a bum foot, is going crazy with the cool stereo hacks. He’s fixed a severed tweeter wire and rebuilt a 1960’s tube amp kit. Now he writes:

I’m planning a foolish mod to a turntable that you all might be interested in. I recently repaired two Bang & Olufsen linear tracking turntables with tonearm problems. These things are absolute engineering marvels, but after 25 years, the belts and lubricants need renewing. I noticed that the control panel that initiates all of the arm functions; START, STOP, CUE UP/DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, terminate in a simple, hackable cable. A little research turned up a kit RF remote control on eBay that would be child’s play to interface with the control’s connectors. It’s also cheap, at US$30, and controls up to 12 functions. This would give me full remote control over the turntable from up to 1km away! 1000 meters is overkill, but I really need to be able to hit ‘pause’ from my desk when the phone rings. It would be nice to be able to skip a track too, while I’m in the back yard listening to records, or just to show off. I plan to document the modification in photos, and if it looks interesting, I can write up a narrative of the process. [You can tell, I’m sure, that I have way too much time on my hands stuck here in the house with a busted foot.]


How-To: Make Your Own Cable Bones (Woof, Woof)

We’re all about the gadget and office organization here at The Labs (tho those of you who’ve seen our office may find that hard to believe). This Instructable shows you how easy it is to create cable bones for reining in those extra lengths of wiring that seem to fester underneath and behind the machinery of our lives. Basically, all you need is some stiff rubber mat material and a decent pair of scissors.


Dorkbot DC Tomorrow Night

The next Dorkbot DC is tomorrow night, Tuesday, at Provisions Library (1611 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 200). An old Street Tech pal, Kirby Malone, will be presenting, along with his colleague at Cyburbia Productions, Gail Scott White. Also: Thomas Edwards will be giving a presentation on the Arduino, an open source embedded computing platform built around the Atmel ATmega microchip.

We’re also going to be holding the first AfterDork, an after the event social, at the Childe Harold (and don’t worry, you won’t be called upon to quote any Byron, but do feel free).

I know some people came to the last Dorkbot as a result of my notice here, so I hope to see more Street Techies there this month! Last month was a blast.