Contest: Win a Head-Mounted Video Display

This morning, I posted an item on the MAKE: Blog about Jake Hildebrandt’s hack of a Wild Planet video display, the head-mounted video unit that’s part of Wild Planet’s Spy Video Car. It’s pretty easy to make this display work with any video source. Anyway, Wild Planet read the post and offered up this contest (the replacement display unit appears to be no longer available):

Thanks to Jake, for the great hack! So sorry the website is out of stock. Our engineering group has a bin of extra headsets (pre-production samples, engineering test units, etc.) we’d like to make available to 10 clever hackers.

Email us with a one-paragraph proposal of what cool thing you’re going to do with your own cyborg headset. Best 10 answers we receive by 5PM tomorrow (Oct. 10) receive a headset. No guarantees-these aren’t production samples, but they’re free, right?

email us: hack(at)wildplanet(dot)com

Much love, Wild Planet Engineering Team


From Boob Toobs to Interwebs: Rerouting Your Feed

I am *this close* to canceling my cable account and moving to all Net-delivered media. I’ve already canceled HBO and get my fix of their programming via the Web. And I don’t watch much mainstream TV anymore anyway, and never anything (besides the evening news) in real time.

So I was interested to see this Lifehacker Hack Attack piece on “Six Ways to Catch Your Favorite TV Shows.” Of the six, Miro (formerly “Democracy”) is my fave.


Advances in Wetware Interfacing

From CNet News:

Scientists are making progress on neural devices that can translate the thoughts of a paralyzed person into driving action for a prosthetic device.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said Wednesday that they’ve developed an algorithm for a neural prosthetic aid that can link an individual’s brain activity to the person’s intentions; and then translate that intention into movement.

Of course, other scientists have already done that, and built prototypes for neural brain-to-machine devices that can work for animals or humans. But each team has taken a different approach to the problem, such as developing algorithms for measuring activity in a specific brain region, or measuring them through EEGs vs. optical imaging.

MIT said that it has developed a unified algorithm that can work within the parameters of these different approaches. Lakshminarayan “Ram” Srinivasan, lead author of a paper on the subject, said MIT’s new graphical models are applicable no matter what measurement technique is used.

“We don’t need to reinvent a new paradigm for each modality or brain region,” he said in a statement.

Still, he said, the algorithm isn’t perfect, nor the final solution to solving what is a difficult problem. “Translating an algorithm into a fully functioning clinical device will require a great deal of work, but also represents an intriguing road of scientific and engineering development for the years to come,” according to MIT.

MIT will publish a paper on the subject in the October edition of the Journal of Neurophysiology.


Catapult Contest at Maker Faire

One of my favorite memories of Foo Camp was sitting around with MAKE’s Dale Dougherty, Bill Gurstelle, and others, in the evening, while Bill bounced around ever-crazier ideas for burning down, blowing up, and launching stuff at the upcoming Austin Maker Faire. Dale seemed no less interested in this brainstorm, in theory, but had the obvious challenge of balancing ballistic fun and envelope-pushing pyro with real-world safety and liability concerns. For me, I just couldn’t get over the fact that I was lucky enough to be working with people for whom such a conversation was considered official company business.

Anyhoo, that Austin Maker Faire is swiftly approaching (Oct 20-21). One of several events and activities that’ll hopefully keep Bill Gurstelle and his cohort occupied is the King of Fling Catapult Contest (which is, of course also open to the Queen of Catapults, the Baroness of Ballistas, etc.). Folks are encourage to build, bring, and fire a catapult. Prizes will be awared, but have yet to be announced (and are obviously not really the point). I can’t wait to see what the Bill Gurstelle’s of the Maker world come up with.

To find more about the event and contest rules, see the King of Fling page. To learn more about catapult building, visit Build a Catapult.


i-Sobot Site Goes Live

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.

Thanks, Robert!