Sunday, December 30, 2007

Virtual Robotics Program - FREE!

I can think of no other body of practice/ approach to teaching and learning that is more perfect for today's students than Robotics. The only drawback I can think of is the expense of purchasing robotics kits, something that can put this highly accessible approach beyond the grasp of so many schools. Fortunately, there are virtual robotics programs which allow for much of the concepts and content to be learned without actually building robots in the real world.

Here's an item this morning's surfing turned up. Looks like a gem waiting to be discovered by the world of Education.

ROBO is a new and very simple educational programming language that will familiarize you with the basics of computer science. You will also be introduced into popular programming techniques, and you will gain an insight into areas such as robotics and artificial intelligence. These skills will be gained by creating programs for a robot.

The robot
The robot is capable of performing several actions. It can drive, look around, move items and paint. This can all be done in different environments that are made up of blocks.

The ROBO programming language
ROBO is designed in such a way that you can start exploring and programming right away. A special language has been written that consists of a concise set of rules and is aimed at programming a robot. As a result there are a lot of opportunities to create your own programs and experience the principles that lay at the heart of most other programming languages..."

Get the whole 9 and free download @: +

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Yikes! Elvis IS Alive and Doing His Act @ the Mall!

After leaving the Apple Store at the mall the other day (I bought an iPod for my wife’s birthday), I stopped in to browse at one of my favorite stores – The Shaper Image.
Cool stuff as always, but I nearly did a double take on my way out as no fewer than 6 life size robot busts of The King himself stared me down from their shelf.

WowWee’s Alive Elvis robot sells for $199. He is wearing a faux black leather jacket and has a thick head of cheesy ‘doll’s hair’ that can rival The Donald’s comb over mop. Elvis can be switched on to sing for you from his well known repertoire or you can toggle to karaoke mode to do a duet with him. Either way he is OUTRAGEOUS!

What’s so cool about this is that it was just a couple of years ago that only a very, very few – people like the operators of Disney World – could eve hope to get their hands on this level of entertainment robotics. Now, post Xmas mall browsers can bring it home without putting too much of a dent in their plastic.

I pumped the guy at the store for the public’s reaction when Elvis was set out for holiday shopping. He shared with me that he got everything from “Oy!” to “Wrap him up. I gotta have it!” Hey, if your lonesome tonight, this may be the way to go…

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Be Smart - Stay on This Killing Machine's Friends List!

From Fortune Magazine:
"Killer robots could replace soldiers: Robotex, a Silicon Valley start-up, combines engineering skill and groundbreaking weaponry to create a new generation of soldiers."
"NEW YORK (Fortune Magazine) -- It's 1900 hours on Veterans Day in Fayetteville, N.C., a pistol shot from the Fort Bragg military base. Ten minutes ago a 25-year-old self-taught engineer named Adam Gettings pulled into the Waffle House parking lot, lifted the hatch of his black SUV, and unveiled what could very well be the future of urban warfare: a toy-like but gun-wielding robot designed to replace human soldiers on the battlefield.

It's two feet tall, travels ten miles an hour, and spins on a dime. Remote-controlled over an encrypted frequency that jams nearby radios and cellphones, it'll blow a ten-inch hole through a steel door with deadly accuracy from 400 meters.

Now Gettings is sitting calmly on the other side of a plate of fried eggs and sliced tomatoes, talking about how his company, Robotex, has teamed up with a wild-eyed Tennessee shotgun designer to rethink the development strategy for military technology. "

The idea that you can use investor money rather than [government] research money - that's a new thing," says Gettings, who's in town for SpecOps, a war-fighter technology conference.

Military contractors typically get the funding to build, test, and sell new weapons systems from federal agencies. It can take forever.

Robotex, based in Palo Alto, is financed by angel investors and went from idea to product in six months. "This is the new defense, Silicon Valley-style," says Gettings. "You build only what's necessary, iterate quickly, and keep the price low."

How low? Try $30,000 to $50,000. A similar bot, the Talon, which was developed by defense contractor Foster-Miller and is being tested in Iraq, costs six times that amount. "Our system does all the same things as the Talon, weighs half as much, and costs a fraction," says Gettings.

An endorsement from Blackwater
Robotex is the brainchild of Terry Izumi, a reclusive filmmaker who comes from a long line of samurai warriors, has trained Secret Service agents, and worked both at DreamWorks (Charts) and in Disney's (Charts, Fortune 500) Imagineering division.

When Izumi decided to build a better war robot in 2005, he recruited Nathan Gettings, a former PayPal software engineer and founder of Palantir Technologies, who brought in his brother Adam as well as a fourth (silent) partner who hails from both PayPal and YouTube. They had a prototype in no time. But they needed a weapon, and that's how Jerry Baber, his revolutionary shotgun, and a pilotless mini-helicopter come into the picture..."
Read the full article @ its source:

Monday, December 17, 2007

Great Dreams Come in 2s

From: Quad City Times
"Buddy system: Honda networks robots to work in pairs"
"TOKYO (AP) — As if the idea of having one robot to serve you wasn’t unusual enough, Honda says its humanoids are now ready to work in pairs — and they can even serve drinks.At a demonstration Tuesday at its Tokyo headquarters, automaker Honda Motor Co. showed off two of the child-sized Asimo robots serving tea and performing other tasks in coordination with one another.The bubble-headed robots seemed to pick their steps carefully as they made their way around the room, picking up and putting down drink trays and pushing around a refreshments cart.Honda said it has developed a system to link its robots together so they can share information about where each one is and what each is doing.The 51-inch tall Asimo is “smarter” now, thanks to upgrades that allow it to do more tasks without human help, the company said. The robot can, for example, recognize drink choices and carrya tray with the requested drink to the person who placed the order.The Asimo, which looks like a child in a white spacesuit, also does a better job of moving around people because of technology that allows it to better predict people’s movements so it doesn’t get in the way.The robot can even automatically head off to the nearest charging station when its batteries fall below a certain level.Honda has been working on robots since 1986. Rival Toyota Motor Corp. has been aggressively beefing up its own robotics team, showing off last week a robot that could play the violin.The Japanese government has been pushing companies and researchers to make robotics a pillar of this nation’s business. Other companies, including Hitachi Ltd., Fujitsu Ltd. and NEC Corp., are also developing robots.Asimo — which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility and is play on the Japanese word for “legs” — first became available for rental in 2000. It’s considered one of the world’s most advanced humanoids. It can walk, even jog, wave, avoid obstacles and carry on simple conversations.“By the end of 2010s, we’d like to see these robots working at every street corner of the city,” said Tomohiko Kawanabe of Honda’s Fundamental Technology Research Center."
Read this article @ its point of origin:

Robotics Resources for Students & Teachers

I am going to use this post as the start of a listing of Online Robotics Resources of Particular Value, Interest, and Potential.

At some point down the road I'll move the list over to a formal web page that I'll link to from this blog.

  • Robot Portal
    This one (free registration required) offers: Forums, Albums (photos & media), Articles,
    (links to) Websites, and info on Vendors. All it needs is more participation from people like you:)
  • Norms Robotics
    THE online space for information concerning student robotics activities (particularly, but not necessarily limited to, FIRST LEGO League) in the New York City area


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thumb Wrestle, Anyone?

(from Wired 'UMan uses trial and error to figure out how to manipulate items it has never seen before. Photo: Glenn Matsumura)
"Getting a Grip: Building the Ultimate Robotic Hand"
"A 6-foot-tall, one-armed robot named Stair 1.0 balances on a modified Segway platform in the doorway of a Stanford University conference room. It has an arm, cameras and laser scanners for eyes, and a tangle of electrical intestines stuffed into its base. It's not pretty, but that's not the point. From his seat at a polished table, roboticist Morgan Quigley sends the bot on a mission. "Stair, please fetch the stapler from the lab."

Nothing happens. Quigley asks again. Nothing. After the third attempt, Stair responds in an inflectionless voice: "I will go fetch the stapler for you."

Using its laser scanners to identify potential obstacles, Stair 1.0 rolls out of the room and into the lab's central workspace, a rectangular area bordered by desks. On one side is a kind of robotic graveyard, a jumble of decades-old industrial arms. A poster of the NS-5 humanoid from the movie I, Robot seems to taunt the researchers from its spot on the wall: Try building me, punks. Quigley and computer scientist Andrew Ng, who directs the Stanford AI Robot (Stair) project, walk behind their robot, watching.

Stair 1.0 searches the rows of workstations, then locates the stapler. The robot moves forward and stops. If it had lungs, it might take a deep breath, because this is the hard part...."
Read the full article @ its source:

Meet the Real Lawnmower Man

From Wired Magazine (product reviews)
"LawnBott LB3200 Evolution"
Nothing beats mowing the yard while relaxing in a hammock with a beer and the paper — good thing LawnBott shears up to 30,000 square feet of grass all by itself. The sensor causes a directional shift whenever the mini mower bumps into an object at least 4 inches high or detects a perimeter wire you've laid out. When the rechargeable lithium batteries start to run down, the little guy returns to its docking station to juice up. And it uses only about $10 worth of electricity a year, so even the greenest gardeners have zero reason to stress. The bot can be programmed to a regular schedule, and it's so quiet you can set it to mow at the crack of dawn while you sleep in. $2,499,

ALSO see review From A Trendy Home
"Home > Outdoor Living > Lawnbott Robotic Lawn Mower Evolution Model LB3200"
"Designed in Italy, with the most advanced software available, the Evolution is for the discerning homeowner who wants only the best. The Evolution is the only robotic mower with Adaptive Programming Technology. Its learning computer actually reprograms itself to adapt to the cutting requirements of your yard. This not only conserves battery life and lengthens the durability of the electric motors, it also contributes to a healthier looking lawn. Advanced Spiral Cut programming allows the Evolution to concentrate, by spiraling outwards, from any area where it senses higher grass. This feature helps to assure an evenly cut lawn. LawnBott Evolution is able to cover areas up to 33,000 sq. ft. That represents approximately ¾ acre of lawn! And, it will also navigate slopes of up to 27°. This amazing Lawnbott automatic robotic lawn mower does the work for you! This Evolution model, robotic lawn mowers will cut your grass, everyday, freeing you to do the things you enjoy. Spend Saturday’s with the kids, play golf, relax. Its up to you, with KA you have One Less Thing to Worry About...."
Read the rest of this very thorough write up @

Tireless, Fearless Rent-a-Cop

"Korean Scientists Build Autonomous Mobile Robot"
"A Korean research team has developed an autonomous mobile robot that can be used to patrol industrial facilities or apartment complexes.

The Korea Institute of Science and Technology said Thursday that its "Securo" (SECUrity RObot), developed by the team led by Dr. Kang Sung-chul, passed a recent test by successfully navigating a one km-long course by itself.

Using a built-in global positioning system and laser image scanner, the robot moved along a pre-set route at a speed of 5.4 km/h within an error range of 10 cm without human control.

The robot can identify obstacles by directing laser beams in front of it in a semicircular pattern and reading the reflected signals.

Other moving robots depend greatly on GPS, which can be problematic in urban areas where tall buildings and trees block the satellite signals.

Securo can also be used to perform surveillance operations or deliver military supplies because it can take photos and send them to a remote control center as it moves.:
Read article @ its source:

Friday, December 14, 2007

More FIRST LEGO League Activity in New York City

If you enjoyed the post below and the slide show of the recent FLL Qualifying LEGO Robotics Competition in the Bronx, you'll find this one interesting, too!

If you are a New Yorker, you'll know that Brooklyn can't let Da Bronx get all the limelight. Here's a similar slide show from the recent FLL Qualifying LEGO Robotics Competition in Brooklyn...yeah!

Also, you may not be aware of it, but New York City has got to be the hottest LEGO Robotics hot spot on the planet. One particularly adept and enthusiastic chroncler of all this activity is my friend and esteemed colleague, Norm Scott. Check out his blog Norm's Robotics for a wonderful stream of consciousness, log it in as it happens, trove of student robotics related information and material:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

(BRONX) FIRST Robotics Competition Slide Show

For larger pictures and to select the photos in the order you wish to see them click here:

Last Saturday I attended the FIRST LEGO League 2007 Power Puzzle Challenge at Lehman High School in The Bronx. If you haven't seen a robotics competition, what Dean Kamen (guiding light of FIRST) calls a "Coopertition", you are missing out on an alternative vision of what Education can be. As Dean says " “Create demand among kids and the rest will follow” and I can't think of any philosophy of teaching and learning that holds more truth.

What you are seeing here are students, teachers, and parents on a SATURDAY. These people could have been flaked out in front of the tube, assuaging the pain of modern life with Gino's Pizza Rolls, but they chose instead to spend the day in challenging LEARNING activities. Either something is very wrong or very right here, and I think it's the latter!!!

Good Morning Mr. Tiro!

From: Suicide Bots

"Tiro Teaches English"

"A classroom full of gobsmacked schoolchildren was treated to a lesson in English taught by Tiro, a robot developed by Hanjool Robotics Crop and programmed with the will to destroy young minds ability to interact on the fly and keep the kids’ attention completely riveted to their teacher.

Tiro asked in English questions such as: “How many giraffes are there on the board?” It also displayed the name of the next student to participate in a role-playing task on the screen on its chest.

Korea’s dedication to becoming a world leader in the imminent surge of robotics technology should teach a thing or two to the US, who has not yet gotten a clue about robotics in any really meaningful government-supported way. Korea’s building a whole freakin’ district for robots, called “Robot World” and aims to have a robot in every home by 2020. We’re talking Rosie the Robot here, kids."

Also: Robot makes teaching debut

The Last Man on Earth Builds Himself a Friend

From: Geelong Advertiser
"Deakin's junkyard robot hits big screen"
" IT'S the end of the world as you know it. You're the last person on Earth so you decide to build a robot companion from scrap.
It's not such a far-fetched idea for Deakin University robotics teacher Ben Horan.
The Waurn Ponds PhD student and robotics lecturer was recently enlisted to make a working robot for the upcoming film Lone to premiere at Melbourne's Federation Square tomorrow.
And after five weeks Shoey was the result.
Mr Horan followed artistic sketches from what the robot should look like and used his robotics expertise to make it tilt, twist, glow, grab and spin.
After the PhD student finished building Shoey, prop designer Jeremy Shaw, who worked on the Lord of the Rings,  finished the robot's cosmetics
Mr Horan said his creation starred alongside a character struggling to deal with being alone.
``It's about the last guy on Earth and he's in a junkyard searching for the parts to make a satellite dish,'' he said.
``He comes across a metal head, he twists a few screwdrivers and spanners and builds this robot.''
The film screens tomorrow at Melbourne's Australian Centre for the Moving Image."
Read the original article @:

Lookout, Yo-Yo Ma! Watch Your Back, Clapton! Here Comes Toyota's New Robot!

(above) From YoutTube:

Yahoo News:
"Toyota shows violin-playing robot"

"TOKYO - Compared to a virtuoso, its rendition was a trifle stilted and, well, robotic. But Toyota's new robot plays a pretty solid "Pomp and Circumstance" on the violin.

The 5-foot-tall all-white robot, shown Thursday, used its mechanical fingers to press the strings correctly and bowed with its other arm, coordinating the movements well. Toyota Motor Corp. has already shown robots that roll around to work as guides and have fingers dexterous enough to play the trumpet.

Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said robotics will be a core business for the company in coming years. Toyota will test out its robots at hospitals, Toyota-related facilities and other places starting next year, he said. And the company hopes to put what it calls "partner robots" to real use by 2010, he said.

"We want to create robots that are useful for people in everyday life," he told reporters at a Toyota showroom in Tokyo..."
Read the full article @:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Does that robot need a diaper change?

From: PC World

"Fair Spotlights Robots that Can Teach and Play:
Robots play ping-pong, feed babies, and train dental students in demos at Tokyo's annual Robot Exhibition"

"TOKYO - Find a high-tech ping-pong pal, see an android patient twitch in pain and experience breast feeding, even if you're a man.
Showcasing around 1,000 industrial and service robots, the International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo confirmed that Japan is hooked on androids, which manufacturers are seeking to adapt to the needs of an aging society and a sliding population.
Employees of Yamazaki Co, an educational goods company, were busy nursing four baby robots who cried and burped.
The $620 robots, imported from the United States, help teach students and soon-to-be parents how to care for infants.
"Opportunities to see kids in society are decreasing," said Kaoru Nukui of Yamazaki Co, referring to a sharp fall-off in births that means many Japanese families have only one child.
"The way students would touch a baby would be completely different once they have looked, touched, and experienced this 'baby'," he added, then demonstrated how men can feel what breast feeding is like by putting a nipple-like sensor on his chest.
Nearby, a long-haired, fair-skinned female android on a dentist's chair drew the crowds. Simroid, a $635,000 simulator was developed as a dummy patient for dental students..."
Read the full article @:,140197-c,artificialintelligence/article.html