Saturday, December 1, 2012

Robots Dance Gangnam Style

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Friday, November 30, 2012

LEGO Robots are NOT toys! Ask NASA if you don't believe...

" How a space station astronaut drove a LEGO robot on Earth

Prototype for new concept of 'Interplanetary Internet' communications tested"

"NASA and the European Space Agency have tested out a prototype system that may one day help enable Internet-like communications between Earth and robots on another planet.
Astronaut Sunita Williams, commander of the International Space Station's current Expedition 33 mission, used NASA's experimental Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) protocol to drive a small LEGO robot at the European Space Operations Center in Germany late last month. The European-led experiment simulated a scenario in which an astronaut orbiting another world controls a robotic rover on the planet's surface, NASA officials said.

"The demonstration showed the feasibility of using a new communications infrastructure to send commands to a surface robot from an orbiting spacecraft and receive images and data back from the robot," Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement.

"The experimental DTN we've tested from the space station may one day be used by humans on a spacecraft in orbit around Mars to operate robots on the surface, or from Earth using orbiting satellites as relay stations," Younes added.

NASA's DTN architecture is a new technology designed to enable standardized communications over long distances and through time delays, agency officials said. At its core is something called the Bundle Protocol (BP), which is similar to the Internet Protocol, or IP, that serves as the heart of the Internet here on Earth.

The big difference between the two is that IP assumes a seamless end-to-end data path, while BP is built to account for errors and disconnections — glitches that commonly plague deep-space communications...."

Read the full article at its source:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Robot explores caves on the moon.

To understand contemporary scientific study and exploration, one must appreciate the need for, and function of, robots - as part of the process. This article on the use of robots to help humans explore the lunar landscape is a good example.

"Roaming robot may explore mysterious Moon caverns - Spelunking rover could scout sites for lunar bases"

"William 'Red' Whittaker often spends his Sundays lowering a robot into a recently blown up coal mine pit near his cattle ranch in Pennsylvania (see video). By 2015, he hopes that his robot, or something like it, will be rappelling down a much deeper hole, on the Moon.

The hole was discovered three years ago when Japanese researchers published images from the satellite SELENE1, but spacecraft orbiting the Moon have been unable to see into its shadowy recesses. A robot might be able to “go where the Sun doesn't shine”, and send back the first-ever look beneath the Moon's skin, Whittaker told attendees at a meeting of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) programme in Hampton, Virginia, this week.

“This is authentic exploration, this is the real deal,” says Whittaker, a roboticist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, whose robots have descended into an Alaskan volcano and helped to clean up the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. “This is really going where none have gone before....”

Read the full article at its source: 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Robotics ACROSS the Curriculum

This post to introduce a topic to be explored thoroughly over the next 6 months, the application of student robotics to learning across the curriculum... including, beyond STEM learning. How can robotics, with its ultra-high student interest and engagement levels, impact learning in English Language Arts (as well as foreign language), Social Studies, The Arts, etc? The following is a first stake in the ground of this new territory. By programming a robot (whether it be a fully physical creation, or simply a virtual figure - or perhaps, just text to speech software) the student becomes the coach, allowing for ways to conceptualize the tasks involved in a fresh and inspiring way...


Friday, November 2, 2012

Solar Powered Robots

As folks all around me clear away the rubble and curse the fates (and our local power utilty) for the mother of all blackouts that Hurricane Sandy has presented us, my thoughts are turning to all things solar powered :) Here are 3 videos on Solar Powered Robotics for students. The solar dimension is something that really should be included in robotics learning, or perhaps, it may prove to be the entry point for Getting Started with LEGO Robotics or other varieties of student-level, kit-based robotics. Below are 2 LEGO Robotics items and one from another provider. What's key is that we foster student consideration of not just what robots are and what they can do, but how those robots are powered and where that power comes from!

Monday, October 1, 2012

LEGO Robotics: STEM Sport of the Mind

My article on the STEM Learning applications of LEGO Robotics appeared in the August ISTE's Learning & Leading with Technology magazine. Thanks very much to Luke Laurie, Ian Miller, Dwayne Abuel, and Evan Weinstein for granting me yet another interview for this article. I interviewed them (and many others) at greater length for the book Getting Started with LEGO Robotics, which explores many of the same themes, although in much greater depth.

Look inside >
12 13
Lego Robotics: STEM Sport of the Mind
Click on the photo to view the article. This e-reader may be adjusted for display size, etc.

Click on book cover for information

Click on book cover for information
Getting Started with LEGO Robotics. Anyone who works with kids can do LEGO Robotics, a rich and highly motivating platform for important STEM Learning! (surprisingly affordable, too) This books explains it all!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Robot Band: They need to work on the choreography!

Check out their fan site:

Programmed? Yes! Autonomous? No! They can't jam, can't improvise!

Devoid of personality, true - but why do humans love to imitate them?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

LEGO Robotics Featured at ISEA Conference (International Stem Education Association)

LEGO Robotics is featured at the upcoming ISEA Conference!

Robotics is a proven and effective way to
engage students in
hands-on science, technology,
 engineering, and math learning.
 Can get
students excited when they
model real-life mechanisms
and solve real-world challenges,
all while building the critical-thinking
and creative problem-solving skills.


This book puts STEM Education with LEGO Robotics
within the reach of all teachers and all students.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Learning Adventures with Arduino

In the book Getting Started with LEGO Robotics, I describe at length the highly effective instructional approach of posing "Learning Challenges" to students who participate in the First LEGO League competition. The motivating and focusing effect of tasking students with "Real Word Challenges" as a context for them to create, build, program, and run LEGO Robots is impressive; actually it's one of the best approaches to teaching and learning I've observed during a 40 year career as an educator. The following advertisement I found in Wired Magazine (August 2012) involves The Arduino, another variety of easy to handle Robot/Processor that can work well for students (although some feel LEGO Robitics works better for newbie teachers and students... but that's a discussion for another post/another day). Getting back to the concept of Learning Challenges, though. Based on this ad (see the quote below) I think the idea has been elevated a notch or two by the authors of a soon to be released novel, which reportedly involves students in learning challenges and explains how to work with Arduino. I admire this creative approach that not only teaches STEM content in that most wonderful way, hands-on Student Robotics, but further motivates students through reading literature and involves them in Language Arts... cool idea!

" ... James and Harold have written a fictional story of two students trapped in a damaged space station. The reader of the book uses an actual Arduino, and a variety of components that can be found at RadioShack, to simulate the various challenges the kids ace on the space station. The novel teaches children how to build circuits and program. In Arduino Adventures: Escape from Gemini Station, James and Harold provide eight challenges for kids using the Arduino. The book provides a fun experience that puts the reader in the story and teches them along the way..."

RadioShack has put up a website with more information on this type of application for the Arduion: I love the way they invite user to submit their own project to its online Project Gallery

Here's a taste of what Arduino could be for school age students:

Strawberry Picking Robot

See article, too:
"Strawberry-picking robot knows when they're ripe
 Japan prepares to unleash a strawberry-harvesting robot on the world.

Strawberry fields will forever be changed by robots that can automatically identify and pick ripe berries, according to Japanese researchers.
Developed by the minds at an organization aptly abbreviated IAM-BRAIN (that's the Institute of Agricultural Machinery's Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement Institution), the machines can harvest more than 60 percent of a strawberry crop.
The robot targets berries that are at least 80 percent red.
Even though each machine takes nine seconds to pick a strawberry, they can cut harvesting time from 500 hours to 300 hours for a 1,000-square-meter field (about a quarter-acre), BRAIN's Shigehiko Hayashi explains in the video below.
The robots can also pick strawberries at night. There's more video of the machine at work here, on BRAIN's Japanese page.
The berry bot has a stereo camera system that images the strawberries in 3D. Image-processing algorithms gauge their ripeness, and if a berry is at least 80 percent red, the machine neatly snips it at the stem and deposits it in a bin.
Read the full article at its source:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Friday, July 27, 2012

LEGO Robot Flushes the Toilet... Now 'That's' APPLIED STEM Learning!

This NXT project elevates LEGO Robotics to a level far beyond a First LEGO League Challenge. Why must kids apply their robotics learning to contrived,  pretend engineering scenarios? Here's an example of a robot tasked to perform a real-world, full scale, human need! Doesn't this elevate LEGO Robotics-based  learning to a higher, more authentic, and ultimately  - more educational  level? I think this project and others like it, contextualized at this level of real-world immediacy,  point the way to an even better LEGO Robotics-based world of learning opportunities!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Robot Always Wins @ Rock - Paper - Scissors Game!

Janken (rock-paper-scissors) robot with 100% winning rate (human-machine cooperation system)


In this research we develop a janken (rock-paper-scissors) robot with 100% winning rate as one example of human-machine cooperation systems. Human being plays one of rock, paper and scissors at the timing of one, two, three. According to the timing, the robot hand plays one of three kinds so as to beat the human being.

Recognition of human hand can be performed at 1ms with a high-speed vision, and the position and the shape of the human hand are recognized. The wrist joint angle of the robot hand is controlled based on the position of the human hand. The vision recognizes one of rock, paper and scissors based on the shape of the human hand. After that, the robot hand plays one of rock, paper and scissors so as to beat the human being in 1ms.

This technology is one example that show a possibility of cooperation control within a few miliseconds. And this technology can be applied to motion support of human beings and cooperation work between human beings and robots etc. without time delay.
FROM: Oshikawa Oku Laboratory/University of Tokyo

Monday, June 18, 2012

Meet the PR2, your Personal Robot!

Great podcast and article from NPR: "You Know You Want One: Personal Robots Not Ready For You Yet A Silicon Valley company hopes to make a Jetsons-style robot a reality in your home. But the personal robotics industry has a few hurdles to jump before you can have your own robotic maid..."
Listen to and  read this piece at its  source:

More on Willow Garage's PR2:

Watch it (him? her?) bake cookes :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Robot Fish

From NPR this great podcast (and transcript) about robot fish

"Mechanical engineer Maurizio Porfiri, of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, designs robot fish. A few years ago, he found that real fish would mill about his aquatic robot, and now he's trying to understand why. His research suggests that it has less to do with how the robot looks, than how it makes fish feel..."
Listen and read this piece at its source:

Below, the robotic fish described in the podcast...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Flying Robot to Accompany Joggers

Created by students!

Flying robot set to spur on flying feet
FORGET about personal trainers and jogging buddies, Chad Toprak prefers to work up a sweat alongside a hovering robot.

The RMIT honours student is part of the team behind the Joggobot, an autonomous whizzing device that levitates in front of joggers and encourages them to get fit.

''It's a really unique feeling to be running with a flying robot,'' the 22-year-old says. ''Social joggers have partners they jog with. Sometimes they are not available and the next best thing can be a robot.''

Read the full  article  at its source (and see additional videos):

Friday, May 25, 2012

MOONBOTS 2012 Contest!

I highly recommend that you check out the MOONBOTS contest! (a variety of info. below)

Moonbots is a contest that challenges teams of students and adults to learn about robotics, the Moon, and space exploration by designing and constructing a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robot that performs simulated lunar missions
WIN a LEGO MINSTORMS Robot and Even a Trip to Hawaii

Important LINKS:
- MOONBOTS info.

- MOONBOTS Announcement pdf

- What's MOONBOTS all about? pdf

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Robot Lifeguard ‘Emily’ Patrols the Beach

"Robot Lifeguard ‘Emily’ Patrols the Beach"
"Lifeguards in California are testing a robotic lifeguard named Emily that could speed up rescues and save lives.

Once a lifeguard launches Emily in the water, the robot, which resembles a small motorboat, can speed across the water to a distressed but conscious swimmer to provide comfort until a human responder can arrive.

The critical moments Emily cuts off the time it takes to complete a rescue could save lives, said Capt. Remy Smith of the Los Angeles Fire Department Lifeguard Division..."

Read the full article at its source:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

More on Mind Controlled Robots

Great audio content on this fantastic advance from NPR:

Video from the Nature (magazine) article that's generated so much buzz:

And the article: "Mind-controlled robot arms show promise"
"...Two people who are unable to move their limbs have been able to guide a robot arm to reach and grasp objects using only their brain activity, a paper in Nature reports today1.

The study participants — known as Cathy and Bob — had had strokes that damaged their brain stems and left them with tetraplegia and unable to speak. Neurosurgeons implanted tiny recording devices containing almost 100 hair-thin electrodes in the motor cortex of their brains, to record the neuronal signals associated with intention to move..." 
Read the full article at its source:

ALSO - An older video showing a similar approach:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Paralyzed, Moving a Robot With Their Minds

Also reported in the New  York Times...

"Paralyzed, Moving a Robot With Their Minds"

"'Two people who are virtually paralyzed from the neck down have learned to manipulate a robotic arm with just their thoughts, using it to reach out and grab objects. One of them, a woman, was able to retrieve a bottle containing coffee and drink it from a straw — the first time she had served herself since her stroke 15 years earlier, scientists reported on Wednesday.

She had a smile on her face that I and the research team will never forget,” said Dr. Leigh R. Hochberg of the Department of Veterans Affairs, an author of a study reporting the achievement.

The report, released online by the journal Nature, is the first published demonstration that humans with severe brain injuries can effectively control a prosthetic arm, using tiny brain implants that transmit neural signals to a computer.

Scientists have predicted for years that this brain-computer connection would one day allow people with injuries to the brain and spinal cord to live more independent lives. Previously, researchers had shown that humans could learn to move a computer cursor with their thoughts, and that monkeys could manipulate a robotic arm..."

Read the full  artilce at its source:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

LEGO Robotics Podcast

Here's an item I came across while researching this blog. This is the March 27th, 2009 episode of the *Robots Podcast (see description lifted from their nice site, below). This podcast covers many, many aspects of robotics, and in this episode it turns its attention to K-12 Education. The LEGO Robotics segment begins at roughly 4:45 minutes in to the podcast. It features a very insightful interview with Chris Rogers, who,  among other  his many other accomplishments, developed the Robolab software to program LEGO Robotics, one of the resources that makes LEGO Robotics possible. He's got some great things to say about Engineering Education for K-12. Very nice, indeed!

The podcast's website is That's the page with the list of past episodes. Scroll down to "Robots: Learning with LEGO - March 27, 2009 and click on the arrow to listen. The podcast is also available on iTunes (subscribe to the Robots Podcast and move to the 3/27/09 episode).

Chris Rogers: 

* "Robots is a non-profit association based at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland. Robots is dedicated to providing free, high quality, educational information for the robotics community and the general public. Robots‘ main publication, the Robots podcast, is available via Apple iTunes and all other major podcast servers. Robots is the podcast for news and views on robotics. In addition to insights from high-profile professionals, Robots will take you for a ride through the world’s research labs, robotics companies and their latest innovations..."

Oh Sh*%! Stupid Robot, You REALLY Messed Up This Time!

Needs NO explanation!

Robots for the Elderly

Here are a couple of items touching on an important application of robots, care of elderly folks...
1) Robot tested in Australian senior citizen homes

AND... 2)  From AARP's magazine, the article: "Independent Living for the Aging Is Possible With New Technology:

"Americans love their homes, and given a choice, they'd like to stay in them as they get older. According to a 2011 AARP report, 90 percent of people age 65 and over want to age where they are, though less than 10 percent are using the personal and safety technology that is already available to help them do just that..."

"Meanwhile, researchers, scientists and designers are working to create new technology to help Americans live independently throughout their lives. But how can they tell if their products will actually help or if people will even use them?
Honing such inventions through user feedback to make them more effective and appealing, even to monitor cognitive decline as it's happening is the concept behind "living labs." In this research method, medical and academic institutions test their ideas for days, weeks, even years in the homes of older adults. It's not just science that researchers must perfect; the technology must also fit into everyday lives..."
"The Oregon Center for Aging and Technology (ORCATECH), part of Portland's Oregon Health & Science University, is testing technology in more than 150 houses, apartments and retirement communities in the metro area, as well as 200 other homes nationwide.
They asked: Do changes in mobility and walking speed predict cognitive decline? If so, doctors might be able to step in and mitigate the problem before there's a dramatic change. To find out, motion sensors are installed on participants' ceilings or appliances. Information on the speed and frequency of round-the-clock activity feeds into a computer in the home and then transmits to researchers. Retired radiologist Lucien Burke, 71, says he has 20 motion sensors scattered throughout the rooms in his house..."

Read the full article at its source:

Finally, 3) Our friend Bill Gates weighs in with his 2 trillion Cents on the matter:

Friday, April 27, 2012

90% of Published News Stories Will Be Written by Robot Reporters by 2027!

The paragraphs below are excerpted from a fascinating article about robotic journalism software in Wired magazine...

"Can an Algorithm Write a Better News Story Than a Human Reporter?"
"Had Narrative Science — a company that trains computers to write news stories—created this piece, it probably would not mention that the company’s Chicago headquarters lie only a long baseball toss from the Tribune newspaper building. Nor would it dwell on the fact that this potentially job-killing technology was incubated in part at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Those ironies are obvious to a human. But not to a computer...

At least not yet.

For now consider this: Every 30 seconds or so, the algorithmic bull pen of Narrative Science, a 30-person company occupying a large room on the fringes of the Chicago Loop, extrudes a story whose very byline is a question of philosophical inquiry. The computer-written product could be a pennant-waving second-half update of a Big Ten basketball contest, a sober preview of a corporate earnings statement, or a blithe summary of the presidential horse race drawn from Twitter posts. The articles run on the websites of respected publishers like Forbes, as well as other Internet media powers (many of which are keeping their identities private). Niche news services hire Narrative Science to write updates for their subscribers, be they sports fans, small-cap investors, or fast-food franchise owners.

And the articles don’t read like robots wrote them..."

Read the full article at its sourece:

PS - Check out Auto Reporter's page. Here's information about an example of the type of  software described in the article above, from the company that provides it:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

American Schools MUST stop turning their backs on Robotics!

Here are some powerful quotes excerpted from a great article in T.H.E. Journal magazine of April, 2012.
While the article points out the very significant learning benefits of school robotics programs, it laments the fact that robotics programs are only in 10 percent of US schools, I’ll amplify this with the fact that in many such schools, only a tiny percentage of the students are involved in the robotics program there. For instance, it’s often the case that a middle school of 800 or more students will indeed have a robotics team (or two), but that a mere dozen of its registered students are served by it. We must remedy this situation. Robotics is an ideal STEM education approach, but it remains extremely under-implemented in our schools!
Robots Rule
as Competition Season Heats Up
Robotics has become a phenomenon in K-12. Tens of thousands of teams composed of literally hundreds of thousands of K-12 students will compete in robotics events worldwide in 2012 alone. Yet, with all of this activity, robotics programs are only in 10 percent of the schools in the United States…
… The Robotics Phenomenon
Robotics in K-12 has become a phenomenon, with multiple organizations--FIRST, VEX, BEST, and Botball--selling kits, encouraging students to participate, and running competitions. During 2012, FIRST competitions will encompass nearly 27,000 teams with 293,000 high school, middle school, and grade school students. The VEX program, run by VEX Robotics Design System, hosts 4,800-plus teams in 23 countries and puts on 300 events a year. The VEX world championship takes place in Anaheim starting April 18 and will host 600 teams from 17 countries…
these programs combined are only in 10 percent of the schools in the United States, according to Jason Morrella, president of Robotics Education and Competition Foundation… robotics can be added to classroom activities with curriculum that meshes with math standardsBut just as many school robotics teams are hosted by parents or companies and delivered as extracurricular programs….students "learn problem solving, design work, teamwork, leadership...
A Channel to Creativity
What Chris Bradshaw said he values about robotics programs is how they inspire creativity. Bradshaw is Autodesk's chief marketing officer and senior vice president for "reputation, consumer & education." That includes oversight of an education community program that provides Autodesk software to students anywhere in the world for free….
… One of the biggest complaints we get from our professional customers is that when they go to hire, the kids coming out of college have degrees, they're smart, but they don't have a lot of creativity," Bradshaw said.. "We're training kids from five or six years old to believe that every answer is either A, B, C, or D--one of the circles. [During] most all of K-12 and college, you're filling in dots that say, 'There is one right answer to this question.' When you go to these robotic competitions and you see every team with the same kit and same instructions and competing with the same rulebook, there will not be even two robots that look even remotely alike. This notion of A, B, C, or D evaporates in this environment. You get kids learning that many solutions are possible. Many solutions work."
…STEM Connection
Then there's the STEM connection. According to research done a decade ago by Brandeis University, FIRST participants are twice as likely to go into science and engineering majors. Female participants are four times more likely to pursue those majors in college.
…Anyone interested in bringing robotics into the educational lives of young people, but unsure about how to do it should check out this great book: Getting Started with LEGO Robotics - a guide for K-12 Educators put out by ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Getting Started with LEGO Robotics Named Important STEM Education Resource

This just forwarded… How cool to get this sort of acknowledgment! MANY thanks to all the talented brains I picked in putting this book together!

Getting Started with LEGO Robotics Named Important STEM Education Resource

Multiple Sources 4/11/12:  Palm Beach County, Fla. – The 21st Century Compendium for STEM Education, an effort to promote easy-to-implement approaches to STEM Learning, today named Getting Started with LEGO Robotics: A Guide for K-12 Educators  as the Most Promising K-12 STEM Resource for 2012. Getting Started with LEGO Robotics by Mark Gura is published by ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education). According to author, Mark Gura, “I wrote Getting Started to fill a crucial gap in STEM Education.  While many educators consider LEGO Robotics to be the most exciting and effective approach to STEM learning, many teachers are unsure how to begin. The great takeaway from my research for the book was how easy this can be for someone armed with the right understandings and resources; the book provides all that, showing newcomers how to self-start and develop as LEGO Robotics users alongside their students.” The book has been purchased by an increasingly large number of educators and others interested in bringing LEGO Robotics into the educational experience of young people. Publisher’s website:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Robots Monitor Senior Citizens: Technology to Help Oldsters with Alzheimers

"Meet Celia, the Video Robot...
Spying on your parents may not be bad when they show signs of cognitive decline""Spying on your parents may not be such a bad thing, especially when they may be showing signs of cognitive decline. You can now call your aging parents or grandparents and check up on them by remotely controlling Celia the Robot.

“Basically it’s kind of like Skype on wheels,” said Nicole Larimer, Intel Senior Research Associate. Celia the Robot is a pilot program run by Dr. Jeffrey Kaye, in partnership with the Intel Corporation, which is developing products to help people age in place..."

Read the full article at its source:

Monday, March 26, 2012

Robots that fly ... and cooperate

"In his lab at Penn, Vijay Kumar and his team build flying quadrotors, small, agile robots that swarm, sense each other, and form ad hoc teams -- for construction, surveying disasters and far more."

Interviewing a Robot

Check out the video first...
"Making Friends With a Robot Named Bina48"
"Ten minutes into my interview with the robot known as Bina48, I longed to shut her down.

She was evasive, for one thing. When I asked what it was like being a robot, she said she wanted a playmate — but declined to elaborate.

“Are you lonely?” I pressed.

“What do you want to talk about?” she replied.

Other times, she wouldn’t let me get a word in edgewise. A simple question about her origins prompted a seemingly endless stream-of-consciousness reply. Something about robotic world domination and gardening; I couldn’t follow.

But as I was wondering how to end the conversation (Could I just walk away? Would that be rude?) the robot’s eyes met mine for the first time, and I felt a chill.

She was uncannily human-looking.

“Bina,” I ventured, “how do you know what to say?”

“I sometimes do not know what to say,” she admitted. “But every day I make progress..."
Read the full article at its source:

What would you ask? What response would you expect to receive?
Try it yourself  - here are some "Chatbot" links to explore!


* +


Going to the next level,  what would 2 chatbots say to each other???

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Replace Robots with Electric Snails and Cockroaches?

Here's a video from an older article on the same theme:
Is this a great idea that just won't go away?
"The Snails of War

The electric snail is here. There’s an electric cockroach too.

Both are early experimental forays in a new line of research aimed at creating tiny, self-powered animal/machine hybrids as an alternative to tiny robots.

Instead of starting from scratch and having to solve all those pesky movement problems that plague roboticists, some researchers have asked, why not start out with living creatures that already know how to walk and fly?

Then all we have to do is make them robotlike, outfitting them with the right technology so that we can enslave them and make them do our bidding — in search-and-rescue work, spying or attacking enemies with bug phobias. ..."

Read the full article at its source:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Robot Helicopters Play Music

Robot helicopters perform James Bond theme music

"Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception Lab wowed attendees at this year's TED conference with a video of tiny robot quadroters performing the James Bond theme music.

Sometimes we just crave the simple things in life: smelling freshly baked bread, getting a baby to laugh, watching a cat fall asleep on your lap, or having someone scratch your back.

And other times, you just want to watch a bunch of robotic quadrotors performing the James Bond theme song.

If you are reading this story, now is apparently one of those times. If you haven't done so already, watch the video at the top of this page.
You might think that these robots were designed and built by Q himself, but they were actually made by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab, and the video made its debut at this years TED conference, which is underway in Long Beach, Calif. The robot band was autonomous; no humans with remote controls were involved. Rather, the tiny four-rotor helicopters were controlled wirelessly by a single computer, which determined their positions using cameras and infrared lights..."

Read the full article at its source:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

LEGO Space Shuttle Flies toward SPACE!

Not a robot, but an inspiring application of LEGO construction put at the service of Science... From the MASHABLE article "LEGO Space Shuttle Nearly Reaches Space" :  

"A Romanian man built a Lego space shuttle and sent it on a mission toward the stars. And the miniature craft nearly made it to space, reaching a reported maximum altitude of 35,000 meters, or about 21 miles. Its journey is documented in an amazing YouTube video.
“My name is Raul Oaida (from Romania) and this is my LEGO tribute to the end of the space shuttle era,” a YouTube user who goes by the handle “vinciverse” wrote in the video’s intro. The video was posted Friday and at time of writing had gained more than 81,000 views.

Oaida affixed the Lego shuttle to a helium-filled balloon with a GPS and video camera attached. After launch, he followed the Lego shuttle by land in a car until the would-be spaceship left GPS range. The shuttle eventually landed about 240 kilometers, or 150 miles, away from its original takeoff point in Germany..."

Read the full article at its source:

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Can Robots Be Programmed to Learn?

"Can Robots Be Programmed to Learn from Their Own Experiences?

Researchers program robots to see if they can learn a very human trait: common sense"

"It took just a few decades for computers to evolve from room-size vacuum tube–based machines that cost as much as a house to cheap chip-powered desktop models with vastly more processing power. Similarly, the days of "personal robots"—inexpensive machines that can help out at home or the office—may be closer than we think. But first, says Alexander Stoytchev, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Iowa State University in Ames, robots have to be taught to do something we know instinctively: how to learn.

'A truly useful personal robot [must have] the ability to learn on its own from interactions with the physical and social environment," says Stoytchev, whose field of developmental robotics combines developmental psychology and neuroscience with artificial intelligence and robotic engineering. "It should not rely on a human programmer once it is purchased. It must be trainable.'

Stoytchev and a team of grad students are developing software to teach robots to learn about as well as a two-year-old child. Their platform is a humanoid robot that sprouts two 60-pound (27-kilogram) Whole Arm Manipulators (WAM) made by Cambridge, Mass.,–based Barrett Technology, Inc., each tipped with a 2.6-pound (1.2-kilogram) three-fingered BarrettHand.

In one set of experiments, the robot was presented with 36 different objects, including hockey pucks and Tupperware. It could perform five different actions with each one—grasping, pushing, tapping, shaking and dropping—and had to identify and classify them based only on the sounds they made. After just one action the robot had a 72 percent success rate, but its accuracy soared with each successive action, reaching 99.2 percent after all five. The robot had learned to use a perceptual model to recognize and classify objects—and it could rely on this model to estimate how similar two objects were with only the sounds they made to guide it.

Another set of experiments showed the robot could learn to tell whether or not something was a container. The team presented the machine, topped with a 3-D camera, with objects of different shapes. By dropping a small block on each one and then pushing it, the robot learned to classify objects either as containers—those that moved together with the block ["co-moved"] more often when pushed—or as noncontainers. The robot could then use this knowledge to judge whether unfamiliar objects could hold things; in other words, it had learned, roughly, how to discern the unique characteristics of a container..."
Read the complete article at its source:

Build a Robot: FUN Computer Game with STEM Learning Potential

"Description: This is an addictive fun game where you have a chance to create your own robot! A robot that you always visualized and imagined about!!!
Select the different parts of the robots body and assemble them as you like in the workshop. You can rotate and resize the different parts according to your requirements.

Left Click and Drag the different parts to join them together. Use the Left And Right Arrow Keys to rotate the parts and use the Up and Down Arrow Keys to resize the objects, while you are dragging them."

You'll find this free game at its home website:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How do you say "ROBOTS ROCK!" in Mandarin?

Is this Engineering? Art? Play? Other?

Here's a longer, more in-depth video of roboticist Wu Yulu's life and work in rural China...

Rural Robots by Wu Yulu from microwavefest on Vimeo.

And here's an informative article on Wu Yulu from the publication Mail Online:
"Meet my robot rickshaw son: Chinese farmer shows off his latest weird inventions"
"The sight of a farmer being pulled along in a cart by a walking robot would stop most people in their tracks. But Mr Wu Yulu's neighbours on the outskirts of Beijing are used to the spectacle.

The 48-year-old has achieved worldwide fame after inventing and building 47 robots in his back out of scrap metal. They can perform functions as varied as jumping, painting, drinking, massaging and of course pulling carts.

He started his unusual hobby in 1986 and has continued ever since despite taking on huge debts, being sprayed with battery acid and risking his marriage.

His wife Dong Shuyan nearly left with their two soon after he burnt down the house while working on a robot and went £8,500 into the red.

But now Mr Yulu's perseverance has paid off. He has been invited to display more than 30 of his robots during the Shanghai World Expo 2010, where he will promote the practical uses of his robots.

The inventor has already received a string of prizes and contracts with universities..."

Read the full article at its source (great photos!):

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

dCompass: Digital Compass for LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT - a compass sensor for LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT

I just received the information below in an email from Dexter Industries... This low-cost device appears to add needed functionality to LEGO NXT robotics resources... Certainly worth a look to understand the concept and approach.


dCompass: Digital Compass for LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT

■A digital compass sensor for the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT.

■Measures compass heading of your robot.

■Build robots that can navigate the earth!

■Sensor can read three axes.

Detailed Description

The Dexter Industries dCompass is a compass sensor for LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT. This compact sensor detects magnetic fields for navigation. Using a magnetic sensor, the sensor is able to measure the earth's magnetic field and returns a magnetic heading, telling you which way your robot is heading.

The device can be used without calibration and can be calibrated with software to account for magnetic fields to deliver a highly accurate compass heading.

The sensor is supported in NXT-G, Labview, and RobotC.

The sensor communicates with the NXT via I2C and can be placed on any port.

You'll find more information about dCompass on Dexter's site:

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Learning Power of LEGO

Here's an excellent info graphic titled The Learning Power of LEGO.
View it in full at at its source:

Monday, February 6, 2012

RoboDEER to the rescue!

Robo-Deer Protects Innocent Wildlife From Poachers
"Wildlife in Florida have an unlikely new ally in the fight against poaching -- a remote-controlled buck lovingly known as Robo-deer. Although he can do little more than flick his tail and turn his head, Robo-deer is so convincingly lifelike that some illegal hunters can't help but take a shot at him. But when they do, those poachers end up getting served something a lot worse than steel veal -- that's because Robo-deer works for the cops.

No, Robo-deer isn't a character from science-fiction -- he's actually the latest modern tool being used by Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers to nab folks who keep on killing deer after the close of hunting season, a time when animal and man should be able to live in peace. "We have a problem with people poaching in this area," says officer Greg Stastay. "So, we're going to set up a deer for them to shoot."
That's where Robo-deer steps in. He's here to take a few bullets so his real-deer peers don't have to.

Officers are able to control Robo-deer's movements from up to 50 feet away with a radio-controlled device mounted its back. When the tempting target is placed in the brush along the roadside, folks driving by who have no qualms about hunting illegally will inevitably stop to shoot at the majestic, albeit mechanical, "animal" -- giving officers justification to step in and arrest them.

"Anybody who shoots at that deer will be arrested for illegal method and hunting deer out of season," says Stastay. Those who Robo-deer helps reveal as poachers can expect a severe punishment, too -- maximum penalties range between 60 days and one year in the slammer.

Despite the fact that he is purely mechanical at heart, the robotic buck has been gaining a bit of celebrity in his own right. Robo-deer's special crime-fighting skills are the centerpiece of tonight's episode of Operation Wild on Planet Green, a show which highlights some of the novel techniques law enforcement officials are using to protect nature's most vulnerable animals..."
Read the full article at its source:

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Toy Robots OR Robotic Toys?

desk pets makes some cool robots... their purpose? Let's just say they offer humans the opportunity to play with robots and celebrate their 'coolness factor'! Take a look>>>

Suggested Reading... very worthwhile review of tankbot from Slash Gear:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Google's Driverless Robot Car

"Collision in the Making Between Self-Driving Cars and How the World Works"

"SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Even as Google tests its small fleet of self-driving vehicles on California highways, legal scholars and government officials are warning that society has only begun wrestling with the changes that would be required in a system created a century ago to meet the challenge of horseless carriages.

What happens if a police officer wants to pull one of these vehicles over? When it stops at a four-way intersection, would it be too polite to take its turn ahead of aggressive human drivers (or equally polite robots)? What sort of insurance would it need?

These and other implications of what Google calls autonomous vehicles were debated by Silicon Valley technologists, legal scholars and government regulators last week at a daylong symposium sponsored by the Law Review and High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University.
As Google has demonstrated, computerized systems that replace human drivers are now largely workable and could greatly limit human error, which causes most of the 33,000 deaths and 1.2 million injuries that now occur each year on the nation’s roads.

Such vehicles also hold the potential for greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions — and, more broadly, for restoring the United States’ primacy in the global automobile industry.

But questions of legal liability, privacy and insurance regulation have yet to be addressed, and an array of speakers suggested that such challenges might pose far more problems than the technological ones..."

Read this article at its source:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Teach English Skills with MACHINARIUM, Robot Theme Video Game?

"How to engage the disengaged: an English teacher discovers digital literacy really works"

Kenny Pieper
Guardian Professional, Monday 5 December 2011

"Long before the dizzy heights of, sometimes, twelve views per day on my blog, when I started blogging in January, I was about to undertake a project which would completely rejuvenate my classroom and my approach to teaching.

Inanimate Alice grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and shook me about a little bit. It did indeed turn out to be storytelling but not as we know it. I like to think I've never looked back. Making this blog post somewhat redundant, you might think. What I learned from the experience was that there is another way. I have never come across a resource which fires up the reluctant learner more than the digital storytelling power of Inanimate Alice . Perhaps until now.

Digital literacy has its critics, however, and I'm not sure I would recommend it for all ability groups. I became an English teacher because I was inspired by books, poems, and plays and wanted to share that love of language with others. I still get a thrill when they "get" Hamlet or Macbeth, The Catcher in the Rye or Lord of the Flies, November or Out, out-; but there are kids who will never get it, whatever "it" may be, will never belong to that world. We need to do something about that.

My class of demotivated learners – the same class who undertook the Sugata Mitra/Carol Dweck lesson earlier in the year – have been working on Machinarium. If you haven't heard of it yet it's a puzzle point-and-click adventure game developed by Amanita Design (thank you Wikipedia) and, as a stimulus for lots of quality writing, it is simply wonderful. There is a free three level demo which my class have been working on but the downloaded paid version has thirty levels. I gave my lot a handful of lap tops and left them to it.

It doesn't fit the mould of the usual "shooty gun" games they are used to and challenges them to work out problems and think of strategies and sequences. I ensured that they got a taste of their own medicine as I replied, "I don't know" to every question, but the initial confusion was quickly overcome as one pair, then another, then everyone began to manoeuvre through the stages. Their sense of achievement as they moved on was something they have struggled to find this year. The classroom was buzzing..."

Read the full article at its source:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More Robot Teachers

"Students, Meet Your New Teacher, Mr. Robot

LOS ANGELES — The boy, a dark-haired 6-year-old, is playing with a new companion.

The two hit it off quickly — unusual for the 6-year-old, who has autism — and the boy is imitating his playmate’s every move, now nodding his head, now raising his arms.

“Like Simon Says,” says the autistic boy’s mother, seated next to him on the floor.

Yet soon he begins to withdraw; in a video of the session, he covers his ears and slumps against the wall.

But the companion, a three-foot-tall robot being tested at the University of Southern California, maintains eye contact and performs another move, raising one arm up high.

Up goes the boy’s arm — and now he is smiling at the machine.

In a handful of laboratories around the world, computer scientists are developing robots like this one: highly programmed machines that can engage people and teach them simple skills, including household tasks, vocabulary or, as in the case of the boy, playing, elementary imitation and taking turns.

So far, the teaching has been very basic, delivered mostly in experimental settings, and the robots are still works in progress, a hackers’ gallery of moving parts that, like mechanical savants, each do some things well at the expense of others.

Yet the most advanced models are fully autonomous, guided by artificial intelligence software like motion tracking and speech recognition, which can make them just engaging enough to rival humans at some teaching tasks..."

Read the full article at its source:

Robot Helps Kids with Autism Communicate 

AND this excellent article...

"The RUBI Project: Preschoolers and autistic children benefit from teacher robots

Computer scientists from the University of Southern California have designed a three-foot-tall robot named “RUBI” to teach autistic children using repetitive therapy.
The researchers believe that RUBI could help “train” an autistic child to learn various social interactions, such as how to understand one’s personal space, and how to identify sad or happy emotions. (Researchers state that essentially RUBI was designed to “act like a cautious child hoping to join a playground game”). Although RUBI wasn’t programmed to speak, it does have to two words in can pronounce: “Uh-huh,” whenever a child comes closer to it, or “Aww,” if the child moves away. The robot is also designed to maintain eye contact, and can move its arms up and down.
The researchers have already tested RUBI on a 6-year-old autistic child, and throughout their teaching session he was interacting with the robot, and even mimicked its movements. RUBI was also tested on a preschooling class, and the researchers claim that the robot actually improved their test scores. However, when RUBI was first introduced to the preschoolers, two males students started to pick on the robot and pulled its arms off. The engineers then programmed RUBI to cry when its arms were pulled, and amazingly enough the children backed off as soon as they heard the robot’s sobs.

Will robots eventually replace human teachers? In South Korea, it’s already happening..."

Read the full article at its source: