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Marionettebot, the Robot Mannequin

This sketch from MADtv shows a killer mannequin…

So now some of you might be eternally afraid of mannequins now. No? Well maybe this next robot will show you how afraid you should be (not really).

Meet Marionettebot. This robot is a mannequin that mirrors the moves of humans who stand in front of it. As it looks through the glass with its glassy, soulless eyes, mall shoppers will want to buy whatever outfit the robot is wearing. This robotic mannequin has proven to be a hit with many shoppers who pass by its case. In some cases, the robot can turn around and pose so that people can see the clothing in true movement. But in many other cases it’s just a challenge to see whether the mannequin can dance the same way you can!

Marionettebot uses Kinect technology to monitor the movements of shoppers in front of it. While this has proven useful for getting the right shape and movement, the Marionettebot also isn’t quite fast enough to move like a perfect mirror; it has a hangtime of about half a second. The motor uses sixteen wires to match the pose.

Now all we have to wait for is when mannequins leave their display cases and mix in with the general public. Yay?

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Fun with Oreos!

As a deviation from all serious robots that go around Earth helping people, let’s take a look at a little robot that was made by physicist David Neevel to remove the cream off of Oreos. This will be the end of this article; the video is self-explanatory and pretty entertaining. Food is fun!

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Xenex and the War on Germs

Some of you may be familiar with the idea that UV light can kill small microbes within their vicinity. In light of this fact, St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center has adopted two robots called Xenex to destroy potentially dangerous microbes using bursts of UV light.

A surprising fact is that 5%-10% of patients admitted to U.S. hospitals acquire an infection while in the hospital. These are the fourth-leading cause of death, after heart disease, stroke, and cancer. When Xenex was tested last summer, St. Joseph’s experienced a 50% decrease in Clostridium difficile infections. This bacterium can result in gastric infections that can even lead to death.

Two Xenex robots regularly patrol rooms and send out flashes of UV light. The rooms have to be empty because UV light can be dangerous for people as well as microbes, but the robots use motion sensing and stop their process of cleaning as soon as a person enters the room. Through this method, Xenex becomes safe and effective in decreasing infections in hospitals.

Even though the two robots combined cost $120,000, the hospital says that the robots have been worth it; because hospitals have to compensate when patients get an infection, the overall decrease in infectious agents in the hospital has paid for itself.

This robot is already being used in over one hundred U.S. hospitals. This robot has already proven that it can kill much more effectively common bleach cleaner, and hopefully we’ll see a higher standard of hospital care in the future!

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Hi Everyone,

Let’s get back on track! With the impending end of build season for the FIRST Robotics Competition, which we are a part of, it must be hard for many of us to relax and remember that we just passed Valentine’s Day 2013. But in light of this recent holiday, let us have fun and relax with… the Cuddlebot.

Cuddlebot was created by a Canadian artist and computer scientist named Anna Flagg. The goal of the robot was to try to take a step towards robots who could recognize and empathize with human emotions, and this robot does it well, reacting to nine different kinds of touch. Over time, the robot can even recognize who is touching it, taking a new step towards adaptable robotic pets.

This robot might look just like a blob of fur, but the concept behind it is pretty sharp. By using conductive fur, the robot can sense very subtle motions, like blowing with breath, and distinguish between similar motions. I won’t go into most of the technical details but for those of you more technically inclined you can check out Flagg’s thesis here.

Currently the Cuddlebot is being explored therapeutically, and has already been shown to get along with children. In addition, the concept of low-cost touch sensing in the context of empathy and emotion could potentially be useful in the future as a tool. Ever been annoyed when your cellphone notified you about a text message when you were in a stressful moment? This could be eliminated by using touch sensing to recognize stress and thus regulate when text messages arrive. This is only a tiny peek into the world of touch sensing and its futuristic applications.

So Happy Valentine’s Day! For those of you without a date, call it Singles’ Awareness Day and cuddle up with the Cuddlebot!

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“Penguins: Spy in the Huddle” and the Robotic Penguins

As they say, in order to understand someone, you must step into his or her shoes. In this case, to understand penguins, you need to step into the penguins’ snow, rocks, and furry little bodies.


This documentary, called “Penguins: Spy in the Huddle” features nearly a year’s worth of film with 50 different spycams. Some were inanimate objects, like rocks or chunks of snow, but the most adorable ones were the robot penguins.

There were three different kinds of robot penguins modeled after their real-life counterparts: RockhopperCam, EmperorCam, and HumboldtCam. The behaviors of these robots, while not flawlessly lifelike, are still legitimate enough, In fact, the RockhopperCam was apparently so realistic that some penguins even accepted it as part of their colony. With gyro and acceleration sensors, the robot can detect when it has fallen over and make its way over challenging terrain, making it a simple enough robot to have effective functions as a moving spycam.

There was also an adorable ChickCam, pictured above, which served two purposes. Firstly, it was an effective spycam, and secondly, the furry robot protected the camera from the cold.

In addition to these, there were also remotely-controlled underwater penguin robots that were capable of diving down 300 feet, to accurately film penguins swimming through the water.

All of these robots allowed people to see penguins in a detail never seen before. From the daily behavior of different penguins to close-ups of egg-hatching, breeding, and swimming, these robots have taken nature observation to a new level. If you’re interested in reading more, check here!

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