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The Popinator, Revolutionary Snack Machine

Have you ever tossed a piece of popcorn or candy upwards and failed epicly at catching it with your mouth? Well say no more!

Popcorn Indiana's 'Popinator' popcorn-shooting robot

Meet the Popinator. It is exactly what it looks like. It shoots popcorn into your mouth. And here’s the selling point. It’s voice activated.

Simply say “Pop,” and the robotic popcorn machine senses your voice, matches an X and Y coordinate using its LED sensors, and fires away. Some would find it pointless, but most would agree that this machine is pretty cool. First, you don’t have to get your fingers dirty; second, you don’t even need to move. And even though it’s not perfect (popcorn isn’t uniformly shaped, after all), it’s nearly there.

The Popinator was made by Popcorn Indiana, and is currently not for sale. “‘But maybe one day.’”

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Gangnam Style, Bioloid Style

And now for a unique visit. In early 2009, a robotics kit under the name Bioloid came out. It was easy to program with a variety of different motions.

And so, what do people let the Bioloid robots do?

This is a slightly more relaxed video than usual, so enjoy!

Sigh. If only the robots could perfect the horse-riding move. That would be perfect.

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Robotic Insects… Attack!

Here we are to talk about the recent popularity of robotic insects. I know some of you won’t be too psyched by the fact that people are imitating robot behavior using robots, but you also have to admit that insects hold certain advantages as well, some including efficient and stable flight, ability to hide quickly, to suck blood, etc. So let’s jump right in.

Robot Cockroaches

“What in the world was that?” you might be asking. Well, this video showcases how cockroaches (and geckos) are especially good at escaping. Why is this important? Well, obviously, if the robot ever gets caught and almost destroyed with a newspaper, of course it makes sense for it to escape from danger.

This robot cockroaches is called DASH (Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod).  It can survive almost 92 foot drops simply with a bit of Velcro. This has huge potential, especially in search and rescue operations.

And now for another kind of cockroach robot.

Picture of a remote-controlled cockroach beside a quarter

It’s a cyborg cockroach, with a lightweight robotic suit for a living cockroach. It looks like a backpack, and is attached into the antennae internally through surgical means. This allows a controller to stimulate the roach’s antennae with an impulse, making it feel like there is something in front of it, and it will shift its direction.

One of the main reasons why they used real cockroaches instead of making a whole new robot like the one above is that real cockroaches have both a locomotive system and a run-away system already in place. This is more useful in volatile situations where it’s necessary for the cockroach to escape detection in the real world.

Scientists believe that the cyborg cockroach can be used to rescue earthquake survivors. Literally anything lightweight can be attached to the cockroach’s back, including cameras, and because of its wireless properties, the robotic backpack also transmits signals and cries for help no matter where it is.

The only hindrance is to find a controller who wants to move a robotic cockroach around, and who can always be within range of the wireless signal. But that shouldn’t be a problem for long.

Cyborg Cockroach

Mobee, Bee Robot

robot bee

What is this, you ask? It’s a new nanobot, called Mobee.

Mobee is probably very similar to a lot of other nanobots that we’ve seen; it can fly in formation, has wings that allow efficient flight, etc. But that’s not the point here.

It’s a really special robot, not because of what it can do, but how it’s made.  Mobee is unique in that it can be mass-produced extremely quickly.

You see, Mobee’s creation was modeled after a pop-up book. First, construction shapes are made using a laser, and many parts are put together. When the actual robot is created, it pops-up almost instantaneously. It’s really cool!

And if you want a more detailed video, here!

Hovering Ornithopter

This cool robot is a flying helicopter insect-like robot. Similar to the previous robot, this robot is unique not in that it flies, but in how it was made.

Traditionally, the wings of such an ornithopter have been notoriously difficult to manufacture. However, this time, by using 3-D printing, a team of roboticists at Cornell were able to perfect them. This also increases the convenience of making robots; it takes only a few minutes to produce such complex wings perfectly.

So far, the robot can fly untethered for around 85 seconds, and requires stabilizer sails above and below the wings as well. But the possibilities can really go any direction. This robot shows that with 3-D printing, we can go farther than ever before, with more precise and complex parts, building up to much larger robots.

And here is the end for our spread today! Don’t let all these creepy crawlies scare you though. Be glad that we can utilize all the benefits of insects without having to deal with them personally.

Sorry for all of you who have entomophobia, though.

 

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PR2, Personal Robot Butler

As some of you might know, the PR2 robot made quite a stir when it first came out for sale. It is roughly the size of a person, and has a mobile base sitting on four casters, a movable torso, a head, two arms, a wide array of sensors, and sixteen cores for calculation.

These make PR2 very versatile for use in any situation, especially with its ability to be programmed easily. So this article will be all about the cool stuff that people have been programming the PR2 robot lately. 

Laundry

Some might regard folding laundry as a simple task. But it’s important to realize that when you have folds in cloth or non-geometric configurations, it’s very hard to sense the differences and program a robot to figure out these functions. And yet, that’s what researchers at UC Berkeley have been working on.

The first clothing that the PR2 learned to do was towels. Through careful experimentation, the robot was made to grab a corner and drag it across the table, to find another corner. This first eliminated any complications through folds and secondly made the towel fairly geometric. Then, the robot could easily find the second corner and drag it, find a third corner and turn it into a rectangle, and then fold it normally.

The functionality of the robot also expanded to include shirts, pants, and more. Using a similar technique to folding towels, except for using more visual systems to compensate more corners.

And now for a fun video involving socks.

Carrying Trays

One of the main problems with the complex task of carrying objects on trays is that holding them perfectly horizontal makes them very susceptible to falling, especially at high speeds. This problem is also amplified in the example of  holding liquids in open containers. So how do we solve this sort of problem?

Well, one researcher from Georgia Tech was able to solve this problem. The most obvious way to solve the problem is to limit the linear and angular accelerations of the tray so that it will never move too much and cause an object to fall. Another, possibly more “natural” way would be to calculate the tilt, and have it move in a way that the motion path never tilts the tray away from the direction of the cup, thus preventing it from falling.

And here’s a cool video of the PR2 robot in action, delivering beers from a refrigerator (not on a tray, though)

Cleaning Used Bottles

This is one of the more difficult tasks as well, because the PR2 robot must push around a tray that its body system does not compensate for. But it nevertheless has been performing just fine.

The robot moves around looking for bottles, and when it finds them, it takes a 3-D image and sends it to a computer, where a human user then decides whether the bottle has any liquid left, before telling the robot what things to trash. This means that this system isn’t fully autonomous yet, but it’s still in development, so who knows?

Making Cookies

And yet one more reason to join the robots: we have cookies.

Summary

So here we come to the end of another journey, this time about the amazing abilities of a PR2 robot as a household robot. Currently, the PR2 is quite expensive, and as you might have noticed from some of the videos (which needed to be sped up, if you didn’t notice) it is also not that fast at times. But it is one of the best robots that is currently available that is easily programmable.  And that’s what makes it cool.

Plus it allows people to get lazier. In the future, we might have robotic butlers and maids everywhere! Although this may not be a perk depending on the perspective…

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Robotic Calligraphy

In an attempt to preserve age-old culture of writing calligraphy, Japanese researchers have made a robot that can copy the strokes of a master calligrapher perfectly.

The actual robot is not especially complex. By using a motor, the robot records the pressure, movement, and angles when a human user writes them, and the robot is able to rewrite any given letter from memory.

The potential for this is pretty big. In the future, such a robot could be used to reproduce art and preserve it in data. Beyond just basic calligraphy, it could be used for virtually any kind of art.

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