The Looming Menace of Robotic Vandals

Hektor is a robot that quite cleverly spraypaints huge facsimiles of the images or text that you feed it onto any flat surface that you put in front of it. Sorry, it’s not available for retail sale just yet, if ever, but the site’s text, images, and video are just fascinating for aspiring robot geeks. Via Gizmodo.

Control Robots With Your BT Phone

Check out this cool little app called BlueControl that allows you to configure different programs on your PC to be controlled from a Bluetooth enabled phone such as the Sony Ericsson T68 or T610. It’s so flexible it can actually be set up to use the joystick on one of these phones as a joystick for the PC, including for controlling Lego Mindstorms creations.

First Production Self-Driving Car

The Toyota Prius, the Hollywood darling hybrid car, has become the first car to offer robotic self-driving — but only in a limited sense. For an extra $2200, the Japanese version of the Prius can be outfitted with steering motors, sensors and computers that allow the Prius to parallel-park itself. It works by taking a picture of the parking space, then getting some user input about how to place the car within the space. The car then takes over and puts the car in the space efficiently and quickly, though it still relies on the driver to make sure nothing gets run over in the process. This is a really boon to people who have problems parallel parking, as well as to all other drivers who have ever sat behind a person who is trying to fit in too small a space. It also works with too-narrow garage spaces, and can actually remember where in your garage you like to place your vehicle. While the high-tech hybrid is a natural choice to first offer this option, a better choice might have been to offer it in one of those monster SUVs that never seem to be able to park anywhere.

Mini-ITX Powered Robot

White Box Robotics has an amazing robot platform coming out this summer (hopefully) called the 912. It runs on a mini-itx PC board running Windows XP, can be outfitted with an internal 5″ lcd screen and head-mounted display, and can be programmed to follow you around playing MP3s. Pictured is the “security bot” model. Price of the base model should be “about the same as a decent PC” which means probably between $2000 and $3000.

Save The Robots!

The Tokyo robot show, sponsored by Honda, has 7 pages of pics of the latest innovations in robotics, including humanoids, industrial robotic arms, remote-controlled fighting robots, and even one that seems to have interchangable heads — one for use with the kids and others for frightening neighbors (pictured). There’s also a few entertainment robots, including a life-like female “actroid” and a few silly looking kabuki-bots.

Segway Makes Great Mobile Robot Platform

“Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have crossed a robotic arm with the bottom half of a Segway to make a robot named Cardea that can traverse hallways and push open doors.

Cardea, named after the Roman goddess of thresholds and door pivots, is the one-armed first prototype of a robot designed to have three arms and the ability to safely interact with humans at eye level.” – Technology Review

Promising Robotic Trend-Tracker

There are a lot of great robot news and information websites out there, but most are targeted at hobbyists. A new site, called Robotic Trends, is geared (no pun intended) more towards the business world and the developmental trends shaping the future of the robotics industry.

The site is divided into a number of sub-sections (Personal Robotics, Service Robotics, Security and Defense, etc.). There are articles, opinion pieces, vendor profiles, conference announcements, a news feed, and more. One thing they do which I really like is to summarize many of the articles with their opinion about what is significant about the idea or trend being discussed.

Definitely worth putting on your radar if you’re interested in robots.