Giant Robot Tick Fights Forest Fires

Okay, so it’s a robot pill bug, not a tick, and it’s only a concept, not an actuality. But researchers at University of Madgeburg-Stendal in Germany think that this type of an armored design, based on a “pill bug” millipede, could work in patrolling a forest, with the bot using its heat sensors to sniff out and put out fires as they start. And if the robo-bug gets in trouble, it can curl up in a protective ball like its bio-brethren to protect itself from intense heat. Interesting… And as Engadget points out, in between fires, teams of these armored ticks could entertain themselves by scaring the living daylights out of woodland creatures (and campers).


Rebraining a Robosapien

Here’s a fairly well-documented rebraining of the Robosapien, done by students and teachers at University of Beira Interior in Portugal. They replaced the existing MCU with a Texas Instruments MSP430. The docs go through identifying the current hardware components and what it all does and then the rebraining. I’ve wondered how difficult such a thing would be. It doesn’t look trivial, but it’s clearly doable. They now plan to add a wireless comms capability, a digital signal processor (DSP) for handling voice commands, and to develop a Windows app for controlling the bot.

[Via Make]


WowWee Roboquad Reviewed

PC Magazine has a review of the Roboquad, the new four-legged bot from WowWee Robotics (US$99). They gave it three out of five stars. One thing they didn’t like was the fact that the programs you sequence through the remote are erased on power-down. Sounds like a hack in the making to me!


Jerome Demers Brainless But Brilliant Beetle Bots

Jerome Demers is the designer of the single-motor walking machine featured in Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. I’ve been a big fan of Jerome’s ingenious designs ever since I discovered the walker, but his sites (and he’s had several) were either in French or site components were frequently broken (or both).

So I was thrilled to discover that he’s started putting his bot projects on Instructables. His first is so cool. It’s a two motor/two switch (SPDT) “Beetle Robot” that has the switches/motors cross-wired so that the switches trigger the opposite motors to reverse while that switch is being depressed, creating a basic obstacle-avoidance behavior, with no chip brain of any kind (analog or digital). This is the simplest type of “real” robot (with a sensor-(processor)-actuator chain) that one can build.

Let’s hope that Jerome puts up more how-tos for building his bots. Instructables is a much bigger and better platform for his wonderful ideas.

[Via Make]


Retro Bot Art to Brighten Your Dystopian Day

If you haven’t visited Greg Brotherton’s site, Broton, you should definitely check it out. He’s an amazing sculptor who creates robots, rayguns, Frankensteinian operating slabs, and other retro-futuro artifacts. He incorporates a lot of antique appliances in his work, like Kirby vacs and Sunbeam mixers, to create a unique Deco echo of a future that never happened.

Greg recently updated his site, and among other things, now sells signed limited edition prints, posters, and T-shirts. Above is an image of his Eris robot, being constructed in his studio, that he was kind enough to send us.

Thanks, Greg!


Mousey on Make’s Weekend Projects Podcast

I got a chance to meet Bre Pettis at the Maker Faire and he picked up a Mousey parts bundle and shot some footage of me for his Make: Weekend Projects podcast. Here is the result.

Man, do I ever have a face for radio! At least I sound reasonably coherent, which is a bonus.

BTW: In building this project, Bre experienced the dreaded “max headroom” problem, i.e., not allowing enough room above the circuit wiring to be able to screw the top of the mouse back on when you’re done. He also used solid core wiring throughout. It’s best to use stranded 24-guage inside and only solid core for the eyestalk wires. And even with stranded, you still want to make sure that you keep your wire lengths as short as possible. When I built the Mousey I’m holding in the above photo, I wasn’t as mindful of wire-length as I should’ve been, and when I was done, I couldn’t get the top back on. I had to re-route some of the wires to the sides of the LM386 chip and the relay to free up enough room. A royal pain.


Mr. Woo Builds Bots

Tim O’Reilly posted this really charming YouTube vid, on O’Reilly Radar, of a Chinese man who builds amazing robots out of his village’s junk, from tiny walking bots to humanoids that pull rickshaws.


Mousey Vid Shows Photovoric Behavior

I thought to do a search on YouTube for “Mousey the Junkbot” and found this video. It does a good job of demonstrating the bot’s photovoric behavior. On the Colbert Report, or at the Maker Faire, or other situs where Mousey has been demo’d, the light is too defuse, so the sensor action isn’t really demonstrated. The set up in this vid, where there’s a single light source and gradations of darkness around it, is perfect; you can clearly see Mousey’s tendency to want to “eat light.”

More Mousey links on Street Tech.


Combots vs. The Battle Box

One of the many people I’m bummed I didn’t get a chance to meet was Simone of Suicide Bots/ Combots and the other folks from Combots. I saw them for the two days prior to the event working their asses off getting the Arena built. During the Faire, it was so crowded, you couldn’t get near the place. It *sounded* like fun.

One of the combat robot folks told me there’s quite the arms race going on between the robots and the lethality of their weapons and the integrity of the robot arena. This is driven home in the footage of the appropriately-named Last Rites shearing a 55-pound steel blade off of Brutality and flinging it across the Arena, punching a hole in one of the polycarbonate panels. Ouch. Maybe I *didn’t* want to get that close to the action.