Thursday, May 31, 2007

Popular Virtual Worlds

  • RuneScape.com
  • Webkinz.com
  • ClubPenguin.com
  • Habbo.com
  • There.com
  • Playdo.com
  • vmtv.com (Virtual MTV)
  • weeworld.com
  • Zwinktopia.com
  • Stardoll.com (5 million visitors/month)
  • gaiaonline.com (2 million visitors/month)
  • girlsense.com/premium/ (1 million visitors/month)
Article Link

Virtual World Gold Rush?

Webkinz.com, a site where children care for virtual pets and play
online games. Webkinz had seen its share of Web traffic rise by 1462%
in the past year, according to Hitwise. The virtual world, owned by
closely held toy and accessories manufacturer Ganz, now commands a greater share of Web traffic than Second Life and the World of Warcraft
online community combined. Ditto for Club Penguin, whose traffic share
jumped by more than sevenfold in the past 12 months. Its share is also
higher than Second Life's and World of Warcraft's combined.



Teens spend about $112 billion a year of their own funds, according to Mediamark.





Some faster-growing sites are also easier to learn and use than Second
Life or Linden's version of Second Life for teens, analysts say. "The
whole experience of Second Life is less user-friendly," says Piers
Harding-Rolls, an analyst with Screen Digest. "It's an undertaking to
download the game, and there's no tutorial. It's not as mainstream as
Club Penguin. The potential user base is not as big."




In a new version, due to be released in June, virtual world Playdo.com
will offer users new cool features, such as the ability to control a
game using movements registered on a Webcam. Worlds.com,
which has built virtual worlds for musicians such as David Bowie, holds
a patent, issued in 2001, on some 3-D technology, and is currently in
the process of assessing whether rivals are infringing on it, says Thom
Kidrin, the company's CEO. "I am constantly getting phone calls from
people interested in where we are going," he says. "We are not
interested in a sale right now, but everything has the right price."



Peter Levinsohn, the new chief of News Corp.'s Fox Interactive
division, has publicly stated that he'll look for acquisitions that
improve user experience on sites like MySpace.com. A 3-D virtual world
could be incorporated into MySpace, allowing users to create avatars
and virtual houses instead of standard profiles







Article Link


Japanese robot dances to iPod music

ZMP has already shipped 500 units of the original Miuro, which isn't
equipped with the intelligent software but instead responds to a
remote-control handheld manipulator.


The 108,800 yen ($895) original Miuro can also receive wireless
signals from a personal computer to play iTunes and other stored
digital files. Separately sold options add a camera that beams images
to PCs or lets owners control their Miuros by mobile phone.


Miuro, short for "music innovation based on utility robot
technology," is only on sale in Japan. ZMP did not give a date for the
release of the prototype.

Article Link

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Romba revisions coming in September?



There's not much that gets us more excited than new cleaning bots --
yes, we're unabashed iRobot fanboys -- so we always want to be the
first to know when a fresh product comes along (we did a little happy
dance with our dog when the Roomba for Pets was announced earlier this
month). Luckily, then, we caught wind of the linked thread on Roomba
Review (your home for all things, um, Roomba), in which a purported insider delivers some details and pics of upcoming revisions to the Scheduler, Discovery,
and Roomba Red models: the 560, 530, and 510 (whose supposed retail
packaging is pictured above), respectively. New features are said to
include a 'lighthouse (peripheral to indicate which room is cleaned)'
and integrated display, with upgrades also coming in the form of a
redesign (pictured after the break), easily-swappable parts (wheels,
motors, etc.), greatly improved battery life (1,500 hours versus the
current 350, allegedly), and automatically-activated virtual walls.
Pricing will range from CAD$300 to CAD$450 ($279 to $418), according to
the RR member, so now we have to squirrel away at least that amount of
dough along with however much more it's gonna cost to pick up those
completely new bots we've been promised for the holidays.



Article Link


Wowwee's Roboquad up for pre-order



If you're looking to add yet another anthropomorphic automaton to your
growing robotic zoo, hit the Read link for your chance to pre-order
Wowwee's spider-esque
Roboquad.
Shipping as soon as they roll off the assembly line (estimated arrival:
June or July), the 'quads feature an advanced sensor array not
previously seen on other models from the company, along with adjustable
"aggression" settings and a wireless remote. Eighty pounds ($158) is
the price of entry here, assuming that RED5 is willing to ship units to
the States.



Article Link


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Move to create less clumsy robots

Robot

The race to create more human-like robots stepped up
a gear this week as scientists in Spain set about building an
artificial cerebellum.
The end-game of the two-year project is to implant the
man-made cerebellum in a robot to make movements and interaction with
humans more natural.



Sensopac brings together electronic engineers,
physicists and neuroscientists from a range of universities including
Edinburgh, Israel and Paris with groups such as the German Aerospace
Centre. It has 6.5m euros of funding from the European Commission.


Its target is to incorporate the cerebellum into a robot designed by the German Aerospace Centre in two year's time.


The work at the University of Granada is concentrating
on the design of microchips that incorporate a full neuronal system,
emulating the way the cerebellum interacts with the human nervous
system.

Another European research project - dubbed Feelix
Growing - has been given 2.3m euros to develop robots that can learn
from humans and respond socially and emotionally.

Article Link (BBC)

Teens Shopping Online






I remember back in the late 90s when the big question was whether
shopping online was actually secure -- fast forward to now when
shopping online is normal. So normal that even teens are doing it with
their parents blessing. When you talk to teens, many will tell you they
don't like buying stuff online -- especially clothes, because they
can't try them on, hate paying for shipping and returns are a pain. Yet
surveys like this new one from Shopzilla (which of course is biased
towards shopping online), seem to contradict this sentiment. Not only
are teens shopping online, but more of them are doing it with their own
money and credit cards. I'm guessing these parents are mostly middle
and upper class as well. According to a survey of 672 parents conducted for shopping search site Shopzilla by BizRate Research:



Half of the teens have jobs and of those with jobs, 41% work part-time, while an ambitious nine percent work full-time.



- This industrious behavior enables one-third of teens to pay for their purchases independently


- Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the participants say their teens have savings accounts


- 42% of the parents say their teens write checks


- More than one-fifth (21%) of the parents say their teens have credit cards in their own name



Of the 58% of teens who are shopping online:



- 24% make more than one purchase a month


- 15% shop online a few times a month


- 14% shop online once a month


- 45% shop online a few times a year



Boys' and girls' five most popular purchases



Five most popular items teen girls buy with their own money:



- Apparel and Accessories (67%)


- Music (60%)


- Books (45%)


- DVDs/Videos (43%)


- Health & Beauty aids (43%)



Five most popular items teen boys buy with their own money:



- Video Games (58%)


- Music (50%)


- DVDs/Videos (39%)


- Apparel and Accessories (35%)


- Computer Software (32%)



Dare to compare



In a separate study by Forrester Research*, teens are shown to be
remarkably thoughtful in their purchases. Prior to purchasing online,
teens are reading reviews and comparing prices:



Girls:



- Over 40% under 18 look at product reviews


- 35% visit comparison shopping sites



Boys:



- 40-45% under 18 read product reviews


- Just under 40% visit comparison shopping sites





The vast majority of parents (80%) feel their teens do not hold the purse strings in the family:



- Only 1% of parents say their teen always holds the purse strings


- Two-thirds of parents of teenagers feel that their teens have little or no influence on household spending decisions (66%)



Parents do feel that their teens influence household spending decisions in the following categories:



- Groceries (55%)


- Apparel (48%)


- Entertainment (46%)


- Electronics (22%)


- Cars (6%)





Article Link

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Penguin Flash Game

Valley of the Virtual Dolls


Girls are spending hours dressing up avatars online—and both startups
and big brands such as Disney and Mattel are vying for their attention

Building the Brand



It's also why traditional brands such as Mattel, Disney (DIS), and Trollz maker DIC Entertainment
have entered the space. Each site—Barbie Girls, Disney Fairies, and
Trollz.com—offers the user the ability to create her own character,
play games, chat with other avatars, and decorate her own "room," or
page. Startups Stardoll and GirlSense are also kid-friendly and
compliant with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
Gaia Online, Wee World, Meez, and IAC Interactive's (IACI) new Zwinktopia all cater to teens (and adults) 13 and up.

Article Link

WowWee RS Media in US



Wowwee is a great innovator and all, but sometimes it doesn't play so
nice, refusing to share all the wonderful toys in its robotic zoo with
everyone in the world. Specifically, some of the company's hottest
products -- like the
RoboPanda and RoboBoa -- are doomed forever to a foreign-only release, leaving us gadget-happy Americans stuck with the Dragonflies and last-gen Robosapiens stacked up at the local Radio Shack. So you can see why even the US availability of limited quantities of Wowwee's latest and greatest robotic companion / killing machine is something to get a little excited about, with several dozen of the LCD-equipped, hacker-friendly units left over from the JavaOne Conference
going for $329 each on a first-come-first-served basis. As of this
posting only 44 RS Medias are still up for grabs, according to
RoboCommunity (actually populated by humans, we suspect), and since
these specific models come bundled with the Sun robot extension,
sitting back and waiting for a possible stateside deployment might not be the best idea.



Article Link

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ugobe's Pleo packaging unveiled, battery now replaceable




Unfortunately, we don't have any surefire news that Ugobe's long-awaited Pleo
is actually any closer to shipping, but considering that a design has
apparently been decided upon for the packaging, we'll take that as a
hint. Ugobe's founder Caleb Chung was quoted as saying that the "photos
on the box are nearly life size and are designed to convey the
wonderful range of expression and organic movement
of which Pleo is capable," and continued on in order to mention that
the final version of the dino would sport a battery that's both
rechargeable and replaceable. Lastly, he threw in yet another phrase of
confidence that the device was "getting really close" to actually
launching, but considering the false alarms we've seen in the past, we're not banking on anything until this bad boy invades a few homes.



Article Link

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Games - Most Popular Games on Digg

Free Internet flash games!


Digg.com
has featured many of the most addictive flash games that are out there.
After playing them once and then trying to find them again I decided it
would be nice to have them all in one easy to find place. The "best"
arcade games that have been featured on the front page of Digg.com are
below. Here you go, enjoy!



Games Link

Feature Presentation

> ...as numerous studies have shown, people are not, in general,

> good at predicting what will make them happy in the future. As a

> result, we will pay more for more features because we

> systematically overestimate how often we'll use them. We also

> overestimate our ability to figure out how a complicated product

> works.



Article Link

The Great Microsoft Ipod Parody - Packaging

What Will iRobot's Next Creations Be?




iRobot_logo_270x50.jpg

iRobot, of Roomba fame has come out of the woodwork and announced that they will be unveiling two new consumer robots
this holiday season that will not be floor cleaning robots. Helen
Greiner, co-founder of iRobot said "We are going to launch them from
our Web space, and they are not floor-cleaning robots. They are
different types of robots with mechanical features."

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Korea Ups the Ante in Future Robot Wars With Japan




koreanrobot.jpg

Things are shaping up for an eventual Korea vs. Japan robot wars in the next 20 to 30 years, and Korea is getting ready with a robot that keeps your home safe. Unlike previous robots, this one from KornTech (snicker, snicker) is named Rogun
and has high-end face tracking software, which means it can both
recognize and track your kids by turning its head to face you no matter
where you move.



Also, Rogun will use that same facial recognition to detect if
strangers visit, and will call you on your phone if you're out. If
you've left your kids at home, it can monitor them, and will stream
updates to you over the Internet as well. Plus, there's a 7-inch LCD
monitor in its chest so kids can interact with it. If you want one, be
prepared to shell out more than $100,000 for the privilege.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Manufacturers Share 10 Tips for Marketing to Tweens

1. Respond to Buying Patterns.
In the late 1990s, Hasbro noted that 8- to 12-year-olds were leaving
the toy aisle and spending more money on fashion, entertainment and
“real” consumer electronics. According to John, the company used newly
acquired Tiger Electronics to reach that increasingly influential group of kids who “want to fit in and stand out at the same time.”



2. Research Your Target Market.
“Don’t just accept what everyone else is saying. Find out for
yourself,” John said. Through research, including work with a tween
advisory panel, Hasbro learned characteristics of tweens that helped
shape their campaigns.



3. Communicate With Your Customers.
B*tween Productions sends out a bi-weekly email newsletter with games,
contests and activities. “It's the major benefit of becoming a member
of BSG [Beacon Street Girls],” Director of Marketing Bobbie Carlton told TDmonthly, and it occasionally includes surveys about the club.



4. Fit Your Audience.
Carlton pointed out that B*tween Productions tackles the "between"
nature of tweens in its "Beacon Street Girls" book series by "offering
up a wide range of diverse primary characters." Though they're all 12
years old, they're designed to account for the variations in maturity
levels among 9- to 13-year-olds.



5. Have an Online Presence.
B*tween Productions' online components are "the key to the whole
kingdom,” Carlton said. “When kids are out looking for things to do,
they're often looking for things online. Hundreds of thousands visit
our site every month, and many of them have never heard of the Beacon
Street Girls."




6. Find New Ways to Promote.
Dunecraft, known for its preschool-to-adult product lines, realized it
needed a new way to target the growing tween population, so the company
recently extended its online reach through an advergame marketing its Fly Trap Fiends kit.
According to Owner Grant Cleveland, the Fly Trap Game offers fun facts
about the carnivorous plants as well as “opportunities between levels
to go visit our site.”



7. Seek Affordable Strategies.
Cleveland called advergaming “a fairly inexpensive way to increase
product awareness.” DuneCraft used a free trial of a listing software,
Public Relations Specialist Alicia Borley explained, so the company’s
current game is downloadable, free of charge, on thousands of gaming
and shareware sites. “The listing is free, so you pay a one-time
development cost,” Cleveland told TDmonthly.



8. Cross-Promote.
"We get a lot of [online] placement … through our partnerships,"
Carlton said. The Internet Keep Safe Coalition is one such partnership,
she noted, and A Girl’s World provided a link to the Beacon Street
Girls site in exchange for BSG books.



9. Challenge Conventional Wisdom.
Although the electronics market says, “If it’s not better than what’s
out, it shouldn’t come out,” Hasbro utilized a downstreaming concept to
successfully release Hitclips discs, the black-and-white-screened VideoNow player and cell-phone-like ChatNow Communicators. “Don’t underestimate the value that tweens can find when it’s made for them and marketed for them,” John said.



10. Be Willing to Shift Your Strategy.
Hasbro had utilized a profitable downstreaming approach with three
lines, but had to re-evaluate when the mp3 player debuted. Instead of
releasing a Tiger Electronics version, the company partnered with the
competition — launching instead i-Dog interactive
speakers. Cleveland agreed that change can be good: “I don't think
marketing today is something where you come up with one formula and
year after year it works,” he said.



Article Link








Discovery Communications to Close Retail Stores

Discovery
Communications announced today its plan to increase the presence of its
consumer products in the retail marketplace through the continued formation of
partnerships with large retailers to provide more exposure for Discovery-
branded products while eliminating the necessity of operating stand-alone and
mall-based stores.



As part of its new commerce plan, Discovery will focus on achieving an
increased reach of its products through retail partnerships and the high-
growth e-commerce platform. The company plans to expand the presence of its
products in the retail marketplace through cost-effective initiatives with
large retailers, such as Animal Planet's relationship with Toys "R" Us. In
addition to strengthening its successful web-based e-commerce activities,
Discovery will also explore new avenues for product sales via television (t-
commerce) by capitalizing on the company's unparalleled network reach in the
United States and around the world.



Article Link

Is Sony in Buyout Talks For Kid Social Network Club Penguin?

Paidcontent.org says that Sony (NYSE: SNE - News) is in talks to purchase kid-friendly virtual reality site Club Penguin for about $450 million.
Club Penguin is in my opinion one of the most wholesome kid-friendly
Web sites on the planet today. BusinessWeek called it "MySpace for the
sandlot set", and I think even that description sells it short. This is
an Internet property that both kids and parents can love, makes a
profit, and uses some of its profits to improve the lives of children
in places like Uganda and Romania.



Article Link

Avi Arad Wants to Create Real ... Robosapiens?

Arad is floating an idea for a movie about the remote-control beasties
that all the little boys wanted for the holidays this past winter.  The
script, which Arad cowrote with Max Botkin, centers on a Robosapien
named Toby created by a lonely inventor who builds the robots for what
he thinks are humanitarian purposes.  After he discovers his creations
are being used for military purposes, he takes Toby and flees.





Cue a series of humorous/exciting mishaps in which the Robosapien is
damaged, Toby is found and repaired by an equally lonely
eleven-year-old son of a harried single mom.  Arad conceives of it as
"a new spin on the Gepetto/Pinocchio legend," but there are strong
overtones of "Small Soldiers" and "D.A.R.Y.L." in the mix.  Shooting
begins in November for what will probably be a late 2008 release.





Article Link

Vinegar: conducting the robotic uprising




Forget all those cute and cuddly robots. We like our overlords menacing and if at all possible, dressed in a skirt. We're not exactly sure what "Vinegar's" purpose will be here on Earth. After all, the wee QRIO has been available to conduct orchestras for years. One thing's for sure, when that stick points in your direction, you'd best get your meat sack a-dancin'.

Article Link (Engadget)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Grim Reaper-Like Type 02 Vinegar Bot

Buildup.jpg Looks-wise, the Type 02 isn't the kind of robot you'd wanna bump
into in a dark alley. Yet despite its black, Grim Reaper-like profile,
the Type 02 isn't a Terminator in disguise.

No, this baby was created for the Tamanoi Vinegar Corporation to
give presentations on, yep, vinegar. The robot stands 6 feet tall, and
is 220 pounds. It's first job will be to entertain guests at Tamanoi's
"Cyber Trip" amusement theater, which sits in the company's offices.
You can check out the robot's action in a video clip (and gallery) after the jump.

Article Link

R/C Pterosaur Lives Up To Its Name, Actually Soars

Pterosaur.jpg

No longer will you watch War Games,
green with envy when Dr. Falken plays with his homemade flying dino.
For $69.95, you can order your own, a green potbellied "durable foam"
version that Firebox claims will swoop and glide around the park (or cubicle cluster). More pics and info after the jump.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Energy Bill Got You Down? You Need Penguin Power!




Lifinity.jpg

In the universe of gadgets meant to monitor or conserve energy usage, this is the first we've seen that takes an anime approach. The Lifinity ECO
is either a thermostat or a energy monitor (or both), using helpful
cartoon penguins that keep tabs on your heating and AC settings, as
well as the stuff plugged in around the house.

Currently only available in Japan, naturally, under Matsushita's National brand, we hope Panasonic considers bringing it to the US, where energy awareness is getting super serial.
My only problem with the Lifinity ECO is this: The penguins I know like
the AC cranked to the max. How's that gonna help shrink a guy's carbon
footprint?



Article Link (Gizmodo)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mattel Inc. to Purchase Radica Games Ltd. for 1.41 Times Revenue

The Deal: Mattel Inc. has agreed to acquire Radica Games Ltd. for
$11.55 per share, or $230 million, in cash. The purchase price
represents a premium of 12 percent over Radica's closing price prior to
the deal announcement. The boards of both companies have approved the
transaction. The deal still requires shareholder and regulatory
approvals. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter
of 2006.


Discussion: Radica Games manufactures and markets electronic
entertainment products under the Radica, 20Q, Play TV, and Girl Tech
brand names. The company, which maintains a design and marketing office
in Dallas and a manufacturing plant in China, sells products in about
30 countries.


Mattel Inc. produces a wide range of popular toys and games. Company
products include Barbie dolls and products, Fisher-Price toys, Hot
Wheels and Matchbox cars, and American Girl dolls and books. The
company also produces licensed items, including toys based on Sesame
Street, Barney, various Walt Disney properties, and the Harry Potter
novels.

Article Link

Tiger Acquisition Cost ($335 mil on sales of $400 mil ?)

Tiger, a closely held concern based in Vernon Hills, Ill., was one of
three companies to capitalize on the virtual-pets toy craze started by the
Tamagotchi toys of Japan's Bandai Ltd. Tiger posted sales of approximately
$400 million last year. The merger is expected to be completed in the
second quarter of this year, thus Tiger is expected to contribute at least
$200 million to Hasbro's revenue in 1998, said John O'Neill, Hasbro's chief
financial officer.



Article Link

Furby Sales

``During

the

first

quarter,

normally

a

slow

season,

an

average

of

250,000

talking

Furbys

were

sold

each

week,''

Chief

Executive

Officer

Alan

Hassenfeld

said

in

the

conference

call.

``Demand

is

so

strong

that

some

retailers

are

air-freighting

Furby.''



Article Link

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Club Penguin In Acquisition Talks With Sony For $500+ million

It’s been rumored for a while that Montgomery Securities is representing virtual world Club Penguin
in a sale transaction. It looks like the company is locked in talks,
possibly exclusive, with Sony, and the price is “at least half a
billion” says a source close to the deal.

We mentioned Club Penguin last month
when a competitor launched from IAC called Zwinktopia. The company is
killing it - projected revenues of $65 million in 2007 with $35 million
in profit. Having nearly 50% bottom line margin is exceptional. The
company has around 500,000 active users.


A stumbling block in the negotiations appears to be a disagreement
over charitable contributions. Club Penguin donates a significant
portion of profits to charity and wants this policy to continue
post-acquisition. Sony reportedly isn’t hot on the idea.


Club penguin is a virtual world for young kids. Sony may see
significant synergies by tying it into their Playstation platform.
Other bidders that were in talks until very recently reportedly include
AOL, Disney and Viacom.


This is good news for Club Penguin’s virtual world competitors as
well - which broadly includes Second Life, Runescape, Gaia, Habbo
Hotel, Cyworld, Neopets, Club Penguin, Webkinz and others



Article Link

Monday, May 14, 2007

TIA plans holiday preview; prices Dallas show





The 2007 ‘Come Together” introductory value pricing for October's Fall Toy Preview at the Dallas Market Center includes rates of $12 per square foot for all TIA members and $16 for non-members. 

To date, retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, Toys "R" Us, Aldi, AAFES
and Amazon.com have expressed interest in the Dallas show, according to
Carter Keithley, TIA president. Bandai, Mega Brands, K'Nex, LeapFrog
and Alexander Doll Co. are some of the exhibitors that have already
signed on. The TIA expects more than 200 vendors and more than 600
buyers this year’s show, which takes place, October 9-12.


“TIA is investing in the success of Fall Toy Preview, which is the
critical first leg in the product development and sales cycle,” said
Keithley. “The most important thing TIA can do for the toy industry at
this time is to bring the entire industry under one roof for the
convenience of retail buyers.”


The Dallas Market Center has been the venue for various toy and
juvenile product shows throughout the years, but this will mark the
first year that the Fall Toy Preview will take place there.

Article Link

Sunday, May 13, 2007

How many users on Second Life?

In the French show 'ArrĂȘt sur Images' (a TV show that analyzes other TV shows) which aired on April 22, 2007, Nicolas Barrial, founder of Extralab and Second Life's Fr said:
Second Life has over 5m subscribers, but that's a number tally over the last 2 or 3 years. In reality, most subscribers haven't returned to Sefcond Life. At any one time, only 30,000 users are connected worldwide.
Journalist Luc Peillon investigated money making in Second Life and said those that do business there actually invest large amounts of real-life money and time.
Some real-estate agents hire avatars to close deals and earn 5% on the transactions.
Most Linden Dollars money stays in Second Life, but a some are converted back to real-life money.
Article Link (France 5 TV)

Do penguins fly?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Confused penguin strays 5,000km



A Magellanic penguin

A Magellanic penguin whose natural habitat is the cool climes of southern Chile has strayed thousands of miles from his home, arriving in Peru. Scientists say they fear that the solitary Magellanic penguin may not be accepted by some of the area's 4,000 Humboldt penguins.
Article Link (BBC)

Transformer Renditions

Rugged Recon Scout invades enemy camp, snags video



Developed by the University of Minnesota using funding from DARPA, the Recon Scout resembles your average barbell weight, but when you're not workin' those triceps, this little fellow can be heaved across flatlands, over fences, and into brick walls in order to secure a location and start feeding back video of its surroundings. The two-wheeled bot is equipped with a low-resolution monochrome camera that feeds images back to the Operator Control Unit, and since it weighs just a single pound and fits in most cargo pockets, the whole platoon could carry their own in order to really scope out the next bend. Of course, the current iteration will only broadcast video up to 250 feet, and onlookers at a recent demonstration weren't thrilled by its quickness, but a titanium-based wheeled spying machine is fairly impressive regardless. Reportedly, the Recon Scout has been sold to "law enforcement agencies" for around $6,500 apiece, but we've no idea how much this rugged inspector will run the general public.
Article Link (Engadget)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A Robot for the Masses (Robo Sapien Development, Manufacturing and Marketing Process)

Mark Tilden, a robotic physicist formerly of Los Alamos National
Laboratory and NASA, invented Robosapien, or at least the prototype, in
an intense three-week effort in 2001



Tilden, who is in his 40's, described it as ''the first real mass-marketed humanoid robot.''



Wow Wee's factory in Shenzhen was turning out more than 5,000
Robosapiens a day in the long run-up to the Christmas season. One and a
half million Robosapiens have been sold worldwide -- against original
estimates of 50,000 in the first year(The robot is sold in the United States in the usual toy venues, as well as in stores like Best Buy and the Sharper Image.)



Wow Wee's founder and president, Peter Yanofsky, saw Tilden on the
Discovery Channel in a program called ''Robots Rising'' in 1998. Tilden
and his BEAM robotics, his insectlike machines and the multiple
creations of his robot ''Jurassic Park'' were featured. Yanofsky turned
to his wife and said, ''I can make money with Tilden.'' Soon after,
Yanofsky contacted him. Tilden began consulting part time for Wow Wee
while he worked at Los Alamos. But in 2001, after leaving Los Alamos to
become a full-time consultant, he worked nonstop for 21 days building
the first Robosapien prototype.



In 1998, Yanofsky sold Wow Wee, which was then doing $60 million in
sales annually, to Hasbro. That $3 billion company was attracted to Wow
Wee because of its successful Animaltronics and Dinotronics toys -- for
example, its vividly animated T. rex dinosaur. Yanofsky stayed on with
the company, believing that under the toy giant's umbrella, Wow Wee
would have even more latitude to engage in developing cutting-edge
toys. But the move proved to be a mistake. Hasbro canceled Robosapien
several times, and Wow Wee shrank to a $15 million company. Refusing to
let Robosapien die, Yanofsky amicably negotiated out of Wow Wee's
contract with Hasbro last year.



''They didn't believe in what we were doing,'' Yanofsky told me. ''They
didn't think there was a need. Their top brass asked, 'Where's the play
value?''' The need that Yanofsky perceived was that the world was now
full of PlayStation-savvy older children and young adults and that no
one was catering to their sense of play offline. ''What about the guy
who says, 'I want a robot!''' Yanofsky said. ''The virtual world
dominates the toy industry. You play with a cartoon on a screen. For
years, the software business has been getting all the young creative
guys, but now we have scientists and geeks who want to come in on our
development thing. We want people who are creative and eclectic and can
take this industry to where the software industry is.''



eight motors ''perfectly synchronized, without any digital programming at all.''



ome of the key members of the Robosapien team were young American and
European engineers and software specialists working in Wow Wee's
office. Others were local people, typically graduates of Hong Kong
universities and technical institutes that offer programs like a
three-year diploma in creative-toy and intelligent-product technology.
Others were from mainland China, employed by the vendors' factories in
Shenzhen, where Robosapien is assembled and where much of the most
crucial engineering and premanufacturing work on the toy was done.
(Vendors compete for the contracts to manufacture products at their
plants in China and then also provide the labor.)



Wow Wee finally found a vendor factory that understood the engineering
well enough, but then that vendor went bankrupt. ''We were out driving
around,'' Tilden recalled, ''trying to rescue our robots from Dumpsters
so our rivals wouldn't get them.'' Soon after, the Wah Shing plant in
Shenzhen
became Robosapien's main manufacturer.



In the summer of 2003, Tilden spent eight straight days at the Wah
Shing plant with Edward Chan, a Wah Shing electrical engineer, and a
small team of other engineers
. Tilden literally acted out and performed
the robot's functions, even the Robosapien dance, and Chan, at the
computer, turned them into code.



More so than will be the case in future Wow Wee humanoids, Tilden made
many of the final decisions about the toy's development. He decided on
its appearance and character. Should the robot be like a Japanese TV
robot? RoboCopish? ''Star Wars''-like? Tilden wanted it to be a robot
that looked like a robot and was ''pure bot,'' without any merely
decorative features. Tilden insisted that the robot not speak English,
or any other language. Instead, he told me, ''I put my own body
gestures and even sounds in there.'' When the machine grunts, it is
Tilden's recorded grunt you hear, his ''ouch,'' wolf-whistle and belch.
If the original prototype had 24 transistors, Robosapien has millions
in one small, intricately patterned board controlling all seven motors
and one tiny chip holding 12 kilobytes of programming. Tilden recalled:
''We took analog, converted it into digital, through my skills and the
skills of many designers, and came up with a seven-motor design that
basically beats any of its rivals by up to five times in price.''













Article Link

Philip Duffy Head Designer at WowWee Toys!

Philip Duffy Head Designer at WowWee Toys LTD which crated such toys as the robosapian etc.

He been working for wowWee toys for 13 years and it was him who totally design the Robosapian! How cool is that!







Stardoll.com: From Little Things Big Things Grow

Inspired by a childhood passion for paper dolls, Scandinavian born
Liisa started drawing dolls and accompanying wardrobes, uploading them
to Geocities. The personal page grew, evolving to Paperdoll Heaven in
2004.

Now calling itself Stardoll.com, the site took $4 million in Series A funding from Index Ventures in February 2006, and $6 million in a B Series round lead by none other than Sequoia in June the same year.

Most users are girls between the age of 10 to 17 and online safety
immediately becomes a consideration. Stardoll adds a layer of anonymity
to all accounts. Users can never reveal personal information such as
their real name or city of origin on their pages.


Joining the site for the first time, you start with 25 star dollars
that can be used to buy accessories for each virtual doll. Accessories
range from 1 - 35 star dollars with users able to buy additional star
dollars at the rate of 10 star dollars to $1.

Stardoll has 7,144,735 members and is adding 20,000 new members a day, with 5.5 million unique visitors per month.



With its European heritage, languages supported include French,
Italian, Spanish, Hungarian and Polish, with a dedicated German .de
version recently being launched. 30% of traffic comes from the United
States vs. 50-52% from the European Union.

stardoll1.png





Article Link

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Termibot robot exterminator kills termites, heralds terrifying future





Termites be warned: Australian outfit Termicam is bringing the noise
Predator-style with the Termibot, a dual-tread thermal imaging robot
designed to eliminate insects. The bot scoots around inside walls and
under houses relaying information from its thermal camera and moisture
sensors back to an operator, and when termite (or other insect)
activity is detected, it uses a probe to smash the nest and inject
pesticides directly where they're needed. While we're not certain we
need to help robots perfect the techniques they'll use to ferret out
the last remnants of the human resistance, we're not too worried yet --
the Termibot is currently tethered to its operator with a long cable.
The designer says a fully wireless version is in the works and will be
brought to market later this year, however -- it's being held up while
the business experiences some growing pains. Termicam also says they're
also looking to expand the uses for the bot to other applications where
that thermal camera might come in handy, like bomb disposal and search
and rescue -- looks like the PackBot's got some competition.













Article Link

NEC PaPeRo Mini




 papero-mini.jpg

PaPeRo Mini only measures 179 x 170 x 250 milimeters (9.84 inches high) and
weighs 5.5 pounds, but he's smarter than PaPeRo. His new smartypants
module uses a ARM 9192 CPU and a DSP processor to provide speech
recognition, speech synthesis, control of the surrounding area and face
recognition.

It's good to see the Japanese increasing the efficiency of their bots but, quite frankly, I'll stick with Kondo. He may look more menacing, but at least he's stupid and talks like the Hulk rather than some snooty British butler.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Transformer Story

From a marketing viewpoint, the birth of Transformers toys in 1984 was
an orchestrated act of genius. It not only launched one of the most
successful playthings ever, it propelled a massive change in toy
selling. Today, marketing rules; toys and the entertainment industry
have become two sides of the same coin. The groundwork of all that was
laid with the birth of Transformers.

Hasbro, now the world's second
biggest toy company, had licensed Diacron, a puzzle toy with cars and
planes that transformed into robots, from the Japanese company Takara.
The Japanese had tried to sell it on the American market for a year.
When it failed, they handed licensing rights to legendary toy man Henry
Orenstein, who took the toy to Hasbro.

Convinced it could still be a success, Stephen Hassenfeld, Hasbro's
CEO, the man regarded by many as the architect of the modern toy
industry, had made the decision to market the toy instinctively. Now
Hasbro had to make it work. Just how was thrashed out in an after-hours
car ride between Hasbro's Rhode Island headquarters and New York City:
the toy company's marketing chief and the three heads of Hasbro's ad
agency Griffin Bacal brainstormed for three and a quarter hours.

One
after another, decisions emerged. The toys would no longer be
three-dimensional puzzles but characters in a story, with cars (the
Autobots) being the good guys, and planes (the Decepticons) the bad
guys. Joe Bacal came up with the name Transformers against initial
opposition from the others. A back-story was created: Transformers had
all come from Cybertron, a distant planet, where civil war raged
between giant alien robots, under siege and desperate for fuel supplies.

By
the time they reached New York, Diacron was no longer a stand-alone
puzzle. As Transformers, it had broken away from its role of toy as
object. The play pattern was spelled out. So too was the inducement to
keep buying Transformers merchandise - playtime now would need lots of
characters and props.

The remaining problem was how to sell such
a fantasy toy effectively on television - the use of animation in
advertising in the US at that time was strictly controlled. The Griffin
Bacal agency had the answer. They made Transformers the subject of a
comic book, and then advertised that instead to create awareness of the
Transformers brand: there were no guidelines for commercials for comic
books, because comic books never advertised on television. Griffin
Bacal's ingenuity drove a coach and horses through the rules. Now the
commercials could include all the animation they wished.

There
was one more ingredient. Over a decade before, the Federal
Communications Commission had cracked down on attempts by toy companies
to introduce toy-led programmes. But now, under the Reagan
administration, that changed. Transformers was free to become a
"programme-length commercial".

A watershed had been crossed. The
old idea of basing toys on characters in books or movies or programmes
was turned upside down. Now the toy came first. The borders between
programme and product became forever blurred, and in 1984 the
Transformers TV series was launched.

Transformers sold $100m
worth of toys in its first year - the most successful toy introduction
in history at that point. Despite ups and downs since, constant
marketing-led initiatives - new TV series spinning off new toys - have
ensured it has never been out of production, a triumph in a business
where a successful toy is one that lasts more than a year.

· The Real Toy Story: Inside the Ruthless Battle for Britain's Youngest Consumers by Eric Clark is published by Black Swan, £8.99

Article Link



Toy Stocks Advance on New Products

Toys interacting with the virtual world are becoming a big industry
trend. Ganz's Webkinz, plush pets that come alive online with a secret
password, are a big hit with children. This year, consumers will see
plenty more like Power Rangers helmets which store secret missions
found online and even devices that take kids to secure Web sites where
they can play activities without wandering into the darker corners of
the Internet.



Some toys are even in the form of personal care products. Hasbro
recently reported that sales of "Tooth Tunes" a new musical toothbrush
featuring songs from pop acts such as Hilary Duff, Kelly Clarkson and
Black Eyed Peas, have averaged more than 100,000 units a week since
going into full distribution in February.

"The mood is pretty optimistic," said Chris Byrne, a New York-based toy consultant.







Article Link

Sunday, May 6, 2007

R/C Tarantula

tarantula_240x206.jpg

For $25 we recommend using Uncle Milton to pull pranks on
others—like those who are pregnant and/or have heart conditions
and propensity for seizures. It also helps if they are under 4 1/2 feet
tall.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Friday, May 4, 2007

LawnBott Remote-Controlled Mower



Cordless, remote-controlled lawnmower
with a flat blade that mulches the grass as it cuts it. Charge it up on
its docking station and it will go for 4 hours—or 33,000 square
feet—on one single charge. It's apparently so quiet that you can
let it run all night without bugging the neighbors, it doesn't mind a
bit of light rain, and a heavier shower will send it toddling back to
its base station like the obedient little robot it is.

It does hills—anything up to a 1:4 gradient, in fact—and
only uses around $7 to $10 of electricity each year. The downside is
the price: the LB2000 Professional will set you back $1,749.

Article Link (Gizmodo)



Thursday, May 3, 2007

Disney Targets Pre-Teens with New Social Networking Portal

Disney has joined the ever growing list social networking destinations with the launch of Disney Xtreme Digital, targeted directly at Disney’s core market of pre-teens.

The new service, said perhaps lazily by some
outlets as being a MySpace clone, comes complete with user generated
profile pages that leverage the wealth of Disney’s pre-teen friendly
content in terms of allowing customization, as well as offering the
standard competitions, video, music, games and networking features.
Naturally Disney has also included strong parental controls, that
include the ability to limit access access to the various features on
the site, including chat.



Article Link

Virtual dog walking: Nintendogs has nothing on this




Sure, Nintendo might've very well put some of the cutest virtual puppies into one of the best selling entertainment devices
of all time, but Japanese arcades, as always, take things to the next
level. TOKYOMANGO recently spotted this dog walking game, which has
been around for a few years, and puts a virtual pet's life in your
hands. To walk the dog, you have to maintain a good speed -- not too
fast, not too slow -- while keeping the idiot mutt from getting hit by
oncoming traffic or the neighborhood bully dog. The result for failure?
The dog dies, and you get to blow some more yen on this
oh-so-stimulating form of entertainment.



Article Link

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

LEGO Johnny Five



Jn5 V3 Main

The triangular structure of the treads has been built after precise
studies of real Johnny five photos: a pre-production CAD drawing helped
this process. An early version of J5 base had the most perfect
proportions achievable with Lego gears, using Technic large turntables:
unfortunately, those turntables made links escape while treads were
turning.

So, in the actual version, turntables has been replaced by 40z
gears, that don't damage design too much and allow a very smooth motion.

Article Link

Mondo Spider robot walks, consternates onlookers




Joining the Land Walker, Robotic Giraffe, and the Anchorage Mecha as some of the most exotic, over-the-top ways to get from point A to point B is the Mondo Spider,
which required a team of skilled engineers and "thousands of hours" in
order to assemble. The creators seemingly spared no cost on the
mechanical arachnid,
as it boasts an impressive array of gears, linkages, and sheer
quantities of metal to bring it all together. The man-driven beast
cranks up like your average vehicle, but slipping it into first gear
gets the spidey's legs a-crankin', and before long, it actually gets up
to a respectable pace and commands respects from anyone close to its
path.

Article Link (Engadget)