Thursday, February 28, 2008

AIBO matches real dogs in chasing away loneliness, research claims

While robot / human relations seem to be fairly solid at the moment, it looks like the fight has long since been on between canines and their robotic counterparts. Some researchers at Saint Louis University compared Sony's AIBO
with a mutt named Sparky at three different nursing homes, to see how
residents would respond. Maybe Sparky just isn't that affable, but the
researchers found that AIBO and his living breathing competition were
both equally successful in alleviating loneliness. AIBO also has the
added advantage of, erm, cleanliness, and is easier for senior citizens
to take care of, so it looks like Sparky is pretty much out of a job.
Get used to it, buddy, it's called outsourcing.

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REEM B Humanoid Service Robot

Spanish company PAL Technology's ultimate goal is to develop a humanoid
service robot, and REEM B is the latest prototype they've produced. The
robot can navigate autonomously around buildings, identify and interact
with people and objects and carry heavy weights. He may not be as nippy
or sleek as Honda's ASIMO—his top speed is just under one mile an hour—but he's stronger than the latter, as you can see in the video.

REEM B's hands can perform some pretty sophisticated movements, even
if he looks a little wobbly climbing stairs. The robot can recognise
voice commands, maps the surrounding environment automatically and
operates for 2 hours on one battery charge.

The demonstration of him lifting 17 lbs of water makes ASIMO's
efforts with a paltry tray of coffee seem pretty weak, doesn't it? In
fact, REEM B can lift up to 25% of its own weight.
Article Link (Gizmodo)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Solar-powered dragonfly throws ball back in WowWee's court

Make no mistake, our hearts were fluttering when we finally witnessed WowWee's FlyTech Dragonfly
buzzing about, but there's just something about this creature that
really wins us over. Designed and constructed by James G. Watt, this
robotic insect reportedly includes a number of solar cells which
provide enough power in sunlight to make the critter's wings flap.
Granted, we aren't told whether or not it's mighty enough to deliver
loves notes in math class, but we're digging the concept, regardless.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008


The level of interactivity is pretty impressive. About the size of a small puppy, it behaves semi-autonomously, though
it'll follow patterns you pick w/ the remote like guarding your room
(if it detects a light change, it goes apeshit) and (cutely) responds
to petting, calling and the like. $150.

D-Rex, an interactive "pet" dinosaur for boys that boasts life-like
movements, obeys commands, displays affection and protects its owner. It features "biomorphic robotics," a sub-discipline of robotics that
focuses on emulating the mechanics, sensor systems and methodologies
used by animals.

D-Rex has several features that bring him to life - he moves his eyes,
wags his tail, responds to care and feeding, comes when called, and
like any good pet, protects his owner and his prize possessions.

D-Rex combines robotics, proprietary software and reptilian skin to
create a life-like appearance and behavior. He walks around, chomps his
jaw, bares his teeth and roars more than 100 different ways to let you
know what he wants. D-Rex might demand food or want to play a game, and
he'll hear your voice and respond to your touch.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Kota the Triceratops: Pleo's big buddy


I was late to work on Wednesday this week because a short clip of
the *greatest toy ever* (think “Pleo's big buddy")
caught my eye while being featured on Good Morning America.

Kota the Triceratops dinosaur debuts this week at the annual Toy Fair
held in New York City. Measuring over 40 inches tall, Kota is an
interactive triceratops, featuring movement sensors in nine areas on
his body. Kota adorably reacts to touch by moving his head, tail,
mouth, and horns. Kota is a durable little big guy as well,
he’s happy to hold a little bit of weight, and
children (mind you, that’s not grown up kids) can
press a button on the riding handle to play adventure-themed songs.

Six D batteries are required to keep Kota happy and playful. Approximate retail price: $300; ages 3 years & up; available: Fall 2008

Article Link (Engadget)

I'm in awe with Kota The Triceratops Dinosaur, a $300 fully articulated 40-inch-long robot in the shape of a real-sized baby triceratops that, according to Playskool, any kid can ride. Yes. Full size. Baby. Triceratops. Riding. Robot. Really, this thing looks so cool that makes the Pleo look like a bag of bricks.
Playskool says that Kota has sensors in eleven parts of his body that react to the touch and trigger different motions—including some cute horny action—and sounds. They say that the thing will even munch on special leafs, Cookie Monster style. Seriously, this is one of those toys which makes me want to have a three-year-old body rather than just a three-year-old brain.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Elmo Live Singing and Dancing Shows He Got Skillz

I want this Elmo, and I don't even like Sesame Street. It makes Pleo
look like a dumb hunk of plastic. The ways it moves and interacts is
incredible—it tells stories, sings songs, dances and is simply
the most expressive toy we've ever seen. It even yells out "Jazz
Hands!" when he finish performing his newest rap hit, "Elmo's Gotta Get
On Up."Article Link (Gizmodo)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pittsburgh developing a home for robotic toy makers

Two new robotics toy startups, both Carnegie Mellon University spinouts, are tooling away in Pittsburgh on the next generation of high-tech toys.

Interbots and Bossa Nova Concepts are working behind closed doors in Technology Collaborative spaces on Craig Street, developing family-friendly, emotive robots that they hope to unveil commercially within two years.

“The space we have on Craig is really critical to
our success because of its close proximity to CMU,” explains Sarjoun
Skaff, CTO of Bossa Nova. Internships through CMU offer students
practical experience and help to channel potential new hires Bossa
Nova’s way. “Pittsburgh (seed funding) has been really critical in
putting in place all the pieces of the business.”

Bossa Nova got its start in 2005 and has completed
development of a fascinating, funny toy with lifelike movements and
self-balancing motion. BN is presently developing a manufacturing plan with the help of Skaff, a post-doctorate fellow at The Robotics Institute.

Interbots originated at CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center where
it was a student-led research project before spinning off into a
company in 2005. The company is presently developing a commercial toy
product that conveys emotions, says Sabrina Haskell, Interbots software

Interbots started out specializing in the design
of high-end “custom, interactive characters” that physically and
virtually mingle with the public. Quasi, their first animatronic
character, is quite the celebrity, having appeared on ABC’s Good
Morning America, CBS Evening News, and the Science and Discovery
channels. His little sister, Moxi, was commissioned for the Science Centre Singapore where she chats and interacts with families.

“One of the strengths in Pittsburgh is the great
organizations that are reaching out to young companies,” says Haskell.
“There’s a lot of excitement about a Pittsburgh focus for robotic toys.”

Bossa Nova includes three principal, full-time
employees and six staff on contract. The company is in the process of
hiring an electronic control engineer. Interbots employs four ETC grads.

To read about another Pittsburgh company that has developed a robotic consumer product, Thorley Industries, click here.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Sarjoun Skaff, Bossa Nova Concepts, Sabrina Haskell, Interbots

Image courtesy of Interbots

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An Arty Eye That Really Does Follow You Around the Room

Plugging right in to that eerie "they're watching me" feeling you're supposed to
get from normal portrait paintings, Opto-Isolator is an artwork that
takes the sensation into the scary, robotic 21st Century. Its
realistic-looking eyeball actually responds to an onlooker's gaze with
a bunch of human-like movements, including coy side-glances and blinks.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fighting Fulla: a new toy story

There are, it is claimed, more than three Barbie dolls sold every
second – contributing to a worldwide haul of around $3.6 billion in
retail sales every year for Mattel's iconic toy.

It's no
surprise, then, that toy manufacturers have searched long and hard for
a doll that might take even a small percentage of that business away
from Barbie, when capturing even one percent of her sales would result
in a $36 million dollar windfall.

Since the turn of the
century, a new sector has emerged in the international doll market that
may eventually prove to be Barbie's toughest challenger yet for the
hearts and coins of young girls: Islamic dolls.

. Islamic dolls originated in part from a desire on
the part of authorities in the Arab world to stop Muslim girls from
seeing Barbie and her Western counterparts as aspirational role models.
In Iran, for example, two Islamic dolls – Dara and Sara – were launched
in the hope of providing more culturally suitable toys for Islamic
girls. But it wasn't until 2003, when Syrian-based New Boy Toys created
Fulla, that Islamic dolls were marketed to the masses.

Within 18 months of her launch, Fulla was the biggest-selling doll in
the Middle East – and New Boy one of the region's biggest spenders on
advertising. In 2007, the company spent close to $100 million on
marketing, according to Ipsos Stat. The majority was spent on promoting
Fulla (and the figures don't include the sums spent on the Fulla
animated TV series). The doll is now hailed internationally as the
"Arabic" or "Islamic" Barbie.

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Innovation First intros VEX RCR Mini, WiFi control system

Innovation First sure looks to be keeping up a steady pace with its VEX robotics system, with the company now following up its recently released ROBOTC programming kit
with its new VEX RCR Mini kit and a new WiFi control system. The
former, as you've no doubt surmised, is a smaller and less expensive
version of Innovation's standard VEX system, which it thinks will be
particularly appealing to students from elementary school on up. The
VEX WiFi Control System, on the other hand, will apparently work with
all VEX robots, and somewhat ominously, allows for "simultaneous
operation of hundreds of robots wirelessly." No word on a price or
exact release date for the WiFi system just yet, but you can look for
the VEX RCR Mini to be available this August for "less than $100."

Article Link (Engadget)

BotBrain Robot Head Flaps its Eyelids, Makes Geekish Hearts Flutter

animatronic head is sold as a kit so you can learn the fun of building
a fully robotic nut that can "turn left and right," has moving eyes,
eyelids and a mouth that "changes expressions"—though presumably
not into a sexy pout, sorry robo-sex fans. BotBrain even has sensors
that let it react to its environment, and its luscious eyelids make it
a far cuter robot head than some
we've covered. This educational robo-curio is available for $449, and
frankly we'd expect much better "human-robot interactions" for that

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Corgi H2GO RC Car Turns and Runs on Water

The Corgi H2GO is a RC card powered by a fuel cell which gets refilled
with hydrogen extracted from water. Like the previous model, the H-Racer,
it uses solar-powered electrolysis to do it. Unlike the
straight-line-only H-Racer, however, the H2GO is a real RC car that can
actually turn left and right. Playing Dr. Manhattan will set you back

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Corgi H2GO RC Car Runs on Water, Can Turn

The Corgi H2GO is the second generation of the H-Racer,
a model car which runs on hydrogen. Like the H-Racer, the H2GO fills
its fuel cell extracting hydrogen from water using solar electricity.
But instead of just going in a straight line, the H2GO is a real RC car
that can actually turn left and right. Playing Dr. Manhattan will set
you back $255.
Article Link (Gizmodo)