Friday, December 11, 2009

Webcam-based 3D scanning

ProFORMA (which stands for 'Probabilistic Feature-based On-line Rapid Model Acquisition', if you must know) is some cool system that turns any ordinary webcam into a powerful 3D scanning tool. In fact, a camera is pretty much all you need for some "on-line" modeling action -- no laser or green screen necessary -- meaning the 3D models are constructed on the spot while you slowly rotate the objects, although ProFORMA can also track fast moving objects as shown in the demo video.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Robot dance

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Robotic Heads

Talk about the uncanny valley..

These are three singing robots manufactured into a performing trio. The animatronic heads from artist Nathaniel Mellor are part of a $75,000 art piece on sale at Art Basel Miami Beach 2009. The artificial faces are controlled by servos which in turn are controlled by a computer. The uncontrolled fear you'll feel when watching the video is, however, completely natural.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Pingo the desktop robot penguin at $150

This penguin bot is a ridiculously interactive alert system for news, email, Facebook updates, and whatever else you set him to check for. I say "ridiculously interactive," because Pingo reacts to pokes, shakes, and voice commands and can be nurtured and played with as if a pet. I'm sure all of those things would turn more annoying than useful or entertaining quickly, but the damn thing is way to freakin' cute for me to care.

At $149, Pingo is definitely more expensive than the Furbies it acts and looks like, but—never mind the features—the minimal creepiness is worth the price difference.

Previous Post (5 July 2009)
Article Link (Gizmodo)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rewards Of 'Free-To-Play' MMOs

James reveals that Three Rings' MMO Puzzle Pirates takes in approximately $50 each month from each paying user (ARPPU) for a total of $230,000 a month, all resulting from microtransactions.

In February, 2005, James chose to launch a free-to-play version of Puzzle Pirates alongside the original subscription model (which contributes an additional $70,000 each month from subscription fees).

Four and a half years later, James has learned a lot -- that the average revenue per user (ARPU) is between one and two dollars a month, but only about 10% of his player base has ever paid him anything. As a result, he says, approximately 5,000 gamers are generating the $230,000 in revenue he sees each month.

"The pivot number -- the number to focus on -- is not the $50 ARPPU but the $1-2 ARPU," he says. "That's the number that a new paying customer is worth to you. If that number were, say, 20 cents, you'd probably have a difficult time building a business."

"But if that number were, say, $3 then you have a good business that enables you to go to a flash distribution site and say, 'Hey, put my game up on your site and I'll give you a dollar for every new user you send me.' They'd surely be interested in that."

Article Link (Gamasutra)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

iRobot creates new business unit for healthcare robotics

It looks like iRobot is betting on healthcare robotics in a fairly big way, with it taking advantage of the recent TEDMED conference to announce that it's forming a new business unit focused solely on the still burgeoning industry. That unit will be headed up by Tod Loofbourrow, who [...] thinks "the long-term potential of robotics to extend independent living is profound." While he's just as light on specifics, iRobot CEO Colin Angle is no less ambitious about the company's goals, saying that iRobot's "healthcare mission is add a million years of independent living to our customers."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

ROPID Robot Jumps And Runs

Aside from supposedly being the fastest runner and best jumper among similarly constructed robots, ROPID also responds to voice commands, with action and speech.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Boston Dynamics PETMAN biped robot

This biped humanoid is being built by Boston Dynamics to test military suits used to protect soldiers in chemical warfare. As an evolutionary advance from its four-legged BigDog platform, PETMAN does the ol' heel-toe at a healthy 3.2 MPH (5.14 KPH) and packs enough balancing intelligence to remain upright even when given a shove from the side.

Article Link (Engadget)

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Bluetooth Runs for a Year Off a Watch Battery

By Texas Instruments, a new, 6mm-square Bluetooth system-on-a-chip can operate for "more than a year" on a small button-cell battery.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Panasonic's Dishwashing Robot

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New Wi-Fi Direct to Connect Gadgets Without Routers

Coming mid-2010 there will be a new Wi-Fi standard that will allow any Wi-Fi gadget to connect wirelessly with each other without having to go through a wireless router. The best thing: It will only require a software update.

The new standard is called Wi-Fi Direct and—unlike Bluetooth—the technology will enjoy exactly the same speed and range as Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi Alliance—which
includes Intel, Microsoft, and Apple—says that it will
automatically detect and hitch any device equipped with Wi-Fi within a
300 range, from computers to cameras to TVs to printers to anything in
between. All peer-to-peer.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

DASH - Industructible Running Hexapod

DASH, a UC Berkeley-designed, cockroach-inspired robot, manages to take what makes cockroaches so resilient and even retain the cockroach's singularly creepy movement. This thing is near-indestructible.

The 10-cm long DASH, which stands for Dynamic Autonomous Sprawled Hexapod, weighs only 16 grams, yet is able to run 15 times its body length per second. It has a uniquely flexible design from nearly all sides that allows it to survive pretty much anything, including a drop eight stories above the ground. It's actually made of what's basically laminated cardboard, which means it's a very cheap robot to build as well.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

MIT's autonomous helicopter

The latest Micro Air Vehicle from MIT does an incredible job of balancing itself in-air. Not to mention that the helicopter models it's surroundings so well it could probably fly over to the fridge and make you a sandwich. By using lasers and 3D cameras, the team built a vision engine that can very accurately define the helicopter's surrounding environment. That's only part of the trick to getting it to fly so well, the other half is some pretty sweet flight path correction.

Article Link (Gizomod)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Vstone's Robovie-PC humanoid robot

Video: Vstone's Robovie-PC robot gets Intel Atom inside, becomes world's most awesome computer
The Robovie-PC from Vstone [] has a 1.6GHz Atom Z530
processor, dual USB ports, a VGA connector, and even Wi-Fi. There's a
1.3 megapixel camera on its head, which shows a lot of potential. Since the robot is
the computer, able to run Windows or Linux, advanced functionality
should be much easier to achieve. The 15-inch tall bot will cost ¥399,999, or about

Article Link (Engadget)

Vstone's tiny Robovie-nano humanoid robot

Vstone's tiny Robovie-NANO robot drives the lane, jumps, shoots, scores retail availability
There is certainly no shortage of humanoid robots conspiring to attack your savings, but few look to offer the combination of tiny size and amazing dexterity of the Robovie-nano, the little guy from Vstone who is now shipping to would-be Dr. Frankensteins. He's just 230mm tall (about nine inches) and weighs 575g (about a pound and a quarter), but looks to be at least as nimble as larger forebearers and is far cheaper than most, costing just ¥49,350 ($540) to start.

Article Link (Engadget)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ball sensor as a game controller

The startup Ball-it markets a golfball-sized device that is able to interact with your computer, TV or mobile phone thanks to physical wireless sensing technology that was popularized in large part by the Nintendo Wii gaming console. Since it detects things like rotation, direction movements, squeezing, tapping and reaction speed, there are loads of gestures that you can make wielding the ball trigger an on-screen activity

You can place the ball in your pants pockets, after which the device will be able to detect your running speed, how high you jump, and more to control elements of basic sports games. Besides doubling as a pedometer, it also measures how many calories you burn so you can use to improve your fitness, too. Ball-it aims to be able to distribute the device in the near future for 15 or 16 euros (approx. $22) and includes a couple of basic PC games in the same box.

Article Link (TechCrunch)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009


Roboni-i Robot on the Hammacher Schlemmer Cover
Roboni-i is arguably the biggest thing to hit the robot-toy business since the uber-popular Lego Mindstorms. And the new robot is emerging just a few miles from Salem, in Beverly, MA, where Robonica is headquartered. But there’s also a South African side to the story: Robonica CEO Johan Poolman, an electrical engineer by training, is the founder of a series of technology companies in the Johannesburg area, and works from the company’s R&D and manufacturing facilities in Centurion, a suburb of Pretoria. The company has 45 employees in Centurion, and obtained 100 percent of its financing from a pair of technology investment funds run by the South African government, Dusenberry says.

Dusenberry says the primary target audience for the Roboni-i is 13- to 17-year-old boys, for whom the remote-controlled devices will provide, in his words, “a killer interactive entertainment experience.” But after watching a demonstration at last week’s MassTLC Tech Tuesday event at Microsoft’s NERD Center in Cambridge—and, I admit, after taking the Roboni-i for a spin myself—I think it’s safe to say that the nimble little machines will appeal to gadget lovers of all ages.

Roboni-i comes pre-programmed with six action games that, in the words of a company announcement, challenge players to “beat the odds, race against time, manage resources, neutralize threats, execute special effects and collect bonus points to improve score.” Using the remote control, players can maneuver the robots around pylons, saucers, balls, and other accessories; the units also have sensors that allow them to navigate autonomously or interact with other Roboni-i devices. (You need to go and watch the video on the Robonica home page to really get it.) For players who want to continue the experience online, there’s an entire Web-based game built around the foot-high devices—which somehow manage to look menacing and cute at the same time.

And for serious amateur roboticists, the units come with a USB cables and PC-based “command center” software that allows users to rewrite the robots’ basic instructions. “We think there’s a huge secondary market among people interested in artificial intelligence and robotic science and people who love programming and modifying products,” says Dusenberry.

“With Roboni-i, the major differentiator is being able to go in and customize and personalize the robot so that you can change the game experience. Where we differ from every other robot on the market is that we’re providing the source code and encouraging people to modify the actual C++.”

Dusenberry says he hopes that Robonica can tap into same kind of enthusiasm for hands-on engineering experiences that has catapulted the FIRST Robotics Competition, the creation of New Hampshire inventor-entrepreneur Dean Kamen, into the global spotlight, with hundreds of student teams competing every year. “We think FIRST is beyond awesome, and we totally support that whole program,” he says. “From the point of view of our product, we are contacting local high schools to go in and meet with classes. We hope that they see that this could be a great tool for learning about robotics pretty cost-effectively.”

Article Link (Xconomy)

Online retail business

As a retailer, NewEgg’s’s profit margins are slim. It was only 1.4% in 2008. Amazon’s profit margins are around 3.3%, which is double Newegg’s margins.

Article Link (Techcrunch)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pet Care Robot

Quite similar to a WowWee Rovio, the Pet Care Robot (concept) is a Wi-Fi controlled bot that can serve as your remote eyes and ears from a web interface. But what's a bit different than a Rovio is that this robot allows you to play fetch through a remote controlled ball you can steer around the house—all while nurturing your animal through a built-in speaker in the robot's base.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Laundry Folding

Designed by Professor Masahiko Inami and his team at Keio University,
Foldy the robot uses commands entered into a PC program along with a
ceiling-mounted camera to locate and properly fold your laundry every
time. After folding instructions for various types of clothing have
been entered into the program, Foldy can work autonomously. A RC
vehicle is probably not the most practical device for this purpose, but
I'm glad to see that someone has invested a lot of time and effort in
solving this critical problem.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Friday, August 28, 2009


The two-wheeled bot has 16 sensors and four processors, and either happily wanders around on its own, or you can take control. Windows software and a USB hookup lets you program all aspects of its behavior, including moods, reaction to stimuli, and if it freaks out or mingles when it meets other robots.

The $250 starter kit (available September 28) includes base stations, hubs, and gaming cards to set up real world playing fields. What caught my eye: a specially tagged ball allows for a variety of competitive ball games (the Roboni-i has a special scoop and uses Zigbee RF too).

You can also go online to play video-game based matches, track stats, or get tips from the Robini-i community.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Robot Fish

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

High-Speed Manipulator

Ishikawa Hashimoto Laboratory

More detailed video here.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Humanoid Running

Toyota's Asimo
Article Link (Gizmodo)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bossa Nova's Sub-$100 Robots Move Fast, Birth 'Bebes' (Hands-on)

We stopped by Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh last week to get a sneak peek at a couple of new toys from Bossa Nova Robotics. The upstart company hopes it has found a niche in the toy market with Prime-8 and Penbo, which are inexpensive consumer robots spawned from multi-million dollar robotics
research at the university's Robotics Institute. "We have democratized
robots," co-founder John Fegali told us at the demo session.

start with Prime-8. It's a rough and tumble robot for boys that
resembles a gorilla -- if a gorilla were bright yellow and sped around
with arms that rotate in a complete circle. As co-founder and chief
operating officer David Palmer said: "One thing that never seems to go
out of fashion is action and dynamic toys." That's hard to argue, too.
Folks, this robot can move, and move fast, thanks to a a bi-pedal
design that transforms into a locomotive system when it gets on its
hands (which are wheels), making it glide across the floor at much the
same speed as an RC Car. It also doesn't require sensors to guide it
across the ground (sensors give the illusion of intelligence, but they
tend to slow robots down). Instead, Prime-8 is operated with an
infrared controller that is fairly responsive, though we did notice
some precision problems during out time controlling the bot.

has different 'emotions' -- if he's happy, he farts, but if he's angry,
he roars and glows red. He also plays a number of games (including
shooting toy rockets at, say, someone's little sister) and synchronizes
with other bots (we watched as co-founder and chief technology officer
Dr. Sarjoun Skaff made three Prime-8s do identical dances, but shhh,
that's not advertised on the packaging). For $99.99, Prime-8 has a lot
of features packed into its compact body. That said, the maing thing
that really sets apart this toy from other mass market robots, like Robosapien,
is its combination of wheels, two 'legs,' and it's ability to put on
some speed. We haven't seen a bot on the market that moves as fast as

Then there's Penbo--a furry pink penguin that oozes cute and waddles upright using the same technology as Prime-8. As with the baby-dino robot Pleo,
Penbo is autonomous and isn't operated with a remote. Instead of
action, it focuses on nurturing. Touch its heart, and the stomach opens
to reveal an egg that contains a fuzzy little 'BeBe.' You can remove
'BeBe' from the egg, and Penbo communicates' with it in a number of
ways. It might rock the baby to sleep or play hide-and-seek with the
offspring. According to Fegali, it took some hard work for the team to
really get in touch with its feminine side and decide what features to
use on Penbo. "It's actually really difficult to build a robot for
girls," he said. After plenty of market research and some one-on-one
conversations, the Bossa Nova team says it discovered that girls wanted
a more interactive and nurturing experience with a bot, as opposed to
Prime-8's action-packed design (what, girls don't like action?).

is a little bit cheaper ($69.99) than Prime-8, but it doesn't seem to
'do' as much as either. During our time with the bot, we just sort of
patted its head, listened to it 'sing,' and watched it waddle across
the floor. Plus, it's just so darn cute, with those big eyes, that it's
almost scary. Then again, we don't exactly think like a five-year-old
girl. Maybe Penbo will keep them distracted for hours on end? What do
we know, we're action-junkies.

Prime-8 will be available via QVC on July 25, and Penbo will debut in mid-August on the shopping channel. However, you can find both on
starting August 1. In a market that has lacked a 'must-have' product
since Furby, Bossa Nova might have a hot-seller on its hands, if for no
other reason than it fills some previously unaddressed voids: Designing
a robot for each gender is certainly a smart move, we think, and
personally, we can't wait to get our hands for more time on both of

Article Link

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Prime 8 - UK

Prime 8 (image © Antony Bennison/MSN)
This noisy, banana-yellow gorilla robot whirls around on oversized,
rocket-firing arms, comes complete with programmed ‘mood swings’ and is
guaranteed to create chaos under the control of a child. You have been

Article Link

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sega Toys' Dream Cat Venus

DSega Toys has unveiled yet another iteration of the fake cat. Dream Cat Venus -- as this one's been dubbed -- has sensors in its forehead, and touch sensors in its body so that it can react when petted. Apparently more lifelike than previous version Smile, Venus also purrs when certain words are spoken. $110

Article Link (Engadget)

Both touch and sound sensitive, the Venus (no relation to the planet or the feminine razor) reacts to your petting and talking with a proper amount of nudging and purring. And like the Sony Aibo, the Dream Cat can actually "see" through its camera-enabled eyes.

But does this poor robot need to look like the product from a My First Taxidermy kit? Drop the realism for a moment, Sega, and let these helpless kittenbots out of your dungeon in the uncanny valley.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Image Stabilization

Adobe and University of Wisconsin scientists have created software that can correct shaky camerawork. Using 3D modeling, it guesses the intended look, then warps the original video to adjust.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Teens Don't Use Twitter

According to June, 2009 comScore numbers, 11.3% of visitors to in the U.S. are ages 12-17. Internationally, in May, 2009, only 4.4% of visitors were younger then 18.

If you look at technologies trending with teens right now, it’s Apple devices (iPhone, iPod), smart phones (Blackberry, Palm), and then social networks (Facebook and MySpace). At least that’s what I see from hanging out with 1,500 other teenagers in high school every day (I am 16 years old). But why not Twitter? Well, because Twitter is a different type of social network than Facebook. Facebook is about connecting people, and sharing information with each other. The way my friends and I see it, Facebook is a closed network. It’s a network of people and friends that you trust to be connected to, and to share information like your email address, AIM screen name, and phone number. You know who’s getting your status messages, because you either approved or added each person to your network.

With Twitter, it’s the exact opposite. Anyone can follow your status updates. It’s a completely open network that makes teenagers feel “unsafe” about posting their content there, because who knows who will read it. Sure, you get emails notifying you when you have new followers, but that doesn’t compare to the level of detail you get when someone on Facebook adds you, and you get their information.

Twitter is also seen as more expensive to keep up with than Facebook. Most of my friends spend their time playing video games, watching TV, surfing online, and text messaging to actual friends who you know will reply back. In an economy like this, most parents don’t want to spend the extra money on unlimited texting to total strangers. So why spend money on sending SMS updates to Twitter, when you can send updates to someone you know will read it and reply?

Article Link (TechChrunch)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bossa Nova Prime-8 Robot Walks Runs on His Hands, Smashes Aibos to Bits

What's special about Bossa Nova's Prime-8 robot—a $100 descendant of DARPA and Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute's $20,000-a-pop all-terrain RHex designed for 10-year-old boys? It's the fastest bipedal toy robot ever. Just watch.

Prime-8 and Penbo (shown here) are the launch products for Bossa Nova Robotics, a spinoff of Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute with a really simple goal: To take awesome robotics tech out of the lab and put it in the hands of real people.

Here, the primary technology repackaging is its form of locomotion,
inspired by the biomechanics of a cockroach, whose pliant legs allow it
to quickly scurry over rough, broken terrain without thinking about it.
These make a complete revolution (unlike the roach's legs), but the
mechanics of them are similar—neither RHex nor Prime-8 need sensors to
move and balance. To see some of the relation between Prime-8 and RHex,
RHex climbing some stairs:

Prime-8 does more than run circles around other robots, though—it
intelligently re-balances itself automatically, plays games, can run
amok autonomously, shoot rockets and synchronize with other Prime-8s.
It's controlled via an infrared remote that's shaped like a generic
videogame controller. It's designed for kids around 8 years old. (I
hope they haven't played too many videogames before picking Prime-8's
controller, actually, since there's a lack of precision in the controls
that someone used to precise responses from inputs might be frustrated

That said, it's a lot of fun to play with, and pretty easy to pick
up and start slamming into stuff. I'd love to run it around on some
rougher terrain, as well, since it's designed to be tough—supposedly,
it can hold up after falling off of a table. There's definitely a more
visceral joy playing with Prime-8 than with some of the other robots
I've play with—the speed, the form (not a generic robot shape), the
kinetic-ness of it.

Both Prime-8 and Penbo launch on QVC on July 25 for $100 and $80,
respectively, before hitting Amazon a little bit later, and possibly
online stores for Walmart and Target for the holidays.

Bossa Nova is planning on using the same movement tech in future
robots as well, so they all move in roughly the same manner—Penbo, a
penguin, uses the same movement system, just slightly tweaked so it

Article Link