Thursday, March 26, 2009

Robots for Elderly in Japan

The Japanese government is planning to put robots to practical use in Japanese households in as soon as five years, and has already begun formulating the political agencies needed to oversee robot safety standards.
According to a government panel on Wednesday, the robots are needed to provide day-care and nursing services to Japan's rapidly aging population. Since over 41 billion of the projected 62 billion dollar robot market is supposed to be dedicated to care, it's important to start thinking of the regulations that need to be put in place.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Monday, March 23, 2009

On Design

Google's Visual Design Leader Douglas Bowman bailed last week. He left, he reveals, because Google's fundamentally run by engineers. Engineers who do thing like focus test 41 shades of blue to decide the best one.
When a company is filled with engineers, it turns to engineering to solve problems. Reduce each decision to a simple logic problem. Remove all subjectivity and just look at the data...And that data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions.
The obvious compare and contrast is to Apple, and the way they developed the iPod—or really, any other product. It didn't emerge fully formed from the singular vision in Steve Jobs' brain, but headstrong design is at the forefront of the creation of every product, which is why Apple often leads the industry in product design.

Article Link (Gizmodo)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

iPhone Virtual Worlds

The viral potential for a mobile virtual world optimized for the Apple ecosystem could be as big as the potential for continuous monetization: sales of avatar accessories, virtual apartments (utilizing iPhone 3.0’s new subscription option), sales of in-game items, music downloads, branded spaces and conventional ads come to mind.

Tokyo-based start-up called Genkii is building a unique app that has the potential to not only let a few iPhone users connect with each other, but thousands of them - at the same time or asynchronously. Sparkle is poised to become the first virtual world for the iPhone. What’s more, it’s being developed completely from scratch, exclusively as an MMO for the iPhone/iPod Touch.

Genkii says users will get a full-fledged virtual world in 3D (the company has a track record in virtual worlds development). Sparkle 3D will have its own economy, customizable personal spaces and avatars, social networking functions, virtual goods, games, streaming audio support, etc.

Currently, Genkii is completely self-funded and has been bootstrapping for over a year. The company is now actively seeking angel investment to accelerate development of Sparkle 3D.

Article Link (Tech Crunch)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

JAKKS Pacific nabs Walmart's Vendor of the Year

The little known JAKKS Pacific just got a lot more popular after receiving Walmart's Vendor of the Year award for 2008, marking the second time in the company's history that said award was received.

Article Link (Engadget)

Camera and Paper Based Holograms

Amazing pseudo-hologram tech.

Article Link (TechCrunch)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009



Whegs (specifically Whegs II) is modeled on a cockroach, with legs, antennae, and a segmented body.

Besides the segmented body that can lift up to climb over obstacles, Whegs uses an adaptive tripod gait that lets it run along at a brisk 5.5 km/hr, but if it hits an obstacle, the front legs sync up to help it climb over. Whegs can be teleoperated, but also has autonomous capability. The AI is quite simple and relies on basic insect-like behaviors and sensors"

After analyzing how a cockroach positions its antennae when deciding to climb over or tunnel under a shelf-like obstacle, mechanical antennae were designed and fitted to Whegs™ II. The mechanical antennae swept up and down, each at a different rate, as the robot moved through its environment. When a shelf was encountered, the position of the antennae of the obstacle helped Whegs™ II autonomously decide whether to climb or tunnel. Like the cockroach, when both mechanical antennae touched the bottom of the shelf, the robot tunneled. And when both touched the top of the shelf, a climbing behavior was initiated. When one antenna touched the top while the other touched the bottom, Whegs™ II tunneled, just like the insect in a bright environment.

The only problem with the antennae is the range, so Whegs II was upgraded with some ultrasonic sensors that mimic eyes by mimicking ears. By using a single ultrasonic emitter and a pair of receivers, Whegs can determine the direction and distance to nearby objects in the same way that your brain interpolates where a sound is coming from by comparing when each ear hears it. Interestingly, these simple behaviors were used to augment the control of a teleoperator, automatically adjusting control inputs to avoid potential collisions. It’s simple hardware and simple behaviors, and it seems like it could make robot teleoperation significantly easier, if or when it makes it into the commercial (or military) sector.

Article Link (BotJunkie)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

Webcam Brings 3-D to Sports Cards

Collectors who hold a special Topps 3D Live baseball card in front of a webcam will see a three-dimensional avatar of the player on the computer screen. Rotate the card, and the figure rotates in full perspective. It’s called “augmented reality,” a combination of a real image with a virtual one.

Article Link (NYT)