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

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