Friday, October 21, 2005

The Bot And The Princess

Princess Anne had a chance to interact with RoboX this week at Sensation Dundee.

RoboX is an interactive tour-guiding robot who speaks English, German, French, and Italian. RoboX can see and follow someone with his eyes using a laser scanner, and even when in very populated environments, RoboX will move safely and smoothly around people and objects.

Protruding from his chest is a panel with four color buttons that allows for human interaction. And a LED matrix in RoboX's right eye will display icons and short animations.

RoboX can even express what he's 'feeling' or his reaction to the environment with his eyes and eyebrows.

Supposedly RoboX 'pushed' his way to the princess's side with an urgent cry of "Let me through." Apparently even robots are impressed with royalty.

I wonder what the princess thought of her tour.

Pictures curtesy of BlueBotics.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A New Spin on Foosball.

It looks like Foosball may have a high tech challenger. Firebox is now selling a product called "Mr. Soccer Robot Football" which includes a full set of remote-controlled soccer players that you (and your friends) can drive about the course. It looks like an intriguing use of the devices, and certainly points towards a more and more widespread acceptance of technology in our sports and games.

Of course, this isn't real robot-soccer since it's remote-controlled by the user and doesn't do any decision making on its own. I've been following Robot Soccer off and on for the last half-decade or so, and it has really developed as a sport in its own right. I'm not sure if the RoboCup goal of a fully autonomous andriod team capable of beating humans at soccer by 2050 fill be hit, but each new addition to the sport is another small piece of that puzzle.

Mr Soccer Robot Football product page []

Mr. Soccer Robot Football Japanese Telivision Commercial (.wmv) []

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Today's Toys, Tomorrow's Heros.

More than just a platitude, this could be considered as a mantra for the robotic systems of the 1980s. While Topo and Teddy Ruxpin were making an impression on our childhoods, researchers were developing bomb-retrieval and detonation systems that would come to fruition in the late 90s.

Right now I am seeing about one article every week announcing that a robot has been added to a bomb squad somewhere in the United States.

And over the last three weeks, there has been even more exciting news: these robots are actually being put to use, for everything from vaporizing a makeup case that someone forgot on the bus to detonating a car full of enough explosives to make citizens feel a jolt three blocks away.

Robots are saving lives and performing tasks that we should never need to send a human to attempt. Here are three of the latest Bomb Squad stories.

Robot removes suspicious package in Bellevue bomb scare []
Commuter nightmare []
Robot used to blow up explosives []

[Picture courtesy of the University of Melbourne]

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Robots getting sixth sense, seeing dead people?

I know that most of us have at some point waded with small fish and endeavoured to catch one. In so doing we've all discovered that fish seem to have an uncanny awareness and ridiculously low reaction time when approached by an object. It seems that fish aren't preternaturally fast, they're just equipped with a sense we aren't.

That sense is called a lateral line. It uses the feedback from a line of incredibly thin hairs along their back to generate a mental map of water pressure and fluid changes, letting them 'feel' through the water around them.

Now, the institute of physics reports that some researchers have found a way to manufacture an artificial lateral line using silicon and modern micromachining methods. These scientists have floated the idea that it could be used to allow robots to navigate underwater environments with more proficiency and ease. Interesting stuff.

Could we soon see robots that can not only see and hear better than us, but develop entirely new senses beyond our ability to comprehend?

Fishy sixth sense could help robots navigate the oceans []

Monday, October 17, 2005

Our Lovely Assistant Takes a Hand.

As the primary author of this blog is taking a couple of days to move to a new state and career, we have a talented and lovely assistant (author of the Through-the-Camera-Lens photoblog and co-author of The Road travel blog) who will be updating the site for a few days. Hopefully you'll hear from yours truly again on Wednesday or Thursday.

I've left her a stack of templated articles and highlights that I assembled before I began the move, but maybe if you're all very nice to her, she'll even post a few interesting tidbits of her own. She's quite qualified to comment on the subject, as she's a very skilled software and electrical engineer (cue oohs and aahs from the crowd).

In the meantime, please make Our Lovely Assistant feel welcome. Olá!

Today has been a slow robot news day, so you can tide yourself over with this small gallery of Wakamaru Pictures. My personal favorite is the "what your Wakamaru sees" image with the crosshairs directly over the user's face. That certainly won't make Americans already terrified of robots taking over the world nervous at all.