Low-cost video chat robot

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[Johnny Chung Lee], having recently moved from Seattle to Mountain View, wanted a way to keep in touch with his fiancé who would not be relocating for several more months. While most of us would likely consider purchasing a pair of web cams to keep in touch, he decided to do things his own way.  Using an iRobot Create and a netbook, both about $250 apiece, he constructed a remote-controlled video chat robot that he can steer around his former abode from 1,000 miles away. While $500 might seem expensive at first, [Johnny] reminds us that commercial versions likely run into the thousands of dollars.

The whole setup is controlled using custom software to manage the movement of the robot, which can be used in conjunction with freely available videoconferencing applications, such as Skype. He also modified the iRobot’s charging station to charge both the robot and the netbook simultaneously – a process he explains, but precedes with several disclaimers.  Like some of his previous projects we have covered, he has made the C# source used in this project available for download on his site, along with documentation for both the control software and dock modifications.

Check out video of the robot in action after the jump.

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Animatronics reference

Anyone who is familiar with animatronics or even most robotics knows that almost every build is a hack if you don’t plan on reproducing it.  This gallery is to show off the work of [John Nolan]. However, instead of just posting the final product, he has posted several galleries that show, in detail, the internal structures. Curious how to rig a jaw or an eyebrow?  Wanna see the internals of an animatronic baby? How about building giant monster hands that are rugged and have full digit control? It’s all in the gallery.

(the) Best Robotics competition

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If you give a mouse a cookie, he will ask for a glass of milk. If you give a team of geeks a box full of parts ranging from aluminum to plywood to motors to RF interfaces, they will build a robot. Introducing Best Robotics, a volunteer group that gives schools a box of hardware and 6 weeks to build a robot that will compete against other schools for the title of champion.

This past Saturday the17th, the OKBest regional competition was held and I, HaD writer [Jakob], was lucky enough to be invited personally to not only watch – but compete. Check out our full breakdown after the jump.
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Hand of Man Mechanical Claw

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[Christian Ristow], a former Muppet creator, has created a much larger puppet that has caught the attention of Popular Mechanics. His Hand of Man is a 27 foot long remote control mechanical claw. Powered by a 90 hp diesel engine, the hydraulic system can be controlled by a glove worn by the operator. This started as a demonstration for a robotics fair, but has recently made appearances at Burning Man, Maker Faire, and had the Grand Champions seat of Popular Mechanic’s Backyard Geniuses Award. While not as practical as some robotic human augmentations, it can crush a car. [Christian] is even allowing anyone who is interested at these events to pick things up and crush them at their own whim.

Various promo videos after the jump.

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Little dog

Dating back to September of 2007, this certainly isn’t new news, but its new to us. This is Little dog, the miniature version of the ever so creepy Big Dog. We aren’t sure if the lack of Big dogs signature jogging in place makes this little guy seem more lifelike or less.  Little dog was designed to be a research platform into study automated navigation of natural terrain. We wouldn’t mind having one of these around the office, though we would have to add some kind of a head or face to give it some character.

[via Bot Junkie]

Bots 4 tots charity launched

Bots 4 Tots

If you feel the same way that we do about robotics, you probably wish that you had more experience with them when you were a kid. [Don] felt that way too, and he decided to do something about it. So [Don] and his partner started the Chicago based organization Bots 4 Tots, with the mission of introducing inner city kids to robotics. [Don] told us that his organization plans on starting the kids with snap together projects like OWI’s Jungle Robot. After a few snap together projects, they plan to introduce the kids to soldering and hope to eventually move on to a larger collaborative project that all the kids can work on. Of course, doing all of these things requires money. Thats where we, as the DIY community, come in. So feel free to hit up the Bots 4 Tots site and make a donation to support their worthwhile cause, we know we will.

Creepy robot eye follows you and winks in response


Opto-Isolator is an interesting art installation that was on display at the Bitforms Gallery in NYC. This single movement-tracking eye creates a statement about how we view art and is a response to the question “what if art could view us?”. The somewhat creepy display not only follows the person viewing it, but mimics blinks a second later and averts its gaze if eye contact is kept up for too long. Its creators [Golan Levin] and [Greg Baltus] have done a great job mimicking human behavior with such a simple element and the social implications of it are truly fascinating.

If they wanted to, [Levin] and [Baltus] could possibly crank up the spook factor by adding facial recognition and programming it to remember how certain people interact with it, then tailor its behavior to wink at different rates or become more shy or bold, depending on the personality of the person watching it. Of course, that would require that someone goes back to it more than once…

[via Glass Tumbler]

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