Artificial skin lets robots feel

BioTac Artificial Skin Technology is sure to be a storm with Robotics Designers. Giving them the opportunity to add a third sense to there robotic marvels. Now they can have the sense of touch to go along with existing technologies of sight and of sound.  Thanks to the technology coming out of the University of Southern California making this possible.

They have chosen to call their sensor BioTac, which is a new type of tactile sensor designed to mimic the human fingertip with its soft flexible skin. The sensor makes it possible to identify different types of texture by analyzing the vibrations produced as the sensor brushes over materials. This sensor is also capable of measuring pressure applied and  ambient temperature around the finger tip, expect to see this technology in next gen prosthetics. Let us know your thoughts on it.

[via technabob]
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Boxie is an adorable toddler videographer

Meet Boxie. He’s a robot videographer with levels of interaction we haven’t seen outside an episode of Dora the Explorer. The project was conceived by [Alex] as his MIT thesis project to see if robots can use humans to make themselves more useful. All we know is Boxie is freaking adorable, as evidenced by this video.

The idea behind Boxie was inspired by Afghan Explorer to capture video in an attempt to tell a story. In the videos (after the break), Boxie wanders around the halls of MIT searching for people to help him (“can you carry me up the stairs?”) and tell stories (“what do you do here?”). It’s an experiment in autonomous documentary directorial skill that was edited down into a video that made sense.

[Alex] designed Boxie to be the cutest thing we’ve ever seen so he could elicit a response from the subjects of the documentary. We’re going to say the voice helped, but [Alex] also found the cardboard robot factor also played into the success. Boxie was originally planned to have a plastic skin, but [Alex]’s friends thought it looked really creepy. They suggested that [Alex] go back to the prototype cardboard body. All we know is there’s a robot cuter than a Keepon, finally.

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Analog robotic concepts

Everyone’s getting on board with the 555 timer projects. But [Tom] didn’t just come up with one project, he shared a slew of ideas related to analog robotics. They’re center around servo motor control. You can see in the video after the break he has a pleasing way of sharing a lot of details while also making an easy to view demonstration video. He’ll put up a schematic for about one second and then move on, saving those that don’t care about the details by not droning on.

The first schematic that flashes by is the main circuit for controlling the servo motor. The rest of the concepts build from this circuit, using light, sound, flex, and other sensors as inputs. For instance, the setup above is using a light sensor. When the ball blocks the light the servo moves that vertical rod hitting it out of the way. When it swings back the process repeats. It’s striking how lifelike the reactions are, reminding us of insect movements. But this is really just the tip of the iceberg as he’s got a lot of future video ideas that we can’t wait to see.

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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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