No Sex Please, We’re Robots

There was a time when technology would advance and launch debates over ethical concerns raised by the technology. Lately, however, it seems ethical debate is (I hope) in advance of the actual technology. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Case in point: A paper at Ethicomp 2015 from De Montfort University warns that having sex with robots may have negative effects on par with prostitution. You might think that this is an isolated academic concept, but apparently there is a conference titled The International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots. There’s even a 2008 book titled Love and Sex with Robots that is neither science fiction nor pornography.

Second case: Softbank has created a robot called [Pepper] that supposedly can understand human emotions. You know the license agreements you get with everything you buy that you don’t really read? Here’s a translation of part of the one that comes with [Pepper]: ” …owner must not perform any sexual act or other indecent behavior.

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Robot Dances on the Icy Ceiling

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is working on a robot for the exploration of Europa’s oceans. A big problem is the oceans are under a permanent ice ceiling. JPL is making that ceiling a feature with a robot that dances, okay wheels, on the ceiling.

The Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration (BRUIE) is, as the name says, buoyant so it floats against the ice ceiling. Two large paddle wheels allow it to drive along the ceiling.

Andy Klesh from JPL with BRUIE
Andy Klesh from JPL with BRUIE

In 2012 they took an earlier version to Barrow, Alaska for testing under the ice. While the temperatures encountered there may not match those of Europa’s frozen methane [Europa is water, also – Rud] it’s still a challenging environment for man and robot. One of the challenges for the arctic exploration team was the need to test when the ice was thin enough to make a hole. They had to proceed judiciously to avoid falling in.

Recently they tested a newer version rover the California Science Center aquarium, giving new meaning to the phrase “swimming with the fishes.” Andy Klesh, principal investigator for the rover at JPL and volunteer diver at the science center accompanied BRUIE during the testing. Sometime in the future they hope to turn BRUIE loose in a lake where it can explore autonomously.

Fortunately the arctic team didn’t encounter any polar bears, another possible risk. When the rover makes it to Europa it’s unlikely to encounter an extra-terrestrial equivalent.

Video coverage after the break.

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Gathering the Hacking Community of Zurich

When my Swiss cousin-in-law sent us her wedding invitation, I didn’t immediately think I’d get to see Hackaday.io user [antti.lukats‘] tiny FPGA projects as part of the deal. I’m really glad that I came to Switzerland for the wedding, and also got to be a part of an awesome meetup in Zurich’s Fablab. [Antti], who was at the meetup, is pictured above holding a small tube full of FPGAs, he’s a Hackaday Prize Best Product finalist with FPGA project DIPSY.

As is becoming the norm for Hackaday meetups, we ask people to bring projects. We then count all the people who want to present something and squeeze all the presentations into just about 90 minutes. Before and after the lightening talks, there’s always plenty of time to walk around and see individual projects, meet people and of course eat and drink.

There were 3 walking robots and 2 rolling robots presented. [Arian’s] Roomba had the popular ESP8266 hacked into it. [Simon] brought a RaspberryPi powered rolling robot. [Thomas] brought a walking robot which walked quite well. The last walking robot of the night was shown just on video. [Radomir Dopieralski] brought his Hackaday Prize entry, the very cool and easy to use Tote robot. The Tote aims to fix the problem the world has without enough walking robots by creating an easy platform to build walking robots upon. It seemed at this meetup, that [Radomir’s] dream of many walking robots had been found.

[Oscarv] brought the insanely cool PiDP. The PiDP-8/I is another Hackaday Prize Best Product finalist, it’s a replica of the first minicomputer. [Oscar’s] version uses a Raspberry Pi to recreate all the operations. [Neil’s] SoftVGA is a software only VGA generator. I expect to see many more cool projects like these two next week at the Vintage Computing Festival in Berlin. I’ll be there with [Elliot] and [Bilke] and we’re having a Meetup with the VCF folks Oct 3rd.

[tamberg] presented a beautifully fabricated clear cube with switches on the inside, a metal ball rolls around and activates the switches. The Larson scanner next to it was designed by [stefan-xp]. [Yvonne] discussed her recent light painting “Topology of Light” and [Isaac] was sick of playing 4 in a row alone, so he built a robot to play the game with!

A popular hacker project is automatic watering of indoor or outdoor gardens. [Effi] nailed it with a brilliant presentation about moisture sensors while showing us how well her plants are doing.

There were far too many projects to list everything here, but [Thibault‘s] Bit Shift project really caught my eye. This project has several panels daisy chained together with layers of blue thermochromatic pigment on top of white primer.Each panel is a PCB, a heat pad controlled in a timed heating sequence powered by ATtinys. After each panel heats up, there is a 20 second delay before the next panel heats up. When the blue thermochromatic pigment reaches 37°c it turns transparent, and the white undercoating shows through. As the square cools down, the transparent pigment turns blue again. You can catch the video here.

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 11.32.43 PM

I hope to see some of you in Berlin, and if you missed it, we just put out the call for proposals for Hackaday’s first hardware conference.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Hackaday’s Omaha Mini Maker Faire Roundup

The 2nd annual Omaha Mini Maker Faire wasn’t our first rodeo, but it was nonetheless a bit surprising . Before we even made it inside to pay our admission to the Omaha Children’s Museum, I took the opportunity to pet a Transylvanian Naked Neck chicken at one of the outdoor booths. The amiable fowl lives at City Sprouts, an Omaha community farming collective in its 20th year of operation. There seemed to be a theme of bootstrappy sustainability among the makers this year, and that’s great to see.

Just a few feet away sat a mustard-colored 1975 Chevy pickup with a food garden growing in its bed. This is Omaha’s truck farm, an initiative that seeks to educate the city’s kids in the ways of eating locally and growing food at home.  On a carnivorous note, [Chad] from Cure Cooking showed my companion and me the correct way to dry-cure meats using time-honored methods.

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Let’s Make Robots Changes Hands: Kerfuffle Ensues

There’s been a bit of a shakeup at Let’s Make Robots (LMR).

LMR is possibly the most popular DIY robotics website around and was started up by a fun-loving Dane, [Frits Lyneborg]. It grew a large community around building up minimal robots that nonetheless had a lot of personality or pushed a new technical idea into the DIY robotics scene. [Frits] says that he hasn’t had time for DIY robotics for a while now, and doesn’t have the resources to run a gigantic web forum either, so he worked out a deal to let the Canadian hobbyist supply company Robot Shop take it over.

LMR has always been a little bit Wild-West, and many of the members quite opinionated, and that’s been part of its charm. So when the new corporate overlords came in, set up “Rules” (which have seemingly been downgraded to “suggestions”) and clarified the ownership of the content, some feathers were ruffled.

A few weeks later, everything looks to be settling back down again. (Edit: Or has it?!? See the comments below.) We wish LMR all the best — everyone loves robots, and LMR is a tremendous resource for the newbie interested in getting into DIY robotics on the cheap. More than a few LMR posts have been featured here at Hackaday over the years. Among our favorites are this drumming rovera clever 3D printed gripper, and this wicked bicycle-style balancer.

Robotically-Tuned Tube Radio

Dubbed the “Robot Radio” by [Brek], this clinking-&-clunking project merges three generations of hackers’ favorite technologies: robots, vacuum tubes, and microcontrollers. After the human inputs the desired radio frequency the machine chisels its way through the spectrum, trying its best to stay on target.

This build began its life as a junky old tube radio that [Brek] pulled out of a shed. The case was restored and then the hacking began. Inserted between the human and the radio, a PIC 16F628A keeps watch in both directions. On one side, the radio’s tank circuit is monitored to see what frequency the radio is currently playing. On the other, the human’s input sets a desired frequency. If the two do not match, the PIC tells a stepper motor to begin cranking a pair of gears until they do.

Another interesting feature is that as the tubes and other electronics warm up and change their values, the matching circuit will keep them in line. [Brek] shows this in the video by deliberately sabotaging the gears and seeing the robot adjust them back where they belong.

As an afterthought, the Robot Radio was supplemented with a module that adds 100khz to the signal so that the information from a nearby airport can be received.

[Brek] styled the whole machine up with some copper framing and other bits, similar to his spectacular atomic clock build we featured last month.

See the video of the radio tuning after the break.

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Hacklet 14 – Hacks Around the House

14

In this weeks Hacklet we’re looking at household hacks. Not necessarily globally connected home automation hacks, but task specific hacks that we want in our lives yesterday!

We’ve all had it happen, you’re burning the midnight oil on a project when you realize it’s garbage night. The mad dash to collect empty anti-static bags, last night’s Chinese food, and the rest of the trash before actually venturing outside in the dark.

bins2[Mehmet-cileli] doesn’t have to deal with any of that, thanks to My Bins, his automated trash and recycling can moving system. Normally the bins are stationed near the house. Each garbage night, the system springs into action. The cans and their platform pivots 90 degrees. The entire system then rolls along a track to the curb. Once the cans have been collected, everything rolls back ready for more trash. We just hope [Mehmet’s] garbage men are nice enough to put the bins back on their platform!

teatimeNext we have the perfect cup of tea. [Marcel] kept forgetting his tea while it was steeping. After ending up with ink a few times, he built this Automatic Tea Timer. A button starts the timer, and after a few minutes, the tea bag is automatically lifted and a light illuminates to let you know your tea is ready. [Marcel] used a Raspberry Pi Arduino 555 simple R-C timer circuit to create his delay. The lift arm is a discarded hard drive read arm. The light bulb limits current through the voice coils.

greenhouse1[Juan Sandu] always has veggies with his Smart Small Greenhouse. [Juan] has created a desktop sized greenhouse that gives plants what they crave. No, not Brawndo, we’re talking water, warmth, and light. An Arduino Uno uses sensors to monitor humidity, temperature, light, and moisture. Based upon one of two pre-set plant types, the system determines when to water, turn on lights, or even power up a fan to keep temperatures plant friendly.  [Juan] is still working on his greenhouse, but his code is already up on Github.

 

grillupNext up is [nerwal] with his entry in The Hackaday Prize, GrillUp. GrillUp is a remote grill temperature monitoring system with a cooling spray. Up to 6 food grade thermometers provide GrillUp with its temperature data. If things are getting a bit too hot, Grillup cools the situation down by spraying water, beer, or your favorite marinade. The system is controlled over Bluetooth Low Energy from an android smart phone. A laser pointer helps to aim the water spray. Once the cooling zones are set up, the system runs automatically. It even has a sprinkler mode, where it sprays everything down.

led-lightsEvery hacker’s house needs some Sci-fi mood lights, right? [spetku and maehem] round out this weeks Hacklet with their Fifth Element Stone Mood Lighting. Originally an entry in the Hackaday Sci-fi contest, these mood lights are based on the elemental stones in everyone’s favorite Bruce Willis movie. The lights are 3D printed in sections which stack over foamboard cores. The actual light comes from a trio of RGB LEDs. LED control is from the same brain board which controls the team’s Robot Army. The lights are designed to open up just like the ones in the movie, though fire, earth, wind, and water are not required. The servos [spetku and maehem] selected weren’t quite up to the task, but they mention this will be remedied in a future revision.

That’s a wrap for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!