Seems like all the buzz about autonomous vehicles these days centers around self-driving cars. Hands-free transportation certainly has its appeal – being able to whistle up a ride with a smartphone app and converting commute time to Netflix binge time is an alluring idea. But is autonomous personal transportation really the killer app that everyone seems to think it is? Wouldn’t we get more bang for the buck by automating something a little more mundane and a lot more important? What about automating the shipping of freight?
Look around the next time you’re not being driven to work by a robot and you’re sure to notice a heck of a lot of trucks on the road. From small panel trucks making local deliveries to long-haul tractor trailers working cross-country routes, the roads are lousy with trucks. And behind the wheel of each truck is a human driver (or two, in the case of team-driven long-haul rigs). The drivers are the weak point in this system, and the big reason I think self-driving trucks will be commonplace long before we see massive market penetration of self-driving cars.
Continue reading “Automate The Freight: Robotic Deliveries Are On The Way”
The Amazon Echo and its diminutive Dot cousin have the handy feature of being able to control some home automation devices. If you own the right manufacturer’s hardware you can bend your home to your will using the power of your voice alone.
The trouble is, if your hardware isn’t on the list of supported devices or if you make your own, you’re out of luck.
[Xose Pérez] had been sidestepping this problem by using a server running a set of scripts emulating a Belkin WeMo device, which Echo supports. The server could issue commands to his microcontrollers, but he wanted more. Why not cut out the middle man to incorporate the WeMo emulation directly on the ESP8266 that did the work?
He took the Fauxmo Python WeMo emulator he had been using, and ported it to an ESP8266 library that can be incorporated in existing code to make it appear to the world as a WeMo device. With the code itself he has provided full instructions on its BitBucket page as well as on the page linked above.
He admits that he is not the first person to have achieved this aim, and points to this earlier project. However his requirement for a library to be incorporated in another piece of software were not satisfied by it, hence his work.
We like this project, but it’s probably worth reminding readers that Alexa does have an SDK in the form of the Alexa Skills Kit. You can use it to do all sorts of clever things with your Echo or Dot… or you can make it the brains of a Big Mouth Billy Bass novelty ornament.
It’s no secret that we love bizarre robot locomotion, so we are naturally suckers for BALLU (YouTube link, also embedded below) the Bouyancy-Assisted Lightweight Legged Unit. The project started with a simple observation — walking robots are constrained by having to hold themselves up — and removing that constraint make success much easier. Instead of walking, BALLU almost floats and uses what little net weight it does have to push against the ground.
Continue reading “Floating Walking Robot”