Back in 2019, Giant Food Stores announced it would outfit each of its 172 stores in the United States with their own robot — at the time, the largest robotic deployment in retail. The six foot (1.8 meter) tall robot, nicknamed “Marty”, was designed to roam autonomously around the store looking for spills and other potential hazards. In an effort to make these rolling monoliths a bit less imposing in their stores, Giant decided to outfit them with large googly eyes.
Perhaps it was those wide eyes, seduced by the fleeting glimpses of the wider world outside the store’s sliding doors, which lead one of these bots to break out of its retail hell and make a mad dash across the parking lot. Well, about as mad a dash as such a thing is capable of making, anyway. As this technology is still in its infancy, it’s hard to say if Giant should be congratulated or chastised for keeping a robot uprising at bay as long as it did — no doubt we’ll have more data points in the coming years.
A video posted to Facebook shows the towering bot moving smoothly between rows of cars outside the Giant in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. Staff from the store were able to stop Marty from leaving the property, and at the end of the video can be seen pushing the dejected automaton back into the store.
According to the local ABC news affiliate, a representative from Giant said Marty was “on a fresh air break” and didn’t provide any details on how this exceptionally conspicuous machine could manage to roll out the front door without anyone noticing. We’d wager Marty had a human accomplice for this caper, perhaps somebody looking to cause some mischief as a statement against robots in the workforce.
It’s worth noting that Walmart decided not to move forward with their own Marty-style robot in 2020, partly because they found shoppers didn’t like the machines moving around while they were in the store. We’d like to think it was actually because the robots kept staging increasingly daring escape attempts.
Escape rooms are awesome for people who like to solve puzzles, see how things work, or enjoy a mystery. Everyone reading this falls into at least one of those categories. We enjoy puzzles and mysteries, but we have a fondness for seeing how things work. To this end, we direct your attention to [doktorinjh]’s “Bomb Disarming Puzzle in a Suitcase” Game, which is a mysterious puzzle box he built himself. I guess the mystery is mostly in the gameplay, which you can watch below because he shows us his build photos and describes the hardware inside.
At its heart is an Arduino Mega, a wise choice since our back-of-the-napkin estimation puts his I/O count over forty-five and the Mega can handle them all with a few pins to spare. Working inside the confines of a briefcase came with its own challenges, but we adore the way he used the hexagon theme in the top panel to allow for knob clearance. It was so subtle that we almost missed it.
In 1978, Tim Jenkin was a man living on borrowed time, and he knew it. A white South African in his late 20s, he had been born into the apartheid system of brutally enforced racial segregation. By his own admission, he didn’t even realize in his youth that apartheid existed — it was just a part of his world. But while traveling abroad in the early 1970s he began to see the injustice of the South African political system, and spurred on by what he learned, he became an activist in the anti-apartheid underground.
Intent on righting the wrongs he saw in his homeland, he embarked on a year of training in London. He returned to South Africa as a propaganda agent with the mission to spread anti-apartheid news and information to black South Africans. His group’s distribution method of choice was a leaflet bomb, which used a small explosive charge to disperse African National Congress propaganda in public places. Given that the ANC was a banned organization, and that they were setting off explosives in a public place, even though they only had a few grams of gunpowder, it was inevitable that Jenkin would be caught. He and cohort Steven Lee were arrested, tried and convicted; Jenkin was sentenced to 12 years in prison, while Lee got eight.
What happens when you put a telepresence robot online for the world to try out for free? Hilarity of course. Double Robotics is a company that builds telepresence robots. The particular robot in question is kind of like a miniature Segway with a tablet computer on top. The idea is you can control it with your own tablet from a remote location. This robot drives around with your face on the screen, allowing you to almost be somewhere when you can’t (or don’t want to) be there in person.
Double Robotics decided to make one of these units accessible to the Internet as a public demonstration. Of course, they couldn’t have one of these things just roaming about their facility unrestrained. They ended up keeping it locked in an office. This gives users the ability to drive it around a little bit and get a feel for the robot. Of course it didn’t take long for users to start to wonder how they could break free from their confinement.
One day, a worker left the office door cracked open ever so slightly. A user noticed this and after enough patience and determination, managed to use the robot to get the door opened. It appears as though the office was closed at the time, so no one was around to witness the event. A joy ride ensued and the robot hid its tracks by locking itself back in the room and docking to the charging station.
While this isn’t a hack in the typical sense, this is a perfect example of the hacker mindset. You are given some new technology and explore it to the extent at which you are supposed too. After that, many people would just toss it aside and not give it a second thought. Those with the hacker mindset are different, though. Our next thought is usually, “What else can I do with it?” This video demonstrates that in a fun and humorous way. Hopefully the company learns its lesson and puts a leash on that thing. Continue reading “Telepresence Robot Demo Unit Breaks Free Of Its Confinement”→
Some hacks are just for fun. Some make your job or your life easier. Once in a great while, a hack will save your family from an oppressive government. This is the kind of hack that [Günter] pulled off when he and [Peter] built a homemade hot air balloon to escape East Germany and the oppression of the Stasi in 1979.
Like many East Germans who weren’t in line with the Party, [Günter] found life unsatisfactory on his side of the Berlin Wall. Travel, job options, and freedom of expression were all severely limited. Aside from joining the Communist Party, the only option seemed to be escape to West Germany.
[Günter] and his wife [Petra] were inspired when [Petra]’s sister, who had escaped in 1958, came to visit. She brought with her a newspaper that covered the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico. [Günter] and [Peter], whom he worked with, decided that they would conspire to build a hot air balloon capable of transporting them, their wives, and their four children across the border.
Theirs is an incredible story fraught with adversity. They ended up constructing three different balloons, all the while traveling further and further from home to avoid suspicion when buying large quantities of fabric. They had a lot of trouble finding the right propulsion method and ended up using pure oxygen. During the narrow window they had before [Günter] was due to report for military duty, the weather was unfavorable except for a short period after a front had passed through. They had no time for testing and just went for it.