Teardown: Sony’s New Aibo goes Under the Knife

In a complete surprise, Sony has moved to release the latest version of their robotic dog series, Aibo, in North America. The device is already out in Japan, where there are a number of owner’s clubs that would rival any dedicated kennel club. Thanks to the [Robot Start] team, we now have a glimpse of what goes into making the robotic equivalent of man’s best friend in their teardown of an Aibo ERS-1000.

Sony Aibo Battery Removal

According to Yoshihiro of Robot Start, Aibo looks to be using a proprietary battery reminiscent of the Handycam camcorders. Those three gold contacts are used for charging on the rug shaped power base that Aibo will periodically return to in order to take a”nap”. There are a couple of square OLED screens behind those puppy dog eyes. They are full-color OLEDs somewhere in the one-inch ballpark. Between the screens is a capacitive touch sensor that wraps around to the top of the head that are also pressure sensitive. Sony Aibo Teardown OLED Eyes 2018

According to Sony’s press release, the fish-eye camera housed in Aibo’s snout is used to identify faces as well as navigating spaces.

Laying out all the major parts out together certainly drives home the complexity of the latest Aibo. It’ll be interesting to see the progression of this device as all of them come equipped with 4G LTE and 802.11 b/g/n WiFi that connect to Sony’s servers for deep learning.

Sony Aibo Teardown Complete 2018

New behaviors are supposed to download automatically as long as the device is under the subscription plan. While Sony has no current plans to integrate with any voice-activated virtual assistant, we can still look forward to the possibility of some expanded functionality from the Hackaday community.

 

For the rest of the teardown photos make sure to head over to [Yoshihiro]’s write up on Robot Start. Also just in case anybody cared to see what happens when the first generation Aibo ERS-111 from 1999 meets the 2018 Aibo ERS-1000, you’ll find the answer in the video below:

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Sonic Robots Don’t Play Instruments, They Are The Instruments

[Moritz Simon Geist]’s experiences as both a classically trained musician and a robotics engineer is clearly what makes his Techno Music Robots project so stunningly executed. The robotic electronic music he has created involves no traditional instruments of any kind. Instead, the robots themselves are the instruments, and every sound comes from some kind of physical element.

A motor might smack a bit of metal, a hard drive arm might tap out a rhythm, and odder sounds come from stranger devices. If it’s technological and can make a sound, [Moritz Simon Geist] has probably carefully explored whether it can be turned into one of his Sonic Robots. The video embedded below is an excellent example of his results, which is electronic music without a synthesizer in sight.

We’ve seen robot bands before, and they’re always the product of some amazing work. The Toa Mata Lego Band are small Lego units and Compressorhead play full-sized instruments on stage, but robots that are the instruments is a different direction that still keeps the same physical element to the music.

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Build Your Next Dancing Robot From Empty Soda Bottles

When you think about the materials for your next large dancing robot build, soda bottles might not be the first thing that springs to mind. But they could work, according to TrussFab, a project from a group of students at the Hasso Plattner Instituit. Their system uses empty coke bottles and 3D printed connectors to build large structures, modeled in software that checks their load balance and safety. The team has modeled and built designs up to 5 meters high. Now, the project has taken a step further by adding linear actuators and hinges to the mix so you can create things that move, including a 4-meter high animatronic robot.

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Maker Faire NY: Where Robots Come Out to Play

There was an unbelievable amount of stuff on display at the 2018 World Maker Faire in New York. Seriously, an unreal amount of fantastically cool creations from all corners of the hacker and maker world: from purely artistic creations to the sort of cutting edge hardware that won’t even be on the rest of the world’s radar for a year or so, and everything in between. If you’ve got a creative bone in your body, this is the place for you.

But if there was one type of creation that stood out amongst all others, a general “theme” of Maker Faire if you will, it was robotics. Little robots, big robots, flying robots, battling robots, even musical robots. Robots to delight children of all ages, and robots to stalk the darkest corners of their nightmares. There were robots for all occasions. Probably not overly surprising for an event that has a big red robot as its mascot, but still.

There were far too many robots to cover them all, but the following is a collection of a few of the more interesting robotic creations we saw on display at the event. If you’re the creator of one of the robots we didn’t get a chance to get up close and personal with in our whirlwind tour through the Flushing Meadows Corona Park, we only ask that you please don’t send it here to exact your revenge. We’re very sorry. (Just kidding, if you have a robot to show off drop a link in the comments!)

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The Tiny, Pocket-Sized Robot Meant For Hacking

The world is full of educational robots for STEAM education, but we haven’t seen one as small or as cute as the Skoobot, an entry in this year’s Hackaday Prize. It’s barely bigger than an inch cubed, but it’s still packed with motors, a battery, sensors, and a microcontroller powerful enough to become a pocket-sized sumo robot.

The hardware inside each Skoobot is small, but powerful. The main microcontroller is a Nordic nRF52832, giving this robot an ARM Cortex-M4F brain and Bluetooth. The sensors include a VL6180X time of flight sensor that has a range of about 100mm. Skoobot also includes a light sensor for all your robotic photovoring needs. Other than that, the Skoobot is just about what you would expect, with a serial port, a buzzer, and some tiny wheels mounted in a plastic frame.

The idea behind the Skoobot is to bring robotics to the classroom, introducing kids to fighting/sumo robots, while still being small, cheap, and cute. To that end, the Skoobot is completely controllable via Bluetooth so anyone with a phone, a Pi, or any other hardware can make this robot move, turn, chase after light, or sync multiple Skoobots together for a choreographed dance.

While the Skoobot is an entry for this year’s Hackaday Prize, the creator of the Skoobot, [Bill Weiler] is also making these available on Crowd Supply.

Twitch Plays Battling Robots?

Audience interaction reached an all-time high in 2014 with Twitch Plays Pokemon, an online gaming stream where viewers were able to collaboratively command an emulated Game Boy playing Pokemon Red. Since then, the concept has taken off. Today, we see this extended to robots in the real world, with [theotherlonestar]’s Twitch Chat Controlled Robots.

The build is one that takes advantage of modern off-the-shelf components – an ESP8266 provides the brains, while a Pololu Zumo provides a ready to go robot chassis to save time on the mechanical aspects of the build. An L298N dual motor controller then handles motive power.

The real ingenuity though, is teaching the robots to respond to commands from Twitch chat. The chat is available in a readily parsable IRC format, which makes programming around it easy. [theotherlonestar] created a command set that enables the robots to be driven remotely by stream viewers, and then outfitted the ‘bots with hammers with which to fight, as well as a fedora to tip, if one is so inclined.

It’s a cool build, and one which shows further promise as Twitch continues to reduce stream & chat latency. We look forward to seeing future battles, but the first one already excites.

Interested in where it all began? Check out our Twitch Plays Pokemon coverage from way back when. Video after the break.

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Emotional Hazards That Lurk Far From The Uncanny Valley

A web search for “Uncanny Valley” will retrieve a lot of information about that discomfort we feel when an artificial creation is eerily lifelike. The syndrome tells us a lot about both human psychology and design challenges ahead. What about the opposite, when machines are clearly machines? Are we all clear? It turns out the answer is “No” as [Christine Sunu] explained at a Hackaday Los Angeles meetup. (Video also embedded below.)

When we build a robot, we know what’s inside the enclosure. But people who don’t know tend to extrapolate too much based only on the simple behavior they could see. As [Christine] says, people “anthropomorphize at the drop of the hat” projecting emotions onto machines and feeling emotions in return. This happens even when machines are deliberately designed to be utilitarian. iRobot was surprised how many Roomba owners gave their robot vacuum names and treated them as family members. A similar eruption of human empathy occurred with Boston Dynamics video footage demonstrating their robot staying upright despite being pushed around.

In the case of a Roomba, this kind of emotional power is relatively harmless. In the case of robots doing dangerous work in place of human beings, such attachment may hinder robots from doing the job they were designed for. And even more worrisome, the fact there’s a power means there’s a potential for abuse. To illustrate one such potential, [Christine] brought up the Amazon Echo. The cylindrical puck is clearly a machine and serves as a point-of-sale terminal, yet people have started treating Alexa as their trusted home advisor. If Amazon should start monetizing this trust, would users realize what’s happening? Would they care?

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