Robotic Mic Swarm Helps Pull Voices Out Of Crowded Room Of Multiple Speakers

One of the persistent challenges in audio technology has been distinguishing individual voices in a room full of chatter. In virtual meeting settings, the moderator can simply hit the mute button to focus on a single speaker. When there’s multiple people making noise in the same room, though, there’s no easy way to isolate a desired voice from the rest. But what if we ‘mute’ out these other boisterous talkers with technology?

Enter the University of Washington’s research team, who have developed a groundbreaking method to address this very challenge. Their innovation? A smart speaker equipped with self-deploying microphones that can zone in on individual speech patterns and locations, thanks to some clever algorithms.

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Project HERMITS Robots Mimic Crabs With Mechanical Shells

Hermit crabs are famous for being small critters that, from time to time throughout their lives, abandon one shell carried on their back to pick up a new one. Project HERMITS by [Ken Nakagaki] is inspired by this very concept, and involves table-top robots that dock with a variety of modules with different mechanical mechanisms.

As shown in the project video, the small robots augment themselves by interfacing with attachments referred to as “mechanical shells.” They variously allow the robot to move differently or interact in a new way with the world.

One shell allows the robot to activate a small fan, while another lets it rotate arrows in various directions. others let robots work together to actuate a bigger mechanical assembly like a gripper or a haptic feedback joystick.

A particularly cute example is the “lift shell” which allows one little robot give another one a boost in height. Another series of shells allows the robots to play the role of various characters in a performance of Alice in Wonderland.

The technology is all built around Sony’s tiny two-wheeled toio robots, but adds a vertical actuator to the platform that lets the robots actively dock with a variety of shell designs. It’s an involved hack, but key to the whole enterprise. The individual bots are all controlled by Raspberry Pis communicating over Bluetooth.

We always love to see cute robots working together. Video after the break.

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25C3: Cheap Swarm Robotics


The Formica project was our favorite presentation at 25C3. The goal is to build open source swarm robots as cheaply as possible. The team ended up building 25 robots in an assembly line fashion. With enough lead time, the price could get as low as £15 each. Each bot has two direct drive cellphone vibration motors with tiny neoprene wheels. They’re controlled by an MSP430 microcontroller. The only really specialized chip is a charge controller so the bots can charge without any intervention. They have copper skis on the front that touch the ground plane plus antennas to contact Vcc. On top of the bot are three IR detectors for both navigation and for transferring firmware updates between bots. A reflective sensor is on the underside for detecting “food”. It looks like a great design and any easy way for anyone to start researching swarm robotics.