Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Giant, Post-Apocalyptic "Rescue" Robot

I found this gem in a gallery of vintage robots featured in Popular Science. 
This robot, called "The Beetle" weighed 170,000 pounds and cost $1.5 Million in 1962.  It was originally designed as a "mechanic's suit" for some kind of half-baked nuclear-powered airplane.  There are more awesome pictures in the original article, particularly of the "pilot" sitting behind 2 feet of leaded glass.

The whole thing looks like something out of the movie Aliens.

Virginia Tech's new CHARLI-L robot

CHARLI is actually a series of robots that initially consists of the 5-foot tall CHARLI-L (or lightweight, pictured above), and the forthcoming CHARLI-H (or heavy), both of which are completely autonomous, with a full range of movements and gestures thanks to a series of pulleys, springs, carbon fiber rods, and actuators (not to mention some slightly more mysterious AI). What's more, while CHARLI-L is currently restricted to walking on flat surfaces, CHARLI-H promises to be able to walk on the uneven ground around the Virginia Tech campus, and eventually even be able to "run, jump, kick, open doors, pick up objects, and do just about anything a real person can do."
This robot reminds me a lot of the machines from I, Robot.  I can't wait until machines like these are ninja-ing around  the world.

AI-Controlled Mario and Level Generation

Last year, the IEEE Symposium on Computational Intelligence And Games hosted a competition where participants were asked to develop an AI that can play mario.  Here's an example of a winning AI player:

This year they've added a level-generation aspect to the competition.

The level generation track of the competition is about creating procedural level generators for Infinite Mario Bros. Competitors will submit Java code that takes as input desired level characteristics, and output a fun level implementing these particular characteristics. The winner will be decided through live play tests.
 For more information, visit the 2010 Mario AI Championship page.
They also have competitions based on Ms. PacMan, StarCraft, and others.

Spinning RGB LED Ball

Unlike it’s predecessor this one has three axes. It was very challenging to build, with a total of 9 slip-contacts, not including the motors. I made it from scrap I had laying around and it took about a week to build. I use standard DC-motors controlled with pulse width modulation, the LEDs are controlled with a modified bike light with adjustable frequency.
More pictures via HackedGadgets

Friday, April 23, 2010

Natural Motion for CG Characters

New algorithms from NaturalMotion allow digital characters to dynamically and realistically respond to changes in their environment.  What is most interesting about this work is that the methods that they use are not hard-coded - rather than completely and painstakingly modeling the motion of walking characters by hand, they use a mixture of physics modeling and evolutionary algorithms to allow the system to 'learn' how to react to the environment.  This enables the characters first to learn about walking, then dynamically adapt to perturbations like pushes and hits from objects and other characters.  This results in very robust and realistic motion.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Man's Best Mechanical Friends

A gallery of robo-pooches via BoingBoing

A new look for the UAT Robotics Blog!

A New banner, thanks to the excellent graphic design skills of Phillip Taylor.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bots Behaving Badly

Have you ever wanted to meet a Mythbuster in real life? Have you ever wanted to see behind the scenes of a ComBots event, and see how some of the world’s most badass robots are built? Now’s your chance to do both of those things at once! Enter the RoboGames 2010 Bots Behaving Badly Contest! Take a video, take a picture, or make a photoshop of a robot behaving badly, and submit it to YouTube, or Flickr. Get everyone you can to check it out, because the submission with the most views wins!!

How To Enter:

- Take a video or a picture, or make a photoshop of a robot behaving badly
- Upload it to YouTube or Flickr, with the tag “BadBots2010″ (IF YOU DON’T, YOU WONT BE ENTERED)
- Every submission MUST link prominently to RoboGames.net, and somehow be related to Bots Behaving Badly (this is at the judges’ discretion)
- Share your entry- send it to friends, post it on digg etc etc etc
- The entry with the most views wins!

1st Place: 2 tickets to RoboGames 2010, 2 passes to the RoboGames Builder’s Party on Friday, April 23, a RoboGames Goodie Bag, and access to the pit at RoboGames (where contestants build their robots) with a meet-and-greet with Mythbusters’ Grant Imahara

2nd Place: 2 tickets to RoboGames 2010, 2 passes to the RoboGames Builder’s Party on Friday, April 23, 2 RoboGames T-Shirts, and 2 packs of RoboGames Trading Cards

3rd Place: 2 tickets to RoboGames 2010, a RoboGames T-Shirt and a pack of RoboGames Trading Cards

Judges Award: 1 ticket to RoboGames and a RoboGames T-Shirt

Deadline: 4/22/2010 at 11:59pm

Can’t make it to RoboGames? No problem! Alternatives to tickets will be also available to winners!

All rules subject to change without notice

The Fine Print:
· Participants agree to abide by all rules and decisions set by RoboGames.
· RoboGames reserves the right to reject an entry for any reason.
· Should a winner be unable to attend RoboGames 2010, RoboGames will determine an appropriate substitute of approximately equal value.
· RoboGames reserves the right to modify or cancel the contest at any time, at its sole discretion.
· By submitting your entry and entering this contest, you grant RoboGames royalty-free rights to publish, reproduce, or otherwise distribute your work commercially or by any other means.
· Governing Law: All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of the official rules, or the rights of entrants, shall be governed by and construed in accordance with, the substance laws of the State of California and any applicable laws and regulations of the United States.
· You must be over the age of 18.

Massive Music Machine

Pat Metheny's Orchestrion.

If you've got $33, he's playing with the Orchestrion this Friday at the Mesa Arts Center.  See Tour Dates for details.

Spider Robots in Pictures

Wired has a great/creepy archive of arachnid automatons.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Court rules against Net Neutrality

Recently a federal appeals court ruled against the Federal Communications Commission on net neutrality.  In the case, Comcast was challenging the power of the FCC to tell Comcast how to manage its network, specifically pertaining to Comcasts ability to throttle bit-torrent network traffic. 

If you support Net Neutrality and want to see it enforced by law, contact your congresscritter and tell them how you feel!

Spare Bots!

Flickr user Lenny&Meriel makes tiny robot scenes from scrap electronics components!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Real Turing Machine

Mike Davey presents his hand-built Turing Machine.  The machine uses a Parallax Propeller chip for mechanical control, but actual computation is executed using the tape reel. 

My goal in building this project was to create a machine that embodied the classic look and feel of the machine presented in Turing’s paper. I wanted to build a machine that would be immediately recognizable as a Turing machine to someone familiar with Turing's work.
Although this Turing machine is controlled by a Parallax Propeller microcontroller, its operation while running is based only on a set of state transformations loaded from an SD card and what is written to and read from the tape. While it may seem as if the tape is merely the input and output of the machine, it is not! Nor is the tape just the memory of the machine. In a way the tape is the computer. As the symbols on the tape are manipulated by simple rules, the computing happens. The output is really more of an artifact of the machine using the tape as the computer.
You can get more details about the construction of the machine at Mike's Site.

Robots in Pictures

The Boston Globe has a great series of robot pictures.  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Practice Makes Perfecgt

From Flickr user mrbbking:
Two copies of the same circuit. The one on the right was done first, and is a pretty good rat's nest, if I do say so myself. The one on the left was built based on the other one, but with an eye toward clarity. Much easier to see what's going on! I guess that figuring out the layout based on a schematic is a skill that needs practice.