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Concept render of Roombots (via EPFL)


The Transformers: More than meets the eye. We have all seen the movies, watched the cartoons and even played with the toys. Could they one day become a reality? Yes but not in the giant hulking robotic fighters from Cybertron that can turn into luxury cars and super-sonic airplanes but rather in the form of self-configuring furniture. Scientists from the Swiss Biorobotics Laboratory (EPFL) are developing what they call ‘Roombots’ that will be able to reconfigure themselves on-demand into various pieces of furniture, including tables, chairs and other structures.


The baseball-sized robots are constructed of several half-spheres that can rotate independently from one another and feature embedded gripping claws to clasp and connect to each other or specialized platforms to create the furniture. Each robotic module has three independent motors for rotational movement (in 3 DOF) of the half-spheres, which allows for both locomotion and reconfiguration. They also feature their own battery power supply and are outfitted with Wi-Fi for communicating with each other as well as for programming them for the desired object needed.


An interesting facet of the Roombots is that they can affix themselves to objects such as lamps or end tables that have been outfitted with the specialized surfaces and transport them to where ever they are needed. For example, they can bring a chair over to where you need it or move your TV to a different room, which would be very beneficial to people with disabilities. The scientists are also developing methods to deploy the robotic furniture with one way being through the use of a tablet, where users would define the parameters of a room and the modules would configure themselves into furniture arrangements. This application would be perfect for use with Google’s Project Tango smartphone as it can instantly map user’s surrounding areas in 3D.


Imagine just walking through the room with the Roombots in tow and they instantly start morphing into the needed furniture. Another interface that’s being touched upon is through the use of voice commands where users can simply say ‘chair assemble in south-west corner of current room’. Still the scientists still have a long way to go before the Roombots are ready for market deployment. Movement of the robots still need to be smoothed-out and optimized when they are grouped together and the algorithms that define the sequence of motor rotations needed to form various shapes needs improvement.


All told, the scientists will iron-out those wrinkles over the next 15 to 20 years or so before they become available for their intended nature to raise the quality of life for the disabled. That may seem like an eternity but considering that they are true transformers the wait may very well be worth it.



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Conceptualization of World Cup opening kick (via Colorado State & Duke immersive Virtual Environment)


The World Cup is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Whether you're watching the games or not, this year's opening event will be worth watching. A paralyzed teen will walk for the very first time and open the ceremony by kicking the first ball by using an exoskeleton and 3D printed helmet that are entirely mind controlled. Prepare your box of tissues – this one is going to be good.

 

The initiative is part of the Walk Again Project, a nonprofit, international push to give paralyzed people the opportunity to walk upright. The project is headed by the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering and is being made possible with help from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Technical Universal of Munich, Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal in Brazil, University of Kentucky, University of California, Davis and the Regis Kopper of the Duke immerse Virtual Environment.

 

The project is truly a collaborative effort, with Colorado State University behind the design of brain-powered helmet itself, while the other universities work on the motorized exoskeleton and Duke amps up its Virtual Reality platform, in which the teen will practice for the big day.

 

The initiative is largely made possible by 3D printing, which builds squishy neurosensors inside of the helmet that monitor brainwaves and execute commands to the exoskeleton. The initial research for the technology was conducted by the Nicolelis lab, which designed flexible neurosensors about the width of strands of hair, called microwires. The microwires are attached to the frontal and parietal cortices, which are most responsible for the control of voluntary movement in the body. The helmet will read these action potentials and the world will watch as one teen makes history.

 

The anxious teen has practiced walking using a Virtual Reality environment.... but...

 

The World Cup began! Here is the first kick!


 

Great way to start the game!


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Kevin Krumwiede’s RoboTar robotic chord player. (via kickstarter)


Robotic musicians are on the rise and some are ‘heavy metal’ in the true sense of the term with concerts being played by Z Machines, Compressorhead and The Trons. Humans on the other hand have been playing musical instruments since the beginning of time, however it seems the gap between man and machine musicians has been bridged thanks to Kevin Krumweide and his RoboTar. The RoboTar is a robotic guitar player of sorts, which plays the chords while its human counterpart strums the strings.


The robot changes chords through a foot pedal that the player depresses throughout the song being played. It actually ‘sits’ on the first 4 frets of the guitar neck and doesn’t ‘slide’ to change the notes but rather relies actuating octaves in the two and a half range, thereby changing the pitch. The robot interfaces with a PC or mobile devices through a USB or Bluetooth connection running the RoboTar app, which lets the users create their own songs with default or custom chords as well as single notes. Users can then string those chords and notes along to create their own songs at the tempo they desire. Don’t want to use the foot pedal to change chords? No problem, as performers can use the app on their mobile devices to change the notes and chords. Those who are interested in playing the guitar as well as those with disabilities can take advantage of RoboTar to help them along and create the music they have always dreamed of playing.


Kevin is currently crowd-funding his RoboTar on Kickstarter in the hopes of getting the robot off to the manufacturers for production. Those interested in getting their hands on one can pledge $175 for the ‘Maker Kit’ and assemble it themselves or $319 for the fully assembled model, complete with other amenities for both versions. The campaign is nearing its end, and looks like this project will not be funded on the site. It's a shame...


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I really like this piece of art. It's apparently a live performance that combines projection, three dimensional visual trickery and of course huge robotic arms!

 

This must've took some effort to get it correct and orchestrated properly.

 

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ANTVR kit (image courtesy of Kickstarter & ANTVR)

 

Gamers, hold onto your hats. The first universal all-in-one virtual reality kit is getting ready to hit mass production. Meet the ANTVR kit – an open-source, universal gaming kit that brings virtual reality to life right before your eyes.

The ANTVR kit models itself after the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus, with a unique twist. The aforementioned sets are proprietary and only compatible with one console. What’s more, these gaming kits are only functional with a handful of games. ANTVR Technology decided to capitalize on the gap in the marketplace to create their very own kit that works with all major gaming platforms and both two-and three-dimensional games.

 

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ANTVR kit (image courtesy of Kickstarter & ANTVR)

 

The kit is comprised of both a virtual reality headset and controller, both of which are super badass. The controller is a low-key Autobot, transforming into a gun, steering wheel, light saber, wireless joystick, game pad or sensor to monitor its locale. It is powered by a combo USB/Bluetooth module, which can be updated as new software and games become available. And that’s not all folks. 

 

The headset features a 1920x1080 full HD, 100-degree display and aspherical lens, which was specifically designed to decrease the risk of dizziness and disorientation while gaming. Are you blind as a bat? Never fear; prescription lenses are here! The headset also features small windows beneath the lenses that can be opened and closed to allow users to see the outside world, without removing their headsets. And unlike other VR headsets, the ANTVR features one-step character control, minimizing the amount of blind walking (and thus reducing the risk of disorientation).

 

Starting to make the $2billion purchase of Oculus Rift seem silly.

 

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ANTVR headset glance windows (image courtesy of Kickstarter & ANTVR)

 

To control an avatar, gamers need only move one step in the direction of their choice. If they take one step forward, the avatar will be prompted to walk and will continue to do so until the gamer takes one step backwards, indicating a stop. Gamers can also control the position of their avatars by squatting and/or jumping during game time, which (of course) prompts the avatar to do the same.

 

The kit is compatible with just about every mainstream gaming platform available, including PC, Xbox and PlayStation. The kit, which connects via HDMI cable, is also compatible with any device that supports an HDMI connection, including tablets, cellular phones, laptop computers, desktop computers and Blu-ray players. HDMI adapters are also supported.

 

Let’s not forget to touch on open source. The ANTVR team is determined for its product to be an all-in-one, universal gaming kit. Although the current unit is already compatible with mobile games (like Candy Crush), stereoscopic 3D games, non-stereoscopic 3D games and 2D games, the ANTVR team believes that is not enough. Developers are welcome to customize the kit, making it compatible with other consoles, develop new games and even make the VR experience hands-free.

 

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ANTVR headset depicted with possible uses (image courtesy of Kickstarter & ANTVR)

 

ANTVR recently launched on Kickstarter and the campaign has been wildly successful. The campaign has raised 100% of the goal, $200,000. There is plenty of time to jump in on this tech. The final product is expected to ship to supporters as early as September.


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Drones are becoming more and more apparent in everyday life. When they aren’t being used to film tricky angles in the next Fast and the Furious movie (we know... give it a break), they’re being used to ticket drivers with a particularly heavy foot. While certain people are a bit nervous around the flying machinery, some new drones may win their hearts for the very cool services they are providing to society.

 

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Draganflyer X4ES (image courtesy of DraganFly)

 

Probably one of the coolest new drones out on the market is the Draganflyer X4ES, which will be used as a farmhand to farmers by monitoring crops and testing soil quality. The 36.25in box is equipped with Sony cameras and is similar to a helicopter in its flight style. The drone was recently approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration to engage in a clinical trial on North Dakota farms to see just how useful the flying machines can be.

 

The program is the first of many to go live on one of six FAA unmanned aerial systems test sites, selected by Congress in 2013. Two separate trials will be conducted to discover whether or not it’s worthwhile to regularly utilize drones as farmhands in the foreseeable future.

 

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the test will be incredibly important for assessing the risk and safety of utilizing the technology regularly within the country. The tests will not only assess the feasibility of using drone technology to enhance agriculture, but also aims to show the public the benefits of drone technology.

 

The first test will run May 5th at North Dakota State University’s Carrington Research Extension Center. The second and final test will run at Sullys Hill National Game Preserve over the summer. The flight permit is, however, valid for two years and the machines are likely to take to the skies yet again. The drones that weren’t asked to participate in this year’s agricultural tasks will take on other notable projects, including aiding in the recovery of WWII soldiers.

 

Drones are the newest addition to the BentProp Project, which seeks to recover casualties from WWII. When the initiative took to the water, drones were the perfect candidate for the job. Team members relied upon 3D Robotics’ octocoper drones, which both mapped out the environment and discovered hot spots that might have represented still-active bombs. The drones were a huge aid to the tactics team, giving them the best insight on where to search first.

 

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3D Robotics’ Quadrocoper (image courtesy of 3D Robotics)

 

Despite the benefits drones bring to society through their advanced aerial technology, public opinion about them remains relatively unchanged. A recent survey conducted by Pew Research discovered that 63 percent of Americans believe the nation would be worse off if commercial or personal drones are granted flight clearance. Overall, the study found that 59 percent of the population believes technology will enhance their lives, but depending on the industry, people seem to be rather frightened by this advancement. It doesn’t seem our world will be robot-run anytime soon. Sorry, George Jetson.

 

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The Navy eReader Device looks like Kindle but that’s where the similarities end. (via US Navy)


Mobile devices and e-readers are extremely popular with military personnel all over the world. Devices such as Apple’s iPod allow soldiers to ‘escape’ the monotony of long flights while listening to their favorite tunes or ‘get pumped up’ while working out. Laptops, tablets and e-readers are popular as well and offer-up all kinds of different entertainment from watching movies to reading the latest spy novels.

 

As far as e-readers are concerned, the most popular device military personnel use is Amazon’s Kindle, which not only allows users to download books but other media content as well. Not to be outdone by civilian companies, the US Navy is set to issue sailors their own e-readers through their ‘Morale, Welfare and Recreation’ program, which according to CNIC (Commander, Navy Installations Command) ‘will enrich their lives’. (source: http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=80920 second paragraph)

 

The device, Known as NeRD (Navy eReader Device), comes preloaded with 300 popular books, including Game of Thrones and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo along with a slew of spine-tingling titles from the Chief of Naval Operations Professional Reading Program (think naval history). Unfortunately for the users of these new e-readers, it can’t download anything as it isn’t equipped with Wi-Fi, doesn’t have removable storage and there is no way to add or delete content preloaded on the device. Sounds like a undesirable device, however there’s a reason for this as Wi-Fi signals can potentially give away a vessel’s location (not good in a time of war) and secrets can’t be downloaded to it and put into enemy hands or sent to WikiLeaks.

 

Still, it is better than nothing and considering storage space for sailors stationed on ships is incredibly small, it gives them more room for other things besides books. The Navy is issuing 385 of the NeRDs at first with five going to each submarine in the US fleet (that’s 77 subs folks), with more to follow after that (if they aren’t ejected out of the torpedo tubes first).

 

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The theorized method could make this replicated martini a reality (via Star Trek screen cap)


Star Trek is known for the show’s technological marvels, including traveling faster than light, ‘beaming’ from one location to another instantly and of course, replicating everything from weapons to food in an instant. The idea of replicating food and objects surely seemed ‘out there’ by our technological standards, however a new take on an old theory may bring replicator technology closer to becoming a reality.

 

Back in 1934 theoretical physicists, Gregory Breit and John Wheeler (who later had a hand in building the atomic bomb) composed a theory that if you smashed two photon particles together, they would create an electron and a positron. In other words, turning light into matter. Their calculations were proved to be sound, however there has never been any practical way to prove their theory without the addition of massive high-energy particles. At least until now.

 

Three scientists from the Imperial College in London have found a way to prove the ‘Breit-Wheeler process’ in a laboratory setting without the need for additional particles, using what they call a ‘photon-photon collider’. The collider makes use of existing technology, including a high-intensity laser and gold ‘bling’ (because even photon colliders need to represent--actually, it’s just a slab) to create matter. The process starts by using the powerful laser to speed up the electrons just shy of the speed of light.

 

Once the desired speed is achieved, they are then slammed into the gold , which turns the electrons into a beam of super-energetic photons a billion times more energetic than the speed of light. The scientists then take the laser and fire it into the center of a gold can (AKA a hohlraum), which creates a thermal radiation field and generates light similar to stars. Remember that photon beam created by the gold bling? The scientists take that beam and direct it into the center of the gold can which causes the super-energetic photons to collide with the gold-blasted thermal radiation field to produce electrons and positrons when exiting the can.

 

Sounds exciting but there’s one small problem, the scientists haven’t yet created their photon-photon collider to see if the theory is sound, but be rest-assured that the race to build one is on. The only time the Breit-Wheeler process was successfully produced was back in 1997 when researchers from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre produced electron and positron pairs by using electrons to create high-energy photons, which were then repeatedly smashed together (because one smashing is never enough).

 

The prospect of actually creating a Star Trek replicator will still be out of our reach, even with this new process of turning light into matter, as they still need a way to coalesce the particles into solid objects. Still, it’s one-step closer than we were.

 

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littleBits Space Kit satellite orbit (via Littlebits)

 

If you’re a self-proclaimed nerd older than 10 years of age, you probably learned all about electrical engineering by tearing apart various household electronics and seeing if you could successfully rebuild them from scratch. (Old tube television for me) But, what if there were an easier way? LittleBits is back with more.

 

littleBits was launched by Ayah Bdeir in 2011 to combine the building freedom of Legos with functional electrical wiring for a true electrical engineering experience. Bdeir, who spoke at TED recently, said littleBits was created as a way to get kids interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by giving them first-hand experience building mini machines – and the technology isn’t just for kids, either. (Is STEM making a difference?)

 

littleBits was also developed to open the door to electrical engineering to adults with an interest in the subject who studied other disciplines during their studies. If you’ve always wanted to know how to take an Arduino board and build a Robot to do your evil bidding, littleBits may give you that foundation in a simple, easy-to-understand way.

 

Each littleBits kit comes equipped with electrically powered building blocks and lessons on engineering. For example, a basic lesson teaches children that a successful electronic circuit must have both a power source and output and also explains which colored wire is which. The kits are flying off the shelves and when NASA caught wind of the product, they wanted to partner – and did (because, well, who says no to NASA?).

 

 

The result: the littleBits Space Kit, powered by NASA. The $189 kit teaches nerds of all sizes and shapes how to build a star chart, wave generator, satellite orbit and mini Mars Rover, all electronically powered. Each space kit box comes with 12 magnetic modules, remote trigger, infrared LED sensor, NASA booklet on circuit applications, lesson plan on space and instructions for building each model.

 

littleBits plans to make the Space Kit programmable for your everyday hacker and will even host workshops for the kits in the near future, in the hopes of boosting interest in space travel and STEM.

 

littleBits plans to keep an ongoing partnership with NASA (good choice Bdeir) and has received a downpour of donations from international organizations, including True Ventures and Joi Ito, to keep the project going.

 

Does your child pretend to be an astronaut? The littleBits Space Kit may be the first step to him realizing that pipe dream.

 

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Android-powered LG Nexus featuring The Dimple.IO device (via Dimple.IO)

 

If your generation was known for ski goggles and track suits, you’re also probably very well acquainted with cell phones that feature physical buttons. You were probably that cool kid that could dial a phone number without looking, because your sense of touch told you which buttons was which. Physical buttons seem like a thing of the past, but not all trends die so young. For all your 90s fanatics, meet The Dimple – bringing back physical buttons for your high-tech phone.

 

The Dimple is a fancy sticker – a really fancy sticker. Emulating the shape and size of a small bandage, it sticks to any Android device and features four buttons that are entirely programmable by the user.

 

 

The promising device is fully powered by near-field communication, meaning it is powered by the energy field your device automatically creates just by being on. It can also endure up to 2 million clicks and 100,000 changes in programming. Boys, this is about to get good.

 

The Dimple can function with any non-metal, NFC-capable Android phone or device. Users customize the product by using The Dimple.IO app. When you press a button on The Dimple device, it sends an NFC command to the app, which executes whichever command you programmed into that particular button, which can include launching the camera, flashlight, email, music player, home screen and more.

 

If you’re a developer, don’t worry. Dimple.IO will launch with both an open plugin SDK and Tasker integration to allow for unlimited customization. With this, developers can also program The Dimple to support their specific app inventions.

 

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The Dimple.IO device color assortment (Dimple.IO)

 

The device comes in white, purple and gray and the company has already manufactured 250 prototypes. The Dimple launched an Indiegogo campaign May 6, where early birds can snag their makeshift cellular buttons for $15. If the campaign is successful, the product is expected to go on sale for $29 in August.


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SRI International’s Magnetically Actuated Micro-Robots (via SRI)


While when you hear the term robotics, you may think of R2-D2 or self-propelled vacuum cleaners, the robotics engineers of today are developing all kinds of cool mechanical projects, including tiny robots that build tiny products.

 

SRI International is behind a new project, called Magnetically Actuated Micro-Robots (MAMR). Put simply, they are small robots designed to build small things on a small, yet rapid, scale. The tiny magnetized robots are roughly the size of an ant but what they lack in size they make up for in function.

 

The tiny bots can move at an astonishing 35 centimeters per second, the equivalent of a human running at Mach 1 speed, or 761.2 mph (at sea level). The tiny bots look no different than flat, square pieces of metal, but they can do everything from scaling walls to building complex structures.

 

The MAMRs are controlled by a central computer and sit atop magnetized printed circuit boards. In a recently released video, the micro bots went to work to build a 29cm-long cubic truss using metal, glue and ultraviolet light, which held up to 1kg of weight.

 

SRI International claims that thousands of micro-robots can be used at once to build small, complex structures. Each robot can be programmed to execute a different function and because they are controlled via magnets, there is no on-board power source required.

 

 

The PCBs were designed using SRI’s Diamagnetic Micro Manipulation technology. The robots themselves are designed using fairly inexpensive magnets, which are propelled across the circuit board electromagnetically. Theoretically, the bots can safely handle a wide range of materials, including electronics.

 

While the bots have not yet successfully tampered with electrical wiring, trials are currently being conducted to see just how useful these tiny tots can be to standard manufacturing processes.

 

The project was developed under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Open Manufacturing Program. The technology is open to other innovators, as a way to jointly develop a macro-scale process by which the tiny robots can change the way manufacturing is conducted.

 

Any organizations or universities interested in harnessing the technology may contact SRI International directly.

 

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Drones are everywhere these days and they are not just tools for military and law enforcement anymore. Online retailers Amazon and Google are looking to employ them to deliver packages, real estate agencies are looking to use them to market properties (Brian Tercero/Keller Williams) and multiple Search and Rescue teams all over the globe are using them to locate lost people in remote places. The prospect for using them in grand aerial displays just seems counterintuitive to their nature of being silent, unseen orbital surveillance systems but that’s what Ars Electronica had in mind when they employed a fleet to advertise Star Trek: Into Darkness back in March of 2013.

 

A massive total of 30 computer-controlled LED-ringed Hummingbird quadro-copters (from AscTec) hovered above Potters Fields Park in London to herald in the second instalment of the Star Trek series from Paramount Pictures. The drones were sent up approximately 300ft over the field and then proceeded to rotate on the display’s horizontal axis, much to the delight of onlookers.



While the display was certainly something to see, we all know drones are inherently evil and serve only to hurt us in one form or another, which is the case with Chaotic Moon’s CUPID stun-copter that’s outfitted with a stun gun. The Texas-based design firm designed their Chaotic Unmanned Personal Intercept Drone using a Tarot Hexacopter that was meant to carry aloft a SLR camera, however in this case it is outfitted with Phazzor Dragon stun gun instead of the video imager.

 

The drone was designed with law enforcement and security personnel in mind and is programmed for fully autonomous flight and weapon deployment, however (like it matters) it can be flown and fired manually if need be. Besides the stun gun, the platform can be modified to accept any non-lethal (as well as lethal) weapons system, such as paintballs, rubber balls, pepper balls and CEWs (projectile-fired Tasers). It’s hard to imagine what drones will be used for next but one thing’s for sure, they won’t be going away.

 

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Roboartist sketching Heath Ledger’s role as the Joker in The Dark Knight (via Screen cap and HaD)


Have you ever seen a drawing so realistic that it makes you wonder if it was made by man or machine? Well, now you have merit to wonder. Robots have entered into the world of fine arts. Meet Roboartist – the robotic Renoir.

 

Roboartist is a vector drawing machine that can sketch anything its webcam can capture. Users can feed the prototype images as well, and the robot will map the geometric coordinates of the lines that make up the image, and then take its pencil and get to work on A3 paper, illuminated by an LED backlight.

 

The artistic image capture was initially powered by the Canny, but now the development team designed its own version called Edgestract, an edge detection algorithm that enables the machine to capture the hard lines of an image and duplicate them using its highly-trained “arm.”

 

The image comes to life during four stages of fairly impressive sketch work in real artistic fashion. The arm also shakes ever-so-slightly as it creates images, coincidentally making its sketches look as if they were created by its human counterpart.

 

The image capture software is based on MATLAB, with plans for Open Source coming soon. The device itself is based on Arduino Mega hardware and features four servo motors, a USB input and Bluetooth. Users can feed the devise images via Bluetooth or USB, or it’ll rely on its trusty dusty webcam to draw what it sees by scanning the JPEGs of the live image.

 

The surface of the drawing board is made from acrylic and it features rows of RGB strips and LED lights, to illuminate the lines on the A3 paper. If nothing else, the violet glow makes Robotartist’s prints look much cooler than what we draw in our basements.

 

For now the robot is a fun machine that shows the ever-expanding capabilities of robotics. In a trial, the gadget sketched an eerily realistic version of The Dark Knight’s Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger.


 

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Zuta Labs’ Mini Mobile Robotic Printer. (via Zuta Labs)


Portable printers sure come in handy, especially when you’re on the move. You will often find college students in coffee shops printing out at the last minute research papers or authors printing out their latest chapters. Mobile businesses often use them to print out receipts or contracts on the spot rather than sending them through email. Most of those mobile printers are expensive, bulky and still require paper to be fed through them to print with. There really haven’t been any refinements in the world of printers other than the fact that they are smaller and can connect wirelessly with other devices.

 

Zuta Labs is looking to change that with their recently developed Mini Mobile Robotic Pocket Printer, which can print in greyscale on any size paper without the need to constantly feed it parchment to do so. The 10-centermeter high and 11.5-centimeter in diameter printer uses a micro-stepper motor to move multi-dimensional wheels along a piece of paper (@ 1.2ppm) while printing as it goes. It has a print resolution of 96 X 192dpi with a print capacity of roughly 1,000 pages before the ink needs to be replaced. The generation-1 prototype has a run-time of 1-hour after a 3-hour charge using a lithium-polymer battery, which isn’t the greatest but is sufficient for mobile printing on the fly. The Pocket Printer connects to mobile devices and PCs through an onboard Bluetooth adapter and natively supports a wide range of OSs including Android, iOS, Linux and Windows.

 

Zuta Labs is now crowd funded on Kickstarter, with a projected goal of $400,000 for continued development of their prototype and for manufacturing once the design is refined (reached over $511K). Those interested in getting their hands on one can pledge a $180 for a black model or $200 for titanium white, with an estimated delivery date in January of 2015.


 

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While some drones are out fighting side-by-side with military servicemen, KMel Robotics’ takes on quite a different mission for its Hexrotor drones. They, how can you say, dance to a different beat.

 

And that’s quite literal. KMel Robotics’ founders Alex Kushleyev and Daniel Mellinger decided that they would amaze the world with what drones are really capable of – playing the best darn unmanned rendition of “Carol of the Bells” you’ve ever heard.

 

That’s right. The robotics company recently released a video on YouTube showcasing just how well these micro drones play your favorite tunes, and it’s really very impressive. The “band,” or HAL 9000, begins its set with “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” followed by “Carol of the Bells” and finishing with a rocked out version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I couldn’t have played them better myself.

 

The tiny robots are about the size of your palm, but don’t let their size fool you; these little guys pack a punch. They play loads of instruments, including drums, crash cymbals, an innovative keyboard unit and custom single-string guitar.

 

The goal was to create music in an innovative way the world has never seen. The “Flying Robot Rockstars” cover band will be going on tour soon. The attendees of the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. were the first of many to see the rhythmic robots live.

 

KMel received a LOT of help to make their robot rockband a reality, including support and guidance from Intel and Lockheed Martin (who happens to be the innovator behind many of the leading unmanned war machines used by the U.S. Army and other government armed forces).

 

Kushleyev and Mellinger, who studied together at the University of Pennsylvania, founded KMel in 2011 as a way to push the envelope of robotic capabilities. They create everything from small, single-unit devices to large, completely autonomous mechanical systems. The drone rockband initiative is likely part of a widespread movement to change the way people think about drones.

 

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Draganflyer X4ES (image courtesy of DraganFly)


DraganFly is also a part of this movement. Its newest drone, the DraganFlyer X4ES is being used in a study by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration to see if drones can be used to monitor and conduct quality assurance tests on farmland.

 

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3D Robotics’ Quadrocoper (image courtesy of News Moves)


Other drones, like 3D Robotics’ Quadrocopter and Octocopter, are being used by Search and Rescue teams to help discover casualties from WWII. While surely some drones breathe fire and rain havoc from the sky, others just want to create a good, musical beat you can dance to.

 

And I thought the pancakes I made today were awesome... I need to do better.

 

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