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(Left) The base Ototo kit (Right) Example of rocking out with an Ototo (via Kickstarter)


Have you wanted to turn an eggplant into an instrument? What about that roll of aluminum foil? Well, if Yuri Suzuki’s team at Dentaku reaches its crowdfunding goal on KickStarter this month, the Ototo kit will allow users to turn any object into the musical instrument of their dreams.

 

The Ototo kit is based on a small synthesizer, which allows the user to build a musical instrument using any material that can hold an electrical charge (including water, eggplants, metal and more). The synthesizer is functional all on its own, but connecting a conductive object or material to it makes that material respond musically to touch. It’s important to note that each material enables a unique musical experience, based on its texture, so have fun and test various materials.

 

The synthesizer comes equipped with a 12-key configuration that acts as one octave and includes four sensor inputs – two for texture, one for loudness and one for pitch. The device connects to an external object via crocodile clips and once connected, Ototo offers seven different sensors to customize the user experience, including sensors that change the musical note using sliders, rotation of the external object, amount of light, force, touch, breath and joystick motion. Changing any of the seven sensors creates a different musical element, which makes each interaction with Ototo unique.

For users that want a more professional experience, the Ototo synthesizer can be connected to a computer via USB and functions as a MIDI controller. The user can customize the synthesizer to control a range of different program functions and the device is compatible with Apple’s Garageband, Ableton Live and more.

 

The handheld device comes equipped with a 3.5mm headphone output, 128 Mbit Flash memory and is powered using 2 AA batteries or via micro USB. It can used as a synthesizer and sampler and is based on open source to allow for total customization.

 

The design team behind Ototo said it created the device to innovate user interaction with electronic music and design. The team sought to expand the user experience to allow for a faster, freer creation process. The project is currently on KickStarter and needs a £50,000 cumulative pledge to launch. The company has currently raised more than £16,000 with more than three weeks to go.

 

Prepare for a deluge of experimental music shows…

 

 

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I'm still a proud watcher of the Olympics... 2 years later.

 

The 2014 Winter Olympics officially began last Friday, but there are bigger concerns than who takes home the gold in this year’s games. Recent reports from homeland security and intelligence specialists speculate that this year’s icy events may come with terrorist threats. Let the games begin.

 

The winter Olympic games happen once every four years and bring together the top athletes in winter sports from across the globe to compete for the title of best in the world. This year’s games, hosted in Sochi, Russia, began on February 7 and will run through the 23rd, but fans and Olympians may have to watch their back regarding recent threats, the U.S. House of Representatives personnel warn.

 

Members of the House’s panel on Homeland Security and Intelligence recently announced that Islamist groups have threatened to commit an act of terror during this year’s games in Sochi. Experts say they believe the actual stadium will be safe, but are confident that an explosion will take place somewhere in Sochi during the games. Some 37,000 U.S. and Russian security personnel are guarding the security of the “ steel ring” surrounding the venues and intend to deter all potential threats, but further threats exist outside of the steel walls.

 

Another threat comes from the realm of cyberspace, says NBC News’ Richard Engel. For the record, his phone and computer were hacked within minutes of arriving at the Olympic park. Engle stated anyone traveling to Sochi should expect to have their privacy breached if they go online. While his claims have flared controversy from others who say the internet knows no location and hackers exist in every corner of the world, Engel stands by his statement and asks that travelers mind their personal information.

 

Some intelligence experts speculate that the security threats in Russia during the 2014 Winter Olympics have less to do with terrorizing the world’s best athletes are more to do with internationally embarrassing Russian President Vladimir Putin, but no one knows for sure. U.S. and Russian collaboration on security and intelligence definitely leaves room for improvement, but the U.S. is taking responsibility within the nation to temporarily ban all potentially suspicious substances on all flights between the U.S. and Russia until the games come to an end.

 

Hopefully this year’s winter games will only be known for which countries took home the gold.

 

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Google's learning at sea ship to begin construction... this is a render of what the final vessel may look like. (via Google.)


Google, the technology giant, has taken their innovation to sea, or so it seems. The company recently announced the development of what it calls “an interactive space where people can learn about new technology,” that embodies a decadent ship currently under construction in the Port of San Francisco.

 

The mysterious structure is being made from recycled shipping containers and, when done, will sit in the SF Bay at 250-feet long and 50-feet tall. The architectural plans also include dressing the massive barge in “fish fin” sails, which will put passengers at ease as they are reminded “that they are on a seaworthy vessel.”

 

The barge’s documents were submitted by a company called By and Large LLC, which seems to be working hand-in-hand with Google. While some have noted the company name may be a play on the word “barge,” the organization said the exhibit space will be a place for the community to come together and learn about technologies and the interconnectivity of the world at-large.

 

The waterfront structure is expected to attract roughly 1,000 visitors a day. It will sail from dock-to-dock along California’s coastline and is expected to make stops at Piers 30-32, Fort Mason, Angel Island, Redwood City and the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond.

 

The ostentatious ship is expected to stay at each location for roughly a month before moving down the western coastline. There are rumors that the barge will also make stops in San Diego and other popular ports along the West Coast.

 

Ship construction is a long way from being complete and the By and Large LLC said the plans on how it will serve the community can change as time progresses. The architectural proposal does say, however, that the structure seeks to “inspire conversations, community and ‘a-ha’ moments.”

 

If Google is behind it, we can certainly expect that no corner will be cut. There has been no word on when the ship will set sail, but we’ll surely be the first in line. All aboard for global domination?

 

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First viable flying car

Posted by Cabe Atwell Feb 7, 2014

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Stefan Klein by a model of what is to be... (via digitaljournal)


There has been talk about flying cars for years now, but Slovak engineer and designer Stefan Klein may have actually made the first viable flying car, with plans to begin production this year.

 

Klein always had a dream of creating what he calls a flying machine. He told Phys.org that he comes from a line of pilots and flying is just in his blood. Receiving his pilot license before he was old enough to drive a car, Klein began working on the creation of his flying machine in the early 1990s and now the Aeromobil is near completion.

 

The Aeromobil looks like your regular elegant sports car, but when the driver gets to the airport, it has wings that unfold, enabling the machine to become a plane. Anyone that wishes to purchase the car must have both a valid driver’s license and a pilot’s license with at least 25 hours of flight experience.

 

The flying vehicle is 20 feet long and seats two people. It runs on regular gasoline and guzzles 4 gallons per hour while in the air. At top speed it can travel at 124 mph and up to 430 miles per trip.

 

While this distance won’t get you from Chicago to Australia, Klein said it is designed for pilots who need to take short trips that want to get to the airport, take flight, land and drive to their intended destination without getting out of the vehicle.

 

The Aeromobil is really a dream come true for Klein. He and his team took the flying machine for its first flight test in September and are now working on updating the current model to release into the marketplace later this year.

 

The Aeromobile is not, however, the only flying machine in town. The U.S.-based Terrafugia’s Transition is expected to hit the marketplace in a year’s time, while the helicopter-based Dutch PAL-V gyrocopter may hit the market later in the year.

 

Regardless of the competition, Klein believes his flying car is the best, and experts agree. It was named the best-designed and prettiest airborne automobile in the world to date by U.S. aviation magazine Flying and Inhabitat.com.

 

Klein says he expects the Aeromobil to sell well with people who wants an alternative mode of transportation for short distances, but says it may be a big hit in countries with limited infrastructure, such as Russia.

 

While Klein believes the Aeromobil won’t be as popular as your average car, he does agree that the average person has at least dreamt of owning a flying car.

 

“Honestly, who hasn't dreamt of flying while being stuck in the traffic?" Klein told Agence France-Presse.

 

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It sees everything

Posted by Cabe Atwell Feb 5, 2014

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Pattern recognition at its best. (via Bringham Young University)


Anyone that has seen a Sci-Fi movie can tell you that eventually robots will take over the world. Well, Bringham Young University engineer Dah-Jye Lee has officially made the first step towards devising a world where computers can think on their own.

 

Lee, Fellow BYU Electrical and Computing Engineer Professor James Archibald and graduate students Beau Tippetts and Kirt Lillywhite developed an algorithm that can accurately decipher the objects in various videos and pictures without human interference. How? The genetic algorithm is actually able to learn to identify objects on its own. Lee and his team based the algorithm off the process by which children learn to differentiate objects. Children learn to identify objects through pictures, so Lee and his team decided to try the same philosophy with the algorithm, and it worked. The computer receives a series of images and learns to decipher them on its own, with a 99-100% accuracy rate.

 

The computer is able to identify a range of objects, including species of fish, faces, airplanes, motorbikes and cars. The computer does not need to be reset before each identification – it seamlessly runs on its own.

Lee and his team think the algorithm may be most useful for the detection of invasive fish species in various bodies of water, but the possibilities are endless.

 

The study was published in December’s issue of Pattern Recognition. The team calls its development the “ECO features” genetic algorithm. There is no word yet on when the algorithm will be used in the real world, but we hope it’s a nice robot.

 

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Eindhoven University of Technology’s Robotic helper. (via EUofT)


Believe it or not, robots sometimes have a tough time trying to communicate and learn from one another. Maybe it’s due to ‘language barriers’ (different programming languages) that cause these issues or perhaps the information to learn from wasn’t readily available. In an effort to create a large repository of learning material that robots can access online, Eindhoven University has teamed up with Phillips and other academic institutions to create a ‘Wikipedia’ of sorts where robots can acquire any information they may need to perform certain tasks. After four years of development, the research team recently successfully demonstrated their RoboEarth online initiative. The idea of RoboEarth is to allow robots to share and benefit from the experiences of other robots, which allows for rapid advancements in machine cognition and behavior.

 

The end-result the team is hoping for is a more subtle and sophisticated interaction between humans and robots in the near future. In their demonstration, the team used four robots to work collaboratively to help patients in a hospital where they then learned from the cloud-based RoboEarth repository to help human patients with non-invasive tasks, such as delivering medications and water. Essentially, the robots can search online for the things they need to get the job done, which saves time and power, thereby making them more efficient in their tasks. For example, instead of endlessly searching for bottled water in one area of a hospital, they can simply download a map of the area (made by another robot) to find the item’s location. As more of earth’s population grows older, we will start to see more of our mechanical friends in position to help them with everyday tasks, which can prove invaluable in our increasingly busy lives.

 

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"Mother." from sen.se... a robot that looks out for you. (via sen.se)


Have you ever wanted to grow eyes in the back of your head to make sure your kids aren’t getting into trouble while you’re away? Sen.se, a French company, recently announced its newest device, which may allow you instil fear in those bad kids.

 

Sen.se revealed the device, a robot called Mother, at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics show last week in Las Vegas, Nevada. The robot is modeled after a Russian doll and can wirelessly connect to up to 24 devices in your home to make them “smart” devices. Some of its functions include reminders to take medication, monitoring the temperature of a room and monitoring the opening and closing of a door (if you have teenagers, this may be a way to minimize midnight sneak-outs).

 

Mother was created by the same robotics engineer that brought you Nabaztag robotic rabbits, Rafi Haladjian. It was designed to give users reminders about regular household duties they may forget about and it will nag until the task is complete – just like Mom used to do. For example, the 6-inch-tall robot can be programmed to track whether or not someone is taking their medication by monitoring when the medicine cabinet is being opened and closed. While Mother cannot detect whether or not someone swallowed their pills, if the cabinet hasn’t been opened on a particular day, their caretaker can probably make the assumption that their patient forgot to take their medication. The robot can also monitor the opening and closing of a door, a potential security measure in the event of a robbery or a sneaky teenager.

 

The sensors to which Mother connects are called Cookies and can be programmed to perform up to 14 different functions throughout your home. The Cookies will need to be replaced once every year and while a user can connect up to 24 Cookies at once, they are sold in packs of 4 for $99, making the robotic reminders a potentially expensive convenience.

 

The Smart Russian dolls blink to notify users that Mother is connected to the Wifi network. It is expected to hit the market between February and March, retailing as a set of one Mother robot and four Cookies sensors for $222.

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Concept art (via Footlogger)


Avid runners may sprint when they hear about the newest activity tracking device that not only tracks distances during runs and calories burned, but also monitors heel strike patterns that can potentially predict the development of cognitive disorders.

 

FootLoggers, developed by 3L Labs, are shoe insoles that claim to do much more than track exercise patterns. 3L Labs designed the shoe insoles to serve as both an upgrade to the already available wristband activity trackers and as a way to help serve the medical community by predicting early signs of diseases like dementia.

The insole is equipped with a built-in 3-axis accelerometer, which monitors activity, and eight pressure sensors, which analyze the way in which the user distributes their weight and how their feet strike the ground. The insoles are placed inside the user’s shoes and are reported to be fairly lightweight and comfortable. Each insole can store up to 50,000 footprints using flash memory and has a rechargeable battery life of 24 hours.

 

The insoles are wirelessly rechargeable at a distance of 50mm using a companion device called a ShoeStation. The dock does not only charge the shoes, but also uploads the information it stores regarding the user’s daily activity via Bluetooth, which is then uploaded to the 3L Labs server and analyzed based on the user’s preferences. The results of each day’s activity can be sent to the user and another person of their choice, such as a fitness trainer or a nurse.

 

3L Labs claims the insoles serve a number of purposes to a number of users, such as informing high-level athletes when their body weight is improperly positioned at critical moments, such as before the swing of a golf club or seconds before a runner sprints. It can also help users track their daily calories burned and helping physical therapists monitor the rehabilitation and progress of their patients. The technology may be tapped in the future to work alongside gaming consoles for interactive, physically demanding games as well. 3L Labs expects the insoles to be available in the second-half of 2014. They are expected to retail for $100 - hope they are comfy too.

 

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The amount of extra brush time the Kolibree toothbrush will generate will be unprecedented. Sad kids and enamel erosion on the way. (via Kolibree)


The 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas last week revealed a novel way to ensure people keep their pearly whites clean by using Kolibree’s new Smart Toothbrush, a toothbrush that user sensor technology to monitor how well a person cleaned their teeth.

 

The Smart Toothbrush is the first toothbrush to harness the power of sensor technology for one of the scariest places in the world – the human mouth. The sensor technology, which includes an accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope, is installed inside the base of the toothbrush and connects via Bluetooth to an iOS app that monitors how long a person spends brushing and how well they cleaned hard-to-reach places. The sensors work by first creating a model of the inside of the user’s mouth, then comparing that with the general size of the user’s mouth compared to their peers of the same age and gender.

 

The physical toothbrush has interchangeable heads and ranges in price from $100-200, depending on the model. While it is possible for multiple family members to use the same toothbrush base, the creators suggest using an entirely separate brush for each family member, as this data collected may get mixed up between users. The brush’s vibrations and brush strokes range from 4000 to 12,500 RPM. It is also rechargeable and holds a charge for a full week.

 

The iOS app used for data storage can hold brushing information for up to five family members, making it easy for mom or dad to ensure their kids are doing a bang-up job keeping cavities at bay. It is very user friendly and gives the user a quantitative percentage on how much of the mouth was cleaned during the brushing session. The program also helps incentivize kids to properly clean their teeth, as it awards badges for a job well done and also offers a graphing feature to track their progress.

 

The device was created by Thomas Serval, a former Google innovator. The tech genius  recently returned to hardware development and decided to develop the Smart Toothbrush when he got sick of asking his kids whether or not they had brushed their teeth, and how well.  New parents are always inspired.

 

Enthusiastic brushers can expect to dish their cash out to Kolibree via Kickstarter this summer. The devices are expected to ship later in the year and there are rumors that the company will offer family discounts for families ordering more than one Smart Toothbrush.

 

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Ultrasonic levitation!

Posted by Cabe Atwell Jan 14, 2014

Ultrasonic levitation, also known as acoustic levitation, has been demonstrated a few times already. However, until recently it has not been possible to manipulate the suspended objects in free space. The levitation suspends objects in air by exploiting the properties of a standing wave. While most animations of waves show them moving through space, with the maximum and minimum values changing, the standing wave appears as if it is not moving at all, with the maximum and minimum peaks staying in one place. This is where one can define the nodes, the minimum pressure areas, and the anti-nodes, the high pressure areas. The nodes are the area of the wave where an object will levitate, given that the density of the object is small enough for the upward pressure to overcome the downward effects of gravity.

 

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Granules floating in air due to ultrasonic sound. Animals hate it. (via  3DOF)

 

With that said researchers Yoichi Ochiai, Takayuki Hoshi, and Jun Rekimoto from the University of Tokyo have used  an array of ultrasonic sound to suspend an object in air, and then move the object around in the horizontal plane. The arrays used to generate the high frequencies consisted of 285 specialized speakers which were made to produce waves above 20KHz (inaudible for humans). Some of the waves are fixed in position to produce the upward pressure to keep object levitating in space. On the other hand, additional waves are used which can be adjusted to change the position of the levitating object in the horizontal axis.

 

The applications of levitation are scarce at the moment, but there exists some uses in chemistry and biology in which it can pose an advantage. Levitation can be used to carry out chemical reactions without exposing them to any containers or materials. This can keep the chemicals from being exposed to contamination or any type of surface contact. In fact, scientists have already used levitation to demonstrate sodium reacting with water. Although the levitation is unnecessary for the demonstration, it is an awesome way to utilize it.

 

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Updated Anki Drive app offers up more upgrades.


For those who have yet to get their driver’s license but want to battle-race in the REAL-WORLD should take a look at robotics/AI start-up Anki, whose Drive game is taking the world by storm. Anki Drive debuted late last year and has gained incredible fanfare since then. The game is actually a real-world robotic racing game similar to the electric slot racing cars of yesteryear only without the snap-together track, tiny electric cars and the hand-held ‘squeeze’ controllers that supplied power to said cars. Anki Drive uses robotic cars that feature a rudimentary AI that sorts out problems such as position, reasoning and execution to perform a series of tasks on its own. The cars are outfitted with cameras and sensors and are controlled with user’s iOS equipped iPhones, which not only allow players to drive said cars but also customize them ‘virtually’ with faster engines, better tires and even weapons designed to incapacitate other players vehicles. Think of it like combining a video game with a physical game, however you don’t actually get to physically install new engines or weapons platforms (at least not yet anyway). Anki has recently released a new update (via iTunes), which incorporates 20 new upgrades for users to race with, including Reverse Drive (racing against the flow of traffic), Kinetic Brake (bring the car to a dead stop) and EMP pulse (designed to damage all opponents near the car). Other improvements allow players to switch-out upgrades that they no longer want (which they were not able to do before), albeit with a point penalty (players progress by earning points against other players). Anki Drive is available in a starter kit, which includes the race mat and two cars for $199, with additional cars costing $69.99 a piece and requires an iPhone for use as the controller. The update is available now for all those interested in gaining an edge over their rivals.


 

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'Omnicorp' unveiled Robocop at this year's CES in Las Vegas with this video. Omnicorp's bearded and be-suited representative gloats "We have created the most powerful and technological defense system in history" before adding chillingly "yet this wasn't enough."

 

Naturally this is just a promotional stunt for the forthcoming Sony Pictures film of Robocop, but there is an uneasy familiarity of the presentation itself and given the recent advancements in robotics from Boston Dynamics and others... Could the real RC2000 be nearer than we think?

 

You have 15 seconds to watch this video!

 

 

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Screen grabs from Youtube

In the future drones in the sky will be just as common as aircraft. New, smaller technology has reduced the weight of common electronics and has allowed drones to be lighter, smaller, and easier to make. Getting drones up and flying is not a problem, the problem lies within government regulations and privacy concerns. Additionally, flying drones in air space which is already occupied by lots of air traffic is also of concern.

 

Therefore, six test sites across the U.S. have been chosen for studying how drones can be integrated into U.S. air traffic and identifying which safety precautions needs to be met. For example, in the situation that a drone loses radio contact there should be standard procedures which will prohibit the drone from crashing or flying off its designated path. The six sites chosen for testing include: North Dakota, Alaska, Virginia, Nevada, Texas, and New York. All of the sites chosen have been picked for their Universities or research institutions which will be leading the projects. In addition, the FAA has approved 300 additional sites for drone testing which will be much smaller and consist mostly of universities and police departments.

 

North Dakota, one of the winning candidates for drone testing already has a long history in aerospace and drone research. In 2010 the University of North Dakota announced the country's first degree program for piloting drones. Furthermore, Grand Forks police department has already been authorized by the FAA to use drones in police missions, and deployed their first one in a mission in May of 2013. Many people at the Grand Forks Air Force base believe unmanned air vehicles are the future of aviation. Likewise, In Nevada officials predicted drone use could open thousands of jobs with an average salary range for drone piloting paying between $85,000 to $115,000.

 

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Sign in North Dakota issued to notify public of drone use. (via popsci)

 

Although the potential for drone use is higher than ever, there are still many skeptics and critics fighting against it. To combat this and gain public support many committees are beginning to form. One example is the University of North Dakota's Unmanned Aerial Systems Research Compliance Committee. Members include people, which have backgrounds in academic research ethics and not necessarily drone science. The goal of the committee is to review and approve drone use proposals and set public standards. This can include creating a drone flight map, voicing public feedback, or notifying the public of drone operations.

 

The testing of unmanned aerial vehicles is set to start as soon as possible. The test sites can be in operation from anywhere up to 2017. In addition, the FAA is hoping to have operational guidelines in place by 2015. Commercialization of drones will be revolutionary for companies such as Amazon, but it will also bring about new laws and new concerns.

 

Drone usage is sure to increase the number of UFO sighting… get the tinfoil hat.

 

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ShoeboxCNC. They better bring the price down before returning to kickstater... (via SBCNC)


Sometimes finding the right place to get started with robotics can be hard. You may have an idea of what you want to make, but choosing the right parts and all the accessories can be a bit overwhelming for beginners. This is why starter kits and bundles can be popular items. One of the latest kits being put together is an Ardunio controlled CNC robot. Currently on Kickstarter, the Shoebox CNC robot (SB-1) will be easily put together using cardboard pieces, or as the name implies, using a shoebox.

 

It will work by using a custom Ardunio shield for controlling 3 different motors. Additionally, it will work with quadrature encoders for each motor and limit switches. An H-bridge motor will also be available for powering an additional item. The motors that will come with the kit are custom made with quadrature encoders integrated into their structure. According to their Kickstarter page, the motors will be accurate with up to sub-millimeter precision.

 

Open source software is also being developed for easy control. Using a PC or MAC, movements for vector drawings and possibly g-code will be possible. Their page also states that they will be working to get software for LinxCNC working, as well as Scratch and Processing coding environments.

 

If interested in the ShoeboxCNC kit, there are many different options currently available on Kickstarter. For $45 you can get the Arduino shield previously mentioned. For $85 you can get the shield plus an Arduino and power supply. And for $250 you can get the entire kit with motors, wood, and cardboard materials. This kit will be great for getting people started with CNC robotics. However, I think their price may set them back a little bit. Paying $250 for an entire kit which will really only let you draw or paint shapes is a bit too much. On the plus side, it does give people a great idea on how to turn a useless box into something fun.

 

Although the project was cancelled… It will be back.

 

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Zepp’s GolfSense motion sensor, promo image. You get the gist.. glove... app... (via Zepp)


Amateur golfers are always looking for that edge to go pro. Whether it is wearing crazy golf hats, using better clubs or hiring a coach, they are always looking gain an advantage. While nothing can take the place of natural talent, there are devices that can help improve a player’s golf swing, which can help them become adept at the sport. In this case, it’s Zepp’s novel GolfSense device, which can help improve a golfer’s motion and lessen the urge of throwing those new clubs in a fit of rage after missing that crucial putt. The device attaches to a players glove and features an accelerometer that captures the users 3D swing data. That data entails the quality of the player’s swing, club speed, swing plane, tempo of the back swing/down swing and hip rotation. All of that data is sent immediately via a Bluetooth connection to any iOS or Android-based mobile device (where a beep sound signifies it has captured the data correctly), where the user can view all of that pertinent data and correct any issues they may have. A 3D representation of the player can be viewed showing the player’s swing and matches that with the user’s SwingScore, which allows players to set preconditioned goals of achievement. This allows players to gain an insight on what aspects of their swing they need to work on. According to some online reviews, the device works exceptionally well, however (like some software) the app tends to crash on occasion. Those looking to gain that extra edge over their opponents can get their hands on one for around $130, which is a small price to pay to gain that advantage.


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