Wheelchairs for feet? Nope, but Wile E. Coyote would be proud. (via ACTION)


Wile E. Coyote has to be one of the most hard working cartoon characters in history. He is renowned for coming up with the most preposterous ideas and contraptions in order to catch the ever-elusive Road Runner. When conventional tactics failed (like planting stop signs), he turns to the Acme corporation to help him catch the bird using crazy devices or contraptions such as the Acme Super Outfit (thought he could actually fly like Superman), Acme Bumblebees (supposed to incapacitate the bird) and rocket-powered roller-skates, which usually leaves him sailing over a cliff edge or slammed into a boulder.

Now, thanks to inventor Peter Treadway and his company ACTON, we can relive those crazy antics in real-life with their R-series RocketSkates. Unlike the Coyote’s skates, these are not propelled by solid-fuel rockets strapped to your feet but rather two hub-motors for each skate. Those hub-motors are controlled by an onboard microprocessor that is powered by rechargeable lithium-ion battery packs.

To prevent the skates from traveling faster or slower than the other (truly causing a Wile E. Coyote incident), they communicate with one another wirelessly via Bluetooth to maintain behavior. That wireless connections is also used by an included app that features a dashboard with pertinent information such as how many miles have been traveled (odometer), a convenient battery meter as well as skate diagnostic information for handling any issues that may arise. The app also features route-tracking information to see the route that has been traveled and load that information to social sites for friends and family to follow.

Users can even control their skates wirelessly while wearing them or not, including using them for RC fun using mounted cameras or cruising when your feet get tired. Controlling the skates is actually done using your feet alone, just like regular skates but the extra benefit of controlling them through a smartphone gives them more versatility. Using them is similar to using regular skates and starts be determining which foot is your lead-foot (normally the one you push off with). The lead skate then tells the follower what to do in terms of speed, direction and orientation.

Next, users press a function button on the back of each skate, which starts the brushless hub-motors. LED indicators let users know when the skates are ready to go and are synced with one another. At this point users simply roll to engage the motors. Speed is increased or decreased by shifting weight to the forward or heel of the lead skate, which will instruct the other skate to do the same. The R-series RocketSkates consist of three models that are identical but feature increased distances and time ranges that it takes to travel that distance.

The all travel at the same speed of 12Mph, however the R6 has a max distance of 6-miles, while the R8 has an 8-mile range and the R10 a 10-mile range respectively. The ACTON R RocketSkates are being crowd-funded through Kickstarter and has already surpassed their goal of $50,000 with over $200,000 and over 30 days left to go. Those interested in getting their hands on the skates can pledge $399 and up but they probably won’t let you catch the illusive Road Runner anytime soon.


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Illustration of Bashir’s new walking bio-bot (via University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)


Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign developed one of the first classes of “bio-bots” that can walk. They are also some of the first biological robots to give bioengineers full control over their motion.

If you aren’t freaked out about the prospect of 3D-printed organs, surely this will send a tingle down your spine. A new class of biological robots, developed by Abel Bliss Professor Rashid Bashir, Head of Bioengineering at U of I, and his team of researchers developed a biological robot to stimulate the muscle-tendon-bone phenomena naturally expressed in the body. In effect, it moves on demand.


The bio-bot is made from skeletal muscle cells and 3D-printed hydrogel. Skeletal muscle is unique, in that it only responds to electric pulses. Others muscle cells, such as heart cells, contract on their own, giving researchers limited control of their function. Skeletal muscle cells, on the contrary, only respond on command.


The new bot is constructed by stretching skeletal muscle cells across a 3D-printed board made from hydrogel. The board is flexible and is held upright by two posts, which act as legs. Since the hydrogel is flexible, it allows the robot to walk. The faster the electric pulse, the faster it walks.

The structure is something Bashir has been working on for years. In 2012, he and his team of researchers created a bio-bot that could walk, but it was based on the heart cells of rats. Since heart cells contract automatically, there was no way of controlling their speed. Hence, Bashir went back to the drawing board and voile, the new bot was born.


Although they’re arguably creepy, biological robots may soon play an incredibly important role in environmental maintenance. Bio-bots are designed to respond to a particular stimulus. Bashir plans to design bots that detect, follow and neutralize particular toxins. The result? An environmental crew made of up 1cm-long biological robots. Sorry convicts, no community service hours here.


Bashir is working on making the bio-bots responsive to different stimuli. He is also working on controlling the direction in which the bots walk, making it possible to coordinate thousands towards a single purpose. If biochemists get their hands on the robots, these compact contraptions may also respond to national emergencies. The possibilities are endless.


The technology is still in the developing stages, but this won’t be the last you hear of it. Before long, bio-bots could be the first on the scene of oil spills, biochemical attacks and more. Who knows, maybe Bashir will even design bots that kill those ruthless Giant African Snails that destroy our gardens. We can only hope.  



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We’ve never been much for slow technology. Imagine reading the headline “slowest robot in the world unveiled,” and surely yawns will follow. That’s why two new running robot designs were just released. The Outrunner and Raptor robots can run at 20mph or more, perfect for carrying weapons or stealing old ladies’ purses.


The first whizzing robot is Robotics Unlimited’s OutRunner. This robot has a unique running style, as its body stays in place while spokes with legs rotate on either side of it, giving it the ability to run quickly without compromising balance.


The OutRunner is one of the fastest remote-controlled robots in the world. The speed demon clocks in at 20mph on average, standalone, but it was once recorded at 45mph. In trials, the little robot showed its skills in running over grass, dirt, bumpy terrain and uphill without breaking a sweat. The secret is in the science.


OutRunner’s design was based on biology. The designers figured that the lower the center of mass, the better the balance – and it worked. OutRunner’s center of mass is below the axis of the spokes of its legs, enabling it to exhibit buoyancy and stability as it runs.


The supersonic electronic relies on a rechargeable battery for its boost and it can run for two hours on every charge. The robot’s legs store kinetic energy, so a lot of the energy required to make the bot speed down the runway comes from the laws of physics.


OutRunner comes in two models: a 1.5 foot tall, 3lb robot with six legs and a 2 foot tall, 12-legged monster that weighs 5 lbs and comes with an HD camera. The robot is remote-controlled and users can also track the bot’s performance using an app.


Robotics Unlimited missed the mark on its Kickstarter campaign, but we’re sure to see these guys again. While OutRunner is a speed demon, it isn’t the fastest bot in town. The Raptor is even giving Cheetah quite a scare.



Scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology were also inspired by nature to create one of the fastest robots in the industry. The Raptor robot was designed to mimic the speed, agility and balance of the velociraptor dinosaur. This vicious predator relied on its tail for balance and hind legs for speed and strength – as does the robot.


The Raptor is almost as fast as DARPA’s Cheetah at 28.58mph, but features a simpler design. The robot is biped and its legs connect directly to a carbon-fiber blade. The legs are also fitted with springs that act as tendons. The Raptor’s pole-like tail plays an important part in balancing the bot and swings from side to side as it runs.


The Raptor is one of the most lightweight running robots, but it’s still under construction. The robot must still be connected to a machine to remain upright at top speed, but developers are working on making the bot standalone without sacrificing speed.


Outside of just being cool, running robots are of high interest to the military. Having a speedy, remote-controlled robot means more precise attacks without putting soldiers in harm’s way. There has even been talk about swapping out human soldiers for humanoid robots with artificial intelligence.


This is far from the last that we’ll see of running robots. For a terrifying experience, look up DARPA & Boston Dynamics' WildCat. Let’s just say you wouldn’t want to meet this life-sized feline as an enemy of the state.


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…….or traveling to various inter-office meetings. (via TOPJOY on right and engadget on left)


People riding Segway’s can be found in almost every city on the planet. Some cops even use them to conduct patrols with, usually during outdoor activities where horses and MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush-Proof) vehicles are tough to navigate through. Sure, the Segway is a great ride but it’s still too expensive for most users and why use two wheels for transportation when you can have one?

‘Less is more’ as the saying goes, which probably why there is a new contender for the absurd powered transportation crown in the form of Chinese company TOPJOY’s Pinwheel powered unicycle. The Pinwheel has a few advantages over the Segway, including being ultra-portable as the unit weighs in at 20lbs. and can be broken down into a compact carrying case, complete with convenient handle. It also has a more affordable price point, with an estimated MSRP of only $295. A rechargeable Li-ion battery that has a roughly four-hour ‘ride’ time before needing to be re-juiced powers the unicycle, which also has a top speed of about 14-Mph.

Mobile device users will appreciate the fact that the battery pack also has a USB port to charge their devices while on-the-go. As you can imagine, learning to ride the Pinwheel unicycle is a difficult thing to do, even if it wasn’t powered but it works on the same principle. To go forward, lean forward and to travel backward, well that needs no explanation. Turning is done by leaning to the sides, although you probably wouldn’t want to attempt that at full speed during your first ride. It does however, come with a set of training wheels to help users get a better handle on their unicycling skills and in a myriad of colors to suit users tastes. TOPJOY unveiled the Pinwheel at this year’s Computex electronics show, however the company was shopping it out to potential buyers, so it is uncertain as to if and when it might hit the market. See the full video here...


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Marco Tempest and EDI at TED2014 (via TED & Marco Tempest)


Any fans of Artificial Intelligence films can validate the human fear that robots will one day overtake our world, when and if robots ever gain the capacity to think. One man expanded upon this theory and built a robot that mimics the human body gestures that he believes would make robots seem human. Meet Marco Tempest’s EDI.


EDI (pronounced Eddie) stands for Electronic Deceptive Intelligence. It is a robot created by Tempest, a techno-illusionist, that is meant to emulate humans in a way that develops trust. Tempest argues that humans build trust with one another based on a number of factors that include facial expressions and body language. If robots can exhibit faces and body movements similar to humans, they can gain our trust, although “deceptively.”


Tempest presented EDI at TED2014 as a concept. The robot is pretty box-like, but it does exhibit some realistic features, such as seven-axis arms, a 360-degree sonar detection system and a screen for a face, which can show different cartoon-like facial expressions. Tempest intended for the robot to be able to scan its surroundings, like a person, and execute an appropriate response – AKA, think.


Tempest has received a lot of criticism from people claiming that EDI is not technologically advanced enough to pull the wool over our eyes. Well, duh. Sure it’s no Robogirl aesthetically speaking, but if people catch the concept behind what Tempest is saying, we may need to reexamine our dependency on body language for character analysis as a society – or rather, consider how robot interactions would change.


While it is highly improbable that robots will ever exhibit creative or imaginative thought (or so we hope), what makes EDI’s “thought patterns” any different than our own? We see a stimulus and respond in one of a handful of ways, almost every time. If robots can mimic this pattern, they appear to us as predictable and trustworthy, according to Tempest. It is what he calls electronic deceptive intelligence.


Tempest also argues that technology in our world today is synonymous with magic, as it makes the impossible possible. A far stretch (depending on which philosopher you ask, of course), but what would happen if robots and humans became indistinguishable? Tempest, at the very least, is attempting to answer that question.



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Render - The Scribble Pen inside its customized case (via Scribblepen)

There is an innovative product about to hit the market, exclusively on Kickstarter, that may revolutionize the way we see and think about color. The Scribble Pen allows users to capture any color in the world around them or online, and use that color on paper, real-time. If you’re an artist, you may be salivating at the moment, as this is the first and only product of its kind.


The Scribble Pen is essentially a high-tech, compact, inkjet printer with an ARM 9 processor that allows you to duplicate the colors around you real-time. However, this little gadget goes well beyond the scope of what any printer can do.


The Scribble Pen’s ARM 9 processor allows it to gather and interpret data from the 16-bit RGB sensor. It then uses five refillable ink cartridges to duplicate the captured color and make it ready to use on paper, in moments. If that isn't cool enough, the Scribble Pen has 1GB of storage, a micro USB port, and features Bluetooth 4.0. Users can store up to 100,000 colors on the internal drive. They can also export their custom color palettes to any device with a micro USB port. Using Bluetooth, the Scribble Pen can sync directly to mobile devices via the Scribble+ mobile app.


Scribble is also offering a cheaper Scribble Stylus that allows you to capture colors using a 16-bit RGB sensor. Then, the stylus can draw digitally via a tablet or mobile device, ditching the paper and printing capabilities. For artistic purposes, scribble also offers a variety of pen tips to suit your artistic fancy.


All in all, the Scribble Pen and Scribble Stylus are the most vast, compact coloring-boxes in the world. The 16-bit RGB sensor and five refillable ink cartridges allows users to reproduce up to 16 million colors accurately. Can you imagine the size of that crayon box?


Whether you are a gadget connoisseur, on the hunt for a perfect birthday present for your niece or nephew, or a professional artist, the Scribble Pen is sure to impress.


A video of the Scribble Pen in action has yet to be released, so stay tuned for the launching of the Kickstarter campaign to see if this product lives up to the hype.



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MIT’s Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SRLs): Because everybody needs extra limbs. (via MIT)

Scientists have already designed some interesting robotic prosthetics for people with disabilities, including some that can be controlled by the user’s brain. However, what about those of us who just want to have some extra limbs to help us through every-day, monotonous, tough, difficult tasks?

Researchers from MIT have us covered with their new Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SRLs), which were designed to do just that, actually there are two versions designed for certain tasks. For example, there are shoulder-mounted SLRs for doing work over the wearer’s head or for performing work where an extra pair of hands would come in handy, such as hanging sheets of drywall or hanging heavy ceiling tiles. The SLRs feature two arms whose reaction-forces are aligned with the wearer’s spine, making them able to bear weight.

Each features 5-DOF and are interchangeable with customized arm attachments for different jobs. While the arms are indeed useful, getting them to function without using your own was a different ball game altogether. Instead of connecting directly with the wearer’s nervous system through the spine (like in the movie), it uses sensors to ‘predict’ the movements of the user. Situated on the wearer’s wrists are a pair of IMUs that monitors movement and a third, which is housed beneath the shoulder mount, tracks the orientation and overall motion of the SRLs.


The arms garner movement data from learning the wearer’s motions while performing certain tasks. The learning model is then combined with the data gathered from the gyro and accelerometer IMUs to make the predicted movements. The end result is surprisingly effective and is executed in almost real-time. The researchers are also working on a waist-mounted version for holding objects as well as acting as a brace to provide stability in awkward positions, much like a second set of legs. Strangely enough, Boeing (and other companies) is a leading sponsor of the SRL project and hopes that the robotic limbs will help its aging workforce of aircraft builders from being injured while on the job. No matter what their intended use is, we can all benefit from them even if it’s a life of crime.


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The DEKA Arm System (via DEKA)

In an effort to alleviate much of the difficulty experienced by upper-limb amputees, DEKA Research and Development recently created one of the most realistic prosthetic arms ever devised. Dubbed the “Luke Arm” (after Luke Skywalker’s highly-advanced prosthetic), the arm has already been approved by the FDA and DEKA is currently researching the probability of successfully bringing it to market.


The Luke Arm, or the DEKA Arm System, is part of an initiative through DARPA to improve prosthetic technology for amputees. Under DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, DEKA and Johns Hopkins University received a grand total of $100 million for the development of prosthetic technology, $40 million of which went to DEKA.


The DEKA Arm System is battery-powered and DEKA claims it is roughly the same weight as a natural human arm. It can successfully handle small, delicate, large and heavy objects and gives users some of the most authentic freedom of movement of all prosthetics. It features 10 arm movements and six various grip options.


The arm relies on electromyogram electrodes for commands. EMGs pick up information based on the electrical activity that takes place on the skin’s surface, typically through the contraction of muscles. The DEKA Arm System uses these signals to issue commands to the arm, along with switches located on the user’s feet that wirelessly transmit commands to the arm as well.


The arm was primarily designed by Dean Kamen, the same inventor who brought us the Segway, and his hard work shows. The arm is capable of executing all types of functions, including opening letters, handling uncooked eggs and utilizing power tools. Kamen and his team designed the arm with functionality inmind, and the final product mimics real hand movement.


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The DEKA Arm System (via DEKA)


The device looks exactly like a human arm, complete with plastic fingernails. The machinery powering the arm is covered by a translucent, grayish plastic. While this design doesn’t exactly make it easy for users to hide the fact that they are wearing a prosthetic, it sure does beat a metal hook.


To test the waters, DEKA launched a clinical trial with a study group of 36 upper arm amputees from the military. In the study, participants were asked to perform a number of tasks, including brushing their hair, using keys, holding small objects, eating and more; 90 percent of whom did so successfully. After eight years of development, the FDA finally approved the prosthetic prototype.

The Luke Arm has come a long way since the first, robot-like prosthetic prototype. Kamen designed the prototype to function as closely to normal human movement as possible to give those with upper arm amputations a portion of their freedom back.


DEKA is currently looking into options for mass production in an effort to bring the technology to market affordably. There is no word on when the prosthetic is expected to hit the market. While we wait, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne has designed a prosthetic of its own, but this guy isn’t for consumer usage (see following blog)..


This Space Arm Catches Debris


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EPFL’s robotic arm


The Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory at EPFL just announced its newest robotic invention – a robotic arm that can catch objects mid-air in the blink of an eye. This product isn’t for your average consumer, but it does have important implications for space, where it may be tasked with keeping idle debris away from our planet.


The robotic hand stands 1.5 meters tall. It features three joints and four fingers. When resting, it sits with its palm open and remains completely still, until it spots a falling object. Inspired by human catching abilities, the robot will calculate the trajectory of a nearby falling object and it can catch it in five hundredths of a second, the same time it takes us to blink.

The Swiss Space Center added the robot to its Clean-mE project, an initiative to clean space debris caught in earth’s gravitational pull. Plans include securing the arm to a satellite and seeing if it can successfully catch objects moving at a gingerly pace in space. There are plans for using the arm here on Earth, too.


While far off, there is talk about using the technology to catch falling people (perhaps those who fall off scaffolding) and to prevent automobile accidents from flying road debris in autonomous cars. Perhaps one day it will even be used to catch approaching missiles. Only time will tell.


Whether it’s catching people or asteroids, this space arm is really expanding the concept of what robotic arms can do. If we’re lucky, maybe a home version of EPFL’s arm will hit the market with the sole purpose of swatting flies. We can only hope.



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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.



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.



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: 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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