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(Photo Credit: SSL). Geostationary communications satellites can be very large, creating launch constraints.


Commercial satellite builder Space Systems/Loral (SSL) has been awarded a contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to study robotic assembly of geostationary communications satellites in orbit.

Called Dragonfly, the program is designed to enable very large satellites that cannot be launched fully assembled (because the completed satellite will not fit within a standard launch vehicle fairing), to be packaged and launched in pieces and then self-assembled from the stowed state by a robotic arm while in orbit.

The on-satellite robotic arm is expected to be a smaller version of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates’ (MDA) Canadarm, a remote-controlled mechanical arm, also known as the Shuttle Remote Manipulator System (SRMS) that enjoyed a 30-year career with NASA's Space Shuttle Program. Canadarm2 is a bigger robotic arm currently in service on the International Space Station. MDA is the parent company of SSL.

The 5 month study aims at demonstrating how assembling satellites in orbit could lower satellite cost and mass, with particular focus on the installation and reconfiguration of large radio frequency (RF) antenna reflectors.

As part of this effort, SSL has submitted a proposal to NASA for collaboration on taking the concept to a ground demonstration followed by a flight application.

The Dragonfly project is an outgrowth of Darpa’s Phoenix program to demonstrate robotic servicing and repurposing of spacecraft in geostationary orbit (GEO). Dragonfly not only has the potential to transform the way satellites are built, but could also have positive impact on the service life of satellites. It will be easier to replace defective or broken parts of satellites that have been launched in modular pieces by different rockets, and then assembled in orbit. The robotic assembly element of the satellite could also be used for in orbit refueling to prolong the satellite’s operational life.

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Miyazaki's Flaptter comes to life! Kazuhikio Kakuta has recreated the memorable machine from the acclaimed Hayao Miyazaki film. (via Kazuhikio)


Art and tech come together. Almost always, a work of love and fandom drives creating something like this. I find it inspirational, perhaps you will too.


Hayao Miyazaki has created some of the most iconic animated movies in history. Films like Howl's Moving Castle and Spirited Away are highly acclaimed for their story, visuals, and imagination. Each of the films show a weird, ambitious machine, but did you ever think one could actually exist? Inventor Kazuhikio Kakuta has been working on an RC model of the Flaptter from Castle in the Sky for the past four years and the results are stunning. There's even a mini Dola, a character from the film, in the pilot's seat.



Castle in the Sky screen shot (left) and the Flaptter project (right) (Via Studio Ghibli and Kazuhikio respectively)


The project grew out of his love for flying machines. Back in January he uploaded a video showing off a prototype, but has been tweaking it ever since. He provided an updated version in a new video posted a couple of weeks ago.

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The clip shows the RC Flaptter in action as it flies around at a steady pace and loops around the camera several times. It's in the air for a full minute before it hits the ground. This updated version includes a stabilizer and other minor repairs.



It seems Kakuta's Flaptter is going well, so does that mean he'll be working on bringing other Studio Ghibli inventions to life? We sure hope so! Just imagine having an RC model of a moving castle; talk about being the ultimate Miyazaki fan!


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Kids top our biggest inspiration in this one...


Thanks to shows like Cake Boss and other baking competition shows, parents are inspired more than ever to create a cake their little ones will remember. They may be able to make pastries that look like their favorite characters, but can they make them move?


It sounds impossible, but Youtuber Russell Munro made his son a cake that'll make everyone jealous. As the video shows, the cake not only introduces itself as Optimus Prime, it actually transforms into the iconic robot. How did he do it? Munro used a 3D printer to make the base of the cake. From there, the cake and frosting cover up the motors and other parts that help it move.


Along with transforming cake in action, Munro also posted a video showing the bare base moving. From the looks of it, it's made of plastic frames and motors to get the amazing effect. Sadly, there's no how-to guide or detailed breakdown on how Munro did it. Just watch the video again and be stunned. The real question is how are you supposed to eat a cake like that anyway?



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Dario with IKO Creative Prosthetic System and custom attachment. Columbian designer Carlos Arturo Torres developed the first-ever prosthetic to be Lego-compatible. Users can build-their-own add-ons, which range from a realistic hand attachment to Lego Mindstorms robot.(image: Carlos Arturo Torres)


No matter where they live, children of every age love building things with LEGO Bricks, including child amputees. That’s why Columbian designer Carlos Torres decided to develop a prosthetic arm that is compatible with Legos, so kids can create an extension of themselves in any way they desire.



IKO Creative Prosthetic System (image: Carlos Arturo Torres)


Torres calls the project the IKO Creative Prosthetic System. While many prosthetic designers are working on enabling intercommunication between the brain and the prosthetic unit, Torres thought children might have different needs. Being a child amputee has intense social complications, and Torres thought a fun prosthetic that enabled more ways to play could turn that social roadblock into a bridge. 



IKO Creative Prosthetic System segments (image: Carlos Arturo Torres)


The prosthetic is easy-to-assemble, and allows kids to build-their-own additions. Kids first attach a custom-made socket interface to their remaining appendage. The interface is equipped with a processor, two myoelectric sensors and runs on a rechargeable battery. The portion of the prosthetic that serves as the lower arm easily twists into place and is Mindstorms engine-compatible (which would allow users to connect LEGO’s new line of robots directly to their prosthetic, seamlessly). The system also has holes on the exterior shell that are Lego-compatible, so anything a user can dream he can build. 



Custom add-on (image: Carlos Arturo Torres)


Torres also developed a prosthetic hand that features a precise grasp, a power grip and wrist movement to mimic real hand motion. If a kid is less interested in having a normal hand, however, they can use the same attachment to build anything they can imagine. Eight-year-old Columbian amputee Dario was the test subject throughout the development of the project (and Torres’ partner in crime), preferred a laser gun to a hand, for example (and so did his friends). If the user does opt to attach a custom Lego design to the arm, the myoelectric sensors in the interface will inform the rest of the arm on how to move. The product may also enable kids to use the online LEGO Minstorms platform to control their custom add-ons, but the promise of this remains unclear. 



Dario with the IKO Creative Prosthetic System (image: Carlos Arturo Torres)


Throughout the development of the project, Torres worked closely with LEGO Future Lab, occupational therapists, psychologists and little Dario. He was touched by Dario’s excitement and hopes to have the prosthetic market-ready by the end of 2016. Regardless, this opens up an entirely new dimension of prosthetic development. People have individual needs that change minute-to-minute, so why not allow them to custom-design their own body on the go? This can, and should, change the way we make prosthesis. 



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Radinn Founder Phillip Werner catching waves on the Wakejet Cruiser. Swedish company Radinn will release its Wakejet Cruiser this October – a surfboard equipped with jets, GPS and a connected app that enable you to surf at 29mph while tracking your location on the sea for only $20,000 a pop. (via Radinn)

Interfacing with the world is key here. I hope this inspires you as much as myself... Have you ever looked across the open ocean and wanted to skim its crystal surface without the need for a boat or chunky jet ski? Well, now you can. Radinn’s Wakejet Cruiser is an electric surfboard that allows you to enjoy loads of surfing fun without ever having to paddle.


The Wakejet Cruiser allows you to glide across the open ocean, lakes or even upstream at 29 miles per hour for 30 minutes per charge at full speed. The board weighs roughly 30kg and is made from a combination of carbon and Kevlar composite. It accelerates through lithium-ion battery-powered jet propulsion (that is also considerably quiet, even at full speed).


The electric surfboard is controlled via wireless hand-controller. It comes equipped with a microcontroller that allows for GPS technology when connected to the matching iOS or Android app. Not only can you cruise on the open ocean, but you can also do so without getting lost (if you aren’t afraid of dropping your phone in the water, that is). Overall, it’s one of the first feasible electronic surfboards that can run for a relatively long time on a rapid charge. The board is fully charged after two to three hours and when not at full speed, it can run for nearly an hour on a single charge.

The Cruiser is one of the coolest inventions to hit in water sports, but it won’t be cheap. Early birds purchased the first Q2 rollout at $20,000 a pop. Radinn will release another round of surfboards in its third quarter, but we don’t anticipate the price going down any time soon. If you don’t have a rich friend, now is the time to make one. The first product rollout promises delivery by October 2015 and the company is delivering the Cruiser to the US, Asia and Europe.


Company Founder Phillip Werner is a wakeboarding fanatic from Sweden who wanted to create a product that was as fun as wakeboarding, but with more freedom. He seems to have accomplished this with the Wakeboard Cruiser. While you’ll need to keep your eyes on the waves while cruising at top-speed, you’ll also have total freedom on the water surface. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be able to surf with the sharks, without getting eaten. Hang ten mates. Looks for the Q3 pre-order information at the end of this year.



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SoftBank’s most recent Hackathon challenged hackers from across Japan to program Pepper the AI robot to be the best barista it could be. Be it learning latte art or charming the ladies, Pepper did it all, proving that robots won’t only take over the world one day, they’ll also take your women. (via Aldebaran & Softbank)

While some are worried artificial intelligence may one day compete with human ingenuity, others have proved what we need to worry about is robot players, sweet talking ladies for miles around. At least that’s what Pepper, SoftBank’s newly released AI robot, is learning to do (and it’s working!). Watch your kids. Watch your wife. Pepper is on the prowl.


The humorous (and successful) attempt at turning Pepper into a ladies’ man was part of SoftBank’s most recent Hackathon. This time the tech company partnered with Nescafe Harajuku and challenged three hack teams to program Pepper to be the best barista possible in four hours time. The results were hilarious.


Team A programmed Pepper to make latte art. The skillful android used matcha green tea to make a cute cartoon face in the foam of one lucky patron’s latte. Team C programmed Pepper for excellent customer service skills. It was able to use facial recognition to give special treatment to frequent customers and also knew to invite new customers to come back for special treatment next time.


Team B’s MO, however, was by far the most entertaining. Pepper was dressed like a ladies’ man and programmed to use corny pick up lines to drive the lady patrons wild. And it did drive the ladies mad, as customers voted Team B the winner of the grand prize of Nescafe. Team B wasn’t the only group of programmers to teach Pepper how to handle the ladies. In SoftBank’s previous Hackathon, programmers taught the robot to tweet photos of ladies that get too grabby. Back off Bertha, or the world is going to know about it!




What’s perhaps most interesting about the Hackathon is that the majority of contenders were women. In a world where less than 25% of all computer programmers and STEM professionals are comprised of women, it’s interesting that in Japan, the demographics were more balanced. If we discover what Japanese schools do to keep girls engaged in STEM, maybe we can see more women helping in the creation of our future world.



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The U.S. Navy recently updated its mini Cicada drone, a palm-sized, inexpensive drone that can capture intelligence on the ground without putting human life at risk. This, in combination with a fold-up origami drone indicate military surveillance may rely heavily on drones in future.  (via Laurent Barthelemy/AFP)

The days of soldiers deploying into enemy territory for intelligence may be over, with the Navy’s new Close-in Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft – Cicada. The palm-sized glider will be deployed in swarms that can do anything from monitor the weather to eavesdrop on enemy defenses.

The Cicada glider is a mini drone that fits in the palm on your hands. It was inspired by the insect who shares its name, and the tactic is based on the idea that if a swarm of Cicada drones are deployed, it would be nearly impossible to capture them all. The small technology is compact, inexpensive at roughly $250 a pop and powerful, as it can be deployed to dangerous areas to gather information without risking human life.

The Navy conducted its first test flight in Yuma, Arizona in 2011, when it dropped the mini drones from a plane. The small structures have no propeller or engines, but they are equipped with GPS coordinates and can glide at 46 miles per hour. During the test flight, the drones were deployed on the wings of larger drones and balloons. At 57,000, they flew out on their own and landed within 15 feet of their targets.


The technology has been under development since 2006 and each advancement has resulted in even smaller and more inexpensive drones. In theory, these tiny drones can give the Navy a substantial amount of information about an enemy territory, including climate, military plans and enemy movement on the ground. There’s no word on when the Cicada will be ready for live battle, but it seems the future of military intelligence will rely heavily upon drones for surveillance.


Origami Quadcopter (via EPFL)


The Cicada isn’t the only miniature drone being built for surveillance purposes. Robotics researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology recently developed a quadcopter that folds up like origami and fits in your pocket.


The tiny drone has 0.3mm rotor arms that snap into place with the help of magnets, enabling easy deconstruction. The quadcopter is theoretically strong enough to fly with a lightweight camera on its back and flexible enough to fold into an intricate piece of origami. The idea is that their versatility can come in handy when you need video surveillance on the fly (like, say, on the battlefield, or climbing Mt. Everest). This intelligence on-demand can be incredibly useful and may hint at a trend in the future of national defense technology.


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Neil Armstrong wearing the historic suit inside the Lunar Module (via RebootTheSuit kickstarter)

Sometimes you miss something important. This might be one of those times… #REBOOTTHESUIT


Ever since it started, Kickstarter has received both praise and criticism. While it has the ability to fund promising projects, there are also some sketchy ones, like the potato salad debacle. But thanks to its most recent campaign it also has the ability to preserve a piece of history. Last month, the Smithsonian Institute launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to save the spacesuit Neil Armstrong wore when he landed on the moon 46 years ago. The institute hoped to raise $500,000 to “conserve, digitize, and display” Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit in time for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 2019. People heard the call and they overwhelmingly answered since the goal was reached within four days and is now up to $662,163 with three days to go.


Similar to other campaigns there are stretch goals and goodies for those who pledge a certain amount like digital posters, decals, exclusive behind the scenes footage, and even space ice cream. But if the campaign reaches the $700,000 mark before August 19, backers at the $20 level will get an outgoing voice message from the ultimate Transformer Optimus Prime. You read that right. The leader of the Transformers can leave a special message for your voicemail to impress your friends and family. Even the Smithsonian knows how cool Optimus Prime is.


The museum also hopes to reach the $700,000 mark to tell the story of the first American in space, Alan Shepard. Similar to Armstrong, they also want to conserve, display, and digitized his silver Mercury suit he wore during the first American manned space flight in 1961.

Currently, Armstrong's spacesuit is being stored in the museum's climate controlled storage area meaning it's hidden from the public. Spacesuits are pretty delicate and can decay if not stored properly. In order to restore the suit and make sure it's ready for display, the museum will employ 3D scanning, chemical analysis, CT scanning, and photogrammetry, along with other techniques.


That's cool and all, but why is the suit being digitized? How does that even work? The Smithsonian not only wants you to see the suit, but to experience it as well. Visitors will be able to take self-guided tours and explore the suit's 21 layers thanks to a 3D of Armstrong's suit. Not only will it make for a great interactive tool for teachers, you can now live out your childhood dream of becoming an astronaut. If you want to help out, preserve a piece of history, and maybe get a message from Optimus Prime there's still time to make your pledge. 

Unfortunately... we have little time left to help. So hurry and Reboot The Suit!

[UPDATE] The campaign is over... they raised $719,779. More than enough to Reboot the Suit and get that Optimus Prime message!



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Those affected by locked-in often can't speak verbally. University of San Diego is developing a system that uses eye technology for communication. (via University of San Diego)

I love these stories.


Talking is a part of daily life whether it's saying hello to a bank teller or reminding yourself to take out the garbage, but can you imagine not being able to utter a single word? This is what happens to those affected by locked-in syndrome, a condition where a person is aware but can't move or communicate verbally because almost all voluntary muscles are paralyzed. Luckily, there's technology out there that can give these people a voice once again.


The UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering are currently researching assistive technology to help those with disabilities. They are currently developing a system that uses eye tracking for communication. This would be ideal for those affected by locked-in syndrome since they usually only have control of their eyes. There's already a prototype, Eyehome, which uses a phone-like interface for navigation by gazing at different parts of the screen. Looking in certain directions will relay a message while looking in another direction could be to catch up on Facebook or your social network of choice. The team is working on various applications like book readers, musical instruments, and computer generated speech to use with the system.


It's innovative and sounds like a great solution, but keep in mind it's still in the early stages. The idea originally came about when Nadir Weibel, research scientist in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, challenged his class to invent solutions to help those affected by locked-in last fall. By the end of the quarter, several students came up with various suggestions using both eye tracking systems and Google Glass. It's looking pretty good for the team as they recently received $30,000 in funding via the Moxie Foundation, who are dedicated to empowering people and communities by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success, personal health, and the environment.


An early version of "EyeHome," an eye-tracking HMI.


“It’s very difficult to get funding for a project like this—it’s very experimental,” said Weibel in a press release. “But the Moxie Foundation has been a supporter of our work from the beginning. Thanks to their investment, we will be able to continue our research and make it scalable. At the same time, we are giving students an opportunity to use what they’ve learned in class to make a real difference in the world—and they are eager for that kind of experience.” It pains me to hear that they have trouble funding projects like this. I would imagine that a kickstarter campaign about the tech would garner a huge outpouring of support...


It may be awhile until we actually see these systems available, but just the idea of them is amazing. With this new funding to help and a few prototypes under their belt it seems the UC San Diego team will have no problem getting these eye tracking systems in development. Hopefully, they'll see the light of day soon so those affected by locked-in syndrome can verbally speak once again.



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Humboldt University’s Neurorobotics Research Laboratory in Berlin, Germany spent two years creating Myon, a humanoid boy-sized robot who played the star role in the Komische Oper opera’s newest show: “My Square Lady.” (via Komische Oper)

Since the beginning of robotics, people have wondered at the possibility of artificial intelligence matching or surpassing human intelligence. Beyond artificial intelligence, some even wonder if robots can feel. That’s why Berlin’s Komische Oper just opened “My Square Lady,” an opera that explores a robot’s ability to learn human emotions.


“My Square Lady” follows Myon, a boy-sized humanoid that lives in a world full of humans and wonders if he will ever be their equal. The crowd tracks along with the small robot as it discovers earth through its people and songs. All the more interesting is Myon does not have a backstage controller, but rather leads the show all on his own.


Myon is the brainchild of the European Union’s Artificial Language Evolution on Autonomous Robot (ALEAR) project. The initiative was created to explore the expansion of robotic cognition and language development. Myon was created as part of the project at the Humboldt University’s Neurorobotics Research Laboratory in Berlin, Germany.


Researchers and cast members worked together for two full years to prepare for the opera, including programming Myon to sing, move and respond to its environment. While it’s a great illustration of the future of cognitive robotics, it isn’t without its issues.


Opera singer Bernhard Hansky openly discussed his qualms with the bot. He stated that because Myon functions independently, its behavior was inconsistent. It changed the key and pace of its singing during performances, keeping its human co-actors on their toes. During one performance Myon shut down entirely, frustrating the production crew and patrons alike.


While Myon demonstrates the robot takeover of modern society is far, far away, credit is due to the researchers who created the indie bot. Myon was one of only a few robots to make the big stage, and its developers should be proud. Hansky isn’t crazy about working with robots in the future, but who knows, maybe everyone will have to get used to it.



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Pincer next to U.S. penny. Researchers from Vanderbilt University recently created a device merely two-millimeters-thick that may revolutionize minimally invasive surgery. The pincer may be used to remove brain tumors and more. (via Vanderbilt University)

While minimally invasive surgery definitely has its benefits, including faster recovery time for patients due to smaller incisions, it has limitations too. Even tiny, precise surgical robots, such as da Vinci, have their limitations, because although they may be small and exact, they are not flexible enough for things like brain surgery. That’s why the “pincer” was created.


The “pincer” is the creation of a research team based out of Vanderbilt University. Led by Robert Webster, the team designed a flexible probe that can be steered inside of the body. The team took a nickel titanium tube and cut it in such a way that it became flexible. This was attached to a string that runs through the tube so surgeons would be able to bend the tip up to 90 degrees. The result was an incredibly small surgical tool that may minimize the need to make incisions in the body.


Minimally invasive surgery has been raved about because of its ability to gain access to the body through smaller incisions. The “pincer” steps this up a bit, as the instrument can fit through the body’s natural orifices. If a patient has a brain tumor in the base of the skull, for example, the research team believes it can be used to pull out the tumor through the nasal passage, instead of cutting open the face (current procedure). If a patient suffers from inner ear issues, the “pincer” can travel there too, without making additional incisions. The flexibility coupled with its small size makes it a promising tool for even further minimizing the dangers of surgery.


The Vanderbilt team is hoping to find a commercial partner that can get the instrument FDA approved so it can go from concept to practice with the people who need it most.



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Maker Danny Benedettelli recently used an Android app, Arduiono and Bluetooth technology to wirelessly control a Lego humanoid with an exosuit. The technology isn’t new, but it may have big implications for the future of LEGO Bricks. (via DannyLabs/PolkaRobot)

If you’ve watched any kind of futuristic show growing up, you’re probably familiar with the idea of robots being controlled wirelessly. Maker Danny Benedettelli took that idea and ran with it. While he certainly isn’t the first person execute such a maneuver, he is one of the first to do so with LEGO Bricks. (LEGO has asked me to not say LEGOs... but instead say LEGO Bricks. Just so you know.)


LEGO Bricks are every kid’s dream, because it marries an idea with the tools needed to build something cool. Whether its fairy princess castles or dangerous alien spacecrafts you fancy, LEGO Bricks can help you make than dream a reality. Benedettelli’s dream was building LEGO Bricks to do his bidding via wireless exosuit. While he’s accomplished some cool things thus far, it has been a long time coming.



Cyclops (image: LEGO: PolkaRobot/DannyLabs)


Benedettelli has been working on his “Cyclops Project” since May 2011. While there are many robots controllable via handheld remote, this maker wanted a LEGO structure to mimic his physical movements. It took some time to build a humanoid robot that was capable of executing such movements (over a year to be exact), but with a few servo motors and a lot of patience, Benedettelli did it.


Using a custom Android app, Arduino, Bluetooth technology and a telemetry suit, the humanoid robot mimicked Benedettelli’s movements. While the maker didn’t give any specifics on how he did it, he did say that the telemetry suit was equipped with potentiometers that can predict the range of motion of the robot. This keeps the robot from overextending itself during bigger movements.


Benedettelli said the robot was superhero-inspired, per the suggestion of a friend. Lego didn’t hesitate to initiate a photo shoot with the maker and his humanoid bot that mimicked that. As corny as that is, the technology still has implications for what LEGO Bricks can do in the future.


One designer recently unveiled a mechanical arm for amputees that’s customizable with LEGO Bricks. This Cyclops  project can vastly reduce the cost of custom surgical robots, for example, in low-income areas. If surgical robots can be built mostly with LEGO Bricks (excluding the surgical instruments themselves, of course), building costs would be greatly reduced. This would give poor communities access to better medical devices and healthcare.


Benedettelli did not say that was his vision for the technology. It is quite possible he wants to be a superhero. Regardless, the technology certainly exists. And if we can make it, we should.



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I am liking this bot. Have you ever been so tired after work you opted for take out instead of cooking? We all have. But imagine a world where your personal robot can handle the cooking for you. The technology is still under development, but Yaskawa (via RS Tech) recently showed the world that its industrial robots could be coerced into cooking egg sandwiches.


Looking like a Japanese Tea Ceremony master, the Motoman cracks an egg...


(via RS Tech youtube)


Yaskawa is a U.S.-based company that specialized in industrial robotics. Perhaps one of its engineers got bored, or hungry, and wanted to see if the Motoman SDA10 dual arm model could cook. With a small grill, an English muffin and an egg, the robot successfully grabbed the right ingredients from a mini-fridge and cooked an egg sandwich to perfection. While it’s unlikely that average consumers would purchase an industrial-grade robot for cooking purposes, it is possible that kitchen robots will pop up in the near future.


We live in a world of automation and digital advancement. People have less time than ever for everyday tasks like laundry and washing dishes. We already have machines that do the washing for us, why not machines that can cook? Maybe your robot butler won’t have the same skills as Bobby Flay, but if a decent, warm meal just happens to greet you when you walk through the door, who is complaining?


Makers have tinkers with the creation of breakfast boxes and other food-friendly contraptions. None have made it mainstream yet, but stay tuned. If robots can drive our cars, they can surely cook our breakfasts, too.  Isn’t this a fine use of research funding?

A bot more of that tea ceremony style moving...



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Sydney becomes first city to use electronic paper for city traffic signs with the help of E-Ink and Visionect. (via Visionect)

Have you ever wondered if there was a better way to update traffic signs? (Traditional street signs not blowing your hair back?) Australian urban planners had the same question, and opted to use the same technology e-readers use to create traffic signs that are easy-to-read, solar-powered and easily updatable – no screwdrivers required.



image: Visionect


The Sydney Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) agency decided it was spending too much on sign replacements and updates and decided there was a better way. The RMS called upon Visionect, a Slovenia-based tech company specializing in electronic paper signage, to see if city streets could benefit from electronic signs, as easily updatable as New York City’s Times Square ads.


Visionect and E-Ink came together to create traffic signs that featured solar panels, glare-resistant screens and even nightlights for easier reading. Since E-Ink is the same company upon which Nook, Kindle and Sony rely upon for their e-reader technology, Sydney placed its vision in good hands. Now Sydney can save time and money with electronic-paper signs that are updatable for special events and more with the touch of a button. The signs are also theft-proof, as they feature GPS tracking and tamper-proof technology.



Visionect at work (image: Visionect)

The new initiative will likely take off in other major cities, as the amount of resources dedicated to traffic signage is steep. According to Visionect, Los Angeles spends $9.5 million each year on temporary parking restriction signs, and its likely not alone. Although the initial price of switching to e-paper may be steep, it’s nothing in comparison to what cities everywhere spend on similar projects.


Now, decorating your room in stolen street signs will have a whole new look. (psa… don’t steal street signs)


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StemBox DNA Workshop Group (image via StemBox & Kickstarter)


The days of boys-only computer science programs are in the past. Not only are more girls taking an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), but there is also an increasing number of programs geared specifically for young girls. Sorry boys, but this piece is for girls-only.


Why STEM Programs need to focus on girls


Women only comprise 13 percent of the current engineering professionals and only 25 percent of current computer science and mathematic professionals, according to Kina McAllister. McAllister is the creator behind StemBox, a subscription that sends young girls new and fun science projects intended to interest girls specifically.



StemBox Owl Pellet Dissection Box (image via StemBox & Kickstarter)


STEM for kids said most professionals who work in STEM fields found their interests at the age of eight. Getting young girls engaged in STEM at an early age, with projects that actually appeal to them is important if women are to have any power in shaping the future, as it become more and more digitized. 


Girls really are interested. They just aren’t catered to.


StemBox is currently running its Kickstarter campaign and is more than halfway to its goal of $15,000. On the page, McAllister said the idea for the subscription came when she thought about how difficult it was to find science projects she was interested in growing up. If kits weren’t catered to making your own cosmetics, they were “gross,” targeting young boys. StemBox will hopefully serve as an alternative to girls who want to explore computer science, physical science, aviation, engineering and more, without all of the bugs and dinosaurs. Subscriptions start at $36 and will be available for purchase for the next two weeks.


McAllister isn’t the only one pushing girls-only STEM. According to a recent study conducted by the Girls Scouts Institute in 2012, 75 percent of the girls surveyed expressed interest in STEM. Despite this interest, the statistics prove that for whatever reason, these same girls don’t pursue STEM careers. For this reason, there is a huge push to cultivate a potential interest in STEM for young girls, including coding.




Jewelbots (image via Jewelbots & Kickstarter)


Jewelbots is a friendship bracelet that vibrates or lights up when a girl is near her best friend. The corresponding app allows girls to send secret messages to one another and more, while teaching them the basics of coding through the Arduino platform. Jewelbots smashed its Kickstarter campaign, although bracelets will still be available for pre-order for $59 over the next two weeks. Initiatives like this are what is needed to engage girls in exploring STEM before the media inundates them with images of unrealistic social expectations.


The embedded and digital revolution is here, and it's ingrained in these generations


Whether you’re the parent of young girls or boys, schools everywhere are changing in preparation of the increasingly digital world. There are elementary, middle and high schools now dedicated to STEM education, and for good reason. If you want your child to have a job by the time they graduate from college, STEM will not only be the most in-demand fields, but they will shape our world.


Flatiron Pre-College Academy is one such school. The high school trains students in the same skill set current professionals learn to develop apps and online platforms. The school has collaborated with tech giants, including Google, to prepare the next generation for the changing world with the best hands-on education possible.


Flatiron knows that although not every young girl will be excited about STEM, programs must cater to young girls to make them feel welcome. That’s why its offers the Kode with Karlie program – a two week intensive coding course for girls-only. Girls from across the nation are welcome to take the class, which teaches back-end coding for Ruby. Not only does the school offer scholarships to make its course even more accessible to young girls, but it also markets it as a cool, glamorous experience, to battle against powerful media images of what being a woman should be all about.


We have to fight for our girls


Women in the U.S. are flooded with images of what they should be – beautiful, thin, sexy and broke. Billboards should have images of educated, successful women with great careers, wonderful families and phenomenal lives, but we don’t. Access to education is the most important thing we can give our children, STEM or otherwise. What’s important is to discover what your kids are passionate about and let their creativity flow freely.


We remember the importance of STEM projects growing up, for all kids.


STEM for Kids said parents reported that when their children went to science camp, they came back rejuvenated, with dreams of becoming scientists and entrepreneurs. Although we are all grown up now, think about how your parents helped you cultivate your interests in your field.


As I write this, I remember my parents buying me journal after journal when they discovered I was passionate about writing. Every birthday and Christmas, I got a new journal, with a cover image of my then-favorite animal or place, and a matching pen. They told all of their friends how excited they were that I was going to be a writer, although I was just a child, and my skill set was nonexistent. Still, they cultivated that passion in me, and it paid off.


Getting your child engaged in anything they are passionate about not only helps to cultivate their mind, but it helps keep them away from the negative social pressures of growing up today. And who knows, maybe your child will become the next Bill Gates, because you helped him or her discover a dream they didn’t know they had.



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