Jul 052016
 

Sharper Image camera drone

I visit the local Michaels store at least once a week. Even if I didn’t have a 10 year old daughter with an insatiable appetite for arts and crafts, I imagine that I would still make that 5 minute crosstown trip weekly. The reason is simple: coupons. In their weekly circular, without fail, they always include a handful of coupons, and even though I am not that artsy crafty myself, I can usually find something useful for my lab. From resin and epoxy to tools and storage, I never come home empty-handed. Most of the time the coupon is for 40% off any regularly priced item, and sometimes it’s even 50%, but the rare, and often most useful coupon is the 20% off any item – regular OR sale price. It was because of such a coupon that I came unexpectedly home with a Sharper Image camera drone.

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Dec 292015
 
BigDog

Source: DARPA Strategic Plan 2007

At 70 robot dog years-old – that’s 10 in human years – BigDog should’ve had a few more years of happily serving his masters ahead of him. Instead, the US Marines have pulled an Old Yeller on the unsuspecting robocanine, sending him to an early grave, or junkyard as the case may be.

Created in 2005, BigDog was the result of a collaborative effort between robotics design company Boston Dynamics, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and researchers at Harvard University. Funding for BigDog came from the always forward-thinking Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) with development guidance and testing handled by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.

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Dec 272015
 

Dot

I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but my daughter got a robot for Christmas, and I had absolutely nothing to do with it. As a matter of fact, I was totally unfamiliar with Dot,  the cute, roughly 3.5 inch, sensor-packed, “brains of a robot” by San Mateo-based Wonder Workshop,  Inc. Now that I’ve had some hands on time with Dot and read up about her mobile sibling Dash, I have to say that I am impressed with these learning tools in disguise.

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Jun 202015
 
Sony Aibo ERS-7

Sony Aibo ERS-7

Announced as a prototype in 1998 and made available to the general public in May of 1999, Sony’s AIBO line of “entertainment robots” were called “the most sophisticated product ever offered in the consumer robot marketplace,” at their induction into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2006. While many people associate the AIBO name with the beagle-like ERS-7 model (pictured here), not all models were so obviously canine in their inspiration.  The ERS-210 found its design inspiration from lion cubs, while the ERS-220 shed any pretense of biomimicry with its futuristic design.

I always wanted an ERS-7, but with a $2000+ price tag, I knew the idea of owning one would never amount to more than a pipe dream. I still love the idea of robot pets and spend quite a bit of time thinking about how to strike the perfect balance between functionality, aesthetics, and price. Robots don’t require food, they don’t make messes and should actually not only clean up after themselves, but their owners, too! But most importantly to me, they should never really have to die.

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Oct 242014
 
OWI Solar Wheel-bot - front view

OWI Solar Wheel-bot

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally built a robot using the 14-in-1 Educational Solar Robot Kit by OWI. I’m not sure I will make my way through all 14, but I decided to start with what looked to be the simplest one first: the Wheel-bot. (Note: I now also realize that I could have been subconsciously swayed by the fact that the Wheel-bot is also the one on the cover of the kit’s box. I didn’t realize that until now.)

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