Prepare for the Overlords!

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

For people having to work with limited funds, there is pride in attempting elegant solutions to the formidable problems of robotic walking and stability.

So there is a hint of inverted snobbery in the occasional condescending comment on Honda's full-frontal assault combining massive computing power with overwhelming engineering know-how.

But if you stopped for a moment to think seriously about the challenges involved, the stage show, during which the robot sure-footedly strode up a flight of steps, waved its arms, rocked from side to side, and balanced on one foot, was a persuasive demonstration of the success of Honda's approach.

Comic appeal

Not that there were not moments of comedy. There was an embarrassing silence the first time the master of ceremonies asked Asimo if it was enjoying itself.

Or the whispered instructions "don't move", if Asimo came too close to you, lest you disturb its navigation systems presumably.

As I grabbed my interview with the head of Honda's European Research division in the wings stage right, I could see a back-up Asimo waiting in the background in case number one failed, always a wise precaution in robotics.

The demonstration was immensely slick and highly choreographed. True, you could not expect much else when the UK's press had been invited along

About the Lynxmotion Biped BRAT $286.00
BRAT stands for Bipedal Robotic Articulating Transport. The robot is a 6 servo biped walker featuring three degrees of freedom (DOF) per leg. The robot can walk forward or backwards and turn in place left or right with variable speed. It can even do lots of Robo-One style acrobatic moves. Our combo kits include everything needed to make an operational robot, however the chassis and servos are available separately for those who want to use their own electronics.

The Mechanics
The robot is made exclusively from brushed, or black anodized aluminum servo brackets from our Servo Erector Set. It also includes an electronics carrier made from ultra-tough laser-cut Lexan.

The Servos
We are providing the walker with Hitec HS-422 servos. Due to the robot's light weight, these servos work well.

Powering Options
As with any walking robot, weight is a major concern. The best approach is to keep the weight to an absolute minimum. We recommend using the 6.0 Volt Ni-MH 1600mAh Battery Pack (BAT-03) and the Universal Smart Charger (USC-01).

Controlling the Biped
The robot can be controlled in many ways. The combo kit for PC uses our SSC-32 and the Visual Sequencer to control the robots motion. It's a tethered configuration but can be made wireless with any commercial wireless serial device. We have example projects for the Visual Sequencer to get the robot going right away. We will offer a combo kit for Basic Atom as soon as we have programming available. We are working on wireless play station game controller code for remote control as well.

To keep costs down we are not providing printed Assembly Guides. They are provided online, so you will need to print them when you order the kits. By providing the Assembly Guides online we can provide more detailed and up to date information than the old hardcopy method allowed.

Lego NxT Robot Kit


Bow to the next generation of LEGO Mindstorms – now, with a 32-bit processor, redesigned sensors, Bluetooth and more.


LEGO's newest robot-building kit, with greatly improved functionality
32-bit command center with large LCD, USB 2.0 and Bluetooth interfaces that allow robots to walk, talk and interact with their environment
Technic blocks ("studless legos") create a more human, less boxy look
Intuitive GUI and drag-and-drop icons are PC- and Mac-friendly
Redesigned touch and light sensors, new sound sensor and ultrasonic sensor
Now with three motors – redesigned for smoother, more reliable operation
6-wire digital cables for more precise connections
5 main themes (8 different models) – Vehicle: Roverbot, Animal, Scorpio; Machine: Robotic Arm; Human: Humanoid; Gadgets: Clock, Music, Game and Movers
Models are all built within the LEGO Technic System
571 pieces
Quickstart Guide helps you build a robot ready for action within 30 minutes
Model-specific building instructions, tips and tricks, testing methods and programming options
Easy-to-use software
Test panel
The power of the LEGO building system, an intelligent command center and easy-to-use, drag and drop programming software unleash the power of your robot-building imagination.


Price: $999.99 & this item ships for FREE with Super Saver Shipping. Details

Availability: In Stock. Ships from and sold by

Only 1 left in stock--order soon (more on the way).

2 used & new available from $999.99

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Product Features and Technical Details
Product Features
Advanced robot for students, hobbyists, and educators
Gold anodized metal servo brackets serve as strong and lightweight exoskeleton
Controlled with 16 powerful HSR-8498HB digital servos; includes IR controller
Micom control board can operate up to 24 servos and 16 accessory modules
Simple programming with supplied RoboScript and RoboBasic software
Technical Details

Model number: 77003
Height: 12.5 inches
Weight: 47 ounces
Micro controller board: MR-3024
Servos: 16
Battery: NiMH
PC connectivity: Serial port
IR controller: Yes
What's in the box: MR-3024 Micro controller board for 24 servos, 16 digital HSR-8498HB servos, re-chargeable NiMH battery and charger, RoboBasic programming software and manual, PC serial port programming interface cable, Remocon IR controller, assembly guide, user's manual

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The three types of jobs robots do well are the dull, dirty, and dangerous

London-based Shadow Robotics - a group of inventors best known for their invention of a multi-use, 'dextrous' robotic hand, which can be used in a variety of domestic and industrial settings. The hand, which has 24 separately powered and controlled movements, has already caught the imagination of leading disability organisations and even NASA, which last year purchased one for €90,000

Each robot has to recognize objects on the field, know where it is in relation to other players, dribble the ball and follow a set of simplified, FIFA-based rules independent of outside influence. Ideally, they should also show some team spirit by cooperating with each other.

"Everything humans can do naturally has to be programmed in the robots," Mainz University's Peter Dauscher said of the machines, which can cost upwards of 3,000 euros ($3,851). "They need to be able to analyze the situation and decide what they should do."

Bildunterschrift: Gro├čansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Not much competition for humans at the moment
Robocup organizers -- the sport has two international robot soccer federations, similar to world soccer governing body FIFA, as well as numerous national clubs -- have set an ambitious goal of fielding a team capable of beating a human World Cup team by 2050.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

But that is only the beginning. By 2015, the US Department of Defense plans that one third of its fighting strength will be composed of robots, part of a $127bn (£68bn) project known as Future Combat Systems (FCS), a transformation that is part of the largest technology project in American history.

The US army has already developed around 20 remotely controlled Unmanned Ground Systems that can be controlled by a laptop from around a mile away, and the US Navy and US Air Force are working on a similar number of systems with varying ranges. According to a US general quoted in the US Army's Joint Robotics Program Master Plan ( - 13.8MB PDF), "what we're doing with unmanned ground and air vehicles is really bringing movies like Star Wars to reality". The US military has 2,500 uncrewed systems deployed in conflicts around the world. But is it Star Wars or I, Robot that the US is bringing to reality?

Japanese researchers have developed a flexible artificial skin that could give robots a humanlike sense of touch.
The team manufactured a type of "skin" capable of sensing pressure and another capable of sensing temperature.

These are supple enough to wrap around robot fingers and relatively cheap to make, the researchers have claimed.

The University of Tokyo team describe their work in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The materials they're using may not be completely novel but the integration appears to be something new

Douglas Weibel, Harvard University

The researchers explain how pressure-sensing and temperature-sensing networks can be laminated together, forming an artificial skin that can detect both properties simultaneously.

Takao Someya, lead author on the latest research, previously developed a form of artificial skin capable of sensing pressure.

But the ability to sense temperature as well allows the scientists to more closely imitate the functions of human skin.

Someya and his colleagues used electronic circuits as pressure sensors and semiconductors as temperature sensors. They embedded these sensors in a thin plastic film to create a net-like matrix.

Organic materials

The transistors used in the circuits and the semiconductors both use "organic" materials based on chains of carbon atoms.

This makes them mechanically flexible and relatively inexpensive to fabricate.

"Both of those characteristics sound compelling. The material sounds like it could have lots of functions," Dr Douglas Weibel, of the department of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University told the BBC News website.

"The materials they're using may not be completely novel but the integration appears to be something new."

The University of Tokyo scientists say their breakthrough has the potential to improve how robots will function in the real world.

And they add that there is no need to stop at simply imitating the functions of human skin.

"It will be possible in the near future to make an electronic skin that has functions that human skin lacks," the researchers write in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Future artificial skins could incorporate sensors not only for pressure and temperature, but also for light, humidity, strain or sound, they add.

Friday, November 24, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) -- David Hanson's robots can creep people out.

Their heads are so lifelike, their skin so textured and realistic, that Candy Sidner, a competing roboticist, called his Albert Einstein robot "spookily cool ... a giant step forward."

Hanson, who started his career as an artist and spent time working in Disney's Imagineering Lab, said he flirts with being too realistic for comfort. His work, he said, "poses an identity challenge to the human being."

"If you make it perfectly realistic, you trigger this body-snatcher fear in some people," he said. "Making realistic robots is going to polarize the market, if you will. You will have some people who love it and some people who will really be disturbed."

Hanson's robotics company in Dallas is the flip side of an industry focused on making robots more human on the inside. Hanson makes "conversational character robots." They are mostly human-looking heads using a skin-like material that he invented called Frubber. They are battery-powered, walk and are expressive, but from the neck down they don't look human at all.

The issue of being too human-looking is called "uncanny valley" syndrome, and Hanson embraces it with the passion and line-crossing of an avant-garde artist, which he also is.

Hanson made a robot head modeled on his own, but it wasn't for use as a robot. It was part of an art show where he made his self-portrait robot a "large homeless robot figure in a box." The idea was to go out of the "comfort zone" of science, he said.

But Hanson is also a businessman who is designing entertainment robots for the home. He hopes to have two-foot robots -- with human-looking heads that are more cartoonish than uncannily accurate -- that can dance, make eye contact, talk and recognize your face. The idea is to price them at $3,000 and get them on the market in about a year.

"It would be very much like Astro Boy in the old TV series," Hanson said.

TOKYO - It can greet people, show DVDs and hand out balloons. "Ubiko," a robot-on-wheels with a catlike face, is joining the crew of temporary workers supplied by a Japanese job-referral company to stores, events and even weddings.


Next month, the 44-inch tall robot will be selling mobile phones at a store, said Akiko Sakurai, a spokeswoman at the company, Ubiquitous Exchange.

Ubiko can be hired as a temporary worker for two hours for 105,000 yen, or $890.

"We see this as serious business. There are jobs that robots are better at," Sakurai said Wednesday. "People do develop an attachment with the robot, and it's lovable."

The $255,000 robot, which comes a camera and infared sensors, greets customers with a nasal electronic voice, shows DVDs with a projector in its head and hands out balloons and other goods with wireless remote-controllable arms, she said.

Ubiko is short for "ubiquitous computing" and "ubiquitous company" but also sounds like a Japanese female name, which often end with "ko."

Tmsuk, the Japanese manufacturer that makes the robot, sold three last month to a hospital, where they are working as full-time, rather than temporary, receptionists and guides, said company spokeswoman Rie Sudo.

One of the hospital's robots serves as a receptionist and has been programmed to greet visitors. It also has a touch-panel on its body, and visitors can use it to get directions for where they want to go.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Cat Travis (mail) (www):
Our exit from Iraq will be shameful at best. There will be no dignity in it what so ever. For that reason we will be stuck there. We will be unable to admit defeat. Hopefully this will be useful the next time we think about invading another country. Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq, how long will it be before we do it again? Can we ever learn our lesson? Will this be our legacy? What makes us this way? Is it just the nature of the human race? We keep crowing about being some kind of different. Are we any worse or any better than anyone else? We sure do love ourselves. Our nationalism keeps leading us astray just as it did Germany.
11.23.2006 5:28am
"If society fits you comfortably enough, you call it freedom." : Robert Frost

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Project participants: Josh Bongard, Victor Zykov, and Hod Lipson (see team picture). Please mention all team members when covering this work. Thank you.
Higher animals use some form of an "internal model" of themselves for planning complex actions and predicting their consequence, but it is not clear if and how these self-models are acquired or what form they take. Analogously, most practical robotic systems use internal mathematical models, but these are laboriously constructed by engineers. While simple yet robust behaviors can be achieved without a model at all, here we show how low-level sensation and actuation synergies can give rise to an internal predictive self-model, which in turn can be used to develop new behaviors. We demonstrate, both computationally and experimentally, how a legged robot automatically synthesizes a predictive model of its own topology (where and how its body parts are connected) through limited yet self-directed interaction with its environment, and then uses this model to synthesize successful new locomotive behavior before and after damage. The legged robot learned how to move forward based on only 16 brief self-directed interactions with its environment. These interactions were unrelated to the task of locomotion, driven only by the objective of disambiguating competing internal models. These findings may help develop more robust robotics, as well as shed light on the relation between curiosity and cognition in animals and humans: Creating models through exploration, and using them to create new behaviors through introspection. Watch a movie here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Cat Travis (mail) (www):
I too have a problem with anger. It's been diagnosed as borderline personality disorder. It has plagued me since I was a young child. Nothing gives me a bigger thrill than to be uncivil. I just love to go to extremes. It gives me a kind of euphoria. Revenge can feel better than love to some. It's a sick sad existence. I've been in therapy since 1969. I now live in a self imposed solitude. People say behavior can be modified if the desire is there. I feel I am evidence to the contrary. Am I evil? What am I? Of course there is tourette syndrome where the person absolutely has no control. There are so many things out there than can ruin your life. For those of you that are normal be very, very grateful.
11.21.2006 10:49am

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Oh great. As if the potent, robotic cocktail of self-replication, self-awareness, and wireless power weren't bad enough, along comes Cornell University with a robot capable of not only discovering its own nature (something we can't even do) but then adapts to overcome injury. This four-legged robot starts out knowing only what parts it has, not where they are or how to use them for locomotion. It applies a scientific method of theory and experimentation to develop computer models and ultimately, a set of commands to turn its motors for that first cautious step. Even when researchers remove part of the toddling robot's leg, the little guy still figures out a way to limp forward. Cornell scientists go so far as to say that the robot is "conscious," albeit on a primitive level since it thinks to itself, "what would happen if I do this?" Yeah, that's a stretch, but a step closer to our doom nevertheless. Although the robot used to demonstrate these cognitive gymnastics is quite simple, the algorithm could be used to build more complex robots for say, space exploration or defending itself while standing in line for a PS3. Well, at least The Robots don't currently have a place to coalesce under a common roof of intellectual ferment... oh God, no! Still, any robot which drinks puddle water can't be too bright, eh?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Dear Diane Hall:

I have BPD, manic depression and attention deficit. I have come across many other people with the same diagnosis. I feel like I only have one thing. It is just the way the DSM is written that makes it into three different illnesses. I live a life of self imposed solitary confinement. I know that anything that I grow to love I'll grow to hate. It is just simpler to avoid it in the first place. This is the most normal that I can be. I once saw attention deficit explained as the search for stimulation. I see manic depression in much the same way. I have seen epilepsy explained as the brain's need for chaos. Both manic depression and epilepsy share a phenomena called kindling. I feel that what I have is a somewhat watered down form of epilepsy. Thank you for letting me share these opinions with you. Sincerely,

Robot Radiosurgery Firm Files for IPO
Accuray, the makers of the robot radiosurgery machine CyberKnife have applied with the SEC for a stock offering.The Sunnyvale, California company was founded in 1990 to sell the first Cyberknife systems for limited use radiosurgery in treating tumors in the head and neck.Since then, the robot system has advanced and successfully used for many different radiosurgery procedures.Over 140 of the multi-million dollar machines have been installed worldwide.Accuray will try to raise US $230 million in the offering.Making Radiosurgery an Option for Every Cancer Patient
posted by Prospector at 1:25 PM

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eureka, California, United States
As Popeye once said,"I ams what I am." But then again maybe I'm not