Quirkbot: Arduino Platform For Building Things Out Of Straws

From Quirkbot's kickstarter page:

Quirkbot is a microcontroller toy that anyone can program.It is compatible with the open construction toy Strawbees and can be used along with readily available materials like regular drinking straws, LEDs, and hobby servos (motors) to create a wide variety of hackable toys suitable for anyone aged 10+.

Raspberry Pi 2

From Raspberry Pi Foundation:

Let’s get the good stuff out of the way above the fold. Raspberry Pi 2 is now on salefor $35 (the same price as the existing Model B+), featuring:

  • A 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU (~6x performance) (Broadcom BCM2836)
  • 1GB LPDDR2 SDRAM (2x memory)
  • Complete compatibility with Raspberry Pi 1

In stock now at element14.

From Microsoft:

We’re excited to announce that we are expanding our Windows Developer Program for IoT by delivering a version of Windows 10 that supports Raspberry Pi 2. This release of Windows 10 will be free for the Maker community through the Windows Developer Program for IoT... (sign up page)

Winner of the AAAI Video Competition People's Choice Award

Mario Lives! An Adaptive Learning AI Approach for Generating a Living and Conversing Mario Agent:

Also Robohub has links to the rest of AAAI videos here.

SAM Robotic Surrogate Operator

From AkihabaraNews and Robohub:

Conceptually, it’s quite simple: joysticks, knobs, and switches manipulated on a custom radio controller direct the flexing and relaxing of pneumatic “artificial muscles” arranged along “arms and legs” that attach to a vehicle’s pedals and levers. When actuated, the robot replicates a human body’s controlling movements.

Kowa Tech claims the system delivers input strength equal to that of human limbs and an overall operational capability 80% that of in-vehicle operation (with gains expected as the system matures). The 3-piece modular robot is weather and vibration-proof, weighs only about 30 kg (66 lbs.), easily installs in under 30 minutes, and can be removed in half that time. Current prototypes are operable from up to 200m, and commercial models are expected to reach 1 kilometer.

Rounded out with video monitoring for an in-vehicle perspective, in theory ActiveRobo SAM is a near-comprehensive surrogate operator. Most of their demos and testing have thus far been limited to excavator and other heavy equipment work, but the company hopes to eventually make the system adaptable to any vehicle... (full article)

Anibit Online Graphical Programmer for the Pololu 3pi Robot

From Anibit:

We have adapted a graphical programming environment for the Arduino known as "Blocklyduino" to be tailored to Pololu's 3Pi Robot Platform. Blocklyduino is itself an adaptation of Blockly, a software package for developers to create graphical programming environments.

All of this is heavily inspired by Scratch and the MIT App inventor. If you are not familiar with those tools and watch to teach kids about programming, you really should check the out.

Graphical Programming is a great introduction to programming for kids. and the Pololu 3Pi is a low cost, ready-made robot that kids love. As part part of our mission at Anibit to inspire and educate about robotics, we felt the need to bring the two together... (Anibit link)

DARPA Reveals Upgrades To Its Atlas Robot

From DARPA:

The teams using the DARPA-developed Atlas robot got their first look at the newly upgraded system during a technical shakeout the week of January 12th in Waltham, Mass. The upgraded Atlas is 75 percent new—only the lower legs and feet were carried over from the original design. Lighter materials allowed for inclusion of a battery and a new pump system with only a modest increase in overall weight; the upgraded robot is 6-foot-2 (1.88 meters) and weighs 345 pounds (156.5 kilograms).

The most significant changes are to the robot’s power supply and pump. Atlas will now carry an onboard 3.7-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, with the potential for one hour of “mixed mission” operation that includes walking, standing, use of tools, and other movements. This will drive a new variable-pressure pump that allows for more efficient operation... (full details)

Voxel8: 3D Electronics Printing

Voxel8 announces its dual-head printer that prints thermoplastics and highly conductive silver inks together.

NVIDIA Drive PX

From Nvidia's CES press conference:

The DRIVE PX platform is based on the NVIDIA® Tegra® X1 processor, enabling smarter, more sophisticated advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and paving the way for the autonomous car. 
Tegra X1 delivers an astonishing 1.3 gigapixels/second throughput – enough to handle 12 two-Megapixel cameras at frame rates up to 60 fps for some cameras. It is equipped with 10 GB of DRAM memory and combines surround Computer Vision (CV) technology, extensive deep learning training, and over-the-air updates to transform how cars see, think, and learn.

DEEP LEARNING COMPUTER VISION

Conventional ADAS technology today can detect some objects, do basic classification, alert the driver, and in some cases, stop the vehicle. DRIVE PX takes this to the next level with the ability to differentiate an ambulance from a delivery truck or a parked car from one about to pull into traffic. The system can now inform the driver, not just get their attention with a warning. The car is not just sensing, but interpreting what is taking place around it—an essential capability for auto-piloted driving... (more info)

VERSABALL Beer Pong Robot

From Empire Robotics:

The VERSABALL is a squishy balloon membrane full of loose sub-millimeter particles. The soft ball gripper easily conforms around a wide range of target object shapes and sizes. Using a process known as “granular jamming”, air is quickly sucked out of the ball, which vacuum-packs the particles and hardens the gripper around the object to hold and lift it. The object releases when the ball is re-inflated. VERSABALL comes in multiple head shapes and sizes that use the same pneumatic base... (Empire Robotics' site)

Robot Learning Manipulation Action Plans by "Watching" Unconstrained Videos from the World Wide Web

From Yezhou Yang, Yi Li, Cornelia Fermuller and Yiannis Aloimonos:

In order to advance action generation and creation in robots beyond simple learned schemas we need computational tools that allow us to automatically interpret and represent human actions. This paper presents a system that learns manipulation action plans by processing unconstrained videos from the World Wide Web. Its goal is to robustly generate the sequence of atomic actions of seen longer actions in video in order to acquire knowledge for robots. The lower level of the system consists of two convolutional neural network (CNN) based recognition modules, one for classifying the hand grasp type and the other for object recognition. The higher level is a probabilistic manipulation action grammar based parsing module that aims at generating visual sentences for robot manipulation.


The list of the grasping types.

Experiments conducted on a publicly available unconstrained video dataset show that the system is able to learn manipulation actions by “watching” unconstrained videos with high accuracy.... (article at Kurzweilai.net) (original paper)

John Carmack On Modern C++

Winter break homework from John Carmack. Gamasutra reprint article "In-depth: Functional programming in C++":

A large fraction of the flaws in software development are due to programmers not fully understanding all the possible states their code may execute in. In a multithreaded environment, the lack of understanding and the resulting problems are greatly amplified, almost to the point of panic if you are paying attention. Programming in a functional style makes the state presented to your code explicit, which makes it much easier to reason about, and, in a completely pure system, makes thread race conditions impossible... (full article)

Also "Lessons to learn from Oculus development team when using the “Modern C++” approach":

Modern C++ doesn’t imply necessarly the overuse of templates

Andrei Alexandrescu says about the Modern C++ design:

"Modern C++ Design defines and systematically uses generic components - highly flexible design artifacts that are mixable and matchable to obtain rich behaviors with a small, orthogonal body of code."

Modern C++ has a close relation with generic programming; probably it’s the reason that makes many developers neglect the modern C++ approach. They think that the code will be mostly implemented as templates, which makes the code difficult to read and maintain.

In the SDK, the templates represent only 20% of all types defined and most of them are related to the technical layer... (full article)

Underactuated Rotor For Simple Micro Air Vehicles

From MODLAB (The modular robotics laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania):

We derive thrust, roll, and pitch authority from a single propeller and single motor through an underactuated mechanism embedded in the rotor itself. This allows new types of conventionally-capable micro air vehicles which only require two motors for practical control. This contrasts with the many servos and linkages of conventional helicopters or the many drive motors found in quadrotors... (cont'd)

iRobot Create 2 Programmable Robot

From iRobot ($199 US):

Create 2 is a mobile robot platform built from remanufactured Roomba robots and designed for use by educators, developers and high-school and college-age students. Program or build your own projects or start with our sample projects provided online. Create 2 is ready to go, right out of the box, so there is no need to assemble the drive system or worry about low-level code. Other Create 2 features include:

  • Serial cable sends commands from a computer or other microcontroller to the robot
  • Preprogrammed behaviors can be controlled via Open Interface Commands
  • Built-in sensors allow the robot to react to its environment
  • Drill template on faceplate shows safe drilling areas. Removing the faceplate exposes the serial port.
  • Robot returns to Home Base to dock and recharge. Rechargeable battery charges in three hours.
  • Compatible with Roomba 600 Series accessories including batteries, Home Base®, remote control and Virtual Wall®

What are some of the things I can do with iRobot Create 2?

Program movements, sounds and the LED display, as well as read all of the robot's onboard sensors
Add an external computer or microcontroller with additional sensors and actuators to transform Create into exactly the robot you want. Add a camera to build your own camera bot! Use our 3D printable file to create a storage bin and ensure your additional electronics are safely housed within the robot's chassis... (details)

Toward the Dream of a Baseball Android

From Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory:

We have been developing robotic systems that individually achieve fundamental actions of baseball, such as throwing, tracking of the ball, batting, running, and catching. We achieved these tasks by controlling high-speed robots based on real-time visual feedback from high-speed cameras. Before integrating these abilities into one robot, we here summarize the technical elements of each task... (site)

How 4 Mexican Immigrant Kids and Their Cheap Robot Beat MIT

From Wired:

Ten years ago, WIRED contributing editor Joshua Davis wrote a story about four high school students in Phoenix, Arizona—three of them undocumented immigrants from Mexico—beating MIT in an underwater robot competition. That story, La Vida Robot, has a new chapter: Spare Parts, starring George Lopez and Carlos PenaVega, opens in January, and Davis is publishing abook by the same title updating the kids’ story. To mark that occasion, WIRED is republishing his original story... (full article)

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