If you have been thinking of dipping your toe into the world of FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays) but always thought they were too expensive for hobbyist then you might want to check out the 'Mojo FPGA' on Kickstarter . The Mojo is designed to make digital design easy and cost effective for anyone who is just getting started. FPGAs do not retain their configuration when the power is lost, so they must be reconfigured every time the board is turned on. Typically, a PROM is used to load the configuration file (also known as bit file) into the FPGA automatically. The problem with that is you generally need a fairly expensive programmer to program the PROMs. The Mojo features a basic serial port (similar to an Arduino) that can be used to program a new bit file into on-board flash memory. When the board is powered on, a microcontroller reads the flash memory and configures the FPGA automatically. All that is required is a low-cost USB to serial converter. The original Kickstarter goal was 7,000 but they blew through that goal and are currently at 70,000. If you pledge $65 dollars you get a fully assembled board.
The Pratt Institutes' Manhattan Gallery is currently running an art exhibit entitled " KINESTHETICS: ART IMITATING LIFE ". The show runs till the end of April and features cool drones created by artists is Bjorn Schulke. His personal website also has some really cool works from previous exhibits.
New video of Boston Dynamics' BigDog, equipped with a 5th limb, demonstrating how fair it can throw a 35 lbs cinder block. Youtube vidoes of BigDog are always interesting if for no other reason than for the comments provided by "the teens":
Last weeks episode of Top Gear had James May, in a Range Rover, battle the military cargo UGV "TerraMax" through various terrain at a Nevada test course. If you live in Britain you can watch the entire race here and if you live anywhere else you can watch this youtube clip and imagine an old British guy in a fancy car racing beside it.
Foxconn, the manufacturer of Apple (AAPL) iPhones and Amazon (AMZN) Kindles in China, has stopped hiring workers at its key Zhengzhou and Shenzhen plants in what may be a shift toward robotic production, a Chinese news report said Wednesday. CBN Daily, in a story picked up by other Chinese media, quoted insiders as saying that the recruitment freeze is being done to adjust the production line and prepare for "artificial intelligence production." Taiwan-owned Foxconn's Henan Employment Center in central China is said to have a notice saying that due to production line adjustments, recruitment has been changed. The Zhengzhou plant, which is located in Henan province, also is said to have halted hiring since December and no large-scale recruitment is expected until June. The Shenzhen plant is situated north of Hong Kong in southern China. A worker at the Henan Employment Center reportedly said the recruitment suspension might have something to do "with the diminished output of iPhone 5." Reports since late last year have said that Foxconn has been gradually installing robots on its production lines in Zhengzhou and Shenzhen to improve production of Apple and other devices. Foxconn also has announced plans to install 10,000 robots on its factory lines that could replace up to 1 million workers over several years.
Inventables has all kinds of interesting raw materials available for purchase in small quantities. Materials include: Aluminum Foam Conductive Velcro Conductive Paint Temperature-Sensitive Glass etc.
From Upverter: Y Combinator has seen a huge increase in the number of hardware startups they fund. And so in an effort to encourage the renaissance and throw some gas on the fire, we are hosting a hardware hackathon. The focus is on getting like-minded hardware hackers into the same space, sharing ideas, designing hardware and ultimately creating more hardware startups. Want a taste of what goes on in a hardware hackathon? Read about Upverter's first ever hackathon in August 2012: Day 1 , Day 2 and the wrap up . We also held a hardware hackathon at the Open Compute Summit just this past month. If you’re hardware savvy and interested in starting a hardware startup, you should apply to come and hack with us! Want to start a startup? Get funded by Y Combinator. When February 23rd, 2013, 10AM - 10PM Where Y Combinator 320 Pioneer Way Mountain View, CA 94041 map You can apply here .
New Scientist: George Whitesides from Harvard University and colleagues have created a three-legged robot lined with tubes filled with a mixture of methane and oxygen. When an electrical spark ignites the gases, the combustion reaction generates bursts of pressure that propel the robot aloft. "By actuating all three legs simultaneously, we caused the robot to jump more than 30 times its height," write the team. As the height of the jump was limited by the size of the experimental chamber, they think it could spring twice as high without the attached tubing.
Yesterday IEEE Spectrum reported that Willow Garage might be closing its doors, with information coming from several current employees. Then late last night Steve Cousins, President and CEO, released an official statement on their website: Willow Garage is changing Willow Garage has decided to enter the world of commercial opportunities with an eye to becoming a self-sustaining company. This is an important change to our funding model. The success of the PR2 personal robot and of ROS will continue. There are close to 50 PR2 robots in the world and Willow Garage support of the platform will not diminish. And of course, ROS, as an open source platform, will continue independent of our business model choices. In addition to Willow Garage, its supporters include the Open Source Robotics Foundation and all the other contributors in the ROS community (academic, industrial and individual) who have made it the platform of choice for Robotics. The statement doesn't confirm IEEE Spectrum's story but it doesn't dismiss it either. The original Spectrum story can be found here .
IEEE Spectrum article about RobotsLab new box of robots for making robots available in school systems:
British troops in Afghanistan are the first to use state-of-the-art handheld nano surveillance helicopters. The Black Hornet Nano Unmanned Air Vehicle measures around 4 inches by 1 inch (10cm x 2.5cm) and provides troops on the ground with vital situational awareness. The Black Hornet is equipped with a tiny camera which gives troops reliable full-motion video and still images. Soldiers are using it to peer around corners or over walls and other obstacles to identify any hidden dangers and the images are displayed on a handheld terminal. The Black Hornet weighs as little as 16 grams and has been developed by Prox Dynamics AS of Norway as part of a £20 million contract for 160 units with Marlborough Communications Ltd in Surrey.
On Febuary 7th Channel 4 in the UK will air the special "How To Build A Bionic Man". From bionic arms and legs to artificial organs, science is beginning to catch up with science fiction in the race to replace body parts with man-made alternatives. How to Build a Bionic Man follows psychologist Bertolt Meyer, who has a bionic hand himself, as he meets scientists working at the cutting edge of research to find out just how far this new technology can go. Meanwhile, a team of roboticists create a complete 'bionic man' for the first time, using nearly $1 million-worth of state-of-the-art limbs and organs - the products of billions of dollars of research - borrowed from some of the world's leading laboratories and manufacturers.
The little device is called a milli-motein — a name melding its millimeter-sized components and a motorized design inspired by proteins, which naturally fold themselves into incredibly complex shapes. This minuscule robot may be a harbinger of future devices that could fold themselves up into almost any shape imaginable. The device was conceived by Neil Gershenfeld, head of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, visiting scientist Ara Knaian and graduate student Kenneth Cheung, and is described in a paper presented recently at the 2012 Intelligent Robots and Systems conference. Its key feature, Gershenfeld says: "It's effectively a one-dimensional robot that can be made in a continuous strip, without conventionally moving parts, and then folded into arbitrary shapes."
Momentum Machines is a Silicon Valley startup that is aims to build a fully automated gourmet quality burger production line. They plan to first open their own restaurant using the technology and then sell the hardware to others in the future. Here is their bullet points from the current alpha hardware: Our alpha machine replaces all of the hamburger line cooks in a restaurant.It does everything employees can do except better: It slices toppings like tomatoes and pickles only immediately before it places the slice onto your burger, giving you the freshest burger possible. Our next revision will offer custom meat grinds for every single customer. Want a patty with 1/3 pork and 2/3 bison ground after you place your order? No problem. Also, our next revision will use gourmet cooking techniques never before used in a fast food restaurant, giving the patty the perfect char but keeping in all the juices. It’s more consistent, more sanitary, and can produce ~360 hamburgers per hour.
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IO-Link is the first standardized IO technology worldwide for communication from the control system to the lowest level of automation.