NASA Kicks Off 2013 First Robotics Season With Live Broadcast Jan. 5

NASA Television will broadcast the annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Kickoff event on Saturday, Jan. 5, starting at 10:30 a.m. EST from Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester. The event also will be streamed live on NASA’s website.

As in past years, NASA plays a significant role by providing public access to robotics programs to encourage young people to investigate careers in the sciences and engineering. Through the NASA Robotics Alliance Project, the agency provides grants for almost 250 teams and sponsors four regional student competitions, including a FIRST regional competition in Washington that will be held March 28-30.

Each year, FIRST presents a new robotics competition scenario where each team receives an identical kit of parts and has six weeks to design and build a robot based on the team’s interpretation of the game scenario. Other than dimension and weight restrictions, the look and function of the robots is up to each individual team. This year more than 2,500 teams from 49 states, and 12 countries will participate.

60 Minutes Segment On Brain Controlled Robotic Limbs

New AlphaDog Field Test Footage

For the past two weeks, in the woods of central Virginia around Fort Pickett, the Legged Squad Support System (LS3) four-legged robot has been showing off its capabilities during field testing. Working with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL), researchers from DARPA’s LS3 program demonstrated new advances in the robot’s control, stability and maneuverability, including "Leader Follow" decision making, enhanced roll recovery, exact foot placement over rough terrain, the ability to maneuver in an urban environment, and verbal command capability.

New Arduino Esplora With Built-in Onboard Sensors

The Arduino Esplora is a microcontroller board derived from the Arduino Leonardo. The Esplora differs from all preceding boards in that it provides a number of built-in, ready-to-use set of onboard sensors for interaction. The Esplora has onboard sound and light output interfaces. It alos has the potential to expand its capabilities with two Tinkerkit input and output connectors, and a socket for a color TFT LCD screen. Like the Leonardo board, the Esplora uses an Atmega32U4 AVR microcontroller with 16 MHz crystal oscillator and a micro USB connection capable of acting as a USB client device, like a mouse or a keyboard.


The Esplora has the following on-board inputs and outputs :

  • Analog joystick with central push-button two axis (X and Y) and a center pushbutton.
  • 4 push-buttons laid out in a diamond pattern.
  • Linear potentiometer slider near the bottom of the board.
  • Microphone for getting the loudness (amplitude) of the surrounding environment.
  • Light sensor for getting the brightness.
  • Temperature sensor reads the ambient temperature
  • Three-axis accelerometer measures the board's relation to gravity on three axes (X, Y, and Z)
  • Buzzer can produce square-waves.
  • RGB led bright LED with Red Green and Blue elements for color mixing.
  • 2 TinkerKit Inputs to connect the TinkerKit sensor modules with the 3-pin connectors.
  • 2 TinkerKit Outputs to connect the TinkerKit actuator modules with the 3-pin connectors.
  • TFT display connector connector for an optional color LCD screen, SD card, or other devices that use the SPI protocol.

iRobot Co-founder's New Company And Product Unveiled

Helen Greiner left iRobot four years ago to start a new robotics company now called CyPhy Works. Their website has info on two of the robots they have been working on.

  • The Extreme Access System for Entry (EASE) (pictured above)is a small hovering robot designed for inspection and ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) applications. EASE is intended for operating in close quarters, beyond line of sight, and in GPS denied areas; all of which are critical when performing search and rescue missions, building clearing, or civil infrastructure inspection.

    The EASE system consists of a lightweight ground control station (GCS) and a micro Vertical Takeoff and Land (VTOL) air vehicle. It is not dependent on a GPS signal for operation, making it not only effective as a micro UAS in the traditional sense, but also enables it to fly indoors and in confined spaces as effectively as it does in open spaces. It has unmatched endurance due to our patented microfilament technology that enables the use of hot-swappable batteries, which power the entire system from the base station. The fishing-line thin microfilament provides directly connected communication between the GCS and the air vehicle, as well as power. Unlike all other RF controlled UASs, the microfilament makes the EASE impervious to jamming while the microfilament is unaffected by water, power lines, etc. 


  • The Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) system is designed to provide long term persistent stare capabilities and enable reliable long distance communications. PARC uses CyPhy Works' patented microfilament system to deliver extreme endurance, increased capabilities, and a smaller logistical footprint. PARC flies itself, so very little user training is required; and when operating the system the user can focus on the data that PARC produces, instead of the system itself.

    The PARC system consists of a Ground Control Station (GCS) and a purpose built quadrotor VTOL air vehicle. The PARC vehicle carries a gyro-stabilized, gimbal mounted, EO/IR camera payload. In addition to the camera system, PARC has additional payload capacity for communications devices. If additional payload capacity is required, the camera payload can be removed. The PARC vehicle can operate at altitudes of up to 1,000 feet above ground level, or 11,000 feet density altitude. This high altitude capability enables long distance communications and extends visual reach.

Liquid Robotics' Marine Robot Completes 9,000 Mile Record Breaking Journey

Liquid Robotics today announced the first Pacific Crossing (PacX) Wave Glider, "Papa Mau", completed its 9,000 nautical mile (16,668 kilometers) scientific journey across the Pacific Ocean to set a new world record for the longest distance traveled by an autonomous vehicle. Throughout his journey, Papa Mau navigated along a prescribed route under autonomous control collecting and transmitting unprecedented amounts of high-resolution ocean data never before available over these vast distances or timeframes. The Company is providing open access to this data as part of its PacX Challenge, a global competition seeking new ocean applications and research using the PacX data set.

Disney Research Papers On Robotics

Disney Research has published a bunch of papers related to robotics. Topics covered include biped robot to maintain balance and walk on a rolling ball, playing catch and juggling with a humanoid robot, siting and standing, and using a swarm of mobile illuminated robots to coordinate and form images.

Lehmann Aviation's LA100 UAV

Lehmann Aviation's LA100 is a fully autonomous UAV designed to capture 5 minutes of flight at the height of 80m-100m using a mounted GoPro camera. Camera can be mounted on the top of the wing for Oblique images (Hero, Hero2 or Hero3) or at the bottom of the wing for Vertical images (Hero3). You can also choose to fly with 2 cameras at the same time.

Noam Chomsky on Where Artificial Intelligence Went Wrong

Lengthy Atlantic interview with linguist Noam Chomsky on the state of AI and the use of statistical models. The interview can be read here and a detailed overview and reply by Director of Research at Google, Peter Norvig is here.

ST Robotics Offers 11-Axis Tandem Robot System for under $20,000

ST Robotics announced today the latest addition to their R12 robot product line, the Tandem R125, a low cost two-armed robot system. Including the programmable carousel, ST Robotics' Tandem R125 robot has a total of 11 axes. The entire system is available for less than $20,000 and includes everything to get up and running: the two R12 five-axis robot arms mounted on the carousel, two K11R controllers, RoboForth II software, intuitive teach pad, simple interfacing with other equipment, cables, manuals, a two-year warranty and unlimited free technical support.

The Inebriator

The Inebriator is a home made automated cocktail machine. The Inebriator is powered by an Arduino Mega 2560 Microprocessor Project Board. A Hitachi HD44780 compatible display is used to allow display drink information, coupled with a couple of buttons to navigate the menu. A stepper motor is used to drive the drinks shelf, with acceleration and deceleration to allow high speed without spilling. All mixers are in plastic bottles in a cool box, each bottle has two pipes, one that is hooked to the gas tank (70% Nitrogen and 30% Carbon Dioxide), and the other goes from the bottom of the bottle to a valve. When the gas tank is opened (through a regulator) the bottles are pressurised to a low safe pressure. When 12v is applied to the valve it opens, and the pressure causes the liquid to flow through the pipe and ultimately into the glass. Each mixer has its own valve and individually controllable.

Palm Sized Robot Dragonfly Up On Kickstarter-like Indiegogo

TechJect, a company formed from Georgia Tech's Robotics & Intelligent Machines Lab is looking for crowd funding of their robot dragon fly. They are looking for $110,000 and are currently at $73,000 with 54 days left so there is a good chance they will reach their goal. They are offering several different models of the dragonfly. The most basic $100 dollar model is sold out but you Delta Dragonfly for a $179 dollar donation or for $250 you can get one with WiFi and a camera. Check out their video below and their Indiegogo page for all the donation and models available.

Wired Editor Chris Anderson Leaves To Run 3D Robotics/DIY Drones

From Venture Beat:

Wired editor Chris Anderson is leaving the magazine after 11 years as its editor-in-chief to run a robotics company he founded, 3D Robotics.

Anderson made the announcement at an all-hands meeting for Wired staffers in San Francisco friday.
3D Robotics has a Facebook page, Twitter account, and domain name (, but currently no website. Currently, that URL redirects to DIY Drones, another company Anderson founded, which sells kits and parts for people making their own unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) — robotic aircraft, essentially. It appears that 3D Robotics is an outgrowth of that company. (cont'd)

New DARPA's Pet-Proto Video

In this video, the Pet-Proto, a predecessor to DARPA's Atlas robot, is confronted with obstacles similar to those robots might face in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). To maneuver over and around the obstacles, the robot exercises capabilities including autonomous decision-making, dismounted mobility and dexterity. The DARPA Robotics Challenge will test these and other capabilities in a series of tasks that will simulate conditions in a dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environment. Teams participating in Tracks B and C of the DRC will compete for access to a modified version of the Atlas robot for use in the 2013 and 2014 live disaster-response challenge events.

Last Nights Robot Hall of Fame Inducts NAO, PackBot, BigDog and WALL-E

The Robot Hall of Fame® inducted four robots chosen for the first time by a popular vote — Aldebaran Robotics' NAO humanoid, iRobot's PackBot bomb disposal robot, Boston Dynamics' four-legged BigDog and WALL-E, the fictional robot of the namesake Pixar movie — during a ceremony tonight at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.

"More than any previous class of inductees, this group of robots selected by popular vote represents contemporary robotics — robots at the cutting edge of technology — rather than older robots of strictly historical importance," said Shirley Saldamarco, Robot Hall of Fame director and a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center. "Two of our inductees, NAO and Packbot, are commercially available and BigDog is still the focus of active research. Even our fictional honoree, WALL-E, is from a movie that's just four years old."

More than 17,000 people across every continent except Antarctica participated in the online vote in August and September. The 12 nominees on this year's ballot were chosen by a group of 107 robotics experts, industry leaders and aficionados selected by the Robot Hall of Fame (RHOF).

The RHOF, created in 2003 by Carnegie Mellon University, recognizes excellence in robotics technology. It honors both the fictional robots that inspire innovation and the real robots that embody it. In 2009, it was integrated into Carnegie Science Center's roboworld™ exhibit.

The new inductees were elected in four categories: Education & Consumer; Entertainment; Industrial & Service; and Research.

NAO was inducted in the Education & Consumer category. An autonomous, programmable, humanoid robot developed by Aldebaran Robotics in 2006, the 22-inch-tall robot is used as an education platform and in the RoboCup robot soccer Standard Platform League. Other nominees in this category were iRobot's CREATE and the VEX Robotics Design System.

In the Entertainment category, voters chose WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth Class), the lovable star of the 2008 Disney/Pixar blockbuster by the same name. In the movie, WALL-E inadvertently embarks on a space journey that ultimately decides the fate of mankind. Other nominees in this category were Rosie the maid from the cartoon series "The Jetsons" and Johnny 5 from the 1986 movie "Short Circuit."

PackBot won in the Industrial & Service category. Created by iRobot, PackBot is one of the most successful battle-tested robots in the world. It performs bomb disposal and other dangerous missions for troops and first responders. More than 4,500 units are currently on station in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was one of the first robots to enter the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant after the 2011 tsunami. The other nominees were Kiva Systems' autonomous warehouse robots and the Jason submersible from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Finally, BigDog was recognized in the Research category. This dynamically stable quadruped robot was created in 2005 by Boston Dynamics. It can traverse difficult terrain and run at 4 miles an hour while carrying 340 pounds and climbing a 35-degree incline. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has sponsored its development as a robotic pack mule to accompany soldiers in terrain too tough for conventional vehicles. Other nominees were Willow Garage's two-armed PR2 mobile robot and NASA's Robonaut.

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