Skip to content

NAO released to general public at half the price

We’ve posted before about the NAO robot, made by French company Aldebaran Robotics.  Yes, it’s a pretty advanced humanoid, standing up well even compared to most of those from Japan or Korea.  But I haven’t shown them a lot of love, because until now, they haven’t showning much love to robot hobbyists; the NAO was available only to educational institutions, and then with a price tag of $16,000.

All that just changed.

Read more…


Last year we reported on Compressorhead, the six-ton robot heavy metal band from Australia (though mostly built in Germany).  Now Compressorhead has some competition, in the form of a new robotic band named Z-MACHINES.

Read more…

Robo-One Robots Grapple for Victory

Years ago, the Robo-One competition was mostly about the robots trying to stay on their feet.  Given the slightest nudge, a humanoid robot would generally topple over, so no sophisticated attack strategies were needed — just bump into the other guy.

In recent years, though, robots have been getting better and better at staying on their feet (though they still fall flat for little or no reason from time to time).  So attack strategies have been getting more sophisticated.

In the video below (thanks to Lem Fugitt at Robots-Dreams), you can see the top robots in the Japan 7 “Bantam Weight” (2-3 kg) competition.  The silver robot, Bayonet Onyx, is equipped with large claws, which it successfully employs twice in the match to grab his opponent and literally grapple him to the ground.


Is Wolfram Language the New ROS?

WolframAlphaDocsIn the last few weeks, Wolfram Research has made two announcements which have great significance for hobby robotics:

1. They’ve started to demo the new “Wolfram Language,” which is essentially the language used in Mathematica, but with a large library of built-in functions for everything from social networking to interfacing with hardware.  It’s all symbolic and forms what Wolfram believes is a significantly new paradigm of “knowledge-based programming.”

2. This language, as well as a full Mathematica environment, are now available for free on the Raspberry Pi.

This is big news.  Really big news.

Read more…

Artificial Muscle from Fishing Line

Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas have reported a new type of artificial muscle that’s both impressively powerful, and surprisingly simple.  It’s basically just twisted and coiled polymer fibers — off-the-shelf fishing line or sewing thread will do.  Upon application of heat, the coils shorten up to 49% of their original length, lifting many times their own weight.  In fact the artificial muscles are over 100 times stronger than human muscle of the same length and weight.

Read more…

Making an iPhone-controlled robot

We recently presented a list of commercially available robots that use your iPhone (or in some cases, Android) phone or iPod Touch as the robot brains.  This makes a lot of sense, given all the sensors, networking, input/output, and raw computing power you probably already have in your pocket.  But a good robot hobbyist is never satisfied with an off-the-shelf robot; how can you harness this power in your own projects?

The best way, if you can manage it, is one of the official interface cables from Redpark.  These are official (Apple-approved) serial adapters for the older 30-pin connector, or the Lightning connector on newer devices.  Among the 30-pin options are a TTL version, which gives you a 57.6 kbps logic-level serial connection you can easily interface with your other electronics.

Read more…

iPhone Robot Round-Up

Most of us carry a device in our pockets with a surprising amount of computing power and an amazing array of sensors, often including 6-axis IMUs, a GPS receiver, a compass, and a couple of high-resolution cameras.  These are all things we need on our robots: sensors for perceiving the world, and brains enough to make sense of it.  Consider the high-resolution touch screen, built-in rechargeable power supply, and networking capabilities, and using a mobile phone on a robot starts to make a lot of sense.

So with no further ado, here are some of the off-the-shelf iPhone- or Android-based robots on the market today. Read more…

OpenMV low-cost, hackable machine vision board

Michael Shimniok over at has posted about a new project he’s working on called OpenMV.  This is a small, low-cost machine vision board that lets you easily add advanced vision capability to any electronics project.

Read more…

Humanoid Robot Drags a Load

Dr. Guero, the amazing Japanese hobby roboticist who recently demonstrated biped walking over rough terrain, is back with a new video.  This one demonstrates his steadfast robot doggedly pulling a heavy crate — and automatically adjusting its gait as more weight is added.

Read more…

Painting with light (and robots)

A student at the Collège Rousseau of Geneva has demonstrated a great trick for combining robotics and art.  Mariane Brodier used a Thymio II educational robot, a DSLR camera with a manual shutter, and some clever (but beginner-friendly) programming to make beautiful images like the ones below.

Read more…