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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hobby Humanoid Tackles Tough Terrain

Japanese hobby robotics Dr. Guero (aka “Dr. GIY”) has impressed us before with his robot’s humanlike gait, as well as the some more artistic work.  Now he’s posted a new video that takes it to a whole new level, in which his robot is challenged to walk on gravel, sand, and other rough terrain.

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