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Humanoid Robot Ladder-Climbing

The video below shows a (slightly customized) DARwIn-OP robot called Jimmy climbing a ladder.  Its builders at the University of Manitoba‘s Autonomous Agents Lab are preparing for a ladder-climbing event going on at FIRA 2013 Malaysia next month.

In some ways, ladder-climbing is an easier task than walking.  You don’t really need to balance, since you are (or should be) gripping the ladder at at least three points at all times.  However, the whole point of robots, in my view at least, is that they are general machines.  Making a machine that only climbs a ladder isn’t too hard.  Making a machine that climbs a ladder, dukes it out in a ring, does a dance number, maybe does some gymnastics, and plays catch with you — that’s much harder.  A machine that can do many humanlike tasks, while using human tools in a human world, ends up needing humanlike form and capabilities… and that’s what humanoid robotics is all about.

[Via Robots-Dreams and IEEE Spectrum]

Quadruple Backflip from Robot Gymnast No. 16

YouTube user Hinamitetu has been at it again.  His latest robot gymnast, “No. 16”, is able to do an amazing quadruple backflip and stick the landing.  Check out the video:

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ATLAS Humanoid Revealed

DARPA recently announced the seven “Track B” finalists in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC).  These teams competed against others in the field to make best use of a virtual robot using the open-source DRC Simulator.  This week, the winning teams were presented with the real thing: a 2-meter tall, 150 kg humanoid robot known as ATLAS.

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“Hex” Humanoid Made From Household Goods

Retired police officer Mark Haygood has spent the last several years building a four-foot, three-inch humanoid robot out of common household items.  The robot, called “Hex,” is designed to inspire kids, and by all indications it succeeds at this fabulously.

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Robocup 2012 KidSize Summary video

BotSport TV has just posted a great summary video (below)of the 2012 RoboCup “KidSize” (30-60cm) humanoid robot soccer tournament that took place in Mexico City last June.  This is a great competition in which fully autonomous RoboOne-sized robots compete in a standard (if somewhat miniaturized) game of soccer.

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RAPIRO: Humanoid Robot Kit for Raspberry Pi

Japanese robot builder Shota Ishiwatari has designed a new humanoid robot kit based around the Raspberry Pi.

The robot, called RAPIRO, is cute and surprisingly functional for its price.  The complete kit sells out of the UK for 229 GBP (about US$350 at current rates), yet the robot has 12 servo motors and is able to walk, grasp and manipulate objects, and pivot at both head and waist.  It also sports bright tricolor LEDs that let it express mood through its eyes.  The shell is designed for easy installation of optional upgrades, including a camera, distance sensor, speakers, and other accessories you might connect to an RPi.

The robot is designed to be hackable; sample code and 3D models for all parts will be published for the community, allowing makers anywhere to modify and print their own versions.  The servo driver board in RAPIRO’s head is even Arduino compatible, enabling you to use an Arduino board instead of an RPi if that’s your preference.

As of this moment, the KickStarter campaign is within 150 GBP of its 20,000 GBP goal — and that’s only two days into a 60-day campaign.  So it’s safe to predict that this will be fully funded.  They’re expecting to ship in December 2013.  By mid-2014, I bet we’ll be seeing all sorts of cool hacks and upgrades being done to RAPIRO robots everywhere.

PS3 controller over Xbee

I’m a big fan of the PlayStation 3 controller — it’s got a great feel, plenty of analog buttons and sticks, and force feedback.  For controlling something with a lot of motions, like a humanoid robot, these inputs are ideal.  Moreover, it’s a standard Bluetooth HID device, making it possible to connect wirelessly to any host computer that can act as a HID master (such as the Raspberry Pi, for example).

For many applications, that’s plenty good enough.  However, there are two situations where it’s not: (1) your robot’s microcontroller isn’t beefy or well-supported enough to act as a HID master; or (2) you need more than 10 meters or so of range.  So if your robots has Arduino for brains, or needs to be teleoperated from a significant distance away, read on.

A new project at a site called Proof of Principle solves both problems, by replacing the standard main circuit board inside the PS3 controller with a custom one that communicates over Xbee instead of Bluetooth.  It all fits neatly back into the original controller case, with the exception of an antenna that sticks out the top, so it has the same feel (and nearly the same look) as the unmodified version.  But with the Xbee link and external antenna, the builder gets significantly increased range, and the ability to connect to anything that can interface with an Xbee module (which means, pretty much, anything with a UART).

For more details on this cool mod, see the project page.

[via Hack a Day]

Hobby Humanoid Hikes Like a Human

Famous Japanese robot hobbyist Dr. Guero has posted a new video showing an advanced walking gait that looks remarkably humanlike.  Not only does it look great, but it’s clearly effective too: the robot covers ground quickly, and does it all using much smaller feet than the standard robot klonkers.

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New Ready-To-Fight Robot: ‘Melissa Exceed Type G’

A Japanese online craft shop, Craft House, has released a new Robo-One style humanoid robot.  The robot, called “Melissa Exceed Type G,” stands 52 cm tall and weighs 2.7 kg.  It uses 22 high-power Kondo servos; 21 of those are the KRS-4034HV, which boasts an amazing 41.7 kg cm of torque.  The robot features parallel-linkage legs, which give it increased strength and stability where it’s most needed, and large hand grippers.  The design is very similar to the “HAUSER” robot that won third place in ROBO-ONE 22. Read more…

Uploading, not Avatars

There’s an interesting New York Times article about Dmitri Itskov, a Russian multimillionaire who’s actively (and openly) pursuing mind uploading.  But, as you might expect in an article written for a nontechnical audience, it abounds with errors and incorrect terminology.

BotScene is a blog about humanoid robotics, and no robot could be more humanoid than a robot who actually is human.  And, as it turns out, I’ve been exploring mind uploading for many years.  So, let me take this opportunity to try to clear a few things up, starting with some terminology. Read more…