Score a Free Robot (Looks Like Spawn of WALL-E and Eve)

PR2 Beta Program: The Call for Proposals is Out! | Willow Garage Don’t really know much about this PR2 Beta robot, but if you can prove that your institution would put it to good use, you can apply to get one for free. Personally if WALL-E and Eve had a baby, I think it would look something like this. It works off Robot Operating System, or ROS 1.0, which seems to be an open source programing language for robots. As BotJunkie puts it, “Basically, the idea behind ROS is to keep people from having to reinvent the wheel over and over again for each new robot, so that people can spend their time improving the wheel and inventing the hoverpad, as it were.” (via...

How BattleBots could help Haiti (And How You Can Too)

In talking to people about my project, and in talking to Nola, the director of BattleBotsIQ, a fair number of responses we get when we describe kids building BattleBots is something along the lines of “it’s violent.” Now I could go off on a whole other post comparing BattleBots injuries to football, boxing, or even cheerleading (all sanctioned sports), but that’s not the point of this post. When 9/11 happened, Nola described how some kids said, “My BattleBot is tough enough to go into the collapsed buildings and could’ve helped rescue people.” Today that’s the exact case with Haiti – so many collapsed buildings could use rugged robots to go in, find survivors, and help free people. Will, one of Fluffy’s creators, summed BattleBots up pretty well compared to other robot competitions. He says it’s the only competition that fully tests your robot. If everything isn’t perfectly built 100%, your opponent, physics, or the BattleBox will destroy you. Who’s going to be building the future rugged robots that are going to help out in future disasters? The students who are building BattleBots today. I also wanted to touch on how amazed I am at the wonderful use of technology in providing aid. Of course there’s Twitter and the Red Cross text messaging viral campaign, which alone has raised over $10 million. I also just saw a post released by the White House that they’ve created a Person Finder app, where you can either look for someone or list information about someone. It’s embeddable, which you’ll find below. [Well apparently it’s embeddable anywhere except WordPress blogs…] Finally, I just wanted to shed some light...

Rethinking Computer Interactions

One thing that Nola, the head of the BattleBots high school program, tells all the kids is engineering is about solving problems. Here’s one that may not necessarily be a problem, mostly because we’ve all become so used to it, but it can definitely use improvement, and that’s how we interact with computers. The mouse has been the dominant tool for decades, but as the video below shows, it limits the many possibilities of our hands to only two coordinates. You don’t see Data clicking around with a mouse in Star Trek, right? It also explains that while touch screen works great with smart phones, it won’t translate into desktop computers. 10/GUI from C. Miller on Vimeo. This reminds me a lot of Minority Report. I still think keyboard shortcuts are the fastest and easiest way to get things done, but of course that has its limits. The person who takes our interactions with computers to the next level might just be building a robot right...