Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Build your own obstacle-avoiding beetle robot

Why not build a capable little beetle robot that can scurry about and avoid obstacles? The really cool thing about it is that the behavior is all hard-wired and/or mechanical -- no computer or programming required. The parts are easy to find too!

Here's a link to the Instructable on How to Build The BeetleBot.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Video about how modern robots relate to karakuri

This video explores how modern Japanese robots share a lineage with ancient mechanical dolls.

[ Thanks Thomas! ]

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Robots secretly living among us as stuffed animals

Robots secretly living among us as stuffed animals
I posted not long ago about an artist who refits stuffed animals with metal exoskeletons. Industrial designer Matt Kirkland has created an excellent photo set in which he uncovers the robots hidden beneath plush toy exteriors.

From Matt Kirkland's site:
I've always been curious about stuffed animals that sing, dance, light up, or talk back. There must be a fascinating robot underneath the fur and fluff, right? Surely the robot hiding in the bear's clothing, vestimentis ursum, is impressive. So: armed with my childish curiosity and the spurious excuse of 'product design research,' I set out to discover what, exactly, these creatures are hiding.

Here is a link to the photo set of the robots beneath the fluff.

[ Thanks Bob! ]

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Video of Leonardo's full-sized knight automaton

In this installment of the series Ancient Discoveries we see a recreation of a full-sized armored knight thought to be designed by Leonardo da Vinci. The internal gears and system of cables allowed the knight some limited forms of motion.

Learn more about Leaonardo's fascination with automata in Mark Rosheim's beautifully illustrated book Leonardo's Lost Robots.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wooden mechanical remote-control dinosaurs

Wooden mechanical remote-control dinosaurs
I've seen wood dinosaur models, and even wood dinosaur models with a motor and simple movements. This pair takes it a step further with the addition of a infrared remote control and three different operating modes.

From the model description:
The R/C Wooden Puzzle Dinosaurs go one better and add movement and sound to this classic dinosaur format. First you must assemble of course, but once you've jacked in the included motors and electronics you're ready to rumble. Not only can you control your dino's movements via remote, he (or she) roars and reacts to sound.

Here is the link to these two wooden mechanical dinosaurs with remote control.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

"The Beholder" - creepy mechanical sculpture

Check out the wonderfully unsettling effect of organic and robotic elements in this kinetic sculpture made with found objects by Nemo Gould.

See more of Nemo Gould's work on his web site.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

8 new sculptures from kinetic artist Nemo Gould

Kinetic sculpture artist Nemo Gould has announced that he has 8 new sculptures to share on his website -- one of which is shown in the video above.

Visit Nemo Gould's website to see his 8 new sculptures.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Motion mimicking boxing robot toy set

Motion mimicking boxing robot toy set
A pair of hand-held controllers with on-board sensors capture your hand motions in real time and translate them into little robotic punches directed at your similarly armed opponent. The set includes two robots and two pairs of infrared controllers.

"The infrared controllers have built-in tilt sensors and accelerometers to detect when you move your hands--when you punch, the robot punches; directional buttons control forward and backward movement. Each robot has a target area in the middle of its chest; when struck, it registers a "hit" on the four-LED display just above the target. Four hits disables a robot and wins a bout."

Now if we could just scale these up to the size of monster trucks...

Here is the link for more info on the Motion Mimicking Robotic Pugilists.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 - The Ultimate Toy?

LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0
LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 is the newest generation of programmable LEGO toys featuring a slew of new hardware and software features. This is arguably the ultimate toy available today -- combining your physical constructions with programmable electronic elements. Start by building one of 4 robots in the included instructions, nearly anything you can dream up.

This new generation of LEGO Mindstorms features:

• A 32-bit microprocessor
• A large display
• 4 input and 3 output ports
• Bluetooth and USB communications
• Three servo motors
• 4 sensors (Ultrasonic, 2 Touch Sensors, and a new Color Sensor)
• Easy-to-use software with icon-based drag-and-drop programming
• 612 pieces total

Here is the link for the LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 set.

Here are some LEGO Mindstorm 2.0 books to help you take your creations to the next level.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

BotBrain Animatronic Head Kit

BotBrain Animatronic Head Kit
The BotBrain Animatronic Head kit lets you build a fully functioning animatronic head which can turn left and right, move its eyes and eyelids, and change its mouth expressions. Sensors allow the robot to react to changes in the environment.

Here's a link to the BotBrain Animatronic Head

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Amazing LEGO-based automata theater

'The Pirates and the NXTfied Theater' combines LEGOs and the programmable LEGO Mindstorms NXT components to create a 3-dimensional miniature mechanical theater. It's a wonderful combination of old story telling techniques, puppetry, automata, toys, and programming. The effect is not unlike some of the old coin-operated mechanical scenes you might find in Penny-in-the-Slot Automata and the Working Model. The film runs about three minutes with some cool behind-the-scenes shots at the end.

Visit this site to learn more about The Pirates and the NXTfied Theater.

Here's a link where you can get your own LEGO Mindstorms NXT kits and instructional books.

[ Thanks Mario! ]

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

OLLO - the robotic action mechanical toy

OLLO - robotic action mechanical toy
The OLLO Action Kit represents a cool new approach to construction toys. Motion and action were primary considerations in the development of this toy. The core ingredients of the OLLO action kit are its motor and pivoting rivet connectors.

From the kit description:
'Other building kits use motors, so what makes OLLO unique? you may be wondering. The difference is how OLLO pieces attach to one another. They attach with an innovative two-part rivet (one goes into the other and presses down to lock the pieces in place). And of course you can always undo the rivets (tool included) to build new and wilder things. The OLLO Action Kit is perfect for getting young minds interested in mechanics and building.

Here is the link for the OLLO - robotic action toy.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Robo-Q tiny remote control robot - UPDATE!

Robo-Q tiny remote control robot
Recently, we posted a video about this REALLY small remote-control robot toy. Some additional information is now available by way of ThinkGeek, who is now also offering these robots for sale.

From the product page:
* Amazingly small robots can avoid obstacles and play soccer
* Control your robot directly through the remote
* Two autonomous modes: chase the included ball, or avoid obstacles
* Full control with three walking speeds and right or left turns
* Magnetic charging coupler on remote
* Robot is powered by built-in rechargeable LI battery, charges from remote
* 20 minutes charge time, 5 minutes continuous run time
* Robot stores inside remote
* Remote requires 4 x AA batteries (not included)
* Includes Robot, Remote, Soccer Ball, and Manual (in Japanese)
* Four different robot varieties to choose from. Each is on a different channel.
* Imported from Japan
* Robot height: 3.4cm / 1.33in

Here's a link to more information, photos, and a video of the Robo-Q Tiny Remote Control Robot.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Teeny, tiny little remote-control robot with AI

Teeny, tiny little remote-control robot
In case you missed this over at the other day, you've got to check out this teeny, tiny little remote-control robot!

From the product description:
The World Smallest RC Robot with Artificial Intelligence (AI)!
The all-around control, you may never experience it! The 6 directions control plus 3 speed levels. Also the Robot can be controlled via Artificial Intelligence (AI) after you press the AUTO button, then the Robot can detect-and-escape from the barriers. What's more, after you press the AUTO button and Direction button, the Robot can detect-and-trace the objects. In the Trace mode, the Robot can be charged and run to the controller automatically! The controller as a Robot Station can be stored a Robot inside.

Here's a link to the product page with more images, varieties, and a somewhat hyper-active video of The World Smallest RC Robot with Artificial Intelligence.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Semi-automomous household robots store

Semi-automomous household robots store
It is now the year 2009. We may not have flying cars or ray-guns, but -- at long last -- we have personal robots that can actually do some useful things. They can vacuum your carpet, scrub your floor, clean you gutters, empty the cat litter, and monitor your home.

Take a look at a bunch of the household robots that are currently available. The future has finally arrived!

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Erector Spykee - The Spy Robot

Erector Spykee - The Spy Robot
Another tele-presence robot/toy for you would-be spies and roboticist out there. This one is made by the venerable mechanical toy company, Erector.

From the product description
Spykee, the spy robot, is a crafty 'bot that you control via the WiFi connection in your computer. This means you can give Spykee commands from virtually anywhere in the world! Plus, he does just about everything except feed the dog.

Spykee moves, watches, hears, speaks, takes pictures, records video and sound, and can act as a surveillance camera. What's more - when he begins to lose steam, he automatically heads back to his charging station (included) for more "energy." Compatible with classic metal Erector sets, sold separately. Requires one 9.6V battery (included). Measures 12" x 12" x 12".
Here's the product page with tons of info on the Erector Spykee - The Spy Robot

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Edge Robotic Arm Kit

Edge Robotic Arm Kit
You will need about two hours to assemble the Edge Robotic Arm Kit. No soldering is required.

The robotic arm features five axes of motion that you control via a wired remote. The gripper will open and close, the wrist twists, elbow bends through a range of 300 degrees, and the base rotates 180 degrees. The arm has a vertical reach of 15 inches, and horizontal reach of 12.6 inches.

Here's a page with more info and video of the Edge Robotic Arm Kit at

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Sumo wrestler robot with wind-up generator

Sumo Wrestler Robot with Wind Up Generator
An attached wind-up generator allows you to create electricity to power this Sumo wrestler robot. No batteries needed, just some cranking.

Forward and reverse walking actions are controlled by which direction the generator's handle is turned. The faster you crank, the faster it moves.

While its a neat kit on its own, the real fun comes from testing your Sumo-bot against another. A flurry of cranking robot action!

Sumo Wrestler Robot Match
Here's a link for the Sumo Wrestler Robot with Wind Up Generator by Tamiya

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Rovio: personal tele-presence robot by WowWee

Rovio:  personal tele-presence robot by WowWee
Robotic toy-makers WowWee venture into the fully-adult world of robotics with their relatively new tele-presence robot dubbed, Rovio.

Marketed as a home sentry, they may have overstated its capabilities a bit. While it may not be stopping any intruders, it is an intriguing robot nevertheless.

You'll need a full-fledged computer with a broadband internet connection and wireless at the location where Rovio is to be used. The robot can then be controlled by any remote internet-enabled device.

The Rovio sends back both audio and tv-resolution video streamed in MPEG4 format. It has a two-way speaker/microphone setup that allows you to "talk" with entities on the robot-end of the arrangement. It can also take snap-shots and find its own way back to its recharging base. Not bad for $300.

Now...what to do with it? The stand-in for business meeting, "Say goodnight to daddy", and pet-soother all seem a bit of a stretch to me. I think it's best to assume, that you can use the Rovio to take a look around your place (one flat level of it anyway) when you are not there. While a more modest goal, that could truly be useful.

Here's a page with a full description and video of the Rovio robot.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Invention System 2.0

LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Invention System 2.0
LEGOs aren't just plastic blocks anymore! Now you can design, construct, and program real robots. The Robotic Invention System lets you build three robots out of the box: a Candy Sorter, a Robotic Arm, or a drawing Artbot.

When you start building your own creations, you can attach sensors, motors, and gears to the RCX microcomputer. You then use your PC and the LEGO MINDSTORMS CD-ROM to program your robot. The possibilities are almost endless here.

Here's where you can learn more about LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Invention System 2.0 - Robotics.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Mechancial toy gifts for holidays 2008 - Part 2

This is the second part of a two part post on mechanical toy gift ideas for the 2008 holiday season. Part 1 of the list may be found here.

Solar Car Book
Solar Car Book- Another great product from the folks at Klutz. It's hard to beat a instruction book that has a kit attached...or is it a kit that is has book?

Either way, at $20, this is a fun and easy way to build a little solar-powered car.

Mr. Machine
We owe it to ourselves to remember some classic mechanical toys. Mr. Machineis just such a classic. Like the 1960s version, the real fun is taking Mr. Machine apart and putting him back together. At $100, it may seem a lot for a toy, but how much is the education acquired worth? There should be one in every household, I say.

Wind-up toys from Kikkerland
Wind-up toys from Kikkerland- Wind-up toys have a whole new contemporary look. Kikkerland makes an assortment of wonderful walking, jittering, and squiggling critters. They cost between $9 to $18 each. Best of all: no batteries required now or ever.

Working Wood Trebuchet
Working Wood Trebuchet DIY Kit- No childhood is complete unless you have build a siege engine. These all-wood kits are great for the budding engineer or as a scale models for adults with a mind to build a full-size version in the back yard one day. The trebuchet kit sells for $40. You supply a hobby knife and white glue.

Tomy I-SOBOT Robot- This was good deal last year given that this is a very capable humanoid robot toy. This year however it is a STEAL at $85. For the the young, the toy can be used as is. For the advanced, sites are springing up all over the internet with instructions on how to hack this 6 inch tall wonder.

I hope this two part series has given you some good ideas for mechanical toy gifts this year.

If none of these items quite seem to satisfy your gift needs, head over to The Automata / Automaton Store for an assemblage of mechanical, automata, and robot toys. You might also peruse the MAKE magazine store for all manner of gifts for keen minds -- young and old.

Seasons Greetings to All!

[ Thanks again to the members of The Automata / Automaton Group on Facebook for their help in compiling this list! ]

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Robotic Lion Cub - The Inner Workings

The Make Magazine Blog has a link to an inside look at toy maker WowWee's robotic lion cub. Here is the Make Magazine Blog post.

Here is a link to the detailed disassembly of the robotic lion cub.

Here is where you can order your own WowWee Alive Lion Cub Plush Robotic Toy.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Two Ingenious & Elusive Mechancial Alarm Clocks

The Flying Alarm Clock
Have trouble getting out of bed in the morning? Here is an alarm clock that will force you get out of bed.

You see, when the digital alarm clock goes off at the prescribed time it launches a rotor into the air that flies around the room as the alarm sounds. The clock will not stop ringing until the rotor is returned to the alarm clock base.

Here's where you can learn more about the The Flying Alarm Clock.

The Runaway Alarm Clock.
Does this seem like the kind of thing you need but you don't want a propeller flying about your room? No problem. Here is the terrestrial equivalent. This little bugger rolls off your bedside table and and hides. It continues to emit a random pattern of beeps and flashes until you get up to shut it off.

Here's where you can get the The Runaway Alarm Clock.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Interview with Amy Jenkins, Toy Designer & Artist

Plush robots by Amy JenkinsAmy Jenkins has been involved with industrial grade design and fabrication for years and is currently developing a studio in California where she can explore ideas for toy design and production. Shown here are are her some of her plush robot creations.

She recently did an interview with the San Francisco chapter of Bizaar Bizarre and was kind enough to mention The Automata / Automaton blog.

Check out some of Amy's many, many creations at the Cozy Rampage blog.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Interview - Arthur Ganson's Influence on 2nd Artist

Jeff Lieberman is a musician, photographer, and robotics expert. He is also the host of "Time Warp" -- a show on the Discovery Channel. He speaks about his encounter as a teenager with the work of Arthur Ganson during this Studio 360 interveiw. This a very nice, candid take on a talented artist by another artist.

Here is the interview for you to hear:

[ Thanks Aaron! ]

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