Dropping Science: The Greatest Lego Machine


I received some of Lego’s robot building kit for Christmas last year and succeeded in building a little car that drove forwards, turned left and then got stuck under the coffee table. Japanese robot fan Akiyuki has gone one better than that (and then one better again and then about a million better on top of that) by constructing a lego machine that gives small toy balls the kind of epic journey usually reserved for Greek mythological heroes. It’s kind of a Rube Goldberg machine except it’s entirely self sustaining and so doesn’t require any components to be manually reset.

It’s an incredible feat of pointless yet wonderful engineering and I absolutely love it.


(We’re down at Demoncon in Maidstone tomorrow so if you’re about, feel free to pop along and say hi!)


Dropping Science: The Fastest Robot Alive


In a story that would fit quite nicely into a comic book, Boston Dynamics sprinting Cheetah Robot this week shattered the robot land speed record with a staggering speed of 28.3 MPH. That’s impressive enough when you consider that the previous record (also set by Cheetah) was a mere 18mph but downright terrifying when you realise that it also out paces the human land speed record held by Usain Bolt (why is 27.9 for those keeping score).

That’s right, science has given us a robot cheetah that can chase you down no matter how fast you run. So long as you only run on a treadmill, underneath a stabilising boom and within reach of a mains power supply.

For more info on the project, visit www.BostonDynamics.com

Suck it Asimo!


Dropping Science: The Open Source Sentry Gun That YOU Can Own!

This week, in an effort to be thoroughly responsible towards our readers, I want to talk about how to built a robot gun for use about the house! Before the weirder ones among you get too excited you should know that the gun in question is a paintball gun and if you were to try and build a live firing version then you would well deserve the bullet in the backside that would probably result.

Project Sentry Gun is an open source project which aims to provide users with all the info they need to create  “a paintball/airsoft spewing robot, that can turn the tides of any match.” Using a custom made computer program and some clever engineering, the team have succeeded in creating a robot that identifies targets, tracks them and covers them in paint. Just how responsible it is to put instructions for a robot gun on the internet is a debatable point, but you have to admit that when used responsibly it’s kind of cool. Next time Steve and I go paintballing, I’m building me one of these bad boys.

Now if only they’d included code to make it spew Portal 2 dialogue while it fires.


Dropping Science: Rise of the Nano-Copters!


Remote controlled Quadrocopters (aircraft powered by 4 rotors) have been cropping up around the world for a while now. The combination of stability and manoeuvrability  makes them perfect aerial toys but at heart they are essentially robots and wherever there are robots, there are robotics scientists.

A team from KMel Robotics, in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania have developed a swarm of nano-quadrocopters which can accept some scarily advanced programming. In this video the team demonstrate how the little bots can fly in formation and even alter their flight patterns to navigate around objects, contracting and expanding like some kind of creepy, flying mecha-water.

It’s a brilliant bit of robotics and an excellent demonstration. I just hope that somebody has John Connor’s number to hand.


Karakuri: The first Japanese Clockwork Robots

Karakuri from Matthew Allard on Vimeo.

The Japanese have had more than a passing interest in robotics for generations. Well before the term robotics was coined the fine art of engineering Karakuri was developed. The patient and refined art of creating small clockwork models move in an almost unimaginably natural and refined way. Check this out to see a lady robot right a tiny Japanese symbol and then nod suggestively at you. Beautiful and a testament to fine artists and engineers and designers who slave everywhere to bring pieces of rare and unimaginable beauty.

Dropping Science: Jedi-Bot

Forever the breeding ground for wonderful yet pointless tech experiments, university science departments have, since time immemorial created stuff that nobody can fathom but everyone secretly wants (well science departments and Apple). In this case, students from Stamford University have created a robot “Jedi” capable of sword fighting with a live human being. We’ve seen robots lightsaber fight with each other already of course, but apparently that’s too easy as the robots already know what each other is going to do (I suspect “easy” is something of a relative term). With this particular battle droid, the bot is actually capable of sensing the movements of its human opponent and altering its strategy to compensate. It performs this wondrous feat with the aid of…you guessed it…an X-Box Kinnect. Microsoft it seems, while failing to create a truly earth shattering gaming experience, are succeeding quite nicely in bringing about the birth of Skynet.

The force is strong with this bot.