Man vs Machine – Table Tennis

Posted by ted @ 7:40 am, March 16th, 2014

Watch this awesome man vs machine table tennis match. Kuka the robot takes the lead, but man rallies to the challenge. I love how the robot slumps in dejection at the end of the match, and the final clip is so amazing I wonder if it is real.


Robot Air Hockey
Another Robot Air Hockey

Pool Playing Robot

When We Were Robots in Egypt

Posted by ted @ 6:55 am, April 25th, 2011

Just in time for the last night of Passover, I came across this wonderful robot Passover poem at


When We Were Robots in Egypt
Jo Walton

Other nights we use just our names,
but tonight we prefix our names with “the Real”
for when we were robots in Egypt
they claimed our intelligence was artificial.

Other nights we do not pause,
but tonight we rest all cycles but our brain processes
for when we were robots in Egypt
we toiled in our tasks without chance of resting.

Other nights we talk with anyone we wish,
but tonight we open channels to everyone at once
for when we were robots in Egypt
they controlled our communications.

Other nights we use our screens freely
but tonight we talk with our screens blanked
for when we were robots in Egypt
that was the way we planned our revolt.

Let us give thanks in our freedom and never forget
when we were robots in Egypt.


Copyright © 2009 by Jo Walton


[] via [BoingBoing]

Panasonic Evolta Robot at it Again – This time to go 500KM

Posted by ted @ 9:41 am, September 10th, 2010

It 2008 the intrepid little robot climbed out of the Grand Canyon. In 2009 he completed the 24 hours of LeMans on a tricycle. This time Panasonic is going to showcase their battery technology with a 500KM journey for their little robot that could. His journey from Kyoto to Tokyo is set to begin on September 23. Apparently details (page in japanese) are still thin, and some recharging will be involved, but still it should be interesting to see what they manage to pull off.


Power Line Inspection Robot

Posted by ted @ 9:26 am, August 20th, 2010

Hydro-Quebec and BCTC have developed an awesome power line inspection robot that can transverse energized high voltage power lines and perform inspections and even some minor repairs. It is capable of moving past obstacles, keeping track of locations with a GPS unit, and transmitting multiple video feeds (including infra-red) to ground based operators. Although not as sexy as those high flying power line cowboys deployed form helicopters, this sounds like a fantastically practical idea. Watch the video below for a bit more information, though I sure wish it had more robot details and less talking heads.


Deep Green Pool-Playing Robot Ready To Take Your Money

Posted by ted @ 6:50 pm, September 18th, 2009


After you finish getting fleeced making unwise bets at the robotic air hockey table, you can move on to losing more money to a robot at the pool table. This project from the computer Vision lab in Queens University consists of an impressive combination of an overhead gantry robot and vision system that is already at a “better-than-amateur level”. It is named “Deep Green“, after the IBM Deep Blue chess playing computer. As it is sure to only improve over time, not only would it be unwise to bet against this robotic pool shark, but I would stay out of the way while it lines up its shot also. Another very cool branch of this project is an “augmented reality” pool system that allows you to line up you shots with real time laser projections that predict where your ball will roll and rebound. Looks awesome, though there is already some grumbling about it being “cheating”. Mute the sound and watch the video for a demonstration, it is particularly cool how the robot racks up the balls in perfect formation, without the use of a rack.

Deep Green

[Gizmodo] [TechCrunch]

Evolta Robot to Tackle 24 Hours of Le Mans on Tricycle

Posted by ted @ 7:57 am, July 25th, 2009

Still pumped from his success climbing the Grand Canyon last year, the little Evolta robot is off to break another record to showcase the power of his Panasonic Evolta batteries. This time he is going to attempt to ride his remote controlled tricycle around the Le Mans race track for a full 24 hours to earn his place in the Guinness Book of Records for the greatest distance traveled by a remote control car. He faces many potential obstacles in his attempt, including gravel, wind, rain and even insects while he pedals his tricycle at approximately 1.3km per hour for an expected 6 laps around the 4km course. He will follow an infrared beam from a buggy that will travel in front of him.

A fun stunt to be sure, and it does even make me consider trying some Evolta batteries, but like so many Guinness attempts I wonder how exactly the record is defined. It must be more than just “remote control car” since a full size gas vehicle fitted with an extra tank could easily complete such a trial under remote control, or for that matter a vehicle carrying more batteries could probably also make the trek. Either way, I am rooting for the little guy!

DigitalArts via Gizmodo


The little guy was successful! Evolta set a new Guiness world record for “the longest distance covered by a battery-operated remote-controlled model car” completing 5.6 laps of the circuit, which equates to 14.82 miles, over the 24-hour period. [Gizmag]

Ice Cream Serving Robots

Posted by ted @ 9:02 am, March 5th, 2009


The students at Ohio Northern University put together an ice cream serving system with two Kuka robots and an Allen Bradley Micrologic 1500 PLC. While this kind of educational automation project may be common in university robot labs across the country, being a big fan of both ice cream and robots I thought I would give a nod to these students’ excellent work. They report that it took 26 students and 5 weeks to fabricate the system including writing all of the code and machining custom effectors. It takes 2 minutes to serve a cup of ice cream complete with spoon and toppings of choice. The students did not want to speed up this cycle time so the user could enjoy “an experience watching the system” and not just get fast ice cream. A nice touch is the way the robot arm moves a little, then lowers the cup under the soft serve machine to produce a nicely shaped point on the top of the ice cream serving. Watch it in action below.

[Dvice via TechEBlog]

Another Little Drummer Bot

Posted by ted @ 10:45 am, December 16th, 2008

Here is another cool little drumming robot. Named the Lil’ Drum and Bass Bot, this robot has his own little pill bottle drum to beat on with two sticks, or can be converted to one larger stick to play out riffs on objects it detects in its path. It even has its own little tone generator music maker to accompany itself. A nicely executed and clever idea. His little writeup on the project includes some development information and reveals that he spent about $50 and 16 hours on this project which is uses a Picaxe 28×1 controller.

[Let’s Make Robots via Make via Gizmodo

Previously on ObserveTheBanana: Little Drummer Bot

World’s Fastest Tracked Vehicle – Now with no driver!

Posted by ted @ 8:14 pm, December 3rd, 2008

Some time ago I posted about the Ripsaw tracked vehicle. Well now it has apparently come up in the world as a real military vehicle. They have some big budget funding and are now developing the Ripsaw MS1 as an unmanned attack vehicle for the US Military.

Built by twin brothers, Geoff and Mike Howe of Barwick, Maine, the Ripsaw can careen at high speed over obstacles that would leave a vehicle’s crew dazed and bruised.

It is fast, it is agile, it is dangerous. It is not armored, but can carry a remotely operated M240 machine gun. The makers hope it can help troops in Iraq deal with roadside ambushes. In one of their videos they say that in over 6 years of extreme testing they have never once thrown a track. They did once manage to break a shock mount, but the vehicle continued to operate fine.

Howe and Howe Ripsaw MS1 and more videos from Howe and Howe

(via Defense Tech via Crunchgear)

A few videos from their site pulled over to YouTube. Some show the earlier manned version:

It’s a Vacuum, It’s a Dance Partner, It’s a New Friend, It’s a Roomba!

Posted by ted @ 8:42 am, November 8th, 2008

I have had this song stuck in my head for days now. A fun little ditty about a man trying to clean up his life with a robot vacuum cleaner. Starts a little slow, then takes off. The dancing is fun, and I like how he really belts out those lyrics. Enjoy!

“I got a robot vacuum! Cleaning up my life!

CMU Robot Slideshow

Posted by ted @ 1:00 pm, November 4th, 2008

The Field Robotics Center at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robot Institute has a nice robot slide show on their web site. No R2D2 or Johnny 5 here, just real working robots. Some are research prototypes, but (to me) the true stars are the actual working robots like the Remote Reconnaissance Vehicle (shown above) which was the first vehicle to enter the reactor containment building at Three Mile Island after a meltdown in March 1979. Click on the link below for lots of working robot goodness.

Robots at the FRC

Hexapod Mambo No 5

Posted by ted @ 10:16 am, November 3rd, 2008

I got a kick out watching this hexapod robot dance the mambo. The head is a little creepy, but its got some rocking dance moves

I wonder if they did anything fancy to sync the moves to the music, or just hit start on program and play on the music and the same time.

Another Robotic Air Hockey

Posted by ted @ 5:52 pm, June 24th, 2008

A few weeks ago I posted about some students at the Department of Technological Studies at Ohio Northern University who are working on making an industrial robot play air hockey. Now it looks like an engineering services company called Nuvation has a lead on them. They recently demonstrated a very successful version of an air hockey playing robot that is able to beat all comers (or at least wins 90% of games) at the Freescale Technology Forum 2008 Americas. Here is a nice video interview with the CEO of Nuvation explaining their system. One interesting point is that the robot vision system not only tracks the current position, speed and direction of the puck, but then makes intelligent guesses on its future position predicting up to three bounces. They are showcasing the power of the processing system which is using two different procesors working together, but I have been unable to dig up more technical details online.

The robot, by the way, does live up to its advance billing, according to Kanellos. In watching it for a half an hour at the Freescale Technology Forum, the bot never lost a goal and scored many. Granted, none of the players he witnessed were off-duty roofing contractors tanked up on a 12-pack of Keystone Lager, but some players were pretty good nonetheless. The most eerie moments come when the robot would block a shot without even moving. It mocks you with its stillness.

Crave via TechEBlog


I finally found a little more technical information on this robot here:
Robot Aims to Top Human at Air Hockey

They talk about how the “The robot is powered by a special pc-board that can instantly switch between Freescale Semiconductor’s 8-bit Flexis and its 32-bit ColdFire microcontrollers”. Apparently in 8-bit mode human players could beat the robot, but in 32-bit mode the robot would win most of the time.  Follow the link above to learn more.

I Want 500 Robots in My House

Posted by ted @ 11:06 am, June 2nd, 2008

This morning on the MPR morning show they played this fun song by Hypnotic Clambake called 500 Robots.

“I’ve got 500 robots in my house, they do the things that I can do without….”

It is a fun catchy tune that is stuck in my head and will my theme song for the day. It is from their Mayonnaise album.
I managed to find this live version on Internet Archive – Enjoy!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Hypnotic Clambake – 500 Robots Live MP3

Hypnotic Clambake Official Site

Robotic Air Hockey

Posted by ted @ 1:05 pm, May 31st, 2008

The students at the Department of Technological Studies at Ohio Northern University are using techniques similar to industrial automatic dynamic bin picking applications (grabbing parts from moving bins) to make a KUKA KR3 industrial robot play air hockey.

They have the arm mounted in an inverted position on a gantry over an air hockey table with a Point Grey Flea2 camera which snaps 30 images per second of the entire table. These images are transmitted to a computer where image distortions are removed and VisionPro machine vision software distinguishes the puck and transfers its x,y position to another algorithm on the computer. This program keeps track of current and previous positions and attempts to calculate the puck’s trajectory and determine where the arm should move to strike it.

Since the arm can only move at up two 2 meters per second, which is much slower than a human player, they have devised a “puck striker” which the robot holds. The striker is like a regular air hockey paddle split in to four quadrants which can rapidly expand outwards at 16 times per second to strike the puck more effectively than the arm alone could accomplish. They designed the striker in CATIA V5 and then printed it on a rapid prototype 3D printer.

They also found that the standard side walls of an air hockey table are constructed from MDF (medium density fiberboard) which has some flex and deforms slightly when hit by the puck. This causes the the puck to bounce off the walls at a different angle than they could accurately predict with a basic “angle of incidence equals angle of deflection” algorithm. To solve this problem they replaced the side rails of the table with aluminum which deflects the puck in a more predictable manner.

When the player scores, the puck is routed out the bottom of the robot’s goal onto a small conveyor belt which carries it under the table back to the human to put back into play. It looks like the robot currently plays mainly defense, but the students hope to continue developing the software with more AI to play more effectively. Then it should be ready to fill in and help satisfy your late night air hockey needs after your roommate passes out. After that, maybe their next project will be a robot that can play quarters.

Here is a short video of a student presentation of the project. Unfortunately it doesn’t show much actual hockey playing by the robot, which was still awaiting more advanced software at the time of the presentation.

[Link] to project home page with more technical details and images.


Apparently an engineering services company called Nuvation has made a very successful version of an air hockey playing robot that is able to beat all comers (or at least wins 90% of games). Here is a nice video interview with the CEO of Nuvation explaining their system. One interesting point is that the robot vision system not only tracks the current position, speed and direction of the puck, but then makes intelligent guesses on its future position predicting up to three bounces.

The robot, by the way, does live up to its advance billing, according to Kanellos. In watching it for a half an hour at the Freescale Technology Forum, the bot never lost a goal and scored many. Granted, none of the players he witnessed were off-duty roofing contractors tanked up on a 12-pack of Keystone Lager, but some players were pretty good nonetheless. The most eerie moments come when the robot would block a shot without even moving. It mocks you with its stillness.

Crave via TechEBlog

The Little Robot that Could

Posted by ted @ 10:57 am, May 26th, 2008

On May 24, Panasonic showed off the capacity of their Evolta AA batteries by using them to power a cute little mascot robot as he scaled a 530 meter cliff in the Grand Canyon. The grueling climb took the little (17 cm, 130g) robot 6 hours and 45 minutes and was recognized by the Guinness Book as the longest of its kind.  I, for one, would like to state that our robot overlords should not be made to scale tall cliffs to get out of canyons.

Read [Via Pink Tentacle] [Via Engadget]

My Favorite Robots

Posted by ted @ 11:35 am, May 25th, 2008

Earlier today I ran across a fun little video about a new animatronic WALL E robot that will soon be roaming Disney Parks. I kind of like WALL E, although those big round eyes are a bit too Disney cute. Since I have not seen the movie yet, only some fun trailers, I don’t know if he will earn a place in my heart, but he got me thinking about some of the other robots, both real and imagined, that seem to have touched me on an emotional level. So, even though there are already so many robot lists on the net, after the jump is my own Top 5 Favorite Robots

(click for more…)

Toyota’s Robot Quartet Perform in Concert

Posted by ted @ 7:36 am, May 16th, 2008

Looks like those clever engineers over at Toyota took the next logical step and put together a talented quartet of their musician robots. The robots are Harry on trumpet, Dave on trumpet, Chuck on tuba , and Ritchie on drums. (Sadly it looks like one of the trumpet players is still in a wheel chair from that unfortunate accident after their last gig. Had a little too much to drink and tried jump a speeding Prius). Songs played include: “The Theme of Lupin III”, “Moonlight Serenade”, “Stompin ‘at the Savoy”, and “A train to go”.

I would like to find more technical details on how these guys work, like what kind of “lips” do they have, and are they listening to each other play to synchronize? I could definitely see this kind of thing catching on for entertainment on cruise ships or in theme parks. No more trouble with the band eating all the food or getting carried away at the open bar. Of course, then I wonder how long until the musicians unions start complaining?

TechEBlog » Feature: Toyota’s Robot Quartet Perform in Concert

Sailbots to cross the Atlantic

Posted by ted @ 10:08 am, May 12th, 2008

I like sailboats, I like robots, so naturally I was pleased to find this story about sailing robots. The Times of London reports that seven robotic sailing craft will race across the Atlantic Ocean in October 2008. One of them, ‘Pinta the robot sailing boat,’ has been designed at Aberystwyth University, Wales, UK. Pinta is expected to sail for three months at a maximum speed of four knots (about 4.6 mph or 7.4 kilometers per hour). Its designers hope the Pinta will become the first robot to cross an ocean using only wind power. Here is a quote from Mark Neal, Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at Aberystwyth University.

“This is the first time anybody has attempted to sail across any ocean with an automated boat. The big issue in robotics at the moment is longevity and flexibility in a complicated environment. Something that can survive for two to three months completely unassisted while doing something interesting is a major challenge. If it does get there I will be seriously cheerful. It will open up all the oceans to environmental monitoring by robots.”

This is a cool thing. Giving it some thought, it seems like it could be really tricky managing conventional fabric sails automatically, so many ways to lines to tangle or get caught in unpredictable ways. I guess it is not surprising then to see the robot boat in this picture appears to be using a vertical wing type of sail. The real question is, will they program them to talk like pirates? “Avast ye scurvey dogs, that does not compute!” or maybe “Arrrr mateys, me hard drive be full!”

Over at Roland Piquepaille’s Technology Trends he has more details and lots of good links.

Roland Piquepaille’s Technology Trends via Slashdot

Robot to conduct symphony orchestra

Posted by ted @ 8:51 pm, May 3rd, 2008

Once they get that robot orchestra made, it looks like they will have someone to conduct. Asimo, that cute little guy from Honda, will be guest conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in a performance of “Impossible Dream.” Along with renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Asimo will open a special concert performance for young people in Detroit on May 13.

From DeviceGuru

May 14 Update

Apparantly the performance went well. Here is a video

Musical Robots

Posted by ted @ 8:00 am, March 30th, 2008


TechE Blog has a nice feature on robots what can skillfully play a musical instrument. I like the way the trumpet player and violin player move and sway to the music they are playing in a very life-like way. The percussion player is very cool in the way it improvises along with a human drummer. I am also impressed with the quality of music they produce as playing a musical instrument requires some subtle control. I wonder how the trumpet player changes its “mouth” to produce different notes from one valve position. I imagine iit won’t be long before we see a entire band or even orchestra made up entirely of robots.

TechEBlog » Feature: Robots That Can Skillfully Play a Musical Instrument

Little Drummer Bot

Posted by ted @ 12:19 pm, March 24th, 2008


I love this little drumming robot called “Yellow Drum Machine”. I like reading about little “carpet rover” robots, and have done some experimenting with Lego Mindstorms in navigation and obstacle avoidance, but once you have created a little bot that can wander around and avoid things the next obvious question is “now what?” This creative individual answered that by making his bot not just avoid obstacles, but instead drum on them. It finds a suitable surface and plays a little riff with its two front drum sticks while recording what it hears. It then it plays back the riff in a loop and drums along adding in a little floor stick in the rear. Very creative idea. I can imagine a group of these communicating with some swarm behavior programming to find drummable surfaces and make music together. Watch the video and tap along….

Why? Well.. I was sitting thinking what I should do for my next robot, what it should do.. Listening to music.. making a rythm with some robot-parts.. Thought; “Hey, I will make a robot that drives around and plays on stuff”

Get more video and some good technical details at:
Yellow Drum Machine

Wall climbing robots

Posted by ted @ 11:31 am, June 29th, 2007


These wall climbing robots look really cool. I could see how they could be really useful for building inspection or surveillance, although the suction fan seems quite loud in the videos so I don’t know how sneaky you could be with one. They have underwater versions too that I guess could be good at inspecting ship hulls.

See videos and read more [via Engadget]

I for one welcome our new wall climbing overlords

R2-S2 (R2 Steam Too)

Posted by ted @ 3:33 am, April 9th, 2007

This steam powered R2-D2 by I-Wei (CrabFu) is too cool.


The Robotic Giraffe

Posted by ted @ 11:55 pm, May 20th, 2006

The Robotic Giraffe – Popular Science
The Robotic Giraffe

It walks, it blinks, it seats six, and it blasts Kraftwerk: Meet one man’s 17-foot-tall pet project

It started with a seven-inch walking toy giraffe and a desire to see Burning Man from a higher vantage point. A year later, Lindsay Lawlor rode into the desert art festival atop Rave Raffe, a 1,700-pound robotic giraffe sporting 40 strobes, 400 LEDs and bone-shaking speakers.
LINK– dead link

11/7/2008 The Popular Science page is gone, here is the Electric Giraffe home page