Cold Jet Uses High Speed Jet of Dry Ice to Strip Clean Materials

Posted by ted @ 9:00 am, April 2nd, 2014

I had no idea that this was a thing. The Cold Jet machine shoots tiny pellets of dry ice at 600 to 1200 feet per second to effectively strip clean any surface it hits. When the pellets hit a surface they rapidly cool it to -109 F which causes rapid “differential thermal expansion and contraction” to remove tough contaminates. They can strip hardened tar from a paving machine, or dial it down and scrub the ink from a business card without damaging the paper. Unlike a sand blaster, the dry ice blasting media vaporizes on contact leaving no waste stream, though I have to wonder where all the tar “goes” when they are cleaning that paving machine. Awesome idea and it looks like it works great.


[Cold Jet]

Bell Labs Announces Communication Technology Breakthrough

Posted by ted @ 1:39 am, April 1st, 2014

Bell Laboratories announced today an amazing new breakthrough in hands-free texting technology.


Product team leader Mr. A. Bell explained, “we saw that people were getting more and more frustrated trying to communicate through the tiny keyboards on their phone, so we stepped up to do something about it.”

Their breakthrough new product allows users to simply speak into a handheld device to send a message to another user. The advanced digital technology behind the scenes then converts their voice into electrical impulses which are sent to the receiving users device and then almost magically transformed back into audible speech. This wonderful new “speech-to-text-to-speech” technology also provides an incredible live two-way simultaneous communication experience. You will now be able to talk over each other, interrupt each other or even finish each others sentences in ways never before possible with old fashioned texting.

While freeing users from the confines of the tiny keyboard is amazing in it’s own right, they went one step further. Bell explains, “While we were reinventing handheld communication technology we saw the opportunity to also tackle one of the most common complaints of today’s phone users, battery life”.

They have developed a unique solution to this age old problem plaguing phone users. They use an advanced flexible strip of conductive metals, or “wire”, to continuously provide an uninterrupted supply of electrical power directly into the handheld device.

Using this breakthrough combination of technologies allows users to now speak directly in to a handheld device and communicate to a friend a long distance away, and continue that conversation for as long as they like. Teenagers are already scrambling to have the devices installed right in their own bedroom for endless late night conversations.

“It is so simple!”, one anonymous teen user gushed, “All I have to do is enter a 7 digit number and I am immediately connected to my BFF” . Another tech-savvy teen commented on the performance of the new system, “It has amazingly low latency with almost no lag at all and I have so far never experienced a single dropped connection! The audio quality is like I have never heard before and the possibilities for gaming are intriguing since the hand free system can be used while simultaneously holding a console game controller.”

Bell has high hopes for the future of his technology. “We can only begin to imagine the effects this breakthrough will have on modern society and businesses.”

Wonderful 1970s Space Colony Art

Posted by ted @ 3:22 am, March 27th, 2014



I just love these gorgeous imaginings of space colonies from the 1970s. These are the kinds of scenes that filled my imagination when I read Varley’s Rolling Thunder, Bova’s Saturn or Nivan’s classic Ringworld. These massive space habitat’s have so much to fuel the imagination, from the upward curve of the landscape to the zero gravity points in the center of the ring or cylinder, and these images bring them to life.



Click through to the Public Domain Review and enjoy the whole set!

[via Boing Boing]

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

Awesome Blacksmith Machines

Posted by ted @ 11:32 am, January 16th, 2012

I would have to assume that there are old-school hammer and anvil type blacksmiths out there who consider these Hebo machines “cheating”, but wow are they cool to watch, and certainly much faster. I wonder is the iron is heated before going in, or is manipulated cold?

Watch in awe as they “Twist, endforge, scroll, emboss, texture, hammer tube, make baskets, and press belly pickets, and much more. ”


via Gizmodo

Helicopters and Explosions Woohoo!

Posted by ted @ 1:05 pm, December 10th, 2011


They are using  “Implosive Connectors” to make power line connections on the new towers along I-94 in Minnesota. A small explosive charge is evenly distributed around an aluminum sleeve and when it is detonated it uniformly compresses the sleeve down onto the cable inside.

How cool is that? And they don’t want you to watch? oh come on, it is like a frikkin James Bond movie along the interstate!

I never did see any helicopters on the day I drove by, but the company does have a video of the process, and other helicopter line work on their website :

Implosive connectors and helicopter line work


Born in a Digital World

Posted by ted @ 11:00 am, April 26th, 2011

Over at the (rather fascinating) blog The Technium they talk about what it means to grow up in a digital world. It is fascinating to witness how young children not only take to advanced technology so naturally, but also take it for granted as a basic and obvious part of the world around us. They illustrate the point with 3 humorous anecdotes. The highlight of my favorite one is :

One day he printed out a high resolution image on photo paper and left it on the coffee table. He noticed his toddler come up to up and try to unpinch the photo to make it larger, like you do on an iPad. She tried it a few times, without success, and looked over to him and said “broken.”


Find the rest at Born Digital


UPDATE: Over at the Kids.Woot blog Jason Toon responds. He wonders if maybe it is not such a good idea for very young children to have interact with these virtual environments so much when they are still struggling to understand the physical reality around them.

What happens to the human mind when, during the most crucial period in its cognitive and motor development, it encounters technologies like the iPad? We have no idea. I hate to pee in the virtual punchbowl, but it seems wise to at least consider the possibilities now. iPad-type devices are still only used by a relatively tiny number of people. If introducing children to iPads at an early age can harm their development, that’s a lesson we’d hate to learn after the devices have become as ubiquitous as TV.

Are iPads Good For Kids?

1959 Polymorphic Computing Video

Posted by ted @ 9:02 am, October 18th, 2010

This is a beautiful 1959 video explaining some basic distributed computing concepts which we take for granted today, but were a new idea then. Ramo is the R in TRW.
I love the pre-powerpoint presentation style.

Simon Ramo’s concept of “polymorphic” computing is laid out in stop-motion animation, accompanied by acoustic guitar.
The film anticipates parallel, distributed processing and the architecture of ARPANET and the Internet.


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]

My Next Snowblower!

Posted by ted @ 10:02 am, August 8th, 2009


After busting my back shoveling Minnesota snow for the last 12 years I finally broke down and bought a used snowblower this summer. But my old Snapper 10hp blower just doesn’t seem as mighty after seeing the above photo of Klimov VK-1 engines from Mig-15 jets mounted on the front of trucks to clear snow from airport runways in Russia. Now that’s a snowblower! I wonder how my neighbors would feel about one of these in the driveway?

And here is a Mig-17 powered ice melting machine:


I would think you would have to be careful not to torch the whole plane with one of those beasts.

[Gizmodo via TechEBlog]

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]

Electron Love

Posted by ted @ 3:06 pm, April 6th, 2009

Electron Love

ohm-my, I find you so irresistible,
I just don’t know watt to do,
Currently I ampere in your power.
You act so coil,
to induce me into your field,
its beyond my capacity to avoid.
please integrate me into your circuit,
I won’t be a load.
don’t leave me feeling like a dip.
Without you I could just diode
I know I am biased,
but you look so farad to me.
I just want to volt you all night,
and cuddle you in my armature.
You complete my circuit.
I’m not interested in your transistor,
don’t even want to meter,
I only have polarize for you.
How can I cell you on the idea,
the potential is there.
I need to switch you over.
Please don’t tune me out.
I can’t stand your impedance,
you know we were meant tube.
How can I bridge the gap?
How can I amplify my signal?
Help me rectify the situation.
There is nothing to sine,
just a wave will do.

A pun poem by ObserveTheBanana. Inspired by Breakfast Blues, by Trout Fishing in America.

Happy Make Pi Day 2009!

Posted by ted @ 2:00 pm, March 12th, 2009

Pi day (March 14 or 3/14) rapidly approaches once again. Last year we celebrated with . . . a pie. This year we are going to be in Minneapolis for my son B to play in a state piano competition, so I was not sure how we would recognize the day short of buying some pie. But now, salvation! Make: TV is having a Make: Day at the Science Museum of Minnesota.  We are SO there. As a subscriber to Make magazine, and the Make philosophy I often lament that all of the Maker Faire events take place in far off Texas or California, so I am very pleased to be able to attend a Make event right here in my home state of Minnesota, and even on a day when I will be driving to the Twin Cities anyway.

Celebrate the ingenuity and inventiveness in our community. Make: television, Geek Squad® and the Science Museum of Minnesota join forces to create a new event giving local engineers, artists, tinkerers and inventors the opportunity to showcase their DIY creations to museum visitors.

This family-friendly event features arts, electronics, musical performances, green technology, crafting and more!

Happy Pi Day!

The Many Faces of March 14

Helicopter Used for Wind Turbine Maintenance

Posted by ted @ 4:14 pm, January 6th, 2009

Here is an interesting video showing a Eurocopter EC135 being used for maintenance operations on giant offshore wind turbines in the UK. Gives a good perspective on the massive size of these turbines. Around here they work on land based turbines by just opening the door at their base and climbing up a bunch of stairs. These guys in the video appear to be part mechanic, part coast guard helicopter rescue diver. Considering how often these things usually need maintenance (at least monthly I believe) this looks like it could get expensive fast and reveals a potential downside to the otherwise excellent idea of offshore turbines which I have always believed in. Enjoy the video, although I recommend muting the poorly chosen soundtrack.

From Flight Global via Gizmodo

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:

Halbach Magnet Array

Posted by ted @ 2:00 pm, November 5th, 2008

Like most people who have taken basic science classes or played with refrigerator magnets and paper clips, I knew that stacking up magnets can increase their magnetic pull. Three fridge magnets stuck to each other can hold a longer chain of paper clips than one. Until recently I did not know that their is actually a special way to arrange magnets to increase their lifting power much more. Invented by the late Klaus Halbach, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the 1980s (relatively recently in my world view of engineering advancements) the Halbach Array is just such an arrangement. It was invented to focus accelerator particle beams but is now finding many other applications in brushless motors, linear motors and are critical component in a new generation of maglev trains.

This is how the magnets are arranged in a Halbach array:

It does not matter which way N or S is and long as you are consistent to the diagram.  It is not intuitive (to me anyway) but it turns out that this arrangement combines the magnetic flux along one side for a much greater force, while nearly canceling the pull on the other side.

“The diagram (below) shows the field from a strip of ferromagnetic material with alternating magnetization in the y direction (top left) and in the x direction (top right). Note that the field above the plane is in the same direction for both structures, but the field below the plane is in opposite directions. The effect of superimposing both of these structures is shown in the figure at the bottom:” Wikipedia

Here is another nice diagram that shows how the arrangement combines the flux of the different magnets.

The above diagram is from an excellent article entitled Build a Halbach Array which details the construction of a simple Halbach array using a wooden bock and Neodymium-Iron-Boron cube magnets. They point out how hard it is to push the magnets into position as they will always want to flip over and align N to S poles, hence the need for the wooden block and glue.

Halbach arrays can also be constructed in several cylindrical forms which turns out to be very useful for brushless AC motors, magnetic couplings and magnetic bearings.

You can learn more at Halbach Array which includes the customary Wikipedia complement of images, diagrams, formulas and links.

There is also a nice set of links at Halbach Array links

Now you know…..

Voith Schneider Propellers

Posted by ted @ 11:47 am, June 5th, 2008

Photo by Pro-Zak

I have always thought tugboats (or water tractors as they are sometimes called) were pretty cool. Maybe it was the Little Toot book I enjoyed back when I was just a little toot myself, or maybe it is all that raw power packed into a small no frills work machine, like a locomotive for the water. Indeed, I read that some tug boat engines were originally designed for locomotives, then had a sump oil pan added to handle the rolling sea. I have recently learned that many tug boats do not use a conventional propeller (or “screw” for you nautical types) for propulsion, but instead use a fascinating system called a Voith Schneider Propeller (VSP) which combines propulsion and steering in a single efficient unit. Developed nearly 78 years ago, the Voith Schneider unit uses vertical blades protruding from the ships hull from a rotating disc. The blades all travel around a common center axis, while each blade can also rotate on its own center axis. The pitch of the blades is continuously varied as they rotate around the circle so that they push against the water in one direction, while slicing though it in the other. This allows the system to produce thrust in any direction, or produce a rotational thrust around the center of the unit. This system allows a tug boat to move in any direction regardless of which way it is facing, and allows it to rotate in place, giving them excellent maneuverability in tight spaces. Keep reading for more details, diagrams, links, videos and more.

(click for more…)

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…)


Posted by ted @ 8:04 am, May 23rd, 2008

Hmmmm so many good choices, which one should I choose?

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

Pilot View gives you in plane view from RC planes

Posted by ted @ 3:01 pm, May 10th, 2008

I know people have been hacking together small video transmitter systems into RC planes for years now, but here is a prepackaged system that puts together all the parts and pieces you need into one nice bundle. It has a small color camera with integrated transmitter, video receiver and video goggles with light blocking screen around the edge. At $549 it is not cheap, but could be loads of fun, especially if you fly over any dramatic scenery. Seems like a good thing for a RC club or group to buy and share. One of the most excited parts is the soon to be available options for a OSD (On Screen Display) module which adds things like  altitude, heading, speed and direction to home to your display. An even fancier “DragonOSD” will add a scrolling compass and autopilot functions. There will even be a pan/tilt unit available which will allow you to look around in different directions. That should provide a much greater flying experience by allowing you to look out the side to keep the horizon in view during high banking turns.

Heck, one of these would even be fun on RC cars and boats too!


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