New Robotic Gripper Uses Electrostatic Attraction To Grasp Objects


​That static attraction that you feel between a balloon and your hand may someday enable robots to grasp and pick up objects. A California-based company named Grabit recently showed off their new electrostatic gripper at the Robobusiness conference held in Boston. Their new flexible gripper utilizes electrostatic attraction to grasp objects. But not only is this method more versatile than other grippers, it’s a cheaper alternative to other gripper methods.

The gripper is comprised of a flexible, film-looking material lined with thin wires that induce a charge. When the wires run electricity through the gripper, the flexible bands bend inward and literally "stick" or attract to the object. The grippers prevent foreign particles like dust from collecting by switching the polarities back and forth. The company points out that this type of gripper can withstand repetitive factory use because of its durable and flexible material.

MIT Technology Review pointed out that this technology is already being used in factories. For example, electrostatic grippers work with holding microchip wafers. But unlike the robotic gripper, these grippers are flat.

We've seen unconventional grippers in the past. Some have been made with balloons filled with coffee grounds and other soft materials. It's a trend that has a goal of making robot dexterity more effective while maintaining a low cost. In the future, we could see this type of electrostatic gripper being used to handle small, delicate objects. Perhaps small semiconductors for solar cells?



Source: MIT Technology Review

Image source: YouTube

J-Deite Quarter Is A 4-Foot Transformer Robot Made By The Japanese

Image source: Project J-deite

Leave it to Japan to build a decent-sized, working Transformer robot. J-deite is an ongoing engineering project led by Japanese companies Brave Robotics, Asratec Corp., and Tomy Co. Ltd. The project, which is led by Brave Robotics' Kenji Ishida and Asratec Corp.'s Watur Yoshizaki, aims at creating a 16-foot-tall transforming car by 2020.

Their most recent development milestone is J-deite Quarter. It's a fully-functional transforming car robot that measures in at 4 feet (1.3 meters) and makes it 1/4th of the way towards the project's ultimate goal.


The robot isn't just another mock-up project, it's the real deal. J-deite Quarter runs on custom, Asratec Corp. software called "V-Sido." Powerful Futaba-made servos allow the 77 pounds of mass to morph from a walking robot into a driving 2 seat car. Though it's able to transform, the speed isn't too impressive. Walking speeds clock in at around .6 mph while the max car speed is a measly 6 mph. But who cares? It's a transforming robot!

Image source: Project J-deite

For developer Kenji Ishida (left), building transforming robots isn't a first. He actually made a working tabletop transformer back in 2012. Just think J-deite accept smaller and made to roll parking on desktops. You can view it on Mashable.

If all goes to plan, the developers will follow up with a scaled up version. The 8-foot J-deite Half will be introduced in 2016. J-deite King is set to be the final installment in this project and it's planned to tower over humans at 16-feet in height. Robots truly are transforming and rolling out.



Source: Project J-deite

Guy Creates Scaled Down Version Of Boston Dynamics' Quadruped Robot


It’s likely you’ve seen the famous Boston Dynamics quadruped robots that can hurdle over obstacles and carry heavy payloads. Robot maker and hobbyist, Max, recently shared on his robotics blog about his latest robotics project aimed at making a cheap and easy-to-build quadruped.

Max explains on his blog.
“For a long time I have been fascinated by walking robots, especially the awesome creations from Boston Dynamics. Their 26km/h wildcat made the headlines last year. But quadruped robots like that are something you can’t build by yourself. They require a huge amount of money and programming skills. Or do they?”
Using nothing but hobby electronics and some precision-cut parts, Max was able to construct a walking quadruped robot closely resembling one of Boston Dynamics’ robots. Here’s a couple of videos of the ‘baby quadruped’ learning how to move around for the first time.




The robot's chassis is comprised of cut acrylic designed to look like Boston Dynamics' LS3 robot. You can view some photos of that robot here. Max decided to use custom-cut 5mm acrylic glass for the robot's main body material. To bring all the pieces together, threaded nuts and bolts were used alongside the plastic pieces. You can see that 3 servos make up each leg and are mounted to the plastic plates. The electronics are embedded on top in the middle of the foam bumpers. Below is a photo showing just how small this robot is.


The internals of the robot include hobby servos (around $40 for all of them), an Arduino MEGA, a Bluetooth module, a rechargeable battery, and an ultrasonic sensor. The Arduino MEGA is capable of controlling all 12 servos while the Bluetooth module allows the robot to be controlled via an Android app. The sensor on the front acts as the robot's "eyes."

This is definitely one of the most unique and original homemade robots I've seen in a while. Perhaps you have your own robot project you'd like to share? Email us at contact[at]simplebotics.com to share your robotics project.



Via Hackaday

SenseFly's eXom Drone Offers Situational Awareness, Self-Adjusting Head, And Thermal Optics



Drone company SenseFly (a subsidiary of Parrot) is about to unveil their ultra-sophisticated and sensor-driven eXom. The eXom is a quadcopter that "offers professional users unprecedented situational awareness."

The real kicker behind this drone is that its amount of sensors and ability to navigate autonomously is unmatched when compared to other drones. Yes, I know, there are drones like AirDog and HEXO+ that offer autonomous flying. However, these drones don't really have any sort of obstacle avoidance technology. They're just built to follow their user around hoping they won't hit anything along the way. eXom, on the other hand, uses a full range of sensors to understand its surrounding environment.



We've contacted SenseFly to get some specifics on how eXom is capable of avoiding obstacles mid-flight. Here's what they told us. eXom is equipped with five "vision" sensors that allow the pilot to see in five different directions. Working in harmony with the vision sensors, five ultra-sonic sensors give distance feedback to the pilot. This allows the pilot to have an understand of how close eXom is to nearby objects and to see what's going on.

In addition to those sensors, eXom has built in proximity warnings that alert the pilot of nearby danger. eXom is also equipped with carbon-fiber prop protectors to absorb impact if there's any surface contact.

Now lets dig into the what this drone really has to offer. An onboard auto-pilot head houses an HD camera for taking video and ultra-HD stills. Thermal data can also be recorded with the drone's thermal camera. eXom's front-facing head also self-stabilizes when in close contact with objects. 270 degrees of motion also allow for the head to tilt completely upwards. SenseFly states that this is "crucial for challenging tasks such as inspecting underside of a bridge."

It's already clear that this drone may not appeal to those looking to shoot some action footage. Instead, this drone is targeted more towards professional and field use. I'm digging the nature-inspired features!

Judging by the teaser, we estimate that this drone will release in a couple of months. Its price tag is still unknown but we project it to be well over $1,000.



Source: SenseFly

A $4,000 Robot That Replaces Your TV, Stereo, And Plays With Your Cat? I'll Pass

Image courtesy: Keecker

The French company, Keecker, hopes to bring the age of robot butlers closer to reality. Their robot, which just went live on Kickstarter (surprisingly raising $78,000 already), is an expensive substitute for your TV, stereo, and babysitter. It can be connected to your phone and provide you weather updates and even project an internet browser onto your living room wall. Pretty neat except for the fact that it retails for $4,000.


For robots to truly become integrated into our homes, they must overcome a major problem that most robots face. That problem is accessibility. We can't have startups designing and building robots that sound useful on paper but cost a fraction of the price of a new car. Seriously, how many consumers are looking to pay $4,000 to replace their HD TV with a robot projector? Plus, this robot looks like it would just get in the way of things. It's huge!

Image courtesy: Keecker

I'm not saying that this robot isn't visually appealing or that it's useless. It really isn't. The only problem I see in it is that it doesn't offer enough to cost $4,000. 4K-resolution HD TVs cost less than $4,000, it's easier to just whip out your smartphone to browse the internet, and playing mobile games on your wall sounds silly. It would have to be able to clean dishes and make dinner to convince me to pay 4K.

I would rather pay $500 for a Jibo. A robot that orders food, talks, and take pictures sounds way more useful. Not to mention it's eight times cheaper than Keecker's robot.

Review: Sphero Ollie Is Smart Tube Robot That Puts Speed First

"A fast, but overpriced tubular robot that can perform amazing stunts."




Ollie is the latest brainchild from Colorado-based Orbotix. The company that brought us the smart and connected robotic ball, Sphero, is now offering a radically new robot. The Ollie is a tubular robot that puts speed above all other features. Connected to a smart device via Bluetooth, this advanced RC car is tricky to control but can attain 14 mph speeds and pull off amazing stunts.

The box comes with Ollie, nubby tires, hubcaps, a USB charger, and a manual. The company is also selling additional ramps, hubcaps, tires, and other customizable parts on their site.


Starting up the Ollie is relatively easy when compared to the Sphero. First you have to wake him by plugging him into the charger. Following that, you simply have to pair your device with Ollie. This is assuming you have downloaded the free app off of the Apple App Store or Google Play. With the implementation of new Bluetooth technology, pairing your smart device with the Ollie is easy. All you have to do is open the app and touch your device to Ollie for about 10 seconds. One a single charge, you'll get around 1 hour of drive time.


Right off the bat, it's a no-brainer that this toy takes some time getting used to. The driving is somewhat awkward and feels like you're driving a soup can. A bit of practice is needed to get familiar with the weird touch-screen control. If you're good enough, you can tilt the app into landscape mode and perform tricks and stunts. Let's delve into the app.


Ollie's app is simple and intuitive. Portrait mode offers a simple drive interface. There's a circle in the at the bottom of the screen that allows you to control Ollie by swipe movements. Ollie's orientation can be set by rotating the slider. The settings menu is accessed by pausing the app. Inside the pause menu, you can set the speed, drift, and handling. The settings also contain presets for indoor and outdoor use. Other controls such as portrait orientation lock are included.

For those who are interested in performing stunts and tricks, Ollie doesn't disappoint. This little bot will deliver you 3 foot vertical jumps off of ramps, quick turns, and rubber-burning drifts. Ollie is the perfect little action-packed robot that's capable of performing eye-catching stunts and tricks. Keep in mind it is not water-proof like the Sphero.


Another key feature of Ollie is that it's not as limited as the Sphero. In all honesty, I've read a lot of reviews of how Sphero got boring after an hour. I can't disagree. Ollie, however, has yet to wind up shelve collecting dust. Its fast speed, ability to get airborne, and high maneuverability make Ollie great for the outdoors. The only thing I found annoying was that Ollie ha s a range of about a half a tennis court's length.

For $99, Ollie makes for an expensive cylindrical RC car that can pull off some amazing tricks. Pick it up at gosphero.com or Amazon.

Angry Hawk Attacks Quadcopter (Video)



Drones are having some tough times these days. Not only are people shooting them down or calling the cops on them, hawks are taking them out of the skies.
On October 8th, YouTube user Christopher Schmidt was flying his DJI Phantom over Magazine Park in Cambridge, MA when a hawk decided to attack his quadcopter. 

The hawk, which probably suspected the drone was a predator invading his territory, quickly homed in on the drone. As Schmidt reacted by throttling down the props to reduce the chance of injury, the hawk attacked the drone and quickly retreated unscathed. Thankfully we were left with this entertaining footage!



Source: YouTube

iRobot Introduces uPoint, A Tablet-Based Control Platform For Military Robots

Image source: iRobot

iRobot isn't only in charge of the famous Roomba robots. The Massachussets-based company is a also a lead contractor for military robots. One of their most used robots in the military is the Packbot. Its job is to scan dangerous environments and disarm explosives.

The company revealed today a new tablet-oriented control method called "uPoint." It's an Android-based app that makes controlling military robots like the Packbot a hell of a lot easier. Operators will be able to control the robot's treads, robotic arm, and other features within the easy-to-learn app. A definite improvement from those clunky, box controllers.


While viewing a live-stream from the robot's front camera, operators can simply drag their finger across the screen to control the robot. The robot's driving as well arm and gripper movements can be manipulated by a simple swipe of the finger. Presets will also be in the app. This means that the simple tasks such as opening the robot's gripper or setting the arm at a certain angle can be controlled with minimal input. Pretty simple if you think about it. Using a touchscreen these days has become second nature for most of us.

Image source: iRobot

Although this is an app-based control system, it's more involved than Bluetooth-connected robots like Sphero. uPoint requires a mesh radio network to operate a robot. This mesh radio network can span over many kilometers by linking together multiple robots. Essentially, one robot could act as an antenna and send signals to another robot that's farther away.


Another advantage to running on Android tablets is the ability to multitask. This allows operators to check email, reference material, and other apps while controlling the robot on the side. iRobot hopes that this will increase productivity and allow operators to focus more on their mission.

iRobot is set to release this in the second quarter of 2015. So we have a little less than a year until mass robot armies can be controlled by consumer tablets.



Source: iRobot