Lets Rock : Event recap

Just like that, it’s all over. So what did we learn? Well first of all we learned that Steves Death was greatly exaggerated. At least Steve has a sense of humor about obituaries going out when they arent supposed to. But in Apple news, we learned were getting new iPod nanos in 8 and 16 gigs for $149 and $199 respectively, available in a rainbow of colors. They are all made of aluminum with glass screens.

The iPod touch was updated with an external speaker and built in Nike+iPod support for $229, $299, and $399 for 8, 16, and 32 gig models.An update to the iPhone firmware to version 2.1 is coming. Supposedly it will fix most of the issues users have been having with crashing apps, hour(s) long backups, and general bugginess. This is the thing I’m looking forward to the most, since there is absolutely no way I’m picking up an iPhone until they fix it.

Of course, with any iPod update comes a bright and shiny new version of iTunes. This event was no exception, and Steve seemed quite set on convincing the crowd that its new genius feature was as cool as he seemed to think it was. Apparently iTunes will now let you opt-in to a database of user generated song ratings and numbers of plays, as well as letting you see what other users who like your types of music tend to enjoy. It’s neat, and quite a bit like Pandora.

They also added HD television shows to iTunes and announced the return of NBC, who I guess was really starting to miss the revenue that iTunes generated for them.One thing that surprised me was the way they have skewed the iPod touch and the iPhone. I was surprised to see them go so directly after the gaming companies by advertising the new touch as a gaming device. Though, I can’t be surprised considering the ridiculous level of quality they showed off in some of these upcoming games. They absolutely give the PSP and the nintendo DS a run for their money if not surpassing them completely.I’m really curious to see if the mainstream gaming media will begin to embrace the iPod touch as a member of the console market alongside devices like the PSP. Certainly a lot of games have already been downloaded, and the amount of money floating around the App Store is nothing to sneeze over. I think gaming on the iPod touch and iPhone simply needs a great killer app something SO cool that it begins to drive units based on a piece of software alone. That will be the point at which Apple can begin to take hold of the mobile gaming market too. And considering the iPod touchs new tagline is the funnest iPod ever. You can bet your bottom dollar that they are aiming straight for it.

WEAPONS OF THE WORLD: The Rareness of Throwing Knives

Robots in Motion

  • and the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology are attempting to make humanoid robots move more like real people. "If robots are to become assistive to people, then they need to have the fluidity and flexibility that humans have," says Dr. Howard N. Zelaznik, a Purdue professor.

  • The aim is not only to create less mechanical-looking motion but also to design robots that can combine basic movements to perform tasks they have not been specifically trained to do. "Imagine that a tennis ball hits a bad piece of grass at Wimbledon," Zelaznik says. "How does the performer quickly and fluidly change his or her stroke?" Using the same type of equipment used to create human animation in movies, the team will put sensors on people's arms and legs to monitor movements in three dimensions. This way, they can track how people learn to perform simple tasks.

  • Advances in humanoid robot technology may come at a particularly opportune time, since a surge in these robots is expected. One of the best-known humanoid robots is Honda's Asimo, a semiautonomous, astronaut-like creation that greets guests at the Honda plant in Tokyo. And Kawada Industries in Japan recently introduced the HRP-2, a humanoid that can lie down and then get up.

Robot claw gives lie to ripping yarn of Jurassic

Park monsters

  • In the film Jurassic Park, the vicious velociraptors ran around terrorising everything in sight, ripping open other creatures with their sharp, curved claws. But now it turns out that these dinosaurs did not use their claws for cutting and slashing at all.

  • By making a robotic reconstruction of a dromaeosaur limb, the dinosaur on which the velociraptor was mostly based, scientists have shown that dromaeosaurs used their claws as tools for clinging on, embedding them into the flesh of their prey. Phillip Manning, from the University of Manchester, and his colleagues were asked to build a robotic reconstruction of a dromaeosaur limb for a BBC TV production, The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs, shown last month. Using a mixture of steel, aluminium, carbon fibre and Kevlar, with a hydraulic system to control movement, Dr Manning and his team built the robotic limb, basing it on information from fossilized dromaeosaur bones.

  • Using this disembodied limb, the scientists were able to test how the dromaeosaur used its claws. They publish their findings in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters today. First, they stretched chamois leather across a frame. "It cut through this no problem, but this wasn't a very realistic test," says Dr Manning.

  • How does PatrolBot find and interact with an intruder? The standard PatrolBot has two-way audio. It also has text to speech, and it can play WAV files. The video is pan-tilt-zoom, and we have a 360-degree camera. You can also get a configuration of the robot that will flash startle lights. One thing security loves is that you can see the people walking by the robot because of the laser, even in the dark. So you can see their footprints moving across the floor plan.

  • The robot can set up what's called a laser checkbox, and if anyone walks through this particular area, the robot will notify the guard. Some of the robots have some sort of access control system, a card reader or iris scanner on them. So they can say, "You must identify yourself now."And if you don't? Well, it has alerted central control, so if central control doesn't get an identifying tag, depending on the facility, all the doors can lock or someone can come racing down and get you.

  • What other tasks can it perform? For insurance purposes, you have to check tags on fire extinguishers and defibrillators to make sure that they are in operation. The robot can go there, automatically zoom in [and] take a high-resolution photograph. Each of those photographs is time- and location-stamped.If you have the system integration module, you can link up with a third-party control system. In that case, if it's integrated, the Honeywell alarm can call the robot to the door. Eventually you'll be able to follow the person, but now it just tells the person, "You must swipe your card." It can notify the alarm system of its location..

What role can robots play in the data center? Energy optimization, RFID reading for tracking servers and assets within the center, surveillance and troubleshooting, particularly in remote facilities. Also, you may have alarms coming from within the [computer monitoring] systems and the robot can be called automatically to go and investigate.Can it communicate with other IT systems? We've set ours up to communicate with text or XML via our ARCL command language. This is good because it's compatible with both embedded controllers and PCs. Many building-automation systems are functioning with embedded controllers.If you're going to use it for energy conservation,

It's got to be talking to the rest of the building, to your HVAC and the rest of the systems. To move around the building, it may have to talk to your elevators, to electronic doors.In the developer software that comes with it, there's a system integration module that uses simple text that just permits the system to send data into your security system or your Tivoli system or whatever. The interface development module takes things like the floor plan and allows you to export those and the video from the robot into your own application.What does it cost to buy, configure and maintain a mobile robot? It would start around $40,000.There is a 10% per year maintenance fee.

We recommend that you clean the laser cavity and the laser once a month. Quarterly, you should change the batteries and do some other cleaning.How do you envision these robots working with building-automation systems? People are most interested right now in energy optimization because energy is such an issue. The thing people like most is that the robot is moving in the middle of the space where people move. You're not going to hang six sensors in the middle of a hallway, but that's really where you want to know what the temperature is. That's why people like the robot. It goes where the people go.

What will be the next big thing in mobile robot technology? The forefront is in outdoor three-dimensional navigation. We are working on things like, How do I follow a road in a private facility?For the IT community, what they'll want is better manipulation [of objects]. Now we're doing some simple manipulation, what's called a one or two degree of freedom manipulation. Right now we can transport things, we can carry, we can sense, we can look. But being able to adeptly manipulate things is what the next challenge is.