Robots that look like oversized hockey pucks, dune buggies or refrigerators may be practical for cleaning floors, exploring Mars or dispensing beer, but it’s the walking robots that capture our imagination.
The trick is making them use their legs to walk efficiently, not like stiff-legged metal monsters out of a 1950s B movie.
A new computer simulation by a Vermont researcher shows how robots might learn to walk better by starting on their bellies, the same way animals evolved.
For the simulation, Josh Bongard created virtual robots that could change their shapes over time.
The robots started with snakelike bodies. His simulation applied different movement algorithms to the robots’ segmented spines. If the algorithms were successful at moving the robots closer to a target, they’d be used in the next iteration. If not, they’d be thrown away.
I was very happy to appear on the NPR and WBUR radio program On Point last week, for an hourlong discussion of haiku with the host, Tom Ashbrook.
Guests included Frogpond editor George Swede and economist Stephen Ziliak (the author of an essay called “Haiku Economics” in the most recent issue of Poetry) as well as myself.
I’ve been an admirer of George’s haiku (and essays) for a long time, and I was impressed by the generosity of his approach to the form. It was also a nice chance to explain why it is I see a confluence between Twitter and texting and haiku.
Many listeners called, tweeted or e-mailed their own haiku in to the show, and George and I both read quite a few. It was one of the most enjoyable and pleasant radio experiences I’ve done yet.
Most of the tablets released in 2011 will be Android-based, but a few stalwarts are sticking with Windows.
We recently got a closer look at two tablets shown off in Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s CES 2011 keynote: The Acer Iconia and the Asus Eee Slate EP121. Together, they show the potential — and the limitations — of a Windows-based tablet strategy.
It’s not that surprising to see Windows tablets, given that computer makers have been making them since 2001. In a sense, the Tablet PC never went away.
But in another respect, these tablets show just how wrong-headed Microsoft’s plan to use Windows for everything is. The company recently announced plans to create versions of Windows for ARM-based processors like the Qualcomm Snapdragon and Nvidia Tegra 2, which are found in a lot of upcoming tablets and high-end smartphones.
A game currently in development by Mattel will let you play Angry Birds in real life.
The iPhone and iPad game has been near or at the top of the Apple App Store’s “most popular” list for months, and has been downloaded more than 50 million times. It’s been praised for its realistic physics engine, which lets you fling virtual birds at wooden and glass fortresses containing little green pigs. And it’s ridiculously addictive.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that Rovio, the makers of the game, is partnering with Mattel to make a game that lets you do all this in real life. It’ll be available in May, 2011 for $15.
Game play is simple: You pick a card and build the structure shown on it. Then your opponent uses a little catapult to fling little plastic birds at the structure, scoring points for knocking it down.
What could be easier? I like the way this game takes a classic kids’ activity — knocking down your sister’s tower of blocks — and turns it into a constructive group game. I only wish the blocks, birds and catapult were a little bit bigger. As it is, the plastic pieces are too small and lightweight. In my house, they’ll probably get batted under the couch by the cat or swallowed by the dog in no time.
Until then, though, this game promises to be just as fun as, and less socially isolating than, the iPhone version.
But it’s all going to get even easier with the advent of cheap cameras with dual lenses that can capture 3-D images on the fly. In 2011, we’ll see Sony’s 3-D Handycam and 3-D Bloggie, five cameras and various 3-D lenses for still cameras from Panasonic, a 3-D Fujifilm camera, and even a 3-D camera from Polaroid.
In this short video, I take a look at some of these technologies on the tradeshow floor of CES.
Because if you have no interest in watching Avatar again, you might still want to look at 3-D photos of your vacation to Paris.
U.S. iPhone customers have been eagerly awaiting a Verizon-branded iPhone almost since day one.
Starting February 10, they’ll have that option. Verizon announced Tuesday that it would soon offer the iPhone 4 on its 3G network. The 16-GB model will cost $200 and a 32-GB model will go for $300, both with a two-year contract.
But will you want to make the switch? That depends on what’s important to you.
Here are a few things to consider in weighing which network to go with.
LAS VEGAS — Put this tubular object in your backpack, and you can generate juice for your cellphone — just by walking around.
The nPower PEG (short for “personal energy generator”) contains a weight, a spring, some inductive coils and a battery. Put it in your pocket or your backpack, and it wiggles around with your body’s natural movements. As the internal weight moves, it generates electricity in the coils, which gradually charges up the battery. You can then transfer that power to your phone or iPod via a mini USB port and an adapter cable.
It’s a brilliant idea, and anyone who has ever watched their battery indicator dwindle to nothing will surely love the idea of getting energy from nothing more than walking and fidgeting. However, for power-hungry smartphones, you’ll only get about a minute of talk time for every 15 to 30 minutes of walking, the company says. That’s hardly enough to keep your phone alive all day.