Lulz Security, a group of hackers who have taunted major corporations and seriously large government agencies, have released a statement saying they have finnished their little rampage of terror. 50 days after it first started the attacks the group have released a statement on The Pirate Bay - a dubious file-sharing site - the group said its six members had decided to “say bon voyage” as Lulz Security, saying “While we are responsible for everything that The Lulz Boat is, we are not tied to this identity permanently” :: Read the full article »»»»
According to results of new research by Australian scientists from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology – RMIT - self-powered electronics have come one step closer to reality. RMIT researchers have successfully measured a piezoelectric film’s capacity for turning mechanical pressure into electricity. It may sound like an idea from the realm of science fiction, the discovery could eventually allow laptops to be powered through their typing.
“The concept of energy harvesting using piezoelectric nanomaterials has been demonstrated but the realisation of these structures can be complex and they are poorly suited to mass fabrication” said RMIT’s Dr. Bhaskaran. Read the full article »»»»
Pentax has announced what it claims is the first pocket-friendly interchangeable lens camera to sport its new bayonet – Q – lens mount. Pentax says that its Q mount is about a third less in diameter than the more familiar K-mount, thanks to a reduction in the distance from the lens mount surface to the image sensor and by tweaking the size of the lens image circle to be proportionate to the sensor. The Pentax Q also makes use of a compact sensor and sacrifices the onboard optical viewfinder, mirror box, focusing plate and autofocus sensor to help keep proportions pocket-sized.
According to the press release, “the Q carves out an entirely new camera category that extends beyond traditional digital compact, APS-C or 4/3 digital cameras.” This is a bit disingenuous; the Q isn’t so much smaller than models like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 or Sony NEX series that it’s in a category all by itself. All of them are jacket-pocket-friendly equipped with a pancake prime lens, but none of them are with a standard zoom. The Q’s body is roughly the size of the Canon PowerShot S95, but as with all ILCs, the lens can’t retract into the body and so, unless you have TARDIS pockets, there will always be an issue. It is lighter, though, and like Panasonic and Olympus, the lenses are much lighter than Sony’s E-mount offerings. If not for size, I’m not sure exactly what niche Pentax thinks it’s carving out. Retro? Olympus got there first. Overpricing? Everyone else has been there, still doing that, though at $800 Pentax seems to be trying to outdo the crowd. Read the full article »»»»
Kilobots to take over the world, $14 dollars at a time!? A Harvard University research group – Self-Organizing Systems – have designed and made available an extremely simple and cheap robot capable of working as a collective, a team. Looking like a peice of 1950′s electronics the Kilobot is able to move, sense and react. Is this the most dangerous robot ever invented or an essential tool for investigating robotics ? Intended to be a research tool for programmers developing control logic for self organising robots, with $14 worth of parts they are cheap enough to allow testing of 1000′s of robots in a swarm – collective group of robots working together -, something even the big research groups like MIT couldn’t afford to do without Kilobot. The Kilobots require a hard surface to operate so we are all safe, until the world is laminated that is.
The Kilobots have been developed by the Self-Organizing Systems Research Group to allow experimenting with extremely large swarms of robots, potentially in the thousands. The Kilobots system allows researchers to quickly deploy and test new control code / algorithms. In the would of the swarm numbers are king. A popular commercially available robot, the e-puck costs over $1300, equipped with an infrared communication ring for collective operations and other advanced components, this cost has limited the size of the swarms to small numbers, usually in the tens of robots. At $14 per robot the Kilobot changes this.
Swarm robotics and the study of collective behaviour is a promising field of robotics that has been gaining momentum in the last few years. This form of robotics avoids all of the problems associated with overly complex robotics, time to program, debug, complex mechanics, basically everything about a modern robot is very complex and expensive. Kilbots on the other hand are more like insects, like ants bumbling around exploring the world the Kilobots are based on extremely simple logic, there are no supercomputers or programmed emotions, only the essentials are present. The kinds of behaviour that Kilobots are good at can be seen in the videos on the Kilobots page. They demonstrate very insect like behaviour but complete quite complex tasks. The Forege and return home program simulates ants exploring for food, laying a trail and returning home with the food. The synchronization program demonstrated 25 Kilobots synchronizing watches using their infrared communications.
To make controlling the swarm easy, an overhead controller – using an InfraRed controller, The Kilomote – directs the Kilobots. All control functions can be transmitted to the swarm as a whole, avoiding the need to individually deal with robots. All menial functions like charge or even turning them on and off are controlled via the Kilomote. Kilomite has the ability to program the entire Swarm, the system is able to quickly deploy and test new code / algorithms. These algorithms are generally meant to control collectives of hundreds or even thousands of Kilobots; however, for reasons of cost, time, or complexity, they are generally validated in simulation only, or on a group of a few 10′s of robots.With only 10 robots in a swarm individual attention to each robot is possible. The Kilomote is mounted over the test bench and connected to the controlling PC, key to controlling all of the Kilobots with a a single command, no matter how may are involved in a test. The battery test function is triggered by the Kilomote causing each Kilobot to display its battery charge using a coloured led.
Communications and proximity sensing is taken care of using an infrared transceiver – infrared LED transmitter and infrared photodiode receiver -, mounted on the underside of the Kilobot, pointing down. By reflecting IR light off the hard surface of the test bench the Kilobots are able to be aware of other kilobots judging direction and distance to near-by Kilobots, as well as perform general communications. The Kilomote also bounces its signal off the surface to the underside IR receiver of the Kilobots. A simple but very effective system. The IR transceivers are capable of transmitting/receiving up to 30 kb/s of data with robots up to 10cm away.
The Kilobots have no wheels, legs or apparent form of locomotion. In an effort to keep the costs low the Kilobots abandoned tradition forms of motion, instead opting for two vibrators capable of making Kilobot rotate left, rotate right and move forward. Working in the same way a vibrating mobile phone will move around on a coffee table or hard surface – centripetal forces -, the Kilobots can move at 1cm/sec, not light speed but still enough for their purpose. The down side to this kind of movement is it provides no location or distance information. Walking and turning wheels allow an easy way to tell how far you have travelled, vibrating across the table doesn’t provide this kind of information – optometry.
The on-board lithium ion battery is good for three hours of continuous operation, the other benefit to the piezoelectric vibrators is the tiny amount of power they use unlike electric motors. Once the batteries starts to run low the Kilobots can be returned to the charger base where they are charged. The Kilobots also have the ability to drop into sleep mode, in this mode batteries are conserved until a signal or sensor tells the Kilobot to wake up.
The brains of the Kilobot is a simple Atmega328 microprocessor – running at 8 Mhz and with 32K of memory – runs the robot behavior program as well as interfacing with all the low-level electronics such as motors, communication, power circuitry, and the RGB LED. The microprocessor is able to be reprogrammed over the IR signal from the Kilomote, once the program has been received the Kilomote will reboot and start executing the new program.
Applications for swarm robots are actually the same as for most machines and robots. Assembly, cleaning, gathering etc are all a possibilities being investigated by Mining and agricultural industries. Cleaning and maintenance of hard to get places, could be easily taken care of by swarms of little cleaners. Sensing in dangerous environments and other tasks done with difficulty by today’s robots could be taken over by swarms of cheap Kilobots.
While the Kilobots may be defeated by a carpeted floor – limiting their ability to take over the world – they are the first large-scale robotic swarm commercially available to anyone and everyone. Kilobot’s may eventually even make it into the hobby stores. Building and programming your own swarms could become the new model building, hobby of choice.
Further information at Kilobots site
Buddha’s Brother out…
We’ve sat around this office wondering for months why someone hasn’t just slapped a solar panel on the lid of a laptop, it seems like a marriage made in technoid heaven, a flat surface and a flat panel solar array? Turns out it’s harder than we thought. It’s take the convergence and improvement of 2 technologies. 1. Laptops need to use Less power 2. Solar panels need to produce More power. Samsung have officially announced the solar-powered Samsung NC215S netbook. Two hours of sunlight exposure of the unit’s solar panel is said to give up to one hour of working time, with the total battery life estimated to be 14 hrs. Samsung has been working on this since 2009 - as part of their sustainability statement .
Inside the netbooks are kitted with a couple of Intel Atom CPUs choices, hybrid sleep mode, a 10.1-inch 1024 x 600 pixel display – designed for use in direct sunlight. Samsung’s NC215S is set for release on the 3rd of July 2011. Read the full article »»»»