Tiny Boston Dynamics robot dog is a cute, affordable android pet that can follow commands

Say hello to Bittle – he isn’t as dangerous-looking as his elder brother, the Boston Dynamics robot dog Spot. In fact, Bittle’s name rhymes with ‘little’ for a reason. Weighing just 10.2 ounces (290 grams) and measuring a mere 7.9 inches from nose to tail, Bittle is quite literally palm-sized… although don’t let its diminutive size fool you. Armed with 10 servo motors that power its limbs and neck, Bittle is just about as capable as the Boston Dynamics robot dog. In fact, it can even follow commands, learn tricks, and perform them at will! Sounds like Bittle’s a pretty expensive little pet, right? Well, designed to be more of a robot building system and STEM education tool for people to learn and play with, Bittle just costs around $299.

Designer: Rongzhong Li

Click Here to Buy Now: $278 $299. (7% off with coupon code “yanko7”). Hurry, sale ends May 20.

Designed on an open-source platform, Bittle is a nifty patent-pending robot that makes learning how to code an absolute ‘treat’! The robot building kit comes with a plastic body that you can buy flat-packed and assemble yourself, or pay 10 bucks extra to get shipped pre-assembled and ready to use out of the box. Each Bittle comes with 10 servo motors, plastic body parts, a proprietary circuit board compatible with Arduino Uno, Bluetooth and WiFi dongles, a 7.4V rechargeable battery, and an infrared remote to control your dog and have it perform tricks. For the most part, Bittle sports a modular design and you can add/subtract elements to create the dog you dream of (if you’re looking for something akin to the Boston Dynamics bot, the head pops right off).

They say an old dog doesn’t learn new tricks, but that isn’t really the case with Bittle. Your programmable bionic buddy understands many languages, C++ through Arduino IDE, Python, Codecraft (a Scratch-like drop and drop coding environment), and a bunch of human languages(requiring the use of a Raspberry Pi for voice command recognition). It can also be programmed to walk, jog, jump, and climb up obstacles with ease. You can attach an infrared sensor that’ll help Bittle with obstacle detection, and the incredibly nimble and flexible limbs help Bittle even get up if it collapses over. Moreover, its open-source design based on Petoi’s quadruped robotic pet framework OpenCat, means that all of Bittle’s code sits in a GitHub repository for you to immediately begin tinkering with, and an ever-expanding community is always providing new tips and tricks that you can use to make Bittle do your bidding… just promise us you won’t turn it sentient.

Build a robot dog on your own!

Self-righting after falling from a slope (triggered by an infrared remote)

If you want a little more out of Bittle than just shaking paws and sitting on command, its modular design really gives you the freedom to explore this tiny canine’s true capabilities. Bittle’s mouth can be clipped with something like a tiny camera module that allows the dog to capture a video feed and see things and react programmatically. Even though the dog weighs just a few ounces, it can carry nearly double its weight, making it perfect to do odd tasks like carrying Oreos for you (sometimes you really want an Oreo) or other tiny objects. Bittle’s battery pack provides one hour of continuous usage, unlocking a bunch of fun possibilities, and adventure-loving tinkerers can also swap out Bittle’s head with other 3D-print structures or paint Bittle’s body, tweaking its appearance to make Bittle look like some other animals.

Petoi Nybble

Petoi, the creators of Bittle (and its cat counterpart Nybble), designed the robot quadruped to be everything from a cute toy to a powerful learning platform that gives you insight into how robots work and how they understand cues and commands. Bittle ships with an infrared remote that lets you control it, and also has companion mobile/desktop apps that forms a perfect foundation for experimenting with robotics… without breaking the bank!

Click Here to Buy Now: $278 $299. (7% off with coupon code “yanko7”). Hurry, sale ends May 20.

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Tiny Drone Swarm Navigates Bamboo Forest Autonomously

Because the robotic apocalypse can’t come soon enough for some people, researchers at China’s Zhejiang University have programmed a swarm of small drones to navigate autonomously to avoid obstacles. In this case, those obstacles are the entirety of a bamboo forest. It’s been real, folks, but there is officially nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

All of the ten-drone army “are equipped with depth cameras, altitude sensors and a small computer, all running a custom algorithm for collision avoidance, coordination, and flight efficiency.” Wow, so not only are they flying around, not crashing into things, but they’re doing it efficiently. The future, ladies and gentlemen! Humanity doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in the devil’s butt.

The drones were allegedly developed to be utilized for aerial mapping applications, as well as conservation and disaster relief. Maybe they originally were, but all that goes out the window when they become sentient and decide the only disaster that needs relief is the planet wiped clean of humans. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a rocket to the moon to build.

[via TechEBlog]

This lightweight exoskeleton doesn’t need batteries to give you superhuman powers

We’ve seen our fair share of real-world exoskeletons that try to show how manual labor could be different in the future, even without the help of robots. True to the common image of these mechanical suits, these exoskeletons are often large, heavy armors that don’t trade comfort and flexibility for power, making them more tedious to use despite their advertised benefits. It doesn’t have to be like that, though, especially if you’re not aiming to lift heavy crates anyway. This exoskeleton, for example, doesn’t use batteries to move, making it better suited (no pun intended) for more recreational activities.

Designer: Skeletonics

Exoskeletons, at least those that aren’t works of fiction, are often designed to allow feeble humans to perform extraordinary feats. In most cases, it’s to enable work that would otherwise be impossible for a normal human being to perform, like lifting heavy objects. Sure, a robot arm or forklift could probably do that, too, but those would lack the finesse that comes naturally to humans. At the same time, there will be places where heavy machinery won’t be able to squeeze into to get the job done.

On the flip side, those suits, or sometimes just legs, aren’t exactly the most comfortable or the easiest to wear. In addition to the weight of the metal parts themselves, the exoskeletons are weighed down even more by batteries and electric motors that make the parts move. While they might be more agile than some industrial machines, they aren’t exactly more graceful than their purely mechanical counterparts.

Skeletonics is different in almost all aspects. It isn’t designed to be an industrial working tool, though it could help you carry and move some heavy objects, too. It is, instead, designed to augment the fluidity and precision of human movement, allowing humans to be stronger and reach farther than they normally could without turning them into a mechanical Hulk. It is also meant to be lightweight and easy to use, thanks to having no batteries or parts that need electricity to function.

Instead of electricity-powered motors, Skeletonics uses your body’s own kinetic energy to move its own limbs. In a way, it mirrors your arms’ and legs’ movement but also adds a bit of strength and length to it, but you are literally the one in the driver’s seat. It’s the difference between reaching for an object with your hand and using a joystick to move a robotic arm instead. The drawback is that Skeletonics can’t exactly be used as something like power armor for heavy lifting, but it can gracefully swing a baseball bat better than those.

The exoskeletons are, after all, envisioned to be used for different applications, particularly what is being called “superhuman sports” or augmented sports. At the same time, however, it could also be an opportunity to give people with physical disabilities a chance to participate in those events because they could use their own bodies and the superhuman abilities they developed to drive these battery-free machines. Best of all, Skeletonics offers an alternative way to drive these exoskeletons, and hopefully, there will come a time when we won’t have to choose between that more sustainable technology and mechanical power.

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Amazon knocks up to $280 off Roborock robot vacuums today only

A robot vacuum can be a big purchase for your home, depending on the model you get. While there are plenty of affordable machines out there, you'll have to spring for a higher-end one if you want features like home mapping and stronger suction power. But you can save hundreds on some Roborock robot vacuums at Amazon right now thanks to a new one-day sale that knocks up to $280 off certain devices. You'll get the highest discount on the Roborock S6 Pure, which is $280 off and down to $320, while the Roborock S7 is $170 off and down to $480. The cheapest of the bunch, the Roborock E4, is $140 off and down to a record low of $160.

Buy Roborock S6 Pure at Amazon - $320Buy Roborock S7 at Amazon - $480Buy Roborock E4 at Amazon - $160

The S6 Pure and the S7 are actually quite similar, but the S7 has a few additional perks. Like the S7+ that earned a spot in our best robot vacuum guide, the S7 has stronger, 2500PA suction, a larger water tank for mopping and an ultrasonic sound feature that identifies carpet so the machine can automatically adjust cleaning strength. Also, the S7 can be connected to a clean base, so you have the option in the future to add another level of convenience to your robo-vac. Otherwise, both the S6 Pure and the S7 support voice control with Alexa or the Google Assistant, full app control, home mapping, cleaning schedules and spot cleaning, too.

As for the Roborock E4, it's on the more affordable side of things so it doesn't have a lot of the bells and whistles of the other two. However, it does have the same 2000PA suction that the S6 Pure does, plus a more primitive form of home mapping. If you want to set specific cleaning areas and no-go zones, you'll have to buy these magnetic strips that create "invisible walls" that the E4 can use as guides. It also doesn't come with an additional water tank for mopping, but you can buy one separately and swap it out with the dustbin to turn the machine into a smart mop.

We've had mostly positive experiences when testing Roborock vacuums. The suck up dirt and debris just as well as other robo-vacs we've tried, and depending on the model you choose, you'll get features like "pin and go," which sends the vacuum to a specific spot in your home and in-app manual controls so you can control the vacuum almost like you would a toy car. Our biggest gripe is that the Roborock app isn't as polished as that of competitors like iRobot and Shark. If you're new to the world of robot vacuums, it may take some time to learn all of the ins and outs of the app. But once you do that, your Roborock vacuum should serve you well.

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Toyota Patents Dog Walking Robot That Can Pick Up After Your Pet

Because picking up poop is one of the least desirable aspects of dog walking, Toyota recently applied for patents related to a dog-walking robot that can even clean up after a dog takes care of its business. The future, ladies and gentlemen! It finally doesn’t involve me standing around with a plastic bag on my hand, waiting to pick up a turd.

The “guidance vehicle” features a moving platform that an owner can ride on, which moves along a pre-programmed route, constantly monitoring to ensure it maintains a safe distance from the dog. And when your dog does pee, it sprays a jet of water to help dilute the urine, so it doesn’t kill the grass. And when it poops? It uses a robotic arm to pick up the nuggets, so your neighbors don’t yell at you and/or become passive-aggressive.

Will Toyota’s dog walking robot ever see actual production? That’s debatable, although stranger things have happened, including Toyota applying for dog-walking robot patents in the first place. But if it ever does see the light of day, they better call it the Pet Prius.

[via Autoblog]

Scientists ‘knit’ soft robotic wearables for easier design and fabrication

Scientists have made considerable progress with soft robots used for assistive wearables, rehabilitative technologies and more. Powered by compressed air, they offer advantages over regular robots like sensing capabilities, soft touch, and high power-to-input ratios. 

Designing and building them has been a challenge, however, due to the need for a manual design and fabrication pipeline that requires a lot of trial and error. Now, scientists from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have come up with a new pipeline called "PneuAct" that uses computers and a special knitting process to design and digitally fabricate the soft pneumatic actuators. Their work could eventually lead to new assistive and rehabilitative devices. 

"PneuAct uses a machine knitting process — not dissimilar to your grandma's plastic needle knitting — but this machine operates autonomously," according to CSAIL researchers. The designer simply needs to specify the stitch and sensor design patterns in software to program actuator movements, which can be simulated before printing. The textile piece is then fabricated by the knitting machine, which is fixed to a rubber silicone tube to complete the actuator. 

The actuators use conductive yarn for sensing so they can essentially "feel" or respond to what they grab. As proof of concept, the team developed several prototypes including an assistive glove, soft hand, interactive robot and a pneumatic walking quadruped, as shown in the video above. 

The new devices are considerably improved over older designs, incorporating programmed bending when inflated and the ability to incorporate feedback. "For example, the team used the actuators to build a robot that sensed when it was touched specifically by human hands, and reacted to that touch," the team wrote. The glove could be worn to supplement finger muscle movement, adding extra force for grasping to help people with finger or hand injuries. 

The team plans to explore actuators with different shapes, and incorporate task-driven designs with target poses and optimal stitch patterns. "Our software tool is fast, easy to use, and it accurately previews users' designs, allowing them to quickly iterate virtually while only needing to fabricate once," said Harvard University's Andrew Spielberg, an author on the paper. 

Snapchat’s new $250 drone actually says a lot about the company’s brilliant trend predicting abilities

The photo app has an incredible knack for predicting the biggest trends in social media and tech LONG before they catch on.

Ephemeral photos, Snapchat started it, Instagram popularized it. AR filters, started once again by Snapchat, got picked up and turned into Memojis by Apple. Snap Spectacles, launched in 2016, Facebook announced the Stories camera-embedded sunglasses in collaboration with RayBan years later. Whether you use Snapchat or not, whether you even like it or not, there’s no denying what a massive cultural impact it has had on society just by its ability to gauge where the tech wind is blowing. Snap announced its latest product today, a $250 drone named Pixy, and even though the drone market is quite saturated at the moment, Snap’s drone is slightly different – while most camera drones are designed to be specialist devices, almost like flying DSLRs or GoPros, Snap’s Pixy is like a flying version of your phone. It’s made to be incredibly intuitive, user-friendly, versatile, and has this approachable nature that just might make it an incredibly popular drone.

Designer: Snap

Click Here to Buy Now: $249.99

The drone, just like Snap’s Spectacles, is an extension of the company’s smartphone app, which already puts it off to a good start. Given that people are much more predisposed to editing videos on the Snap app than on some fancy software on the laptop, Pixy’s ability to interface with your smartphone makes it the perfect entry-level drone camera for most consumers looking to up their social media game. Videos and photos captured on the Pixy get sent right to your smartphone, and Snapchat’s own editing features let you add filters, stickers, and clip/crop/stitch videos to create masterpieces that you can post either to Snapchat or to any other social media app.

What Pixy gets right is that it was expressly designed for social media. The camera captures videos in portrait instead of the usual landscape, and can track people, allowing you to click selfies like never before. The drone’s construction isn’t incredibly intricate on first impression. Designed for first-time users, it has an enclosed propeller design, protected by plastic bumpers all around that prevent the drone from taking any damage. There’s no expensive gimbal system either – just a front-facing camera for photos and videos, and bottom-facing camera that detects your hand so the drone can safely land in your palm.

The drone weighs a paltry 101 grams, which has a big benefit in the fact that you don’t need to register it with the FAA as you would with heavier drones. However, this lightweight design means Pixy doesn’t really handle wind pretty well, and you may see incredibly shaky footage if there’s a heavy breeze around. The drone’s upper half has a knob (similar to the kind you’d see on DSLRs) that lets you cycle between its shooting modes, with orbiting, following, revealing, and landscape shooting patterns built-in. The drone can even be controlled via the app, with an integrated emergency landing feature just in case you lose control of your drone. It also comes with a detachable battery that can be swapped out and replaced on the go, with a battery capacity that Snap says should last ‘5 flight trips’.

Is this a pitch for people to go buy the Pixy? Not really. Do I think Pixy will be a consumer success story? That’s kinda debatable too, because the Snap Spectacles weren’t a runaway success either. However, with the announcement of Pixy, it’s worth noting that Snapchat’s made a trend prediction here that I definitely believe may catch on in the future. Will the Pixy be a strong part of that future? I can’t tell, although if Snap’s betting money on it, it might be worth a closer look.

Click Here to Buy Now: $249.99

Images via The Verge

The post Snapchat’s new $250 drone actually says a lot about the company’s brilliant trend predicting abilities first appeared on Yanko Design.

Jack in the Box will experiment with burger-flipping robots

Add Jack in the Box to the list of fast food chains experimenting with robots. The company is launching a pilot program that will test Miso Robotics' Flippy 2 (frying) and Sippy (drink-prepping) robots in a San Diego restaurant. Jack in the Box wants to see how much help the automatons can offer to busy staff who may want to spend more time with customers and less time in the kitchen.

The companies didn't say how long the pilot might last. Jack in the Box said it was open to "further integration" in coming months, however.

The restauranteur joins Chipotle, Panera, White Castle and others in using Miso's technology. As with those companies, efficient meal-making isn't the only goal. The robots promise more consistent quality, so there's less risk of receiving an undercooked burger or the wrong drink.

The same perks and pitfalls remain. This could alleviate stress for workers who might be overwhelmed, particularly in an era when restaurant staff shortages are all too common. At the same time, there's a concern operators might use robots like these to automate staff out of jobs or avoid hiring more people. Miso's machines can't completely replace humans at present, though, so a larger automation crisis isn't likely in the near future.

Skeletonics Kinetic-Energy Exoskeleton: Humans In Disguise

Determined to win the costume contest at this year’s Halloween party? Look no further than the Skeletonics kinetic-energy powered exoskeleton – perfect for taking your Transformer costume to the next level. The next level being the 1st place pedestal at the costume contest, just so we’re clear. I can practically feel that $100 gift certificate to Spirit Halloween in my robotic hands!

Unlike some other exoskeletons, the Skeletonics relies on no outside power source, instead using a wearer’s kinetic energy to mirror their movements on a larger scale – including hand and finger movements like grasping. The whole thing stands approximately 9-feet tall and weighs only 88-pounds, making it easy to strap to the top of your car like you just bagged yourself a Decepticon.

The video demonstration really is impressive, considering the lack of an external power supply. Granted, the Skeletonics exoskeleton might not be capable of picking up a car or battling an alien queen like a Power Loader, but I really don’t want to be battling alien queens anyway – I just want to win a costume contest for once.

[via TechEBlog]

iRobot’s Roomba 694 is back on sale for $179

If you're looking for a budget-friendly robot vacuum to get for yourself or for mom for Mother's Day, iRobot's Roomba 694 is a great option. It's our current favorite affordable robo-vac, and now you can pick it up for even less than its normal rate of $274. Amazon has the machine for $179, which is $95 off and a return to its record-low price.

Buy Roomba 694 at Amazon - $179

Chances are you've heard of iRobot before even if you have never owned a robot vacuum because the brand is, arguably, the most well known in that space. With that recognition comes high price tags, but the Roomba 694 is a solid machine made better by this discount. It has a three-button design and app connectivity, giving you a few ways to control it, and it cleans both hard and carpeted surfaces well. It'll putter around your home, sucking up dirt, debris and even pet hair as it moves from room to room, and it'll automatically return to its charging base when it's finished.

In addition to starting cleaning jobs from the iRobot app, you can also set cleaning schedules, which make the robot even more autonomous. The Roomba 694 is also compatible with Alexa and the Google Assistant, so you can use voice commands to control it as well.

iRobot estimates the Roomba 694 will run for about 90 minutes before it needs a recharge, but we found that it often ran for less time before returning home. That means that those with larger homes may have to wait longer for clean floors as the machine will have to charge up before it completes a job, but otherwise, there aren't many downsides to this robo-vac. It's an especially good pick for novices since iRobot's mobile app is quite easy to use and the machine does the cleaning basics well.

A couple of other iRobot machines are also on sale right now, and they're best for those that want to splurge on an advanced robot vacuum. Both the Roomba j7+ and the Roomba s9+ are $200 off right now, bringing them down to $599 and $799, respectively. The former is one of the company's newest devices with a pet poop detection feature (yes, you read that right), while the latter is the highest-end machine you can get from iRobot. Both also come with clean bases, so the robots will empty their dustbins into the base after every cleaning job.

Buy Roomba j7+ at Amazon - $599Buy Roomba s9+ at Amazon - $799

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