Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers.
Recently we've seen preliminary asteroid mining plans from Planetary Resources
and Deep Space Industries
, but what about NASA? The government agency would like to do some excavating on the Moon, Mars, and asteroids, too – but it isn't in it for the profit. NASA
wants to clear the way for construction projects and mine materials for use by astronauts, and is developing a teleoperated robot called the Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR, pronounced "razor") to get the job done.
The ongoing race to build the cheapest, most versatile 3D printer
continues with the impending launch of the DeltaMaker. Founded by a small group of engineers out of Orlando, Florida, the DeltaMaker puts its own spin on the growing personal electronics revolution, matching the print resolution of the MakerBot Replicator 2
while offering a larger overall build envelope and, at US$1,599 dollars, costs $600 dollars less.
The ModiBots, a line of poseable action figures which can be outfitted with all sorts of accessories, sell for around US$15 apiece, which isn't much more than what you'd expect to pay for any other toy at retail. The difference is that these aren't being churned out in massive quantities by a major manufacturer – they're available for purchase online via Shapeways' 3D print-on-demand service. It's an example of how entrepreneurs are taking advantage of 3D printing technology to build new businesses.
projects tend to be based on 3D models from video games or custom-made art projects. The basic idea is to take a 3D model and flatten it out in software such as Dunreeb Cutout
or Pepakura Designer
by Tama software. Then you print it, cut out the parts, fold them where necessary, and paste the whole mess together. Now, thanks to Paper-kit.com, if you've got a big head – or simply want one – you can use the same technique to build an over-sized three-dimensional paper model of yourself using 2D photos.
Despite its numerous wondrous properties, a propensity to stick together and be difficult to flatten out once crumpled can make working with graphene
difficult and limit its applications. Engineers at Duke University have now found that by attaching graphene to a stretchy polymer film, they are able to crumple and then unfold the material, resulting in a properties that lend it to a broader range of applications, including artificial muscles.
Many of us sit at a desk for extended periods each day – and that has doctors worried. Researchers are beginning to understand the associated health risks triggered by sitting for long durations, and suggest that people need to stand up, walk, and generally be more active throughout their day. One way to get more exercise might be to try out the Active Desk, which combines a recumbent exercise bike with a work desk, allowing you to leisurely pedal off the pounds throughout the day.
Nintendo isn't waiting until the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo
(E3) to tease gamers with upcoming titles for its fledgling Wii U console. In the latest Nintendo Direct video, the company showcased titles that it hopes will appeal to gamers of every stripe. It also spilled the beans on its plans for the Virtual Console service, its online store that offers downloadable retro game titles.
Strange as it may seem, in the last few years Japan has been home to a fad where cute girls dressed up as french maids star in J-POP, comics, animation, and video games. The distinctive costume has grown so popular that there's a number of so-called maid cafés in Tokyo's geeky Akihabara district where anyone can enjoy the thrills of being served by a horde of hostesses in full outfit. That – to say nothing of Japan's endless fascination with humanoid robots
– probably explains Pre-made Me, the latest creation by well-known Japanese roboticist Dr. GIY.
Now that 3D printing
technology is taking off, some truly unique projects are beginning to emerge from all sorts of talented people. Take Gael Langevin, a French sculptor and model marker who has spent the better part of the last year designing and engineering his own animatronic
robot called InMoov. And it's open source, so if you're feeling confident, you can try to build one yourself using a list of off-the-shelf electronics and parts he shares on 3D file sharing site Thingiverse.
Robots by the dozen are prohibitively expensive, so actually testing how large swarms would work together is often limited to computer simulations. That's where Harvard's Kilobots
are beginning to bear fruit – at a cost of US$14 each in batches of a thousand, they're a tenth the cost of their cheapest competitor. At such bargain-basement prices, Michael Rubenstein, Christian Ahler, and Radhika Nagpal at the Self-Organizing Systems Research Group have begun to build their own little robot army.