Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Open Source

Pinokio, the robotic desk lamp, searches for faces to track once it's been turned on

Luxo Jr, the adorable little lamp that appears in the Disney Pixar logo, illustrates how animators can breathe life into mundane inanimate objects. Now, robotics technology allows us to do the same thing in real life, as shown by a trio from the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Using a combination of readily available robotics and automated manufacturing technology, mixed with open-source software, they were able to grace a desk lamp with a little personality.  Read More

Following a successful funding campaign on Kickstarter, the Puzzlebox Orbit brain-controll...

For the last few years, Puzzlebox has been publishing open source software and hacking guides that walk makers through the modification of RC helicopters so that they can be flown and controlled using just the power of the mind. Full systems have also been custom built to introduce youngsters to brain-computer interfaces and neuroscience. The group is about to take the project to the next stage by making a Puzzlebox Orbit brain-controlled helicopter available to the public, while encouraging user experimentation by making all the code, schematics, 3D models, build guides and other documentation freely available under an open-source license.  Read More

panGenerator's Dodecaudion is a 12-faced music controller that can trigger audio or video ...

Moving around the stage while performing is a whole lot easier with instruments such as the Vortex or Kitara than with something like the mighty JUPITER-80. Innovations like Onyx Ashanti's Beatjazz hands or the Air Piano from Omer Yosha go even further, by making movement a vital part of the music creation process. Such is the case with the Dodecaudion from Polish art and design group panGenerator. When a performer places a hand, foot, head or other part of the body in front of any of its 12 IR-sensor-packing faces, wirelessly-linked processing hardware generates pre-programmed audio or visuals.  Read More

DARPA is now accepting registrations for the first of its FANG challenges

Earlier this year, DARPA revealed it was embracing the crowdsourcing model to develop a new amphibious infantry vehicle known as the FANG (Fast, Adaptable, Next-Generation Ground Vehicle). Now designers and engineers with expertise in drivetrain and mobility systems who wouldn’t mind an extra US$1 million lining their pockets can express their interest with DARPA now opening registrations for the first of three planned challenges that will kick off in January 2013.  Read More

OpenDyslexic features a weighted bottom, which is intended to lend 'gravity' to every lett...

Developer Abelardo Gonzalez has created an open-source font designed to help people with dyslexia read more easily. Dubbed OpenDyslexic, the font is currently available as a free download, in the form of a Safari and Chrome extension, a bookmarklet, and a free iOS web-browsing app. OpenDyslexic has also been incorporated into several third-party apps, including popular read-it-later service Instapaper.  Read More

XYZ Spaceframe Vehicles – this one shown with a trailer – incorporate weather-resistant an...

Danish design studio N55, in collaboration with German designer Till Wolfer, has created a series of open-source human-powered vehicle designs that can be built at home using basic tools and materials. Dubbed XYZ Spaceframe Vehicles, the models incorporate weather-resistant and lightweight frames that are made using standard aluminum tubes. Those tubes are assembled together using simple stainless steel bolts, washers and nuts. “Unlike the singular load-bearing tube seen in traditional bike structures, the main structure is an orthogonal spaceframe of standard aluminum tubes,” says N55.  Read More

Artists concept of MakerPlane 1.0 (Image: MakerPlane)

The idea of owning your own plane is the stuff of daydreams. It’s incredibly appealing, but despite some (relative) drops in pricing in recent years, it remains incredibly expensive. If you build your own plane from a kit, it’s a bit cheaper than buying one, but the odds are that you’ll never complete the job because kitplanes are notoriously difficult to build. However, that may be changing. MakerPlane is a project that aims to create an open source aircraft designed by contributors and built with digital manufacturing processes. You can’t download the plans into your 3D printer and fly away that afternoon, but it does hold the promise of making amateur aviation a lot more accessible.  Read More

Firefox OS is based on the Boot to Gecko project

Mozilla has announced that its Firefox OS mobile operating system will be appearing on handsets in Brazil from early 2013, available through Telefónica’s commercial brand, Vivo. Firefox OS is based on Mozilla's existing Boot to Gecko technology and each app for the platform is to be constructed in HTML5, the markup language increasingly used for structuring online content such as media and web apps.  Read More

The musical umbrella was created by Berlin-based Alice Zappe and Julia Lager

During this year’s Amsterdam-based Music Hack Day, two intrepid hackers originating from Berlin created a musical umbrella which produces a random series of lo-fi 8-bit tones. The tones are triggered by raindrops striking the outside surface of the umbrella's canopy and the abstract results bring to mind a warped soundtrack for the first generation Nintendo Game Boy.  Read More

The Freestyle Semiconductor Mechatronics Robot with its 32-bit RISC microprocessor board (...

A hundred years ago, the state-of-the-art of automotive technology was being pushed forward as quickly by shade-tree mechanics as it was by formal industrial R&D. To paraphrase John Steinbeck: "Two generations of Americans knew more about the planetary system of gears than the solar system of stars." The current situation in robotics could be seen in a similar light - open source hardware and software provide very similar tools and capabilities to hobbyists and robotics start-up company alike. To ease entry into the field, Freescale Semiconductors has just introduced FSLBOT, which provides the basic hardware and software for development of a walking, sensor-laden robot starting at only US$200.  Read More

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