This post is part of the NOTlabs Laser Challenge: Shawn and I are alternating days with executing and sharing a Laser Cutter involved experiment! And most importantly - we’re supposed to have fun, explore ideas, and it’s less about a fully formed product/concept at the end of the day, but more about seeing where the experiment takes us!
Laser Challenge #12 was inspired by Bokeh Shape Filter Kits which you can buy (but never fit my primary lens which has larger wide angle) and DIY versions. Bokeh means blurred in Japanese, and it’s used to describe the out of focused lights in your dark/night shots. By placing one of these filters on your lens (essentially a black disk with a shape cut out in the center) you can change the shape of those light blurs! There’s something fun about playing with a process so analog and instantaneous in a world where its so easy to photoshop everything… it’s almost magical to see what light shapes appear through the viewfinder.
And since i was chatting with Rich of Diesel Sweeties while testing out shape ideas… we were inspired to try one of his red robots! … as well as jumping sheep and a gear/burst! Ultimately, the robots were our favorite as we tested it out taking pictures in santa monica of the pier, pch traffic, the intersections and more! They also work fantastically for video… the mesmerizing robots that emerge from every light we drove by as they danced to the music makes it tempting to choreograph a music video light show or sorts, or a light driven stop motion animation… but perhaps that’s a project for another night? Check out our driving video experiments as well as some fun photo effects we discovered while playing with the Bokeh shapes on the next page!
p.s. If you have ideas, or want some laser cutting done, or want to play with us… feel free to use the contact form or leave a comment! And if you’re curious about the laser cutter we’re using, here’s the unboxing.
Here’s the latest from London-based editor and resident zoologist, Justine Aw!
Last night I got a sneak preview of this year’s Kinetica Art Fair, celebrating the intersection of science and design and an incredible showcase of innovative sculptures and installations. More photos of the vast array of some of the optical illusions and playful kinetic sculptures that toy with light and design on the next page!
Here’s the latest from our NOTlabs director and robot wrangler, Shawn Sims, from our explorations at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale!
It was an awesome surprise to step into the Australian Pavilion at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale and see a robot wire-bending installation by my old professor, Dave Pigram! He and Iain Maxwell of Supermanoeuvre collaborated with Wes Mcgee from Matter Design Studio and together set out to design a wire-bent sculpture specifically for the pavilion. The installation begins on the lower level of the pavilion and spans all the way to the ceiling. As you get closer you notice intricate details of how it all fits together and can’t help but marvel at the precision.
Before bending each rod, curves are drawn and analyzed on the computer. Those 3D curves are then digitally interpreted to tell the robot how to move and what to do. The wire bender and the robot arm work together, rotating, grabbing, and bending each vertex. Since robotic fabrication is extremely precise and the makeup of the steel can vary, the result is a near perfect physical manifestation of the digital model. Once each rod is completed, larger chunks are assembled from the individual pieces. They use small tack welds to hold the assemblies in place. The designers and fabricators wrote custom software, made unique hardware, and are actively redefining the way we design and make things. Take a look at the Australian Pavilion installation as well as the robots in action on the next page!
So, you’ve seen the AMAZING video of the dutchman in the woods introducing Cubelets (if not, you must). Well, i finally had a date with Modular Robotics Cubelets ~ and got to explore and create with them over beers and bruschetta while at CES. Fun part? Building autonomous robots that can drive themselves, run away from me, run to me, spin lights around, and beep away… all while navigating around the place settings and deliciousness. There’s something undeniably satisfying about the way the magnetic blocks snap together and just start DOING things! And their natural ability to pique the curiosity of people of any age to just get lost exploring the possibilities… truth is, you definitely need a table full to properly explore the overwhelming amount of options… and i love that it feels like true object oriented programming ~ in that you literally connect blocks that have various functions… like the light sensor block to the inverse block to the flashlight block and add a battery block and things just start happening!
Anyhow, these fun robotic cubes have been getting written up everywhere ~ but are you ready to take a peek INSIDE? When popping by the booth the next day, the Modular Robotics team broke out the leatherman and let us take a peek inside an inverse block ~ granted it’s one of the less filled cubes ~ but I love the design of how it opens (and is held together with two little screws!)… also if you ever want to hide things in your robotic cubes……… see more pics on the next page!
RAM-Mounts are my favorite mounts ever ~ they have the most incredible ball joints and you can piece them together for just about ANYTHING (seriously, check out their line up of modular pieces to pick from). They have the best suction mounts i’ve found ~ and while i’ve dreamed of making crazy sculptures, etc out of them ~ it was awesome to turn a corner at CES and run into a life size johnny5-esque RAM-Mount BOT! Made of HUGE RAM-Mount units! See more pics of him on the next page!
On more fun things i’m excited to finally see in person at CES tomorrow ~ Cubelets! The robotic building blocks from Modular Robotics, a spin-off from Carnegie Mellon University (they started as RoBlocks). I’ve been hearing so much about this venture while visiting the CMU Computational Design Lab the last few months of random adventures in Pittsburgh, it’ll be nice to finally get my hands on the Cubelets and make some fun robots! But first ~ had to share their hilarious new video introducing the cubes and how they work! Just try not to get distracted by the snake skins on the wall behind the wacky guy in the video… “We shot the video last Summer at Oli’s cabin in Conifer, Colorado. It was an epic day of fliming, Cubelets fiddling, and snacking on Edam.” OK ~ go see it and fun screencaps on the next page!
What do you get when you combine a robot arm, turntable, scans and 3D prints of a dancer, music and a light? A modern day zoetrope of sorts! This is 16 Forms by Daito Manabe (direction, 3D data editing, lighting+sound design) + Motoi Ishibashi (robot arm programming) ~ and it was displayed at this year’s DesignTokyo Tide. Take a peek at a video of it in action and more pictures of the installation on the next page.
By far the coolest display i found after trekking out to the farthest hall of all at Frankfurt Auto Show, was BMW’s 7 robot arm displays. Think apple like glossy white and wood and plexi displays with the blue led glow… housing 7 robotic arms and touch screens waiting for you to poke and prod and stare in wonder as they demonstrated their various technologies. Granted, most were being poked by everyone from kids to adults and few had any idea what was being demonstrated, but everyone was trying to see what they could do to get the arms moving… SO beautiful, i have lots of pics and videos of them in action for you on the next page!
Love this Robo Mimicry from Shawn Sims + Karl Willis at CMU. There’s something magical about those huge robotic arms we always run into in manufacturing plants ~ big bright colors, mesmerizing to watch them assemble, paint, and do just about anything more powerful and precise than a human can… consistently… but there’s a lack of the fluidity and possibility within them… and since Shawn Sims showed me what initially looked like lightwriting pics on his iphone that were already visually mesmerizing… i was even more pulled in upon realizing they were 1) created by those awesome robotic arms 2) they were mimicking in z-space what a human had initially shown it through moving a hand around naturally… and using a Kinect as it’s eye…
The playful potential of taking the precise, programmable motions and actions of these robotic arms ~ and exploring their artistic and more “human” or organic motions ~ opens up a whole world of robotic lightwriting graffiti, painting, or a synchronized visual display (whether multiple robotic arms in one location, or across the globe) ~ the ability to explore ways that others may interact or control these robotic arms and have beautiful visual/motion captured results just send my head spinning with ideas… and perhaps that’s exactly why Shawn and i are teaming up for NOTlabs to see where else we can go with this space where art, technology, and culture are constantly overlapping… (While NOTlabs is in quiet incubation mode at the moment ~ feel free to follow us on Twitter as we figure out where we’re headed!) But for now… take a peek at the videos and images of the beautifully organic movements of the awesomely orange ABB4400 robot that is tucked away in CMU’s Digital Fabrication Lab as it fluidly dances and mimics with light on the next page!
They are finally nearly here! Andrew Bell teased me with sneak peeks of toys in the making on his phone over lunch a few months back ~ so long as i promised to stay quiet. Well, it’s been hard! Because, we all know as fun as the Google Android phones and UI are… i’m pretty smitten with the adorable mascot. And here they finally are! A series of blind box toys bringing that adorable little Android to life!
The details? Illustrator and toy designer Andrew Bell has teamed up with a few friends at Google’s Android project to bring their green mascot to life. Presenting Android mini collectibles series 01! Each 3” vinyl figure sports one of 12 different possible designs and features a rotating head and arms. Packed in “blind boxes” so you don’t know which design you get until you open it up. Pick one up and take a chance or grab a case for a near-complete set. Available in an initial limited release later this month from dyzplastic and specialty retailers.
If you’re ready, see more details on the next page! (And notice he says “Series 01”… will there be more???)
First super pretty NOTCOT Video... in HD even! I'm sure you've heard about Banksy's Village Petstore and Charcoal Grill by now ~ we haven't been able to stop envying those who have seen it in person, and we have posted the best photosets we can find on .org... even been debating flying out just to go see it! For those catching up, Banksy (the subversive, cheeky, street artist known for stencil art, adding art to museums, pink elephants and more) branched out into animatronics with his Banksy's Village Petstore and Charcoal Grill
It has been so painful to see so many terrible youtube videos floating around, when i could only guess what the experience must be like in person. Since this is something that deserved to be well documented before it disappeared at the end of Oct, i commissioned filmmaker, Seth Brau, to capture the experience (especially the details!) for those of us too far to visit in the flesh... and when i got back from SF, seth had this incredible video (that i can't stop watching!) waiting for me! He even found music that closely matched that which is playing in the actual store! Huge thanks to our friend, Daniel Holter of the Burst Collective for helping with the music.
After this incredible piece, i think we may have to see more of Seth's work on NOTCOT soon... maybe we will have NOTCOT videos more regularly yet... and for comparison (and incase they disappear someday) on the next page you can see screenshots of the official Banksy's Village Petstore and Charcoal Grill, as well as the Banksy vids (shot in cages/rooms other than the actual petstore).
Another find at at GLOW ~ was a collection of suspended robots under the pier, EX-SE-08, Shieh Chieh Huang. Made from plastic bags, plastic bottles of various sizes, computer fans, portable dvd players - all combined with circuit boards and what looked like many power adapters for the larger pieces... these robots were buzzing and breathing (well the bags looked like inhaling and exhaling oxygen bags that come down in airplane emergencies?) and spinning about - while filled with glowing lights, black lights, and uv glowing liquids... It was mesmerizing to say the least, especially when i wandered back in around 5am in a bit of a haze... i ended up taking more video of these creatures than pictures, so check out the video below for an overview of them in action, and a few more pics as well on the next page!
Not that you needed another reason to go to Comic-con, but i was just chatting with rstevens of Diesel Sweeties, and he gave me a sneak peek i just HAD to share with you... laser cutter + acrylic + Diesel Sweeties = an adorable robot take over? These are a peek at the first prototypes (don't worry they will have eyes soon!)... and he also just published the best comic on dating + tetris... see the next page to find out just what the two have in common, as well as more robot pics, and screenshots of a noteworthy ad Zune ad for the new Lost Graphic Novel that i'm envious of! (It has the cutest, subtlest corner flash animation that when rolled over, flips back the page to show the comic!)
When at the Wall-E midnight showing on Thurs ~ walking out at nearly 3am, i felt like we were nearly venturing into the world of Wall-E as we lined up to feed the ticket in the machine to validate, then lined up in our cars again, sitting, idling, waiting to get out... and the other thing that stuck in my mind was ~ enough cross over Apple placement, Pixar? From the sound every time Wall-E had to reboot, to the ipod he played his movies on... and why was i SO drawn to Eve? And then i was reminded... Eve is a product of Jonathan Ives... Apple helped design the robots of the future... and remember the Automator icon? How cute is he? He looks like he might be Eve's grandpa, they certainly have quite a few things in common ~ that glossy white skin, and that face looks like she could definitely have evolved from him! See many more images of them all on the next page ~ as well as some Eve icons for Adium.
Pleo's two week stint here at NOTCOT is up, so just packaged him back up to ship him home... its been an interesting experience having a baby robodino wandering around as i work. So what's my final conclusion about the user experience of having him around? Honestly, its a really cool robot. An extremely unique experience for people of all ages, but i'm not sure that he has what it takes to hold your attention after he captures it with his inexplicably adorable sounds and behaviors that tug on your heartstrings. I found he's most amusing when treated like a lap cat... he sits and whines and basically purrs and howls happily if you just pet him constantly, tickle his feet, etc. When left to his own devices he kept wandering *very very slowly* around the room, finding objects, rubbing up against them, eating the air, calling out for more attention or else falling asleep. The hardest part about any robotics right now, is throughout your playtime with him, it is impossible to forget that he's a robot. As cute as he is batting his deep blue eyes at you, the sounds of the gears grind on constantly ~ although more quiet than most, its still hard to ignore. Also impressive is that he really is one robust little guy, he can probably survive some of the worst of kids and still keep doing his thing (with the exception of his skin perhaps which doesn't seem to be on quite the same level as his robotics). I wasn't able to yet play with programming my own behaviors and personalities for him, but when that happens i can certainly see the amount of time you'd spend futzing with him increase dramatically, but for now i did check out his *guard dog* mode which was pretty hilarious... pop the personality on an SD card and into his slot... and suddenly he barks at anything that moves!
Bottom line? I'm glad he's wandered through my life for these few weeks, and i've had friends and family all amused by playing with him, its fascinating to see how far the tech has come for this... and with a $350 price tag, he's certainly an *it* toy worth owning for the kids and gadget lovers who have it all... especially when the ability to really hack him up and give him personalities and behaviors of your choosing is ready! And are you curious about seeing what's beneath Pleo's rubbery exterior? More below...
Gift Guide Day 11 is all about kids, particularly the littler of the kids, although big ones will probably enjoy these as well. From robotic dinos and wifi bunnies to finger crayons and pirate sailboats... wood treehouse/dollhouses and clacking pull toys!
PLEO! Just got dropped off by the FedEx girl ~ and i remember wondering when i first met Bob Christopher and Pleo for drinks at the Peninsula Hotel what the packaging/unboxing/hatching experience was going to be like. Well, here's the answer... lots of packaging and unboxing images below, and a few shots of him waking up to the world (much whining and moaning and slow eye opening as he went into exploration stages...) I even introduced him to my Roboraptor. First impression? Strangely adorable, definitely far more emotional than my now seemingly mentally handicapped roboraptor (who is currently running into the pleo box and pushing it around while pleo begs and purrs from petting)... and it is rather bizarre having this Littlefoot (come on, don't you remember Land Before Time... movies 1-infinity?) looking dino wandering the halls. Loving the DNA details in the box graphics... and the shot on the bottom of the box is brilliant... more to come on my adventures with pleo over the next 2 weeks probably...
Oh, and looking back compared to the prototype pics ~ he sure has gotten more color in his skin! And its so bizarrely skin/rubbery like to the touch...
No it doesn't vacuum, unless you program it to do so. But this one goes on the list of launches i read about before i got to CES, and was still impressed enough by it that i needed to post it after playing with it.
iRobot Create. I was quite a fan of the give your hamster wheels ~ as in it runs in its ball, and that drives the Create... and the robotic arms are pretty fun too. In a nutshell, the folks that brought you the roomba, unleashed a streamlined programmable version, basically the ideal starting point for future engineers, programmers, robotics geniuses everywhere...
AND not a bad deal for $99! (use coupon code 'createces' to save 30$ off the usual 129$) ~ and for normal roombas, 20% off with code 'ces222' in the iRobot Store.