That Rolling Ball Robot From The New Star Wars Is Real

Image source: YouTube

He's not CGI! BB8, aka the little rolling ball robot from the new Star Wars trailer, was demoed on stage at the Star Wars Celebration panel. Though not acting on its own, BB8 is actually puppeteered by crew behind the scenes.

J.J. Abrams explained on stage that a CGI version of BB8 would be much easier for shooting, but that it would be better for the film, actors, and look of it if BB8 we're actually built. BB8 is real and it doesn't disappoint.

Source: YouTube Via: TechCrunch

3DR Reveals New "Solo" Drone And It's Crazy Smart

Image source: 3DR

Capturing stunning aerial footage with a camera-equipped drone is not an easy task. Luckily, however, there's the 3DR Solo.

3DR's Solo drone is a crazy smart quadcopter that takes the difficulty of drone piloting out of the equation. With two onboard 1 GHz computers, a 3-axis GoPro gimbal, electronic GoPro controls, and HD video streaming, the Solo offers unprecedented intuitive flying that allows the pilot to focus less on the flying and more the footage.
“Solo is a breakthrough in intelligent flight. It’s not just smarter so that it can do more; it’s smarter so that you have to do less. We’ve turned the hollywood toolkit into software, and allowed everyone to experience epic video, both behind and in front of the camera.” 
— Chris Anderson, CEO 3D Robotics.

To improve on the simplicity of drone flight, 3DR has outfitted the Solo with two onboard computers and an intelligent gimbal that controls the connected GoPro. The twin computers and intelligent GoPro gimbal allow seamless control from the pilots smart device (iOS or Android tablet/phone). Key features include complete app control at your fingertips, a built in "Safety Net" fail safe, auto take off/landing, and object tracking and following for high-quality filming. All of this and occasional software updates for additional functionality.

In a recent press release, 3DR explains the simplicity of flying a Solo.
Effortless flight means effortless filming—less flight control; more creative control. Solo makes flying easier than it’s ever been with smooth and authoritative GPS satellite-guided flight, which also features auto takeoff and land, return home and the ability to instantly hit an e-brake and pause your flight midair. All these features are immediately accessible through the Solo mobile app or dedicated buttons on Solo’s remote controller.
Image source: 3DR

With Solo's twin computers onboard, 3DR has taken computer and software-assisted control to the next level. Solo allows pilots to tap where they want an exact camera shot and Solo will (precisely) capture said shot. This sort of camera control also enables pilots to fly the drone while the camera automatically positions itself to keep the desired object in its view. Don't like piloting manually? Solo has adopted features seen in the previous 3DR IRIS+ and can automatically (yep, no human control) follow you around.

By teaming up with GoPro, 3DR has equipped Solo with HD streaming capabilities. Solo can wirelessly stream (up two half a mile) GoPro HD video to the pilot's iOS or Android device. Solo's controller has an HDMI output port for peripherals such as FPV goggles, monitors, and even Jumbotrons. Captured footage can also be saved directly into the device's camera roll for future playback.

Solo's specs.
• Up to 25 minutes of flight time (20 with camera and Solo Gimbal)
• HD video streaming to mobile
• Top speed: 55 mph
• Max altitude: 400 ft, per FAA rules
• Weight: 1500 g; 1800 g with Solo Gimbal and GoPro
• WiFi range: up to half a mile, depending on environment
• Controller with color screen and live flight data
• Pixhawk 2 flight controller
• APM fully-autonomous flight control software
• Customizable color LEDs for orientation
• Solo Battery: 14.8 V LiPo (5200 mAh)
• Rechargeable controller battery: 2600 mAh / 7.2 Vdc; lasts 4 hours (8 hours with optional extendable battery)
• 10x4.5” self-tightening props
• 880 kV motors
• Plug and play with 3-axis Solo Gimbal from 3DR (sold separately)
• Works with GoPro® HERO3, 3+ and 4 cameras (sold separately)
If all these features aren't convincing, you can look forward to the concepts 3DR has planned for Solo. Some concepts under development include LiDAR for safe and stable indoor flight, a parachute system, and flight rewind. If you're still not convinced, check out the "elite" DJI Phantom 3 that was just revealed last week.

Solo is set to launch at $999 in over 400 Best Buy stores and will be available in stores on May 29th. The optional Solo Gimbal will tack on an extra $399.

Source: 3DR

DJI's New Phantom 3 Offers 4K Video, Better Indoor Control, And Improved FPV At A Lower Price

Image courtesy of DJI

DJI is at the top in the drone industry. They've brought what was once a small hobby into the mainstream. With their most popular lineup of consumer drones, the Phantom series, DJI has transformed the once complicated quadcopter into a consumer-ready drone that anyone can pilot. Today, DJI revealed the next drone in the Phantom series. Meet the Phantom 3.

The Phantom 3 features a built-in 4K camera, advanced sensors for indoor control, and improved smartphone FPV. Think the Phantom 2 Vision+, but maxed out to its fullest potential. And then some.

The Phantom 3 is available in two different versions: Phantom 3 Advanced and Phantom 3 Professional. But the difference between the two really is really all in the camera itself. The Phantom 3 Professional can shoot 4K video at 30 fps, while the Phantom 3 Advanced shoots at 1080p with 60 fps. To provide the best of video, each of the drone's cameras are stabilized using a 3-axis gimbal. In addition, the camera's have gotten ISO, FOV, and other technical upgrades.

DJI explains in a press release.
All camera settings, including ISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation, can be set using both the DJI Pilot app and the physical controls on the remote controllers. The DJI Pilot app also features a Phantom 3 flight simulator for virtually practicing aerial maneuvers, and a ‘Director’ feature, which automatically edits the best shots from flights into short videos that can be shared immediately after landing.
The Phantom 3 has adopted some of the sweet features seen in DJI's professional-grade Inspire 1 drone. The Phantom 3's new indoor positioning system adds auto takeoff/landing and makes for a safer, more stable flight indoors.

Image courtesy of DJI

FPV (first person view) piloting via smartphones and tablets was introduced back with the Vision models, but, in terms of video quality, it wasn't that good. It required a WiFi antenna add-on, had a not-so-decent range, and it lagged when streaming video. But that's the Vision model, and the new Phantom 3 has gotten some serious FPV upgrades.

Both Phantom 3 models feature DJI's "lightbridge" (FPV antenna technology built into the controller and drone), iOS/Android device (tablets and smartphones) support via USB, and 720p live video feeds directly into the DJI app. The range of the live stream is about one mile and a single battery will get you 23 minutes of flight time. A definite upgrade from the previous models.

On top of that, DJI has upgraded their app. While piloting their Phantom 3 through the skies, pilots can stream their drone's live video feed to YouTube. Of course, this is going to eat up your phone's wireless data. Kudos for those who have an unlimited plan.

So which one should you choose? We'll the Phantom 3 Advanced costs $999 while the Professional costs $1259 (add $100 for an extra battery). If you don't really care about 4K, save yourself the $259 and go the for the Advanced model. Both models are set to launch pretty soon, but you can head on over to Amazon or DJI to pre-order them.

Source: DJI

mBot Is A $49 Robot That Teaches Kids About Programming, Electronics,And Robotics

Image source: Makeblock

Makeblock, a Shenzen-based startup, just launched their solution to teaching kids about programming, electronics, and robotics. It's called "mBot" and it's a small, affordable, and all-in-one robot platform that does just that.

With most of the beginner robots on today's market being too pricey and too complicated for kids, MakeBlock has designed a solution that provides just the opposite. mBot is designed to teach kids the basics of programming, electronics, and robotics by providing a simple, affordable (it's just $49), and feature-rich package.

mBot is based off of the increasingly popular Scratch programming interface. For those of you who aren't familiar with Scratch, it's essentially a graphical programming tool that kids can use to make computer and robot programs. mBot can be programmed by kids using the latest version of Scratch, Scratch 2.0 (Mac and Windows compatible). But this is just the programming aspect of mBot.

Image source: Makeblock

Electronics in the average robotics kit lack simplicity and are too complicated for kids to tinker with. With this problem in mind, MakeBlock has designed a solution that combines the power of an Arduino board with the ease of use of a Lego Mindstorms kit.

They call it mCore. MakeBlock's mCore board is based off of the open-source Arduino board, but it's simple enough that kids can experiment with. mCore is equipped with a light sensor, LED, buzzer, IR transmitter/receiver, and color-coded ports for other electronics. In addition, mCore is compatible with Lego, Raspberry Pi, and standard Arduino boards.

Image source: Makeblock

MakeBlock has also designed a collection of electrical components that plug into the mBot's mCore. For example, mBot's optional Bluetooth module can be plugged into the mCore and used to program mBot wirelessly via computer or the MakeBlock iOS/Android apps. Below is an image showing more output and input parts compatible with mBot.

With all of these features built into one robot, the $49 mBot offers an all-in-solution to teach kids robotics through hands-on learning. Head on over to the Kickstarter campaign if you're interested in pre-ordering your own mBot; they start shipping out in May.

Source: Makeblock

This Week's Top Stories In Robotics

Image source: Codie

With April Fools' drones buzzing around, Codie launching on Indiegogo, and Festo robot bugs crawling to life, it was a great week for robotics! Here's all the stories we covered throughout the week.

1. Codie Launches On Indiegogo - Codie is a small, programmable robot made out of durable, laser-cut wood. It drives around on tiny rubber treads and is equipped with sensors and electrical components that personify it and bring it to life. Better yet, it teaches kids the basics of programming through fun apps.

2. Festo Unleashes A Swarm Of Robot Bugs - The Germany-based robotics company, Festo, has revealed two new robots to add to their collection of nature-mimicking robots. To add to their Bionic Learning Network, Festo has designed fully working swarms of smart robotic ants and butterflies.

3. OnePlus Launches April Fools' Prank Drone - The rumors were true. OnePlus has just revealed their DR-1 quadcopter and it's no April Fools' joke! The DR-1, which OnePlus states is the worlds tiniest drone, spans 7cm across and 3cm from top to bottom. Similar to the Cheerson CX-10, the OnePlus DR-1 has a tiny controller that matches the size of the drone itself.

4. France And The UK Are Interested In Minesweeping Robots - Engadget

5. UberBlox Metal Building Blocks Kit Goes Live On Kickstarter - TechCrunch

OnePlus DR-1 Drone Is An April Fools' Joke You Can Actually Buy

Image source: OnePlus

The rumors were true. OnePlus has just revealed their DR-1 quadcopter and it's no April Fools' joke! The DR-1, which OnePlus states is the worlds tiniest drone, spans 7cm across and 3cm from top to bottom. Similar to the Cheerson CX-10, the OnePlus DR-1 has a tiny controller that matches the size of the drone itself.

The DR-1 has an 8-minute flight time on a single 20-minute charge. In addition, the DR-1 comes with some prop guards for added protection. OnePlus suggests that pilots race their friends or try to land on the ceiling fan while it's going full speed. Unfortunately, for those who were interested in getting one, it's already sold out.

Source: OnePlus

OnePlus Just Teased Their New Consumer Drone And It's Coming Out Next Month

We're pretty confident about this one. OnePlus has just tweeted out that they're entering the drone industry next month. The "DR-1," as it's called, is said to fly to OnePlus stores next month.

The most recent teaser is pretty scant on details, but DroidLife has pointed out some interesting past teasers that reveal much more. These are all the details we've got for now, but we'll update this story as soon as we find out more about the DR-1. Hopefully, this isn't some sort of early April Fools' joke.

Via: DroidLife

Codie Is A Playful Robot That Kids Can Program Through Smart Devices

We covered a story on Codie and the startup behind this little, kid-friendly robot back in November. Today, Codie has launched on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo and is looking to raise $70,000.

Many startups have been developing fun, smartphone-connected robot toys aimed at teaching kids how to code. Codie is just that, but with more features and a more affordable price tag.

Codie is a small, programmable robot made out of durable, laser-cut wood. It drives around on tiny rubber treads and is equipped with sensors and electrical components that personify it and bring it to life. Better yet, it teaches kids the basics of programming through fun apps.

With Codie, kids can use familiar smart devices such as iPhones and iPads (Android coming in November) to code their own robot. Codie's app interface is block-based and simple to use. Codie programs such as obstacle avoidance can be made in a matter of minutes by dragging code blocks together. The limitations of Codie rest of the programmer's imagination. Well, technically speaking, there's only so many sensors and functions, but you get the point.

Codie explains the app on their site.
Our application fills the abstraction gap between kids imagination and the algorithmic thinking. We created our own programming language to teach kids coding. It’s made possible by using the colorful blocks, and connecting them together with arrows showing the direction of execution. Children can learn the basics of coding using real programming patterns, like if-else structures, loops and subroutines.

The technology packed into Codie is quite fascinating. Inside the little Codie is a range of sensors and electronics that pack on extreme functionality. Codie is equipped with a microphone, buzzer, programmable LED ring, sonar sensor, accelerometer/gyroscope, light sensor, motor encoders, Bluetooth 4.0 chip, and a compass. Of course, the app allows kids to utilize these components within the programs they create for Codie.

So how much does one of these said Codies go for? The early bird package costs $150 and it includes a complete Codie right out of the box. A normal Codie isn't to expensive though as its price tag is $170. If you're into hacking a Codie, you can get the DIY version for $300. The campaign is set to run for 45 days and backers can expect to receive their Codie robots in Novemeber.

Source: Codie

Festo Reveals Life-Like Robotic Ants And Butterflies

Image source: Festo

The Germany-based robotics company, Festo, has revealed two new robots to add to their collection of nature-mimicking robots. To add to their Bionic Learning Network, Festo has designed fully working swarms of smart robotic ants and butterflies.

The ant robots, called BionicANTs, look, move, and swarm like real ants. Festo has developed a "cooperative behavior" system for the BionicANTs, and this allows them to communicate with each other and work together "to solve a common task."

Festo has engineered and equipped the BionicANTs with laser-sintered components, piezo technology, IR sensors, and 3D cameras. The BionicANTs' chassis is laser-sintered and includes visible components. Piezo actuators are built into the legs and pincers, and they move when voltage is applied. This allows for little energy and space consumption. An onboard optical mouse sensor and 3D camera gives the BionicANTs the ability to sense and track their environment.

The BionicANTs are equipped with LiPo batteries that last about 40 minutes on a single charge. The robots' antennae are used as the recharging dock.

Image source: Festo

The eMotionButterflies feature life-like movement, collaborative behavior, IR tracking, and designs borrowed from previous Festo robots. Each eMotionButterfly weighs in at just 32 grams, uses just two servo motors, two LiPo batteries, and a lightweight, laser-sintered chassis.

During a flight, ten cameras located within the flying room track the butterflies' movements using their IR markers. The cameras then transmit the butterflies' position data to a master computer which then sends location data back to the butterflies. This coordinated flight system prevents the robot butterflies from colliding with each other mid-flight. Festo says that this "could be used in the networked factory of the future."

The eMotionButterflies can fly for 4 minutes or a single 15 minute charge.

Most of these robots are unlikely to hit the consumer market, but they still provide a foundation for the development of future robots.

Source: Festo Via: CNET

TL;DR - Google Medical Robots, Facebook Drones, And Amazon's Robot Contest

Image source: Amazon

We were in Oklahoma City this weekend at a FIRST FRC Regional. We weren't able to post any content to the blog, but here's what we missed during our trip.

According to TechCrunch, Google is partnering up with Johnson & Johnson to create a robot-assisted surgery platform. Check out the article here.

Amazon has announced that they'll be hosting a competition to see who can make the best warehouse robot. Fulfilling orders isn't easy for robot's. 

Facebook announced at its F8 conference that the company is working on a high-altitude drone capable of beaming down Internet to users around the world.