Tag Archives: robotics

KATIA is a robotic arm that can scan, 3D print, laser cut and even decorate a cake

KATIA brings the functionality of an industrial robotic arm to mainstream consumers. 

Will robots replace humans? This is a question we have speculated for decades, and the World Economic Forum released a report this week predicting the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” in 2020. While the thought of robots taking over can be daunting, one San Francisco-based startup offers a positive near future where robots can work with us.


Meet KATIA — short for “Kick Ass Trainable Intelligent Arm” — the brainchild, or shall we say brain arm, of Carbon Robotics. Behind this great name is an even greater product. KATIA is a robotic arm that is modular, open source and can be manually trained for those not fluent in code, making it incredibly versatile and easy to use. Co-founders Rosanna Myers and Dan Corkum sought to create a robotics platform designed for the consumer market. Ordinary people can make use of KATIA, no programming skills or roboticist required.

KATIA is hackable, modular and customizable for each use and environment. It was built on an open platform so users can access its API via tools like Arduino and Python. Add-on attachments can be swapped on and off the robotic device, allowing KATIA to be more than a just an arm that can grab and move objects. It can be transformed into a 3D scanner, 3D printer, laser cutter, and even a cake decorator.


KATIA can be taught new movements if you simply guide the arm as it will replicate the desired motion, or you can draw a path for it to follow in the accompanying app. So if you wanted to decorate a cake, for example, KATIA can squeeze the icing in the design of your choosing.

The Carbon Robotics team recently presented at TechCrunch’s Hardware Battlefield finals back at CES 2016, where Myers said in the presentation, “The problem is that [robotic arms] are expensive. They’re difficult to use, and quite frankly not that safe. And that’s where we come in.”

KATIA can carry up to 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) and moves with sub-millimeter precision. This powerful robotic arm also ensures safety. Enclosed in its carbon fiber frame are sensors that can detect humans and things that come within close range.

Marketed as having the capabilities of an industrial robot at the price of a laptop, KATIA will be selling for $1,999 starting this March. To stay up-to-date, be sure to check out the Carbon Robotics website here.

This Maker built his own robot drinking buddy

Bot-toms up!

Let’s face it, there’s no fun in drinking alone. This is what inspired South Korean Maker Eunchan Park to develop a robot that can literally go shot for shot with him, albeit never actually consuming the alcohol. Although he may not be able to chat like some of your best buds, the slick device can accompany you if you feel like throwing back a few when no one else is around.


While there have been plenty of bots capable of preparing and mixing cocktails for you in the past, we’re not sure if we’ve ever seen one that actually drinks with you instead. Not only can the aptly named Robot Drinky cheers your glass, his cheeks emit a red light with every chug and he can even signal for a refill as well.

The idea for such a companion was conceived after experiencing a lonely holiday a few years back. As Park explains:

On Christmas in 2012, I drank Soju (Korean alcohol) alone because I had no girlfriend at that time. Drinking alone was definitely terrible! So I couldn’t drink anymore.
Lastly, I put an extra glass in front of me and poured Soju into it. And then, I cheered by myself with the glass of Soju, as though there was someone in front of me. Surprisingly, after that, the taste became totally to be changed!!!!!! WOW!!!

So, I could finally find the secret of taste of alcohol totally depends on existence of partner. This is why I made this robot.

There’s no word yet on whether the Maker has any future plans for Drinky, but we wouldn’t be surprised to find it on Kickstarter or at a CES in the near future. See him in action below!

A DIY quadruped that waves and walks

Maker builds a 3D-printed, Arduino-based social quadruped that can wander freely or be controlled via Bluetooth.

The Makecourse at the University of South Florida teaches the basic skills for engineering design projects, and, unlike most classes of this type, is open to all USF students with no prerequisites. For his part in it, Chomba Waihenya decided to build a quadruped robot. The bot can be controlled via a Bluetooth connection (including a phone app that he wrote), or it can be set free to wander about, avoiding obstacles using an ultrasonic range finder.


The first design for the quadruped involved three servos, or three degrees of freedom (DOF), per leg, but after initial testing he decided to go with a simpler two servo/DOF design. The robot takes advantage of a sliding gait to move, as shown in the videos below. The outer servo makes the leg either stretch out or contract, affecting the amount that it grips the smooth floor. Depending on how these two servos are positioned and moved, this allows the ‘bot to move forward, backward, left, or right. Additionally, it can lie down on command, as well as do a friendly wave with either of its front appendages, making it a “social” quadruped.


Control is accomplished via an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) with a Bluetooth module, with an Arduino V5 sensor shield for simplified wiring. As eight servos plug into the shield in this application, the term “sensor shield” probably doesn’t give its abilities enough credit!

This DIY BB-8 will have you at beep

Just in time for The Force Awakens, one Maker has built his own 3D-printed, remote-controlled BB-8.

Although we’re just days away from the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s safe to say that BB-8 has already become the breakout star of the film. Since first laying eyes on the soccer ball-sized droid in the trailer, it has seemingly captured the hearts of everyone — whether a fan or not.


Instead of rushing to stores and purchasing a mini BB-8 of their own, several Makers have opted to build their own cute metallic orange ball with a beeping head. Take software engineer Jean-René Bédard, for example. His version is entirely 3D-printed, hand-painted and powered by a simple ATmega328 based, Arduino-compatible robotic platform.

The Maker designed his BB-8 in SketchUp and then spit him out using two Dremel Idea Builder 3D printers — a process that took roughly 50 hours to completed and called for over 650 feet (200 meters) of PLA filament.

Although it may not roll like the one in the Hollywood flick, Bédard’s bot can balance itself on a pair of wheels and be controlled with a basic RF remote. It is equipped with authentic sounds and several Adafruit LEDs to give it the full effect along with its orange and silver nail polish exterior. What’s more, the beeping BB-8’s head moves via a micro servo actuated by the Arduino.

This project will surely awaken your Maker forces. See for yourself below!


This Mecanum wheel robot has some serious parallel parking skills

Build an Arduino-based, Bluetooth-controlled Mecanum wheel robot that can move in all four directions, without rotating itself. 

Mecanum wheels have additional secondary rollers offset at an angle. These allow for a device or robot equipped with four of them to move in any direction, even directly left and right depending on which combination of four wheels is actuated. If you’ve never seen this sliding locomotion method before, be sure to check out the video below to see just how this robot works. Although only shown traveling in straight lines there, these type of wheels are also capable of rotating a vehicle.


According to the author of this project, a Warsaw, Poland-based Maker named Adam, “Since I can remember I always wanted to build a mecanum wheel robot. The Mecanum wheel robotic platforms available on the market were a little too expensive for me so I decided to build my robot from scratch.”

His build is simple but elegant, with two pairs of motors attached to each other via metal tubing, then fastened to a simple chassis made out of a rectangular piece of plastic. As needed for this type of locomotion, wheels are spaced so that the smaller rollers are all pointing toward the center of the bot.


The Maker used an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) along with a Bluetooth module that enables him to wirelessly control the robot using an Android app. The electronic system is equipped with two power sources: an 11.1V 1300 mAh LiPo for supplying the DC motors and a 7.4V 1800 mAh LiPo for the ‘duino. Adam explains what is physically happening in his Instructables article, as well as how the code generally works. If you’d like more details on his code, the full program is available on GitHub.

mBot is an Arduino-compatible educational robot for young Makers

Now part of the Arduino AtHeart program, Makeblock is looking help children learn how to program through a user-friendly kit, software and interface. 

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a number of easy-to-use robotic kits become available for young Makers in hope of inspiring them to pursue STEM-related fields. Among the more notable companies looking to spur this initiative is Shenzhen startup Makeblock with their low-cost educational robot


In the company’s pursuit of an O.R.P.K (or “One Robot Per Kid”) world, mBot was designed to be a comprehensive solution that would provide children with a hands-on experience around graphical programming, electronics and robotics. With simplicity in mind, the kit is comprised of only 45 or so pieces, enabling a sense of achievement for kids to quickly assemble in 10 minutes.

Given the popularity of Scratch 2.0 as a graphical programming software in the classroom setting, the Makeblock team has developed a new line of Scratch-based software — aptly named mBlock — that uses a similar coding style to configure Arduino and robots. The drag-and-drop software is entirely free and supports both Window and Mac operating systems. Beyond that, mBlock supports wireless communication, allowing Makers to use either Bluetooth or 2.4GHz wireless serial to ‘talk’ with its accompanying mBot. The program is also compatible with Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and Leonardo (ATmega32U4) boards, as well as Makeblock’s own Arduino variant, the mCore.


Powered by an ATmega328, each mBot board features intuitional color labels and four easy-to-follow RJ25 connectors. This lets Makers wire the unit in a matter of seconds, and more importantly, provides them with a hassle-free way to focus on actually devising all sorts of interactive projects — ranging from robots that can avoid walls and follow lines to play music and duke it out in a fight.

The friendly blue robot is currently being offered in a pair of models based on its communication capabilities. The Bluetooth version, which is equipped with a Bluetooth module, is suitable for individual or team use; whereas the 2.4G version, which features two 2.4G wireless modules, is intended for the classroom. Aside from that, each kit consists of a chassis, two motors, an ultrasonic sensor, a line follower, a remote controller, a buzzer, some RGD LEDs, an mCore, and a few other electronic components. mBot can be powered by either a rechargeable lithium battery or four-1.5V AA batteries.


“We designed specially two available wireless communication instead of wired USB cable, so users can enjoy wireless programming to control robots without the limit of USB cable,” the team explains. “The chassis is compatible with Lego and Makeblock parts. And you can use on-hand Raspberry Pi or standard Arduino boards to learn more about electronics or bring kid’s more ideas to life.”

Not only did it garner more than $285,00 from 2,500-plus backers on Kickstarter earlier this year, Makeblock’s mBot has now become a member of the growing Arduino AtHeart program.

Watch this Arduino-controlled, autonomous robot swim underwater

This robot is fincredible!

A team from the Control Systems and Robotics Laboratory at the Technological Educational Institute of Crete has developed a bio-inspired, fin-propelled robot that can swim underwater.


Each fin is comprised of three individually actuated fin rays, which are interconnected by an elastic membrane. An Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) at its core runs custom real-time firmware that implements two Central Pattern Generator (CPG) networks to produce the undulatory motion profile for the robot’s fins, through which propulsion is achieved.


The prototype, which is fully untethered and energetically autonomous, also integrates an IMU/AHRS for navigation purposes, a Bluetooth module for wireless communication and a camera to capture underwater video. This footage includes experiments conducted in a lab’s test tank to investigate closed loop motion control strategies, as well as clips from actual sea trials. The robot is powered by a 7.4V LiPo battery.

This autonomous robot feeds on filthy water

The Row-bot is a self-powered robot that can eliminate pollutants and contaminants from water.

Don’t expect to find the tiny robot pictured below swimming in any bathtub or pool anytime soon; in fact, you won’t probably won’t find it in any clean body of water. That’s right, the Row-bot thrives on pollution — the more, the merrier.


Inspired by beetles and other insects like the water boatmen bug who feed off nutrients found in the dirty water it swims in, researchers at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory have developed an autonomous machine with hopes of eliminating pollutants and other dangerous contaminants.

When it is hungry, the Row-bot opens its soft robotic mouth and rows forward to fill its microbial fuel cell (MFC) stomach with nutrient-rich dirty water. It then closes its mouth and slowly digests the nutrients, before using the bio-degradation of organic matter to generate electricity via bio-inspired mechanisms. That same electrical energy keeps the Row-bot propelling to a new location for another gulp of H2O.

In order to produce the most efficient movement possible, the researchers tried to mimic the water boatman whose legs are covered by swimming hairs that span laterally to maximize drag during the power stroke and collapse to minimize drag during the recovery stroke. But whereas the insect has hair-covered legs, the Row-bot’s propulsion mechanism is comprised of a 3D-printed paddle powered by a tiny 0.75 watt brushed DC motor.


Row-bot consists of a 3D-printed composite structure with a rigid frame supporting an elastic membrane — each paddle is stretched out to increase the paddle surface area during the power stroke. The membrane has a hinge that changes the angle of attack on the part of the paddle that remains underwater during the recovery stroke to reduce its frontal area, and therefore, its drag.

This robot has plenty of practical applications, such as remote sensing and environmental monitoring. Row-bot can be used in any kind of water, from fresh to salt to waste water. For instance, they can be thrown in a polluted pond and rove for months, while feeding on the filth and cleaning as they go.

“The work shows a crucial step in the development of autonomous robots capable of long-term self-power. Most robots require re-charging or refuelling, often requiring human involvement,” explains Jonathan Rossiter, Professor of Robotics at the University of Bristol and BRL.

Just think of the possibilities… Head over to the Row-bot’s official paper here to read more.

Control this robotic wing with your ears

::vtol:: gives you wings… well, sort of.

Ever wonder what it would be like to give yourself wings or perhaps a tail? Well, Moscow-based artist Dmitry Morozov has. So much so that the Maker, who we’ve come to know as ::vtol::, has developed a robotized installation that does just that.


Commissioned by the Center for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe for this year’s GLOBALE: Exo-Evolution exhibition, the aptly named wing project measures eight feet wide and is suspended 10 to 13 feet in the air. And that’s not even the most impressive part — what ::vtol::’s interactive robotic wing can do is mind-blowing.

A thin cable hangs from wing, the end of which is outfitted with dermal miographic sensors that measure the electrical potential of muscles. Visitors are encouraged to place these sensors on their heads just behind the ear and rhythmically swing the object by simply moving their ears.


“The main idea of the project is an ironical and at the same time serious research on the topic of development of new instruments and prostheses as ‘extensions’ of human body and accordingly its possibilities and potentials, which are being revealed by new technologies,” ::vtol:: explains. “At the same time, it’s an attempt to stimulate people to perceive and train the body in a different way, expanding the limits of self-control and self-organization in order to adapt to the new conditions.”

An Arduino Uno (ATmega328) serves as the brains of the operation along with a series of servo motors, linear actuators and cords. As for its software, ::vtol:: is using the Pure Data programming environment.

Intrigued? Check out the project’s official page here, and be sure to watch it in action below!

Alpha 2 is the humanoid robot you’ve always wanted

A small robot with a big brain.

After watching Robin William’s title role in “The Bicentennial Man” (1999), did you dream of having a humanoid robot of your own? One that walks, talks and performs various duties, just like a member of the family? Well, the time of having your own “Bicentennial Man” is almost here. Meet Alpha 2, the smart humanoid robot by Shenzen-based startup UBTECH Robotics.


UBTECH founder and CEO James Chow has devoted his career to creating intelligent robots for family use. With Alpha 2, Chow and his team of experienced robotics experts deliver a smart and interactive humanoid with social skills and practical household service. It’s easy to underestimate this small and cute robot as a toy, but Alpha 2 is touted to be smarter than your smartphone.

Alpha 2 is an all-in-one companion, personal assistant, tutor, in-home nurse, housekeeper and more. Using his Internet-connected brain with face and voice recognition, the bot can meet many of the daily needs for each family member. Its programmed conversation skills, general knowledge database and web search function makes it a great companion, tutor or helper around the house. You can ask Alpha 2 to make calls, check voice mails, read emails, send texts and control appliances, among countless other tasks.


Not only can he take care of office work, he can take care of you. Alpha 2 can remind you when medications need to be taken, as well as control smart appliances including lights, locks and set Wi-Fi-enabled alarms and security systems. For fun, Alpha 2 can read to children, play music, dance, take photos and videos and work out with you. He has 20 joints replicating human movement, equipping it with the widest range of motion of any consumer robot to date.


To get Alpha 2 alive and kicking, you simply connect it to your Wi-Fi network, teach it to recognize your face and voice, and download the accompanying mobile app for control and additional functions. At the heart of Alpha 2 is digital servo, an automatic control system that consists of a control board, a gear set and a motor. The humanoid is comprised of eight 8kg servos (head and hands) and 12 20kg servos (lower limbs), each driven by an ATmega8 MCU.

Beyond that, he is equipped with a Samsung Exynos 5260 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, a 3W stereo speaker, a number of sensors (accelerometer, touch and sonar), and runs the Android 4.4 OS. The cute companion has several RGB LEDs throughout his body, including his eyes, hands and chest, and offers both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. While the software is proprietary, UBTECH will provide an open API and SDK for Android app development.


Intrigued? Head over to Alpha 2’s Indiegogo campaign, where UBTECH Robotics has well surpassed its goal of $100,000. The first batch of units is expected to ship in February 2016.