Service Robots

Stories on Saturday: Tesla’s new Battery, Oculus Rift for Telepresence and Powerful MicroTugs

Tesla Powerwall battery and Model S

Tesla launches Powerwall battery technology for home use

This is perhaps the most interesting recent happening, on April 30th Tesla introduced Powerwall which is a battery technology and device which enables home users to store electricity – mainly from solar panels – and use it in case of power outages, and in theory could even enable them to disconnect from the grid and generate and store power autonomously. The technology is based on that of Lithiom-Ion batteries employed in Tesla vehicles and the system is fully scalable. Future developments expressed include even similar solutions designed for industrial use.

Units are now on preorder with shipping expected to start this summer. A 10 kWh backup unit will set you back around US $3,500 while a complementary 7 kWh unit will costs US $3,000. Continuous power delivery is rated at 2 kW, up to 3.3 kW peak. A DC-AC inverter, which is not included and costs at least as much as the power pack, is also required to adapt power delivery to the home network, not to mention the cost of professional installation services which should not be overlooked.

You can find out more from their press release. More opinions and coverage on Extreme Tech, Forbes, Venture Beat and Auto Blog.

How to build your own 3D printer with under US $200

Instructables maker Almus Yang posted a very interesting tutorial on how to build a very cheap yet pretty good 3D printer. The chassis is made of laser cut wood and acrylic parts and standard NEMA steppers are employed for actuating the unit. Everything is controlled by an Arduino Mega 2560 unit via a Ramps 1.4 module. Via 3D Print.

Oculus Rift adds true immersive experience to telepresence robots

A team of researchers at University of Pennsylvania have created DORA (Dexterous Observational Roving Automaton) a platform employing off-the-shelf hardware to deliver a highly advanced yet affordable telepresence system. Along with standard actuators and sensors employed in DORA, researchers decided to also implement Oculus Rift virtual reality technology. All head movements of the remote user are tracked and the robot mimics them exactly, providing a truly immersive experience. Via Automaton

Stanford’s MicroTug robots can drag objects 2,000 times their weight

The microbots are able to accomplish this by means of directional adhesives inspired by nature, similar to ants or geckos. MicroTugs can drag objects either on horizontal or vertical glass-like surfaces. Via Automaton

Chinese android greets people at Beijing conference

Yangyang is a ‘female’ android developed by Chinese company Shanghai Shenqing Industry (SSI) in colaboration with well known Japanese roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro who is specialized in such lifelike androids. The android is modeled after Song Yang, a researcher who was actually involved in the project, and is built with focus on facial expressions and communication, having no less than 43 degrees of freedom. It also features a special silicone ‘skin’ which feels very similar in texture to that of a human.

Parrot Bebop hands-on review

A very detailed review from Gizmodo of Parrot’s latest drone, especially if you’re in the market for a camera drone around the US $1,000 mark.

Quick look at porting Android and iOS apps to Windows 10

Earlier this week at Microsoft Build 2015 features and novelties which will be introduced by Windows 10 were presented. One of them, to be released soon after Windows 10, is a framework designed to let developers easily port iOS and Android apps to the Windows Store by means of a series of specifically designed toolkits called Universal Windows Platform Bridges.


Dan Mihai is an Automation and Computer Science graduate, he has a passion for robotics and is especially enthusiastic about wheeled mobile robots, AGVs and things with wheels in general.

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