Archive for April, 2008

Classroom Robot Inspired by Sculptor Theo Jansen

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Theo Jansen - Animaris Rhinoceros photo The artwork developed by kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen is truly inspirational. The vision behind his movable works is that someday these mechanical beasts could live on any beach in the world as if they were some sort of futuristic animal that survives on wind power. In a way, Jansen has developed an improved version of the wheel, one that can easily travel over sand. One noteworthy creature he developed is called Animaris Rhinoceros, and it looks a cross between a Star Wars AT Walker and a dinosaur. It stands over five meters (16 feet) tall and weighs 3.2 tons!

So imagine my surprise when I saw a fully functioning remote control robot that looks very close to this Theo Jansen piece. It’s eight legs and walks in a similar manner. It also has an extendable arm for grabbing items. The miniaturized version was created with various parts from many robot kits offered by Innovation First. This amazing electronics company makes hobby kits for educational use and also developed the fully functioning Theo Jansen-like robot you can see in the video below.

I was told by representatives at Innovation First that this specific robot has garnered so much interest, that they’re thinking about making a specialized kit so others can also build this specific work. Bringing robotics, engineering AND inspirational sculpture into the classroom, now there’s a forward thinking idea worth watching!

Extending RFID Play – Animal Scramble by Wild Planet

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Wild Planet - Animal Scramble RFID toyLast year I wrote about a tech toy product called Hyper Dash developed by the toy company Wild Planet. Hyper Dash is an electronic game that allows one user to hide up to five hockey puck sized targets, indoors or out, and another person can search for these targets with the help of a talking controller. I thought this was a brilliant use of RFID, a technology that relies on small paper thin microchips that can be detected within short distances via the radio frequencies they emit. (So when will this technology become standard in all car keys? Imagine the time we could all save each morning trying to find them!)

This coming fall Wild Planet will release a new iteration of this technology enhanced play pattern specifically for preschoolers. The product will be called Animal Scramble and it relies uses the same technology, but will support a hide-and-seek learning play pattern using plastic animal characters. The talking controller is a giraffe and the small targets include a monkey, a parrot, an elephant and a tiger. The giraffe calls out different challenges for one or many different players to accomplish, like tag the animal that has stripes, or find the animal that begins with the letter “M”. The animals can be spread out across a living room, backyard, or even a larger space for more exercise.

While Animal Scramble and Hyper Dash are great uses of RFID technology, it feels like RFID is inching along when it comes to being used in new and original ways. I keep waiting to see breakthrough applications that rely on the technology but am surprised at how few new products take advantage of its possibilities.

The only other child-focused RFID product I’ve seen so far this year includes a child alarm system developed by Smart Target called Kiddo. This product sounds an alarm when a child or even a pet you’re watching (or maybe not watching) equipped with an RFID tag moves outside of a designated play area.

Immediately I see how this technology can be used in all the clothes I drop off at the dry cleaner, important books I wish to keep on a designated bookshelf, picking up luggage at the airport, and did I mention the part about car keys?

So today I’d like to congratulate Wild Planet for pushing the RFID envelope. Many more play patterns are yet to be discovered. I look forward to this space heating up. Thank you for leading the charge!

H2Go – The World’s First Hydrogen Powered Toy

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

The world’s first hydrogen powered toy, called H2Go, was presented at the 2008 NY Toy Fair by a company called Corgi. The fully functioning prototypes Corgi brought to the show were very impressive and the best example of toy technology innovation at the show.

The remote controlled car is powered by hydrogen fuel which is separated out from common tap water through a device called the “Refueling Station”, or as the company commonly referred to as the “cooker” Connect the car up to the cooker via a small fueling tube, press the plunger down on the cooker to force the hydrogen into the car, and away you go! The cooker and the remote control itself are powered by rechargeable batteries.

Corgi demonstrated a strong commitment to being as green as possible by quoting just what percentage of renewable energy was used through the combination of the different components that power the car. The car, cooker, and remote control sell together for $100. The solar panel, which can be purchased separately costs an extra $20. Without the solar panel, the cooker and remote control require a traditional electric outlet to recharge its batteries.