Backtalk - 7/10/2008

July 10, 2008
RoboTeddy to the Rescue

A robotic teddy bear, designed to work as a talking car-navigation system, has been created by iXs Research Corp. The 1-ft-tall teddy uses six joints in its arms and neck to make gestures while providing spoken directions.

Safety functions have also been built into the bear. If the alcohol-detection sensor, which is embedded in its neck, detects booze, the bear confronts the driver by saying, “You haven’t been drinking, have you?” Other sensors detect reckless driving. If the driver suddenly accelerates or slams on the brakes, the robot says, “Watch out!”

If you stroke the robot bear’s head, it will provide information about nearby landmarks.

The company hopes to make the robot commercially available next year. “We want to make it more compact,” says CEO Fuminori Yamasaki, “and we’d like to offer a variety of shapes, including other characters and a plain mechanical version.”

“Powercat Pullers” Mow Down the Competition

The Kansas State University “Powercat Pullers” took home top honors in the ASABE Annual International …-Scale Tractor Student Design Competition last month. In the competition’s 11-year history, KSU has won seven times.

ASABE, based in St. Joseph, Mich., is an international educational and scientific organization dedicated to sustainable development, production and use of agricultural and biologically based products.

Rounding out the top five were: Universit Laval, Iowa State, University of Kentucky, and University of Saskatchewan.

Teams were judged in categories: Oral presentation, Written report, Static design judging, Maneuverability, and Performance (tractor pull). KSU placed first in the Written design report and Performance categories, while California Polytechnical Institute (Cal Poly) earned the top spot for Oral presentation, and the Univ. of Saskatchewan topped Maneuverability. Individual awards were given to teams demonstrating outstanding effort in each of the design subcategories.

Corporate sponsors included AGCO, Bridgestone/Firestone, Briggs & Stratton, Case, Caterpillar, Deere & Co., Kubota, New Holland, and SolidWorks. Additional support was provided by Campbell Scientific, Inc., Central City Scale, Claas Omaha, eServe, Kentucky Corn Growers Association, Star Equipment, and Miller.

The annual competition gives university students a “360°” design experience, as they must build a tractor from the ground up, document their market research, testing, and development; present their design to a mock corporate management team; and demonstrate performance in a live tractor pull. Unofficial dates for the 2009 competition are May 28 - 31.

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