The Robots of Mega Startup Weekend

April 16, 2012

3:33 pm

Robots are like puppies, they have an inherent alluring quality to them.  And by that standard, Mega Startup Weekend 2012 should be rebranded as AllureFest; robots abounded.

The first robot I met was AMP, the Automated Music Personality (aka the Party Robot).  AMP is a music playing, self-balancing DJ butler. His frame is reminiscent of a smaller scale Segway, with a similar ability to rotate.  He streams music.  He has a cup holder.  He is controlled by  smartphone, remote control, or the buttons on his frame.  AMP is everything you could ask for from a robot DJ butler.

Also in attendance was Sphero, the illuminating, robotic ball controlled by smartphone (Android or iOS).  Sphero offers an open API and SDK, will be releasing a pair of new apps in April and many more in the near future.  Note: it’s impossible for any male human to say “balls” without laughing – as demonstrated in the video below.

Next was Oddwerx, an attaching dock with wheels and corresponding mobile app that turns your smartphone into an autonomous robot.  By using facial detection, Oddwerks will either roll toward or away from you depending on how close you get to your phone.  As pointed out by our demonstrator, Ted, the Oddwerks platform is currently raising funds on Kickstarter.

Also being showcased was Willow Garage’s Turtle Bot.  The Turtle Bot interfaces with Microsoft Kinect to bring motion detection on wheels.  The bot is capable of building 3D pictures, taking panoramas, and offers an SDK to encourage future application innovation.

Last but not least was the Whiskey Bot – one of the robotics projects built during the 54 hour competition.  In hopes of solving the widely recognized problem of not being able to drink projectile whiskey, the duo behind the Whiskey Bot created the solution.  By interfacing with the Microsoft Kinect, Whiskey Bot determines the party-goer’s position, and upon given the shot-calling cue, the bot uses a ballistic mechanism to propel the liquor into your “mouth area” from afar.  Below is the team’s full pitch.

At the end of the demonstration, the Whiskey Bot team asked if anyone wanted to give their spirit slinging bot a test run.  Guess whose hand shot up before they could finish asking the question?

Frank Gruber and the Whiskey Bot

Frank Gruber eagerly awaiting his Whiskey Bot gift.


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When Zach Davis isn’t getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail’s Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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