Make Magazine’s blog had an interesting item on how researchers in the U.K. have automated a long, repetitive process by using Lego Mindstorms NXT robots. The researchers are working on automated bones, and building up the material involves repeatedly dunking the substrate in various liquids in a certain order. Rather than buy expensive equipment dedicated to this application, they put some Mindstorms robots together and programmed them.
A second item of interest comes from Udacity’s Programming a Robotic Car course. The course is in beta (as are all their courses) and still has some rough edges (e.g., in the automated grading of programming homework), but the course is fascinating and well-taught. I find it to be good value for the time committed and the courses are free. In any event, there’s an interesting video showing a visualization one of the cars in the DARPA challenge detecting the barriers in the maze it’s in and using it’s A* pathfinding algorithm to determine its path. The video also shows the car dealing with a complete roadblock and parking itself.