Thursday, February 27, 2014

Engineer, toy company president explore the frontiers of science and technology at event

MiP, a robotic toy that was developed as a collaboration between the UCSD Coordinated Robotics Lab and toymaker WowWee.
A big thanks to CONNECT, an organization that promotes entrepreneurship in the San Diego area, for featuring mechanical engineering professor Thomas Bewley and tech transfer officer Dave Gibbons during one of their Frontiers in Science and Technology events. Bewley and Gibbons were speaking with Peter Yanofsky, the president of WowWee USA. The trio worked together on MiP, a toy robot that moves around on two wheels thanks to balancing technology developed in Bewley's lab.

Bewley spoke about his lab's ongoing work in robotic vehicle design and about some of the unique design and commercialization challenges the team faced with MiP. Yanofsky spoke about the complex process of creative prototyping, refinement of a toy's playspec, design for manufacturing, production and distribution. Gibbons served as moderator for the event.

Excerpts from the program overview:

Mix a bunch of university robotics fanatics together with a nimble high-tech toy company willing to take creative risks, and what do you get? A dynamic new line of game-changing self-balancing robotic vehicles that become instant hits at the Computer Electronics Show (CES) and overnight media darlings, and which are poised to shift the needle in the public’s perception of robotics in our everyday lives.

“MiP, short for Mobile Inverted Pendulum, sways gently when standing or moving, and steps back to regain its balance when disturbed,” says Prof. Bewley, director of the Coordinated Robotics Lab at UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering. “In a very real way, the dynamics of MiP mimics life.”
Of course, with organic moves like that, MiP can’t resist dancing to your music library, boxing with other MiPs, playing stacking games, or simply kicking around ping-pong balls. And, with its (included) carrying tray, built-in bluetooth, free apps, infrared sensors, and remarkable hackability features, the perennial “yes, but can it bring me a beer” question is one major step closer to being solved.

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