Innovation Lab: Star Wars Robots, Speedy 3D Printing and Automatic Kitchens

Tim Maytom

At Mobile Marketing we're proud to help tech companies showcase their cutting-edge solutions; the Startup Showcase at our Mobile Marketing Summits gives a platform to those companies, and brings audiences one step closer to ideas and developments that are breaking new ground in the market.

In that spirit, our Innovation Lab feature takes a step beyond the world of apps, ads and handsets with slightly bigger screens, in order to share some of the tech world's innovative ideas. They might be interesting, disruptive or just outright strange, but these are the stories that have caught our eye over the past week.

Star Wars Creators Roll Out Real-life Gyro-stabilised Robot at Celebrationbb8-and-r2d2It's not out until December, but the new Star Wars film The Force Awakens is already building up buzz. The production team was present at the Star Wars Celebration, an annual convention in Anaheim, California to debut the new trailer and answer questions, and among the surprises for fans was a real-life version of the BB-8 droid featured in the new film.

The robot has a unique design, consisting of a spherical body with a head that balances on top, staying more or less in place as the ball body rolls around. While no details of the design were revealed, it is likely that the prop consists of two robots - the spherical body similar to robots like Sphero, and the upper section which uses gyroscopic sensors and accelerometers to detect which way the ball is moving, and fast-spinning magnetic wheels to compensate.

Director J.J. Abrams spoke about why they elected to use a physical, working robot instead of relying on CGI, saying that he felt "it would be better for the actors to have something to interact with," rather than having to rely on their imaginations.

Stabilised Laser Pointer Hides Your Nervousness at Presentations

If you find presentations a source of anxiety, that can often be betrayed by your body, and there are few sensations worse than trying to stay cool and calm while the laser pointer you are demonstrating with is shaking across the screen.

SteadyLaser aims to remedy that using a balanced two-axis gimbal to keep the laser emitter steady, even if your hand is shaking or has a tremor, so that the projected red dot remains smooth.

The product is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, and includes a standard laser pointer as well as the auto-steadying version, although quite why you'd want to go back to a shaky dot after buying one specifically to smooth it out is not clear.

moley roboticsRobotic Arm Prototype Aims to Automate Home Cooking

Moley Robotics and the Shadow Robot Company have debuted a prototype for a robotic arm that can cook thousands of different meals without human supervision at the Hanover Messe international robotics show.

The robot, which at the show was cooking a crab bisque based on the movements of MasterChef winner Tim Anderson, will not be available for two years yet, but then it is, will supposedly come with over 2,000 recipes in its library, and include a built in fridge and dishwasher.

"Whether you love food and want to explore different cuisines, or fancy saving a favourite family recipe for everyone to enjoy for years to come, the Automated Kitchen can do this," said Mark Oleynik, founder of Moley Robotics. "It is not just a labour saving device – it is a platform for our creativity. It can teach us how to become better cooks."

Revolutionary 3D Printing Technique Dramatically Speeds Process

Traditional 3D printing relies on adding layer after layer of material, building up an object slowly over time, and while it can produce complex items that would be impossible to create traditionally, it can also take hours or even days to make objects, some of which are mechanically weak due to the way they have been constructed.

Carbon3D's continuous liquid interface production (CLIP) technology takes a different approach, using a pool of resin which reacts to UV light and oxygen to continuously grow and object that appears to rise out of the pool at speeds between 25 and 100 times faster than standard 3D printing.

"If 3D printing hopes to break out of the prototyping niche it has been trapped in for decades, we need to find a disruptive technology that attacks the problem from a fresh perspective and addresses 3D printing's fundamental weaknesses," said Jim Goetz, board member at Carbon3D and partner with Sequoia Capital. "When we met Joe and saw what his team had invented, it was immediately clear to us that 3D printing would never be the same."

nailOMIT Researchers Aim to Put a Trackpad on Your Thumb

Wearables are getting smaller and more integrated into our daily lives, and researchers at MIT have come up with the latest way to effortlessly control technology with a flexible trackpad that fits over your thumbnail.

The NailO enables users to scroll, swipe and tap in a discrete manner, connecting with a wide variety of mobile devices, with uses including responding to urgent messages with subtle gestures, and scrolling through instructions for recipes or craft projects will both hands are occupied.

The researchers even envision the NailO becoming a style or design statement, with different changeable designs and colours for those who want to draw attention to their integrated technology, along with a more natural-looking design for those who want to disguise it.