Boston Robotics Company Challenges CES Attendees to Beer Pong

By Shannon Nargi and Rachel McCubbin
BU News Service

Las Vegas— CES officially opened today in Las Vegas with thousands of exhibitors showing off new products and technologies in innovative – and interactive – ways. So interactive, in fact, that one robot is challenging innocent passersby to a game of beer pong; and beating them nearly every time.

Of course, the point of this robot isn’t just be a good college roommate, but instead to highlight the “soft” robotics technology being developed at Empire Robotics, Inc. The Boston-based company uses this technology to create a ‘bot that can better pick up objects, the Empire co-founder and CTO John Amend said.

The “hand” of the robot is actually a half-sphere shaped ball that is filled with what feels like grains of sand. As in the case of the ping pong ball at CES, the “hand” is able to mold around the ball and use an inner vacuum to suck out air between the grainy material in order to maintain a firm grip, before it’s able to aim and shoot the ping pong ball across the table at a cup. This soft technology makes it possible for the robot to pick up virtually anything it wants because it can mold to the object’s specific shape before lifting.

As for releasing and shooting the ball, this robot is pretty accurate, too. The arm is pre-calibrated to shoot at the center cup 10 times in order to lock down the cup’s location, then slight adjustments are made from there to aim at any surrounding cups. So if you weren’t already impressed, that means that the robot aims at specific cups before shooting, rather than just releasing the ball wherever it can.

The technology can be used commercially in manufacturing, cutting down on tool change time and time of overall production. While it’s in Vegas, however, the robot has seemed to have found its use in the party scene.

For more live updates from Bu News Service at CES 2015, follow out hashtage #bunsces on Twitter

Somerville Firm Seeks to Speed Up 3D Printing


FormLabs and its booth at the Expo CES 2015 (Shannon Nargi/BU News Service)
FormLabs and its booth at the Sands Expo CES 2015 (Shannon Nargi/BU News Service)

By Shannon Nargi
BU News Service

Las Vegas— Somerville-based 3D printing company Formlabs has continuously been at the forefront of the 3D printing trend, and here at CES that’s been no different. The company today announced an update in its software that will help to 3D print objects faster on its Form1+ printer than ever before.

Now, Formlabs announced, its Form1+ printer will work in what’s called “Draft Mode;” printing in 200 microns and using up to 60 percent fewer materials in print supports. While this results in a slightly reduced quality of the product, it also means faster printing and better functionality, which is helpful in rapid prototyping. Draft Mode can now shave minutes off of the printing of certain objects compared to other commercial 3D printers.

Formlabs got its start as a Kickstarter success story in 2012 with its first generation printer the Form1. The Form1+, which rolled out last summer, is the latest printer developed by the company that makes easy and professional 3D printing available for any user, with some new improvements over its previous model. The printer is renowned for its precision laser capabilities and use of liquid resin to build the object it’s printing, rather than melting plastic and waiting for it to harden like many other printers.

The Form1+ printer is prices at $3,299.


For more live updates from BU News Service at CES 2015, follow our hashtag #bunsces on Twitter