Innovation Lab: Limping Robots, Pizza Projectors & Smart Fabric

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.

Evolving Robot Learns to Walk With a Limp



One of the key problems engineers have faced in designing robots, especially those that are sent into hazardous or hard-to-reach environments, is that if they become damaged, they become more or less useless, unable to adapt to their new situation or repair themselves.

Researchers at Paris' Pierre & Marie Curie University have been working to fix this issue, with a robot that can adapt like an animal to damaged parts, testing out various methods to continue walking before settling on the most efficient method that maintains direction and speed.

The robot uses an intelligent trial-and-error algorithm that enables it to adapt to damage in less than two minutes without requiring pre-specified contingency plans, instead using a map of it's high-performing behaviours to determine what ones are most useful, then using this knowledge to rapidly compensate for damaged limbs.

"Whereas animals can quickly adapt to injuries, current robots cannot 'think outside the box' to find a compensatory behaviour when they are damaged: they are limited to their pre-specified self-sensing abilities, can diagnose only anticipated failure modes, and require a pre-programmed contingency plan for every type of potential damage," said Antoine Cully, one of the researchers behind the project. "This new algorithm will enable more robust, effective, autonomous robots, and may shed light on the principles that animals use to adapt to injury."

pizza projectorPizza and a Movie in One Complete Package, Thanks to Pizza Hut

Pizza boxes are an oft-neglected branding opportunity, and while companies are slowly catching up, with QR codes and those little holes that hold garlic sauce, Pizza Hut in Hong Kong has gone one step further with a pizza box that transforms into a movie projector with the addition of a mobile phone.

The Blockbuster Box, created by Reed Collins, CCO of ad agency Ogilvy and Mather Group, includes a lens and phone stand integrated into the pizza saver that stands in the middle of the box, and features a punch-out hole in the cardboard that enables customers to quickly transform their takeaway into a home cinema.

Pizza Hut has created four different boxes for various film genres: Hot and Ready for romance, Fully Loaded for action thrillers, Anchovy Armageddon for sci-fi and Slice Night for horror. The boxes come with scannable codes for film downloads, meaning that customers don't even have to worry about being part of a streaming service.

The distinctive boxes are only available in Hong Kong at the moment, but if the campaign proves successful, 'pizza and a movie' night may soon transform into 'pizza with a movie' night for consumers everywhere.

'PomPom Mirror' Shows Your Furry Reflection



It's not exactly useful for putting on your makeup or making sure you haven't missed a spot while shaving, but the PomPom Mirror, created by New York-based artist Daniel Rozin, does demonstrate the unique ways that technology and art are intersecting.

Using a Kinect motion capture device, the piece captures movements in front of it, then translates it into instructions for 464 servos that flip 928 black and white faux fur pom poms, creating a furry silhouette in real-time.

The piece is on show in New York City's Bitforms gallery, which specialises in contemporary art that engages with new media, as part of Rozin's exhibition Descent with Modification, which focuses on the kinetic and interactive properties of both human beings and technology.

jacquardGoogle's Smart Cloth Can Act as a Trackpad

Project Jacquard is the latest innovation to come out of Google's ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) division, which has also given us the Project Ara modular phone and the Project Tango 3D-sensing technology. With Jacquard, Google is working on transforming the clothes we wear into smart objects.

According to Engadget, the main focus of the project has been the Jacquard loom, which can weave regular and conductive fabric together to form a single piece of textile with the properties of both. Using this material, conductive squares within a large piece of fabric can be used to turn on lights, control media players or even act as trackpads.

So far, the trials have focused on getting the material to work on flat surfaces. The next hurdle is to ensure the material retains its functionality when curved, bent or bunched, as well as miniaturising the other components needed to connect the fabric to devices. Once these challenges have been overcome, however, we may well be controlling our smartphones and connected homes with our jackets.

Smart Flashlight Integrates GPS, Walkie-talkie and More



The Fogo 'Adventure Gadget' does an excellent job of packing in more or less everything you'd need for a camping trip apart from the tent. The smart flashlight includes a walkie-talkie, GPS tracker, digital compass and even enables you to send text messages when you're far from any conventional signal.

The durable and waterproof device includes a motion detector so you can find it in the dark, can charge USB devices as a backup battery and preserves it's own power by adjusting light levels based on the environment and where you're pointing it (dimming when focused on paths, then brightening when pointed at the distance).

The GPS can be programmed with waypoints to guide you, or create them as you walk, while also acting as a pedometer. When attached to a bike, it can track speed, distance, elevation and even use Bluetooth connectivity to monitor your heartrate. In addition, the device is modular, so additional hardware can be added over time.