Over the holidays I had a chance to see the movie WALL•E, and one of its more amusing portrayals was that of future humans as large fleshy blobs whose every need and desire were catered to by automated systems. By coincidence, I also just happened across an actual robotic product that seems designed to accelerate the human race in exactly that direction.
Designed and built by roboticist and engineer John Cornwell, the Beer-Launching Refrigerator is the ultimate remote-controlled "beverage delivery" system for the couch potato. As the following short (1:38) video demonstrates, the mini-fridge automatically loads a beer from a 10-can magazine into a catapult and then accurately launches the beverage to its intended target:
According to Cornwell, the unit cost about $500 in parts and took about 150 hours of work to design and build. It uses an ATMEGA8535 as the main microprocessor, three intelligent H-bridges to control the motors, a Darlington array to control the solenoid and a MAX232 for RS232 debug I/O.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.