There was an amazing party last Friday at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., celebrating the anniversary of the first human spaceflight, which was made by Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin. While CNET News.com has already penned a great article on the event, I thought I'd add my two cents on some of the cool gadgets I spotted at the party.
Peter Foucault's drawing robots drew a steady crowd the entire night. These two little robots had Sharpie pens mounted on them and were contained within what looked like a little robot boxing ring. Only instead of a rock-'em, sock-'em robot war, the two robots were busy creating a randomly generated art piece generated by the markers that they dragged across the paper mat beneath them. What made the piece truly random was the fact that the robots would shut down every few minutes until someone in the audience clapped loud enough to wake them up. This sleeping routine would randomize their direction and insure that each piece of art they generated was unique from the last. It also made for a lot of fun watching people clap at little robots.
The second cool gadget I wanted to take home with me was a large Buddha encrusted with chandelier glass and lit from the inside by 360 rotating LEDs controlled by 126 microprocessors. Originally created for the Burning Man festival by an artist named Gaspo, the ChakraTron not only looks very cool, but it also generates magic eight-ball answers on a small monochrome LED screen when a coin is placed in its built-in donation plate.