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Monthly Archives: July 2008
Buy 100 Fembots, Become Busby-Berkeley: Priceless

Filed under Found on the Web

Robots Rule treats us to this video review – there’s a longer, text review on the site – of WowWee’s new Femisapien robot. She walks, she dances, she has a built-in “Backup Singer” mode, and she can even attack other fembots with a sword. Yes, it’s true: my lifelong goal of commanding a force of Busby-Berkeley space pirates in ostrich plumes may be at hand.

Seriously, though, she does have a fairly simple interface for learning new behaviors and looks like a fun, if nearly useless, little project. I think you could say the same for almost any commercial robotics project these days – though MIT’s stair climbing robot was pretty impressive – and, in a pinch, she’ll even dance with you.

Get one now, before they organize.

[tags]wowwee, fembot, femisapien, robot, robotics, robosapien[/tags]

Latest Uproar at Cafepress – Changes to the Volume Sales Bonus

Filed under Can't Stop Thinking, Print On Demand

Every now and then, Cafepress makes a fundamental change in its terms of service for shopkeepers, and almost without exception there’s a huge backlash by shopkeepers who believe that this new change is going to have a severe impact on their income. Often, they’re right. Even when they’re wrong it’s annoying that a party with which you do business can redefine the terms of your agreement with them at any time, while you can’t – ever – do the same thing. Or anything like it.

In fact (especially over the past two years) Cafepress has been nickel and diming away at its shopkeeper/designers in what’s probably been meant as an effort to maximize profits. Often, by the looks of it, this to make the company’s balance sheets continue to escalate quarter by quarter in a way that will be sweet music to to the ears of investors in the event of a probable IPO. Anyone who’s chased that particular dragon knows that once you start it becomes more and more difficult to pull off the same scale of growth in each quarter. It only gets harder if you do go public.

From the shopkeepers’ perspective, though, it looks as though the company is finding every way it can to monetize not the customers who buy all this merchandise, but the shopkeepers who create it. That impression was reinforced a few months ago when very large Cafepress stores (those with more than 500 sections) were abolished, though existing shops were grandfathered in. Shopkeepers who wanted to bloat their ventures with more merchandise than that were going to have to establish additional premium shops, for additional monthly fees.

This month’s brouhaha is all about the Cafepress volume bonus, a plan through which those shops with a high sales volume are rewarded by incremental bonuses: the more you sell, the larger your bonus. The volume sales bonus has often been named by CP shopkeepers as the reason they would stay with Cafepress rather than moving to a competitor.

Back in 2002, when I started my first Cafepress shop, it was understood that this bonus was a reward for the promotion a shopkeeper did to increase sales at his or her shop. And as little as I think of the company’s maneuvers over the past couple of years I think that the new program is better suited to that end. Not that I don’t think it’s seriously flawed – but the flaws I see are of another kind entirely.

Vintage Buck Rogers News: the Action Figure, a new Atomic Pistol, and Newspaper Comic Strip Collections

Filed under Found on the Web

Buck Rogers Action FigureGo Hero has posted pictures of the final versions of its classic Buck Rogers action figure, along with a replica of the little ray gun that could – Buck’s Atomic Pistol, probably the first huge merchandising success for American popular culture. For full information, follow this link and click on “Shop”.

The little guy’s got loads of articulated and removable bits, including a bubble helmet and his own miniature pistol, and there are even glowing LEDs in the jet pack. (Buck originally used a “jumping belt” instead, which was made of the lighter than air metal called inertron; but jet packs did come along in the newspaper strips a few years later.)

It’s nice stuff, though I’ll warn you that it’s not priced for the faint of heart.

In other vintage Buck Rogers news, it looks like Hermes Press is starting a complete collected version of the daily and Sunday newspaper comic strips. Dailies and Sundays will be collected separately.

Buck Rogers comics book The first volume‘s scheduled for September, 2008. It’ll feature two years of the daily strips and an introduction by Ron Goulart, in hard cover. More daily strip collections are to appear every five months with collected Sunday comics pages appearing once a year.

Whimsical Retro Robot by Brazilian Artist Fabio M Ragonha

Filed under Computer Graphics, Found on the Web

Here’s a playful retrofuturistic robot from the portfolio of Brazilian artist Fabio M Ragonha. It’s a 3DS Max/Photoshop creation. Whatever job this little guy’s meant for, he looks like he’s ready to put his nose – if he had one – to the grindstone. Or his shoulder to the wheel. Or something like that. I have trouble keeping my proverbs in order.

Ragonha’s portfolio site is on the petite side, but it’s full of some wonderful images. Go see!

Version 2 of World Machine Now Available for Procedural Landscape Creation

Filed under Computer Graphics

world machine 3d environment

It was almost exactly a year ago that I discovered Stephen Schmitt’s World Machine, a procedural generator for 3D terrain. It’s a wonderful product. He’d already been at work for quite some time on the 2.0 version of this powerful piece of software and today I find that he’s just released it at last.

world machine landscape My own upgrade copy isn’t here yet – here are some gallery images from the World Machine site. Some of the new features I’ve been following on his blog include realistic beachfront erosion and a method for generating occlusion maps for the terrain – that, and some other new things he’s been working on, should be a big help in masking out different types of materials to appear selectively on the landscape. In fact the new version will even render out a color map, based on the terrain shape, though I’m thinking that better methods for creating masks is more in my line.

Anyway, as I say I haven’t been able to play with the new version yet, but based on the old one I think it’s going to be a terrific tool. Go look!

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