Archive for October 9th, 2006

Using robots for automated mapping

Monday, October 9th, 2006
Mapping Robot

Our Friends over at MobileRobots recently had this article posted about their Mapper Bot. The article got us thinking about how we all need to follow their lead and seek out more areas where robotics can be used to take over the work of current repetitive human tasks. In a time where everyone is searching for real world applications to apply existing robotic technology to it looks like Mobile Robots is onto something. When technology is cost effective and can accurately reproduce a human task we see it successfully become integrated into regular use. Mobile Robots has applied just this concept to having robots do mapping work for us fallible sluggish humans.

“Using a combination of an onboard PC with laser-range finders, and an optional integrated pan and tilt zoom camera, the MapperBot is able to accurately collect GIS data, and display the results in a 2-D or even an extruded 3-D diagram.

This is beneficial in the many areas, including building maintenance, automated inventory, security systems, or even making buildings ready for other robots to take over.�

Beneficial indeed, as our brilliant readers have probably already thought of, robot mapping isn’t just good for exporting data, but also for being used in navigational systems.

So if the robotic platform is smart enough to map its environment, what happens when it can recognize where it is on the map? The term “Spatially Intelligent” defines a robotic entity which can determine its location by comparing the spatial data it has in memory to those which it sees in real-time through a combination of onboard sensors. Once localized, it understands the space and can dynamically navigate its surroundings. Adding specialized sensors enables the creation of focused missions for the autonomous agent, capable of patrolling the building while sending back sampling data about the environment.

MobileRobot’s Mapperbot is obviously an industrial level robot which will have an industrial level price tag. A lower grade version of a mapping robot could be built using some low cost distance sensors, a mini-PC, and a wheelbot chassis for a home or school project.

Mapping and searching has been a continual theme for robotics. Robots have been used to image pipelines, search for victims at disaster sites, and now for mapping buildings. Miniature robotic-like cameras have been evolving in the surgery room for years. New robotic pills are emerging which can monitor the temperature of athletes or even intelligently clamp on to your stomach wall to hang around and investigate. It’s all about getting to places we cannot (or can but faster) to do a job or retrieve important data. It’s obvious that this is an area where robotics can help us humans in many ways, even inside our own bodies. What other areas can you think of where mapping robots would be useful?

Alex Ward & Matt Trossen

Shout Out from GeekBrief TV

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Just a quick thanks to Geek Brief TV for giving us a quick shout out in episode #62. They forgot the “S” on our URL, but we will forgive them because Cali Lewis is cute. You can see our brief brush with fame at minute 3 of the episode.

High Tech, Under the Skin

Monday, October 9th, 2006

RFID Implant

High Tech, Under the Skin By ANNA BAHNEY Published: February 2, 2006

This Blog post is a bit of a blast from the past, but some of you may have not seen this article yet. Back when the first few people were implanting RFID chips into their hands a flurry of articles came out. I must have given seven or eight interviews myself to reporters and passed along just as many to Amal that I didn’t talk to. I know he gave dozens of interviews and it was the same with the other guys like Mikey Sklar. Amal is the author of RFID Toys book we sell. The starter kit with the book is still one of our best sellers.

Anna’s New York Times article was one of the best written on the subject. Many other reporters just couldn’t resist resist dragging the topic down to titles like, “The cyborgs are coming!” or lending a voice to those mark of the beast nut cases.

For those of you in a time crunch here’s the best part of the article, it’s the part where she talks to me :)


At least one supplier of RFID chips, Matt Trossen, owner of PhidgetsUSA Trossen Robotics in Westchester, Ill., is skeptical about the ultimate appeal of implants. “Think about how many people have never gotten their ears pierced,” he said. “A lot of people just don’t want to stick themselves.”

Mr. Trossen sells his chips to people who use them for education and robotics and his Web site includes a disclaimer stating that the company does not advise consumers to implant them in humans or animals because the tags are not sold as medical products and are not sanitized.

He said that one could use an RFID chip just as easily for turning on computers and opening doors by putting it on a key chain or card. Although he could see a day when society would deem it acceptable for babies to be tagged at birth with chips bearing their Social Security number, now the technology for making the chips useful for home applications is beyond most people’s reach.

“For a kid to say, ‘Mom and Dad I need this implant,’ ” Mr. Trossen said, “it would be like me running out and buying an atom collider. It is a nice conversation piece, but I can’t really use it.”


And there goes my 15 minutes… thank you for having me.


The Ultimate Doghouse

Monday, October 9th, 2006
Ultimate Dog House

Greg Steen wrote a DIY article for building the Ultimate Doghouse in this month’s PC Magazine. We have helped plenty of customers with their home automation projects, but this is the first dog home automation project we have seen! We donated some of the hardware used in this project along with our friends over at Phidgets Inc. You can read the online version of the article here or pick up this month’s issue at the newsstands.