Archive for December, 2006

Library for controlling a KHR-1 from your own program available

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

“KHR-1, the Japanese Robo-One humanoid robot kit from Kondo (previously mentioned here), is finally open for creative software development. The first unofficial implementation of the PC-controller API has just been posted. Using the SDK, the 17 servos that give the robot its mobility can be remote controlled by the PC via WiFi or bluetooth, and their current position can be retrieved several times per second. This unique feature will allow robot fans to go beyond simple performance of motion sequences or low-level gyro-based motion correction and develop algorithms that involve feedback control and AI.”

Via Slashdot Post

VR on an RC Airplane

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

In keeping with this week’s theme of flying toys and vision we thought we should post up VRflyer’s videos that have been all over the web this year. VRflyer took the whole remote presence game to a new level when he used a goggle set that tracked his head movements and moved the plane camera in synch. This little evolution in interactivity actually has an immense impact on user experience. The ability to move your head around as if you were 4 inches tall sitting in the plane cockpit makes all the difference in the world. Watch the video below, it tells the whole story.

Link to VRflyer’s youtube page

Link to thread discussion with VRflyer

DAVID – low cost solution for 3d laser scanning using everyday tools

Friday, December 22nd, 2006
DAVID 3D scanning

Yes, it looks like something from Star Wars, but it is in fact real and even better, actually affordable! In fact, using common, everyday toys that most us “geeks” have laying around our houses, we can start playing with this ourselves, because the software is free. All you need is a PC, webcam, a background corner, and a laser to project the line onto the object you want to scan.

Think of the possibilities this type of application can have in robotics? One rather obvious idea comes right away; a wheelbot, crawler, or humanoid has this software built onto it, walks into a room, scans it, and has an entire 3D map of it’s environment! Yes, I know, this idea already exists, but not on a modular level whereas it can be implemented in any robot.

“DAVID (Definetly Affordable Vision Device) has been developed by the computer scientists Dr. Simon Winkelbach and Sven Molkenstruck from the Institute for Robotics and Process Control, Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany. The concept has been published as a paper at the German Association for Pattern Recognition (DAGM, Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Mustererkennung)and can be downloaded here.”

The technology does have some limitations right now, such as the object being scanned has to be against a corner in a room or in front of two planes with an exact angle of 90° right now, but it looks like they are constantly improving the capabilities of this software. What’s really cool, is that it is written using the .NET Framework 1.1! Take a look as some of the screenshots:

DAVID Depth 1
DAVID final

via Hack-A-Day DAVID Homepage

Palm Sized RC Helicopters – Hack Worthy?

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

Unless you have been living under a rock you have probably seen or heard about the new PicoZ palm sized helicopter. This gnat of an RC toy is becoming quite viral. has a great sale on the PicoZ. 1 for $39.00 or 3 for $109.00 Read more (plus video)

We bought a few to play with at the office and immediatly started chattering about hack ideas. But then we stumbled across the full page of mini RC flyers that are on the market. We had no idea there were so many! The X-UFO was ordered about 9 seconds after discovering it. All these mini flyers have hack-me written all over them. Add a wireless security camera and you have an instant remote presence robot.


Interview with Davin Sufer, CTO of WowWee

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

We couldn’t find a pic of David Sufer so we thought this pic of a Robosapien crushing Elmo’s head would do.

RoboCommunity has posted their interview withy David Sufer on their website.

“RoboCommunity is pleased to present an interview with Davin Sufer, WowWee’s CTO, who operates out of WowWee’s office in Hong Kong. Davin waxes philosophically about his role at WowWee, robots in society, and gives us some insight into what exciting prospects the future may hold for WowWee customers.”

Read the Interview Here

Robot ‘Flying’ Underwater at the Bottom of the Planet

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Dec. 14, 2006 — An underwater robot glider that appears to “fly” as it gathers scientific data will soon be deployed in the frigid waters off the coast of Antarctica. But the scientists controlling its every move will be in New Jersey, about 7,600 miles away.

Researchers say the technology will help demonstrate the future of scientific exploration near the planet’s south pole using remote controlled vehicles, while also helping provide a clearer picture of the effects of global warming on the region. Read More


Link ABC News

Video: Rescue Robot Contest held in Kobe, Japan

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Video of the 6th Rescue Robot Contest held in Kobe, Japan (the city that had a great earthquake in 1995). It’s facinating to look at all the different approaches to building rescue manipulators.

via Digg

Samsung develops machine gun sentry robot costs $200k

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Samsung has partnered with Korea university and developed the machine-gun equipped robotic sentry. It is equipped with two cameras with zooming capabilities one for day time and one for infrared night vision. It has a sophisticated pattern recognition which can detect the difference between humans and trees, and a 5.5mm machine-gun. The robot also has a speaker to warn the intruder to surrender or get a perfect headshot. The robots will go on sale by 2007 for $200,000 and will be deployed on the border between North and South Korea.

Link via via TechEBlog

UAVs are Coming and We Want One!

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

THIS IS NOT A TOY: Micro Air Vehicle Weighs Less, Flies Longer

About as long as a No. 2 pencil and as heavy as a cellphone, the Wasp may look like a toy, but this tiny Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) has broken records with a flight time of 1.5 hours and can fly like a helicopter — just don’t point it at your sister or the family pet.

Read More


Mini Helicopter Thinks for Itself — On the Fly — to React to Dangerous Situations — Now Transitioning to Military

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are one step closer to someday matching — and possibly surpassing — their human-piloted counterparts, thanks to the completion of a project successfully tested by Georgia Tech and sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. The project was supported by DARPA’s Information Exploitation Office with Dr. John Bay serving as the program manager.

Read More

More robots entering the home? And by the way, what IS a robot… ?

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

The Automatic Shower Cleaner by SC Johnson isn’t a robot by our standards, but it’s close and we like it nonetheless. It might fit the definition of a robot by the dictionary definition, you be the judge:

ro·bot (rÅ?’bÅ?t’) n.

1. A mechanical device that sometimes resembles a human and is capable of performing a variety of often complex human tasks on command or by being programmed in advance.
2. A machine or device that operates automatically or by remote control.
3. A person who works mechanically without original thought, especially one who responds automatically to the commands of others.

Here at TR we tend to define a robot as a machine which alters or determines it’s behavior based upon sensory input. For instance, if an automatic shower cleaner could sense when to spray the shower on it’s own or how much to spray the shower through sensors then it would be a robot undeniably.

A sensing machine doesn’t need to resemble a human or even do a human task to be a robot by our terms. The task can be simple or very complex. The important part is that it in some way makes decisions based upon input of some format. This is where we draw our line. It can be argued then that even your refrigerator or heating & air conditioning are robotic devices. These are machines that alter their behavior based upon sensory feedback. They are replacing tasks of human work such as tending to the fireplace or opening and closing windows to regulate the temperature in the home. Would you considers these to be robots? What about a washing machine for clothes or dishes? Those machines replace a repetative human task. Intelligent washing machines which have sensors inside analyses how the cleaning is going and alter their cycles accordingly. Wouldn’t this fit the definition of a robot?

However, if you asked anyone these days to name a home robot you aren’t going to get “my dishwasher” or “my refrigerator” as an answer. You can lay good money on the bet that you will hear instead the funny little word, Roomba.

Roomba My Room Bud

When people think of robots they tend to think of moving machines. Or more specifically, machines that move on their own without a human guiding them. The Roomba, being a mobile robotic vacuum cleaner fits most everyone’s idea of a robot. The robot can sense dirty spots on the floor, find it’s own way back to it’s charging dock, sense walls, furniture, and even drop offs like stair cases. This endearing robot has been so successful that it is now a household name. Some entrepreneurial kids have started a company selling animal covers for the Roomba. As for real family pet’s? Some pets seem to be taking the addition of the latest family member in stride while others are having issues over sharing their domain.

This robot has caused such a stir that even SNL has created a parody product called the Woomba inspired by the famous vacuum. (Warning: Somewhat adult material) EDIT: Apparently, this robot caused such a stir that it was removed from YouTube (o.g. URL

Jetsons robot rosie

It is interesting to note how simple the first break out home robot was. For decades we all had visions of fancy human like helpers and what did reality show up with? A humble vacuum a few inches tall the size of a dinner plate. It makes sense though doesn’t it? Technology in the marketplace rarely makes huge leaps so it’s logical that robots would show up being quite simple in the beginning. A machine that bounces around sucking up debris requires relatively low sensing capabilities and thus is a feasible robot to manufacture and sell in the marketplace. Anything requiring vision or voice recognition is still well into the future. Robots have to tackle non-complex routine chores first before moving on to harder tasks like fetching us a drink. Irobot delivered a solid smack to the back of the heads of everyone who was dreaming up fancy servant robots. This was one of those marketplace moments when a collective “Duh!” reverberated around the world as it became painfully obvious that a humble robotic vacuum was the first step.

No doubt thousands of companies around the globe are scrambling to try and discover what “the next Roomba” is. The next logical step would seem to be the Lawnmower robot, however those have actually been around for a long time and have never quite taken off. Must have something to do with people’s nervousness about unsupervised whirling metal blades.

What is your definition of a robot? What do you think the “next Roomba” will be? Leave your opinion in our comments section or the forums.