Archive for December, 2007

Name Your Robot with the Cyborg Name Decoder

Friday, December 28th, 2007

If you’re like most roboticists, you’ve ran into the same problem time and time again. You finish building a really cool robot, but can’t think of a cool, yet totally geeky name for it. Ok, well this won’t help you come up with the name, but it will help you come up with what the name stands for:

Cyborg Name Decoder
Trossen Acronym

Thanks Tymtravler!

Robot Tip: A Quick and Easy way to Mount Batteries

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Mounting all the electronics and batteries onto your robot can often be a pain in the ass. Drilling dozens of holes, measuring them all out to line up perfect, spacers, nuts, bolts, ack! Then taking it all apart when you have to work on something… we discovered a better way to secure things down on our bots which is much faster. Using a Sorbothane sheet and some Velcro you can fasten down just about anything very securely. Then, when you need to take it off to work on it’s super easy. No need to try to get in there with screw drivers and wrenches.

You can find our Velcro and Rubber sheets here.

Robotic Foosball Table

Monday, December 17th, 2007

The Automated Foosball Table was created by a group of senior engineering students at Georgia Tech.  This project was mentioned briefly on Hack a Day last week, but we think it deserves a closer look, so here it is.  This is both a really fun project (Seriously, who doesn’t love a good game of foosball?) and an interesting experiment in human/machine interaction.  It doesn’t look like it could beat a human foosball master (so we won’t have a scene like when Garry Kasparov wept openly and cursed out Deep Blue after it beat him at chess), but the potential is there.

Four human-controlled rows, four robotic ones. At the right, you can see the custom PIC-based servo controller board.  Let’s take a closer look at the drive mechanisms:

Recognize that actuator?  That’s a Robotis AX-12 Dynamixel.  It’s the cornerstone of the wildly popular Bioloid system, and it’s one of our favorite robot servos on the market.  These actuators can be set to servo mode or continuous rotation mode.  In CR mode, you can get accurate positional feedback.  What you end up with is functionally the same as a highly accurate, powerful, serially controlled stepping motor; at a fraction of the cost.

Here’s the whole rig.  As you can see you have the table, a camera watching the table, a computer processing the video feed and sending commands to the actuator controller board, and actuators pulling and twisting the handles.

The team wrote their tracking software, which tracks the ball and maneuvers the players accordingly, in Java.  Matlab was considered, but the plan was scrapped because Matlab is too resource-hungry.

The custom actuator control board is pretty cool.  Two different types of outputs for the two styles of servos.  The kicking motion is handled by standard PWM hobby servos, while the lateral motion is handled by AX-12 Dynamixels.

Project home page
Found via Hack a Day

All images belong to the design team.  They were clipped from the project’s final report document or captured from the video.

Wiimote-control your i-SOBOT with Robodance 4!

Monday, December 17th, 2007

Ok, this is pretty sweet.  With the soon-to-be-released Robodance 4 software, not only will you be able to control an i-SOBOT from your computer, you’ll be able to control this awesome little humanoid with a Nintendo Wii controller!  You can even set up Robodance so that i-SOBOT mimics gestures made with the Wiimote.  You’ll need a Bluetooth adapter to talk to the Wiimote and a USB-UIRT to send commands to the i-SOBOT, and then you’re in business.  Be sure to sign up for the Robodance mailing list, so you’ll be informed as soon as Version 4 is released to the public.

[Edit]  Just to clear up any confusion, here’s what’s actually going on: The Wii controller sends your input to a computer via Bluetooth, Robodance translates the controller input to i-SOBOT commands, then the UIRT broadcasts these commands to the i-SOBOT in the form of IR pulses.  I can’t wait to try this out, since it sounds a heck of a lot easier than remembering all the button combinations necessary to operate I-SOBOT from its stock controller.

Found via Engadget.

First Place Is Now $500 for the Trossen Robotics Contest!

Friday, December 14th, 2007

We’ve been running monthly contests here at Trossen Robotics for about three rounds now. There have been some amazingly innovative people that have come out to show off their stuff. The Project Showcase section in the TR Community really speaks for itself when I say just how talented these people are.

We’ve shelled out some nice TR credits to all of these incredible people for their showing off their talents in the past rounds. Just last round, kdwyer won a $200 credit to Trossen Robotics for First Place for his project, Otto.


This round however, we decided to up the ante just a tad and expand the contest to cover a few months…


This contest started 12/1/07 and ends 2/29/08

Remember: This contest is not only for robotics! We want to see all walks of innovation here, well… just about.

So, what sort of projects can you submit?

Robotics, HCI, home automation, RFID, art projects, useful mods & hacks, fun/entertaining projects, etc. are the areas we like to focus on, but it’s difficult to draw any hard lines. Have you made wireless entry into your car? That works for us. Did you make an electric backyard catapult? That works too! Are you creating a robotic army to enslave humanity? Sure, why not! Homebrew/DIY projects are just as good as improving an off the shelf item.

Complete systems or components for systems are all welcome. If you created a vision tool for a robot, a keyless entry lock, a system for interpreting sensor inputs, part of a home automation system, or even an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine, that’s cool too! It could be some navigation or voice recognition software or even a new drive train or gripper design. With or without our products, we love projects that focus on solving particular problems because others can then use those ideas in their own projects.

So, get your projects in! Tell everyone you know about this contest: other geeky friends, relatives, house pets. Yes, even house pets are welcome to submit a project!

Be sure to check out our contest page for more details and qualifications.

Announcing the 1st US Hitec Robotics Cup!

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

If, like us, you enjoy some good bot-on-bot combat, you’re in luck!  There’s a new competition coming up, hosted by Hitec and taking place at the Electric Flight Expo on April 25th, 2008.  It’s more than just combat, though.  There will also be a 3-meter dash for your speediest humanoid and an obstacle course where you can show off your bot’s agility.  Like any decent competitive event, the Hitec Robotics Cup will end with trophies and large sums of cash awarded to the winners.  If you’re going to be anywhere near Arizona this spring, don’t miss it!  Here’s the lowdown from the press release:

  Hitec Robotics is proud to announce the 1st Hitec Robotics Cup in the US. This US humanoid robotics challenge will take place at the University of Phoenix Stadium (Home of the Cardinals) during the Electric Flight Expo and tradeshow – EFX on April 25th through 27th, 2008. For more information on EFX you can go to  The site lists directions, accommodations in the area and the other fun events taking place at the same time.

The Cup is composed of three different events – Robo Speed, Robo Mission and Robo Duel.  Humanoid robots of all types are welcome to compete. The complete rules are found in the download section of our website.  A schedule for the events will be posted at a later date.

If you have any questions about the event please email: [email protected]

There you have it, people.  All humanoids that fit the qualification specs can compete, so whether you have a stock Robonova or a suped-up Kondo killing machine, you’re good to go.  Start training now, and get ready to show off your skills, vanquish your opponents, and win goodies.

You can get the official Hitec Robotics Cup 2008 rules by clicking this link right here.

What’s that?  You don’t own a humanoid robot?  Well, it just so happens that we sell a fine selection of humanoids!

October-November Project Contest Winners!

Monday, December 10th, 2007

Another contest, another batch of cool projects!  Once again, the TR Community came through with some great ideas.  As per usual, the Trossen Robotics staff scored projects from our "Project Showcase" forum on a scale of 0-5 for documentation, coolness, ingenuity, and creativity.  This is only a sampling of what’s been posted in the Project forum, and there are still some great projects that unfortunately didn’t make the cut.  I wish we could give awards and salutations to all of them, but we can’t, so when you’re finished reading this, go check out the rest of the projects in the Project Showcase forum.  And now, here are the finalists of the "Submit Your Project And Win" contest!


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Runners Up:

Project: Wiimote Firefighting Robot
Creator: tempalte
Prize: 10% off next TR order

This bot detects fire using the IR camera in the Wiimote and talks to a computer via Bluetooth.  Very cool.


Project: Skype Controlled Roboquad with Spy Capability
Creator: roschler
Prize: 10% off next TR order

Roboquad + wireless cam + Robodance + USB UIRT + Skype = Awesome.


Project: Distributed Autonomous Swarm of Maxelbots
Creator: uwdrl
Prize: 10% off next TR order

Ultrasonic swarm localization and heavy metal.


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Third Place
Project: Halloween Hologram / Spirited Tree R/C Holiday Double Whammy
Creator: Rodger Cleye
Prize: $50 TR Gift Cirtificate

If you don’t know what the hell’s going on in the above picture, you’re not alone.  Rodger submitted the "Holographic Halloween Robot" in October, then repurposed the hardware and resubmitted it in November as the "Spirited Tree."  Both were highly entertaining and totally ridiculous.  The base is a modified electric wheelchair drive system.  The hologram illusion was created with an LCD and an angled piece of plexiglass.  The LCD can display video broadcast live from an IR camera or a DVD player. With Halloween receding into the past and Christmas looming on the horizon, Rodger replaced the hologram rig with a music playing light-up Christmas tree.  Rodger is a newcomer to our forums, but if you’ve been reading Hack a Day and other DIY news outlets for a while, you’ve probably already seen his self-balancing electric unicycle and electric skateboard.


Second Place
Project: Front Door RFID Security
Creator: fish123456
Prize: $100 TR Gift Cirtificate

This guy hacked into his electronic deadbolt, adding a Phidget RFID reader so he could unlock his front door with an RFID key fob.  This has been done a few times before, but we decided we needed to reward "fish123456" for going the extra mile, because in addition to RFID, he also created a web interface that he can access from his cell phone.  This has a lot of potential.  For instance, if somebody needs to get into your house when you’re not home, you can unlock it remotely for them.  Or if your RFID chip is implanted in your hand, and that hand gets bitten off by a shark; you don’t need to hunt down the shark and wave it in front of the door to open it!


First Place
Project: Otto
Creator: kdwyer
Prize: $200 TR Gift Cirtificate

Otto is a humanoid/track hybrid droid with an incredible range of capabilities.  Kdwyer's mission was to make an autonomous robot that could avoid obstacles, track motion, and interact with people through speech and gestures.  Otto's brain follows a distributed architecture, employing 2 Oopic R's (the "upper" and "lower" brains).  He boasts a boatload of sensors, such as IR rangefinders, Ultrasonic rangefinders, a digital compass, and a color video camera.  We like this project a lot, mostly because it was built from the ground up using a pile of hardware from numerous different sources.


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Thanks to everyone for your submissions.  The next contest is rolling as we speak.  As always, we’re looking forward to seeing what else you can come up with!  You can stay up to date on contest rules and regulations at the Submit Your Project and Win contest page, and start posting your projects in our Project Showcase Forum.

Need a huge robot arm?

Monday, December 10th, 2007


If you have ever dreamed of owning your own industrial robotic arm now is your chance. We were recently emailed by Bob who happens to have an extra one laying around:

“I Have a large industrial robot I am trying to find a good home for. It has retired from manufacturing in excellent condition. It is looking for a home with some garage scientist. If you are interested or may know some one pleases contact me. Robot is located in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. First $2500 takes it.”

Bob can be contacted at [email protected]

If I had an extra $2,500 I would totally buy this and put it in my living room to entertain guests or kill them depending on my mood.



Sony Aibo to Return in 2008

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

Thanks to Suicide Bots, we just found out about a rumor that the Sony Aibo will be returning in 2007.

For those that are unfamiliar with the Aibo (or Artificial Intelligence roBOt), it was a robot dog far ahead of its time originally introduced by Sony in 1999 packed full of wicked, geek-friendly features. Unfortunately this little guy was discontinued by Sony in 2006. I can go on and on with all of the cool things about the Aibo, but let’s just shoot you the Wiki link to start with and hope that you go from there with some research:)

Supposedly, the new Aibo, dubbed Aibo PS (yes, as in PlayStation) will have the autonomous features as in the original, but also be controllable with your PlayStation 3 controller. You will be able to connect the new Aibo to your PS3 and download the pictures that it takes in with it’s embedded camera. No word yet on if the level of autonomy is the same or better than the original.

Sony Aibo

via Suicide Bots

Tutorial: Controlling DC Motors from your Computer

Friday, December 7th, 2007

Controlling a DC motor from your computer using bridgeware is easier than you think.  The purpose of this tutorial is to explain the basic concepts behind creating a motor control system with encoder feedback.

Using a few widely available modular components, you can create a flexible system that can be used to control a DC motor.  Start by selecting a DC motor that will meet the demands of your project, then a motor controller that can provide sufficient power to the motor.  Add an appropriate servo controller to generate the R/C control signals, and software to issue commands to the servo controller, and you’re ready to roll!  If you need to monitor the motor speed, feedback is easily achieved by adding an optical encoder.

This control method has a wide range of applications, from battlebots, to industrial processes, to kinetic art installations.

You can also find more computer based robotics tutorials here.