Archive for February, 2009

RX-64s are crazy strong…

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Our good friend Jon Hylands (who is an amazing Roboticist, definitely check out his work on the Bioloid system) is working on a few new projects and shot a quick video which is pretty impressive to anyone who has ever built a robotics arm. What you see in the video below is an RX-64 Robotis servo lifting a full coke can at a 30 cm arm length. While that seems trivial to we humans, packing that much torque into such a tiny servo is a great demonstration of how much servo technology has advanced in the last few years. The servo isn’t even being strained during these tests. You might note a bit of jerky movement, that is because the servo is being manually fed positional instructions via a slider bar. Most advanced robots use some form of interpolation which smooths movements considerably.

We’ll also be revealing our big internal project which uses 14 of the RX-64 servos in the near future… =)

iLean- 2 Wheel Stair Climbing Robot

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

One of the single most challenging aspects of home navigation for robots has to be tackling stair climbing. While humans can move up and down without much trouble at all, even advanced robots such as ASIMO still have ‘issues’. The UCSD Coordinated Robotics Lab has developed a pretty efficient and simple (in concept, not execution) way of doing just that with their iLean Robot. Check out the video below to see how it works, really an amazing thing to see executed so well!

Skynet Research wants YOU!

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Recently we were contacted by an upcoming advanced robotics R&D company who has been keeping a pretty low profile. Skynet Research only went public last week, but for the past 10 years has been hard at work and already making startling advanced in military and research level robotics. Some of this stuff is scary, it makes iRobot’s military line look like a bunch of toys. Check out these concept designs:

So here’s the kicker, I got a chance to talk to one of their lead researchers over the weekend and along with going public, they’ve also announced a Community Outreach Program to hobby and professional roboticists. They’re actually granting access to some of their technology (with no doubt a massive NDA attached) to the average hobbyist. From what I gathered speaking with them, the Model 101 Enhancement Module that is being provided for evaluation is some sort of Neural Networking microprocessor with built in wifi capability, used for relaying sensory data back to a central AI hub that is scheduled to go online in the near future. REALLY cool stuff, if you’re interested in applying for the beta program, you just have to submit your robot design and an explaination of why you think your project would be well suited for their program.

Here’s the official press release from Skynet Research, and be sure to check out their site for more info.

Skynet Research is a leader in the research and development of robotic technology, dedicated to helping the human race achieve great goals. And we want to hear from you!


Skynet Research believes every individual holds the capacity to make a difference, and is dedicated to finding as many people as possible who will impact our future goals.

  • The spark of imagination is the greatest asset of humankind. We are interested in mining this resource within the robotics community to find new robot designs.

  • Individuals are welcome to submit designs, videos and schematics relating to future robot models. We will showcase the most promising for all to see on our corporate website.


As part of our ever-increasing outreach, we are also making available the Skynet Research Enhancement Module Model 101 for consumer grade robots at no cost before it is even available in stores.

  • The Model 101 is compatible with any home robotics device, and will vastly improve the precision, efficiency and speed of any mechanized apparatus regardless of function.

  • You may apply to receive one on our website.
  • View a video of our new Enhancement Module HERE


  • There are many different Skynet Research models in production and operation, and countless more in active development at secure and undisclosed locations around the world.
  • Skynet Research is reshaping daily life for human beings across the planet, with contributions to business, education, healthcare, information systems and military defense.
  • Skynet Research has led the evolution of Artificial Intelligence to multiply at exponential rates, pushing to improve robotic function in daily life with a constant eye on the future.

We have been honored as “most innovative” company in numerous trade publications, while one award-winning professor stated Skynet Research is displaying an “unprecedented” rate of growth.

We are committed to making your world different

Skynet Research

New Robot Parts Roundup!

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
We’ve been working feverishly away to add even more robot parts and upgrades for your greater building pleasure. Here are some highlights of the cool new products that have just been added to the Trossen Robotics catalog!

PICBEEFinally an easy method to use the Maxstream XBEE module coupled with the power of the Microchip PIC 18F series micro-controller. As a stand alone board, it can be a development platform or target device for nearly any application. This is perfect for creating a wireless sensory aquisistion network!

Maxbotix WR-1 – Sonar Low-Voltage Weather-Resistant Ultrasonic Range Finder (IP67 Rated) With 3V – 5.5V power the LV-MaxSonar®-WR1™ provides very short to long-range detection and ranging, in a compact, robust PVC housing, designed to meet IP67 water intrusion, and matches standard electrical ¾” PCV pipe fittings.


The Roboduino is a Freeduino (Arduino software compatible) microcontroller board designed for robotics. All of its connections have neighboring power buses into which servos and sensors can easily be plugged. Additional headers for power and serial communication are also provided. The kits come fully assembled and with a USB cable for programming and debugging.


The IOWizard is used when additional I/O capabilities are required. The IOWizard features an I2C interface that allows users to query 5 analog inputs and 10 digital I/O lines. The default I2C slave address is 100d (0x64h), and it can be changed to a value between 100d and 110d (0x6Eh).


Looking to make your Robobuilder Humanoid more durable? This Metal Bracket Upgrade Kit is the way to go! These high-quality aluminum brackets reinforce the legs and servo joints to fortify your robot to take a beating during competitions or rough play.


The Robobuilder 3-Axis Accelerometer sensor module measures the acceleration in all three axis (X, Y and Z). Read measurements range from -7 to +7. Integral number 1 can be translated into 1/4g (here g stands for gravity acceleration). By analyzing the return value on each axis you can determine the actual position/orientation of the robot at any time.

Roboticist Catherine Mohr at TED2009

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

We found an interesting story via BoingBoing we figured was worth sharing, talking about the emerging new technology of robotic surgery, and how it fits into the evolution of modern medicine. Roboticist Catherine Mohr spoke at TED2009 regarding her company and the steps they are taking towards making surgery less invasive, safer, and more precise through the use of robotics.

She “works on surgical robots and robotic surgical procedures, using robots to make surgery safer — and to go places where human wrists and eyes simply can’t.”

She’s talking about surgical robots and surgical vision technology. Surgeons are tailors, plumbers, butchers of medical industry.

History of surgery. How did we even come to believe that surgery — cutting and reforming — was OK? Shows picture of ancient trepanated (hole drilled in) skull. Goes back 5k to 10k years. This is the dawn of interventional surgery. How much was intended to be religious or therapeutic? we know that these patients lived for many years after being trepanned.

The itinerant barber surgeon – before age of anesthesia. Patient in pain was a public spectacle. Barber surgeon was almost a form of entertainment. Surgery was done on public in front of big crowd.

1847 — anesthesia. It gave surgeons freedom to operate, to delve deeper into body. A revolution in surgery. But problem: after surgery, the patients died, of massive infection. Surgery didn’t hurt but it killed you.

Aseptic technique. Joseph Lister was thought to be a fool for believing that it was as important for surgeons to wash hands before surgery as after. After a while, the medical community warmed to the idea.

Healthy people don’t need surgery, unhealthy people need surgery, but since they are unhealthy, it’s harder for them to recover.

Laparoscopy — small incisions. A lot easier on the body. Much easier to heal. But laparoscopy is hard to learn. Surgeons had to give up 3D vision, wrists, etc. External ergonomics are terrible. Instruments are working backwards. You need to take capability of your hand and put it at the business end of instrument.

Robotic surgery tool — the DaVinci — has “wrists” and 3D vision that greatly improve dexterity. She’s showing amazing videos of heart and prostrate surgery. Tiny pincers at work.

Limitations — if you need to reach more places that just one, you need to move robot and open new holes in patient. Becomes time-consuming. To solve this we need to bring camera and instruments through one small tube. She’s showing a new surgery tool — it looks like an HR Giger tentacle with mini tentacles that blossom open from the main trunk. Can inject dyes into cells and the light can make cancerous cells visible.

Via BoingBoing

Bucket O’ Sprockets!

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

More Grab Bag Goodies!

Looking for sprockets? We had a surplus of various steel sprockets and lock collars from McMaster Carr and decided to put them into Grab Bags at a deep discount to clear them out. Perfect for your next big bot! These are not ‘random’ grab bags in that we are guaranteeing that you will receive a specific quantity of each type of sprocket, check out the product page for details. Now aside from the guaranteed sprockets and parts, we’re also throwing in an additional 9-10 random parts as a bonus! These Grab Bags would retail for about $150, and we’re selling them for a third of that. Get ’em while they last!


MAKE: Getting started with the 3pi

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Make came up with a very easy to read “Getting Started” guide for the Pololu 3pi, which we carry as a complete starter kit. If you’re looking for an inexpensive platform to start programming in C with, you won’t find a better value than the 3pi Robot.

This week I am going to show you how to get up and running with the 3pi by Pololu. I will be going through all the steps needed to upload the line following program that is included from Pololu. Getting started with the 3pi isn’t too difficult, but there are a few applications and drivers that need to be installed.

Note: In this tutorial I will be using a PC running Vista. You can program the 3pi on a Mac running OSX or Linux, but it’s a different procedure. You can even program the 3pi through the Arduino IDE!

Calling all Tinkerers and Packrats! Random Grab Bags!

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Editor’s note: Sorry folks, all sold out! Stay tuned for our next Grab Bag and/or limited time special!

We’re offering a limited time only Grab Bag of random parts, which is sure to make the geek and packrat in all of us cry out in glee.

We estimate the retail value on the parts included in this Grab Bag at over $100!

We’ve been cleaning house around here, moving out older products bringing in new… and during this spring cleaning we realized we were ending up with a large supply of very cool little gizmos and random parts. Rather than try and sell it piece by piece, we figured it would be fun to divide it all up evenly (based on value) into 30 Random Grab Bags!

Now these Grab Bags are a dream come true for tinkerers and experimenters alike. Since these parts were just going to gather dust, we figured we would mark them down to an insanely low price to get rid of them ASAP. We’re going to keep the contents a mystery as that’s half the fun of a Random Grab Gag… but I will say that all of them have at least $20 worth of aluminum parts alone.

The last time we did something like this these Grab Bags flew off the shelves, so get them while they last. You don’t find deals like this very often! We only have 30 Grab Bags available and that is it.

Click for a larger view:


February ’09 Contest Winners Announced!

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

The time of reckoning is nigh! The contest winners for this round of the TRC Project Contest have been decided and we’ve got some awesome prizes to give away!

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Plinter Roving Servobot

Project: Roving Servo Bot
Creator: Pinter75
Prize: $25 Gift Card to the Trossen Robotics Store

This bot went back to the basics. Base board? Check. Super Glue? Check. Zip ties? Check. Ingenious scratch built onboard controller? Check! Throw all of these items together and you have a great wheeled platform with a fully functioning arm. complete with a .NET interface over Bluetooth. The craftsmanship on this bot is superb, so much so that when we first saw it we thought it had been cut from a 3D printer. Pinter75 has taken the project a step further and will be offering it in kit form in the near future, something we are very excited to see come to life.


Project: Charlie
Creator: Darkback2
Prize: $25 Gift Card to the Trossen Robotics Store

Quadrapods have been around long enough that it usually takes something really special to perk our eyebrows, which is exactly what Charlie the Quadrapod did. Was it the onboard PC that impressed us? The rugged raw metal look? Perhaps the fact that Charlie wields a fully automatic airsoft gun on its back? While all of that is very cool, what amazed us most of all was the fact that Charlie was built by hand, using only simple power tools. No CNC machine, no computer CAD drawings; the brackets and frame were literally cut and bent by guide of hand alone. Anybody who has built parts by hand knows how much patience and skill goes into making identical parts without the guidance of a computer controlled blade. Look for this bot competing in the upcoming Mech Warfare competition at Robogames 2009!

Lego WALL-E by Bizmarc

Project: Autonomous LEGO Wall-E
Creator: Bazmarc
Prize: $25 Gift Card to the Trossen Robotics Store

Building a Wall-E robot? Awesome. Building it out of LEGOs? Even more awesome! LEGOs sure have come a long way in their lifetime, evolving into the amazing robotics prototyping tool they are today and invoking nostalgia in tinkerers abroad (I mean, who didn’t play with Legos growing up?) Forum member Bazmarc blew us all away when he debuted his LEGO NXT Autonomous Wall-E project, sparking “LEGO-skill” envy unanimously across the forums. Not only did he perfectly capture the look and feel of everyone’s favorite trash bot, he brought it to life with an autonomous navigation system. We can’t to see what Bizmarc comes up with next!

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Third Place:

animatronic Head from Willettfx

Project: My Animatronic Project

What happens when a professional dental tech with a knack for animatronics is mentored by Hollywood special effects legend Dick Smith? A very creepy and very realistic animatronic robot is born. Gary Willett (aka Willettfx) has a true passion for his work, spending hundreds of hours adding the finest details to truly bring his monstrous inventions to life. He shared with us hours of video showing the fine artwork and dedication that goes into building Hollywood quality animatronics, and we ate up every minute! If you’re looking to get into animatronics yourself, he also offers a 3 disc DVD set showcasing every step on how he built his outstanding project!

Second Place:

Robotic Marionette by Sunithaya

The Robotic Marionette project literally reads out like a story. Forum member “Sunithaya” joined us after he had already completed his Marionette project of two years, however he started from the beginning in chronicling the lengthy steps made during the design, building, and final performances. Each post is titled appropriately – as if a chapter in a book, and detailed thoroughly with the thought process that went into each artistic design decision. Tons of photos were taken throughout the life of the project, and it all pays off with a performance video of the Robotic Marionette autonomously dancing. This project thread is a true gem that we’re lucky to have on our forums. We highly recommend a complete read-through to everyone interested in learning more.

First Place:

k9 by DJsures

DJSures pulled down some serious ‘geek cred’ by creating his own K-9 robotic dog. I mean, what self respecting geek doesn’t want their own robotic pet to do their evil bidding? Sure it doesn’t have “omniflexible hyperlink facilities” or the ability to teleport, but this loveable Dr. Who tribute still boasts some impressive features. Onboard 3D mapping capabilities, real time occupancy grids, speech synthesis, adaptable personality levels depending upon the amount of human interaction, obstacle avoidance, an LCD screen for diagnostics, and even the ability to follow people around! Now get this: the entire robot was scratch built. This project is a perfect example of how it doesn’t take four dozen servos, onboard PCs, or complex vision processing to win our contests. Ingenuity, creativity, and the overall presentation of your project are a huge factor in our judging decisions. Watching this little bot go from pieces of plastic and circuitry to a seemingly free willed artificial being is what won DJSures the first place prize in the latest round of our contest!

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The Trossen Robotics crew would like to personally thank everyone who has participated in our contests as well as those who have helped other projects along. What started out as a great way to encourage grassroots engineering and the sharing of knowledge has evolved into a community of hobbyists and professionals who exhibit a passion for their work unlike any we have ever seen. Innovation is viral, and watching builders literally feed off of the excitement fueling these projects is a great thing to experience on a daily basis. We invite anyone looking to get started in robotics, as well as the veterans who have many of bots under their belt, to join the Trossen Robotics Community. We encourage you to jump in head first, if you’ve got an idea- discuss it, if you have a question- ask it, and if you’ve got a project- enter it in our contest. We look forward to seeing you and your projects in the next round of the Trossen Robotics Community Project Contest!.