Inexpensive robot platform combines mass-produced parts

Meet Bilibot, a modular robot that aims to lower the cost of entry for robotic tinkerers. It combines the Kinect, the iRobot Create, and an Ubuntu box running ROS using some laser cut mounting brackets. These are relatively inexpensive components but the most exciting thing is that there’s already a slew of example out there that use this hardware. For instance, we looked in on ROS body tracking in January that can be directly plucked and used with this hardware. You’ll recognize the base as the iRobot create which was used in video chat robot from last week. The brains of the operation come in a choice of three Linux boxes – two headless and one laptop – which have ROS pre-installed. Watch the open-source autonomy as it tools around the office in the video after the break.

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Low-cost video chat robot

remote_control_chat_robot

[Johnny Chung Lee], having recently moved from Seattle to Mountain View, wanted a way to keep in touch with his fiancé who would not be relocating for several more months. While most of us would likely consider purchasing a pair of web cams to keep in touch, he decided to do things his own way.  Using an iRobot Create and a netbook, both about $250 apiece, he constructed a remote-controlled video chat robot that he can steer around his former abode from 1,000 miles away. While $500 might seem expensive at first, [Johnny] reminds us that commercial versions likely run into the thousands of dollars.

The whole setup is controlled using custom software to manage the movement of the robot, which can be used in conjunction with freely available videoconferencing applications, such as Skype. He also modified the iRobot’s charging station to charge both the robot and the netbook simultaneously – a process he explains, but precedes with several disclaimers.  Like some of his previous projects we have covered, he has made the C# source used in this project available for download on his site, along with documentation for both the control software and dock modifications.

Check out video of the robot in action after the jump.

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iRobot gets awesome exploding rope thingy

The iRobot Warrior 710 is shown here touting a new toy called an APOBS or Anti-Personnel Obstacle  Breaching System.  The system is comprised of an explosive rope pulled by a rocket. We know that sounds pretty awesome, and you can see in the video that it is, in fact, pretty awesome. We don’t condone violence, or war. We do, however, love blowin’ stuff up. This footage was just so pretty, we thought we had to share it. What’s even more amazing is that these guys aren’t battling Apple over the name iRobot.

[via botjunkie]

Morphing robot demonstrated at IROS

morphing-robot

A morphing robot was demonstrated at the IROS conference this week. This orb has no rigid structure but uses some type of “inflation” system for locomotion. This robot concept is offered up by the iRobot company as part of a DARPA initiative they’re working on. The “inflation” is really a substance in the skin that can be converted from a liquid-like state to a solid-like one. They call this “The Jamming Concept” and give a layman’s explanation in the video we’ve embedded after the break.

When moving, this white ball is a churning, turning, bulging mass of terror. The just-about-to-hatch pods from Alien, or perhaps something from Doom 3 come to mind. The hexapod from IROS that we covered yesterday was amazing, but this really creeps us out. What’s more, this is footage from the iRobot prototypes of a year ago.  The newer stuff can do much more, like having several of these things glob together into one unit.

We’re glad that [DarwinSurvior] sent us the tip on this one, but now we’re not going to be able to sleep at night.

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Roomba with dustpan style grasper

Remember El-E, the service robot that would retrieve things that you spotted with a laser? The creators of El-E are doing research into other methods of making assistance robots. Their latest contraption is an iRobot Create, basically a  Roomba, with a custom grasping hand. Instead of complex multi DOF assemblies, they have made something that works on the same principle as a dustpan. It has a thin wedge and a sweeping arm that loads items onto it. As you can see in the video, it is quite effective.

[thanks Travis]

Gaming with Roombas


Yesterday we looked at the Pac-Man Roomba casemod. In the video, creator [Ron Tajima] expressed interest in seeing Roombas participate in real life games. So we did some digging around and found some used in an interesting augmented reality game. From Brown University, these modified Roomba Create units play various games, like tag, with an underlying goal of developing smarter robots.

The setup consists of a Java powered client/server arrangement. The game server coordinates the Small Universal Robot Vehicles (SmURVs) and builds a database of events for future use. Players can also control the robots through a Java telepresence client.

The units themselves are made up of the iRobot Create with a Mini-ITX computer strapped to the top. They run Linux and communicate over WiFi with the server and players. They also have an IR emitter used in the games to “shoot” other units.

Gameplay has the server acting as the referee and humans only acting as instructors. The humans come into play when the robots are unable to respond based on their existing database of decision making policies. Through the client, players are able to see exactly what the robot sees with the addition of 3D overlays. Future plans for the game include removing the camera view and replacing with nothing but these overlays. One of the final goals of the project was to create a 24/7/365 gaming experience similar to what is found in MMOs and Xbox Live applications today.

Swarm robotics


Uber-geek [James McLurkin] was in Austin recently demoing his robot swarm. He’s on tour with EDA Tech Forum. [McLurkin] has multiple degrees from the MIT AI lab and worked at iRobot for a couple of years. Lately, he has been working on distributed robot computing: robot swarms.

[McLurkin] was an entertaining speaker and had an interesting view of robotics. He is optimistic that robot parts will become more modular, so it will be easier to build them, and more importantly, faster to design them.

Some quotes:

  • “There’s more sensors in a cockroach’s butt than any robot”
  • “12 engineer years to design, 45 minutes to build”
  • “If it can break your ankle, it’s a real [rc] car.”

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