Cutting Ribbons with Robots and a Oculus Rift

PR2-GrandOpening

On June 26th, 2014, Clearpath Robotics opened up the doors to their brand new 12,000 square foot robot lair by bringing out a PR2 to cut the ceremonial ribbon and welcome everyone inside. And instead of just programming the ‘locate and destroy’ ribbon sequence, the co-founders opted to use an Oculus Rift to control the robot tearing through the material with flailing arms.

This was accomplished having Jake, the robot, utilize a Kinect 2.0 that fed skeleton tracking data via rosserial_windows, a windows-based set of extension for the Robot Operating System which we heard about in January. The software gathers in a stream of data points each with an X,Y,Z component allowing [Jake] to find himself within a 3D space.Then, the data was collected and published directly into the PR2’s brain. Inject a little python code, and the creature was able to route directions in order to move it’s arms.

Thus, by simply stepping in front of the Kinect 2.0, and putting on the Oculus Rift headset, anyone could teleoperate [Jake] to move around and wave its arms at oncoming ribbons. Once completed, [Jake] would leave the scene, journeying back into the newly created robot lair leaving pieces of nylon and polyester everywhere.

An earlier (un-smoothed) version of the full system can be seen after the break:

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Drones and Robots Come Out to Play at Sparkfun’s 6th Annual Autonomous Vehicle Competition

Sparkfun AVC 2014

Sparkfun Electronics held their 6th annual Autonomous Vehicle Competition last weekend, and this year was bigger than ever before. The action was at Boulder Reservoir in Colorado, but anyone could follow along (with a few technical difficulties) on the YouTube LiveStream. (Part 1), and (Part 2).

The story of the day was Team SHARC’s Troubled Child, which won the ground vehicle doping class. Rather than mess around with miniature cars, Team SHARC built their ‘bot out of a freaking Jeep, a 1986 Jeep Grand Wagoneer to be exact. Troubled Child had no problem getting around the course. One could say it carried the entire team. Literally – the rest of Team SHARC’s robots are riding along on top of Troubled Child in the picture up there.

There was also plenty of action in the aerial competition. Sir Crash-a-Lot was the first drone to find a watery doom at Boulder Reservoir. The last we saw of it on the stream, the team was looking for some divers.

Aircraft can not be hand launched at the AVC. Not a problem for rotary-winged vehicles, but this rule has led to some interesting solutions for fixed wing aircraft. The disguised “Team Falcon” showed up with an incredible compressed air launcher, which used a gallon water jug to fire their delta-winged plane to a clean run.  Team Karma550 wasn’t quite as lucky, with their helicopter crashing hard, and throwing up quite a bit of smoke.

We’re still waiting for more detailed results, but if you want the full scores, they are available on Sparkfun’s AVC scoreboard page.

Velociraptor Robot Ready to Run with The Big Dogs

velociraptor-robot

[Jongwon Park] and his team of students at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have created a fast biped robot based upon the Velociraptor. Raptor weighs in at just 3Kg, and stands only 470mm tall, yet it is capable of running at 46 km/h. That’s almost as fast as Boston Dynamic’s Cheetah.

Raptor uses carbon fiber composite legs to absorb and release energy while running. The system is similar to that used in high performance prosthetic legs. A rotating tail assembly further helps to balance Raptor on rough terrain. We have to admit, the tail system does look a bit dangerous for any humans who might need to interact with the robot. It does work though, as evidenced by Raptor bounding over Styrofoam blocks.

The Raptor robot is quite impressive when running at full speed. Considering this project’s budget was nowhere near the resources of Boston Dynamics, it’s an amazing accomplishment. The video reminds us of  Boston Dynamics founder [Marc Raibert's] early robots at the MIT Leg Lab. We can’t wait to see what this team produces in the future.

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Open Hardware Summit 2013 – Part 1: Demos

Open Hardware Summit 2013

The 2013 Open Hardware Summit took place on September 6th at MIT. There was a wide array of demos and talks covering Open Hardware methodologies and projects. After the break I’ll be covering the demo area of the conference, and sharing some of my favorite demos.

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Molding Flexible Links

Flexible Links

Need a custom link that’s strong and flexible? [RobotGrrl] came up with a method of molding flexible links using 3D printed parts and Sugru.

The link consists of two 3D printed hubs, connected by a flexible material cast in a 3D printed mold. [RobotGrrl] recommends using Sugru to create the link, but you can use homemade Oogoo as a low cost substitute. Dish soap is used as a release agent, and prevents the Sugru from sticking to the mold.

The tutorial includes a detailed guide to modeling the parts in Autodesk Inventor, which serves as a quick introduction to the CAD tool. If you just want to make some links, the STL files are available for immediate 3D printing.

Why would you want DIY flexible links? [RobotGrrl]‘s Baitbot is a good example. This tentacle robot uses the links as its core. Check out a video of the Baitbot wiggling and jiggling after the break.

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Who would win in a fight, robot [Lemmy] or robot God?

So this is what happens when a fan of The Rock-afire Explosion grows up. Meet Compressorhead, a musical trio of hydraulic and pneumatic musical mastery.

Compressorhead is a lean band, consisting of only three members. Stickboy, the drummer, is a four-armed beast reminiscent of [General Grievous] that plays a 14-piece Pearl kit with a double bass. His listed influences include [Danny Carey] and the original MPC60.

Fingers is the guitarist and a wonder of mechanical linkages consisting of 78 hydraulically actuated fingers. Influences include [Yngwie Malmsteen], but with more fingers and less of an ego, we expect Fingers to be an even better guitarist than his idol.

Bringing in the low-end is Bones, the robotic tread-mounted bassist for Compressorhead. Like Fingers, he plays an unmodified instrument. He’s also the newest member of the band, completed in 2012.

If you’d like to check out Compressorhead in person, they seem to be touring Australia right now. If you’d like to schedule them, their rider lists a requirement of 65 Amp, 3 phase power, 3 liters each of hydraulic fluid and motor oil, and suspiciously no requirement for removing all the brown M&Ms from a package. Be sure to check out the videos of the band in action on their media site.

Thanks [BadWolf] for sending this one in.

L.I.O.S.: The ten-ish dollar robot.

We love cheap stuff here. Who doesn’t? [Oscar Rodriguez Parra] does too, and wrote in to show us his super cheapey robot L.I.O.S. The build was for the AFRON design challenge, which involves building a 10 dollar robot to teach students robotics. The winners of the challenge were neat and all, but they all look too fancy flaunting their molded plastics and electronics breadboards.

[Oscar's] design is super simple, LDRs as eyes, a PIC12F683 to do the brainin, LEDs for indicators and a couple modded servos to drive the wheels. An extraordinarily complex cardboard flap roller helps the cart turn, but probably isn’t going to see much aside from smooth flooring. The electronics are mounted using one of our favorite techniques, the paper perf board (very similar to the substrate free technique).

Check out the video after the jump to see LIOS in action. This is an excellent introduction to robotics for any classroom. Thanks [Oscar]!

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