BAMF2010: QB goes to meetings, shoots lasers from eyes

No, it’s not an extra from Wall-E. “QB” is the latest telepresence robot from Silicon Valley firm Anybots. QB combines two-way videoconferencing with a Segway-style self-balancing platform. The idea is to provide mobility and more natural interaction than desktop-tethered conferencing can provide.

The 35 pound robot’s battery runs for six to eight hours, and the telescoping head allows the eye level to be adjusted to match the user’s natural viewpoint. What looks like stereo vision is actually a single camera on the left eye and a steerable laser pointer on the right.

Shipping this October for $15,000, QB will appeal mostly to businesses with specific telepresence needs. This is half the price of their prior QA model — and in time the technology may reach the mass-market level. Until then, we’ll just have to amuse ourselves by remotely attending meetings with our ankle-nipping Rovio robots.

British bots compete for attention


The British military held a competition to find the newest batch of robotic surveillance drones. The article mentions that they compete in a mockup village, but sadly we don’t get to see any of the action. We strongly recommend watching the video so you can see some of the robots. There is an interesting helicopter concept that has angled props for better stability and lateral motion, but more importantly you get to see the little guy pictured above. He very well could be Wall-E’s great grandfather. Though his constant buzzing around during the interviews is slightly annoying, his little camera mount looking all around is instantly endearing. If he doesn’t win this contest, he may have a shot at the [crabfu] challenge.

[via Engadget]

Drive a robot in Australia over the web


BP Australia has commissioned an online game where you get to drive robots around an obstacle course. Make no mistake, these are real robots. Actually they are modified versions of the Surveyor SRV-1 vehicles that are popular with research labs, and schools everywhere.

Go to the website, get in queue and pray for no clouds. These babies are solar powered, so you’ll have to try to get in while its day time in Australia. The entire set is built in miniature, so you feel like you’re driving a tank around a city.

[via Robots Dreams]

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.