Madeline Gannon The Robot Tamer!

Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t want an industrial six-axis robot arm in their garage to do their bidding? Introducing [Madeline Gannon], the Robot Tamer!

The only tricky part is… if you received an industrial six-axis robot arm, would you be able to control it to do your bidding (easily)? Having taken robotics courses myself in college, and worked with ABB robots like this one, I can tell you, it’s not exactly plug-and-play. Yeah, there’s the teach pendant and you can pretty quickly teach the robot to do a repetitive task well, but unless you’re setting up your own mini manufacturing line — what’s the point? You’re going to want to inject some CNC code or something and have it carve you a sculpture! Or pour you a mixed drink I guess…

Maybe [Madeline] has the answer. Working as an artist in residence at Pier 9, she’s created wearable markers and a motion capture system that allows a giant ABB robot to see, and respond to your movements in a shared space.

It’s called Quipt, and it’s a gesture control software that allows you to interact with industrial robots in a completely new way. The user wears markers on their body that allow the robot to both recognize you, and follow or interact with you — without colliding.

At the heart of the project is a Vicon motion capture system, which then interacts with Robo.Op (GitHub) to generate movement commands for the robot. All of this data is also output for visualization on an Android app, so the user controlling the robot can see exactly what is going on.

For more information on the project, [Madeline] put up a cute instructable called “How to Tame your Robot”. Take a look!

[Thanks for the tip Charlie!]

40 thoughts on “Madeline Gannon The Robot Tamer!

  1. Very neat. My only thought is that this could go really, really badly. I also hear, from a friend of course, that certain websites use robots like these for pornography. Not sure how they do it to make it safer?

      1. ive programmed very simillar robots that were much smaller and weaker, let me say this, the heavy steel tables they were bolted to often jump into the air with the slightest mistake when the motors are in normal mode. this was withOUT using max acceleration or speed!

        one look at the control-box power nameplate (wattage) and a quick conversion to horse-power and i had all i needed to be mindful of if the motors are powered before approaching with back turned!

        example: one horsepower is over 700 watts, a kick to the face from a horse can decapitate (your head), … a horse-kick is ONE QUARTER or less then one horsepower, unless your horse has only one leg? so 175 watts to the face can easily decapitate, or worse, paralyse resulting in living suffering.

        the ONLY safe way to do this is with highly tested code where the movement is confined to a software-driven safe-zone and YOU STAY IN THE SAFE ZONE!
        (yellow-tape mandatory) that way any failure of the object recognition/tracking software (telling arm to move into safe zone) stops everything cold.

        of course theres always waiver forms one could sign….. and then you could do anything

        1. While I think your estimate of horsepower is off, as the instantaneous power at the moment of contact during a kick is much higher than the steady state, after seeing videos of a similar size robot throw a bowling ball a few hundred feet I agree that any messing around with robotics is a dangerous undertaking and that current motion limiters are not sufficient to avert deadly results if there is a glitch or error in the program.

  2. After reading the story about the VW worker crushed to death by an industrial robot, I see these in an entirely different light. They are amazing pieces of machinery but one small mistake and they can be instantly lethal. The design goals of high speed and high power combine to produce something that is both awesome but quite scary.

    1. When reading the article(VW worker) correctly it wasn’t the robots fault.

      When you are interacting with a robot – yes during certain tasks when you teach it you need to be very close – you need to have some safeguards in place along with some sane acting by yourself.

      That accident mostly was caused not during teaching but during the (semi-)auto execution of a command set.

      1.) when you teach the robot, the execution speed and motor power is largely reduced
      2.) before you run a set of commands in (semi-)auto mode – the safety I use is that I don’t come near the robot till it has executed that set with me “watching” it and pressing down a button or having my hand on the emergency stop.

      After that I know what the robot does exactly and I know where the movement zones are, where I should keep away from,
      and I can also setup a software perimeter that the robot is not allowed to enter.

  3. Entrusting your life to bug-free software written by a novice whose primary claim to fame seems to be 3d printing necklaces?

    That thing can kill you before you have time to reach the safety shutoff button…

      1. For the switch to prevent you from getting hit, you’d still need to recognize that the arm is out of control and be quick enough to release it. In this case, it’s no different than having an actual kill switch. Too little too late.

        Also, there’s still no clear goal in what is trying to be done here. No, being “interested in how humans and robots interact” doesn’t count because that doesn’t mean anything. In what situation would having a robot that tracks your hand useful and innovative?

        1. Indeed it will sometimes not prevent her from being hit, but depending on the situation (distance), getting seriously injured.

          And actually the question what is it useful for, for teaching robots for using external cameras to be aware of a human being and it’s position and changing it’s own movement to prevent calamaties for example.

          That the tracker is attached to a hand must not mean that it ends there.

          But asking for a clear goal on hackaday where you have many projects where you could ask the same is pretty rediculous because: Hackers do it because it can be done or hackers wanted to proove it could be done.

          64k of memory is enough for everyone!

          1. You’re right in that not everything on this site needs to have a clear goal. People can spend time doing whatever they’d like. Because Autodesk is involved in this somehow, I want to know what they are getting out of it. Is it a publicity stunt or are they hiring this person to get something they need done?

        2. “In what situation would having a robot that tracks your hand useful and innovative?”
          Prostate surgical robots follow the surgeons hands, it is almost like a “fly by wire” glovebox.
          The benefit is, the surgeon can view the walnut sized prostate on a large flat screen (many times its actual size)
          and the robot reduces the surgeons movements by let’s say a factor of ten.
          The result?
          Better surgeories. Only the diseased tissue (albeit tiny) gets removed.

  4. Indeed. Ya’ll need to man up. It’s a perfectly calculated risk. Just as dangerous as crossing the road at right/wrong time. She just needs to press the kill/off switch on her remote ;). Ow and by the way a freaking awesome bot too, gimme gimme gimme ;)

  5. People who think these are not dangerous has not worked with them. At full speed a safety system with a 5ms response time is still not enough to stop it taking your head off. I’ve seen a big one like the one in the video punch a hole in a brick wall whilst being programmed. These ARE NOT TOYS!

  6. Like any industrial tool, they need to be treated with caution and respect, but its very nice to see her doing this sort of work.

    My biggest question would be how the machines response time would be impacted by working around fairly slow and unresponsive human counterparts, since the whole point of industrial robots is to speed through repetitive tasks fairly quickly.

    And as for that VW guy: Lockout Tagout or do not be near the machine with power applied.

  7. I deal with two large Kuka robots at my work and I can say with certainty that no matter how cool this project looks, I would never get this close to them when they are active. Ours were professionally programmed and we’ve still had them throw things, drop things, and try to smash things. They are amazing tools but definitely not toys.

    I don’t know about these robots but I know on a Kuka that if something goes wrong and an object becomes wedges between robot and its destination it will apply nearly maximum force before faulting out and locking in position until it can be manually reset with the pendant. Probably how the German worker was crushed to death.

    Like Stephen said, you don’t get near machines like this without using lockout tagout. And even then, a fair amount of caution is a good idea.

    1. Also there is the fact that a huge industrial robot that can accurately move 100kg is NOT required for her work – she could use a much smaller robot.

      But then who would click on the article?

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