Sunday, April 19, 2015

The DARPA Robotics Challenge

The DARPA Robotics Challenge, DRC, is a competition of robot systems and software teams vying to develop robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters. It was designed to be extremely difficult. Participating teams, representing some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world, are collaborating and innovating on a very short timeline to develop the hardware, software, sensors, and human-machine control interfaces that will enable their robots to complete a series of challenge tasks selected by DARPA for their relevance to disaster response.

The DRC Finals will take place from June 5-6, 2015 at Fairplex in Pomona, California. The DRC Finals will require robots to attempt a circuit of consecutive physical tasks, with degraded communications between the robots and their operators; the winning team will receive a $2 million grand prize; DARPA plans to award $1 million to the runner-up and $500,000 to the third-place team.
Technologies resulting from the DRC will transform the field of robotics and catapult forward development of robots featuring task-level autonomy that can operate in the hazardous, degraded conditions common in disaster zones.
Note: The Source for all the information above is

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Curiosity Rover Wheels

This post is about the wheels on the Mars Curiosity Rover. If the wheels are this complex - imagine the complexity of all the technology involved in this amazing robot!

The following information below comes from an article here by Emily Lakdawalla :
Below is a photo of a flight wheel -- that is, one of the six that's sitting on Mars today. Each wheel tire was machined from a single block of aluminum. It is 50 centimeters in diameter and 40 centimeters wide. It has grousers (treads) that protude 7.5 millimeters from the wheel skin. Grousers are spaced 15 degrees apart. Unlike Spirit and Opportunity, the grousers are not straight; they have chevron features designed to prevent sideways slip.
The skin of the wheel is 0.75 millimeters thick -- the absolute thinnest that could be machined. The grousers provide structural strength; the skin is for floating the rover atop loose sand. There is a slight crown to the wheel to make it more robust to the moment of touchdown on Mars (remember that the rover landed on its wheels, with no lander underneath them). There is a vertical rim on each edge of the wheel, again for structural strength. There is another, double rim located about one-third of the way into the tire, the structural stiffener to which the wheel flexures (spokes) are attached. One section of the tire has a set of odometry marker holes drilled into it, which provide a way for the rover's navigational software to measure its driving progress across soft surfaces by photographing the tracks. For fun, these holes spell out "J P L" in Morse code.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Cubli

Here is another cube robot from the same forum thread posted below. This one is called the Cubli!

The Cubli is a 15 × 15 × 15 cm cube that can jump up and balance on its corner. Reaction wheels mounted on three faces of the cube rotate at high angular velocities and then brake suddenly, causing the Cubli to jump up. Once the Cubli has almost reached the corner stand up position, controlled motor torques are applied to make it balance on its corner. In addition to balancing, the motor torques can also be used to achieve a controlled fall such that the Cubli can be commanded to fall in any arbitrary direction. Combining these three abilities -- jumping up, balancing, and controlled falling -- the Cubli is able to 'walk'.

Research at MIT

Known as M-Blocks, the robots are cubes with no external moving parts. Nonetheless, they're able to climb over and around one another, leap through the air, roll across the ground, and even move while suspended upside down from metallic surfaces. AMAZING!

Thanks to Zap-o on the Parallax Forum for posting about this!

Renaissance Roboticist

Leonardo and his Robotic Cart
Leonardo da Vinci  was not only an artistic genius, architect, scientist and inventor. He was an honest to goodness Renaissance Roboticist! He essentially designed mechanical devices that were "programmable" using interchangeable cams. Here is video that shows some of Leonardo's designs and where they led. (including the work of Mark Rosheim - see below). The synthesized narration has some interesting pronunciations! 

My children currently attend a school whose mascot is the Warriors. They use a knight as their symbol. The school also has a very active robotic's club. When I remembered Leonardo's robotic knight, the two ideas came together, I started doing some thinking about how the robotic's club might adopt Leonardo's Knight as the robotic's club mascot or logo.

So, I did a bit of "Googling." Here is a little mix of info about Leonardo's design and the work to understand and reconstruct some of his ideas by modern day roboticist, Mark Rosheim. Some of the drawings are Leonardo's and some are modern - in the style of Leonardo.

Rosheim and Leonardo's Cart

A Robotic take on Leonardo's Vitruvian Man

Da Vinci's robots are described in Mark Rosheim's book, Leonardo's Lost Robots, which I have posted about before. You can find it here. I dug out my copy and had another look. Very interesting! Rosheim is self educated and brilliant. His company's website is here. Watch the great video about him and his da Vinci research below.

Maybe this will lead to something, maybe not... But it was a fun bit of research and reading. Do a little "Googling" yourself!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Open Source EggBot

Greek Robotic Egg Decoration by my Parallax Forum pal Nikos Giannakopoulos​! Check it out here.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Ex Machina

Holy smokes! - This looks good and scary all at the same time... It will be interesting to see if it is pro/anti or neutral regarding robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). It will also explore Turing Test questions - it looks like.

Ex Machina is in theaters now - wonder if it will make it here? If not, I guess that means quicker to video and owning a copy.

The official website is here and is fun to look around. It includes a page called Ava Sessions - a interactive piece of AI software. As regards the Touring Test, would this software fool you?

This film is rated R though and looks like it should be! IMDb info is here.

Here is the trailer.