Wednesday, September 29, 2010

DSO Nano v2 Initial Review

Innovating with China.

The DSO Nano v2 from Seeed Studio is a pocket sized oscilloscope that can actually fit in a hobbyist/student budget. More information from Seeed Studio can be found here.

This video shows the unboxing and some initial testing. The testing was not very rigorous however the initial impressions are generally positive. Testing of the calibration was not considered, if you need a calibrated scope you probably need a more expensive one.

  • Affordable
  • Portable
  • Awesome
  • Open Source
  • Hackable

  • Manufacturing defect with lowest button
  • Buttons have poor clickyness
  • Screen does not always clear properly
  • Unshielded probe
  • No filtering for 60Hz noise

  • Comes with a stand
  • Does not come with strap
  • BNC adapter is not included

At 2:40 in the video you can see the redraw bug and the noise issues. The screen clearing bug should be easily fixed with a firmware update. Using shielded probes with a BNC connector should help with the noise. The only major issues are that the lowest button sticks up an extra 0.3mm probably due to poor soldering, and the buttons in general could be clickier but that is somewhat subjective. It looks like the buttons need to be moved left or right a few millimeters to maximize the effect to the cantilevers cut in the outer case. The GUI on the other hand is somewhat awkward just like most other scopes, but unlike other scopes it can be improved since we have source code.

From initial testing the DSO Nano v2 looks like a good value and I can recommend buying one if you need a portable and affordable scope. Agilent does not have any products that can be compared to this, and they may want to consider developing a hobbyist brand to compete, otherwise they may find Seeed Studio eating their lunch in the future.

Currently in stock (29Sept2010).

Note: Others who like bulky heavy things without storage disagree.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Detection of Objects in Messes

This looks like an interesting approach for practical object detection. However I think the generation of part models is going to be the biggest real world constraint. I not sure how effective this approach will be in the long term unless the PR2 is capable of generating the internal models from objects found in the environment as opposed to generating the part models in an automatic photo booth.

Considering the insanity of perpetual copyrights and the modern legal system, I'm not sure that it is possible to develop a system for sharing part models. Without a method for generating models in the field or a system for sharing part models I am not sure how this approach is going to scale up to the consumer level.

If I look at a copyrighted image, my memory isn't legally controlled by the copyright owner, I can use that memory to recognize objects without paying them, but a robot's memory of a copyrighted image may well be. Is the FFT of a trademark controlled by the trademark holder? Is it copyrightable? Robot lawyers may be needed in the near future to resolve this, though the route to personhood may be worked out for AIs, they apparently just need to incorporate.

More information on the ROS object recognition infrastructure can be found here. Though it is appears to be work in progress with limited documentation for generating your own part models and templates.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Playback: Robots built with Arduino

Here is a line follower with a great case. It also has a pleasant comforting sound.

The Wii Nunchuck looks pretty effective as a robot controller.

The robot's name is Lemons and it uses photocells to detect changes in light. It uses this information as a clever way of detecting obstacles by detecting their shadows. More information about this project can be found here.

I can't help but wonder what will happen when the self balancing robots get tired of being poked.

The controller does a good job at keeping the robot balanced on the smooth floor. Though it makes me wonder how the Segway deals with wheel slip. If you drive a Segway through mud do you crash or is there some wheel slip detection?

The cinematography in this video is great. More info about this project can be found here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Playback: For your consideration

Nice tracking.

The cellphone based robot kits now available.

IEEE Spectrum has more.


This makes me happy.

Robot Movie: Endhiran the Robot

This is awesome. It has everything I want in a robot movie and much much more!!
It not only has explosions but it also has dancing and singing and more explosions.

[From: beyond the beyond]

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This New Lab: Toolbox Upgrade

Recently purchased a Waterloo Tool Cabinet in an attempt to organize the tools around the lab. While it was more then a I really wanted to spend, the amount of time it has saved me from looking for tools has made it all worth it. Also having a nice tool storage setup increases the available work surfaces in the lab, now that tools now have a place to go. This also seems to work better then trying to hang tools on pegboard. The biggest problem with pegboard, besides the fact that the hooks keep falling out if you don't hotglue them, is that it provides a 2D tool storage solution that is limited by the available wall space. The tool cabinet provides a 3D solution with wheels. The pegboard still works well for getting non-tools up off the floor in a way that makes it easy to locate things.

The toolboxes ship without any sort of drawer liners which means that tool storage and retrieval is a noisy affair and the tools have a tendency to slide around as the drawers are opened and closed. The Con-Tact Ultra Grip Liner provides are great solution to this problem. The liner is basically a fabric mesh with a PVC foam coating. While it is not adhesive per se, there is sufficient friction between it and the metal to keep it from moving. The design also helps damp the sound of tools being thrown into the toolbox. Though it has not been tested, the liners appear to be washable.

The Con-Tact Brand Grip Liner works well for the smaller drawers. The extra trimmings will probably be useful for other projects in the future.

The screw cutter collection is finally organized.

The Klein Tools' Canvas Zipper Bags are another purchase that was more than I wanted to spend but worth the money. These bags are very sturdy and come built with zippers that may be indestructible. The other side does not have a logo which provides a convenient place to silkscreen an I Heart Robotics logo.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


In Japan, Robo-One Entertainment has a new movie coming out showing the dramatic and exciting life of Robo-One competitors battling to be #1.

TinyWave from Dynamizer will be starring in the movie along with some humans.

Hopefully we can get a subtitled version in the US because this movie looks awesome.

Showtimes in Japan can be found here and the official site is here.

日本では、Robo-Oneの催し物に新しい映画が来ることをあり#1.であるために戦っているRobo-Oneの競争相手の劇的で、刺激的な生命を示す。 DynamizerからのTinyWaveは何人かの人間と共に映画で主演する。

@Robo-One: お願いしますサブタイトル


I Heart Roboticsは10月11日からの10月16日まで日本にいます。ロボットはどこにいきますか?

Improving ROS

Here at I Heart Robotics, we are a little obsessed with ROS and it's ability to produce amazing Videos like this.

While I am convinced that the ease of development and broad hardware support will ensure that we will be using ROS to build robots 20 years from now, I still have had one minor concern in the back of my mind. Having seen how flexible corporate ethics are over time, how will Willow Garage deal with the inevitable situation where the ROS community and Willow Garage's priorities are not in perfect alignment. While ROS is opensource there is a necessity for developers outside of Willow Garage to be able to propose changes to the core of ROS without resorting to forking the project.

Now with the ROS Enhancement Proposals (REPs) there is now a documented process for improvement. An unlike the development process for projects like Android where the results of development are dumped onto the net at regular intervals, Willow Garage has started using the process themselves to get feedback from community on their changes to the ROS core.

This is a great step forward and will ensure that the robots you buy in the near future will come with a sticker that says "Powered by ROS" as opposed to powered by the robotics framework that shall not be named.

Note: Artist's concept drawing not official "Powered by ROS" graphic, though maybe I should submit a REP for ROS logo usage.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Armatron Style

Just in time for a fall fashion update, Marc English sent us a link to this great t-shirt he and his brother designed to commemorate the 1984 Armatron National Championship Match. Some of you may be too young to remember this matchup but it was a classic part of sports history and a true test of strength and intelligence. The competition was fierce but in the end the winners raised their Armatrons in victory and now you can own this piece of sport history to wear around the workshop or to frame and keep it as a collectible.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

PixHawk QGroundControl Video and Development Roadmap

The Pixhawk Team at ETH shows off more progress on their QGroundControl, and discusses their development plans here. We are especially looking forward to trying out the ROS MAVLink Driver.


Scanned with a Riegl VZ400 Scanner using markers and 6D SLAM. The raw scan data is available here.

I can also recommend his book 3D Robotic Mapping, which provides good coverage of the state of the art for 3D mapping.

Oh you want source code? Well, you can find it here. It even comes with a GPL license.

I wonder if I could find someone who would let me take apart a Riegl VZ400 Scanner.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cool Tool: DSO Nano v2

It looks like news of the next generation DSO Nano has "leaked". Unfortunately it is currently (18Sep2010) out of stock, but this will probably be resolved soon.

Our previous coverage of the DSO Nano can be found here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Autonomous Multi-Floor Indoor Navigation with a Computationally Constrained MAV

This looks interesting, time to look for the paper that goes with this video.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The return of the Aggressive Quadrotor

More great work from UPenn

Visual SLAM for ROS

The initial results of the visual slam system for ROS look interesting. I would be interested to see how helpful this would be for dealing wheel slip. The documentation and tutorials look like a good starting point for people looking at integrating a visual solution for localization and mapping.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Playback: This month in delta robots

Lets look at some of the new delta robot videos for September.

The control system for this robot seems to be coming along.

That is the sound of awesomeness.

This would make an excellent addition to any Lego factory.

Row alignment! Diagonal belt singulation! Predictor flow control! Powered belt chicane!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Under the Hood: Inside the Hokuyo UTM-30LX Laser Scanner

After our previous dissection of the Hokuyo URG-04LX-UG01 laser scanner, Travis from Hizook requested a dissection of a Hokuyo UTM model scanner.

This is a really nice laser. It provides 2D planar laser scans with a 270° field of view and maximum range of over 30 meters at a 40Hz update frequency. It can be yours for only $5590.00.

So lets look at what you get inside for that kind of money.

Use powder free gloves to avoid contamination.

I like the aesthetics of this box for some reason.

The cables are loooong.

Opening the top shows off the laser diode drive electronics. The gasket seems nice but shouldn't the screws be outside? The screws were metric plastic thread forming screws.

Another view of the same.

I like that foam tape.

I wonder if that is custom silk screened or custom silicon.

Let's just say that I am not particularly fond of those little standoffs.

Oops. Someone appears to have forgotten to replace 1 out of 3 of the standoffs.

For some reason the laser appears to work after being reassembled.

I wonder what is inside those Swiss Ranger 3D time-of-flight cameras. They wouldn't have used screws if it wasn't meant to be disassembled right?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Playback: get_new_robot_videos(

Here is part of the PIXHawk Team demoing their new quadrotor helicopter at the European Computer Vision Conference 2010.

Bob Mottram is continuing steady progress improving his open source RoadCV project.

The crew at cellbots has a new video of the $48 TRRSTAN robot kit.

Buy now...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Automatic Discovery of Robots

The laziest sysadmins are the best sysadmins.

The Zeroconf package for ROS allows provides a means of automatically locating all available robotic resources connected to the network. This will be useful for other applications to connect to robots on the local network without editing configuration files.

PR2 Pricing Now Available

If you have $400,000 burning a hole in your research budget, click here to order yourself a PR2. Don't forget to apply for the $120,000 discount if you are an open source contributor.

I figure by sometime around 2020 I will own a used or maybe even a refurbished PR2 and I will never have to fold my laundry again. I wonder if there will be PR2 dealerships or independent service centers. Where would you take your robot to get fixed 10 years from now?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

±1200°/sec Precision Angular Rate Sensor

Here is some hot hot MEMs action from Analog Devices.
  • SPI Bus Interface
  • 0.05°/sec per LSB
  • 335 Hz Bandwidth
  • ±1200°/sec!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Robotics Jobs

The IEEE Robotics and Automation Society has a job posting board here which might be a good resource for employers and job seekers alike. While the number of positions listed is limited, it includes industry positions as well as academic faculty, PhD and post-doc positions.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Helicopters running ROS

ROS is now commercially available on co-axial helicopters.

It now also has drivers available for quadrotors.

[From: ROS]