Thursday, June 30, 2011

Progress with RGB-D Sensors

If you enjoy looking at papers, it looks like some of the results of the RGB-D workshop at RSS are now online, While all the Kinect hacks have been fun, there have also been some serious advances made by the research community in the last year. Perhaps most importantly, it looks like realtime 3D SLAM will be available on commodity hardware soon.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

TurtleBot: Robot Accessories

Here are some TurtleBot accessories we have been working on developing.

A pan tilt system for moving the Kinect without moving the robot to help build accurate 3D maps.

The base can also be used to mount other sensors such as 2D laser scanners to a Robotis RX-28 servo, a base for an AX-12A servo is in development.

Perhaps if your robot is interested in getting a job as a waiter, it may be interested in this cup holder for beverage delivery tasks.

Having now designed one, it's somewhat surprising how much engineering goes into making a decent cup holder.

So what accessories does your robot need?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

TurtleBot: No Laser, No Problem

Even if you don't have a laser cutter you can still make many of the TurtleBot parts with basic hand tools.

First, cut a 12.75"x12.75" piece of 1/4" MDF

Setup a compass with an opening of 6.2" to create a 12.4" diameter circle.

From each edge of the plate draw a small arc to find the approximate center.

From the center of the plate scribe a circle.

Print out the TurtleBot plate at a 1:1 scale to use as a drill template.

Tape the pieces of paper together and hold it up to a light to make sure the overlapping areas are aligned.

Cut out the template and make sure everything fits.

A coping saw or a scroll saw can be used to cut out the circular shape from the MDF.

After you have cut out MDF, attach the template and start drilling.

If the holes end up misaligned you can drill them a little larger and use a washer if necessary to make things fit.

If you get tired of drilling and sawing, you can buy laser cut discs and other TurtleBot parts here.

Screen Test

Today, we decided to test an idea for customizing a TurtleBot with a logo. It looks like you can use a regular silkscreen setup with enamel paint without it or the paint thinner destroying the screen. Mixing in a little paint thinner in with the paint would probably help improve image quality and a positioning jig is required to place the image accurately once the screen is covered in paint.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In Stock: TurtleBot

The new TurtleBot site has launched and I Heart Engineering is now a licensed vendor of Official TurtleBot parts and accessories. We are still ramping up production so there may be some minor delays, but orders will be filled in the order they are placed. You can contact sales at iheartengineering if you have any questions.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bots High Free Worldwide Screening Day

There will be a free screening of the Bots High documentary, produced by Joey Daoud, on October 6th. If you are interested in finding a screening near you or hosting one, there is more information available here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

In Stock: OLLO Bug kit

We are pleased to announce that we have more things for you to buy!

The OLLO Bug kit offers several robot bug designs that you can build. The bugs can be driven by remote control or can autonomously follow lines. A great robot starter kit for designing walking mechanisms and now in stock at the I Heart Engineering store. Great for someone you know ages 10 and up, or maybe even for yourself.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Public Service Announcement

I don't know if you have noticed the weather on the internets recently, but it's looking partly cloudy with a chance of being hacked. So today would be an excellent day to make sure your robot has a password and it's patches are up to date. You may also be interested our previous ranting on this matter.

Also, we are still accepting entries for round two of the ROS Documentation Contest. Entries for round two will be accepted until June 30th.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

US Senator wastes time fighting laundry folding robot

IEEE Spectrum has a nice article on NSF funding for "wasteful" robotics projects. I suspect the critics, of NSF funding for research on laundry folding robots, failed to ask the person who folds their laundry what they think. They also failed to consider the matter seriously.

I think almost everyone who folds their own clothes can agree that laundry folding is a technological development that is almost as important as robotic beverage delivery. I for one hope to buy a used PR2 on eBay one day, and I expect by the time that I can afford a used PR2 it will be capable of much more than laundry related QoLT tasks.

People complaining about the speed of the folding process may want to make themselves familiar with the state of the art in robotic folding.

Can you watch that video and not think that this research is important and worth funding? Which would you rather have, a job building robots that fold laundry or a job folding laundry?

Perhaps Senator Tom Coburn is simply wasting time and taxpayers money trying to stop us from having robot friends that can help us with the laundry. Well it's a good thing there is not a problem with unemployment that the senator's time could be better spent working on.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Open Source Robotics for the Home

For some reason I think that home robotics will be an interesting area of research.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New 10 DoF Inertial Sensor

As predicted, Analog Devices has updated their iSensor® product line with the new ADIS16407, a 10 degree of freedom inertial sensor. While this sensor is nearly out of the price range of hobbyists, the increased accuracy and precision could be useful for many research grade robots and sUAS.

The sensors ten degrees of freedom come from the accelerometer (3 DoF), Gyros (3 DoF), Magnetometer (3 DoF), and pressure sensor (1 DoF). It also comes with an integrated temperature drift compensation.

Information on other similar sensors we have previously covered can be found here, here and here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Compression for 3D Video

This video shows an important step towards making 3D video conferencing work. The point cloud compression system uses Octomap and can detect spacial changes in real-time which allows only changes to be sent between key frames.

However, there will probably need to be additional work done to support compression of streaming 3D data from moving robots. Most likely the compression system will need to integrate with the localization system to achieve disambiguation between static points, changes in the known environment over time and new data available that becomes available as there are changes in visibility.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

ROS available for Ubuntu 11.04 & FBSD

If you are looking forward to experiencing the new Unity interface in Ubuntu 11.04 or thinking about switching back to FreeBSD after experiencing the new Unity interface, ROS Diamondback is now available for FreeBSD and Ubuntu Natty Narwhal. More information is available here.

Also for those who have upgraded, Unity can still be disabled for now.