Saturday, March 31, 2012

Last chance for ROSCon 2012 early registration

Register early for lower prices and swag! We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Standards and the Law

Over at Boing Boing, there is a great post about making the standards that have been incorporated as part of the legal code freely available.

I believe that standards should be free, open and redistributable and that the work of organizations like the IETF and Python Software Foundation show that it is possible to develop high quality standards without charging people to read them.

While it is clear that large organizations often have trouble changing their business models, it is important to recognize that we are free not to implement pay-to-read standards that are not enacted as laws. However, since "ignorance of the law excuses no one", standards that are incorporated as law must be free in every sense of the word.

So as a member of IEEE and ASME, I ask that these organizations work to support Carl Malamud and his efforts by giving explicit approval for making all standards that are enacted as law redistributable and available without charge.

Furthermore, I would like these organizations to consider making all standards redistributable and freely available.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Benchmarks for GPS calibration

One issue faced by developers of outdoor robots is the calibration of satellite navigation systems and the validation and verification of the state estimator after filtering has fused the satellite information with odometry.

One option to deal with error is to assume that the satellite information is perfect and another is to use benchmarks and triangulation.

NOAA's National Geodetic Survey provides datasheets of benchmarks in the United States that can be used as reference points for determining the position of your robot. This online tool provides map overlay to make it easy to find a benchmark near you.

Also, theodolite.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Light Fields

We seem to be living at a time of innovation in sensor technology.  Light field cameras are another possible alternative to either a Kinect type sensor or conventional stereo vision.

Since service robotics is likely to be mainly concerned with objects within a relatively short distance of a few metres, something like this could be viable depth sensor.  Compared to a Kinect it would have a lower cost both in terms of price, due to the lower number of components, and also in terms of energy (and hence battery life), since it doesn't depend upon pumping out a lot of energy into the environment.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Squirrel Deterrence

Here's a run robotic application for repelling rogue squirrels using a water pistol.

The initial idea of an automated bird spotter is interesting, and it would be even more fun to go beyond this into the area of animal biometrics. Animal biometrics seems to be a little-studied topic at present, and is largely confined to cattle. With a high resolution image on a webcam with a zoom lens it might be possible to get enough detail to recognize not just bird species but particular individuals. If identification was reliable enough then by logging and analyzing that data it would be possible to build up a picture of the lives of individual creatures and their position in the pecking order. Field biologists sometimes do this kind of work, but it's a very painstaking manual process.

 For an automated bird spotter you could have a dual camera setup, similar to the vision system of the MIT Cog robot. One camera would have a wide angle lens and would be for detecting and orienting towards targets, and the other would have a narrow telescopic field of view for trying to obtain the biometrics.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

In Stock: Even more TurtleBot Accessories

Here is some exciting news as part of our plans at I Heart Engineering to become the world's leading developer of TurtleBot accessories. We are proud to present some of our new spring collection. All of these accessories are Open Source Hardware and are 'ready to roll'.

After some production delays, our laser mounts are now available for immediate shipment or download.

The TurtleBot Hokuyo URG Mount is designed to provide a variety of options for mounting your 2D laser scanner to the TurtleBot. If you have a laser cutter, the design files should provide all you need to precisely and securely mount the laser.

The TurtleBot Hokuyo UTM Mount provides both a mounting plate and a custom designed heatsink required for safe operation of the laser scanner. These design files are also available.

If you are looking at adding additional accessories to your robot the TurtleBot Power Splitter can provide an additional power connector. Unfortunately, the splitter can not provide additional current, so make sure to avoid drawing more than 1.5 Amps as it will cause the robot base to shut down. The splitter is also useful for testing your accessories by using an external power supply (not included). Design files for the plastic cover are available on thingiverse and the KiCAD design files for the circuit board are available on github. Due to miscommunication, the silkscreen for the back of version 0.2 is reversed. These boards are otherwise fully functional and are currently on sale at a discount.

In Stock: Tool Update

Here is a new video demonstrating the use of the Engineer TG-01 grinder and if you need something a little larger the TG-02 is an excellent choice. 

We have also expanded our selection of screw pliers to include the Engineer PZ-56 Screw Pliers XP. These slip joint pliers are great for grasping larger parts.

We also now carry the Engineer PAS series pin extractors.

ROSCon2012 Registration

Don't forget to register for ROSCon before March 31st!