Friday, August 31, 2012

End of Summer Special

While our shipping department will be taking Monday off, this Labor Day Weekend we are trying out a shipping special. Free ground shipping in the continental United States for any order over $100 and so our international, Alaskan and Hawaiian customers don't feel completely left out we are offering $10 off any order over $100 as an alternative.

The sale runs from Friday August 31st through Monday September 3rd, so buy now!!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

ROS News Roundup

Here is the latest roundup of ROS related news.

TurtleBot Teleop with Android using ROS Fuerte.

Tomorrow will be the first meetup for the NYC TurtleBot Operators Group and effectively an I Heart Engineering open house. Depending on interest and feedback, we hope to hold more of these events regularly in the future.

Does your cubicle suffer daily incursions from co-workers intent on "asking you questions"? Perhaps this ROS driver can help.

The OSRF now has a list of consultants, including some you may already know, that can help with your next open source robotics project.

The Robotics and Biology Laboratory at TU Berlin has announced their new ROS repository which seems to be related to the above video.

OctoMap 1.5 is now available!!

They are using ROS to learn how to climb stairs, to "help" the humans.

ROS drivers for the Robotiq grippers are now available as part of ROS Industrial.

V-REP simulator has ROS support available for download.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Here's a nice idea. An inflatable robot arm.

It looks as if there are three sections which are independently inflatable: the lower section, the upper section and the gripper. Obviously there is going to be a limit on how much mass this arm can lift, but if it's good enough to lift a bottle then it can probably handle a lot of other small objects.  It would also be quite cheap to produce, and safe to use around people.

A possible variant would be to make it hydraulic, or hydraulically reinforced. That would be heavier (the robot would need to carry a reservoir of liquid), but since water is relatively incompressible it would also be stronger.

Whether the arm would be able to retract back into the body is another issue, but if there was a cable inside this could be used to reel in a deflated arm.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

SwRI Launches ROS Industrial Consortium

Southwest Research Institute is launching ROS Industrial Consortium, a cooperative research consortium.

This effort has several important benefits. It will help make recent research in robotics and 3D perception available to industrial users and allow them to perform adaptive manufacturing tasks. Academic researchers stand to benefit as industrial quality and safety needs will focus work on improving the robustness of open source robotics software. This will also open up industrial robotics opportunities for graduate students with ROS experience that are looking to escape academia. Industrial robotics integrators stand to benefit as reduced system integration time will encourage robotic manufacturing applications to become more complex, increasing total billable hours.

It will be interesting to see the impact of industrial robot manufacturers embracing open source software and the new manufacturing applications that become possible.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

NYC TurtleBot Operators Group meeting

I Heart Engineering will have an open house and host the NYC TurtleBot Operators Group meeting on Friday August 31st at our Brooklyn facility. We will be spending the day testing the new TurtleBot ROS Fuerte software release. Some programming (Python) experience is helpful, but if you don't have a robot there will be several here for testing. If you already have a TurtleBot, bring it by for an upgrade!

TurtleBot ROS Fuerte RC1

The software team over at I Heart Engineering is pleased to announce the availability of our first release candidate of a TurtleBot ROS Fuerte ISO. If you have a TurtleBot and some spare time, we can use your help testing to make this release meet its full potential.

The ISO image was assembled in Brooklyn at the I Heart Engineering research and manufacturing facility and contains the latest stable version of Ubuntu 12.04 and ROS Fuerte. We have worked to make significant usability improvements and decrease the amount of time it takes to get your robot up and running out of the box. Some of these new features are detailed below.

We have developed a network autoconfiguration system that connects to NetworkManager via dbus to identify the primary network interface, IP address and the WiFi SSID if available. This allows ROS to be automatically started whenever  you connect to a WiFi network.

As part of our effort to streamline the startup process, we have built a system for automatically starting any launch files found in /etc/ros/launch.d sequentially.

Having worked on several robot ground stations we can appreciate the idea of using an Android based cellphone or tablet running ROS. So, to make it even easier to use them with the TurtleBot we developed ros-network-id which generates a QR code describing the network configuration and password to allow mobile devices to connect without typing on the screen. For robots without a usable display, ros-network-id can also be used as a command line program over ssh.

The autoconfiguration system has been designed to work for every reasonable case, however in the event it doesn't the settings can be overridden by editing /etc/ros/network.conf.

While still a work-in-progress, we have written a TurtleBot Startup Guide which has some references to help get you started if you are unfamiliar with the operation of a TurtleBot.

The system has been designed to get the most out of using ROS with Ubuntu's Unity interface. Custom icons, GUIs and launchers help provide an improved user interface. ROS applications and launch files now have icons and launch files can be started by double clicking them. Right clicking launcher icons shown above makes secondary options available.

The turtlebot-config program provides an automatic configuration system for TurtleBot hardware. It can identify USB serial cables and create a fixed symlink to /dev/irobot_create so that the robot will work regardless of the order cables are plugged in. The config tool should also automatically identify laptop battery support, particularly for the Lenovo x130e.

To provide visual feedback that the TurtleBot ROS nodes are running the turtlebot-indicator provides a white notification icon when the /turtlebot_node is currently running and is greyed out when ROS is stopped. The indicator can also be used to stop and start ROS manually.

Continuing our emphasis on style and function, the operating system, installer and greeter login screen have been provided with a TurtleBot color scheme and background and TurtleBot themed wallpapers help keep your computer stylish

turtlebot-fuerte-ubuntu-12.04-amd64-RC1.iso can be downloaded via bittorrent available here and instructions for creating a USB installer from the ISO image can be found here.

Any testing would be greatly appreciated and help ensure that the final release is works well for everyone. If possible, please file feedback and bug reports with the issue tracker on github.

Also in addition to all of the ROS and GNU/Linux/Ubuntu contributors, we would like to offer a special thanks to our friends at WG and DPRG for help making this happen.

Random Bits

Here are some great RViz Plugins for OccupancyMap and Markers

Check out this proposal for a general robotics area on stack exchange

This explanation might be somewhat reassuring, but you may want to keep in mind that the Nao is already capable of climbing stairs.

Check back later today, as the I Heart Engineering software team has some big news they are uploading for all of you TurtleBotters out there.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Power up!

We have now increased our in-house manufacturing capabilities with a 50 Watt Epilog Helix 24.

Despite some installation help from Murphy, we managed to get up and running thanks to help from Epilog and Best Equipment Sales, the local distributor for New York.

Our new manufacturing capabilities have arrived just in time for the fall and should help decrease lead times and prevent back orders of TurtleBots and accessories. Our research and manufacturing team is also hoping to use it for developing experimental manufacturing techniques to produce some of our new products that are currently under development.

All of us over here at I Heart Engineering would like to thank our customers for their continued business and special thanks to Ponoko for helping us get here.


GUI Tools for ROS

Here is some of the recently released GUI tools for ROS.

node_manager_fkie provides a graphical interface for discovering and managing ROS nodes. It provides support for multi-master environments where multiple robots run ROS master servers locally.

rosdashboard provides an easy way of visualizing status and sensor messages from you robot instead of trying to read gyro messages as they float by in a terminal.

RXConsole has been ported to Android and is available on Google Play. Also, if you don't have a google account for your Android phone, you should also be able to build it from source.

Speaking of the Google Play, I think it is in developers (except Googles) interest to support opkg on Android so we can sidestep the current problems with software installation on Android and support more complex applications with dependency chains. When a user installs a package like the Android App Chooser, it should automatically install/prompt-to-install a barcode reader. Otherwise Android is going to end up bloated like windows where every application that uses something like python installs its own local copy.</RANT>

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Live Tonight: Curiosity vs Martian Atmosphere

Watch live streaming video from spaceflightnow at

Tonight is the big night, with this years match-up between NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity against the Martian atmosphere at 1:31 AM EST on NASA TV.

This video and previous attempts to simulate aircraft for Mars may help explain the insane Rube Goldberg landing system. Obviously, this system should also help Curiosity fly past the Martian defence network.