Tag Archives: robotics

Toyota’s New Robot runs ROS

ROS is making headway into industrial robotics in a big way.
Toyota’s new human assistance robot runs ROS.


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Rise of “forever day” bugs in industrial systems

Arstechnica has an interesting article examining the effect of unpatched vulnerabilities in industrial control systems.
Specific mention is made of an exploit allowing remote code execution on robots using some old ABB software.

According to an advisory (PDF) issued last week by the US Cyber Emergency Response Team, the flaw in ABB WebWare Server won’t be fixed even though it provides the means to remotely execute malicious code on computers that run the application.


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The world’s fastest Rubik’s Cube-solving robot

A couple of friends of mine are now officially internet famous, having their Rubik’s Cube solving robotics project linked on Engadget and Physorg.

Solving the cube in 10.69 seconds it is now the current world record holder!
Take a look.

Congratulations guys!

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Cloud Robotics @ Google IO 2011

At Google IO 2011 Ryan Hickman, Damon Kohler, Ken Conley, Brian Gerkey gave an interesting talk about robotics work that was occurring at Google.
If you’re interested in robotics at all I really think it’s worth a look. The gist of the first half of the talk is that cloud based services for object recognition and perception allow computing power to be moved off the robot and into the cloud. This allows information sharing between robots and can leverage tougher computing problems using the massive power available in the cloud.

During the second half of the talk Damon Kohler spoke about his work to get robotics and sensors available to the average hobbyist through the use of Android and other commodity hardware (including the Kinect!).
Some of the projects referenced in the video have been previously linked on this blog.
It’s great to see hobbyist hackers recognised.
He announced rosjava, a port of ROS (Robotic Operating System) to Java to run natively on Android.
Combined with the Android Open Accessories Development Kit, I can see some really interesting applications and excuses to buy new hardware… And it’s all open source!

Recommended viewing:

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3D Printer Build

This weekend I took a break from Kinect software hacking and did some hardware hacking instead.

RepRap is an open source hardware project to create a desktop 3D printer that is constructible from parts that are easily printable themselves. The vision is to make a self-replicating machine, and it has very exciting implications for personal manufacturing.

The printers deposit layers of plastic to build up a 3D object. If you imagine a Pen Plotter that moves a pen mechanically to draw images on large format paper, you have the idea. Instead of the pen depositing ink, the print head deposits molten plastic. Instead of just moving in 2 dimensions the print head can move vertically too. There’s your 3D printer.
It is well worth watching at least some of the following video to get the idea:

The RepRap electronics and hardware are completely open source and make use of other open hardware projects like the Sanguino (think Arduino). If you’re interested in the tech specs of the motherboard see here.

For tinkerers who don’t want to spend their life SMT soldering, the awesome folks at MakerBot Industries sell mostly pre-assembled electronics. They also have a derivative of the RepRap called the CupCake CNC which sacrifices some of the ‘all-parts printable’ ethos of the RepRap for a more reliable and robust printer.

I bought all the parts required to construct a CupCake CNC from the MakerBot guys and spent about 21 hours this weekend constructing my printer.

About 200 bolts, 3 stepper motors, some good soldering and some not so good soldering later I had this:

MakerBot CNC

It is quite an involved process but also very rewarding.

For those interested there are some photos of my build on Flickr.

Here is a quick video of the first power-on when I was testing the stepper motors. You can see that the XY stage is working as it should but the Z stage makes a horrible noise because the bearings are slipping and catching.

I need to lubricate and adjust some bearings and belt tensions before starting proper calibration.

As soon as I have a successful print I will post again.

The game plan here is to use some of the 3D Scanning abilities of the Kinect and a bit of software magic to create a real-life ‘replicator’ that can scan real objects and then print copies.

That is of course if I don’t get too distracted with hardware mods on my CupCake…

The Frostruder lets MakerBots print using viscous fluids like silicone, Nutella, peanut butter, or icing. You read that correctly.

My machine made me a cake and I eated it.

My machine made me a cake and I eated it. by bre pettis, on Flickr

Either way – cool things are coming so stay tuned for either a personal manufacturing revolution or a really sweet way to ice cupcakes.

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Kinect Projects Update

Wow – so I got Slashdotted. Very unexpected but still counts as one life goal down 😉
First of all thanks for the comments and the feedback. There’s some really interesting discussion going on here and I plan to follow-up on some of the ideas raised. This is exactly why I posted this stuff.
As I’m sure everyone can see this is a pretty rough proof-of-concept. I just thought I’d share some pics and a bit of code once I got something working.

I’ll just address a few quick points while more than 6 people per day are reading my blog :).
1. Phone GPS quality – yes the GPS accuracy I can expect from my phone is pretty poor compared to professional solutions – I work with some pretty expensive kit myself. I was hoping to make a hack that could be replicated without people spending a lot of money and so if I get my hands on a newer phone I’ll see if I can get some inertial sensing going too.

2. Advanced techniques for combining pointclouds – yes there is so much more that could be done with all this. To be honest I just posted this after I spent a bit of time hacking and got something working.

The original concept was to enable low-cost vehicle based mapping using commodity hardware and open-source software. Imagine a crowdsourced 3D map of the world that everyone can contribute to a la OpenStreetMap. Obviously just logging depth frames from the Kinect is a long way from such a dream, but hopefully at some point I will be able to put more time into it and progress the project. I’m calling it Dramatic Mapping.

However I have a few other projects that might take away my attention at least temporarily:

A commenter mentioned using the Kinect with a 3D printer and I can tell you that I already have plans for such.
In fact, the parts to construct a RepRap have been on their way for 2 weeks now (but appear to be stuck in Australian customs). Once I get it printing I intend to use the Kinect as a 3D scanner to create a nice workflow for duplicating real world objects. I will blog about this so don’t worry.

I also want to explore ROS and it’s packages (and learn a lot!). To this end I think an iRobot Create might be a planned purchase :).
I do have some experience with dealing with large pointclouds in my day job and so some more advanced techniques as suggested by commenters are also possible – if I get the time. ROS also seems like an awesome jumping off point – many awesome hackers have built a really impressive system.



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