Developing A PC Based Robosapien Remote Control – WYSIWYG

Once the basic architecture was up and running, and could consistently control my Robosapien via the USB-UIRT, it was time to do some design brainstorming. What was it that I liked about the RS remote control? What didn’t I like? What features would I really want to see in a remote control?

I had some clues. For example, one of the European university websites mentioned that RS has 9 degrees of freedom. How could I show that on the control, and make it easy to control each degree of freedom? In thinking about that problem, I recalled how the Japanese Robot Battle competitors program their robots. They typically have their left hand on the robot while their right hand is typing commands into the computer keyboard. They get immediate tactile feedback at a gut level.That lead me to the idea that the controller image should map directly to the Robosapien itself – hopefully on a 1:1 basis.

After some consideration, I came up with the following design guidelines:

  • Intuitive – in other words, the remote control function should provide a WYSIWYG type of experience.
  • Logical – it should make sense at a gut level and not require a lot of analysis to use.
  • Shallow – as much as possible one button press should evoke the behavior you want. Control and multiple key strokes should be minimized.
  • Facilitate – it should help the user and anticipate their desires, not get in the way of them.
  • Toy – Robosapien, after all is said and done, is a toy. The remote control should be toy like in terms of design, colors, and experience.
  • Fun – If it isn’t fun, then no one (including me) is going to use it for very long.

With that in mind, I came up with this design -


(click on the graphic for a full size image)

Once I had the controls laid out the way I wanted them, it was easy to combine the design with the operational software. Using Visual Basic 6, I imported the graphic layout into a form, then created an image array with enough elements for all the buttons. Each element in the image array overlays a button image in the graphic. This makes it easy to do things like tool tip text hints for mouse-overs.

The end result: an extremely easy to use, intuitive, fun to play with, remote control for my Robosapien.

When I have a chance over the next week or so, I’ll put together a post covering the details of using an image array to simulate graphic buttons in Visual Basic.


9 thoughts on “Developing A PC Based Robosapien Remote Control – WYSIWYG

  1. Where can I get the software, how much is it, and if I don’t have an IR port on my pc/laptop, then how do I get one?

  2. Hi Robert,

    You wrote:

    >> Where can I get the software,

    I developed the software as a hobby project, mainly because I wanted to do more with my Robosapien, and got frustrated with the standard control. At this point, I don’t have any plans to sell it commercially. I may change my mind, if there is enough interest in it – especially once the Robosapien V2, Robopet, and Roboraptor are released.

    >> how much is it,

    Right now it’s just a hobby. I did the coding/design in Visual Basic 6 and utilize the DLL supplied by the maker of my IR port module (see below.) I’m concerned about potential problems if I distribute the software since all of my systems are running the Japanese version of Windows XP (I live in Japan). At the moment, I have no way to test, or support it for other versions/releases of the OS.

    >> and if I don’t have an IR port on my pc/laptop, then how do I get one?

    There are several alternatives depending on your pc/laptop, operating system, and what you want to do with it. For this project I used the USB-UIRT ( It has a USB interface and comes in two different versions. The cheaper version only transmits, while the more expensive version will also read IR signals so that you can write software to clone commands from your existing remote controls.

    It might be overkill if all you want to do is to send signals to your Robosapien, but I have several other IR projects in the works, so I bought the full version. I also have it setup to control my Sony Handicam (time lapse photography/video application), and am working on a remote application to control my VCR and desktop PC that are on a different floor from my laptop.

    If you’re seriously interested in controlling a Robosapien (or any other robot/device via IR), then you should check out the website. Robert, who runs that site, developed a similar Robosapien PC-based remote control and has put the software into the Open Source. You’ll find links on his site to the Robosapien Dance Machine project, along with a cute video he put together of his two Robosapiens dancing and showing off.

    There are also sites that describe using a PDA as a remote control. I think a Google search of “robosapien PDA” would probably show them.

    I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  3. Hi Lem.

    My name is shane and I am from south africa.I must say that the graphic of your programming software looks awesome.

    I would appreciate it if you could e-mail me a copy of your software or send me a link where I can go and download you roposapien controlling software.

    Thank you.

  4. Hi,

    today i got my RS. And i have the same dream. I would love to control it with my computer.

    Could you please, please send me a copy of your RS-Controller to ?


  5. You totatally need to bundle this all together and start selling it on bay.. If v2 came with this I would have spent the money on it..

    Have you thought of trying to put 802.11 into a V1 or V2 bot and extending this?

    PS does the brain on this thing have a serial cable or heads for one? aka hackinto it and totally reprogram?

  6. I recently purchased two robots and wish to do a science project with my 13 yr old for his sixth grade science fair the premise is this: Can a store bought Robot be controlled using a PC instead of the factory Ir controller. I would really appreciate a simple way to demonstrate this. Robosapien is an amazingly entertaining toy, but im trying to interest kids in electrical engineering on a simple level..

  7. Is there anything you can do to come up with some sort of controller for a robosapien if you do not have the remote? I saw one at a garage sale without the remote…

  8. I would be interested to know as well, as in a program that at least transmits the proper IR frequency for controls on the standard remote.

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