Our previous exclusive report featuring the new GR-001 humanoid robot kit from HPI Racing covered the overall robot design and hardware along with a video of the robot in action. But hardware is only one part of the total picture, so in this report we'll give you an exclusive pre-sales look at the software application that comes with this exciting robot.
We should point out that our evaluation was based on the GR-001 robot kit that will be released for sale in Japan by HPI later this month. All of our testing was done with the Japanese version of the product and software, so as they commonly say in the automotive business, "your mileage may vary."
We like to look at new products, like the HPI robot kit, from the perspective of the total user experience. So, we try, as much as possible, to take the whole process into consideration, from the time the customer first opens the box, through the assembly, setup, and day to day use. For example, it might take you several hours to assemble a robot kit and get it working for the first time. But, over the useful life of the product, you will spend hundreds if not thousands of hours trying to create new motions and scenarios.
A lot of robots look very impressive during demos, but sometimes turn out to be hard to assemble or program. Fortunately, the GR-001 robot kit is impressive during demos, surprisingly easy to assemble, and easier to program than a lot of the kits we have tested in the past. That's not to say that it's child's play - it isn't. But the motion editor software application provided with the robot kit makes the difficult process of motion and scenario creation much simpler than before.
The application installed the first time without any problems on our Windows XP personal computer. The screen layout is logical and well thought out, and reminds us a lot of the video editing software we use to prepare all the Robots Dreams video clips.
The screen layout is very straight forward and easy to understand, even if you don't understand a word of Japanese.
The layout consists of seven basic areas. On the left there's file list that shows all the available robot poses, motions, and scenarios. The motion display area shows a 3-D representation of the robot as it goes through its motions. The controls area uses a standard control format. Two large time line areas - one for motions and the other for scenarios, show and allow you to modify a motion or scenario on a real-time basis.
The 3D display isn't a full simulator, but it does allow you to select a particular servo/joint then move it interactively. Along the right side of the display there are several perspective buttons. This was very helpful to regain our spatial orientation after working with the robot for a few hours.
The upper time line is for motions, while the lower time line is used for scenario editing and testing. You can use the mouse to select a particular pose or motion, then delete it, or drag it along the time line until you get the result you're looking for. Adjusting the timing between poses has always been an issue for humanoid robot experiementers. We like the way it handles, and the pure simplicity of the way the application was designed.
A pop-up screen allows you to map different motions or scenarios to the remote control buttons. Of course, the remote control design was based on a popular video game controller. Strangely enough, the remote for the unit we evaluated even had markings on the underside about 'vibration'.
In our next report on the GR-001 robot, we plan on showing you the software application in actual operation. We know you'll be just as surprised and pleased as we have been with the robot so far.
Official HPI G-Robots Website (Japanese)