The Best Laid Plans Of Robots and Men (Video)

Things usually work great in the lab or at home, but bringing them out into the real world, especially at competitions or events where there is fairly intense pressure is a completely different story.

Taylor Veltrop came up with the first effective implementation using the Kinect system with ROS (Willow Garage Robot Operating System) to control a humanoid robot in a master/slave configuration. And, he had the guts to actually take it into battle against some of the top Japanese ROBO-ONE robot builders at the recent Robot Japan competition. Long time followers of this blog will immediately recognize Dr. GIY in the video setting up Yokozuna Great for competition right next to Taylor.

Although the system worked perfectly at home, he quickly ran into a few “gottcha” problems. For example, the bandwidth/response from the WiFi network he used at the venue introduced considerable response time lag. It was functional, but no where near as snappy. Then it turned out that the “wall” behind him during the robot battles was actually a curtain. It worked ok until the slightest breeze made the curtain move, totally confusing the Kinect sensors.

Thankfully Taylor was able to overcome these unexpected challenges and still compete. He even staged a brief demonstration of his Kinect/ROS system after the event.

One thing that was a bit surprising was the lack of ROS awareness among the builders here. Most of them had never heard of it and were quite surprised at how flexible, powerful, and easy to implement ROS is. I think with the right PR and promotion ROS could quickly gain a lot of general acceptance and utilization among Japanese robot engineers and designers.


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