World Maker Faire 2013: Microsoft Boxing Robots

boxing robots

Although Microsoft doesn't develop or sell robots directly, a lot of their technologies and products are used with robot systems. Without a doubt the most well known Microsoft robot technology is the Kinect sensor system that detects operator (and other object) position and movements. Originally developed to enhance the play experience for X-Box users, Kinect was rapidly hacked and adapted for use in applications that Microsoft never expected nor dreamed possible.

At the World Maker Faire, Microsoft demonstrated the possibilities and capabilities of the Kinect system using a couple of life sized boxing robots. Each robot was equipped with a chest sensor, two arm linkages with boxing gloves, and a head that popped up when the opponent managed to land a preset number of blows to the chest target.

If Rockem Sockem Robots, the kids robot game originally developed decades ago and marketed by Marx Toy company, comes to mind then you would be right on target.

boxing robot

Operators - typically kids - lined up for a chance to prove their boxing skill. After a minute or so for the Kinect sensors to find and map the operators, the bouts would begin. The operators motions were limited to taking a step forward or back and punching with their arms to make the robot attack their opponent.

All things considered, it worked fairly well. There were some tough challenges. For the most part the kids were polite and followed the staff's instructions, though there were a few exceptions. The biggest challenge, while I was observing, was the fact that the system was setup under a large outdoor tent with sunlight - often reflected - impacting the sensors at times during the day.

At the end of the day, I'm sure that Microsoft achieved their goal of demonstrating the technology while generating interest and enthusiasm among the kids so that hopefully some of them will pursue careers in science and technology - maybe even become a key Microsoft employee in the not too distant future.


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