Trying to explain what the First NAO Robot Developer Program Tokyo Meeting was like just can't convey the actual experience adequately, so we've tried a totally different medium to give you a feel for it:
Full comic after the break:(more…)
In previous posts we introduced Taylor Veltrop's master/slave humanoid robot control system based on the Microsoft Kinect, Wiimotes, and Willow Garage ROS. Taylor is also one of the Aldebaran NAO Robot Developer Program participants and immediately ported his control to the NAO humanoid.
His implementation was a big hit with all the NAO developers attending the first Tokyo meeting, including the Aldebaran Robotics program leader, and they immediately wanted to try it out for themselves.
It's been a great and very informative day at the first NAO Developer Program meeting here in Tokyo, with lots of surprises and new things to learn. The first delightful surprise was a new charging station developed for the NAO robot that incorporates some neat features.
The robot uses the special marks on the charging station mat and post to align itself, then backs up, wiggles a bit to match up the connector on its back with the plug, then connects it self. It then takes a few steps forward and sits down while recharging. This makes it completely available for its own to continue interacting with it.
Once the charging cycle finishes, NAO stands up and with a very human like back swipe of its hand it disconnects the plug and is ready to trot off to work.
Stay tuned for more news from the NAO Developer Program meeting. There's a lot to share.
Not all of us can be lucky enough to adopt a new NAO humanoid robot into the family, but thanks to MsPetiteGeek we can vicariously share in the experience. Watch the surprise, excitement, and wonder as she opens the box from Aldebaran Robotics for the first time:
What she didn't mention in the video is that NAO was hung up in shipping/customs for a few days. Thanks to the wonders of modern internet technology she was able to track the robots location all the way from Aldebaran in France, across the world, and into the customs holding area at the airport waiting for the authorities to stamp his passport and let him into the country. So close, yet so far away, and complaining to the customs officials would have only slowed thing down further.
To make matters even more stressful, she was scheduled to get on the bullet train for Tokyo within hours. Would NAO make it in time, or would he arrive after her train left? If she wasn't on hand to sign for the robot would the shipping company send it back to France?
Then, almost at the last minute, fate shined, NAO cleared customs and was delivered direct to her doorstep. Right now, as we write this post, MsPetiteGeek and NAO are riding the bullet train towards Tokyo where we hope to catch up with them later in the week. All's well that ends well.
The Japanese robot builders are definitely World-Class, even at the hobby level. Their intense focus on the technology, craftsmanship, and quality makes them tough competitors in almost every sector of robotics, except for military/defense applications where the US holds a unique position.
So, if you were an American robot builder who happened to be living here and had the opportunity to compete head to head with the local talent, what could you possibly do to impress them and improve your odds of winning one of the top positions?(more…)
KQED in San Francisco put together an excellent 5 minute mini-documentary on the hackerspace movement featuring Mitch Altman, one of the founders of the Noisebridge hackerspace:
Search out a hackerspace in your community. They are popping up all over the world. Over here, Tokyo Hackerspace is well over a year old and has established a real presence in the community along with serving as a nucleus and gathering point for crafter's, experimenters, and robot geeks. If there isn't a local hackerspace near you already, then seriously consider starting one.
In the early ROBO-ONE competitions the first day was entirely devoted to 2 minute autonomous demonstrations where each builder's robot had to perform, and be scored by a panel of expert judges. The competition was intense and the pressure extreme. There could easily be as many as 100 humanoid robots lined up to try and impress the judges enough so that they could grab one of the 32 slots to return the next day and battle in the ring.
When we think about humanoid robots evolving to the point that they can be useful and practical assistants in the home, clinic, or senior center, large, usually heavily funded robots developed by major institutions immediately come to mind. At the same time a lot of useful work to advance the state of the art, and to inspire public imagination and acceptance, is being done at the hobby level.
While individually funded robot projects like Doka Harumi may lack the resources of a university laboratory, their builders are able to emulate a significant percentage of the functionality at just a mere fraction of the cost.
A great example is Chrome Kid, a child-sized humanoid robot developed by KupaKuma. Of course, "Chrome Kid" is a generic name used for a group of their robots sharing the same spirit and character that compete regularly in events as diverse as the major ROBO-ONE competitions, KondoCup Robot Soccer, Wonderful Robot Carnival, and many others.
For the 3rd ROBO-ONE Humanoid Helper Project event held at the end of December, 2010, Chrome Kid was reincarnated roughly the same height as a very young elementary school boy, not quite capable of dealing with challenges like full sized refrigerator doors. Instead, Chrome Kid greeted party guests, asked them to take a seat, then retrieved hot towels from an electric heating cabinet in the kitchen and politely offered them to the guests. He also planned to serve them cake, but unfortunately the clock ran out before he could complete his tasks.
You may notice a slight "growth" on Chrome Kid's shoulder - a video camera used by the operator located in another room completely out of sight to guide the robot.
In addition to the project challenges, entrants also have to face a very knowledgeable cross-examination by the judges. While the judges are always supportive, sometimes their questions can be rather pointed, but everyone takes it as constructive criticism.