NAO Robot Wizards: Franck Calzada

nao robot

I had the great opportunity to meet many of the Aldebaran NAO Robot Development Program participants in Paris last weekend when I was asked to be on the jury rating all of the projects they submitted during the codathon. The work that they're doing is innovative and often surprising, so it would be hard to single out anyone's project as being outstanding or extremely unique. Nevertheless, there were some projects that I want to talk about in upcoming posts because I feel they may interest and hopefully inspire my readers.

A good example is "Play With Red Ball", the Spring 2012 NAO Developer Days project developed by Franck Calzada. The concept seems simple enough - just have your humanoid robot bend over, reach out with its hand, and pickup a red ball. However, in the real world that sequence that you and I as human beings take for granted, is extremely complex.

NAO Robot Wizards: Franck Calzada’ continues

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DARwiN-OP Advanced Humanoid Robot Gets New Feet (Video)

robotis robot feet

The already awesome DARwin-OP humanoid robot just got better. Robotis, the manufacturer of most of the servos, electronics, and hardware that goes into DARwin-op, announced the release of new force sensing feet.

The new feet include built-in force sensing resistors (FSR), and comes pre-assembled as a unit with hinge frames and covers. According to Robotis, swapping DARwin's existing feet with the new foot design should be very straight forward.

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Unique Multi-link Leg Design Enables True Robot Running (Video)

120119 frostydesign robot running 1

One of the most active debates about robots running ability has always centered around whether or not both of the robots feet leave the ground at the same time. When Honda's ASIMO humanoid robot was first demonstrated running, lots of critics immediately questioned if it had actually achieved "running" to that point or not. Eventually videos surfaced showing that indeed, for a fraction of a second, both of ASIMO's feet were in the air.

That being said, ASIMO is a multi million dollar, multi-decade research project backed with a staff of engineers and developers from one of the world's most well known automobile manufacturers. Could the same performance, at least as far as running is concerned, be achieved by a hobbyist working essentially alone in his workshop?

Apparently so...

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e-volo 16 Prop Human Carrying Multicopter Takes To The Air (Video)

111103 e volo robot copter

I don't know about you, but personally I've been waiting patiently since I was a kid for the jet packs we were promised to hit the market. I had visions of zipping around the neighborhood like Flash Gordon.

At the same time, I've been intrigued by the DIY drone robot creations that have popped up recently using multiple props. They seem extremely stable, and reasonably low cost. So, why not have the best of both worlds? How about a multi-prop copter with enough power to carry an average sized human through the air?

That's exactly what the e-volo team in Germany set out to do with considerable success.

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Affordable Stretch Sensor from AdaFruit Industries

Adafruit stretch sensor

I'm so incredibly jealous. Lady Ada over at AdaFruit Industries has all these great toys to play and experiment with, and she's figured out how to do it while enriching all of our hacker lives and making a little money to find more great stuff.

The 'toy' that triggered this post for me is some conductive rubber stretch cord that acts as a sensor. It's like being able to pull on the end of a resistor and have it's characteristics change linearly as it gets longer and shorter. Way cool! And it is incredibly cheap. She's priced it at less than ten dollars for a full meter and even includes a pair of alligator clips and a 10k resistor. Science teachers, for example, could dice it up and have enough for each student to have a piece for experiments.

The only drawback that I can see is that the sensor takes a little while to recover after being stretched, though I guess that could be compensated for in some applications by using two sensors in opposition.

As usual, the AdaFruit website has a great related tutorial page so you can learn while having fun.

(Via Conductive Rubber Cord Stretch Sensor + extras! ID: 519 - $9.95 : Adafruit Industries, Unique & fun DIY electronics and kits.)

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Head Mounted Display Set To Roll Out (Video)

head mount display

I've been anticipating the release of practical head mounted display for years since they have tremendous potential for robot and remote telepresence applications. So far all of the designs have either been obtrusive and block the wearer's vision somehow, or they have had limitations that have precluded commercialization.

Now Brother Industries has announced they will roll out their AiRScouter transparent LCD display this Fall for business/industrial applications and hope to follow up with a commercially available version in the near future.

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