Response to the Aldebaran NAO Robot Developer Program has been quite strong, much stronger actually than anyone predicted. And, we have to say that the caliber of the applicants is extremely high. We're definitely impressed.
As of earlier today, the program is still accepting qualified participants. If you're interested, and think you're up to the most exciting robot initiative we've seen in years, then review the requirements and put in for a possible invitation to join the program.
Here's the Nao Developer Program video created by the guru's at Aldebaran:
“We invite you to combine an RGB-D sensor (e.g. Kinect, PSDK5.0) with ROS to produce something new, interesting, and fun. It could be anything, from a novel robot control interface to a data-driven art project to pure computer vision. Bonus points if it's also useful (see below). We're offering $8K in prizes. We encourage participants to share, and our rules and judging will reward participants who act in the spirit of collaboration.”
The ROBO-ONE initiative usually draws a lot of attention because of it's robot battles in the ring. After all, who wouldn't be excited by a couple of robotic humanoids trying to knock each other out, sometimes completely out of the ring. But, the movement is much more than just entertainment. The organizers and participants, some of whom are top design engineers in their day jobs, are also dedicated to applying robotics to public service applications. They are strong believers in the concept that humanoid robots will eventually play a critical role by assisting seniors, enhancing medical care, teaching children and people of any age, preparing and serving meals, and much more.
This weekend, a group of ROBO-ONE robot builders gathered at the 3rd Humanoid Helper Robot Project event in Yokohama to test their creations in a real-world home environment doing practical tasks. Considering the fact that these are essentially hobbyists funding their work out of their own pockets, the results were extremely encouraging. These are not major universities or research facilities with major backing or government funding. This is totally a grass-roots initiative.
Here's a good example: Doka Harumi demonstrating a few of the useful tasks it can already perform.
Doka Harumi has an operator located in another part of the building that can only sense what the robot sees and hears via sensors on the robots body. As the project progresses, more and more autonomous control will be implemented in the robot itself.
Taylor Veltrop, pretty much working on his own in a suburb of Tokyo, has accomplished very professional and noteworthy work in humanoid robotics including integrating the Willow Garage ROS system and the Roboard with a Kondo KHR-1HV; publishing detailed information enabling others to replicate and improve on his work in an Open Source fashion; and making tons of previously obscure information, like Kondo UART configurations, clear and easy to understand and work with. If that wasn't enough, he's also a high level LEGO Mindstorms robot designer, and recently qualified as an official participant in the Aldebaran NAO Robot Developer Program.
We caught up with Taylor at the ROBO-ONE Humanoid Helper Robot Project event on Saturday and asked him about his latest project implementing the Willow Garage ROS system with Kinect to act as a Master/Slave control for his humanoid robot:
Speed, precision, control, and memory size turned out to be the key parameters for the 2010 All Japan Robotracer robot competition. The first three parameters weren't a big surprise. The competition rewards designs that push the limits of speed while being able to maneuver the course without error or the slightest drift. The fourth parameter, memory size, was a surprise to many competitors however. This year's Robotracer robot final course included so many features that several of the competitors ran out of feature memory before they could safely complete their runs.
Here's what one of the successful competitors looked like:
Unlike the Micromouse robot competitions, the Robotracer rules specifically disallow the use of any suction mechanism, like venturi fans, that would increase ground contact force and traction.
After the 31st All Japan Micromouse Robot Competition wrapped up on Sunday night a group of us headed over to a local restaurant to relax and debrief. David Otten, Harjit Singh, and Peter Harrison share their observations and opinions on what took place during the event:
Aldebaran Robotics, world famous for the NAO humanoid robot, has opened their NAO Developer Program and is looking for the worlds best developers to become insiders in this exciting new robotics community. Participation is by 'invitation only' via developer members that include the top online robot blogs and forums selected by the Aldebaran management.
Robots Dreams has three NAO Developer Program Invitations to hand out (see below). This is a rare opportunity, not to be taken lightly. Please make sure that you are familiar with the program requirements, commitments, and opportunities before contacting us for one of the invitations.
Participate in a privileged international community of pioneer developers!
Each candidate must pass a programming test to ensure the highest level of skills.
Only 200 of the best developers from around the world will be selected to participate.
The “Happy Few” Developer Program members: have excellent programming skills are motivated by creativity are visionary are entrepreneurs enjoy challenges
The NAO Developer Program relies on a collaborative effort:
Together with Aldebaran Robotics you will develop your NAO’s personality and behaviors.
Exchange developments with the community!
Share developments that are integrated into NAO through behavior channels by theme (examples include entertainment, gaming, humor,…you can even create your own channels by personality style).
Sell your behavior applications to Aldebaran Robotics clients using the online NaoStore!
What will you receive and what are the benefits?
Access to the latest developments and innovations in humanoid robotics technology as it is advanced by the community. Access to the code, SDK, dedicated website, and prototypes from Aldebaran Robotics.
A NAO robot. Keep in mind that NAO isn't available to the general public, but that is a stated goal of the company, so this is a chance to be a part of that exciting initiative.
The complete suite of software specifically designed for NAO development including NaoQi, Choregraphe, SDK, high level modules and low level access to NAO's sensors and actuators, Telepathe (collects data from NAO's sensors), and NAOsim (3D simulator).
Access to the NAO Developer Program website supporting the international community of 200 top developers that qualify for the program including code versioning tools, wiki, bug tracker, collaborative workspace, data repository, and more.
Privileged access to important Aldebaran Robotics source code.
Early access to the NAOstore to share and sell applications to other developers and customers.
As we mentioned above, this is a fantastic opportunity, and involves a serious commitment. In order to participate you need to get an invitation from a developer member, like Robots Dreams, pass pre-screening by Aldebaran Robotics, and there is a program fee of 3600 Euros entry fee that includes the robot and all the other material and support defined by the program.
The pressure was incredibly intense yesterday for the Expert Class finals at the 31st All Japan Micromouse Robot Competition. The event, held once a year, is the longest continuously running micromouse competition in the world and draws top robot builders, and attention, from around the globe. In recent years the strongest competitors have flown in from Singapore and have managed to capture the top positions in this premier event. Characteristically, the “home team” crowd here has been very polite, respectful, and honored the overseas robot designers with accolades and admiration. But, at the same time, it has been easy to see that they have been anxious to recapture the top prize for Japan.
Last year they came within a hairs-breath of making that dream a reality. Kato-san, a young Japanese micromouse builder who also excels at designing top level line followers and half-size micromouse robots, almost managed to win the championship, but failed due to what turned out to be a fairly minor programming problem. Over the past 12 months Kato fine tuned and perfected his approach, and performed extremely well in the regional competitions leading up to yesterday's final. Micromouse fans, us included, have been closely following his progress. We don't know for sure whether or not the Japanese place any side-bets on robot competitions, but if they do, this particular event would have been the one to draw all the action.
Needless to say, all eyes were on Kato yesterday afternoon, and he certainly didn't disappoint the crowds.
The initial maze mapping run was absolutely perfect. His mouse does the mapping at a speed faster than many robots are able to achieve during their final speed runs. The only heart stopping moment was when Kato's robot paused for a bit towards the end of mapping run to digest all the data it had accumulated and calculate the optimum path. Even Kato was a bit concerned that something might have gone awry, as you can see in the video.
His first speed run of 4.942 seconds was strong, and would have captured the title in previous years. Heading back into the maze for the second speed run he set the bar even higher achieving 4.693 seconds. His final two attempts turned out to be a little too aggressive and resulted in high speed crashes, but in the end no other competitor could touch him.
Last month, Aldebaran Robotics (France) and Tokyo University (Japan) announced an unusual alliance that could shift the way that humanoid robot research and development has been pursued in the past. It isn't the first joint initiative between a leading Japanese university and overseas, but it may turn out to be the most significant.
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Entertainment robots, domestic helper robots, health care and senior care robots, and other robot applications in assisting mankind are covered regularly. The Robots Dreams video channel on YouTube includes new robot product news, exclusive coverage from major robot events including ROBO-ONE, the Wonderful Robot Carnival, and RoboGames. Robots Dreams is a member of the ROBO-ONE press, and an official corporate sponsor of RoboGames and the Wonderful Robot Carnival. The Robots Dreams Flickr photo gallery includes over 30,000 unique robot images taken by our dedicated staff covering robot news and robot competitions for the past ten years.