Friday, April 29, 2011

Navigation with Maxwell

Earlier today I gave a brief talk about our robotics program in the College-wide showcase. In preparing the talk I recorded a small video of Maxwell navigating, under voice control. This demo uses the ROS pocketsphinx wrappers that I previously developed to send a set of predefined waypoints to the move_base node:

I'm going to try and post some updates from RoboGames tonight (as usual, about 2-4 weeks after the event....)


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

National Robotics Week, Day 6 - Stanford Robot Block Party

Unfortunately, there was a small delay in me posting anything from out on the West Coast. This was for two reasons:
  1. The Internet connection at the hotel kinda sucked, this seems to be a recurring theme this month.
  2. I was out far too late most nights with the Mech Warfare crowd.
I did manage to make it to the Stanford Robot Block Party this year. Maxwell did as well. At least in pieces. The battery strap broke during shipment (into about 6 pieces), requiring Maxwell be opened up for repairs:

Overall the sliding battery didn't do much damage, breaking only the charge connector and yanking a few wires. It took about 25 minutes to correct things and then Maxwell took a tour around the facility.

We set up with the Home Brew Robotics Club guys, and next to Pi Robot:

(Photo from Palo Alto Patch article)


Thursday, April 14, 2011

National Robotics Week, Days 3 & 4

I spent Monday and Tuesday at the IEEE Technologies for Practical Robotics Applications (TePRA). This is quite a different conference, with a lot of industry and military backing. Keynotes speakers included funding managers from DARPA, the CEO of iRobot, the CEO of Vgo (a telepresence bot manufacturer), etc. If you haven't seen the Vgo yet, it's a ~$5k telepresence bot which is fairly stylish and lightweight:
The authors of papers included the usual crowd of academics and industry experts, but then some other areas, such as industrial designers. One such person was Robert Antonuccio of Antonuccio Design, presenting the X9 Minion walker (as seen in Robot Magazine). While the robot is pretty cool looking, I was actually even more impressed with the incredible demo station he had set up. The day before demos I had heard Robert talking with the organizers about getting set up the night before -- and then when I saw the demo booth, it suddenly made sense why he needed lots of time to prep. This thing has to be a beast to haul around:
I don't have time to highlight all of the interesting papers, but I though I would highlight two. The first paper that really caught my eye was presented by Aaron Dollar, of Yale, "Practical Aerial Grasping of Unstructured Objects". I'm not particularly interested in aerial platforms, but I am interested in grasping when your localization sucks.

Also present at the conference was Zachary Dodds of Harvey Mudd College. Dodds is probably the most energetic professor I have ever met, and he was presenting, quite enthusiastically, the work he and his students did last summer on texture and machine learning-based monocular ranging (a system they call PixelLaser) which might be of interest to readers. I believe I've come across the source in an online repository at some point. Here's a quick image from the abstract:
This presentation was RIGHT before my own (on the PML), and was a hard act to follow... Later this year, several students are going to be working to adapt this to the ArDrone quadrotor platforms (and probably moving to ROS as well).

Anyways, I board a plane to California in about 6 hours, to continue National Robotics Week from the other coast. I'll be stopping by the Stanford Robot Block Party tomorrow afternoon before continuing on to Robogames. If you're going to be in the area, swing by and check out Maxwell (and his lovely symposium poster) at Robogames.

Current tally for NRW: 2 events, 2 states, ~700mi of travel (by car).


Sunday, April 10, 2011

National Robotics Week, Day 2

Day 2 of National Robotics Week is over for me. I hit the Trinity Fire Fighting Contest again this afternoon before continuing on to Boston. The guys from down at Shepard University managed a third place in the Senior division, a real improvement of where they were just two weeks ago at the ShepRobo fest. Congrats guys! We also got Seth's mech walking.

I've now made it to Boston for the TePRA conference. Interestingly, they are apparently shutting off power to the hotel in a few hours.... although it is supposed to be back in the morning. Upside: I got a free flashlight. Yay.

In other robot news, the BSA has announced the official requirements for the long awaited Robotics merit badge.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

National Robotics Week, Day 1

It's National Robotics Week!

Today I ventured down to the Trinity Fire Fighting Home Robot Contest at Trinity College in Hartford CT. This is like the 17th or 18th contest (they've actually stopped naming them as such.. I think I won the 15th with Crater though...). There are two main contests: the Fire Fighting contest in which robots autonomously navigate an 8x8' maze that is laid out like a small house and put out a fire (candle), and a new RoboWaiter contest where robots have to fetch a small plate and move it to a table in a similarly sized arena. It seems that the RoboWaiter contest is finally catching on, as they had about 20 entries this year.

Maxwell also made the trip, and moved around a few chess pieces in between lots of question answering about ROS and developing larger mobile manipulators:

Seth (sthmck over at TRC) is pretending to be diligently at work on his mech in the above photo. Earlier in the day the Mech got an upgrade to a new ArbotiX2 prototype:

I actually spent so much time talking to people, I forgot to walk around and get many photos of the actual fire fighting robots... but I did snap a shot of this bot from NYU-Poly which has a very western-shoot-em-up-fire-fighter look going on:

Finally, as I packed Maxwell up for transit to California, I snapped a few photos of his new foam inserts, and how nicely he is tucked into the Pelican case:

On top of the arm/neck/riser layer of foam is a nearly full sheet which supports the mobile base and holds the Kinect in place:

Maxwell won't be making the trip back down tomorrow, he's packed and ready to go to the Robot Block Party and RoboGames.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

National Robotics Week

Next week is National Robotics Week and is going to be quite a busy week for me. Maxwell will actually be touring the country for NRW this year, making appearances at the following events:
Additionally, I'll be presenting a paper on a separate topic at the IEEE TePRA conference on Monday and Tuesday the 11th/12th, while Maxwell is in transit across the country.

I'll be trying to upload photos/recap as the week progresses.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Localizing the Chess Board

The AAAI Small Scale Manipulation challenge is just a few months away now. I've been working on a slightly different approach to chess board localization over the past few days. We had previously been using a Canny edge detector, followed by OpenCV's probabilistic Hough transform to find lines. From this, we iterated over hypothesis about which lines corresponded to particular lines on the board.

Recently, I had a different thought: forget the lines, let's look at points alone. I'm now finding the intersections of the lines, projecting those points to 3d using the point cloud, and then doing ICP against an ideal set of intersections:

You can see fairly large red spheres inserted where each of the detected intersections is, and a TF frame being localized into the lower corner of the board.

This is working OK so far. One issue is that the ICP is occasionally deciding that it has converged when it is actually quite far off. I think the next step will be creating a different method for finding the correspondence hypothesis.