Results tagged “iRobot” from kwc blog

Looj? Really?

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Engadget posted about a new iRobot: the Looj, for your gutters. Unlike iRobot's other consumer offerings, it's designed to operate by remote control and you have to carry it from gutter to gutter -- I'm struggling more than usual for an iRobot product to see the point here. But I live in California now, what do I know anymore about rain gutters?

Engadget: iRobot's Looj wants to clean yer damn gutters

Robots with medals

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At the Yuma Test Grounds in Arizona, the autonomous robot, 5 feet long and modeled on a stick-insect, strutted out for a live-fire test and worked beautifully, he says. Every time it found a mine, blew it up and lost a limb, it picked itself up and readjusted to move forward on its remaining legs, continuing to clear a path through the minefield.

Finally it was down to one leg. Still, it pulled itself forward. Tilden was ecstatic. The machine was working splendidly.

The human in command of the exercise, however -- an Army colonel -- blew a fuse.

The colonel ordered the test stopped.

Why? asked Tilden. What's wrong?

The colonel just could not stand the pathos of watching the burned, scarred and crippled machine drag itself forward on its last leg.

This test, he charged, was inhumane.

The Washington Post has a fascinating article on how robots in the war field are being anthropomorphized. Soldiers show emotional attachments to particular robots, some models are considered to have personality, and some event get medals:

"When we first got there, our robot, his name was Frankenstein" says Sgt. Orlando Nieves, an EOD from Brooklyn. "He'd been in a couple of explosions and he was made of pieces and parts from other robots." Not only did the troops promote him to private first class, they awarded him an EOD badge -- a coveted honor. "It was a big deal. He was part of our team, one of us. He did feel like family."

The gist of the article seems to undercut attempts to actually add emotions and personality to robots: it seems that we as humans are pretty good at attributing those characteristics even when they aren't actually designed in.

I had a brief hint of the anthropomorphic attribution when I attended an iRobot talk a year ago. Some of the robots in the Washington Post article are iRobot's Packbots and the iRobot talk provided this fun factoid:

On April 8, 2004, Packbot 129 became the first packbot to be 'killed in action.' US soldiers managed to retrieve all of its parts and it is now framed for display.

Taking this one step further, the article mentions that UAV operators can now receive the Distinguished Flying Cross.

WashingtonPost: Bots on the Ground

It cleans while it maps

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A co-worker of mine strapped a laser on top of a Roomba and turned it into a mapper: Roomba Mapper. For $2000 you could build one of our own :).

Talk: iRobot

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scoutChris Jones from iRobot gave a talk at SRI. He focused mostly on iRobot's government/industrial robots (the ones with big treads that you can throw through a window) rather than the delicate Roomba and Scooba home appliance robots (FYI: the Scooba was designed to cleanup dried peanut butter from your kitchen floor in one pass).

The main line of iRobot's government/industrial robots is the packbot. I saw one of these at Robonexus awhile back -- they had it continuosly going up a staircase and dropping several feet to the ground. These things are tough (rated to 400Gs) and can handle all sorts of terrain with their tread and flipper design. The idea is that a soldier would throw this robot (e.g. through a window, around a corner, etc...) and then use a laptop to guide the robot around and get back video. You can outfit the packbot with an arm that can hold a camera or 'disruptor' for destroying explosive devices. They've even put a parachute and fan on a packbot to make it fly. A packbot is rugged enough that when it reaches the deployment zone it can just cut its parachute in order to land, or, in the case of one video he showed us, when the packbot gets piloted into a tree.

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Some tidbits from the talk:

  • Your home is a dangerous place: the algorithm that the Roomba uses to figure out where to clean is adapted from a minefield coverage algorithm.
  • Leave no robot behind: On April 8, 2004, Packbot 129 became the first packbot to be 'killed in action.' US soldiers managed to retrieve all of its parts and it is now framed for display.
  • Lest they take over: The military doesn't like hearing about robot 'autonomy,' so iRobot markets their robots to the military as being like remote control cars. Now that the military has been using them in combat operations, they are now asking for more autonomous features like "come home so we can get the hell outta here."

Robonexus

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Posted some photos from Robonexus onto my flickr page. Some samples are below, but there are more. Robonexus was interesting, though I think that for staring at cool robots doing stuff Roboolympics was a bit better, even if it was a bit smaller. Robonexus had better robots, but for the most part they were sitting there doing absolutely nothing (there were scheduled demos, but they were often packed). What Robonexus was good for was finding out where to buy robot parts and other toys from. I really want to get one of the RF-controlled flying saucers that Robot Store was showing off, but it's not listed on their site yet.

Centibots
SRI's own Centibots looking for the pink box.

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Swarm
Swarm robots from iRobot

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Flying saucer
Definitely gonna get one of these. I wonder if it's possible to get a very light camera attached?

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