Results tagged “wg” from kwc blog

Our robot fetches beer!





We unveiled our robot last night, which we will be sending to ~10 research institutions around the world at no cost. It cleaned up pretty nicely.

Happy Twenty Ten


Life's been keeping me too busy to write regularly here (I've been busy keep this site up-to-date, among other things). Above is a month-old video of my trip to the IREX robot exposition in Japan.

Happy 2010!

Life is weird


There's a time I would have loved to see my work on Slashdot. Now, in a period of two weeks, the previous project I worked on gets on /. -- I have nothing to do with Siri:

As well as the stuff I'm currently working on:

And, in the weirdest twist, the same article that's referenced also gets posted to BoingBoing:

Really, we're on BoingBoing? That's still cool, right?

And even more coverage


It's always amusing to read about your work, especially in blogs you read everyday. Some of the comments make you want to say, "man, their readers are a bunch of idiots." Then you realize you read that site as well ;). But I kid, it's great to see that this Milestone has captured people's imaginations. It gives us motivation to go even bigger.

And the New York Times weighs in


To follow up on my previous post, here's John Markoff's take for the New York Times:

Opening Doors on the Way to a Personal Robot

Self-Sufficient Robots


I've been relatively incommunicado these past several weeks, but it's been with good reason. After a two-week trip to Japan, I got back in time to witness my company hit its second major milestone: our robot was able to plug itself in at nine different outlets in our building, which required it to navigate around our building as well as open eight different doors along the way. In a separate run, it also managed to do a 26.2-mile marathon, pausing only to be recharged -- that's 30 hours of faultless operation. I have no personal claim to the navigation, plugging, or door success, but I'm amazed that I work with talented people who face difficult goals knowing that we will achieve them.

I don't know if this sounds big to your average non-roboticist, so I'll try and put this in context: our robot is self-sufficient. Most robots have limited battery life and must achieve their tasks within that time. Most research robots are closely followed around by students, who stand ready with an emergency stop button to shut it down when something goes wrong (and it will). We've long since left our wireless emergency stop button hanging from the back of the robot. In order to complete the marathon, we even left the robot running while we went home to get some sleep (I use the royal 'we' here; I was in Japan). We didn't experience a single hardware issue, despite the heavy use required for testing and debugging the milestone. And now, it our robot can take care of itself.

If we are to start thinking about making robots take care of us, this is a crucial first step.

I've been pretty busy writing and shooting video for the Willow Garage Web site (in addition to my normal code monkey duties). The stuff we're doing is pretty cool so I thought I'd share some of that here. I didn't write any of the demos you see in the videos -- for stuff that's a bit closer to what I wrote code for, you can read these blog entries:

Checkout my company's new site


WG HomepageSorry that this blog has been a bit stale. I've been putting a lot of energy into the cycling photography as well as my real job writing software for robots. I've also been working hard helping put together content for our new Web site: I'm pretty proud of what we're doing -- we're essentially giving away software and robots to help advance the state of autonomous robotics.

I was explaining to my parents tonight a bit about we're doing and the conversation went a little bit like:

"What if someone tries to steal your software and get the jump on you?"

"Well, all of our the source code to our software is on the Internet. They can download it whenever they want."

"But aren't you worried that puts you at a disadvantage?"

"The robotics community keeps on writing the same code over and over again. Our hope is that by giving away all this stuff, we can all get to the cool stuff quicker."

Zero-g: Worth Every Ounce I Lost




So, what is zero gravity like? I've looked at other people's explanations and the consensus seems to be that the English language is lacking proper frames for explaining it. It's an entirely familiar yet wholly new experience. In fact it's so familiar that it ends up making normal gravity seem abnormal. Perhaps the most eye-opening revelation of zero gravity is not what zero gravity feels like, but rather understanding normal gravity for the first time in your life. The first time the plane straightened out again after zero gravity I remember feeling so heavy. It was hard to walk and I wanted to lay down rather than continue to feel the inexorable pull of Earth.

I have trouble deciding whether the familiarity of zero gravity is because it's some amalgam of experiences I've had throughout my life, or whether it's because it's a sensation I've felt before but only in a fleeting moment. I've thought of describing it as the instant at which you're jumping in the air and coming back down -- with that instant magically extended for 30 seconds. But that isn't right because you're entirely free. I pushed off a handhold and sent myself instantly spinning around the cabin. I also crawled around the hull of the cabin in a 360 and flew down the center with a Superman-like launch. There's no up or down and no control if you don't have something to push off of. I thought about doing handstands, then realized was no different from reaching up and touching the ceiling.

As for the Zero-G experience itself, it's best describe as organized chaos and total sensory overload. There's thirty people in the hull of a plane divided into three groups. There's some program to it all -- one parabola you do water, another M&Ms, another you do Superman -- but the reality is that there are tons of giggling adults bouncing off every surface for 30 seconds. You try not to hurt anyone else, but you will collide with people because there's no way to change direction without pushing off a wall or a person.

My favorite trick was eating the M&Ms, which surprised me. I wasn't expecting it to be that fun, but I was immediately enthralled the moment you see the M&Ms spinning like little jewels. I then felt like Homer in a Simpson's dream sequence, doing my best to guide my mouth towards spinning M&Ms as I floated down the cabin. Water is also fun as it immediately turns into little globes in front of you, but most of it will end up on your face instead of in your mouth. One of our groups launched 400 ping pong balls. I didn't get a good view of it, but it looked cool from a distance. I'm looking forward to the video.

I did get sick -- I wanted get rid of some extra weight for the weightlessness -- though I managed to get sick between parabolas and return immediately for the next. Others weren't so lucky and a much worse shade of green. They limit their flight to 15 parabolas because the majority of people won't get sick with that number and our flight seemed to back that up. What got me wasn't zero gravity, but gravity. You pull 1.8g in order to get to the top of the parabola and there's also the bottom of the parabola to deal with. This is fairly intense on your inner ear and they tell you to pick a spot on the ceiling to stare at. There's a couple of times when zero gravity will end, there's bodies that have fallen on top of you, and you find yourself doing a little more movement than you'd like under the influence of changing gravity.

Zero-G: Boom-de-yaddah


I'd love to write more about it, but, honestly, my brain is just fried right now. Perhaps tomorrow. It's such an intense and amazing experience and my mind is still trying to digest it all. I've wanted to do this for over a decade and it's with absolute gratitude to my employer Willow Garage that I can add this unique experience to my life. For some reason I feel like singing the Discovery Channel commercial, "The World is an Amazing Place." boom-de-yaddah

Zero-g Photos and Video

On /.


WG made it to Slashdot the other day based on a Network World article. Predictably, the Slashdot focus is on the open source aspect of what we're doing. As someone who is working on the software, I can be happy with that sort of focus, but it ignores the fact that we have a really cool robot that the software actually runs on. And you can't exactly download a tarball of hardware, either. But feel free to read if you wish to know more about what we're doing.

It floats


ASV Launch

ASV Launch

ASV Launch ASV Launch

We got our boat wet on Christmas Eve and the good news is that our autonomous surface vessel didn't turn into an autonomous underwater vessel. Much remains to be done -- i.e. the 'autonomous' -- and I can take no credit for any of this other than photos, of which I have posted many. My co-workers have worked their butts off to get to this point and it was great to see this first milestone in the bag before the new year.

ASV launch photos

Robots dance


Robots meet

On of our robots got to meet Anybots' Monty at Robodevelopment. After cordially shaking hands (above) they awkwardly danced liked children at an elementary school dance. The parents had to intervene after a failed pirouette.

Robots dance Robots dance

Hitting the press