Some build their bots from PC parts. Others aim to create droids worthy of the battlefield.
Robot makers converge at confab
Off-the-shelf components were used to create this device, a "server on wheels" that also offers tools such as cameras and microphones for gathering information. Dubbed the 914 PC-BOT by maker White Box Robotics, the device retails for $1,199 and is aimed primarily at robotics and computer hobbyists looking for a cool new toy that offers drive bays for the mounting of additional PC hardware. It was one of several robots showcased Tuesday at the RoboBusiness Conference and Exposition.
iRobot's PackBot is a "tactical mobile robot" designed for use in military applications. This model, the PackBot EOD, is built for use in disarming improvised explosive devices such as the ones frequently used against U.S. armed forces in Iraq. The PackBot EOD can be extended to stand almost 6 feet high for a better view of its surroundings.
At the center of the PackBot's rugged design is its tread system, which can move the robot at 14 kilometers per hour. Tilted upward, as shown, the treads can be used to climb over obstacles such as railroad tracks, which have historically posed a challenge to such small machines.
Brian Zenowich of Barrett Technology shows off the company's Whole Arm Manipulator, or WAM, a robot designed to function like a human arm-and-hand combination. Current applications include everything from use as a rehabilitation device for stroke victims to collecting unspent munitions for the military.
This close-up view of Barrett Technology's Whole Arm Manipulator shows off its three-fingered design. Company representatives said three is the optimal number to use in such a device because it is the minimum necessary to grab three-dimensional objects. More fingers would equate to a need for more motors and a heavier hand weight, which could make the machine less flexible in terms of its usage.
These two mini robots were built by different manufacturers but share vision, navigation and interaction technologies designed by Evolution Robotics. Devices like these--a robotic vacuum cleaner and a pet dog--exemplify just two of the many fashions in which the tools can be combined to build different devices, the company said.
CoroWare's CoroBot is built using off-the-shelf components such as Intel microprocessors and can be assembled for as little as several hundred dollars. The company recently delivered one of the robots to Vassar College, where it was armed with virtual-reality tools. Other applications for the device are in the health care and real-estate industries, where cameras and other sensors can be used for remote information gathering and instructional purposes.
In this side view of CoroWare's CoroBot, one can make out the computer brains that help run the small robotic vehicle. In the foreground is a USB video game controller, which can be plugged into the robot's system to navigate the machine.
This robot was created by Machine Bus to show off its mBus intelligent control technology, which serves as the brainpower behind the machine. Each of the red tabs on the robot chassis represents a different application of the "microcontrollers," with the individual brains controlling various functions of the vehicle, which could be used for any number of jobs.
The Odyssey was built to compete in the Robo-Magellan RoboGames, where it took home second prize in 2004 for its accuracy at navigating obstacle courses while gathering and transmitting data. The 48-pound machine is just one combination of the many robotic possibilities offered by OLogic, which markets the components used in the device. These components can be assembled in a number of different ways.
Frontline Robotics displayed this robot-driven six-wheeler, known as the "Grunt," or ground unit. The device is built around the company's Robot Open Control system, which is used to control teams of robots working together. Designed for use in jobs such as mobile security surveillance in locations such as airports and nuclear power plants, ROC helps multiple robots interact and coordinate tasks. Such tasks include deciding what to do if the lead vehicle in a team is disabled or if the machines reach a narrow spot where only one of them can pass through at a time.