Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tip of The Month: Save Your Roomba's Fixed Front Wheel

The new versions of Roomba 4000 series and the latest Roomba 500 series all have the caster style front wheel but thousands upon thousands of other Roombas out there, still cleaning homes, have the "old" style fixed front wheel on them. For those who still have them or have purchased a Roomba with one can save the fixed plastic front wheel from premature wear from hard surfaces. Fixed wheels on carpet will not have this problem but on hard floors they will wear out within months of regular use. The following tip will allow you to slow down if not stop this premature wear.

1- Purchase or find black electrical tape (of approx. 1 inch width) and a hobby knife. Clean and clear the front wheel of any dirt/grime/hair as shown here:

2- Cut the electrical tape in half for a length of aprox. 4 3/4 in. (this will provide about 1/4 in. overlap) :

3- Apply the cut electrical tape on the front wheel while pulling it (this will make the elect. tape 'hug' the wheel surface evenly and tightly), you can use two hands (I used one because I was holding the camera) :

4- When you finish, press with your fingers all along the applied elect. tape in order to take out any ripples/air bubbles and to make sure that it is applied well. Depending on your hard surface floor this will protect your front wheel from premature wear for at least 1 - 3 months! Repeat the process every time you need to prevent wear and tear on the fixed front wheel of your Roomba.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Segway Platforms For Future Domestic Robots

Segway is known worldwide from its introduction of the Personal Transporter on December 2001, but many do not know that they also produce robotic platforms. Segway calls these units Robotic Mobility Platform (RMP), their Segway Personal Transporter engineering and performance were used to create these platforms. The Segway RMP are able to carry heavy payloads in tight spaces and are able to move in many types of terrain. Similar materials were used to create the platforms that will endure many harsh conditions which make them an ideal robotic platform to use for service applications. All of the RMP are battery powered which only emit a harmonic hum when they run. There are three main models to choose from: RMP 50/100 OMNI, RMP 50/100/200 and RMP 400.

RMP 50/100 OMNI - Uses unique 'mecanum' wheels which allows it to move sideways without turning. Designed for flat surfaces and can carry a maxium payload of 400 lbs. Cost range US$21,000 - 42,000.

RMP 50/100/200 - Stable platform for indoor use that provides maneuverability and a tight turning radius. Can carry a maxium payload of 140 lbs. Cost range US$7,500 - 21,000.

RMP 400 - Most powerful robotic platform from Segway. Designed to move accross challenging terrain and can carry a maxium payload of 400 lbs. Cost US$32,000.

Though, not the cheapest platform available (some people find Roomba or others to be most economical), Segway do provide platforms for more industrial or research applications for robotics. Who knows? One day someone could possibly come up with a semi-humanoid robot that can move around on a RMP 100 or 200 platform around the house or office!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How can You Inspire Future Robotics Engineers?

Just ask Dean Kamen! Creator of the Segway and the "Luke Arm" has founded an organization called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) that inspires young people to get involved and learn about science and technology. FIRST has yearly technological challenges and for the 2008 season (FIRST Tech. Challenge 2008) a new robotics platform was introduced. The robotics platform, called the FTC competition kit, consists of a TETRIX metal robot structure kit,LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robotics kit, servomotors, controllers, advanced sensors and LEGO NXT, NXTG, LabView for FTC, and RobotC programming software. With these new competition kits, high school students will be able to apply mathematics, science and technology to solve annual challenges. I find this kind of events do help push the further development of domestic robotics and would like to see other inventors, entrepreneurs and technology companies get involved in similar projects like this one. Kudos to Dean Kamen for creating something like this! If you wish to join and/or learn more about FIRST go to:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Better Domestic Floor Cleaning Robot

Back in April 2008 I posted about the new Samsung Hauzen VC-RE70V. This nice domestic floor cleaning robot was released around the same time for the South Korean market giving an interesting competition to iRobot's Roomba series robots. What sets the VC-RE70V apart is the manner on how it cleans, it does it intelligently by using room mapping techniques. By using room mapping techniques, the floor cleaning robot can do its job much more efficient compared to a statistical floor cleaning robot as the Roomba. As you can see in the video the robot has two side cleaning brushes, automatic docking to charge, polyphonic chimes and a cool candy apple paint. No word on price and availability outside of South Korea at the moment. The only thing missing, to make the VC-RE70V an ideal domestic floor cleaning robot, is for it to have an auto-cleaning system of collected dust and dirt like the Karcher RC3000.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Being a "DIY" Robot Geek and Loving It!

Steve Norris is like many of us here, a software developer during the day and "DIY" robot geek at night. Steve mixed his passion of electronics, hardware and programming into a single one called robotics. He has created many interesting robots to help him around the house and others to experiment for future more elaborate robot projects. One of them is his "Huey" color chasing robot.

This small guy was created to just follow 3 rules: 1. Always look at what it's tracking; 2. Always move toward what it's tracking; and 3. If it gets too close to what it's moving toward, back away. Though appears to be simple instructions they do appear to give way to emergent behavior that results in complex maneuvers. "Huey"has an on board CMUcam2+ that allows it to process visual data such color changes and assist in tracking objects of specific colors. Steve will most likely incorporate this feature on future robot projects. So what "DIY" robots or hacks have you created recently? Please share them with us!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Is It Easy To Make Your Robot Autonomous?

The people at Robotics Trends are offering a FREE webinar to help you out with that engineering issue. The webinar will be held on Wednesday, October 8, 2008 02:00 PM EST (GMT -04:00, New York) with Dan Kara, President, Robotics Trends and Regis Vincent, Senior Research Scientist, SRI International as the panelists. This webinar will provide a review of Karto, an SDK for robotic navigation, mapping and exploration, which enables developers of mobile robots to integrate navigation and mapping intelligence into their designs. The Karto SDK leverages three decades of leading edge research by SRI International to provide high accuracy navigation, mapping, and exploration functionality across a broad range of mobile robot platforms. Here is another chance to dip your feet into the domestic robotics development, join today!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

ARMAR The Domestic Robot Caught Washing Dishes

ARMAR seemed to be surprised when they took this picture while cleaning dishes using a dish washer of all things! This fabulous domestic robot was created by Dr. - Ing. Tamim Asfour at the Computer Science Dpt. of Universit├Ąt Karlsruhe (TH) (Germany). He has much interest in creating humanoid robots that can perform human-like services to support people in their daily lives. Practically ARMAR would be an ancestor of a "NS-5" style domestic robot from which would introduce a very flexible and fully autonomous robot to every home. ARMAR currently moves on a wheel driven platform, upper torso with 4 degrees of freedom (DOF), two human sized arms with grippers and stereo visual system. We would be pleased to see further development of ARMAR and other robots from Dr. Asfour so one day we will all enjoy owning an "NS-5" domestic robot to give a helping hand.