Monday, April 27, 2009

Tip of The Month: Know Your Roomba's Birth Date

If you are a brand new and proud owner of an iRobot Roomba you may want to know the manufacture date (a.k.a. "Born Date") of your lovely Roomba for the following reasons:

- Warranty Claims
- Firmware Version
- Hardware Version
- Troubleshooting
- Know When To Celebrate Your Robot's B-Day!

On 400 "Discovery" Series Roomba you will find the serial number below your Robot's battery as shown here:

On 500 Series Roomba you will find the serial number above your Robot's dirt bin as shown here:

and here is how you can tell the date:

This tip will work on iRobot's Scooba and Dirt Dog as well. The nice thing is that you can tell if a Roomba or Scooba includes reported updates and/or new SCI code by reading the date code on the serial number sticker found on the outside of the retail box at your local store. This way you will know that you are buying the latest iRobot Robot that is available and not one that has been sitting in a warehouse for months on end!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Learning is In The Details of Artificial Interlligence

Every day I find something new that just makes me think that we are a couple of steps away from having machines "learn" as we do. Humans learn by acquiring new knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, preferences or understanding, and may involve synthesizing different types of information. Robots are close to doing the same thing! The group at "Laboratoire d'Algorithmes et Systemes d'Apprentissage (LASA)" from Switzerland are running a research project called "Incremental Learning of Gestures By Imitation In A Humanoid Robot" that demonstrates on how a robot can visually and physically learn by gestures (check out the video). This is just one of a mass collection of other artificial intelligence research projects that they are working (Theodore Kaczynski is probably having a very bad nightmare as I type this). Can you see how something like this can be useful in your plain old domestic robot? Provide your typical "roomba-like" robotic floor cleaner with a couple of dry cleaning runs and with time it will know your home without hitting furniture like a blind bat. The Future is Now! Enjoy.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Insect Inspired Robots for Your Home?

Zenta is a robot enthusiast from Norway that is crazy about multi leg robots. He has created various versions of them, some look like spiders but lately he made one called "A-Pod" that caught my attention. A-Pod was inspired by the physiology of Ants but how Zenta interpreted it using robotics is very inspiring. Currently the A-Pod is a manual/remote controlled robot (a DIY 2.4 GHz transmitter), which limits its full potential, but some sort of basic A.I. can be introduced to this robot in a future version.

This robot is not small (as you can see in the picture with the large can), it has a very large and flexible head with 3DoF (degrees of freedom), a total of 25 servos, large jaws so it can hold and carry a beverage bottle or can (or your naughty cat and dog!), a 'natural' looking thorax to hold the legs plus battery and a 2 DoF abdomen to hold all the electronics.

Per Zenta, there is still work to do with the leg mechanics for movement but you can enjoy and be inspired by just looking at how his A-Pod is able to move with relative smoothness and grace! I can envision a smaller scale weather proof version of the A-Pod that will have a specific integrated A.I. that will provide perimeter security around or inside your home. My congratulations to Zenta for sharing his A-Pod robot with all of us.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Little Dog is Big Dog's Little Brother

Have you heard about Little Dog? He is a side project from his big brother called "Big Dog" at Boston Dynamics. This "little" guy is a quadruped robot created to learn locomotion from this style of robot on different terrains. The guys/gals at Boston Dynamics learn and/or probe fundamental relationships among motor learning, dynamic control, perception of the environment, and rough terrain! Is that all? No way Jose! They also learn on how Little Dog's sensors measure joint angles, motor currents, body orientation and foot/ground contact. All of this runs on an integrated PC-Level computer with multiple sensors and motors with power provided by a cool Lithium-Polymer battery that give it a nice 30 minutes of activity. Do you still want to have your pooch watch your house? The future is now! Enjoy the video.