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INQUIRER meets cinematic robots in Jetson-land

Stanford project tres interessante
Fri May 23 2003, 22:20
WHILE I WAS IN THE BAY AREA recently, I was invited along on a trip that, while technology related, was a little more esoteric. I went to SRI International, which is an affiliate of Stanford University. SRI International is a non-profit organization that performs cutting edge research, for military and non-military purposes.

The focus of our little adventure? Robots.

A team of scientists at SRI is working on creating a cost effective team of robots that can perform tasks autonomously and report findings back to a central controller. What makes these robots, called "Cinebots", so unique is that they are assembled using off the shelf components. The robots are approximately 10" x 14" x 12", so they are easily manageable. The wheels are from Dubro, and were originally intended to be used on a model airplane.

The camera on the robots is a Logitech webcam, and provides realtime feedback from the robots. The brains of the assembly are provided by a unique motherboard, the EPIA board from VPSD. All the robots are connected through an "ad hoc" wireless network, so they communicate directly with each other, and can relay information over longer distances.

Currently, the robots, with the assistance of their larger laser mapping brethren can navigate with active collision avoidance, can locate a specified object, and can alert the monitoring station of any intruders approaching. The operating system controlling the whole thing? Debian Linux.

With 25 built, the team is fine tuning the construction and planning to have a fleet of 100. The robots will participate in several experiments then the plan is to sell them at cost to high schools to provide low cost robots for experimentation.

Cinebots have been featured on TechTV, and will soon be featured on National Geographic TV. µ


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