Season’s Greetings from Pi Robot,
It’s been awhile since I posted an update so I thought I write up a summary of the past few months.
Contrary to rumors on the street, Pi Robot does not star in the new film “Life of Pi” although I think a cameo appearance would have been a nice touch. However, Pi does make several appearances in the “5th Year Anniversary” video by Willow Garage at:
See if you can spot Pi and one of his feline friends. (The face tracking of Mona Lisa is also from Pi’s lab.)
I also did a web interview with robotics company Robotis called “The Chronicle of Pi Robot”.
Pi’s latest endeavor involves becoming a telepresence robot for a person at work who, for medical reasons, has to spend much of her day in a reclined position. I have programmed a web interface for Pi so that the operator can drive Pi around the premises while being able to see through Pi’s eyes. Pi also has a Nexus 7 tablet under his main camera which allows the operator to Skype into the robot and have a face-to-face conversation with someone standing in front. Here’s a picture to give you an idea:
(The black oblong object is a speaker.) And here is a picture of the web interface the operator uses.
The green “trackpad” on the left operates Pi’s pan and tilt camera by dragging the yellow disc with the mouse. The the blue trackpad on the right controls his movement across the ground. The middle panel displays the video stream from Pi’s camera. The red dots at the bottom of the video indicate obstacles detected by Pi’s laser scanner. This helps the operator avoid objects that might be out of view of the camera. Pi’s program also has an auto-stop feature that will prevent the operator from running into an unseen obstacle. (In the image above, there is a box on the floor to the right beneath the field of view and a smaller robot to the left, also out of view. The red laser dots indicate that it is safe to drive straight ahead but not to the left or right.)
Below the video screen are status indicators for Pi’s main battery, the laptop battery, and the temperature of the pan and tilt servos.
When the Navigation tab is clicked, a map of the surroundings is loaded (if available) and the operator can use point-and-click on a location to have Pi find his own way to the goal using SLAM.
In other developments, Pi released a Fuerte version of his book ROS By Example and copies have been selling like hot cakes. (OK, more like day-old donut holes but it’s a niche market!)
Finally, Pi has started an effort with his local robotics club (Home Brew Robotics) to come up with a standardized design for more robots like Pi. The idea is that if more of us are working on a similar platform, we can make faster progress on writing new code. In particular, I just finished a new ROS driver for an Arduino microcontroller that can be used to control the robot. I am hoping this driver will help others in the club get started with ROS.