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Taking a second look at robots

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The technology of robots has grown speedily over the years. An important aspect of robots is how they perceive the environment with the eye.  For instance, the Microsoft Kinect has provided an affordable method to make robots interact with its environment.

The Kinect motion-detection system has been designed for video gamers and hackers. The X-box 360 video game console is a very good example that makes use of the Kinect.

Describing the Kinect shows that it provides data on more than 250,000 points in three- dimensional space, at a rate of 30 frames per second including colour information. With the “eyes”, the Bilibot (built by Garratt Gallagher) is a robot that can sense its environment at much higher resolution, precision and accuracy than was formerly possible without costly equipment. The Bilibot is a small robot that can perceive its environment, move around and manipulate objects. It is small enough to be carried in the arms. The Kinect is a key element in the Bilibot robot because it can detect its surrounding just as well as a sensor.

Fueled by lead- acid battery, this element determines where to direct power via the Bilibot. It transmits energy to the Kinect and the computer that processes the data it produces and it charges the battery that the robot uses to move. The robot relies on a 3.1 gigahertz intel i3 processor with integrated graphics. Moreover, it has four gigabytes of RAM and 160 gigabyte hard drive. It has been well tested before settling on this configuration.

The software application that controls the Bilibot runs on top of an open source by name Robot Operating System (ROS). Developers have contributed packages that allow robots to recognize track motion, perform similar functions and gestures. ROS is maintained by a research institute called Willow Garage in Menlo park, California.

Furthermore, at the base of the Bilibot robot is an iRobot create. This is essentially iRobot’s floor- cleaning robot, the Roomba, minus the vacuum. The device enables the robot to be in motion. It includes a bump sensor, four downward-facing infrared sensors, wheel-drop sensors, and a side- facing infrared sensors to find walls and way points.

By Joshua Anquandah

Email: joshuologist@hotmail.com

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