Forbes has a recent feature on Dennis Hong and his humanoid robot Charli.
New robot wave using open source software and hardware
The new wave of robots work is taking place on open-source hardware and software so more innovators can play a role. IRobot designed AVA, a customizable robot with a tablet computer "head" and a wheeled-column body, to serve as a development platform for robotics, like Linux for computers.
AVA's "brain" consists of either a Google Android tablet or an iPad. Angle, who sees potential for home security and medical reminder apps, as well as downloadable personalities, says, "A huge community could create apps that add utility to AVA."
AVA will join PR2, a human-size robot that Silicon Valley company Willow Garage introduced in 2010. The dual-armed, wheeled PR2 is powered by ROS, an open-source robot operating system Willow Garage has distributed free since 2007. The closely held firm has donated 11 PR2s to institutions around the world and sold 5, and wants to encourage app development. One early program from UC, Berkeley taught the robot to fold socks and towels.
Willow Garage PR2 robot, iRobot AVA, Charli and other robots
Hong's lab in Virginia recently designed an 18-inch-tall humanoid that can be built in a few days with standard parts, including a 1.6 gigahertz Intel Atom processor, gyroscope and accelerometer for stabilization and 2-megapixel camera for object recognition. A ready-made version costs $12,000, a bargain compared with the fortunes typically spent on research robots. (Willow Garage's PR2 costs $280,000 to $400,000.)
Called DARwIn-OP--the OP is for Open Platform while the rest stands for Dynamic Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligence--the robot represents the most comprehensive effort yet to coordinate robotics research among U.S. universities.
Willow garage's PR2 and the stealth-mode Heartland Robotics work were featured recently.
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