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Open source robot runs on an Atom, does flips

Dec 15, 2010 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 7 views

Robotis is shipping an 18-inch, humanoid robot developed as an open source research platform by Virginia Tech's Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa). The Linux-ready Darwin-OP can walk, kick a ball, and pick itself up after falling over — thanks to an Intel Atom-based FitPC2i SBC (single board computer), an ARM Cortex-M3 based management controller, 20 actuators, and audio/video sensors.

The Darwin-OP (Dynamic Anthropomorpic Robot with Intelligence, Open Platform) robot is the latest of a series of robots developed by Virginia Tech's Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) since 2004. Aimed at research labs and universities doing robotics research, the robot has been released as a fully open source hardware and software platform.

PC-based development software is available on Linux and Windows, and programming can be done with a variety of tools including C++, Python, LabVIEW, and MATLAB, says RoMeLa.

(Click to enlarge)

Open source Darwin-OP software, schematics, CAD assembly manuals, and fabrication manuals are available from South Korean firm Robotis, which is also selling assembled robots for $9,600 with an education discount and $12,000 for anyone else. Eleven partner universities will be the first to receive units, which are still in limited supply.

This latest Darwin was introduced at IEEE's Humanoids 2010 conference last week, held in Nashville, Tenn. Earlier Darwin robots apparently have appeared in RoboCup competitions, although they managed to elude our previous coverage of the RoboCup events.

Darwin-OP is said to have been developed by RoMeLa with the help of National Science Foundation funding, as well as collaborative input from Purdue University and the University of Pennsylvania's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) laboratory. The RoMeLa team is led by Professor Dennis Hong, who can be seen in a YouTube video below urging on Darwin-OP as the robot claps his hands, kicks a ball, and performs a flip movement to pick itself up again after being knocked over.

Darwin-OP details
(Click to enlarge)

According to information posted by RoMeLa, Robotis, — as well as a story in IEEE Spectrum, which also posted the YouTube video farther below — the Darwin-OP is built around an 1.6GHz Intel Atom Z530-based FitPC2i single board computer (SBC) from CompuLab.

The FitPC2i SBC, which includes a 4GB solid state drive (SSD), is similar to the mainboard for the Linux and Windows-ready FitPC2 MiniPC we covered in June. (CompuLab also sells a similar FitPC2 SBC — no "i" — that lacks the 4GB SSD.)

The FitPC2i SBC (below) offers up to 2GB DDR2 RAM, mini-SD slot, DVI & LVDS display interfaces, dual Ethernet ports, six USB 2.0 ports, a serial port, and 802.11n Wi-Fi, says CompuLab. The 4.1 x 3.8 x 0.9-inch (104 x 96 x 23 mm) board is said to run on five Watts.

CompuLab's FitPC2i SBC

The FitPC2i board works in tandem with a CM-730 management controller board that appears to come from Robotis. The CM-730 is built around on an ARM Cortex-M3 based STM32F103RE processor clocked to 72MHz. The board is equipped with 64KB SRAM and 512KB flash, and offers a variety of interfaces including USART, SPI, I2S, I2C, USB, CAN, and SDIO, plus various timers, ADCs, and DACs.

Major architectural components of Darwin-OP
(Click to enlarge)

The other key elements are 20 RX-28M actuators from Robotis Dynamixel (pictured above, at right). The actuators are said to offer six degrees of freedom (DOF) for the legs, as well as dual 3-DOF arm movement and dual 2-DOF neck movement.

Like some other humanoids, the Darwin-OP likes to fudge his height a bit: Although billed as an 18-inch robot, he actually only makes it to 17.9 inches (455mm), according to the specs, and weighs 6.3 pounds (2.8 kilograms).

Darwin-OP's head with USB cameras and microphones

The robot's head includes an HD-ready USB camera, plus status LEDs on the eyes and forehead. For ears, the Darwin-OP has a USB-based microphone, with two optional additional microphones on either side of the head.

The Darwin-OP's mouth is actually a speaker built into his torso, which also includes a three-axis gyroscope and three-axis accelerometer. The torso is also where you'll find the SBC and I/O, including the mini-SD slot. Wi-Fi radio, dual USB ports, HDMI port, audio I/O, and Ethernet port. The torso also houses a 30-minute battery, an external power input and switch, status LEDs, two cooling fans, and a removable handle.

Darwin-OP in action
(Click to enlarge)

The legs and feet are pretty much all actuators and structure, although some optional FSR X4 sensors can be embedded in the feet. There is also said to be a 4.5Mbps high-speed Dynamixel bus for joint control.

The Darwin-OP is designed to walk at a rate of 24.0 cm/sec (9.5 in/sec) with 0.25 sec/step and a user-modifiable gait. As shown in the video below, the robot can launch himself up into standing mode in 2.8 seconds from facing the floor, and in 3.9 seconds from facing up, says Robotis.


DARwin-OP demo on YouTube
Source: IEEE Spectrum
(Click to play)


The Darwin-OP is available from Robotis for $9,600 with an education discount and $12,000 for others, fully assembled, but early models appear to be spoken for by Robotis and RoMeLa partner universities. The Robotis software and schematics are available for free open load download at this Robotis Darwin-OP page, as well as at this page.

More information may also be found in this PDF spec sheet, as well as at Virginia Tech's RoMeLa site. The IEEE Spectrum story may be found here.

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