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Robot conference features humans, humanoids

Jul 31, 2007 — by Jonathan Angel — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

“Dexter” is a robot said to walk more like a human than any yet created. He and his wheeled cousin, “Monty,” will be among the attendees at the RoboDevelopment Conference and Exposition, to be held this October in San Jose, Calif.

(Click here for a larger view of Monty washing dishes)

Dexter has two legs, stands 5'10″ tall, and weighs 135 lbs
(Click image to see a video of Dexter walking)

Expected to draw “over 1,000 robotics industry personnel from across the globe,” the conference (RoboDev for short) is said to be “the leading event for design and development of commercial robotic products.” The event's organizers, Robotics Trends and EH Publishing, say the two-day event will feature an expo and more than 40 speakers.

Scheduled keynote speakers include:

  • Tandy Trower, program manager, Microsoft Robotics Group
  • Paolo Pirjanian, president/CTO of Evolution Robotics.
  • Lloyd Spencer, CEO, Coroware
  • Dan Kara, President, Robotics Trends
RoboDev will include three different tracks, covering the topics listed below.

  • Design and Development track:
    • Prototyping, Simulation and Testing
    • Robot Types and Form Factors
    • Human/Machine Interfaces
    • Standards for the Development of Robotic Systems
  • Tools and Platforms track:
    • CAD/CAM Tools For Robotics Development
    • Software Devlopment Kits and Modeling Tools
    • Bases, Frames and Platforms for Professional Development
    • Operating Systems: Linux, Windows, MTOS, VxWorks, QNX, Others
    • PC Bots and Mini-ITX Solutions
  • Enabling Technology track:
    • Actuators: Motors, Gears, Hydraulic and Pneumatic Cylinders, Muscle Wire
    • Drivetrains: DC Motors, Servo Motors and Stepper Motors
    • Locomotion: Wheeled, Tracked and Legged Systems
    • Sensors and Sensing Solutions
    • Batteries and Power Systems
    • Manipulators and End Effectors

The organizers say “Dexter” and “Monty” will be brought to the conference by their creator, Mountain View, Caif.-based Anybots. “Dexter is quite different from other robots,” Anybots says.

According to Anybots, the Honda ASIMO and related robots use a walking algorithm called Zero Moment Point (ZMP), a geometrical constraint that guarantees stability. To use this approach, a robot must have stiff joints (driven by geared servo motors) and fairly large feet.

In the simplest version, Anybots says, a robot is given pre-planned movements guaranteeing that a perpendicular drawn from the center of whichever foot is on the floor passes through the center of gravity. Such a robot does not need active balance feedback to walk. While the most advanced ZMP-based robots do include active balance control to adapt to sloped floor surfaces or external forces, this is a refinement to a passively stable gait.

“Dexter has a different, more human-like body on which ZMP control does not work. Its joints, driven by air cylinders, are springy and flexible like human muscle,” Anybots said in a statement. “There are no stable postures that it can be put in where it can balance without active feedback, so it has to constantly adjust based on its sense of balance, the robot equivalent to your inner ear. It walks and balances the same way humans do, even wearing the same shoes humans wear.”

According to Anybots, Dexter's harder-to-control body has major advantages in the real world. It can walk just as easily on soft surfaces, like the deep carpet shown in the video above, as on hard surfaces. “But most importantly,” the company says, “because there is no geometrical principle by which we could have programmed a walking motion, it had to learn to walk. Its learning software will soon lead to a much wider range of walking abilities than could ever have been programmed.”

RoboDev will be held Oct. 25 and 26, 2007 in the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, Calif. For further information, visit the event's website, here.

For more about Anybots, go here.

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