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LEGO-maniacs Build a Monster Robot Chess Army June 17, 2010

Posted by emiliekopp in labview robot projects, robot fun.
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I’ve always said the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT serves as a great robotics prototyping platform. Steve Hassenplug, LabVIEW programmer and king of Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOL), proves this point with his latest LEGO masterpiece: a monster-sized army of robotic chess pieces, each controlled by a MINDSTORMS NXT brick and programmed using LabVIEW.

Watching the video reveals the sophistication of the robots. Each piece not only processes individual path planning on the gigantic chess board, it also communicates with other robot chess pieces via Bluetooth to coordinate moving around the robots that are obstacles in the path of the current chess move.  All of the NXT bricks communicate with each other in addition to the host PC running the standard chess engine and the user interface, creating a robot army ready to school you in a game of chess.

Steve plans to show his chess army live-in-action at this year’s Brickworld Conference, where I’m sure there will be other interesting NXT-based creations and LEGO treasures.

For more information about Steve’s Monster Chess project, visit his team’s website.

If you have LabVIEW, you can download the free toolkit to build sophisticated programs like Steve’s Monster Chess Army with your LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT here.


Dr. Kaku’s thoughts on the robot apocalypse April 23, 2010

Posted by emiliekopp in robot fun, Robot VIPs.
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Speaking of Embedded Systems Conference, Dr. Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist, professor, bestselling author, popularizer of science, and geek-extraordinaire, will be the featured keynote speaker. This is a guy who built an anti-matter particle-accelerator in his garage in high school, using 2 miles of wire wrapped around two goal posts on a football field.

My buddy Todd Sierer, the face of anengineeringmind.com, was sent out to New York to interview Dr. Kaku and brought back some interesting footage. Here’s Dr. Kaku’s thoughts on engineers vs. physicists, robots taking over humans, and why most kids do not think science is fascinating:

NI Develops Cybernetic Leadership Team in Preparation for Longterm Future April 1, 2010

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Check out the latest news release I found on our site this morning:

NI LabVIEW Robotics Helps Implement Founder’s 100-Year Plan – Literally

April 1, 2010 – Austin, Texas – National Instruments is known for providing design, control and test solutions to engineers around the world. Additionally, NI is known for creating easy-to-use graphical programming for domain experts in every industry from robotics to green to medical. And stakeholders know NI for its long-term planning. The company’s lasting view, known as the “100-year plan,” looks decades into the future to ensure the needs of these stakeholders are given appropriate consideration. To fully execute on this initiative, the management team chose to create a plan that will actually be around for all 100 years. Today the company is unveiling robotic clones of founders Dr. James Truchard and Jeff Kodosky.

Introduced by NI CEO and cofounder, Dr. James Truchard, the 100-year plan balances the long-term NI vision with short-term goals and defines which company philosophies, ethics, values and principles are necessary to guide the company’s growth through future generations. Powered by LabVIEW Robotics, the JT-76 and the JK-86, respectively, are ready for anything that comes their way, be it design challenges that threaten cost overruns or intergalactic overlords seeking to enslave the human race.

Read more from the news release here.

Needless to say, the entire company is buzzing with this latest news. Will the rest of the leadership team also be migrated to robot clones? Will the robots be programmed for good or evil? Are the cyborgs’ artificial intelligence VIs open source and will they be shared on the LabVIEW Robotics Code Exchange? And does anyone else think the cyborgs have a striking resemblance to MiNI-Hubo?

I, for one, welcome our NI robot overlords.

Stop Robot Poverty March 11, 2010

Posted by emiliekopp in labview robot projects, robot fun.
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A fun, silly video that must have been created by an FIRST Robotics team, since the featured robot is obviously made with the FRC Kit of Parts.

I recall we had a similar story at NI, a campaign to Save NItro.

Some background on NItro: Back in 2008, when FIRST announced it would be adopting  NI CompactRIO as the new controller for its robots, we wanted to help make a big splash by putting together a super robot; something  that would demonstrate all the cool, new things teams would be able to accomplish with a faster, stronger, smarter controller.

We came up with NItro, a robot with a holonomic drive, programmed in LabVIEW, that would do vision-based tracking and could shoot stress balls at a moving target (this later just turned into a loud canon that shot swag into the air for kids to catch). I think NItro was also programmed to do the Soulja Boy dance; I can’t seem to find footage of that at the moment.

But after we unveiled the new CompactRIO controller at the FRC Championships in Atlanta, NItro went dormant for awhile. The NI engineers who had worked on him went on with their lives. Later, when someone decided to take NItro for a spin, we realized we had not done a very good job of saving the LabVIEW code that controls him. So there he lay, lifeless and without a purpose. A big hunk of expensive parts.

Some people think we should tear him down for scraps. Others think we should rebuild him. What do you think?

Help save this robot from being sent to the scrap pile.

PSA: Keanu Loves Robots January 11, 2010

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There’s a clever joke I can make of this… something about The Matrix, Neo and the machines taking over… this is simply the beginning… bah!

Nice plug for FRC, though. I wonder if there will be any other celebrities at this year’s championship?

A surprise visit – have robots taken over NI? November 24, 2009

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Ok, so now things are getting really interesting. I mentioned last week that there are rumors of a Robot Revolution happening sometime soon. Well, check out this surprise visitor who came by Building C the other day, just to chat it up with some of our employees in the lobby:

His name is Millennia. If he looks familiar, it’s because he’s cousins with a somewhat-famous robot: Paulie’s Robot, from Rocky IV. Can you see the likeness?:

He’s real name is Sico and both Sico and Millennia were created by Robert Doornick, CEO of International Robotics, Inc. He came by NI the other day to show off his latest addition to his robot family. I am told Millennia is quite the ladies man; he was a total flirt with the women who came to his visit.

But these robots do more than make surprise guest appearances in campy, 80’s movies and the lobbies of Austin tech companies. Here’s what Robert Doornick had to say about his company, International Robotics:

Our 35 year old research group has been involved in the pioneering science of Technology-to-People Behavioral Psychology. This represents the study of the interrelationships between humans and machines. Our mission as technology psychologists is to assist the robotic industry in the development of various protocols for how future intelligent machines will need to be programmed, designed and engineered in order to gain long term acceptance as they cohabit with humankind.

Interesting. Robots aiming to coexist with NI employees. I believe my suspicions are being confirmed….

How to Drive a Car with an iPhone November 10, 2009

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How do you turn an Oldmobile Delta 88′ (affectionately named Wendy) into a remote controlled car? There’s an app for that. Check out what some NI engineers created in their spare time:

Check out other projects from these car-surfing cowboys at engineerawesome.com.

When good robots go bad… November 5, 2009

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Mainstream television and film have given robots a bad rep. Many people carry the stigma that robots could turn against us, when really, they are performing tasks that are too dull, dirty and/or dangerous for humans to do on their own.

An interesting study was cited today on msnbc.com, where scientists at University of Washington warn consumers about the vulnerabilities our household robots may suffer and what kind of situations that might pose to their masters (think iRobot). I was contacted by the article’s author, Diane Mapes, to discuss the likelyhood of our household robots revolting against us. I tend to think that it’s highly doubtful you’d find yourself being vacuumed to death by your Roomba.

But what our conversation did entertain was the idea that one could take control and/or reprogram your vacuuming robot with a malicious content. It was quite an interesting and enjoyable conversation; there’s a spectrum of motives and possibilities.  Take a closer look here.

So what do you think? Any Roomba or Spykee owners feeling a little exposed? Is it really something we should be concerned about? Or shall we continue opening up our families to robotic additions?



Some robot funnies October 26, 2009

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Compliments of one of my favorite web comic strip sites (that caters specifically to geeks like me), xkcd.com.

Are you a robot?

Are you a robot?

The Terminator, perhaps more accurate.

3 Laws of Robotics: Part 2 of Series September 8, 2009

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Where NI employees take a stab at rewriting Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.

Click here for Part 1 of this series, where we learned that programming robots to keep Will Smith alive will prevent robotic apocalypse.

Here’s another entry that I particularly enjoyed, from Nick Hobbs, one of our Applications Engineering interns and student at Olin College (I want to go to there).

  1. All robots made without a kill switch will kill you, shortly before killing themselves and months of your hard work.
  2. All robots are sufficiently self aware to know when they are participating in a live demo. They’re also spiteful enough to begin smoking the moment the demo begins.
  3. All engineers wish they were roboticists, if for no other reason than the fac that their parents would finally know what they do.