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Officially retiring LabVIEW Robotics Blog March 30, 2012

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I’ve been awful at keeping up on this blog lately. It’s time I officially retire this blog.

While I’ve moved on to new focus areas, National Instruments, my employer remains committed towards delivering best-in-class design tools for robotics.

If you’re looking for robotics resources (how-to, code, video, etc.) be sure to visit the LabVIEW Robotics Code Exchange: ni.com/code/robotics.

Farewell. It’s been an amazing journey. Robots rock!


Move over ASIMO: Meet CHARLI, the first U.S. full-sized humanoid April 29, 2010

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Our friends at RoMeLa just unveiled their latest major project to Popular Science magazine: CHARLI or Cognitive Humanoid Autonomous Robot with Learning Intelligence.

A few months ago, I had heard quite a bit about this project from Dr. Hong himself. It’s no longer a secret that he and his students have created the nation’s first full-sized humanoid robot, a feat that countries like Japan (ASIMO) and Korea (HUBO) had once kept to themselves.

It all started back in 1997, when RoboCup announced the charter to create a fully-autonomous soccer team of robots that would beat the World Cup champions by 2050. Since then, teams of researchers and students from all over the world have competed in RoboCup, with variations of robotic soccer players, from fully-simulated robots in software, to four-legged Sony Aibos, and more recently, bi-pedal humanoid robots in small and medium sizes.

RoMeLa is no stranger to RoboCup, competing in the “kid-size” humanoid league with DARwIn. Now they’re scaling up and planning to compete in the “teen-size” league with CHARLI-L (CHARLI-Lightweight). RoMeLa will use their extensive experience in humanoid locomotion, kinematics and control to help CHARLI-L beat his opponents on the field.

But beyond competing for the coveted trophy at RoboCup, CHARLI is already turning heads in the robotics industry. CHARLI-H, the next-gen version of CHARLI-L, has a unique mechanical design, inspired from the anatomy of humans. Instead of being actuated by rotational motors in his joints, like most robots of his kind, CHARLI has linear actuators along his limbs that mimic the way our muscles stretch and contract to control movement. CHARLI’s kinematics are like that of a human, with muscle-like actuation and compliance and flexibility at his joints, like tendons.

I’m looking forward to getting up-close and personal with CHARLI-L and CHARLI-H as RoMeLa continues their cutting-edge research. Maxon Motors and National Instruments have been heavily involved in these projects, donating hardware and software for their designs. Specifically, the current design for CHARLI-H uses an NI  sbRIO embedded controller, Maxon motors and Maxon EPOS2 motor controllers; all of CHARLI-H code is written in LabVIEW graphical programming software.

Additionally, it was announced that Dr. Hong will be a keynote speaker at NIWeek 2010. As such, he’ll be bringing some of his posse from RoMeLa, both human and robotic, to the Austin Convention Center this year. So expect some more details on CHARLI and other RoMeLa projects in the weeks to come.

The DoD opens up to social networking March 2, 2010

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For any of you who know me personally, social media technology is a passion of mine. Combine that with my passion for robotics and voila! the creation of the LabVIEW Robotics blog.

In the past weeks, I’ve talked a lot about the DoD and their plans for developing unmanned systems. This week, let’s talk about the DoD’s usage of social media. Specifically, I was surprised to hear that the DoD has loosened its policy on social media usage by its employees and soldiers.

Previously, some sectors of the DoD had outright banned participation on certain social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Understandably, the idea of soldiers on the front lines, tweeting and blogging about their experience or about confidential information, made the DoD a bit timid. However, the DoD now appreciates how social media tools could actually be beneficial and understands that it’s a matter of educating their employees on safe, appropriate usage.

The DoD even goes so far as to encourage usage:

Service members and DoD employees are welcome and encouraged to use new media to communicate with family and friends — at home stations or deployed — but it’s important to do it safely. Keep in mind that everyone has a responsibility to protect themselves and their information online, and existing regulations on ethics, operational security, and privacy still apply.  Be sure never to post any information that could be considered classified, sensitive, or that might put military members or families in danger.

I’m impressed to find that the DoD shared this new information on, fittingly, a blog! (The DoD Social Media Hub) And, they embedded the policy memorandum on their blog post using SlideShare. Well done! Way to leverage social media technologies to get the word out.

RoboCup 2009: Robot Rescue League Team Spotlight February 25, 2010

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Get up close and personal with RoboRescue Team FH-Wels, from the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria. These students and researchers have an impressive resume of participating and winning in a variety of worldwide robotic competitions.

Their latest success: building an autonomous robot to compete in the 2009 RoboCup Rescue League, a competition where autonomous robots navigate through a small-scale obstacle course of complex, unstructured terrain in search for victims awaiting rescue.

Their white paper is extremely informative, providing a breakdown of the hardware and software design. The team wisely chose commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies for their robot design, including a notebook PC and haptic joystick for the command station, a D-Link router for communications, an NI sb-RIO for the onboard processing, a Hokuyo 2-D laser range finder for mapping, an Xsens IMU for localization, an NI Compact Vision System for image processing, and lots more. To piece it all together, they used LabVIEW for software programming.

One blog post wouldn’t do them justice, so I figured just embed their white paper. It serves as an excellent reference design for anyone building an UGV for search and rescue applications.

And here’s a video of their robot in action:

Condolences to Team #3125 and FIRST Robotics January 11, 2010

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Here on the LabVIEW Robotics blog, we are all for inspiring the roboticists of tomorrow. Thus, we were deeply saddened to learn that rookie FRC Team #3125 suffered from a school bus accident on the way to a FRC kickoff event. Here is the official statement from Paul Gudonis, President of FIRST:

It is with deep sadness that I report that one FIRST student has apparently died and 17 others were injured when a school bus carrying a group from a Hartford magnet school collided Saturday morning with another vehicle on Interstate 84 in Hartford, Conn. The school bus was evidently carrying students from the Greater Hartford Academy of Mathematics and Science to Farmington High School to attend a local FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff event at Farmington High School. The team, #3125, is a Rookie FRC team.

Our hearts and the hearts of the entire FIRST community go out to the victims of this terrible accident and those of their families during this very difficult time. FIRST is currently assessing the situation and how best we can support the most immediate needs of our students, their families, parents, coaches and peers involved in this tragedy. The name of the student as well as the names of those injured in the accident have been withheld pending notification of families.

I know you join me in expressing our condolences for this unfortunate set of circumstances. We will post future information on Bill’s Blog.


Paul R. Gudonis

Condolences can be shared with the FRC community on the Chief Delphi forums, on this thread.

From all of us at National Instruments to the families and members of the Team #3125, please know our thoughts are with you during this difficult time.