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

Posted by emiliekopp in Uncategorized.
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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.

Meet Mini Hubo: part 1 of series March 31, 2010

Posted by emiliekopp in labview robot projects.
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Meet Mini Hubo, a small, humaniod robot based on an original,  full scale humanoid design by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). The original Hubo was replicated and scaled smaller in size by RoMeLa at Virginia Tech  since not everyone has the funds or resources to have their own life-size humanoid walking around the lab; Dr. Hong and his students created a more accessible version. The goal of Mini Hubo is to serve as an affordable and open-ended research platform to expand knowledge in the human robotics field.

Since we’re good friends with the engineers at RoMeLa, we recently got our hands on a Mini Hubo here at NI. One of our interns, RJ Gross from Drexel University, spent some quality time with the robot, which we began to refer to as MiNI Hubo, since all of our robots have some sort of emphasis on “NI” (see NIcholas, DaNI, NIro, NItro, GreeNI, etc). As a result, RJ will be sharing a lot of the LabVIEW code he developed to control MiNI-Hubo (coming soon!).

In the meantime, here’s some mechanical specs on our MiNI Hubo:

Height: 46cm

Weight: 2.9 kg

DOF: 22 (but don’t worry, Mini Hubo comes with documentation that includes his forward and inverse kinematics, whew!)

Motors: Robotis Dynamixel RX-28 (LabVIEW drivers for these particular motors will be published soon, so you can get your hands on them too)

Controller: We chose to use the FitPC2 to controller our MiNI Hubo, although the humanoid platform is flexible, so you could use practically anything, like Gumstix, NanoATX, PC104, etc.

OS/SW: Our MiNI Hubo is programmed using LabVIEW Robotics and runs Windows on the FitPC2. RJ will be publishing a white paper on running LabVIEW on the FitPC2 soon as well. But again, depending on what controller is selected, the OS/SW is flexible.

Vision: We used a USB webcam. This is also a flexible option for Mini Hubo.

Power: Lithium-ion polymer batteries

We’ll be getting more up-close and personal with this robot in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. I have some video of MiNI Hubo walking at one of the cubicles in R&D that I look forward to sharing.

For anyone considering who’s interested in a Mini Hubo of his/her own, be sure to contact RoMeLa. They sell the Mini Hubo platform to researchers.