Celebrity Robot - the j-Lobosapien

J-Lo Robosapien Parody

I don't know how they find these things, but the French "Robosapien le blog" somehow manages to dig up some pretty interesting news, photos, hacks, and now they have uncovered this hilarous Jennifer Lopez parody.

Continue reading "Celebrity Robot - the j-Lobosapien" »

The Visible Robosapien

See-thru Robosapien from eToys

It appears that a Robosapien model with a clear plastic, see through body, will be released early in October.

Continue reading "The Visible Robosapien" »

RoboRaptor Filet

The VieArtificielle.com website has a step by step article covering the complete disassembly of the RoboRaptor complete with some great photos. The website is in French, but they have been kind enough to include an English translation link in the upper right hand corner of the page. The translation is machine generated, so it's a little rough in places but still very understandable and useable.

Image00090Image00091Image00092

 

Inside Roboraptor : nous l'avons démonté !

Kermit Isn't The Only One That's Green

The I4U news website reports that Sharper Image is selling a green signature edition of the RoboRaptor. I'm turning green with envy...

Image00085.

"The Sharper Image Store is offering again a special edition Wow Wee robot, as they did with the Robosapien.
The Shaper Image Signature Series RoboRaptor is green and carries the signature of Mark Tilden the inventor behind the Wow Wee robots".

I4U News - Green Signature Series Wow Wee RoboRaptor

Roboraptor Hacks

Mayson1 is a real, dyed in the wool Robosapien and Roboraptor hacker.

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The site includes several different hacks along with lots of photos and a few videos. One of the most interesting is a wireless camera harness that Mayson1 designed for the Roboraptor. Simple, straight forward, yet very useable and easy to hack together.

Image00049

 

Home of MAYSON1 (Robosapien)

 

Robopet Lives

The Robosapien Hack site at http://www.robosapien.tk/ has an interesting post from Mark Tilden that talks about hacking the Robopet.

050821robopet

Robogames 2005 Photos Online

It's really become a small, and highly connected world. A few days ago I received an email from Robert, the webmaster for the RobotsRule website, and the developer of the Robosapien Dance Machine project He gave me a heads-up to a short but funny (perhaps tragic) Robosapien video clip taken at the recent Robogames 2005 event. Someone, name currently unknown, thought it would be great fun to pit our favorite RoboGuy up against one of the whirling dervish type Battle Bots. The results were predictable, though certainly interesting to watch.

050421-robogames-03Of course, being the curious person that I am, I had to move up the url link and see who had gone to the trouble of taking the video and posting it for all of us to enjoy. Much to my surprise, and delight, the videotographer (is that a legal word?) turned out to be none other than Mark VandeWettering. On his appropriately named brainwagon weblog, Mark bills himself as:

"husband, dad, programmer, maker of telescopes, blogger, podcaster, lover of all things scientific and/or trivial, and Oakland A's fan."

All of that is true, as far as it goes. But, if you dig a little deeper, you'll discover that Mark is also responsible for some very impressive raytracing and other graphic software, and works for Pixar. You've enjoyed some of his work in films like the Incredibles. He's also an invererate podcaster. Be sure to check out his Robogames photos and give a listen to his Robogames 2005 podcast to find out what happened, and what he fixed for his family's Easter dinner.

Be sure to give Mark some feedback, and tell him how much you appreciate his efforts.


050421-robogames-01

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Robosapien V2 - "more buttons ... than Darth Vader's underpants."

Mark Tilden and Robosapien V2 were featured in a VOA article covering Toy Fair 2005 -

050421-tilden robo v2
"What I mean by 'truly interactive' is that, although he has a remote control with more buttons on it than Darth Vader's underpants, the fact is he's a robot designed to pay attention to his user," Mr. Tilden says. "I can grab him, move him by his hands, and every time he says 'okay,' he's memorizing the individual body positions. And you'll notice that the robot is able to parrot back the functions perfectly."

Mr. Tilden presses a button that enables Robosapien to do a disco dance he had managed to teach the figure. "We think companionship robotics are going to be a very big thing in the near future," he predicts. "Let's face it, we want a personal robot friend with an 'off' switch. Because he has a visual apparatus, he's one of the very first robots with the ability to sit down with you and watch cartoons.

Apparently, Robosapien also pays attention to those cartoons. Mr. Tilden confides that the robot seems to like Marge Simpson's hairdo.

VOA News - New York Toy Fair Introduces 5,000 New Playthings


Robosapien Not Only Talks, Now It Listens Too!

Robert, the creator of the Robosapien Dance Machine project has just announced a new release of the software that includes voice commands. Software that runs on your PC does the voice recognition parsing it into Robosapien commands that are then transmitted using the USBUIRT IR module to our favorite RoboGuy. Pretty cute. Robert's also posted a video of the Robosapien responding to his voice that's pretty funny. He (Robert) definitely has a good sense of humor.

(April 2005) VOICE CONTROLLED ROBOSAPIEN AVAILABLE! The latest release of the Robosapien Dance Machine allows you to control your robot using only your voice as well as create super scripts to make your Robsapien do things you never thought possible!

Robosapien Dance Machine

Robosapien Hack Gets Down and Dirty

The folks over at Robodyssey Systems posted a really cool Robosapien hack that adds a processor and Sharp sensors to our favorite robot guy. Their hack is pretty involved, but they seem to have documented everything with clear and detailed photos. They have a kit of parts, and I’m assuming more instructions, available from their website along with the necessary code.


Robosapien PC Control Functional Test

 Okay, here's the challenge:

"Without using any of the compound functions like 'pickup' or 'toss', have your Robosapien lean over and pickup something in front of him, raise it over his head, and then toss it away."

Robosapien_01

While it sounds simple enough, it turns out to be maddingly difficult to do just using the standard Robosapien remote control. If you're really into video games, and can pound a X-Box controller into submission - i.e. if you are blessed with lightening fast reflexes, it might be a piece of cake. But, since I tend to move at the speed of a turtle and have marginal manual dexterity, trying to get my Robosapien to make those moves was an exercise in terminal frustration.

So, I thought this would be an excellent first test for the new PC based Robo-in-Motion controller (see related posts). It turns out that the controller passed the test with flying colors. It did much better than I had initially expected. It only took a few minutes of setup to put together the command sequence, and a few more minutes to make some minor adjustments, and then the controller and my Robosapien were picking up and tossing his little bucket like clockwork. Here's what it looked like-

Robosapien_01

Robosapien_01

Left: Initial resting position with the bucket just in front and to the right of his foot.
Right: He raises his left arm in the air.

Robosapien_01

Robosapien_01

Left: He straightens his right arm opening his hand.
Right: He bends over to the right to the point that his left foot is actually off the floor slightly.

Robosapien_01

Robosapien_01

Left: He rotates his right arm to grab the bucket.
Right: He lifts the bucket in front of him.

Robosapien_01

Robosapien_01

Left: He raises it over his head.
Right: And tosses it away.

Here's a video of the whole test: Download Robosapien_pickup.wmv (750.2K)

Mark Tilden said when the Robosapien first hit the market:

"Most of the secret I/R codes are designed so that a controlling computer can cause him to dovetail commands very quickly (up to 30 baud) and even be programmed at very high rates from a nearby I/R port. Some people will already have noticed that it is possible to move the robot by the remote faster than he can move himself. Taken to the limit, the robot can be a very responsive "horse" to any uP controller or I/R equipped PDA or laptop."

I wondered about that when I first read it. Was it just Mark's ego, or overblown marketing hype? Now that the Robo-in-Motion controller is fully functional, I'm finding that Mark's comments were right on target. It is definitely possible to feed the Robosapien command streams under PC control that are much faster than what you could with the hand held remote. Robosapien's movements are faster, smoother, and with very little hesitation.

More importantly, the PC control makes it easy to implement totally new compound movements that are almost perfectly repeatable, time after time - even if you are all thumbs like me. It expands the Robosapien experience tremendously, and puts a ton of fun back into playing with him. 

Developing A PC Based Robosapien Remote Control - WYSIWYG

Once the basic architecture was up and running, and could consistently control my Robosapien via the USB-UIRT, it was time to do some design brainstorming. What was it that I liked about the RS remote control? What didn’t I like? What features would I really want to see in a remote control?

I had some clues. For example, one of the European university websites mentioned that RS has 9 degrees of freedom. How could I show that on the control, and make it easy to control each degree of freedom? In thinking about that problem, I recalled how the Japanese Robot Battle competitors program their robots. They typically have their left hand on the robot while their right hand is typing commands into the computer keyboard. They get immediate tactile feedback at a gut level.That lead me to the idea that the controller image should map directly to the Robosapien itself – hopefully on a 1:1 basis.

After some consideration, I came up with the following design guidelines:

  • Intuitive – in other words, the remote control function should provide a WYSIWYG type of experience.
  • Logical – it should make sense at a gut level and not require a lot of analysis to use.
  • Shallow – as much as possible one button press should evoke the behavior you want. Control and multiple key strokes should be minimized.
  • Facilitate – it should help the user and anticipate their desires, not get in the way of them.
  • Toy – Robosapien, after all is said and done, is a toy. The remote control should be toy like in terms of design, colors, and experience.
  • Fun – If it isn’t fun, then no one (including me) is going to use it for very long.

With that in mind, I came up with this design -

050305_robo_motion2

(click on the graphic for a full size image)

Once I had the controls laid out the way I wanted them, it was easy to combine the design with the operational software. Using Visual Basic 6, I imported the graphic layout into a form, then created an image array with enough elements for all the buttons. Each element in the image array overlays a button image in the graphic. This makes it easy to do things like tool tip text hints for mouse-overs.

The end result: an extremely easy to use, intuitive, fun to play with, remote control for my Robosapien.

When I have a chance over the next week or so, I’ll put together a post covering the details of using an image array to simulate graphic buttons in Visual Basic.

PC Based Robosapien Controller - Continued

Here’s what the ‘finished’ remote control looks like-

050226-robocontrol

As of this afternoon (Saturday, February 26th), everything is up and running. Integrating the USBUIRT API and DLL code into the VB6 application I built to control my Robosapien went much smoother than I had expected. The package that Jon provides for developers doesn’t include much in the way of documentation – but I have to say that it doesn’t really need it. The sample code is logically structured and includes extensive comments. It was very straightforward to figure out what was going on, and to strip out the parts that were not necessary for my application.

One additional feature, hacked together today, are the indicator ‘leds’ that show the USBUIRT status and indicate when it’s transmitting. I retained the actual USBUIRT status parameters, but moved them to the About page. After everything seemed to be running, I spent about an hour playing around testing the application. It was really a blast – almost like rediscovering the Robosapien all over again for the first time.

I certainly enjoyed playing with Robosapien when I first brought him home. Still, I was a little frustrated by the standard remote control, and its learning curve. Back then, I was trying to get him to move forward, or turn, or raise one of his arms, but to do that I had to figure out where the buttons were, and I often had to deal with the multi-level command sequence – press the select button, one or two times, then the function you want Robosapien to perform. Unless you happen to be a quick study, it’s easy to get confused and frustrated. Mark Tilden and the other designers did an excellent job – no question – but trying to jam 62 functions into a low cost remote control in a simple, easy to understand and use way is a tremendous challenge.

What I found today with the PC based remote control was that it is much, much easier to run Robosapien through his paces. One button, one push, and immediately he goes off and does exactly what you tell him to. I found myself spending a lot more time observing what he was doing rather than spending it trying to figure out the remote control buttons. And, in a few minutes, I was playing ‘what if’ games with him. Seeing how he moved, and predicting his movements for a sequence of commands. Really cool.

Next step: Use this as a front end for the choreography program.

Robosapien Named 2005 Most Innovative Toy of the Year

Robosapien Named 2005 Most Innovative Toy of the Year; WowWee LTD Kicks Off 2005 American International Toy Fair With Top Honors As Everybody's Favorite Humanoid Picks Up Prestigious T.O.T.Y. Award

American International Toy Fair 2005

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Feb. 23, 2005--Robosapien, the hottest programmable entertainment robot on the planet and the "must have" gadget for the '04 holiday season, has been selected by the Toy Industry Association (TIA) as the Most Innovative Toy of The Year. The award was presented Saturday night at the exclusive T.O.T.Y. (Toy of The Year) Awards Ceremony at the Hilton in New York City.


The T.O.T.Y. Awards (pronounced Toh-Tee) were created by the Toy Industry Association (TIA) to salute the success, creativity and playful spirit of the Toy Industry by honoring the best toys developed by the international toy industry for North American consumers. Robosapien was recognized for successfully combining cutting-edge technology with a fun, engaging personality to create the perfect robotic companion for today's tech savvy consumers.
The T.O.T.Y. Award caps off a winning season for Robosapien. To date, Robosapien has received more than 35 top honors. Among them are awards from the most prestigious toy-testing programs in the industry, such as: The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, Family Fun, Child, Parenting, KOL, National Parenting Center, Creative Child and iParenting.
A worldwide phenomenon, Robosapien has also been recognized as Toy of the Year in the UK, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Germany, and Spain.
Robosapien took home the prestigious 2004 Hong Kong Award for Industry and Consumer Product Design, and most recently received the Digital World's Most Innovative Award at the 2005 Consumer Electronics Show.

Robosapien Named 2005 Most Innovative Toy of the Year; WowWee LTD Kicks Off 2005 American International Toy Fair With Top Honors As Everybody's Favorite Humanoid Picks Up Prestigious T.O.T.Y. Award

PC Based Robosapien Controller

Related posts:

Robosapien Rocks! - Robosapien under computer control

Progress With A Robosapien Control Application

Robosapien Choreography Program - Some Thoughts

Sometimes you just get lucky. There doesn't seem to be any other reasonable explanation for it. Just luck - plain and simple.

I had pretty much given up on doing a full remote control application - primarily because I had visions of trying to write and debug the code necessary to handle the 62+ Robosapien functions. I just knew that at some point - probably around the 20th button or so, I would either get totally frustrated, or extremely bored. The result would be yet another interesting software project that wound up on the shelf gathering dust.

Still, I needed a simple test program to send IR codes from my PC USBUIRT interface to my Robosapien. I had the basic code transmission worked out using Girder, so I knew that part was working. My short term goal was to get a choreography program up and running using Visual Basic 6.0. I chose VB for several reasons-

  • I've used VB for years, and know it fairly well [I'm basically lazy]
  • I already have the VB development environment setup on my primary systems. [I'm basically cheap]
  • The design and syntax should be close enough so that other people can port it to the language of their own choice.

I seriously considered other language development environments, but the thought of having spend the $$$ for another development platform and to learn yet another programming language quickly discouraged me from going down that path.

I started off by just putting a couple of command buttons on a form, and labeling them with Robosapien IR code command names. I wrote some code to read a modified version of the Girder Robosapien commands and codes, and store them in a series of arrays. Then I thought it would be cute to have a picture of the robot on the form..., then I added a few more buttons..., and a few more...

By the time I got to the sixth or seventh command button I could tell that this approach wasn't going to be very practical. So, I started to think about alternative ways to skin this cat. It turns out that every time you cut and paste a command object, VB tells you that you already have one with the same name, and asks if you want to create an array. Suddenly the mental light bulb went on in my head, and within a couple of minutes I had populated the entire form with enough buttons to handle all the existing codes plus a number of empty buttons set aside to use with my special choreography commands.

The next step was to sort the command buttons into groups of similar functions, and place them in some sort of logical, easy to use, order on the form. I'm sure that after I use it for a while I will want to change some of the layout, but for now, this is what it looks like-

050224-robocontrol-01

Taking a closer look at the form layout, you can see that each command button has a sequentially numbered caption. All of the buttons on this form, with the sole exception of the one labeled 'Refresh', are elements in a single command control array. I also added some status boxes at the bottom of the form to display the current command, which group it belongs to, the function it performs, and the actual USBUIRT IR code to be transmitted. These will probably be replaced later with just some simple indicators.

050224-robocontrol-01

When the program first runs, it opens a text file containing the list of groups, commands, functions, and codes then stores them in string arrays. The command array is then used to update the captions and ToolTipText on each of the buttons. Later, if I need to change any of the captions or commands it can be done by editing the text file without having to rebuild or recode the application.

Private Sub Titles_Click()
'
' Sets the caption for each command button to
' match the command in the indexed array.
'
  For i = 0 To 64
    Cmd(i).Caption = cmdarray(i)
    Cmd(i).ToolTipText = functionarray(i)
  Next i
 
End Sub

The coding that handles the button clicks is extremely simple and straight forward. The button click generates a corresponding Index which is used as a pointer to the correct elements in the arrays.

Private Sub Cmd_Click(Index As Integer)
'
' Updates the display and selects the appropriate IR code
' whenever a command button is clicked
'
' Used for all of the individual command buttons as
' a command array. The array index determines which button
' was clicked

Group.Caption = grouparray(Index)
Command.Caption = cmdarray(Index)
Function1.Caption = functionarray(Index)
Code.Caption = codearray(Index)

'
' add call to USBUIRT transmit routine

End Sub

The result is a clean, hopefully easy to understand and use, layout that can be modified and expanded with a minimum of effort as time goes on.

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Just to make it look a little more professional, I added an About page, and a browser page that automatically links to my robotics website.

050224-robocontrol-01

Next steps:

  • Incorporate the already tested USBUIRT code
  • Add command timing (time that the Robosapien actually takes to execute each command)
  • Draft a specification for additional functionality including -
      1. Command strings
      2. Elapsed time
      3. Graphical time line
      4. Programmable delays
      5. Variable command repeats
      6. Subroutines

Chrome and Dome - Robosapien Rap Group Makes History

Chrome and Dome, the stars of the first robot rap video in history, hit the press big time with the news of their popular music video appearing on numerous industry news sites including Top40-charts.com, Emediawire, Webwire, Xtvworld Media Junction,  and many others.


Robotics News - First Robot Rap Video in History

NEW YORK (www.robotsrule.com) - Robots appear to be making fresh new inroads into the lives of people everywhere. Once relegated to research projects or to narrow vertical industries such as manufacturing, they have reached the tipping point and are now set to invade our very homes. As usual, the entertainment industry proves to be the messenger of a fresh new perspective on robots.

According to Robert Oschler, webmaster for the popular RobotsRule web site at http://www.robotsrule.com/, which provides information and video on the latest robot news, there is a building need for public information regarding our new robot counterparts. "The technologically inclined long have had web sites and instructional videos to help explain the inner workings of a robot's servos, gears, and electronics. It is now time to address the average citizen's questions regarding robots."

Robotics News - First Robot Rap Video in History @ Top40-Charts.com - 40 Top 20 & Top 40 Music Charts from 25 Countries

Hacking Robots Like Aibo and Robosapien

The Accueil Internet Actu website has a long article on ‘pirates’ and hacking robots like Aibo, Robosapien, and others. It looks great – but unfortunately it’s all in French, so it’s going to take me a while to do a translation. In the meantime, the article photos are great – well worth taking a look at even if you don’t speak a word of French.

050222 aibo hack050222 robo hack050222 robo hack2

InternetActu.net » Pirates de robots

Robosapien Choreography Program - Some Thoughts

Now that my laptop can send commands to Robosapien, it's time to cobble together some sort of a control program. The first iteration will probably be a "player piano roll" type that will eventually get expanded to include a rich function set - hopefully including sensors and some type of video feedback.

The initial pass could be something as simple as an interpreted text file. Using the existing command names, the text file would look something like this-

<larmallup> ' left arm all up
<larmout> ' left arm out
<leanr> ' lean right

Of course, the interpreter will need to handle the parsing, ignore the comments, and keep track of the elapsed time. My concern is that since there is no direct feedback from Robosapien to indicate the completion of each command, it may be very easy to get out of sync and have the commands sent faster than Robosapien can receive, decode, and act upon them.

Once I have that up and debugged, then the next step will be to add some additional functionality. It would be useful to have a programmed pause or wait state. For example, if I wanted Robosapien to do an ocean 'wave' move, it would look similar to this-

<larmallup> ' left arm all up
<larmout> ' left arm out
<leanr> ' lean right
<rarmalldown> ' right arm all down
<rarmin> ' right arm in
<wait time=5> ' pause
<rarmallup> ' right arm all up
<rarmout> ' right arm out
<leanl> ' lean left
<leanl> ' lean left
<larmalldown> ' left arm all down
<larmin> ' left arm in
<end> ' end of sequence

The <wait time=5> command simply suspends the transmission of new commands to Robosapien for a given period. It will take a little experimentation and testing to determine the best intervals to use. Perhaps tenths or hundreds of a second.

Most music and dance includes lots of repetition - a musical phrase or set of dance moves may be repeated over and over again during a single performance. If the repetition is simple - say just repeating a single command, then we can add a 'repeat=n' command for the interpretor to process. If the repetition is more complex involving a sequence of commands, then it could be implemented using the gosub/return model.

<gosub dosedo>
<whistle>
<gosub dosedo>
<whistle> '
<gosub dosedo>
<fart repeat=3> '
<end>
 
<sub dosedo>
<walkf>
<wait time=5>
<walkb>
<wait time=5> '
<return> '

I'm going to give it some more thought, but will probably start putting together some initial code over the next week or so.

Progress With A Robosapien Control Application

Progress always seems to come in fits and starts. I make some headway, then hit a bump in the road that either slows me down, or totally distracts me. Sometimes it's so severe that I get totally frustrated and have to set a project aside for a while. At other times it seems like everything wants to come together almost effortlessly. Thankfully, I seem to be in one of the latter cycles right now and everything is going pretty smoothly - knock on wood.

I was able to get the USBUIRT working with Girder, and to confirm that I could send commands to my Robosapien. The next step was to explore the USBUIRT API and DLL to see how it could be modified. The API is a 'developer' tool, and isn't provided with the USBUIRT, but if you have purchased a USBUIRT and are trying to develop an application based on it, you can request a copy from Jon via the support email address on his website. Jon was also kind enough to include a sample test program written in Visual Basic - which was great since I have a lot of experience with VB and will probably use it as the platform for a lot of my projects.

The test program was fairly easy to understand - especially since all I really wanted to do at this point was to transmit an IR code to the Robosapien. Getting the IR code format set correctly took a little while, and I was hindered by a bug in my VB installation that caused it to crash unexpectedly. The IR code format concern was sorted out by looking at other people's code on line to see how they had solved the problem. The VB problem was solved by a patch down-loaded from the Microsoft support website. Then, about 10:00 pm on Sunday night, I was finally able to send commands from a VB program running on my laptop to Robosapien!

The next step is to develop a spec for a fully functional control program, and then code it in VB. It looks like it should be very straight forward to develop a remote control program that just emulates the Robosapien remote. However, I think that particular approach might get boring very quickly. Besides, I always have the physical remote in case I need to use it.

At this point I'm leaning towards a choreography type controller. Something that would allow me to build up movement sequences and allow for macro loops, delays, repeats, and the like. It also needs to consider the elapsed time to execute each command into consideration. For example, when Pixar or Disney put together an animated movie they usually do the vocals and music first, then fit the animation timing into the audio tracks. I suspect that the same approach would work well in this case.

Assuming that I take that route, I will need to define a syntax - a command set, and a good place to start is with the commands that have already been setup by other Robosapien experimenters using the Girder application. The Girder GML file is basically a flat text file that includes a lot of parameters that won't be needed in this application. Pulling out just the group names, actions, command names, and the corresponding USBUIRT IR codes should provide a strong base for the choreography application (see the IR control code table below. )

Continue reading "Progress With A Robosapien Control Application" »

Robosapien Rocks! - Robosapien under computer control

050116_desktop


Way, way back – last fall to be more specific – when I bought my Robosapien, I thought it would be great if I could control it directly from my PC. I had dreams of making it dance, or chase the dogs, or do any number of similar things simply by harnessing all the computing power in my laptop. The Robosapien remote control was fine, but I really wanted to go beyond its limitations. Initially that would require being able to store long macro arrays, and later the ability to add sensors and to branch behaviors.

Simple – right? All you have to do is hook up an IR transmitter to the laptop and get it to send the command strings to Robosapien. Sounds simple enough . . .

So, here we are, months later, and after a lot of work, a lot of head scratching, and some invaluable assistance from others via the internet, and finally my Robosapien is moving around under the control of my laptop computer!

The first problem was figuring out whether it could actually be done or not. I studied a large number of websites that reference Robosapien, and it became clear that what I wanted to do was definitely possible, but it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. The RS IR codes were known (see http://www.aibohack.com/robosap/ir_codes.htm) including some interesting undocumented codes, and Palm PDAs had been used to control RS. I finally ran across the Robots Rule website and the section on getting Robosapien to to dance. There’s even a hilarious video featuring two Robosapiens and a robot dog. While it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do, it was close enough to get me started on the right track. After a few email exchanges with the Robots Rule webmaster, I decided to go with a similar approach using the USBUIRT interface to communicate with my Robosapien. Jon Rhees, the USBUIRT developer, was extremely helpful. He went out of his way to answer my questions, and shipped my interface within 24 hours of my order placement. It took a couple of weeks – Jon is in the US, and I live in Japan.

With the hardware part of the solution in my possesion, the next step was to get the initial software up and running. For that I settled on Girder and downloaded the free evaluation copy. Then I hit the proverbial wall for a while. Girder seems to be a great application, jam packed with fancy bells and whistles. It was designed for general purpose use, and I knew that it would have a lot of features that I wouldn’t use. Still, it came highly recommended, and had been used successfully with the Robosapien. So I decided I would give it a try. Unfortunately all the complexity got the better of me. I tried unsuccessfully to get it running with my robot for about a week or more. Then I swallowed my pride, took my keyboard in hand, and wrote to some of the folks that had a track record of making things like this work. They quickly pointed me in the right direction, and within a couple of days my laptop was able to consistently send the right commands to my RS. One of them was even kind enough to share a file with the RS IR code strings with me.

Girder in combination with the USBUIRT can ‘learn’ the IR strings from your existing remote control – not just for Robosapien but for any device that uses the same IR coding standards – like your television, VCR, stereo, etc.

050219-girder-03

As you might expect from looking at the remote control, Robosapien has a large number of functions/movements, and each of them requires a separate and unique IR code to be sent. Here’s what the high level command grouping looked like-

050219-girder-01

The next level down includes the individual commands to do things like “raise your right hand”.

050219-girder-02

When you get through with them all, including the burps, roars, demos, and other stuff, there are well over 60 different commands.

050219-girder-05

You can also create multicommands – a series of commands that are executed sequentially. For example, I wanted RS to walk forward for a while, then stop, raise his right arm and turn it, then raise his left arm, and finally whistle. The multicommand to do that looked like this-

050219-girder-04

It turns out that the Girder GML files are text files so it’s relatively easy to extract the command names and IR code strings that need to be sent. My next step is to use the USBUIRT API and DLL to build a Visual Basic control module for Robosapien. That will probably take a couple of evenings, or perhaps a long weekend. After that – well, we’re going to Rock ‘n Roll!

Then and Now - Robot Evolution

THEN:

050204 r2d2


"...R2-D2 represents our highest hope for what robots might do for humans. He performs countless services and save the lives of humans many times. He seems to understand technology deeply and responds to human needs unerringly. He does not try to imitate humans or compete with them. He's all robot!"

       - Jim Morris


 

NOW:

Robosapienv2200
"Robosapien is not a devolved human. He's an evolved robot, that burps, for money."

        - Mark Tilden

Robosapien Magazine Ad

Takara’s running a great full page ad towards the front of the current issue of Quanto magazine.

050123-Robosapien-ad

Robosapien USBUIRT IR Control Codes

 

Robosapien USBUIRT IR Control Codes
Group Action Command USBUIRT Code
Arms R arm up rarmup R08008109808520212122212221212122212121808720
R arm down rarmdown R08008101808321212122212121212180862022212121
R arm out rarmout R08008109808321212122212121212122218086202121
R arm in rarmin R2D9980FE80852021212221212123218086202021808720
L arm up larmup R0800810E80832121212221212180852120212221808520
L arm down larmdown R080080F780852021212221212180872080862022212121
L arm out larmout R0800810B80842021212221212180872021218085212121
L arm in larmin R080080F48086202121222122218086208086202221808620
R arm all up rarmallup R14D18109808520212122212221212122212121808720
R arm all down rarmalldown R12D08101808321212122212121212180862022212121
R arm all out rarmallout R0FD38109808321212122212121212122218086202121
R arm all in rarmallin R105180FE80852021212221212123218086202021808720
L arm all up larmallup R1116810E80832121212221212180852120212221808520
L arm all down larmalldown R128980F780852021212221212180872080862022212121
L arm all out larmallout R0FE6810B80862021212221212180872021218085212121
L arm all in larmallin R0DC680F48085202121222122218086208086202221808620
Movement walk forward walkf R239B80F980842121212221212121218086208086202121
walk backward walkb R153480EF8085202121222121212321808620808421808520
step forward stepf R080080F38085202121808620222121218086208086202121
step backward stepb R08008108808520212180862022212121808620808620808520
stop stop R165580FC8085202121222122218085208086208086202121
lean left leanl R149C80FC8085202121222122218085202121808620808520
lean right leanr R10AD810680852021212221212123212021808620808720
turn step left turnstepl R080080FD80852022218086202021808720212121212121
turn step right turnstepr R08008103808420212180862121212121222122212121
left left R2AAB8104808520212122212221808620212122212121
right right R1FC381098085202121222122212121222121212121
lean forward leanforward R080080F0808520212180862022218086208086202221808620
lean back leanback R080080F38085202221808620202121218086212121808521
Arm Combo right sweep sweepr R0800810380852080852120212221212122212121808720
left sweep sweepl R080081028085208087202121212180852120212221808520
right thump thumpr R0800810180852022218086202021212122212221808520
left thump thumpl R080081058085202121808620222180862021212221808620
right pick up rpickup R080080F680852021218086202221212180862022212121
left pick up lpickup R080081098085202121808620222180852080862022212121
right throw rthrow R0800810180852021218086202221212122218085202221
left throw lthrow R080081008084202221808520202180862021218084202221
right strike 1 rstrike1 R080080F78085208087202221212121218086202221808620
left strike 1 lstrike1 R080080EE808520808520222122218086208086202221808620
right strike 2 rstrike2 R080080FE8085208087202121212121212221808620808521
left strike 2 lstrike2 R080080F4808620808720222121218087202221808520808720
left strike 3 lstrike3 R080080F980852080852021212221808520212122212121
right strike 3 rstrike3 R08008103808520808520212122212121222121212121
Attitude Talk Back talkback R080080EF8085208085202221222180862080862022212121
Whistle whistle R080081058085208087202121212180872021218085202221
High 5 high5 R080080F980852080852120212221212180862022212121
Burp burp R080080FE80852080852021212221212122218085212121
Bulldozer bulldozer R080080F18085208085212021222121218086208086202121
Roar roar R080080F7808520808520212122218086208086208086202121
Fart fart R0800810A808520808520212122212121808620808620808520
Sleep sleep R080081008083212121808620202123212021808620808720
Wake Up wakeup R080080FF8085202121808620808620212122212221808520
Program Modes R sensor rsensor R159E810080852022212021808620212122218086202121
L sensor lsensor R15F180FE8085202121222180852121212221808520808620
sonic sensor ssensor R1749810680852021212221808521212180862020212321
main program mainprog R18E28103808520212122218086202121222121212321
execute main exemain R1A51810780852022212021808620212122212221808520
Misc. demo 2 demo2 R080080F3808520808520212180862021212221808620808520
demo 1 demo1 R080080F58083218085202121808620212122218085212121
listen mode listenmode R080080F7808520212180862022218085202121808720808520
turn off turnoff R080080FD8085208085202121808620212122212121808720
Dance dance R080081028085208085202121808620212180862022212121

Robosapien Chucking Oranges

The Takara Toys homepage (Japanese) has a cute link with photos of winter kotatsu activities. The section titled ‘Boys’ features step by step instructions on how your kids can use their Robosapien to chuck mikans (a Japanese orange/tangerine), play a simple game, or even clean up their desk.

050121-robosapien-mikan

Well, I have to be honest about it. This being Japan, the Robosapien mikan instructions actually show how you can have him carefully pick up a mikan from the bowl, walk across the table, and politely hand it to your kid brother. It even has Robosapien holding a towel for your kid brother to wipe his face with. Those sure aren’t the kids in my neighborhood. They would definitely be chucking mikans at each other, and leaving the mess for Mom to clean up.

Robosapien Parody Video

Robert over at the Robots Rule web site put together a pretty funny video featuring his two Robosapiens – “Chrome” and “Dome” – along with their pet dog “Crappy.” It’s definitely worth checking out. The humor is definitely in keeping with the Mark Tilden burping spirit embodied in Robosapien. According to Robert, “The quotes are fictional and silly and so is the movie.” He seems to have quite a well developed sense of humor, which is very refreshing. Crome and Dome even have their own blog at http://www.robotsrule.com/robosapien-blog/blogger.html.

050117 robots rule

While you’re visiting the Robots Rule web site, be sure to check out some of the other pages. The most interesting for me was the way Robert put Jon Rhee’s UIRT Infrared Transceiver and the Girder Windows automation software to good use to control his Robosapiens directly from his PC. Frankly, I was impressed enough that I just put one of the UIRT Transceivers on order. I suspect that I will use it to control a lot of devices, not just my Robosapien.

CES Robosapien V2 Video Clip

The Craveonline Gear section has a great video clip from the CES show featuring Robosapien V2, Robopet, and Roboraptor in action. You can see Robosapien V2 do some moves, get up from a prone position almost unassisted (it is a demo model after all), and hear the new voice. Roboraptor looks, moves, and acts totally wicked – just like something that escaped from Jurassic Park. As a robo-maniac, I can’t wait to have one of my very own. That being said, I’m not sure I would leave it alone with our dogs, or with small children. I have the feeling that Roboraptor would come out the winner in any confrontation. Robopet is cute – definitely interesting, but not as inspiring at at gut level as the other two. He seems much closer to a BEAM robot in terms of appearance, and walks more like a BEAM insect. Robosapien V2 and Roboraptor, in contrast, act and move much more like their carbon counterparts. Of course it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions since the whole clip is only a couple of minutes long.

Robosapienv2200RobopetRoboraptor


CES video clip - Robosapien V2, Roboraptor, Robopet

Robosapien V2 Video from CES

Engadget posted a short video clip of the new Robosapien V2 doing a dance move, and his Robopet walking. At 6 megs it will probably take you longer to download than to view, but if your a Robosapien fanatic like me it’s worth the time and effort. There’s also a nice shot of our favorite roboguy with his arms extended along with some carbon based life forms, so you can get a real idea of how much bigger V2 actually is.

RoboSapien V2 - Pets

Robopet

Roboraptor

Robosapien™ V2 Article

The OnRobo site has an interesting article featuring the new Robosapien V2 created by Mark Tilden.

"Robosapein V2 is fully controllable and programmable by remote control and fully autonomous in free-roam mode. He brings the fluid movement and biomechanical agility of Robosapien to a whole new level. Gaining a whopping 10” in height, Robosapien V2 now has full range of motion and the ability to pick up, drop and throw objects with his finely tuned precision hands. Advanced agility allows him to bend over and twist from side to side, so he can now sit, bend, lie down and stand up."

Link: Robosapien™ V2 – Bigger, Smarter and more fun - OnRobo - Home Robot News and Reviews.

Robosapienv2200

RoboSapien Coffee Table Book

Our favorite Roboguy is featured on the cover of a new book called "Ultimate Robot". I had a chance to flip through it this evening at Borders. The book consists primarily of two page spreads on a number of great, and not-so great robots. The photos are excellent, but the back up data is pretty minimal. If you're interested in a $30 coffee table book to stimulate conversation, then this might be right up your alley. If, on the other hand, you're looking for detailed information on any of the robots featured in the book, then you may be disappointed.

Robo Burps - Robosapien Style

Ever wonder how the Robosapien came up with such realistic burping sounds? According to an article in the Observer, all it took was to stuff a 6' 3", 350 pound human (aka Mark Tilden) with huge amounts of Thai food and Pepsi....

Link: The Observer | UK News | The burping robot who gave Mars a miss.

In a hotel room in Hong Kong the maid walks in to find a large, bearded man under a tent made out of pillows and a duvet, clutching a torch and burping into a voice recorder. The man is Mark Tilden, 6ft 3in and weighing 350lb, who has consumed huge quantities of Thai food and Pepsi ('because Chinese and Coca-Cola doesn't make you burp very well') to help him bring up wind. What the maid, in her shock, does not realise is that she is witnessing the birth of the most sought-after toy in the world.

MSNBC Interviews Mark Tilden

MSNBC's Technology & Science site posted an interview with Mark Tilden. No new, earth shaking information, but it does include some great quotes from Tilden-

"Robosapien is not a devolved human, he's an evolved robot, that burps, for money."

"... the industry-wide message is that people will buy robot things if they appear "alive" enough."

"Let's just say more roboticists should read Buckminister Fuller."

Link: MSNBC - The human behind this year's hot robot.

New York Times Article on Robosapiens

The New York Times posted a six page article covering the development of Robosapiens, Mark Tilden, background information on Wow Wee, and a lot of other good stuff. Among other things, it confirms that Tilden was the model for Robosapiens, right down to the grunts and burps. Apparently he acted out the moves for the programmers and they converted them to code. Really reminds me of John Woo acting out Hulk's moves for the animators.

Robosapien has 28 hidden functions that do not appear in the manual. For example, you can shut the robot down, and ''when he dies,'' as Tilden put it, ''the last word he says, and it's the only English word he has right now, is ''Rosebud'' -- which is from Orson Welles's 'Citizen Kane.' If you remember, you wait the entire movie, and you find out Rosebud was the name of his favorite toy. So just imagine the poetic symmetry. Just before Robosapien dies, he has a dream of another toy.''

Link: The New York Times > Magazine > A Robot for the Masses.

New Mark Tilden - Robosapiens Interview

Did you ever get the feeling that Robosapiens is actually a Mark Tilden clone? There's proof positive that Tilden designed Robosapiens in his own image, even down to sharing the same haircut in the latest Tilden interview on the Gadget Madness website.

Tilden talks about his robotics design philosophy, features that they had to drop/postpone to get to market, hacking Robosapiens, his favorite robots, what the near term future might hold for robots in general, and even drops some hints about what's coming next - as soon as the New York Toy Fair, February 5th.

GadgetMadness

RoboSapiens Named Toy of the Year

Hamley's, the premiere UK toy shop, selected RoboSapien as the Toy of the Year for 2004.

"A toy robot designed by a former NASA engineer has been named Britain's toy of the year by Hamley's, the nation's finest/most expensive toy shop."

Farting robot wins toy of the year

Spanish RoboSapien


It seems, from RoboSapiens photos I've seen from different spots on the globe, that he comes with different helmet colors. I really like the light gray (smoke) color, but the models here in Japan have kind of an odd purple color while the photo on the left came from Spain.

What's up with that? Any idea?

RoboSapien Gets Naked

Rui J. Alves from Portugal (currently living and working in Macau - the opposite side of the world from Portugal) has a great site featuring his work with robotics, Linux, and a bunch of other interesting stuff. He bought a Robosapien, and apparently restrained himself from tearing it apart to hack for at least 24 hours. He did a fantastic job of documenting the tear-down, disassembly, and internals complete with really detailed and in-focus photos of everything including the inside of the remote control.

If you're interested in the RoboSapien at all, it's well worth the time to check out Rui's site. While you're there, be sure to give him a little positive feedback and encouragement. I can hardly wait to see what he manages to hack into Roboguy.

zodiak.f2o.org - Practical Technology - /extra.php

Robots Battle It Out For The Presidency

It had to happen, and it didn't take long at all. I4U.com figured out how to operate two RoboSapiens at the same time without having the remote controls mix signals, then they put photos of Bush and Kerry on the robots and let them duke it out. I'm not exactly sure, but I suspect from the photos that they that did it were very pro-Kerry at heart.

"The folks at I4U.com reconfigured two RoboSapiens into a Robot Bush and Robot Kerry. The robot presidential candidates were then set against each in other in a fight to the death. Just like the real candidates, the robots have tiny brains with limited intelligence and are remotely controlled by human handlers. In a related story several months ago, it was revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney is a robot. Thanks go to The Swirling Brain for bringing this urgent political story to our attention."

robots.net - Robot news and Robotics Info

Robot Watch-ing

small picture of robosapienI've always been fascinated by robots and robotic technology. I'm sure my obsession with things robotic has its roots in my childhood experiences with erector sets. I recently ran across a reference to the Robosapiens robot, took a look at some of the videos and television commercials online, and was hooked. One thing that really surprised me was that the design approach is completely atypical. This robot walks, talks, dances, picks up things and throws them, and does it better than any of the robots I've seen in movies. Yet it's based on BEAM principles - not the usual micro-computer based simulation model. I'm currently exploring the Robosapiens world, and will write a lot more about it in later posts. In the meantime, I ran across a great interview with Mark Tilden, the NASA scientist that invented Robosapiens. While the article predates Robosapiens by several years, he talks at length about his basic philosophy and design approach, including a lot of insight into why traditional approaches have met with consistently disappointing results.

I was amazed when he mentioned a tiny autonomous walking robot designed from Snoopy watch parts since the Lorus is a Seiko brand.robot3.gif (16k)

"This is one of the world's smallest autonomous, walking robots. It was, unfortunately, dropped by one of my secretaries, so it'll never work. But it's made out of Snoopy watches by Lorus"

exhibit research | Mark Tilden interview

RoboSapien in Japan - Update

Robosapiens was released in Japan last month (September) and seems to be getting a mixed response. The MSRP from the Japanese distributor - Takara - is pretty high, about 50% over the US MSRP. The market positioning is very similar to other 'toys' that Takara sells, and if you didn't look closely you would automatically assume that it was a Takara toy since WowWee, Tilden, et. al. are totally out of sight except for the required fine print copyright legends that no one ever pays any real attention to.

Street pricing varies all over the map. Hobby, specialty, and some online retailers are trying to sell it at the Japan MSRP with no discounts, while others offer significant discounts. Bic Camera, one of the most well known camera and electronics distributors here, was selling Robosapien at a 20% discount and sold out. ToysRUs Japan shows Robosapien at a 15% discount. Costco Japan sold them at the lowest price I've found so far - a whopping 30% discount - and quickly ran out of stock.

Keep in mind that a 30% discount from the Japan MSRP only gets the price back to parity with the US MSRP. Both Bic and Costco are high traffic brick-and-mortar stores where customers are very likely to make impulse buying decisions. It's been proven over and over again that the 'magic price' for impulse buys here is 10,000 yen (roughly USD$ 90.) If the price is lower than 10,000 yen it's easy for an impulse buyer to rationalize the purchase, but if it's higher then they will hesitate and think about it for a while.

Rakuten's weekly 'best seller' listing of "Hobby - Pet - Collection: Mini Car" shows Robosapien in the #30 position and falling. Why put it in the 'Mini Car' category? Probably an oversight, or perhaps because of the other Takara toys that end up in this category.

One thing that's surprising is the relative dearth of Robosapien posts by Japanese robot tinkerers/maniacs/hackers, at least so far.

Three Laws of Robotics - Mark Tilden Style

Mark Tilden, the Nasa guru that designed Robosapien, has a very interesting and contrarian take on Asimov's three laws of robotics-

Interviewer: Let's talk nuts and bolts a little. What are the rules that drive these things? It's not Isaac Asminov's robot rules, right?

Tilden: No. Asmimov's rules were essentially, protect humans, obey humans, then look after yourself. During the 1980s I built a variety of robots like that, and I wound up with robots that were so scared about doing anything that could possibly displease human beings, that they just sat in the middle of the floor and vibrated. My cat had a field day with that.

Our rules are basic rules of survival: feed thy ass, move thy ass, and look for better real estate.

exhibit research | Mark Tilden interview

 

Robosapien in Japan - Good News/Bad News


Robosapien was featured in Dime magazine here in Japan this week. Dime is one of the most popular "trend" magazines here and is read religiously by people that want to identify (or identify with) whatever's hot. They cover a wide range of markets, everything from restaurants, watches, convenience store lunches, to the latest in sports cars, digital television and technology. It's a great source of information if you need to know what's going on here.

The 'good news' is that Robosapien captured the best spot in the magazine - a feature article they call "The 1st Sheet", so it was seen by everyone of their readers. The article was only a single page spread, but featured some good action shots that really show off Robosapien's mobility and flexibility.

The 'bad news' is that Robosapien is presented as if it was developed by Takara - the Japanese toy maker and distributer for Robosapien. It's called "Takara Huma" in the main caption. WowWee and Mark Tilden are never mentioned, though there is a very minor reference to NASA. The other bit of bad news is the price - right at double the US market price. That's going to seriously limit the market penetration, unfortunately.

Ed. note (11/14/2004): The comment that "... Mark Tilden are never mentioned..." is in error on my part. Mark Tilden is, in fact, mentioned as the inventor of Robosapien in the Dime article.