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[DPRG] off-road robots

Subject: [DPRG] off-road robots
From: . zappepcs at earthlink.net
Date: Sat Sep 27 13:46:02 CDT 2003

(Apparently, I'm quite wordy today)

Yes, usefulness of a robot is very dependent on its intended purpose, and
is an acid test similar to that of beauty in art... eye of the beholder stuff. There
are also wheelchair basketball players that are more useful on the court than
I am...  The soul train comment was one of an extreme form of human 
mimickry, and I don't for an instant think there is anything useful about dancing
on soul train, unless you want to be a dancer by vocation possibly. Perhaps it
was too extreme. On the less extreme, and IMHO more useful side, how about
a robot that can clean the bathroom floor as well as change the paper roll when
it needs to be changed? While the firefighting contest is exciting, changing the
loo paper roll offers equally technical challenges.... as does retrieving the correct
type of beer from the kitchen fridge :) On the down side, these are all single ended
technical challenges. A walking robot, that mimicks human form, has to be able to
accomplish many tasks with the same platform. Discussing such tasks, developing
manipulators, software, sensors, and all the things that could be used by such a
robot are good things. They are even good things to do for a wheeled robot. If the
Heathkit robot could have done such things, it would still be around today, actively
participating in the robot revolution :)

Oh BTW, by "single ended" I mean that these have been discussed as developments
for a robot that accomplishes only this task, such as "beerbot", line following etc. As
the competition contests are designed to do, as robot builders, we should be learning
>from each step or development, aiming for a platform that accomplishes many tasks
or a robot that accomplishes one task really well, such as a robo mower or 'Broomba'.
In my way of thinking, 'Broomba' is also single ended. When it can get you a beer or
change the loo roll as well, it becomes multipurpose. The value of single ended is in
your own experiences with building it, or in selling it. 

Wheeled or not, human assistance by robots can be judged by the user. If a buddy-bot
were able to call for help if a child is hurt or lost, then it is useful.. perhaps a post mall
for a walnut, but still useful. What if the buddy-bot could assist you with information on
how to change the brakes on your car, getting tools for you as you need them etc. I
think that my point is that usefulness of a human assistance robot is not dependent on
mimicking human form. Additionally, the value of a robot is in assisting humans,
whether that is to clean house while you are out, or assist you directly by being able
to interact with you in terms of how humans interact with each other. Being able to
speak to a robot that can assist me with tasks physically is very useful whether that
robot has wheels or feet.... My own personal goals are to investigate and work on 
methods to develop a robot that is more than single ended, can interact with humans
on a level that any human can participate in, and that I believe is truly useful, on a
personal level and a commercial one. That means that wheels are just as good as 
feet, even better in some design criteria. That leaves some interesting challenges for
us as builders and humans..... do people with buddy-bots deserve handicapped parking? :):)
and how do we design a robot to find the handicap ramp to follow us into the building
in a way that we don't get annoyed by having to wait on it, or have to walk up the
handicap ramp all the time? Building a bot that traverses large steps is handy, but 
still slower than a human in that environment.... lots of room for development there.
That means that we, the brothers wright, have a lot to do :)

Speaking of contests, if anyone is wondering what the free-form competition might 
accomplish... I think its a perfect place to demonstrate robots that do things other than
the defined contest tasks. If you have built a floor cleaner, show it off. If you build
a beer bot, show it off. If you have built a very cool toy robot, show it off. If you 
build a sentry bot, show it off. If you ... well, you get the idea. If you just have an 
idea / demo of a bot recharging station that could easily be adopted by any bot, by 
all means, show it off. 
Everyone that comes to a DPRG meeting or contest is there because they think about 
robots, and typically have ideas of how to build them.  Those ideas could be good or 
bad, single ended or more etc. In any case, all ideas are worth hearing, 
even if they don't meet with glee in respect of your own design criteria. For me, 
walking and balancing is a technolgy that I will implement without feet or human form.
If you remember the movie "Johnny 5", you'll undrestand that balancing is a task for 
any robot that has height to it. Wheelbase is not enough of an answer if the robot is to
move around in the same spaces as humans. Even that clever 6 wheeled bot would 
lose balance if there were weight and height to it.

-----Original Message-----
>From: Dale Wheat <dale at dalewheat.com>
Sent: Sep 27, 2003 12:36 PM
To: "." <zappepcs at earthlink.net>, dprglist <dprglist at dprg.org>
Subject: Re: [DPRG] off-road robots


I've resisted getting into this "walking robot" discussion as long as I
could...  :)

> I'm going to throw out a couple of observations. I was thinking about
> robots, and how you define human mimickry... It might be an extreme
> but when a walking robot can get a spot dancing on the 'soul train' it has
> successfully mimicked the human body.

*I'm* not likely to get a spot dancing on Soul Train, or Dick Clark's
Rockin' New Year's Eve, for that matter.  I wouldn't put the bar that high.
On the other hand, I can walk down stairs backwards with my eyes closed,
while my wife is more comfortable holding on to the rail.  We both *have*
human bodies, yet fail your test.

On a different topic, I agree with you about making "obstacle" versions of
our contests a separate event.

As far as wheeled vs legged robots go, think of this comparison:  Me
standing up, and me in a wheelchair.  Which is more versatile?


Dale Wheat
(972) 486-1317
(800) 330-1915, access code 00

PS:  I'm new to the club & the list.  Who are you?  Your emails have no name
in them.

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