Friday, April 17, 2009

Robotics platforms....Not there yet

I was looking into robotic platforms recently, to see what all was out there. I found the Nao, which is about the coolest fucking thing I have ever seen. That being said, it's not available to the general public, but there are plans to release it in 2010, so I guess I will just have to wait. So I started looking at toys, because all the other platforms I looked at were, not nearly as impressive and quite expensive. So when I started looking at the robosapiens platform I thought, it was promising. Particularly the Media RS, which actually runs a linux kernel. So the more research I did, the more excited I got about this. I mean when I saw that Mark Tilden, was involved with WowWee toys, I was so excited I almost pissed myself. I have read one of his books and interviews with him. I love the guys ideas about robotics, his move to BEAM, and his support of analog circuits. He's pretty much my second favorite robotocist ( sup sup Rodney Brooks ). So let me reiterate, I was excited. Then I found out there was a Java SDK, for the Media RS. Oh damn...that's HOT SHIT. So I don't like java...but MY GOD THERE IS AN SDK. That's hawt. So I am like this is the fucking promise land when I reed this quote out of the wiklipedia page about the Media rs:

"Years ago some bright AI lads asked if I could build a competent humanoid cradle into which they could put their smart programs. Took me a while, but here it is lads, inexpensive and ready to go right out of the box. Make it think, and let me know how it goes."

BUT something started to smell fishy. I didn't find a single Java program for the Media RS. So I am thinking that, What, did the entire hacker community just not like this peice of hardware...what's the haps...The more I looked into it, the worse it got. They promised an SDK, but they never went public with one. Supposedly they handed out a handful of CD's at CES or some other conference, but you couldn't get it online. And the Media RS has been discontinued...So I don't think it's coming. The best I could find was that someone found if you used a vm and recompiled the kernel to some old, redhat version you could write some C for it.....Which is still pretty cool, mad props for figuring that out btw. So with this sort of deception, of a promised SDK is pretty shitty honestly. I mean Mark Tilden knows what's up. These things are really appealing to hacker types. Why make it so hard to get in this things head. I even read where one guy just drilled out the IR port and connected it to an arduino so he could just send it the rf calls. So why am I all high and mighty about this...Mark Tilden is a good guy, he's one of us, I would expect this from any other toy designer/manufacturer, but not one of my hero's. I don't know, he might have had his hands tied by the toy company. Honestly the stuff that Wowwee makes is really impressive. They have several flying toys that just look amazing. The Rovio, which is an amazing "telepresence" device(Spy robot), looks so great, and apparently has an exposed API(At this point I don't know if it's vaporware like the SDK for Media RS, or not).
So this leaves me with looking at other Robotics Platforms, and most of them to be honest are just laptops with wheels...and I can do that. The Nao is awesome, but could be vaporware until the public can buy them. I am starting from scratch, which sucks because I have a nil rating on mechanical engineering skills....**sigh**.

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