translating the notes into instrumentation by the
The team would have to use an inexpensive web
cam and a common laptop instead of the costly, high
frame rate camera and high speed controller device
used by NI. The students were concerned the camera
might not be fast enough to pick up all the notes and
that the laptop might not be fast enough to process
the vision task and control the robot’s fingers (guitar
Fortunately, Team Titanium was able to use NI’s
LabVIEW industrial control software which helped the
team in producing their FIRST competition robots. The
software includes video and vision tools and libraries,
but would that be enough to create sufficient
programming to recognize all the notes and outgoing
signals for each note?
The web camera mounted in front of the TV where the
notes are displayed.
A Glimmer of Hope
off: a Guitar Hero playing machine,” says Jeff Spatz, head
coach of the high school Team Titanium.
The NI system used an industrial machine vision
camera, a high speed controller, and a complex pneumatics
system to play the plastic guitar as part of the famous video
game. The NI robot used the camera to read the notes
rolling off the TV screen so the robot could play them —
and play them quite well.
Building a robot better than that of NI posed several
problems. Cost was a factor, since the high school robotics
team operated on a very limited budget. During the first
stage of development, the team focused on duplicating the
robot’s real-time vision task: seeing, transmitting, and
Within a few short hours of tinkering, the team’s
software writer had a program running. The web cam was
watching the TV screen, the game was running, and the
program was flashing lights on the LabVIEW interface in
tandem with the notes on the screen. “We did not know if
the results were good enough to play the game well, but it
was clearly good enough that we knew the vision task was
within reach,” remarked Spatz.
The robot’s laptop head runs the LabVIEW-based
interface and program for playing Guitar Hero.
12 SERVO 09.2010