Roomba is a reasonably clever robot. Heck, for a vacuum, it's
downright brilliant. Compared to other robots, though, it's lacking some
sensors and skills that are starting to become basic. Roomba could use a
new brain, and since it's a robot you can actually just go and give it one.
Brainlink is a little piece of hardware that can augment (or replace)
the brain that's currently powering your robot. Any robot actually, as long
as it's controllable with an IR remote or a serial connector or some other
common type of interface. Brainlink itself (the plastic triangle thingy in the
photo) talks to your Android phone (or a computer) via Bluetooth,
enabling programming and wireless control of whatever it's attached to.
In addition to providing a new programming interface for robots that
may not come with one, Brainlink can also be configured to use a wide
variety of sensors. A three-axis accelerometer and a light sensor are built in, and there's a whole heap of digital and analog
connectors that make it easy to plug in, for example, proximity sensors to keep your Roomba from running into stuff.
The overall idea with Brainlink is that there are a bunch of robots out there available for very cheap with fundamentally
sort of decent hardware, but no easy way to get them to do what you want. Brainlink provides these less-than-clever robots
with a new level of usefulness that makes them suitable for anyone with desire and some basic programming skills to mess
with.A Brainlink module will set you back $125, but I'd say that's not too much to ask for a brand new brain, right?
Meet an abstract female humanoid robot named OriHime. It was created by Kentaro Yoshifuji — a four-year Engineering
student at Waseda University — who felt compelled to build a new kind of communication robot. After graduating high
school, Kentaro took an interest in artificial intelligence. Therapeutic robots like the baby seal Paro were being introduced in
hospitals, so he thought maybe a robot could become a kind of artificial friend.After volunteering in hospitals and interacting
with people, he realized that they really wanted to connect with other people.
While robotic wheelchairs, beds, and other equipment give more freedom to hospital patients, many still feel isolated and
lonely. Young people with chronic illnesses can spend a lot of time in hospitals, and because they don’t attend school they
don’t get the chance to make many friends. As the elderly population increases and the traditional family home becomes
fragmented, people tend to communicate less and less. His solution was a robot equipped with a camera so that a human
operator could see a live video feed using an Internet connection. By building a humanoid robot “avatar” capable of a variety
of expressions and gestures, the feeling of communication could go beyond a simple telephone call to a sense of physical
Design-wise he says he had no knowledge of
humanoid robots, and didn’t take much interest in
science fiction stories growing up. Everything
except the servo motors had to be built from
scratch through trial and error. Its face was kept
simple on purpose, with eyes based on a feline.
Rather than showing emotion through the face —
which he admits looks a bit scary — the robot’s
whole body conveys the operator’s mood. As a
result, even a blank face begins to take on a
certain character. He studied dancers and mimes
at a festival and tried to incorporate the feeling of
their movements into the robot. Technical details
are scant, but it was actually completed in 2009,
stands approximately 60 cm ( 2') tall, and has 24-26
degrees of freedom, depending on the
22 SERVO 02.2012