Sensors For Mobile Robots -— Part 4
FIGURE 10. Early PrimeSense sensors.
The Microsoft Kinect
That Started It All
I described some basic features and operation of the
original Kinect in this column about a year ago, but the
best way to learn anything in detail these days is to use a
search engine. There is a tremendous amount of
information available. The whole concept of this intelligent
sensor was developed by an Israeli company called
PrimeSense. Before their systems were developed and
improved, most gestural control systems were based on the
time-of-flight method I mentioned earlier. PrimeSense’s
method encodes information in light patterns as it goes
out, and the deformation of those patterns is what the
camera looks for. Two early examples of their sensor are
shown in Figure 10. PrimeSense showed off a next-generation TV interface at the 2012 CES that lets you
control your TV experience with a wave of your hand.
They’ve also licensed the technology to Asus.
Microsoft Kinect sensor. One was the TurtleBot developed
at Willow Garage, headed by President and CEO Steve
Cousins. Willow Garage develops cutting-edge hardware
such as the PR- 2 and TurtleBot, and open source software
such as ROS for personal robotics applications.
The second robot was Eddie, co-developed by Parallax
for the platform, and Microsoft for the RDS (Robotics
Developer Studio) software. Both robots are shown in
Figure 11. Eddie (on the left) is equipped with the newer
Kinect for Windows and the TurtleBot (on the right) uses
the original Kinect for the Xbox 360 gaming system. Both
robots can be made to operate with either of the sensors
with some software changes and can also be made to use
either the ROS or RDS operating systems.
Kinect for Robots
In this year’s January and February columns, I wrote
about two entirely different robots that both use the
Kinect for Xbox vs. Kinect
In the past year, I have used each of these sensors on
both robots, as well as bench tested them with TV
interconnection. I’ll be the first to admit that software and
programming are not on the top of the list of my talents.
Jessica Ulemen — Engineering Manager at Parallax — was
most accommodating to me during my learning curve for
the RDS and the SDK (Software Development
Kit) as applied to Eddie and the Kinect sensor.
The Microsoft team was undergoing some
personnel leadership changes within the
robotics group, but I was always able to
locate and communicate with someone who
could steer me in the right direction.
Kinect for Windows (K4W) was not
developed for robotic purposes and, in fact,
Microsoft never intended the original Kinect
to be anything but a game peripheral. As we
all know, many people into robotics jumped
on this unique sensor as the eyes for their
potential robot. The Kinect for Windows is
not a typical consumer product like the
original, but is a programmer’s development
tool and is marketed as such. The new Kinect
FIGURE 11. The Parallax Eddie and
Willow Garage TurtleBot.
78 SERVO 09.2012