Carnegie Mellon Researchers Develop Palm Pilot Robot

Byron SpiceTuesday, November 14, 2000

Carnegie Mellon Researchers Develop Palm Pilot Robot And License It to Acroname, Inc., for Commercialization PITTSBURGH Researchers at Carnegie Mellon Universitys Robotics Institute, working in the toy and entertainment area, have developed an easy-to-build, autonomous robot controlled by a Palm handheld computer. The system, originally built with off- the-shelf components, has been commercialized by Acroname, Inc., of Boulder, Colo., which is selling it in a kit.

"The Palm Pilot Robot was created to enable just about anyone to start building and programming mobile robots at a modest cost," said Illah Nourbakhsh, assistant professor of robotics and head of the institutes Toy Robots Initiative. "The Palm makes a handy robot controller. It packs a lot of computational power in a small size, runs on batteries, and best of all, can display graphics and an interactive user interface."

Robotic elements built into the base on which the Palm sits empower it to move about on flat surfaces and sense its nearby surroundings. The base is equipped with three "omni-wheels" with independent control of rotation that allow movement in any direction. The base also incorporates three optical range sensors, enabling the palm robot to "see" the world up to about a meter away and sense nearby obstacles and walls.

Complete construction plans and software for the Palm Pilot Robot are documented on its Web can be downloaded and installed directly on the Palm. The source code is also available and can be modified, compiled and installed on the Palm as well. In addition, there are libraries that greatly simplify the programming of the robot.

Nourbakhsh collaborated on the development of the Palm Pilot Robot with Computer Science Professor Matthew T. Mason and his laboratory assistant, Grigoriy Reshko, a freshman in Carnegie Mellons School of Computer Science.

The project grew out of earlier work in Masons Manipulation Laboratory where he and Reshko were developing easy and inexpensive rapid prototyping of small robots using simple construction techniques and plastic gear motors.

Mason had envisioned a small tabletop robot that could tidy up a desk. Nourbakhsh was thinking of something students could use in a high school setting, and the 17-year-old Reshko had the mindset and technical expertise to combine their visions. When Reshko had ironed the bugs out of the robot a couple weeks ago, he released a pilot version at his Web site, which has since received more than 150,000 hits.

Acroname is a six-year-old company whose goal is to make robotics easier by providing parts and descriptions for better robots. Descriptions of their products and information on robotics can be found at their Web

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