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Industrial Calibration Library Update and Presentation

 − at 07:54, 21. Oct. 2014

from Paul Hvass, via ros-users@

By Dr. Chris Lewis, SwRI: Robotics and automation systems are increasingly reliant on both 2D and 3D imaging systems  to provide both perception and pose estimation. Calibration of these camera/robot systems is necessary, time consuming, and often a poorly executed process for registering image data to the physical world. SwRI is continuing to develop the industrial calibration library to provide tools for state-of-the-art calibration with the goal to provide reliably accurate results for non-expert users. Using the library, system designers may script a series of observations that ensure sufficient diversity of data to guarantee system accuracy. Often interfaces to motion devices such as robots may be included to fully automate the calibration procedure. 
As a vision systems developer one may ask the following questions with regards to both intrinsic and extrinsic camera calibration.
  1. How many images of the calibration target are needed?
  2. At what ranges?
  3. At what angles?
  4. How many near the center of the field of view vs at the edges?
  5. What accuracy is achievable?
  6. What accuracy was achieved?

With our framework, a user may rapidly explore these questions.

Our framework is built using Google's Ceres Solver which is a state of the art non-linear optimization tool specifically designed to solve Bundle Adjustment problems efficiently. Our framework consists of five main parts.

  1. The main script processing code which
    • Collects observations
    • Runs the optimization
    • Installs the results
  2. A library of Ceres compatible cost functions.
  3. The camera observer interface which ties your cameras to the system and automatically triggers the camera and locates common calibration targets within specified regions of interest.
  4. The scene trigger interface which provides interfaces to motion hardware such as robots. It may also serve to communicate with users to specify how to configure each scene.
  5. Transform interfaces which provide the means by which kinematic values may be fed into and out of the calibration system. Updates to these extrinsic kinematic parameters is immediate and persistent.

Using this framework, we have demonstrated three distinctly different calibrations:

  • Extrinsic calibration of a camera mounted on the tool of a robot
  • Extrinsic calibration of a network of cameras
  • Extrinsic calibration of a static camera to a robot

In addition, the ROS-I team is currently developing an intrinsic calibration script whereby a robot moves the calibration target to create a repeatable set of calibration images. In the near future, we will be developing kinematic calibration procedures for robots using cameras to better estimate robotic joint parameters.

[original entry]

3 Kids from the Bronx Help to Design Shells for the HR-OS1

 − at 02:09, 21. Oct. 2014

bronxnet video

The 21st Century Robot project wants to create ‘A Robot Built By All of Us”. One great example of this is a recent project built around the HR-OS1 Humanoid Endoskeleton. Intel chose 3 students from the Bronx to work with 3d Designers to create custom shells for the HR-OS1. The result are the three robots Jason, Callim and Ritz Bitz. Check out
this great video from BronxNet that shows off the robots and the kids that helped to design them. You can even catch a glimpse of the Trossen Team in action!

You can see more about the genesis of these robots on the 21st Century Robot Blog

[original entry]

The Maritime RobotX Challenge Starts Today!

 − at 01:04, 21. Oct. 2014

The AUVSI Foundation is well known for running many international student robotics competitions. The RoboSub competition is one of the largest outdoor international competitions that has been running annually since 1998. In this competition, university students must build a fully autonomous robotic vehicle to complete an obstacle course underwater. In 2008, the AUVSI Foundation started the RoboBoat competition in which students must build a robot to similarly complete an obstacle course but on the surface of the water.

Maritime RobotX Challenge

As of today, the Maritime RobotX Challenge has started in Singapore, which is the newest competition launched by the AUVSI Foundation. The tasks of this competition are inspired from both the RoboBoat and RoboSub competitions, however their scales are much more significant and they will take place in open water, instead of controlled environments.

To help students deal with the magnitude of the challenges of this competition, instead of having to design and build their own vehicles, the RobotX Challenge is providing teams with a new WAM-V USVx boat designed for this competition. The boat is an articulated catamaran (Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel) that is 4 metres long, 2.5 metres wide, and 1.3 metres tall (13x8x4 feet) and can support up to 136 kg (300 lbs) of additional payload.



The boat however is only a frame, and it needs to be augmented and turned into a robot by the teams: they need to build and add a propulsion system (convenient attachment points are provided), they need to conceive and assemble the electrical and power systems, they need to choose and install the computer and sensor systems, and they need to design and implement the control systems and mission planning software. To help teams with these augmentations, the competition provides a $25,000 stipend.

There are fifteen teams registered in the competition — 3 teams from each Australia, Japan, South Singapore, Korea, and USA — who have been working hard on their robots since they received their WAM-Vs last November.

The tasks that the robots need to complete autonomously are:

  1. Demonstrate Navigation and Control: Navigate in a straight line between two sets of gates.
  2. Underwater Search and Report: Identify and locate an underwater pinger.
  3. Identify Symbol and Dock: Dock the robot in one of three bays determined by their symbols.
  4. Observe and Report: Find a light buoy and determine its light sequence.
  5. Detect and Avoid Obstacles: Navigate through a field of random obstacles.

Points are awarded based on the robots ability to complete of each task. The first task is mandatory for qualification, but the four other tasks are optional. In addition to these water-based tasks, the teams must also make a website, journal paper, and presentation (the land-based tasks) describing how they designed their robots. These will also be judged and included in the team’s scoring. For more information, see the rules and tasks document (24-page PDF; 2MB).

Right now, teams are being judged on their land-based tasks, and are doing some last-minute testing in their free time. The qualification round will start on Thursday October 23rd, with the final round on Sunday October 26th. The RobotX website will have daily recaps, and a live webcast of the finals: we are looking forward to seeing how the teams perform! In you’re the Marina Bay area, don’t hesitate to go see the competition yourself!


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[original entry]

Machine-Learning Maestro Michael Jordan on the Delusions of Big Data and Other Huge Engineering Efforts

 − at 21:37, 20. Oct. 2014

Big-data boondoggles and brain-inspired chips are just two of the things we’re really getting wrong

[original entry]

Real Robots to Help Fight Ebola

 − at 15:45, 20. Oct. 2014

Robots aren't ready to help fight ebola right now, but within a few months, they might be

[original entry]

Empire: Four Kingdoms – Update

 − at 20:28, 19. Oct. 2014

New Patch – 2014-10-16

Max level increased to 70 and new upgrade levels!

  • You can get new quests to reach the new maximum level of 70 and to unlock new upgrade levels

  • From level 68 to 70 there will be new upgrade levels for the moat, gate, towers and your keep

  • From level 65 you can upgrade your tavern to level 4. this will unlock more agents

  • From level 43 you can upgrade the encampment to level 4 and unlock more commanders

  • From level 18 and 28 you can upgrade the hideout to level 2 and 3

  • The architect gives you the chance to upgrade your woodcutter, stonemason, dwelling, town house and market place


Exchange kingdoms resources with valuable rewards!

  • The new kingdoms offer you new resources (coal, olive oil and glass)

  • You can spend the new resources at the native people’s village for some nice rewards

  • The rewards can be valuable units and unique equipment

  • You can’t send the new resources to other castles or in other kingdoms but you can loot them from other players

  • In every kingdom there will be a production and a further processing building for the new resources


Accomplish missions at the mercenary camp!

  • Mercenaries have set up a camp in front of your castle!

  • You can start missions from there and earn rewards

  • To start the missions you need coins and to get the reward you just have to wait for the time period of the the mission to finish

  • There are various quality levels for the missions. The higher the level of quality, the better rewards you will receive, at an increased cost and waiting time

  • There are also free missions, you only have to wait for it to finish to get your reward

  • Rubies can be used to speed the missions up

  • 6 missions can be done every 6 hours. If you cant finish all of them, the old ones will be replaced with new ones

  • You can use rubies to change a mission to another random mission. But you can’t accomplish more than 6 missions

  • The rewards of a mission can be units, tools or equipment


New login bonus!

  • A new login bonus will show up on your very first daily login

  • You can open 3 of 9 closed chests

  • In those chests can be various nice rewards, for example units, tools, rubies and equipment

  • You can get keys with rubies to open more chests

  • If you login several days in a row, the chests and the rewards will be bigger and more valuable

  • If you miss one day, you have to start over with small chests


New rewards: mint and ruby mine!

  • Every now and then the player can get a special offer with these new rewards

  • If you have bought some rubies you can get the mint as a thank you gift. Every day you can visit the mint to grab coins as long as its supply lasts

  • You can get the ruby mine for rubies. Here you can grab rubies once a day as long as the supply lasts. That way you will get more rubies out of it as you originally paid for it


Accomplish the daily quests and get a strong reward every day!

  • The Quest-log offers you a list of daily quests. Every accomplishment gives you 5 activity points

  • If you reach enough activity points you can grab various rewards

  • There are rewards for 15, 30, 50, 70 and 80 activity points

  • A daily quest can be the defeat of a robber baron castle, to collect glory points or taxes

  • Some of the daily quests require you to unlock other kingdoms, therefore lower level players can’t get all of the activity points

  • The difficulty of the daily quests and the rewards rise with the players level

  • As a daily reward you can’t just get coins but also resources, equipment and strong elite units


Other changes:

  • In the notification options you can disable/enable forwarded battlelogs from your alliance members

  • New players will get an extra login bonus for the first 7 days

  • If you reach a new glory rank, the glory dialogue opens up so new players can easily get used to this function of the game

  • The resource trader offers you a special package, which stocks your whole storage to max capacity

  • Players at level 5 will get a time challenge. They have to get to level 10 within a few days and can unlock a reward afterwards

  • The armourer offers you a new banner which grants you a higher glory points bonus

  • In the special offers you can now click on the random equipments to obtain information on this feature

  • The existing 2 upgrade levels of the guard tower were split into 5 upgrade levels. Players who already have a guard tower level 1 will automatically have it upgraded to level 3 and upgrade level 2 will be automatically level 5 in your castle. Therefore you don’t receive less of a warning bonus than before

  • The game has a new soundtrack!

  • We did some performance optimizations for the scroll lists in-game, they work faster now

  • We fixed a bug that forced the game to crash due to full memory

  • You can now select the kings tower in the location list, if you own one or more of them

  • There are new hint messages each player can get at certain events. For example: If you lose an attack for the first time, you will get a message with the advice to spy on your enemy before you attack

Here is the official update post on the forums.

Here are my thoughts on the updates.

Level 70:  I think this is good.  I’m already seeing players in the upper 60’s since the update.

Exchange Resources: This is going to take awhile.  You need to build up the resource production building, so you can then exchange those resources for goods.   From what I’ve seen… the rewards are expensive.

Mercenary Camp: I like this one.  Free items for the Zero Coin missions.  I haven’t yet found a paid mission I think is worth it.  Keep in mind… I’m not a ruby player, so coins are hard to come by.

Login Bonus:  I *love*this one.  Free stuff, just for playing!

Mines:  Meh… Again, I’m not a ruby player… so spending cash to get these is not my idea of a good deal.

Daily Quests:  Again.. more free stuff, and relatively easy to earn the 50 points reward.  70 and 80 require you to have Ice (Everwinter) and fire/sands (Fire Peaks and Burning Sands).

Other Changes: I like the changes for low-level new players.  The lists fix is also nice (lists are faster now).  I did find a bug in the “smithy equipment” list… but I can live with it until they fix it.

Final Notes:  I like the changes.  I think its a good step for Goodgame Studios, and I think it will help both the lower level players, and those who had hit the cap (60).

The post Empire: Four Kingdoms – Update appeared first on Brick Labs.

[original entry]

Robots Podcast #167: Engaging girls in robotics

 − at 16:38, 19. Oct. 2014

Hannah & Rachel Tipperman with Robot Springboard banner

In episode #167 AJung Moon brings together three interviews relating to promoting the involvement of girls and women in robotics, and STEM generally. In the first interview, Hannah and Rachel Tipperman, a pair of seventeen year olds who are cofounders of Robot Springboard and its offshoot BrightStart Robotics, tell how they became involved in robotics and how they've gone on to make similar experiences available to others. Then, Ross Mead, a Ph.D student in computer science at USC shares his enthusiasm for engaging underrepresented populations in robotics, and how he became involved in this effort. Finally, Prof. Elizabeth Croft, founder of Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science, and Technology (WWEST) shares from her abundant experience as an engineer, an educator, and a professional leader.

Read On | Tune In

[original entry]

Phidgets Lesson 2: Running the Examples

 − at 18:02, 17. Oct. 2014

Phidgets Lesson 2


Phidgets supports a variety of languages, but before you start programming, you’ll need to get the library for the language you like working in, which can be found on the language pages on While you’re there, you’ll also find the code examples and an in-depth API.

The C library comes with the drivers you installed in Phidgets Lesson 1. So, for this lesson, we’ll run those examples. This should get you started and ensure the Phidgets are working. You can refer to the resources provided by Phidgets to run examples in the other languages.

  1. Download the example code and unpack the downloaded file, which has the Phidget generic C examples.
  2. On Linux and OSX, open a terminal window and go to the directory where the examples are unpacked, then compile the HelloWorld.c example:
    On Linux:

      gcc HelloWorld.c -o HelloWorld -lphidget21

    On Mac:

      gcc example.c -o example -F/Library/Frameworks -framework Phidget21 -I/Library/Frameworks/Phidget21.framework/Headers

    On Windows, you can use Visual Studio to open the examples. To load all projects in Visual Studio, go to File → Project → Solution, and open Visual Studio Phidgets Examples.sln in the VCpp folder of the examples. (Since the examples were written in Visual Studio 2005, if you are opening the examples in Visual Studio 2008/2010, you will need to go through the Visual Studio Conversion Wizard to open and convert the 2005 project.)

  3. Run the HelloWorld example.
    On Linux (The sudo is needed for USB access for now, see “Setting udev Rules” for how to change this):

      sudo ./HelloWorld

    On Mac:


    On Windows, in Visual Studio, click on Debug → Start Debugging. The projects, by default, try to find the phidget21.h and phidget21.lib in the $(SystemDrive)\Program Files\Phidgets. If you have these files installed in another location, please change the path to the file’s location accordingly.

    Running a Phidgets Example in Visual Studio 2005

    The HelloWorld program will simply print out basic information for any device you plug in, and print a message upon unplugging the device. The output will look something like this:

     Press Enter to end
     Hello to Device Phidget InterfaceKit 8/8/8, Serial Number: 37299
     Goodbye Device Phidget InterfaceKit 8/8/8, Serial Number: 37299

Examples are provided for most Phidget devices. You can compile and run each with the process enumerated above.

Phidgets supports a variety of languages. If you’re not programming in C, you’ll need to get the library for the language you’re using before you start. The libraries can be found on the language pages on When you’re there, you’ll also find the code examples and an in-depth API.

Now, it’s on to writing your own code. You can use the examples as a guide for your project. In later lessons, we’ll explore some of the functions, data structures and classes to give you an idea of all that can be done with Phidgets.


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[original entry]

Phidgets Lesson 1: Installing Phidgets Drivers

 − at 18:00, 17. Oct. 2014

Phidgets Lesson 1


Phidgets are easy to use sensors and controllers for programmers. After just a bit of coding, you’ll have your computer connected to the real world via an assortment of sensors as well as motors, relays, remote control, RFID, LEDs and more! But first, you’ll need to get the drivers installed, and luckily, it will take less than 5 minutes.

  1. Download the appropriate Phidgets driver for your operating system from
    • If you’re on Windows or Mac, open the installer you just downloaded. A wizard will guide you through the installation.
    • If you’re using Linux, use apt-get to install libusb-1.0-0-dev, if you don’t have it already. (Note that libusb-1.0 may be on your system already, but the development libraries probably aren’t.) Navigate to the directory where you unpacked the Phidget libraries. From the main unpacked library directory first run ./configure, then make and finally sudo make install.
  2. Now that the Phidgets drivers are installed, let’s do some quick tests to make sure the installation worked. First plug in one of your USB devices (like an interface kit, which is what we’ll use in this example).
    • On Windows, go to the Windows Device Manager, then to Devices and Printers (this is for Windows 7 and exact naming may be different on your computer). A list of all the connected devices should appear, and if you scroll down, any connected Phidgets should be listed under the section titled “unspecified”.
    • On Mac, go to “About This Mac” and click on more info, then system report. Under hardware, click on USB and there you can see that a Phidget device is connected.
    • On Linux, you can use the kernal log reader dmesg. Pipe the output of the dmesg into the utility tail to read the last ten lines of the log:
      $> dmesg | tail
      ....(9 lines)....
      [24344.013638] usb 2-1.2: new low speed USB device number 5 using ehci_hcd

      The number between the square brackets is the system time in seconds since the last boot up, so you can tell whether the event was recent or not.

    If the Phidget device is not showing up, then check these general troubleshooting tips, or these specific ones for Linux.

  3. If you’ve got it working, it’s time to try out the software. The Windows and Mac installation come with a Control Panel app that offers a quick check that your devices are connected. For Linux, we’ll use the examples to check that everything is working fine, which will be covered in the next lesson.
    • On Windows, you should see the Ph.jpg icon in the taskbar. Double click on it to bring up the Phidget Control Panel. If the icon does not appear, just find and open the Phidget Control Panel from the start menu.
    • On a Mac, open up your System Preferences. You should see a Phidgets icon in the “Other” section at the bottom.  Clicking on it will open the Phidgets Control Panel.
      OSX System Preferences with Phidgets Installed
  4.  If you have devices connected, they’ll show up in the Control Panel. As you can see in the General tab, we’re working with an RFID 2-output and Phidget InterfaceKit 8/8/8.
    Windows Control PanelOSX Phidgets Preference Pane
  5. Double click on the Phidget device you want to play with. The software will be able to control outputs (like LEDs) and respond to inputs (like sensors or RFID chips). If the Phidget device is not showing up or working properly, then check these troubleshooting tips.
    Windows RFID Control Panel OSX RFID Control Panel

That was easy! You’ve already got to see your Phidgets interacting with the real world, but there’s more we can do. Let’s check out the examples in Lesson 2.


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[original entry]

Video Friday: Keecker Not a Robot, Drone Racing, and Robotics Tipping Point

 − at 16:51, 17. Oct. 2014

Your weekly dose of robot videos

[original entry]