Autonomous Golf Cart from NUS

National University of Singapore(NUS) is working on developing autonomous vehicles that can be used for urban systems of the future. The aim of the project is to achieve autonomous navigation with the lowest cost allowable without sacrificing the robustness and reliability of the system.

This is autonomous golf cart equipped with 3 LIDAR on the vehicle for feature detection, curb detection and obstacle avoidance. Other sensors used on the cart are is the camera and the odometry system. This allows the cart to localize it’s position and navigation autonomously. The video shows the cart has the ability to perform SLAM and handle human traffic in a low traffic place like the university.

The Google autonomous car has set very high standards for autonomous navigation with features within the system to plan it’s actions at road junctions and real life traffic conditions. This might come at a high cost given the sensors that are used on the google car. NUS hopes to lower the cost of development. There are uses for autonomous vehicles within pretty controlled environments like university campuses and small towns.

Rio Omni-directional Mobile Base by A*STAR

ASORO, A*STAR Social Robotics, has developed a interactive mobile platform called Rio. The entire base was developed from scratch and it runs on the ROS platform. The user is able to use speech recognition to command the robot remotely. There are many other abilities that are not featured.

The aim of the project is to develop a low cost general mobile base. It is compatible with ROS and that enables developer to use this platform together with manipulators and other hardware that is compatible to perform much more.

One of the projects they are working on is using the Microsoft Kinect for human detection and tracking.

Telepresence – the Next Big Thing After Roomba?

Grishin Robotics invests USD250,000 in Double Robotics, an interesting telepresence robot company that uses the iPad as an interface. There are a few telepresence robotics company around but this one has caught the interest in Grishin. There’s a lot of potential in developing for mobile platforms and it’s one of the first integrations of the current big thing, mobile devices, and the next big thing – robotics. With the price tag of $1,999, there are many people who can afford this. It cost less than 2 iPhone 5s.

Grishin Robotics is an investment company founded by Dmitry Grishin, the Russian Co-founder and Chairman of They have already invested USD 25 million in various companies waiting for the next big boom in technology – Robotics.


“Baxter” Revealed


Industrial robotics has changes the way it looks. Baxter is the much awaited robot developed by Rethink Robotics. It a lower cost robot that will be easier to deploy and more flexible than the robots that are now in the market. This configuration is not new as we have seen this in the past. Foxconn has plans to launch a similar robot in coming years and the Yaskawa Robot, not to mention the ones found in the research labs.

At USD22,000, this is not a large investment for companies if it doesn’t require a drastic change to the existing workflow. It will be interesting to see how intelligence and perception will enable Baxter to work with the people around him. This is how they plan to reduce the accuracy and precision required by industrial robots. Brooks has a lot of experience in dealing with this aspect of robotics – Behavioral robotics. With the revolution on the software side with Willow Garage’s Robot Operating System (ROS) and the other projects at the Open Source Robotics Foundation, it’s going to see how this non-proprietary “robot intelligence” will push robots into our daily lives.

Rethink hopes to target the small-scale manufacturers where flexibility matters, where they are still reliant on their human workforce. With it’s current price tag and ease of implement, the barriers for entry is greatly reduced. The Baxtor is a made in USA robot. Various parts have been optimised to reduce the cost of the robot by looking into novel methods of manufacturing the parts.

Article at IEEE Spectrum

Robotics Cloud Services

Bossa Nova Robotics has it’s beginning in Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. They have deployed Robotics Cloud Services (RCS), a platform where many robots run web services. This allows control and monitoring of the robots remotely, allowing users to analyze data and assess not only the overall situation but how each robot is doing.

Bossa Nova Robotics mainly tries to bring expensive robot technology into the real world but making it useful at affordable prices. Robotics is at this stage now. There are many matured technologies but still out of reach for the common person. I am glad to see that they have done a project with the RHex, one of my favourite robots.

Article at IEEE Spectrum about cloud robotics.

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Latest Update on Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog

This is the latest update on the Big Dog or the Legged Squad Support System (LS3). Sensors and a touch screen is now mounted on the front of the robot with a rounded base to allow it to better recover from a fall or rest position. The Dog now has a LIDAR and a stereo camera that allows for better perception of the environment and the people around it. to With the added hardware, the robot is now able to perform human following and it should be moving towards making decisions that will make it more useful than a mule. Another improvement is that the robot is now quieter than the older version. This is a really stable platform for the given environment. Kudos to Boston Dynamics.

These slides give an overview of the Big Dog.

Camera Tracks Ping Pong Ball at 1,000 fps

We have seen many vision based tracking system but this is one technology that amazes me.

Professor Masatoshi Ishikawa from the University of Tokyo has developed a pan-tilt unit for a 1,000Hz camera for tracking the ball but instead of moving the camera, 2 mirrors are used to reduce the weight of the system for it to perform such agile and high speed motion. This is explained on their site.

The following tracking is also done in the lab but with the camera mounted on the pan-tilt unit. The weight of the moving camera does matter when it concerns high speed tracking.

Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF)

Willow Garage has been spearheading the push of open source software for use in the robotics community. Robot Operating System (ROS) has been used widely in the research community and it’s interesting how researcher can share their work globally and how this community not only helps to grow the functions of robots but also improve the robustness of the algorithms.

Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF) was formed as a bigger umbrella to take care projects like ROS and Gazebo to unify the use of the platforms and also to educate the users of the platform. These evangelistic or consultants will preach the good news and they will be the eyes and ears on the ground to find out the needs of robotics as a whole globally.

Posted in ROS