"If you think robotics is in its infancy, then you don't realize the many robotic applications that surround you," Scope director David Barrett said in a guest keynote address last month at the NI Week conference. "Robotics is being applied in the military, in industries and at the consumer level."
Barrett has more than 25 years of experience in the robotics industry, having worked at iRobot Corp., Walt Disney Imagineering Corp., the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and MIT's Charles Stark Draper Laboratory. In his NI week speech, he argued that robotics could be the world's next disruptive technology, noting that the proliferation of robotics is happening now and that robots are already being deployed for potentially life-saving tasks, ranging from assisting with surgical procedures to filling in for human workers in dangerous work environments.
At Olin College, Vision Robotics Corp. is working with a Scope team on a solution to the U.S. agricultural labor shortages that could result from more stringent immigration laws. VRC is developing a two-robot system for harvesting fruit in orchards. The first robot, the Scout, identifies and locates all fruit on a given tree; the second robot uses that information to harvest the ripe fruit.
The Scope team developed a picking device, or end effector, that functions as part of the fruit harvesting robot. After evaluation, the VRC Scope team redesigned the mechanism used to remove the fruit from the tree and delivered a working prototype to VRC.
An educational project with potential practical applicability targets the excavation task in life-saving rescue missions. Designers from Nanyang Poly- technic in Singapore, Schmid Engineering in Switzerland and Analog Devices Inc. in the United States developed a highly mobile robotic spider with six independent legs that let the machine move in an omnidirectional fashion, even on terrain where robotic movement normally is not possible or is too risky.
With three legs moving and three lifted, the robot can reach the desired walking speed and achieve the equilibrium required for traversing harsh terrain. When creeping, it can squeeze through tight spaces and narrow slots, according to the designers, who presented their results at NI Week. The leg mechanics and motion control are powered by 24 dc brush motors.
The spider includes typical autono- mous robotic subsystems such as machine vision, distance metrics and wireless communications. Future versions will target improved image processing, pattern matching and edge detection.
Dissecting the bot
Drafted for duty