Aibo Pros and Cons

Hello Everyone,
We are currently planning an undergraduate seminar and project on machine learning and robotics, and the main question for us is which
robot(s) we should buy for this purpose.
One of the plans is to work with legged robots, and therefore the idea of purchasing a Sony Aibo came up. Since we do not have any experience with this robot I would be very thankful for your comments on the Aibo in general and especially on the following questions.
1. Is the Aibo suitable for real robotics and machine learning research, or is it more a toy? (yes I am asking for your personal opinion!)
2. I know that some groups are working with the Aibo for research, but I am not sure where the real experts are located, and what kind of research they are doing on the Aibo.
3. In the specifications of Sony they say that the operating system takes care of posture control. Doesn't that limit the kind of movements that you can do with this robot? And how much of the resources does this posture control take away?
4. Do you have experiences with the quality of the sensors and cameras?
5. Is the Aibo robust enough to use it for an undergraduate seminar, or is it likely to be damaged soon?
6. What are the alternatives if we want to use legged robots? Parallax offers the Toddler and HexCrawler, are those the only ready-to-buy legged robots? Can you build legged Lego Mindstorms? And what is your opinion on these alternatives?
7. And finally, since the Aibo is quite expensive, we can probably only buy one or two of them. But I have the impression that nowadays robotics research is more focused on teams of robots. So, in my personal opinion it would make more sense to buy a larger number of cheaper robots like Mindstorms, Khepera, .... even if they have wheels instead of legs.Would you agree to that?
Thanks for all of your comments!
Michael
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Michael Pfeiffer
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See http://www.lynxmotion.com

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I too have seen researchers using the Aibo as a test platform, although mainly for robotic soccer. While the Aibo is unquestionable a complex piece of mechanical and software engineering, I'm of the opinion that it's still just a toy.

Any robot, legged or otherwise, when handled improperly can be damaged.

It seems you're looking for a ready-made platform but one that's still configurable enough to run experiments on. Aibo is a consumer device and was never really designed to allow easy hacking and reprogramming, although that's certainly still possible. A quick Google search shows plenty of resources, such as www.aibohack.com.
If you want more freedom in the design and programming of the bot, as well as a cheaper price, you might try one of the kits over at www.lynxmotion.com. Their platforms are more robust, however you'll have to provide most of the electronics and sensors. As a general rule, I avoid Parallax like the plague, if just for their ridiculously high prices.
For an undergraduate class, most schools choose the Mindstorms route. They're reasonably cheap, infinitly configurable, designed as an educational tool, and are practically impossible to break by clumsy undergrads. I'm not a huge fan of Mindstorms, but legged locomotion is probably beyond the scope and capabilities of an undergraduate course.
Sincerely, Chris S.
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Sony does donate Aibo's to some uni's. Worth a try anyway.
That is how the IT department at the uni I'm at got some. Rather pissed the Engineering department off. Especially as a majority of the students involved are from the Engineering faculty.
Aibo's are used for robotic socer so should be robust enough as long as you have some handling guidlines.
Alex
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Hi there,
I was doing my thesis at Sony Man Machine Interface Lab for six months but was more into the speech technologies basically for emotion recognition. Sony's main research centre in Europe is based in Stuttgart in Germany and research on Aibo is carried out for speech,emotion recognition as well nanotechnology sensors for smell discrimination and probably more which i dont know of...
From what I saw of the Aibo i wasn't too impressed actually. Maybe I expected more limb control. With regards to the speech section I would think that the team here in Stutgart is one of the best in their line of work.
Hope this helps you. Kind Regards, Rohan De Sa Software Developer Evotec Technologies rohan_dsa at yahoo dot com
rohan_dsa at yahoo dot com

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