geeksunleashed.net - New Website Planned with Robotics Forum

Hi
When I get my own webserver and website, geeksunleashed.net at my parents' house up and running again, there will be forums for people to
use. I guess that the robotics forum could be split into various categories, like Construction, Electronics, Microcontrollers/Microprocessors, Electrical, Sensors & Actuators, Power, etc.
One forum will be for robotics. When people use it, and tell others, it will grow with time and be useful for more people.
When it is up and running, I will make frequent posts here to promote it and to direct people to it.
What do people think about this idea?
Your ideas are valued.
Cheers
:-]
Dale
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So basically what you're saying is that instead of a global, fault tolerant, peer-to-peer message board we should use some message board you have set up on a computer you keep at your parents' house, and we should do that because you are going to spam us?
-chris.
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> So basically what you're saying is that instead of a global, fault > tolerant, peer-to-peer message board we should use some message board > you have set up on a computer you keep at your parents' house, and we > should do that because you are going to spam us? > > -chris. >
Chris
No, that is what you are saying.
If you think it is some kind of conspiracy you are dead wrong.
Before you go shooting your mouth off like a fool and attack the character of a member here you should get your facts staight.
I am no expert in the issues you mentioned, but it sounds like you are.
Maybe you could be so kind as to help me with any technical issue relating to:
1. of using a Fedora Core 4 installation 2. of using Apache HTTP server 3. of using a mature product Joomla to help manage the web site 4. of hosting my own HTTP server at home rather than some server in the      USA, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, or anywhwere else 5. of posting here frequently that the FAQ is hosted on a particular
Website, as is standard practice on Newsgroups.
I have been frequenting this Newsgroup for a number of years on and off, and for those of you that have read my posts here, I have not spammed on a single occasion.
You may also recall that I posted a FAQ authored by a member here on another website some time ago. I contacted that person, obviously a long-standing member, and he was happy for me to post the FAQ, and obviously it served a useful purpose. There was no spam from me then.
The purpose of setting up a HTTP server on my own machine is that of gaining skills with Linux, and just the exercise as a whole - and it's fun and cool. It also costs me $0 as I host the site directly - I don't have to pay for a hosting service, and I can configure the server just the way I choose.
Also, I would like to set up a global community.
Also, it will be set up whether you agree with it or not.
:-]
Dale Stewart
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I don't see any particular advantage to starting yet another robotics newsgroup/forum. There are already so many as is.
-Michael
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Michael wrote:

Well I guess that's the great thing about freedom of speech and expression to offer alternatives to almost any other topic, technology or Website.
:-]
Dale
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Dale T Stewart wrote:

The Internet provides a great platform for anyone to exercise their freedom of speech, but that doesn't mean anyone will listen.
As Michael says, there are so many robotics Web sites already. Most have few members, or at least the forums have few messages. What's the point? Many are set up to sell Google ads with some idea the admins will make money -- which, of course, they don't.
If you're going to start a new forum may I suggest you do something different. In another thread a person was asking about a forum supporting a LOCAL users group. That's something different. A group that discusses only AVR robotics, or submersible robotics, or Microsoft Robotics Studio, that's different. Now, all of these have been done, but surely there's an niche out there not yet exploited.
-- Gordon
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Hi Dale, I hope you'll recall we've always had friendly exchanges, at least that's how I remember our exchanges, so you will understand my tone is intended to be useful criticism. On the whole, I have to agree with Gordon. Every time I hear about this new group or that new group, I cringe. There are enough groups aplenty. Perhaps you recall my thread about DARPA GC killing robotics. The posts here are way down. I argued even though there were many groups added along the way, their posts were down too. So adding one more group to a shrinking pool of participation is a tactic akin to "Divide and Conquer." Best wishes with your effort, but I do not rejoice at having the option of joining some other forum. I'd much rather see your efforts directed here where you are known, than off with a few others to another quiet ending.
-- Randy M. Dumse www.newmicros.com Objects in mirror are more confused than they appear.
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Hi all
Thanks for your feedback everyone.
You make good points that I hadn't thought about.
Maybe I could keep some archived topics from here and as well have a FAQ for noobs that could also include links to other Websites and resources. This would act as a supplement to discussions here. And also have a direction to here!
As the name suggests geeksunleashed! is intended to be a bit of a mixed bag of geeky stuff.
The project was up and running until Apache stopped working after an Email server was installed so I have to resurrect it.
I set it up over the Summer break as a project for something to do, and even if it is not the most awesome site in history, it gives me some basic skills that could prove useful. And if it provides some help to others that's all good.
Cheers
:-]
Dale
RMDumse wrote:

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RMDumse wrote:

I missed that.
Actually, what seems to be killing US hobbyist robotics is that most of the robots aren't much smarter than they were twenty years ago. Really, it's awfully late to be using a Basic Stamp, a machine that predates the Apple II, and Polaroid sonars as dumb echo-rangers, which people were doing in the 1980s.
The parts are out there. Webcams are cheap. Stereo vision software is available for download. Accelerometer chips are cheap, as are rate gyros. R/C servos with real digital interfaces are available. You can buy 22 degree of freedom humanoid robots for about $1000. And R/F data links are easy to obtain.
On the theory side, planning is well understood, SLAM is now understood, and sensor fusion for gyro/accelerometer/compass is well understood. On the tool front, 3D simulators are available. Microsoft even has a whole tool set.
From a hardware perspective, you could put together something with 80-90% of the hardware functionality of an Asimo for under $5K. Maybe less.
And what are we seeing? Battery-Motor-Wheels R/C wedgebots. FIRST, over and over again. Line followers. iRobot's vacuum cleaner as a robotics base. This is not progress.
Went to the Maker Faire in San Mateo yesterday. Huge robotics area, very little novelty. One RoboNova, which wasn't working because its R/C receiver had been pulled for use in a wedgebot. Big Battlebot arena, with the usual R/C things. Yawn.
Check out "http://www.robots-dreams.com ". That's where things are happening.
                    John Nagle
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John Nagle wrote:

John:
While I agree that the pieces are cheap, the system integration is not. Lot's of people have big ideas for robots, but get seriously bogged down in the integration issues. I know that is my current state of affairs.
When it comes to robotics, the conclusion I've come to is that talk is cheap. If you think it is so easy to build an interesting robot for a modest sum of money, please do so and show it to the world. I am personally inviting you to come to one of our HBRC club meetings to show us any robot creation that you want. I would honestly like to see what you can do, since you provide such knowledgable feedback on this list.
The reason why I am in hobby robotics is because it separates the doers from talkers. I'd like to think of myself as a member of camp that gets things done. What camp are you in?
-Wayne
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Wayne C. Gramlich wrote:

Well, I did spend three years running a DARPA Grand Challenge team. We produced a working, but slow, vehicle, which made it to the California Speedway eliminations.
                John Nagle
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John Nagle wrote:

Did you view Overbot to to be an amateur effort? What was your budget? How long was it from the time you bought the vehicle and other pieces until you had working integerated platform? Was it easy? Why do you think it would be so much easier to put together a humaniod robot?
The statement below:
From a hardware perspective, you could put together something with 80-90% of the hardware functionality of an Asimo for under $5K. Maybe less.
If it is so easy, why don't *you* do so and then show us way?
-Wayne
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On Mon, 21 May 2007 05:40:45 GMT, "Wayne C. Gramlich"

It isn't hard, it just requires a little bit of R&D funding.
http://www.bioloid.info/tiki/tiki-index.php?page=BrainEngineering+BrainBot
See also http://www.huv.com/blog
24 DOF (once I add the grippers), stereo vision (wireless), high performance on-board processing (600 MHz gumstix), wifi to host PC, 6-axis IMU, etc.
Later, Jon
-------------------------------------------------------------- Jon Hylands snipped-for-privacy@huv.com http://www.huv.com/jon
Project: Micro Raptor (Small Biped Velociraptor Robot) http://www.huv.com/blog
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Jon Hylands wrote:

There's something wrong with the economics here.
It IS hard to produce something like the Bioloid at an affordable price point. I think the world of the Bioloid platform, and the engineering that went into it was anything but cheap. Yes, any competent manufacturing facility could create it, but the reason more aren't doing it is that they can probably make more money producing something else.
R&D funding requires some expectation that the investors -- private, commercial, or the government -- will get something back. Hobby and educational robotics is a niche market. It's not a dead market, it's a niche market, and the money spent on it is finite.
The fact is, with the exception of a few specialty products like the Roomba, and the high-end R&D platform like the Pioneer, there really is no business in small robots. People build them because of the economies of scale, and naturally they will be limited. When size and budget no longer matter, the Bioloids, the Asimos, the Qrios, and others are possible. Hopefully, someday, the companies that make these will turn a profit on them.
-- Gordon
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On Mon, 21 May 2007 08:20:09 -0700, Gordon McComb

I agree - BrainBot is being funded because the people paying the bills want a small, simple R&D platform so they can do the real research they want to do - AI, vision, object manipulation, walking. You simply can't buy a robot today for less than $50,000 that lets you do that.

I think the point was, technology has gotten to the point where a competent engineer can build a platform that is close to a functionally equivalent to a million dollar platform for under $5000. Until someone writes the software that turns humanoid robots into something truly remarkable, they will remain in the niche category.
I believe that it won't be a giant research lab that cracks the AI puzzle - it will be one or two really smart guys, in a garage somewhere, playing with small advanced robots like the one above.
Later, Jon
-------------------------------------------------------------- Jon Hylands snipped-for-privacy@huv.com http://www.huv.com/jon
Project: Micro Raptor (Small Biped Velociraptor Robot) http://www.huv.com/blog
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Jon Hylands wrote:

I think it's more capitalist than that. If the market is there, someone would do it. The demand isn't there yet for a business to take this kind of risk. The gobment sometimes funds these things -- as they did Grand Challenge -- but even that funding is peanuts. I'd bet overall the participants invested 10, maybe 50 times what Uncle Sam put up. Of course, that was the idea! <g>
My personal belief is that the *mechanics* are lacking. The engineering exists, but it still costs money, lots of money, to build something reliable that is also inexpensive. As "good and cheap" seldom meet at the same place and time, there is nothing (yet) to write software for.
I also think there is a problem with liability. Japan has different personal liabilities laws, so they are leading us in humanoid robotics. Here in the US if a bipedal robot falls over and bangs up Mickey it'll result in a multi-million dollar lawsuit that no manufacturer could weather, even with insurance. Who wants to make and sell a product that has the potential to be their financial ruin? For this reason we'll be only seeing Roombas in the home for a long time to come.
-- Gordon
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I agree with your point about the Basic Stamp, though there are a lot of much better options today which many people are using.
I don't agree, though, that lack of smarts is what's really holding the hobby back. You said yourself:

...but most of the robots there (i.e. in Japan) are not particularly smart at all; they're mostly remote-controlled. They do have autonomous events, but the amount of smarts going into them isn't much beyond what goes into a sumo bot (though the Japanese are generally mopping the floor with us in sumo competitions, too).
So what's the difference? One thing is the emphasis in Japan on humanoid robotics, which tends to capture the imagination of the general public much more than (as you say) wedgebots. Another may be just a difference in culture -- robots are considered far more important to the Japanese in general than they are to us in the U.S.
These two observations are probably linked -- humanoid robotics is expensive, and so to be a viable hobby it needs a big enough segment of the population that thinks dropping $2K or more on a robot is a worthwhile thing to do.
Still, I see a lot of progress being made -- performance is going up and price is coming down, at least among the commercially available kits. In hobby robotics, you're right -- it doesn't seem like most of us are doing things we couldn't have done 30 years ago (though we're probably doing them far more quickly and cheaply).
Best, - Joe
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Joe Strout wrote:

We're still mostly seeing dumb sensing and reactive control, even though we now have low-cost hardware and sensors and can do better. Take a look at papers on "simultaneous localization and mapping" from the last few years. The theory, at last, works.
The hardware base needed for that is an R/C car with stereo webcams, wheel encoders, a good yaw gyro, compass, accelerometers, some short-range IR sensors, a few hundred MIPS on board, and a WiFi link, for maybe $400. That would be usable by software developers without building hardware.
As far as I know, you still can't buy anything like that off the shelf. If you try to build it, you'll waste too much time doing things like getting two webcams to play nicely together as a stereo pair, getting the things mounted so they're rigidly aligned properly, dealing with Linux or Windows drivers that don't handle multiple cameras well, and trying to debug stereo camera alignment software.
Something like the Point Grey Bumblebee stereo camera, which is just two camera chips on one board in one case with two lenses, is needed, but at something like ordinary webcam-level pricing.

What's interesting is that the Japanese hobbyist robots are merging remote control and autonomy. You can't usefully control 22 degrees of freedom with a remote control box. Those little humanoid combat robots are acquiring sensors, rate gyros and balance reflexes. But they're still under-sensored out of the box.
At that level, what's needed for autonomy is a RoboNova, Bioloid, or Kondo humanoid platform, with a 6DOF inertial unit, stereo webcams, a WiFi link, force sensors on hands and feet, and force feedback from all servos, as a commercial product. Then the hardware is a solved problem, and people who only want to do software can start developing for the thing. I expect we'll see that from Japan in about two years.

That's what's discouraging. I did the R/C car thing with a New Micros Forth CPU and a sonar on an R/C servo back in 1986. Back when the IBM PC/AT was a state of the art desktop computer. It's been twenty years, and computers have made some progress since then. Hobbyist robots have not advanced accordingly.
                    John Nagle
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John Nagle wrote:

In other words, if you want a robot with stuff that works, you can't buy it off the shelf -- instead, you will have to build it yourself and spend a bunch of time debugging it all. Yup, that sounds like the state of amateur robotics to me. It sure is what I spend all my robotics time doing.

I'd love to see it. I think it is *much* harder than you think.

There has been some progress, but not much. System integration is hard, and most people want to get paid to do it.
Let me know if you ever decide to go out to the garage and build an interesting amateur robot; I would love to see it. By the way, I *do* consider Overbot interesting, I just have a hard time classifying it as an amateur effort.
-Wayne
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It seems to me that the real problem in building/creating these more advanced robots is time. Probably most people who have an interest in robotics are working full time jobs and don't have enough time to finish these projects in a timely manner. These robots from Japan are built/engineered by 'teams' of people all with the same goal. Well the same for robots made in America also. We all have the same technology and knowledge available to us.
So, we need more teamwork. We need places were we can work on these projects together. Every person that is participating on particular project gives that much more time to the initiative. It is not solely a software or hardware problem.
Whatever its worth; that is my opinion, Joe McKibben
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