ONE DAY PERSONAL ROBOTICS SEMINAR
London West Hotel, SW6. Wednesday 3rd July 1985
When the conference was downsized from a three to one day event
the organisers told us they wouldn't be paying for to present
papers at the conference. So my talk was from notes and never
Personal Robotics Conference & Exhibition 2,3,4 July 1985
London West Hotel, SW6
Kitchen Table Robotics
The place of the Hobbyist/Home Inventor
Home Inventor is perhaps a rathr unfortunate phrase touse in a
title since it seems at once to conjure up images of a crackpot
working away in utter chaos on a completely unrealisable machine.
While this person may or not exist it doesn't alter the fact that
there are very many comparatively sane people who build robots as
Does the hobbyist have anything to contribute to robotics and
since this seminar is on personal robotics, personal robotics in
To answer that we could draw comparisons from the field of
personal computing where in the last five years the advances have
almost been beyond belief.
Has the personal computer hobbyist contributed anything to the
development, acceptance, awarness and use of personal computers?
Of course they have.
They may not have always been the ones to actually do develoment
work, but, by the fact that they existed and so were an eager
market, advances came thick and fast.
Five years ago Acorn's first computer came with 1k bytes of RAM,
a 250byte monitor program and a calculator type display.
Sinclair's ZX-81 could display graphics in black and white with a
screen resolution of 64x44 pixels.
Nowadays the same state of the art is represented by 200K bytes
of memory and displays of 500x250 pixels in 16 colours.
Can we expect the same advances in personal robots? We must
expect it, to do otherwise is to ignore the effects of the most
widely available toy on sale at the moment - the robot.
However real robots are considerably different from those toys.
Toy robots come alive in ones imagination whereas real robots
only come alive in as much as they are programmed to come alive
and that really is the difficult part.
It is relatively easy to design the mechanical, electrical and
electronic aspects of a robot but almost always the software
leaves everything to be desired.
To be sure most robots come with software which allows them to
move forward, turn right, flash a light etc but software which
makes intelligent use of data from sensors is notably absent.
So what has all this to do with the hobbyist?
Well Britain is at hte moment the most computer literate nation
in the world.
This coupled with the ideology of robots absorbed from toys means
ther are an awful lot of people, hobbyists, just waiting to solve
the problems of robot software.
What sort of robots do hobbyists build? Most people seem to be
quite incapable of constructing anything and unfortunately quite
a lot of people are even proud of it.
However robots do get built.
The following slides are not representative of home built
personal robots as a whole but are some I have taken over the
last couple of years.
In the exhibition you will see more examples.
On this side of the Atlantic
discuss problems of getting out of corners
where do you place sensors?
hobbyists can do this experimentaly.
Vision is really the crux of useful personal robots but vision is
By building such as Double-Vision or by buying a Snap camera they
can experiment with vision processing/understanding software.
only done in Universities
show Teal and discuss walking machines.
Future - discuss Croy1 architecture, only problem is time.
Outline Micromice Contest.
Problem of Micromice
no British Universities
Nick Smith, Alan Dibley, Dave Woodfield
vs films etc
is it an easy problem on the face of it - yes - in reality no.
tell DW three wheel control
Robot Ping Pong
Marvin Minskey quote Dartmouth Conference 1956
From the published proceedings of the conference:-
During question time at the end of a paper detailing the problems
of parts orientation and parts handling by robots, A young Marvin
Minskey said something like "I don't expect this to be a problem.
When we have inteligent hand/eye coordination the robots will
just throw parts to each other" The chairman replied "Thank you
Mr Minskey" and theyquestion time just fizzled out. Sort of
stopped the show.
paralled in world of uC
hobbyist now is researcher of tomorrow
uC in business driven by uC in home eg graphics
Sinclair ZX-80 thought no one would mind screen disappearing
while it calculated!
Now we expect multicolour hi res moving graphics with sprites,
windows, the works.
I > BARG (what did this mean?)
What is being done by not hobbyist
[cylinder drawing] at Cm ~10^6 polaroid servo cost
Hobbyists how to do the job better at less cost and with
Main problem for Robotics is they are very complex due to the
soft worl algs not known multidiscipline research must fit in a
What have hobbyists done?
Commercial photos Hero, German Droid, Micromice.
simple path following
complex line following
obstacle detectors, fenders
Valient Designs Turtle
Tomy converted Arm
RB5X voice basic bumpers
follow programmed path
Valient Designs Turtle
Mobiles with arms
Robot Shack camera