AI News, Robots Are the Next Revolution, So Why Isn't Anyone Acting Like It?

Robots Are the Next Revolution, So Why Isn't Anyone Acting Like It?

Back in 2006, when Bill Gates was making his tear-filled transition from the PC industry into a tear-filled career as a philanthropist, he penned an editorial on robotics that became a rallying cry for… no one.

While normal people snapped up the mysterious sensor by the millions, brought it into their living rooms, and realized how very-out-of-shape they were, pale hobbyists ('hackers,' as they’re known these days) quickly sequestered themselves in their garages (circa 2010/2011: poorly heated loft apartments), and taught the Kinect sensor new tricks.

Microsoft actually issued a mild out-of-touch (and never repeated) threat to the hackers, but the 'damage' was done, and hundreds of burgeoning roboticists had a supremely powerful tool in their hands -- and incidentally generated millions of dollars worth of free PR for Kinect with YouTube videos of their exploits.

The project already has a good amount of traction among bearded hackers and ambitious university robotics programs, since it allows altruistic types to build upon the innovation of others instead of continually 'reinventing the wheel' (as Willow Garage puts it) and building their own robot operating system and hardware support from the ground up.

What the personal computing revolution did was take tools that were already commonplace in the enterprise and hand them to regular cro-mags who wanted to 'balance a checkbook' with a spreadsheet application or 'word process' without a typewriter ribbon.

Buzzing you in when you get locked out, signing for a package, taking that frozen chicken out of the freezer while you’re at work, feeding your pet, and of course the veritable classic of robo-problems: getting you a beer.

Imagine a robot that you could buy at Best Buy for somewhere between $2k and $4k, unbox and configure in half an hour, and then just take for granted as an extremely reliable, whine-free household member for the next few years (or, if you bought it from Apple, exactly 12 months before the upgrade lust sets in).

Welcome to Robotics Developer Studio

The release of RDS 4 was held until after the release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview and Visual Studio 11 Beta so that RDS 4 could be tested for compatibility.

However, these products are not officially supported by RDS because they are Beta versions and are subject to change before their final release.

By following the design, manufacturers and end-users alike can take advantage of the services provided with RDS to simplify their development efforts.

key feature of the Reference Platform is that it has a Kinect sensor mounted on top of it which can be used for navigation and interaction with people.

It is available here: Kinect for Windows SDK RDS supports a sophisticated 3D simulator with a Physics engine and an Edit mode to allow you to create new scenarios using existing simulation entities.

Tutorials illustrate how to use the simulated sensors and also how to place multiple robots into the simulation environment simultaneously.

NOTE: The Kinect sensor cannot operate in direct sunlight therefore it can only be used on robots in indoor environments.

Kinect sensor lets manufacturing robot know to slow down or stop when humans are approaching

We don’t know for sure when robots and humans will become friends, like Robin Williams’ sweet robot character in “Bicentennial Man,” or the dogged determination of R2-D2 from “Star Wars.” We already do know that robots are playing an increasingly important role in the manufacturing world.

Earlier generations of robots had to literally be put in cages, “like at the zoo,” to protect humans, says Dominik Boesl, corporate innovation manager for KUKA AG, one of the world’s leading suppliers of robots and robot-based automation technology.

(LBR stands for “Leichtbauroboter” in German, which means “lightweight robot,” and “iiwa” for “intelligent industrial work assistant.”) By using Microsoft Azure IoT services, Kinect hardware and the OPC-UA communication standard, the built-in safety of the LBR iiwa could be used and extended in the Industry 4.0 world by offering additional value-added use cases.

This week in Germany, at Hanover Messe 2015, the world’s biggest industrial fair, KUKA is demonstrating the work it has done to bring humans and industrial robots together in an additional safety use case, using the Kinect sensor with the LBR iiwa robot.

But if there is a problem with the part itself – say it’s broken or needs to be changed out – and a human worker is required to check the situation, Kinect’s motion sensor helps both human and robot by letting the robot know to physically slow down, or to stop altogether as the worker physically approaches the area where the robot is working.

Kinect Hackers Are Changing the Future of Robotics

For 25 years, the field of robotics has been bedeviled by a fundamental problem: If a robot is to move through the world, it needs to be able to create a map of its environment and understand its place within it.

That’s the day Microsoft released the Kinect for Xbox 360, a $150 add-on that allows players to direct the action in a game simply by moving their bodies.

Most of the world focused on the controller-free interface, but roboticists saw something else entirely: an affordable, lightweight camera that could capture 3-D images in real time.

Artist Robert Hodgin built a makeshift motion-capture animation program that allows users to manipulate video of themselves on the fly, turning their bodies into bulbous cartoon characters or reflective mercury-like blobs.

And a company called ThriXXX built a rudimentary sex game that allows players to rub women’s body parts with a creepy disembodied hand.

In June, Microsoft expects to release a software development kit that makes it easier for any academic or hobbyist to build Windows applications using the Kinect’s camera and microphones.

The company is also granting access to the high-powered algorithms that help the machine recognize individual bodies and track motion, unleashing the kind of power that was previously available to only a small group of PhDs.

(Microsoft is also working on a commercial version of its software development kit, which will allow entire new businesses to be built using the Kinect’s technology.) Major manufacturers have long recognized the value of letting customers modify their products, a fact obvious to anyone who has ever swapped out factory-issue tires for performance treads.

And over the years, modders have introduced several innovations that have grown into entire product categories—like mountain bikes, heart-lung machines, and rodeo kayaks.

As a result, the kind of equipment that was recently available only to research universities or major corporations is now accessible to anyone with a cell phone and a soldering iron.

The open source MPGuino project, which uses an Arduino microcontroller to track gas consumption as you drive, has inspired a small community of fans who help refine and customize the gizmo.

(Last July, federal regulators determined that jailbreaking was allowed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.) When a hacker named George Hotz published code allowing anyone to run applications or operating systems on the PlayStation 3, Sony responded by pursuing subpoenas against Hotz, investigating his PayPal account, and collecting the IP address of anyone who visited his website, before settling in April.

When iRobot learned that academics and hobbyists were rewiring its robotic vacuum cleaner, the Roomba, the company released a special vacuumless version—the iRobot Create—designed explicitly to be modded.

That means 10 million people now have fully functioning depth cameras (which measure the distance between the Kinect and objects in front of it) sitting in their living rooms.

says Xbox general manager of incubation Alex Kipman, who adds that the Kinect’s gesture-based interface is an early example of how we will soon interact with all of our computers and appliances.

a couple of haptic gadgets that jiggle and buck when touched, creating the illusion of texture—as well as an array of sex toys, oscilloscopes, and personal data-tracking devices.

Machulis has already figured out how to control most of these gadgets, posting source code for drivers (which allow programmers to connect the devices to other operating systems or applications) on hacker websites like GitHub so that anyone can write software for them.

One hour after he returned to his apartment, he saw a posting on the website of Adafruit Industries, the open source hardware company run by hacker impresario Limor Fried.

By 4 pm that same day, in response to a question about the so-called Open Kinect contest, a Microsoft spokesperson told a reporter from CNET that “Microsoft does not condone the modification of its products,”

Four days later, Microsoft released another statement, pointing out that the company would not support the practice of using the Kinect with any device other than the Xbox and “strongly encourag[ing] customers to use Kinect for Xbox 360 with their Xbox 360 to get the best experience possible.”

It took a bit longer than he expected, largely because capturing the data streaming out of the Kinect’s USB cable required a costly piece of equipment called a USB analyzer, which retails for around $1,000.

Still, mere hours after Adafruit had posted the USB analyzer data, Machulis and a group of online collaborators had figured out how to control the Kinect motors and had initialized the camera.

A group of interactive designers conjured a way to use the Kinect to turn any surface into a multitouch interface, so a user could control the action on a screen by dragging their finger across a desk, wall, or book.

(As of mid-May, 58 pages of videos were posted on the site.) Meanwhile, Machulis and other programmers continued to refine the open drivers, figuring out how to adjust the color camera’s white balance, how to control frames per second, and how to make it compatible with Mac computers.

Instead of acting like a lumbering, power-mad hegemon, it had lent its support to what was shaping up to be one of the biggest and most successful open source development projects the world had ever seen.

Microsoft always planned to release a software development kit, executives say, but simply couldn’t devote the necessary resources to it until after the Kinect had launched.

If Microsoft has any doubts whether it made the right call by inviting hackers into its fold, Sony’s recent experience should serve as an object lesson: Less than two weeks after Sony announced its settlement with George Hotz, hackers launched a full-on assault against Sony, breaking into its PlayStation Network, its Qriocity media-streaming service, its Online Entertainment division, and several other properties, potentially accessing the login and credit-card information of at least 70 million users.

On March 2, even as it pursued its case against Hotz, the company announced that it would release a software development kit for its PlayStation Move controller in an attempt to “inspire applications that we could never have imagined.”) Still, Microsoft isn’t waiting for a bunch of hackers to unlock the Kinect’s potential.

All of this work is expensive and difficult and the result of many hours of dedicated labor—the kind that probably won’t be replicated by a loose-knit group of enthusiasts.

And as more and more technology becomes commoditized—and as the web continues to make it easier for far-flung individuals to work together as a team—hacker communities will grow more and more capable.

How the Kinect Depth Sensor Works in 2 Minutes

The kinect uses a clever combination of cheap infrared projector and camera to sense depth. References:

demo kinect robot control

Hand guiding of a robotic arm using a Microsoft Kinect sensor. The video was developed as part of the Next Generation Robotics project at ROBOTNOR. See for more information

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