Matt Bunting’s story should be inspiring to anyone out there who builds robots. You see, Matt was just your average robot builder (well, maybe above average), until Intel (yes, that Intel) spotted one of his creations and decided they wanted to use it as a showcase item for their latest push into embedded Atom processors. Bunting’s hexapod robot, or the Intel Hexapod now, is now a bit of a celebrity and tours around the country with Intel strutting its six-legged stuff.
Keep reading for the rest of the story.
I do not want to program any walking gait into the system using inverse kinematics or any other method. Instead, based on sensory input, the robot will figure out on it’s own what the best method is to control the motors to move straight forward.
The body of the hexapod was constructed several years ago and was slowly rebuilt over the course of the project into the sexy beast it is today. In order to train the robot how to walk, an optical flow technique was used to reinforce the robot’s behavior.
Matt’s efforts paid off and he earned an A in the class, along with a research position:
I was able to implement a learning algorithm with off-board processing, and the hexapod did learn to walk. I did have to constrain each leg to a mere three states/positions per leg though, and it took about four days for learning to almost complete. Unfortunately, I burnt out the pololu servo controller after resetting it by unplugging the power cable and accidentally plugging it in shifted by a pin. This means that I couldn’t continue on with the learning, but I built my reward matrix to 99.65% complete, which fortunately was enough to get an efficient walking gait.
Continuing work after the class, Bunting switched to a low power, small size, platform with an Intel Atom Z530 1.6 GHz processor along with the Open CV computer vision software. Using the new procesor and Open CV he was able to achieve much higher performance for the robot. The robot’s mechanical components were also replaced and recreated using a 3D printer (nice shot of the printer in action here).
Finally, in November, Matt uploaded this video to YouTube, which was spotted by Stewart Christie, an Intel employee working with the Embedded Atom Platform. Intel wanted to use the robot in promotional material. So, Intel paid for two new robots – one of which Intel keeps – in exchange for being able to take the robot to trade shows and the like.
Matt has since then added several features, like foot sensors, 3D balance gestures, and the hexapod also has a 3DOF camera for doing face tracking. Awesome!
So for anyone out there that thinks that nobody cares about the robots you make, you’re wrong. Let Matt’s story be an inspiration to you to build more great robots! Oh, and when you do, don’t forget to add them to RobotBox (shameless plug, natch). You can keep up with Matt and the latest adventures of the Intel Hexapod, via Twitter.