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After the Volkswagen comes the Volksbot

After the Volkswagen comes the Volksbot

After the Volkswagen comes the Volksbot

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When Commodore launched the first home computer on the German market - the VC-20 - it was a real sensation. Its legendary predecessor, the C-64, was the first truly affordable 'personal' computer, and the start of the PC revolution. What computer freaks struggled with in those days, is what robot developers are now experiencing. 'Assembling a computer for research use with sensors, camera and motors can easily cost as much as a new small car,' laments Dr. Ansgar Bredenfeld from the Fraunhofer Institute for Autonomous Intelligent Systems AIS in Saint Augustin near Bonn. The institute's answer has been the creation of the VolksBot or people's robot. The modular robot platform is targeted especially at universities, research institutes and schools generally plagued by tight budgets. Volksbot is the result of the AIS researcher's years of experience with RoboCup, a worldwide robot soccer league that enables researchers to test and enhance the capabilities of their autonomous androids. One of the features that emerged from VolksBot is the camera system, AISVision. As an alternative to mechanically unreliable motorized cameras, this fixed camera points vertically upwards towards a hyperbolic mirror. It ensures a full 360', 640 x 480 pixel, high-resolution view without having to move. In addition to the pre-assembled robot and motor, the VolksBot package contains a novel motor controller and simulation software as well as ICONNECT, a program from Micro-Epsilon. Thanks to the intuitive software interface, even users with no programming experience can get the robot underway in little time. Volksbot is controlled via a chassis-mounted, commercially available notebook computer. The complete package costs - 3,500 and can be ordered directly at AIS. 'Several RoboCup teams are already utilizing Volksbot components,' hints Bredenfeld. The platform not only reduces the financial investment but development time as well. For computer science students looking to test a new navigation program for instance, the phrase 'assembly required' no longer applies. http://www.ais.fraunhofer.de/BE/volksbot/

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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