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Open-Source Software Extends Robots' Reach
6/8/2012

A new foundation supports the development of open-source robotics software that will bring more sophisticated abilities like motion planning to industrial robots, such as the 15-axis, two-armed SDA10D from Yaskawa Motoman Robotics.   (Source: Yaskawa Motoman Robotics)
A new foundation supports the development of open-source robotics software that will bring more sophisticated abilities like motion planning to industrial robots, such as the 15-axis, two-armed SDA10D from Yaskawa Motoman Robotics.
(Source: Yaskawa Motoman Robotics)

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Beth Stackpole
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Open source to the rescue
Beth Stackpole   6/8/2012 7:23:50 AM
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Okay, maybe that's a bit hyperbolic, but open source has a great track record fostering  innovation around emerging technologies and encouraging the participation and co-development that's essential to building a market and propeling it forward. 3D printing is a great example. While there's been plenty of innovation on the private industry front, projects like RepRap were instrumental in breaking 3D printing out of its niche and putting it on the frontlines of innovation, not to mention, serving as a stepping stone for a lot of smaller innovators to get involved.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Open source to the rescue
Ann R. Thryft   6/8/2012 11:52:03 AM
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One thing that's interesting to me about this development is hearing about all the applications that industrial robot makers could start helping their robots accomplish, such as finely dexterous movements taken from surgical robot programming, or motion planning for unknown environments. That "pipeline from the lab to the factory" is a good image for how the open source process can work at its best.

mrdon
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Open Source Movement solves tech problems
mrdon   6/8/2012 10:45:39 AM
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Beth your right on target. The Open Source movement has turned into a Megatech industry. With software being the enabling Gate to New Product Developmemt, hardware has picked up momentum as well(Open Source Hardware [OSH]foundation). The ROS is good example of how collaboration between Universities and Tech Industries can produced cost effective solutions to solve challenging problems like Motion Planning.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Open Source Movement solves tech problems
Rob Spiegel   6/8/2012 11:50:05 AM
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This is a great idea. Open source software makes a lot of sense for robotics. But I didn't realize there was such a thing as open source hardware. Is it catching on?

mrdon
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Re: Open Source Movement solves tech problems
mrdon   6/8/2012 1:46:23 PM
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HI Rob,

The Open Source Hardware (OSHW) movement is quite big today. Companies like Arduino (yes the company name is their product), Adafruit and Sparkfun Electronics are pioneers in providing all source code, BOMs and gerber files for anyone to manufacture their designs and products. Of course, they sell kits for individuals who just want to build some really cool gadgets. Here's 3 links explaining additional information about OSHW.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_hardware

http://summit.oshwa.org/

http://freedomdefined.org/OSHW

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Open Source Movement solves tech problems
Rob Spiegel   6/8/2012 2:04:33 PM
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Thanks, MrDon, this is really helpful. I knew there were some things going on with Sparkfun, but I hadn't thought of it in terms of open source hardware. This is very encouraging. Does this tend to attract young inventors?

mrdon
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Re: Open Source Movement solves tech problems
mrdon   6/8/2012 2:28:49 PM
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Hi Rob,

Your quite welcome. Yes its great for stimulating creativity for young inventors. The free software tools like CADSoft Eagle makes it easy for creating circuit schematic diagrams and PCBs. Adafruit and Sparkfun provide tutorials and new library components for today's active and passive semiconductor parts. I'm currently using this software to develop kits for Jameco Electronics. Today it's really cool to be into OSHW. Checkout the link for CADSoft Eagle.

www.cadsoftusa.com/

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Open Source Movement solves tech problems
Rob Spiegel   6/18/2012 3:32:08 PM
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Thanks for this info, Mrdon. I would imagine this would be great fun for some of our younger Gadget Freaks. We're beginning to attract more and more young inventors. the gadget currently up (#216) was put together by a 15 year old.

mrdon
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Re: Open Source Movement solves tech problems
mrdon   6/20/2012 3:43:47 PM
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Hi Rob,

Yes, prototyping platforms like I mentioned (LEGO Mindstorms and Arduino) make it very easy for young Makers/Inventors to create really cool projects. I was quite impress with the LED project created by the 15year Maker and the method he used to develop his product. Very innovated young person.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Open Source Movement solves tech problems
Rob Spiegel   6/20/2012 3:52:23 PM
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MrDon, we have more Gadget Freak coming up that use LEGO Mindstorms and Arduino. These tools seems to be this generation's Heath Kits or Erector Sets, only at a much higher technology level.

mrdon
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Re: Open Source Movement solves tech problems
mrdon   6/20/2012 4:17:02 PM
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Hi Rob, that's awesome about the upcoming Gadget Freak articles. I have a LEGO Mindstorms -Arduino project that allows an Android phone to communicate with the prototyping devices using Bluetooth. I have a few more tests to conduct and then I'll be able to do a writeup for submission.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Open Source Movement solves tech problems
Rob Spiegel   6/21/2012 10:36:19 AM
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MrDon, you can look through our Gadget Freaks and find a number of projects that include Arduino tools. The LEGO projects are in the works, but they're coming.

mrdon
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Re: Open Source Movement solves tech problems
mrdon   6/21/2012 8:48:23 PM
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Hi Rob, Its' amazing how creativity can emerge with the use of these electronic prototyping platforms. I like sharing these Gadget Freak projects with the Capstone Students at the School of Electronics Technology of ITT Tech to help stimulate design product ideas. BTW, I'm the Department Chair!

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Open Source Movement solves tech problems
Rob Spiegel   6/22/2012 2:55:41 PM
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MrDon, thanks for sharing the Gadget Freak with your students. We work with a couple universities that turn class projects into Gadget Freak entries. Usually it's students working in groups of three or four. Since we pay $500 for each Gadget Freak, there's extra incentive for students to share their work.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Open Source Movement solves tech problems
Ann R. Thryft   6/8/2012 2:09:24 PM
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mrdon, thanks for the links. I knew about open source hardware, but not how much it's progressed.

mrdon
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Re: Open Source Movement solves tech problems
mrdon   6/8/2012 2:17:43 PM
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Hi  Ann,

Your quite welcome. I find the OSHW quite fascinating and I believe it's a viable solution to helping our economy.

Charles Murray
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Open source path
Charles Murray   6/8/2012 5:23:08 PM
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I wonder if open source for robotics will follow a path similar to that of Linux in the embedded world. Linux had tremendous appeal for many developers, and because it often turned out to be more difficult than it looked, a group of commercial versions of embedded Linux sprang up around it. Could we expect to see the same here?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Open source path
Ann R. Thryft   6/11/2012 11:47:09 AM
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Chuck, so far it sounds like "commercial" software is likely to be on the order of drivers/interfaces for a specific company's own robots, such as those Motoman is currently developing. Or did you mean commercial versions of ROS itself?

Jack Rupert, PE
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Re: Open source path
Jack Rupert, PE   6/17/2012 2:27:41 PM
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I was wondering about that, Chuck.  I was surprised that open source is being considered since I thought a lot of the robotic technologies would have been proprietary to the robot manufacturers.

warren@fourward.com
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Open-source Robotics Software
warren@fourward.com   6/8/2012 11:46:00 PM
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I watched the video and was a little surprised at the crudeness of the operation, and also with the large time gaps.  I was wondering if this is typical or if it was just a crude demo meant to only show that it could be done.  I am a hardware  guy and certainly don't appreciate the complexities of the software art included in this demo, but can this be further improved by selecting a different level of accuracy and speed, or is this the state of the software now? 

Don't mean to be critical, but I am confused.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Open-source Robotics Software
Ann R. Thryft   6/11/2012 11:48:32 AM
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Warren, the video is of a very simple demo. From my discussions with sources, I understand that what it shows is pretty darn complex on the software end. ROS is currently being used in surgical robot development. There are several other complex robots using ROS, shown here in a rotating gallery:
http://www.willowgarage.com/pages/software
You also might want to check out the SWRI site on ROS-Industrial for more details
http://www.swri.org/4org/d10/msd/automation/ros-industrial.htm

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