company's design team - which now consists of five software engineers, three
mechanical engineers and an electronics engineer - set out in 2008 to turn the
manual labor robot into a communications specialist. Over time, their design
evolved into a powered two-wheel base, a telescoping pole, and a head with two
eyes and a display screen. Like a remote-controlled toy car, it allows users to
drive it via a wireless communication link.
might sound simple, it wasn't. The engineering team learned that users of the
robot were inclined to bump into things.
that drivers were the least reliable part of the whole system," Blackwell
engineering team, the challenge was to design a robot that could drive without
tipping over and without running into objects ranging from conference tables to
doorframes. They did that by endowing the QB with an electric drive mechanism
and a Segway-type balancing system. Power comes from two 90-W brush-type dc
motors from Maxon Motors, both of which receive electrical current from a
380W-hr lithium-ion battery back from Inspired Energy Inc.
onto the robot by accessing the Internet. Using a Web browser plug-in located
on Anybots' website, they control the robot remotely. Video images from
on-board cameras are streamed over the Internet via Wi-Fi. An Intel i5-based
CPU in the robot's base does the audio and video compression, then works with
an Atheros chip set and its two independent Wi-Fi systems to wirelessly send
the information to the remote driver.
To make sure
that drivers don't run into obstacles, Anybots' design team employed two
cameras - one looking ahead, the other looking down. To augment the cameras,
they also incorporated a LIDAR optical sensing system from Hokuyo Automatic Co.
Ltd., to detect obstacles within two meters.
spent any time driving radio-controlled cars, then you know it's pretty easy to
crash into things," Blackwell says. "The LIDAR senses obstacles, so that the
robot can figure out what you're trying to do, and do it for you. So if you're
heading toward a doorway and you're off to one side a little bit, it will
automatically correct your course to the center of the doorway."
QB's "neck" can extend to make the robot the height of a full-grown adult,
Anybots' design team also needed to assure that the QB could move without
tipping over. To do that, they employed a gyroscopic sensing system from Analog
Devices Inc. that tracks which way the robot is tilting and then provides
balance correction. Using three rate-gyros and three accelerometers, the
sensing system gathers spatial data, then sends it to an Atmel 32-bit AVR32
microcontroller, which does the so-called "sensor fusion" and determines which
way is up. The microcontroller, in turn, uses the information to send a
pulsewidth-modulated output to drive the electric motors. As a result of all
that calculating, the QB can determine whether it needs to go forward or
backward in order to maintain its balance.