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Robotics Games

Kinect Revolutionizing Robotics 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-it-serve-as-an-emergency-floatation-device dept.
HizookRobotics writes "The Bilibot Project, an open-source robot platform based on Microsoft's Kinect, was just announced by MIT researcher Garratt Gallagher on Hizook.com. Bilibot is just the first in what will likely be a torrent of robots (both hobbyist and professional) utilizing the Kinect. This sentiment was echoed in an essay by Fred Nikgohar, CEO of RoboDynamics, who believes we've reached a watershed moment in robotics enabled by cheap 3D sensing. While much of the attention for the Kinect has focused on video gaming, perhaps robotics will be its greatest beneficiary."
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Kinect Revolutionizing Robotics

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  • Important advice: Always put a screen on your robot!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Kinect was actually developed by PrimeSense.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 12, 2011 @08:25AM (#35185296)

      Kinect was actually developed by PrimeSense.

      This is not entirely correct. One part of Kinect was licensed from PrimeSense, the range camera. Microsoft developed the software technology internally. People can argue, and do, what is the most important part, but I think it is the combination that is unique.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinect#Technology [wikipedia.org]

      • by Anonymous Coward

        3D vision software technology has been around for years, what it is worth here is the hardware itself. Mind you that people is only interested in the kinect hardware, not the software which is run on the XBOX. If you remember straight, hacking of kinect was fairly easy because all the processing is done in the console.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Kinect was actually developed by PrimeSense.

      Yeah, thank god they got it to market and sold millions or else this wouldn't have happened.

  • by DaPhil (811162)
    Their about page (http://www.bilibot.com/about) claims that the name "bilibot" stems from the German word "bilig" (cheap). However, the word is actually written with two l ("billig") in German. I hope they are more thorough in their computing research...
    • And companies routinely change the spelling of common words to make them more distinctive and trademarkable. For example, Lilliput has three L's, while liliputing.com has only two.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 12, 2011 @07:58AM (#35185184)

    I've thought for a long time that companies have been missing out on the prospect of just giving people toys to play with. All these tablets, portable gaming systems, calculators, kinect, etc. would be so much more useful if they were opened up and just plain allowed to let people play and/or tinker with them but the companies involved have been oddly non-forthcoming in this regard. It's like how with basic legos (yes, legoS!) you can build whatever you want but with the trend towards highly specific, pre-determined builds it's just so limiting. One (ridiculously expensive) thing vs. almost unlimited possibilities, which would you rather have?

    • by jweyrich (1453515)
      That's the most important principle of open source.
  • How does kinect make a revolutionary change in robotics. All of the technology in kinect has been available for a long time and in use in many fields. What kinect does is makes it available to the general public at a low price point. Surely MIT isn't implying that Microsoft created a whole new technology that they or the rest of academia hadn't already come up with? No, instead, what Microsoft did, is what they always do -- they packaged existing technologies together. There is nothing wrong with that,

    • by Qlither (1614211)
      <quote><p>makes it available to the general public at a low price point. </p></quote>

      Point me to the item that does what the Kinect does, with the simplicity and cheapness of that Kinect. Cheapness, and how easy it is to use can be a game changer in any market.

      On the hardware side, it is nothing MAJOR, such as an easy universal robotic language(which everyone uses) would be. However, it does mean more interactive robots that can navigate and recognise objects better. It will add al
      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        <quote><p>makes it available to the general public at a low price point. </p></quote>

        Point me to the item that does what the Kinect does, with the simplicity and cheapness of that Kinect. Cheapness, and how easy it is to use can be a game changer in any market.

        On the hardware side, it is nothing MAJOR, such as an easy universal robotic language(which everyone uses) would be. However, it does mean more interactive robots that can navigate and recognise objects better. It will add all that, at a dirt cheap price and the implementation of it is only getting easier.

        Cheapness and how easy it is may be a game changer in the consumer market, that's not even accurate here. What are you going to do buy a 360 and kinect and stick it in your robot? That's not a cheap solution. What makes the Kinect work is not the hardware, but the software behind it. Cheap digital hardware has been available for a long time. Japan has produced robots that "see" and "navigate" and adapt for quite some time now. It's true they aren't cheap, but sticking a kinect in one of them won't chan

        • by SQLGuru (980662)

          The Kinect is a simple, convient package that they've figured out how to use the input from to work into all of the existing algorithms. And it's at a cheap enough price point that you don't see it as a hurdle.

          If you wanted to, you could produce an IR emitter and hack a web cam into an IR web cam. Add in microphones and a color web cam. So it isn't the technology that is revolutionary. It isn't the software because they are just using the hardware and running the input into existing robot software.

          It's

    • by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @09:31AM (#35185590)
      It's revolutionary because prior to the launch of the Kinect, if you wanted both visual input and a depth map on a robot, you had to spend hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars on LIDAR sensors, which are fussy pieces of equipment at the best of times. Within its design range, Kinect is as accurate as any LIDAR sensor, much more reliable, and waaaaay cheaper. For this reason, a lot of robot designers don't bother with LIDAR, which means you have to estimate distance and range with GPS, direct image data, or a host of other not-quite-as-accurate means. Not to mention it handles skeletal tracking, gesture recognition and other unpleasant programming tasks itself, leaving the robot designer free to do other things.

      Kinect really has kind of changed the game overnight. People are very excited about being able to equip accurate depth sensors on all kinds of robots that they wouldn't have bothered with before. Even if no "new" innovations were to ever appear from Kinect, the increase in accuracy of old standbys like manipulator arms will be tremendous now that they can have depth maps. I'm at Cornell at the moment, and many of the grad students in robotics already have Kinect-based projects well underway, and even in the undergrad robot learning classes (where you typically do one semester-long project) the professor is pushing Kinect as an option.
      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        It's revolutionary because prior to the launch of the Kinect, if you wanted both visual input and a depth map on a robot, you had to spend hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars on LIDAR sensors, which are fussy pieces of equipment at the best of times. Within its design range, Kinect is as accurate as any LIDAR sensor, much more reliable, and waaaaay cheaper. For this reason, a lot of robot designers don't bother with LIDAR, which means you have to estimate distance and range with GPS, direct image data, or a host of other not-quite-as-accurate means. Not to mention it handles skeletal tracking, gesture recognition and other unpleasant programming tasks itself, leaving the robot designer free to do other things.

        Kinect really has kind of changed the game overnight. People are very excited about being able to equip accurate depth sensors on all kinds of robots that they wouldn't have bothered with before. Even if no "new" innovations were to ever appear from Kinect, the increase in accuracy of old standbys like manipulator arms will be tremendous now that they can have depth maps. I'm at Cornell at the moment, and many of the grad students in robotics already have Kinect-based projects well underway, and even in the undergrad robot learning classes (where you typically do one semester-long project) the professor is pushing Kinect as an option.

        But even as you mention, the only "revolutionary" part is the price point. Kinect isn't allowing something new to happen, only what has been happening to occur at a cheaper point. The first Amanda Radar Range was revolutionary. The $89 2011 model isn't. It's just cheaper.

        I am not doubting that the Kinect is changing the game. I just question whether it is revolutionary or not.

        • by urusan (1755332)

          It's revolutionary in the sense of "causing a revolution".

          The ongoing Egyptian revolution has thus far consisted of popular protests and a bloodless military coup, both well worn political strategies. Yet these events are revolutionary for Egypt. Things will be different in Egypt in the future.

          Wouldn't you say that people involved in sparking and carrying out the revolution were revolutionary? If a new technology came on the scene and caused the revolution, wouldn't it be a revolutionary technology?

          In fact,

          • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

            It's revolutionary in the sense of "causing a revolution".

            The ongoing Egyptian revolution has thus far consisted of popular protests and a bloodless military coup, both well worn political strategies. Yet these events are revolutionary for Egypt. Things will be different in Egypt in the future.

            Wouldn't you say that people involved in sparking and carrying out the revolution were revolutionary? If a new technology came on the scene and caused the revolution, wouldn't it be a revolutionary technology?

            In fact, isn't this the whole point of the word "revolutionary"? If a "revolutionary" new technology doesn't cause a revolution then was it really revolutionary at all? Maybe you're thinking of the word novel instead? You've made a good argument that the Kinect isn't novel.

            In any case, if the Kinect is causing a robotics revolution then I'd say it's revolutionary regardless of the reason it is causing the revolution.

            As I stated in a previous post, the actual definition for revolutionary, when used as an adjective is "something that has a major, sudden impact on society or on some aspect of human endeavour." What is going on in Egypt meets that definition. The kinect technology does not, at least not yet.

            Many new technologies come on the scene and have failed miserably. Because of that they are not revolutionary. It is not that some technology is new and has the potential to be revolutionary that makes it revolutiona

        • You're missing the point. The "revolution" is in market penetration and ubiquitousness. It doesn't require that similar technology has never been seen before. Your microwave oven at $2,000 in 1% of households is cool technology but hardly a revolution. At $89 and in nearly all households, it clearly is.

          • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

            You're missing the point. The "revolution" is in market penetration and ubiquitousness. It doesn't require that similar technology has never been seen before. Your microwave oven at $2,000 in 1% of households is cool technology but hardly a revolution. At $89 and in nearly all households, it clearly is.

            If something to be revolutionary requires market penetration, the kinect isn't revolutionary because it holds a very small percentage of the market. We are talking about revolutionary technology, however and the Amanda Range did turn out to be revolutionary, it change society. The main use of the kinect, right now at this moment, is not robotics but gaming. It is not revolutionary (although it is impressive). If and when it makes a difference in society which is what the definition of revolutionary mean

            • the kinect isn't revolutionary because it holds a very small percentage of the market.

              What market? I don't know a robotics lab without at least a couple kinects, or a robotics hobbyist, who doesn't have one or isn't planning to get one.

              As many have posted, it is being used in robotic research right now. It has the potential to revolutionize that field. It just hasn't had time to do that, yet.

              I do robotics research, and I can uneqivocally tell you it has already changed the course of robotics in a way we never thought possible. On of the biggest problems in robotics, and even in computer science in general, is reproducibility. Every lab has their own sensors, their own robot platforms, and their own software to run their robots. If I develop an alg

              • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

                So is it the kinect that you are claiming is revolutionary or the software or what? Don't get me wrong, it is very useful in your field, but are you ready to state that it is revolutionary -- that it will change robotics forever? The kinect is less than six months old. Isn't it a bit early to make that claim?

                I am not trying to marginalize anything. If anything, I am trying to do just the opposite. As you are well aware, robotics is a complicated thing. Saying a a new device, being put to use for somet

      • Spot on. The truth is... if you already know ROS (Robot Operating System), installing and configuring a Kinect literally takes all of 15 minutes -- half of which is (currently) compiling a PCL (Point Cloud Library) overlay. Add another hour, and you can be tracking ARtags (like QRcodes) in 3D space without any calibration -- see video [youtube.com]. It's a combination between Kinect hardware and open-source software (openni / ROS) that are creating a revolution.
      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        I'm at Cornell at the moment, and many of the grad students in robotics already have Kinect-based projects well underway, and even in the undergrad robot learning classes (where you typically do one semester-long project) the professor is pushing Kinect as an option.

        While I was at university 2 years ago many of the grad students in robotics already had Kinect-based projects well underway. The only difference is they used their own cameras and matlab to do depth calculation. This isn't anything new. It's not even remotely difficult to accomplish. The only thing revolutionary about it is that there is now an API and an off the shelf component that cuts this portion of the robot from 4-5 weeks down to 1 week.

    • by Orne (144925) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @09:37AM (#35185638) Homepage

      Yes, and the combustion engine automobile was invented in 1862, but wasn't available to the general public at a low price point until 1903. Do we remember Lenoir, or Carhart, or the Duryea brothers? No, we remember Ford, who built the assembly line process that standardized and cheapened the production of automobiles.

      The robotics field needs this jump to standardization of components, APIs and functionality. Yes, academia is coming up with designs all of the time, but each one is custom hardware & software, akin to Professor Carhart's steam-powered automobile in 1871. After that, it needs to move into the consumer markets, where the masses can tinker, hack and tweak the designs to add functionality, and truly innovate.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, we remember a Karl Benz, who actually built the first automobile, and his adventurous wife, who drove it for over 100km to visit her mother. Incidentally, the small company he founded to make and sell automobiles is still widely recognized, possibly more than that of Mr. Ford.

    • Would you call the iPod revolutionary? Surely it wasn't the first digital music player to have existed. This is revolutionary precisely because of the price point. The technology has existed, but it hasn't been readily available to the masses. Now that it's available the pool of people that may innovate upon it has expanded enormously.
      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        Actually, the iPod was a revolutionary because it took disparate technologies and put them together in a new way to produce a new product. The kinect, from a gaming perspective might be revolutionary, but from a robotics perspective is just a consumerized version of what already was in the robotics field. Sure it is at a cheaper price point, and that may benefit research, but that doesn't revolutionize the robotics industry.

        Do you really believe that the makers of industrial robots are going to stick kine

        • by urusan (1755332)

          What's wrong with revolutionizing consumer applications?

          A Kinect may not be good enough for the applications you mention, but that doesn't mean they're insufficient for all applications. Who knows what kind of innovative low cost applications will emerge from this? I have a good friend in robotics that is doing his thesis using the Kinect and what he's working on has some interesting commercial potential (though of course I can't say any more without giving away my friend's idea).

          Also, you say that improved

          • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

            There is nothing wrong with revolutionizing consumer applications, however, the article stated that it was revolutionizing robotics, not consumer applications. Even your own questions in your post about who knows what will emerge from this, point to the fact that it is not revolutionizing anything but does have the potential to revolutionize. At this point in the development, it is too soon to tell if it is truly revolutionary or not. I do agree, it has the potential to be so, it just hasn't done it yet.

            • by urusan (1755332)

              There is nothing wrong with revolutionizing consumer applications, however, the article stated that it was revolutionizing robotics, not consumer applications.

              Make that consumer applications...of robotics.

        • Do you really believe that future cars will have a kinect sitting in the grill for accident avoidance?

          Actually they're using sensors from Velodyne, which are doing to LIDARs what the Kinect is doing to 3D sensors. It used to be that you needed an array of 2D LIDARS [zdnet.be] to create a 3D image. These could cost upwards of $100,000, where prone to failure, time consuming to create, and one of a kind. Then came Velodyne [velodyne.com] with their $70,000 3D LIDAR now being used on any serious autonomous vehicle. Of all the cars that finished the DARPA urban challenge, only one didn't use a Velodyne. Even Google's autonomous car [radioreference.com] has

          • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

            I agree the Velodyne was revolutionary, but will the kinect, as a device, be used for these purposes or will something researchers learned from using a kinect in research be the device? If it will come from the research, then if it is determined that a kinect is revolutionary, it will be revolutionary for robotic research, not robotics.

    • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @10:31AM (#35185984)

      I am not doubting that the Kinect is changing the game. I just question whether it is revolutionary or not.

      Kinect is changing the game but it's not revolutionary? What's your definition of a revolution then? Before the kinect, it cost me close to $10,000 [acroname.com] for a good 3d point cloud data. If I had more room on my robot, I might put a Hokuyo LIDAR [acroname.com] on a pivot but that still put me back 6 grand. Today I use industrial sensors from IFM [ifm.com], re-purposed for Robotics. They cost about $1500, and only provide 50x64 pixels of range data, as compared to the Kinect's 320x240.

      So the cheapest feasible sensor I can buy costs $1500. So here comes Microsoft. They're selling a sensors 10 times cheaper with 24 time the resolution. Now any old schmuck can buy this and test their idea for a new image segmentation algorithm. This has NEVER been possible before.

      So yeah, Kinect is changing the game. That's the definition of a revolution. Just because it was done in a lab before by Ph.D.s after 10s of thousands of dollars of time, effort, and equipment doesn't diminish it. If a company started selling robot cars to the public, that would be revolutionary too, even though we can do that in the lab (for $1,000,000+).

      And Microsoft can't get all the credit; none of this would be possible without ROS [ros.org] and the amazing Point Cloud Library [ros.org]. This is a second component of the kinect revolution, which, in itself is revolutionary.

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        Everybody keeps saying this is revolutionary because of cost. So by that definition, a Yugo is revolutionary. The actual definition for revolutionary, when used as an adjective is "something that has a major, sudden impact on society or on some aspect of human endeavour." I do not think the kinect has met that requirement. It might someday, but in terms of robotics, the kinect has not had a sudden impact on society. In terms of human endeavour, it is too soon to determine whether it has made a sudden i

        • So by that definition, a Yugo is revolutionary.

          Yugo didn't decrease the cost of an automobile 10 fold while simultaneously increasing the quality. It isn't JUST that the Kinect is so cheap. I can buy an sharp IR range finder for $15, 10 times cheaper than even the Kinect. But in terms of resolution, it's not 24 times better, like the Kinect is compared to the IFM sensors I'm currently using. If Yugo cost $300 and got 100mpg, then we'd be talking about revolutionary.

          A perfect example of this happening before is sitting right in front of you. Computers us

        • by John3 (85454)

          A Yugo was not a better car at a cheaper price, it was a poor quality vehicle at a cheaper price. "You get what you pay for" applied to the Yugo, but Kinect provides more accurate 3D sensors at a cheaper price. So the Yugo is not a very good comparison.

          However, I do agree that to truly determine how "revolutionary" this will turn out is something that we won't know until a year or two from now.

    • by ChatHuant (801522)

      How does kinect make a revolutionary change in robotics.

      Let me point you to this book [amazon.com]. It describes what's known as disruptive technologies [wikipedia.org]. Here's a significant quote:

      Generally, disruptive innovations were technologically straightforward, consisting of off-the-shelf components put together in a product architecture that was often simpler than prior approaches. They offered less of what customers in established markets wanted and so could rarely be initially employed there. They offered a different package of attributes valued only in emerging markets remote fr

  • I, for one, welcome our cheap, 3D-sensing, X-Box playing, Johnny 5-worshiping overlords.
  • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @10:23AM (#35185932)

    I love the kinect; I've done some great stuff in my robotics research with it already. It's a great sensor for testing out algorithms because of the high definition of the data, but it's next to useless as a long term solution for mobile robotics due to the nature of structure light sensors; the dot pattern projected by the IR camera can be easily interfered with by other kinects.

    While there has been one example of two cameras working orthogonally, I can't see it expanding much more beyond that. To use more than a couple, you'd have to time the sensors to work together, or something more ingenious. Regardless, right now they're great in the lab, but the state of mobile robotics is still such that good sensors cost >$10,000.

    • There is certainly some truth to what you say. However, there are a number of other competing technologies (see overview here [hizook.com] and here [hizook.com]) such as time-of-flight (like the SR4000), textured stereo (like the PR2's sensor), or even just stereo cameras or structure from motion. The fact remains... the Kinect may have opened the floodgates. It proves that there is a market that it can benefit from economies of scale -- and it's not just for robotics.

      It is important to note that almost every robotics lab in the

      • First, I enjoy following your blog immensely. You always bring new stuff to my attention, and I appreciate that.

        You are correct, even my lab bought Kinects as soon as we could. Actually, I personally bought one first, and after I showed my advisor what I was doing, he went and bought some more immediately.

        I think the main value of the Kinect is in standardization. DARPA sees standardization as a problem for robotic manipulator research, which is why they're providing a standard base for their ARM competitio

    • You can have two of them working together by using polarized filters.

  • due to the nature of the Kinect sensor, only one robot can look at the same object at the same time, or they will both be effectively blind.

  • This and the "Microsoft sits down with Windows 7 Phone Jailbreakers" article make two positive articles about Microsoft in one day. Did I accidentally fall through a wormhole and end up in backwards land? Next you'll be telling me Linux will be the core of Windows 8 and Bill Gates thinks vaccines cause autism.
  • by Shivetya (243324) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @01:32PM (#35187198) Homepage Journal

    Physical rehabilitation at home, where the machine can truly tell if your doing your exercise correctly?

    This device has so many uses we have only begun to scratch the surface.

    My opinion, one of the most important innovations available to the public for working with computers/etc since the mouse. Microsoft could have really screwed this up but they really hit a homerun. While it may not pan out for as well as they want for its original purchase the ideas it sparks will show its true worth. When I played with one it was the first time I had the feeling that the future really is getting closer.

  • I'm starting a new robotics project. I already have my base built but I'm having trouble interfacing the joystick currently set up to control the base with a computer, if anyone has any expertise on this, I'd appreciate some advice.
  • There's a bit of a gap between the headline stating that Kinect is "revolutionizing robotics" and the article stating that the project has been "announced" and that there "will likely be a torrent of robots".

    We'll see. In the mean time I will be revolutionizing the Internet with an idea that I will announce in the near future.

  • The article says "While much of the attention for the Kinect has focused on video gaming, perhaps robotics will be its greatest beneficiary". This is untrue, IMHO. Outside dance central, most of the hype for the device post release has been all the hacks, with little to no talk about the games that are upcoming.

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