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Networks of Neurons: A Second Look °

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by Michael Robinson

Published Monthly By The TechTrax Group — A Division Of T & L Publications, Inc. 430 Princeland Court Corona, CA 92879-1300

(951)371-8497 FAX (951) 371-3052 www.servomagazine.com

Subscription Order ONLY Line 1-800-783-4624

Published Monthly By The TechTrax Group — A Division Of T & L Publications, Inc. 430 Princeland Court Corona, CA 92879-1300

(951)371-8497 FAX (951) 371-3052 www.servomagazine.com

Subscription Order ONLY Line 1-800-783-4624

If there is one thing that I keep writing about in this column, it is the need for robotics clubs to spur development by announcing events and to include the community in its projects. I'm glad to say that I watched the Seattle Robotics Society attempt both at their Robothon event, September 2526. Guess what? It not only worked, but it worked well!

At the top of the list at Robothon was the Robo-Magellan event — a scaled down version of the DARPA Grand Challenge — held outside on a giant lawn. (Author and competitor Michael Miller has been writing about his effort in the August-October 2004 issues of SERVO.) This is one event that we felt strongly about, so we helped sponsor it. This year, no one managed to finish the course, but a lot of progress was made. I heard Ted Larson from the Odyssey team mumble something about rigging up an ASIC to help him with double-precision floating point math for next year.

Back inside the building at Seattle Center, there were vendors showing off robot parts, BEAM kits, microcontrollers, and DVDs to the general public. As well,

A huge crowd gathered each day at Seattle Center to see the various robots on display.
Seven teams entered the Robo-Magellan contest — a good showing!

there were some really great robot demos going on all of the time: a two-wheel balancer that followed red clothing, a robot that picked up and stacked foam blocks, robots that followed lines — it just kept going on and on. Most interestingly, the builders of these robots were there, happily explaining the operational details to anyone who seemed interested. I noticed a gleam in the eyes of the kids running around (and fear in the eyes of the ones wearing red pants).

As evidenced by the Robo-Magellan results, there is still a lot of work to be done on robots that aim higher than the simplest of tasks. Locomotion seems to be squarely in the bag, but sensor tuning and filtering has a way to go, too. Still, this isn't much of a surprise, as our five senses are so radically advanced that roboticists are barely scratching the surface with their electro-mechanical versions.

By the end of the event, I had been asked six or seven times, "So, Dan, what do you think?" I usually answered with something like, "It's great!" Now that I've had time to reflect on the event, I have to say that I think the Age of Robots is upon us! SV

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