Thursday, November 8, 2007

Robot Update #2

Scientific Progress! Batteries Not Included.

Well, it's been confirmed: the $25,000 robot, connected to an industrial electrical outlet by a garden-hose-sized power cable, does indeed run on batteries!  Four D-cell batteries to be precise.  Actually, it’s not quite accurate to say that the robot runs on the batteries.  But, it’s all the same to me because it won’t run without them. 

The critical fact is this: the robot works.  Now I can begin important projects and have it do useful things like: make chocolate chip cookies, put chocolate chip cookies on my desk, make more chocolate chip cookies, and maybe even serve as the gold standard for comparing two 3-D motion tracking systems used in biomechanics.  

I’ve been told that, so far, the robot has only been used to entertain any kids who visit the lab.  Kids these days!  They can’t be entertained by anything less than $25,000 and complicated programming.  I suppose this is to be expected.  Most of the video games out there use the same mathematical models to generate graphics.  Just think, instead of reworking the brain of a robot, I could be figuring out how to make monster blood splatter more realistically!

Until I transition into the significantly more lucrative business of realistic monster blood, I trifle with scientific robot applications.




Sunday, October 28, 2007

Robot Update

This is my new charge in the University of Oregon Orthopedic Biomechanics lab.  I don't really know if it's a "he" or a "she", or if it even likes being anthropomorphized.  For this reason I will refer to it in the way that seems best to me at any given time using technical and non-technical terms (family-safe non-technical terms, of course).  I am sharing these little tidbits of latest-robot-news because I have enjoyed reading updates of other peoples' strange projects.  So, if you have any strange projects on which I can keep myself updated, please share.

Robot Update -
Last week I actually powered up the robot.  That is, Andy did.  I wasn't sure if I was supposed to just flip the switch that said On-Off, or if it was more complicated than that - like, sprinkle rice and berries over everything and then do a dance while mumbling incoherently.  I suppose my degree in engineering should have come to my rescue, but it didn't.  Andy just flipped the switch.  This seems like a rip-off.  A large, expensive piece of equipment should take at least five minutes of complicated warm-up procedures to turn it on.  On the plus side, when it starts up, the robot does sound like a 747 taking off.

So far the robot turns on, but it displays an error and will not move.  This is most likely due to some dead batteries, I have learned.  I am still searching the literature to find out why a robot that requires special 3-phase power, and has a cable the size of a garden hose connected to it, should also run on batteries.  These are the mysteries of life.  Actually, engineers are the mysteries of life.  Looking up the specific error in the four-inch-thick manual, I found a vague description of the cause: maybe a disconnected cable, or maybe some dead batteries.  But, fear not, the exhaustive manual also provided a solution: “Resolve the problem.”

So, until I crack code and figure out what “resolve the problem” really means, the robot sits very still, purring like a well tempered cyclone.