Monday, February 13, 2012

Robot Update #3 - The Final Chapter

And now, the final installment of our continuing saga known as the Robot Updates.

We last left our hero fighting zombie batteries. There were the batteries, quite dead, but wreaking terrible havoc on the project. Well, a lot has happened since then. Sparing you the boring technical details, I will simply start by saying we successfully completed the project and published it in the Journal of Orthopedic Research, and everyone lived happily ever after.

Now for a flashback to some highlights. Once we resolved the battery issue we could manually program the robot using the build-in keypad. But that got boring pretty fast, so we bought some software that allowed us to run the robot from a computer and control it with other software we wrote. We also installed a three-phase power converter so we could plug the robot into any old wall socket; just like a computer. That capability let us take the robot to other labs on campus for use in other projects. It was even used as a prop in a University of Oregon TV commercial.

One project we used the robot for was a comparison of two 3D motion capture systems. One was an infrared type (the same type used to make CG charters like Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean), and the other was a magnetic system. The robot provided accurate, reproducible motions for comparison.

Another project was my masters research. I wanted to compare peoples' ability to remember where their arm had been after they moved it themselves, or after the robot had moved it for them. We came up with a way for the robot to attach to a person's arm using a wrist band. Then the robot moved their arm around. We had to write a lot of software to coordinate the data collection equipment, the 3D motion capture equipment, and the robot. But in the end we were able to collect data and write up an article for the Journal of Orthopedic Research. If you want to read more about it check out the article.

Since then, I graduated with my masters degree and moved to Southern California for medical school.