Sunday, March 25, 2007

Microbric Robots!

I've got my hands on some cool Microbric Robots, thanks to Scott Hanselman and Josh Richards (Microbric Pty Ltd, Australia). Scott Hanselman sent Josh over to my blog, and he got interested in the work I'm doing. He sent me two i-bot kits, two Ai2 kits, a Viper kit (with some add on packs) along with an Iguanaworks IR Transmitter/Receiver. This IR tranceiver works with a serial port and can be used with WinLIRC to send and receive IR codes used by most televisions, DVD players, and other devices. It could also be used for controlling the Microbric Robots using a computer.

The Microbric robot kits consist of soldereless, interconnecting parts, and all you have to do is screw everything (switches, motors, sensors etc), directly into the mainboard, and thats it. I built the i-bot first, because I found it the easiest to build. After everything was ready, I made the robot do some simple things like line tracking and bump detection. I-bot can be programmed by scanning barcodes, or by using its own, icon/picture based programming language. Well, after doing some quick programming, I was able to make the i-bot do some cool things like light tracking. Watch the video above!

These robots are really fun to play with and I can't wait to get started on building the Microbric Viper and the Ai2! I plan to do several fun projects with these robots once I'm comfortable using them.

Scott Hanselman has some nice Coding4Fun articles on controlling the Microbric Viper using .NET here and here. Check them out!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Autonomous RC Car II (with wireless camera!)

I've finally got a nice and cheap wireless camera! It cost me around Rs. 1200 (USD $24). I quickly fixed this camera to my autonomous RC car and now the connection between the RC car and my computer, is completely wireless. As before, the 'brain' of this robot still resides in my computer. If the computer sees the the car approaching an obstacle, it stops it and turns it around. Check out the video above to see it in action!

Monday, March 12, 2007


A few weeks ago, I was invited to Engineer 2007, one of India’s largest technical symposia organized by the National Institute of Technology Karnataka, Surathkal (NITK). Fascinated by some of the projects on this blog, they wanted me to explain and demonstrate how I did, whatever I did, to the students of various engineering colleges from across India.

Well, I left for Surathkal on the 5th of March. The flight took about three hours to reach from Delhi to Bangalore. Then, from Bangalore, I took a fifty minute flight to Surathkal. Surathkal is on the shore of the exotic Arabian Sea and has a very beautiful sea beach. I used to spend several hours walking along the sea shore whenever I had time. This was my first trip to South India and the thing that really struck me was that the people rarely understood Hindi (the most popular language of India)! I realized for the first time that India is a multilingual country. I had to speak in English to communicate with them. If someone didn’t know English, I had to use sign language!

The projects I decided to show were - laser gesture recognition and parallel port driven relays (I built a new opto-isolated relay box for Engineer 2007 - more information later), computer controlled RC car, computer controlled autonomous airsoft turret and some webcam projects I did over the last 5-6 months. This was the first presentation of my life and I was obviously a bit nervous at first. However, everything turned out very good and I somehow also managed to successfully solve every little problem which got in my way while demonstrating. Phew! Everyone loved the presentation and clapped whenever I did something cool - this was a big relief for me. I’ve learned a lot from this experience. I’m quite sure my next presentation will be even better than this one.

Engineer 2007 had some lectures addressed by notable people like Bjarne Stroustrup (creator of C++), Professor Kevin Warwick (aka Captain Cyborg), John C. Mather - 2006 Nobelist (Physics), Dr. Timothy Poston - mathematician and interdisciplinary scientist (picture above), just to name a few. I really loved Kevin Warwick’s stuff. I think he is most widely known for his famous work in “Project Cyborg”. In Project Cyborg, he had a chip implanted into his left arm which allowed him to control lights, doors and other computer controlled devices around him! His work on building direct interfaces between computer systems and the human nervous system are really fascinating. He also showed us a necklace he gave to his wife, which changes color to reflect Kevin Warwick’s mood! If Kevin Warwick is happy and relaxed, the mood necklace would turn blue. If he gets angry or excited about something, the necklace would flash red!

I really liked the students of NITK. They were very helpful and helped me out whenever I needed some help for my presentation or otherwise. Nothing could’ve been possible without their help. I also enjoyed watching some of the robotics events at Engineer 2007 like “Automata”. The students had to build a robot which could move through a pattern made of white lines on a black background and locate the smallest loop in the given pattern. Some of the students had built their robots completely from scratch and watching them test was really fun.

I came back home yesterday night. I’ve made some really cool friends at NITK and I’ll always remember this trip. I’ve even got some new ideas after watching the events which took place at Engineer 2007. Let’s see if I’m successful in implementing some of them.

Friday, March 02, 2007

I won the CodeProject monthly article competition! Yippeee!

Chris Maunder of CodeProject just informed me that my article on Laser Gesture Recognition has won the monthly competition for January, 2007! I'll be getting tons of neat developer tools:
In total, I get $3,119 in prizes! Wow!

I haven't been getting much time for my blog over the last couple of days. However, I've got some really cool things to write about. I'll save them for later. :)

Keep visiting!