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Windows-based Robot and Development Platform 94

Monsieur La Vigne writes "I found this Robot running Windows, based on a STM 486 chip, and 802.11 connectivity. Apparently, the critter has a C++ , Matlab (?) based SDK and some proprietary bus for extension. Not sure what it does, but it looks cool. Has anyone ever heard of these guys or seen the SDK? Seems ripe for a linux port!" It's a little bit expensive.
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Windows-based Robot and Development Platform

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  • by frleong ( 241095 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @10:30AM (#4484653)
    From the home page, it seems that the development environment runs on Windows, but nowhere does it imply that the actual thing runs on Windows.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Indeed, Windows would be an odd choice for a robot OS. Wasting memory and cycles on a GUI that no one sees, wasting memory for Internet Explorer (because it is part of the OS, remember)...
    • I think we need a new abbreviation for use on slashdot - RTFA

      For the love of God, somone please read the fucking article.

    • If it really does run under Windows, this is gonna be bad ! I wouldn't want a robot that tries to kill itself !
    • I post this from Paris. I saw a Pekee from Wany on an exhibition a year ago. Wany is a french company based in the south (Montpellier).

      Actually it *does* run Linux. Anyway I completely lost any interest in the product since:
      - they're incredibely expensive
      - since 2 years or so that the company exist and make big anoucement, since 1 years that I actually saw one, Wany never seemed to care to let out a Linux SDK (as they anounced looooooong ago)

      I don't think Wany is going anywhere. Did not indentify their marker, neither their users in 2 years.
      Why not a Windows SDK, sure, but were is the Linux one? This is Wany own in-house native SDK, come on!
      Would you buy this?

      GPL violation possibilities cross my mind. If not, why?
  • by MADCOWbeserk ( 515545 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @10:31AM (#4484656)
    Now you can literally watch windows crash
  • by gruntvald ( 22203 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @10:32AM (#4484661) Homepage Journal
    Right out the box it's got a camera, wireless networking and an SDK. Probably wouldn't last 30 seconds against Rocky Botboa, but sure would make a cool roaming security camera in a paved area. And all prices in Euro!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      sure would make a cool roaming security camera in a paved area

      Being that most paved areas that this thing could handle are parking lots, I do believe a swivel mounted camera would be a more effective solution. Also, if I saw this thing running around a parking lot, I'd steal it.
  • Tada. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 19, 2002 @10:35AM (#4484667)
    A vacuum cleaner running windows. Wonderful.
  • An 802.11 robot.. does that mean I could get it to bring food to me while I'm programming? :D

    Also, it could be useful around the house.

    Wonder what this means for competition environments though...

    *robot crashes into a wall at full throttle*
    *competitor grins evilly while innocently removing 802.11b card*
  • Boring.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 19, 2002 @10:42AM (#4484679)

    Where's the robotic arm (for fetching beer), and the catapult, the bowel loosening sonic alarm?

    Wake up, people, and give us what we want!

  • What is a robot? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Captain BooBoo ( 614996 ) <`moc.liamtoh' `ta' `sretupmoclled'> on Saturday October 19, 2002 @10:42AM (#4484680)
    (from Cambridge International Dictionary of English) robot noun [C] a machine used to perform jobs automatically which is programmed and controlled by a computer. I guess the question here is what is a "job" defined as. If you want the technical answer its really anything that happens to or in direct relation to an action that the robot takes. This can be from direct input from an operator or from a command placed by the onboard computer. In most peoples eyes this won't cut it as a "robot". People will define a "job" as a task that makes their life easier in some way like mowing the yard or doing the dishes. That being said I think that this on in it's "off the shelf" state won't be very popular with most people but as a development /prototype platform it looks great.
    • Re:What is a robot? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ektanoor ( 9949 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @11:46AM (#4484862) Journal
      A small add.

      The term robot came from RUR - Rossum's Universal Robots. It was a play very popular in the beginning of the 20th Century created by Czech writer Karel Capek. In the majority, if not all, slavic languages, the term "robota", "rabota" means either "work" or "job". Many consider that Capek was meaning exactly this. However his play goes about machines that are factually slaves and which rise up against their tyranic human masters. So many people consider that robot is an evolution of the word "rab" - "slave".

      Which one is the true meaning is hard to know. Capek was highly influenced by the turmoil of his time and his ideas were clearly pro-communist. Some may shudder at this, but I highly recomend to read his works before thinking. I only read a few excerpts from RUR. So I can only consider its quality for the popularity it had then. However, his "War with the Newts" ("War of the Salamanders" in some languages) is one of the best pieces of SF I ever read.
  • Read the story... (Score:5, Informative)

    by twoslice ( 457793 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @10:44AM (#4484687)
    It says...

    "Wany Robotic Software Lab for writing custom applications and
    3-D simulation in Microsoft Windows.

    It does not say that it runs on Microsoft Windows.
  • BSOD! (Score:4, Funny)

    by stephenisu ( 580105 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @10:45AM (#4484692)
    At first I was invisioning swarms of evil robots run by Windows XP (xterminate People edition). Chasing the poor children and trying to run them down, only to tell them that Open source is illegal (well if they had thier way...). They would be the ears and the eyes of big brother. Then I realised that a bunch of script kiddies would just take them over for the obvious pornographic potential (locker rooms). On a side note, ignore me I confused my paxil with vicadin again...
  • by Czernobog ( 588687 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @10:57AM (#4484720) Journal
    The article says, that the development was done on Windows. not that the robot itself is running on Windows.
    Combine this with the fact, that they're using Matlab [] and C/C++ and this means that they're using the great API Matlab has, for tuning Matlab code in C++ and vice versa. They're also using Matlab for the reason that it's _the_ application for simulation and generally scientific computing from a whole range of sciences.
    What I don't get is, why don't they use Matlab in Unix? A Unix version exists, costs the same, but I've never seen a simple copy of it ever. And I've been using Matlab for 6 years now...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Hmm. They could use KDevelop for the IDE and Scilab ( to replace Matlab and actually have something that they wouldn't have to pay Microsoft and Matworks extortionary yearly license fees just to be able to use their own code.

      • I like Scilab because it's free, but it isn't a replacement for MATLAB. The toolboxes that are available for MATLAB far surpass anything that Scilab can offer. If you are going to do heavy-duty simulations, MATLAB is for you. If you rarely need to do a simulation and it's not very big, then Scilab should be your choice.
    • I prefer to use emacs thank you.

    • there is an excelent clone of matlab under GPL. it is called "octave". octave does not have all feautres of the later matlab version.. but those are mostly not necessary for numeric simulations anyway... i love octave...
    • What may be is that they are using a product made by The Mathworks called XPC Target []. This product take a simulink (block diagram based programming language) model and interprets it to c++ code. It then compiles the c++ code into an executable that is run on an embedded machine with a modified NT Kernel (all low level, no GUI, etc) to run the code.

      That might just be it.
    • What I don't get is, why don't they use Matlab in Unix? A Unix version exists, costs the same, but I've never seen a simple copy of it ever. And I've been using Matlab for 6 years now...

      ....actually, Matlab is available for Unix. I've used it at my university. It runs on linux too! It also runs on Sun (i seen it on a sunblade 1000). If you don't have a X11 display (eg, simple terminal), then it'll display the matrices in text format. I haven't tried graphing stuff under text though. If you do have a X11 display, then it's just like it is in Windows.

      ...if you're into even more hardcore sims, you can use IDL [] to develop full-fledged apps without having to interface to C++. And the IDL language is pretty similar to matlab, so the learning curve isn't as bad as having to learn C++. IDL is used by quite a bit of EE companies.

    • Yes there are a range of MATLAB products that run under UNIX/LINUX. I've used it on DOS, Win32, HP-UX, Solaris and RedHat Linux 5.2-8.0. Some aspects of MATLAB are only available on Win32 - eg xPC target which is frequently used in control problems. You can export raw C code from MATLAB to apply on a target but using the standard development model in this area, you would usually apply Simulink, Real-Time Workshop and xPC target which requires a Win32 platform.
    • I use Matlab under Linux professionally (designing DSP filters).

      The reason you don't see it much is that it is more expensive than the Windows version. Also, the Unix version require a license server to be running on the network.
  • Stupid jokes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mika_Lindman ( 571372 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @11:06AM (#4484739)
    All "windows crashing" or BSOD -jokes are declared "not funny"!

    You slashdotters are gonna have a field day with this one..
  • by mikewas ( 119762 ) < minus herbivore> on Saturday October 19, 2002 @11:17AM (#4484769) Homepage
    There is an optional "Pekee Expert Programming Kit" with these features:

    * Reprogram the Pekee motherboard's Mitsubishi micro-controller
    * Programming card
    * Serial cable
    * Flash application (updates, direct access to M16C)
    * Mitsubishi M16 compiler (4 month evaluation version)

    Though I found nothing that says you get source code or documentation about interfacing to the hardware.

    Anybody up to porting a linux kernel? You have 4 months to get it done!
  • long before it will sing and dance on one wheel while serving maritinis [] though?
  • From the article, it seems to imply that this little bot is more of a (very expensive) robot designed for learning to program and for experimentation:
    Pekee helps you understand robotics, from basic concepts to high-level development in the Wany Robotic Software Lab(TM).

    So it should be pretty easy to use. Plus, it seems to be able to plug in up to three cartridges. (The camera comes on one and the 802.11 wireless module comes on another, but that still leaves one for you to use for whatever) And it looks like you can buy blank boards to test your own cartridges on.
  • Sony Pino (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Yokaze ( 70883 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @11:26AM (#4484792)
    I'd rather go for the Pino [] and the GPLd Open Pino Platform Pino []
    The platform is far more impressive.
    • Already /.'d or just down...Here's the Goole cached version: Pino [].

      • Re:Sony Pino (Score:3, Informative)

        by Yokaze ( 70883 )
        My fault.... here a (hopefully) more reliable source. The Press Release [] from Sony.

        But I've to admit that the availability is a bit lacking. In other words, nearly no one gets his hands on this.

        Never seen it in action with my own eyes.
        At a robotic symposium in Fukuoka, a demonstration was planned, but to my regret it was canceled.
        I've only seen a presentation by Masahiro Fujita, a senior manager for this project from Sony and a still standing model.

        Googleing for the type "SDR-4X" [] seems to be more productive.
        • There's no such thing as the "Sony Pino". Pino is from Kitano Symbiotic Systems Laboratory []

          The Sony robot is the SDR-4X. It's a lot more capable (it can actually walk right now), and a lot more expensive (though neither robot is being sold yet).
          • Sorry, mixed them up. I've only the weak excuse, that Kitano works for Sony.

            Kitano Lab's Pino is still more impressive, but costs about $30k (as sold by ZMP Corp. [] for research purposes).
            This is a little bit more than the 6k, I've to admit.

            For the price of Sony SDR-4X. We are back to guessing.
            $30k-$40k [] is one guess. But the statement of Toshitada Doi (Executive VP), that the robot costs "as much as a car, a luxury car", makes me think, it will even cost a little bit more.
  • screw that. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Malachite ( 8328 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @11:48AM (#4484870) Homepage
    MY robot:
    • only cost a few hundred bucks to build
    • doesn't look like an insect
    see it here []
  • LegOS - Good & Cheap (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    If you want a robot for lab experiments or teaching robotics, get the Lego Mindstorm and use the open source LegOS OS & compiler. Under $200US and you can contribute to the OS or compiler development.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ABB Robotics latest generation of Robot Controllers for industrial robots (used extensively in the automotive industry) run on Windows NT 4.0. They use real time kernel software to do the 'important' work but the all of your interactions with the machine (i.e. programming it) are done through Win NT. I found that the were no real stability problems per se but it was very ease to hose up the controller software installation to the point where the techs from ABB had to come in and replace the flash disk that stored the system software.
  • by jorlando ( 145683 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @01:37PM (#4485336)
    I would prefer the Roomba vacuum cleaner... for only US$200 you get a fancy chassis, a pair of wheels, sensores (IR and bumpers), reachargeable battery and a charger... with a pic or 8051 controller board you can write a program to deactivate mine fields, lawn mower, cat persecution... or maybe just something with a keyboard so you can program roomba to go 3 feets forward and back :-)
  • Not my platform (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    There already exist robots in the research community that run windows, its nothing too new or exciting. The fact is though, that most do run some form of linux as it allows the researchers so much greater flexibility.

    As to the robot itself, it looks like a christmas toy. It doesn't support hardware modifications on the level that most researchers or hobbyists would want. Check out the Active Media Pioneer platform. Its one of the most proliferous among researchers because you can add grippers, laser, speakers, camera, docking tail, wireless, and pretty much ewhatever you want, and none of it has to be in any specific form factor or another. check out\~cres for some sample configurations.

  • by snatchitup ( 466222 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @01:43PM (#4485361) Homepage Journal
    Like I said in an earlier discussion on predictions for 2003. Affordable robotics development systems will be announced late 2003, with delivery in 2004.

    This system aint cheap. Check out the prices.

    Also, check out the prices on development tools for the microcontrollers. []

    Infrared as a means of prixomity detection is the bottom of the totem pole in terms of performance, in fact, proimity detection is very poor for even the higher end methods such as sonar ranging.

    This is one area where real advancements are needed. I predict somebody will create a module that runs IR, Sonar, and possibly crude Video for proximity detection. The point is, you want to be able to do this with less than an average of 200miliwatts.

    These systems are really bad at detecting things like chair legs.

    This such an exciting area, robotics. There's so much room for improvement.
    • The ER1 from has crude video ranging. Also, what about laser proximity detection? It would be much more accurate than any of the alternatives, and much more compact than sonar.
  • Linux! (Score:1, Troll)

    by npietraniec ( 519210 )
    Not sure what it does, ... Seems ripe for a linux port!"

    You don't know what you're even talking about, do you? I bet this was submitted by a slashdot story bot.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In the comic from es.comp.os.linux [] there is one strip about that [], and another one related []. Enjoy.

    Don't miss the Tech-Slacky HOWTO! []

  • Matlab (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Matlab is a great tool for creating ai algorithms. I have actually coded a smart pacman in matlab.
  • Evolution Robotics (Score:3, Informative)

    by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @04:02PM (#4485963)
    Have a look at Evolution Robotics []. They sell hardware that gives wheels to your laptop. It also comes with software, unfortunately Windows-based (they also have a Linux version but they don't ship that).
  • Matlab/Simulink (Score:3, Interesting)

    by UniverseIsADoughnut ( 170909 ) on Saturday October 19, 2002 @04:04PM (#4485968)
    What it looks like they are doing is using Simulink, a program withing matlab. It's a visual design tool. You basicly connect lines between differant boxes. Each box has a function. From this you can build very complex models. It's also used alot for control systems. You can do things like stateflow and other very complicated task with great ease. Also it makes testing your code much easier since you can basicly have virtual hardware and replace it with real hardware as your project progresses.

    Once you have your simulink code the program turns it into C code, (also can do Fortran if you like), From there it uses 1 of many compilers on your system to compile the C code. (I don't belive it can use GCC, i have only seen it list some commerical fortran and C compilers like MS Visual Studio and such). From there it complies it and it runs on top of Dos. Also I belive it will work on freedos, and it has an option about running it onto of win98, NT, 2k . This is call xPC. Once it has done this it prompts use to load the code on the target computer, via rs232 or ethernet and then hit +tg and your controller is running. You can also set it up so your controler can boot your code from a disk pretty much anything.

    Want to make a change just tweak your simulink file and repeat and a few moments later your back in business. It's very easy, and very nice for working with groups since people can't write there own bits of code and merge them together quickly.

    Matlab Simulink xPC is used alot in industry and prototyping since it removes the need for CS majors great in a project. A Mechanical engineer who designed the machine can rather easily do the control system for the machine which reduces headaches all around of trying to explain to the CS how the machine works and such.

    It's a very nice program to use. And makes for very reliable controls and is far more freindly than trying to decifer someones C code. We trust it in our prototype HEV's and it is so much better than doing it in the tradition straight C code methods.
  • We use Matlab (Matrix Laboratory) at Georgia Southern University. I think it was designed by some people from GA Tech. It is mainly used for physics calculations and simple programs for engineering professionals.
  • you dumbasses. "watch it crash" blah blah blah. Did even half of you even read the article? no? i didnt think so. bunch of dolts.

    here's a new concept that works... read then comment.

  • It doesn't run on Windows unless there's been a CE port to the M16C microcontroller.

    In any case, many robots don't require ANY operating system at all, and when they do, a lightweight RTOS often gets the job done. Personally, I avoid building stuff that requires anything as heavyweight as Windows, Linux or any other "real" OS.

    The only real advantage of using a full fledged OS is that you might have certain kinds of hardware support that might otherwise be unavailable with something more limited. If you absolutely must do any heavyweight computing (vision processing, voice processing) on board, a real OS and the tools that come with it can be handy, but I try to offload this stuff as much as I can.

    I've found that for any robot that needs to get around in the real world, lot's and lot's of available inputs for sensors combined with low power consumption seems to be key to success, rather than a big CPU and a relatively bloated OS.

  • Here [] This was one of the first Microsoft robots.
  • In case noone noticed. Its not an STM 486. STM planned to start making 486s but doesnt produce them now. The site says its an Intel(r) Embedded 486.

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