vigilus robot security telepresence

Vigilus reports to duty

The Denver unveiling of the Vigilus MRP™ (Mobile Robotics Platform) took place at the Gamma Two Robotics lab and received a warm reception. Vigilus represents several years of the research and development of autonomous robots, performed by Dr’s Louise and Jim Gunderson; CEO and CTO, respectively, of Gamma Two. Vigilus’s primary niche is the security market, filling the role of a night watchman. This is an oftentimes dull and potentially dangerous position; often difficult to fill, even in struggling economic times. The Vigilus robot can help fill that role, and can work for 9+ hours before needing a recharge.

Vigilus is one of the few truly autonomous robots on the market and can work in perpetuity without human intervention or even wireless communication. He just follows the last orders given, which could range from patrolling a warehouse to simply watching a door. While many other robots might simply go back to the last point of wireless communication upon any error, Vigilus’s lizard-like brain enables him to learn about his environment, even as it might change, in an office or warehouse. An alert can be sent to a human operator if there is an irregularity. With a video feed Vigilus can be tele-operated, or given a command to further investigate.

Oculus telepresence robots

Oculus Telepresence: Give your Netbook Wheels

Looking for a great, inexpensive way to develop your own telepresence robot? You should really check out the Oculus from Xaxxon. This robot is an elegant offering that allows 'geeks' of all abilities to play and explore robotics. The primary function is telepresence, however with some added sensors and software, you can quickly develop functionality not offered on any other telepresence robot. A fantastic option available for Oculus is RoboRealm’s™ vision software.

This PC-based software will allow Oculus to have computer vision, allowing object recognition and the ability to autonomously navigate in its environment to avoid obstacles. Or if you’re looking to add 3D vision, you can try adding the Asus Xtion PRO or PRO Live sensors. These sensors are similar to the Microsoft Kinect™ , but in a more compact design. Coupling with Willow Garage’s Rviz software, you will have the ability to map a room and further enhance autonomy.

Socially Emotive Robotics

A common complaint amongst telepresence users is the lack of ability to read body language. Research out there suggests that somewhere between 50-65% of communication is non-verbal. Despite the fact that we currently give up almost all non-verbal communication over the phone, users have not quite bridged that gap. Comments like awkwardness when you can’t read a facial expression and for many of us like me, you tend to talk with your hands to accentuate a conversation. Until the era or personal robotics arrives, it is interesting to check out some of the research that is going on. Using robots as a medium, you can study both human behavior alongside understanding what it means to be human. In other words, what makes us human vs. how to make something appear more human. Some of the most interesting research into this area is going on at MIT. My favorite example I’ve found so far is the MeBot. For his master’s thesis at MIT, Sigurdur Orn Adalgeirsson used the MeBot to learn more about social expression as a means to improve user experience. His research is focusing on non-verbal behavior such as hand gestures and body language, giving users a more emotionally connecting experience.


If you are new to the field of telepresence robotics, and only familiar with telepresence robots, you may not have seen the work that is carried out at the RoMeLa (Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory) lab/ And if you haven't seen this work, well, you’re missing out. Dr. Dennis Hong runs this lab out of Virginia Tech and back in 2010 it was the first lab in the US to build a full-sized, completely autonomous, humanoid robot.  They named it CHARLI, (Cognitive Humanoid Autonomous Robot with Learning Intelligence). Why did they not just capitalize the final "E" in the final word to complete the name? I suppose they didn't want to overstep the bounds of artistic license. But we digress (and by "we" I mean "I")... Built with a budget of $20,000, CHARLI represents a landmark in US robotics. Initially built in 2010 to compete in the annual RoboCup competition, CHARLI, he was able to take 3rd place in his rookie year. Then building on the knowledge of the first generation, he returned to compete in 2011 and 2012, taking 1st place for the adult league in both years.

Avatar cop

Robots are prevalent in the military. Whether it is a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) or a bomb diffusing robot, they help keep our soldiers out of harm’s way. Now, thanks to a US Navy reservist Lieutenant Commander, Jeremy Robbins, and Florida International University, police officers will have a chance to operate a telepresence patrol bot. The idea is to get disabled law enforcement officers get back out onto the street. Officers that are facing early retirement due to a physical disability could take advantage of this technology to continue to serve. Robbins declared, “We want to use telebots to give disabled military and police veterans an opportunity to serve in law enforcement. With telebots, a disabled police officer will be capable of performing many, if not most, of the functions of a normal patrol officer – interacting with the community, patrolling, responding to emergency calls, issuing citations. Telerobotics has already begun to make its way into the worlds of medicine, business and the military. Extending it into law enforcement is simply the natural progression of things.” If initial prototypes work, additional sensors can be added to provide a telexistance capability.

Part I: Will there ever be a killer app in robotics?

"I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords" - Kent Brockman. When computers were starting to hit the consumer market, they almost immediately went to Wall Street. Why? It was a software program called VisiCalc released in 1981. It was the world’s first spreadsheet program that allowed the finance industry to calculate multiple business scenarios in minutes; it used to take hours if not days. With that improvement, investors were able to make decisions quickly about whether a transaction was worth taking advantage of or moving on to something better. The underlying driver was finance. The quicker an evaluation can happen, the more deals an investor can make. So, with the increase of more PC’s around to help with computation, you can quickly grasp how the cycle fed itself, fueling the personal computer market that took hold in the 1980’s. Now, fast-forward almost 30 years. Computing power is becoming less and less expensive, thanks almost entirely to Moore’s law. A device that weighed 8 lbs almost a decade ago, now may weigh a mere 8 oz, with better performance. The heart (and brains) of any robot is a computer, and while a typical computer can do several million calculations per second, that doesn’t mean it is smart, much less intelligent.

innovative technology from telepresence robotics

Part II: Will there ever be a killer app in robotics?

“Space, The Final Frontier.” - Captain James T. Kirk (Star Trek)

Robots in space are some of the most intriguing images and also some of the most hostile conditions. Enter Planetary Resources, the world first asteroid mining company. Their goal is to use a team of various robotic spacecraft and satellites to identify near earth asteroids that are promising. According to their website, a single 500 meter platinum rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the platinum metals mined in known history. Near earth asteroids containing water can also be mined, providing outposts for space exploration. This is a really intriguing company who’s technology could facilitate human space exploration. As you discover asteroids with water, it allows you to effectively live off the land, or in space as it were. You can use water not only to drink but to create oxygen and forms of rocket fuel.

Part III: Will there ever be a killer app for robotics?

The city's central computer told you? R2D2, you know better than to trust a strange computer! -C3P0 (Star Wars) Over the course of this series, I’ve tried to focus on the fringes of robotic technology. Military robots that disarms bombs and industrial robots that help on the auto assembly line have been around for several years and while they have helped save lives and increase productivity, they haven’t filtered down to an application that is consumer driven for growth like the personal computer. Is the ultimate consumer robot Rosie from the Jetsons? I guess we’ll have to wait for these to make it into our homes. Most engineers couldn’t figure out why the typical person would want a computer other than to organize their recipes, but for a busy family, coming home to a prepared dinner with the house clean would certainly be a god send, allowing them to spend time together. Most people would probably not have described a microwave, when asked about appliances that they would find useful. Henry Ford probably describes this best when he states that if he has asked customers what they had wanted back in the early 1900’s, “Faster Horses”, the automobile might never have come to be. Another possibility is that there will never be a killer app for robotics.

The next wave in telepresence?

The REEM robot from PAL Robotics is a multi-purpose service robot that is a humanoid torso set upon a wheeled base. Certainly one of the most utilitarian designs, a great feature is in the base, which doubles as a carriage for transporting up to 20 kgs of packages or bags while keeping its arms free. It is great to see a humanoid design like the REEM as it really is different than many other robots out there. REEM is making the most of current technology as its wheeled base allows for up to 8 hours or operation. Bi-pedal humanoids are energy hogs and typically have no more than one hour of run time, maybe. With up to 34 degrees of freedom (depending upon options) it has surprising dexterity making it very anthromorphetic. The telepresence capability allows users to make video-calls, and in case you do want to check in, WiFi connectivity allows it to transmit images from both front and rear facing cameras. Autonomous navigation allows it to deliver either both packages and guests it may be assisting, while avoiding obstacles in its path. The chest of REEM is a touch screen computer that allows users more features to interact with it and remember faces for future interactions.

International CES 2013 logo.

So long CES 2013, maybe next year

It seems that most years TV’s make the headlines at the Consumer Electronics Show held each year in January, this year was no exception. There is a small corner of the show that is dedicated to solely to robots, but this year it seemed to be more suppliers rather than robots. The exception to this being a messaging robot by Dream Bots, which I am guessing it going for a less is more approach since it would seem to weigh only about 2lbs. Some companies we have reported on previously appeared such at Suitable Technologies with the Beam Remote Presence Device, and MantaroBot with both the Classic and TeleMe offerings. We do hope to get some updates on Robotex's AVATAR Home and Security offering, which did debut at the show.


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