Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/26/robo_developer_show_floor_pictures/

Robo Development Conference in pictures

Know thy roboenemy

By Austin Modine

Posted in Science, 26th October 2007 03:07 GMT

Robo Developer Robots. Sure, they're evil, but are they a threat to us yet?

The Register takes a look at the show floor of Robo Developer Conference in San Jose to see how the coming war with machines may play out.

Monty the robot

Our first stop is a robot named Monty, from Anybots. He stands at about 5'7" and has one fully articulated hand, driven by 18 motors and one gripper. Monty is remotely controlled by a man behind a curtain, who is wearing various sensors that let Monty mimic his movements. According to Anybots, Monty can perform a wide range of manual labor tasks. For instance, his publicity shot shows Monty washing dishes — which I would assume is a fantastic way to electrocute yourself and loved ones.

And would you trust a filthy robot with The Heirloom China?

Would you?

Dexter the robot

Anybots also has a walking automaton named Dexter. This robot quickly showed its true sinister nature by repeatedly spasming violently before it pitched headfirst into the crowd. Those bungee cords are not for show.

I was told by several vendors that getting a robot to walk is one of the hardest things to do. This doesn't come as a surprise. The constant chatter on the show floor was regularly accented by the dull "thump" of robots hitting the floor. Take any robot demonstration — what so often is just beyond the frame of sight is two engineers, poised nervously at the sidelines like ball retrievers at a tennis tournament.

Moving along — we see a robot being shown by National Instruments, a robotics software firm. This particular robot challenged me to a game of dice.

dice tossing robot

By the way,that's his head to the left and body to the right. Odd yes — but I suppose that's what can happen when you get caught up in the gambling scene. I put a fuzzy die in the robot's pincers, it gave a little toss and rolled a three. Luck may be a lady, but she's made of flesh and bone like I. She gave me a six.

The robots unattached head was able to look down at the dice and recognize that it lost. It's little body sank in disappointment. Score one for the meatbag.

NASA rover

NASA had a booth. Oh, what's that? You built a remote control buggy for only three million dollars? Fantastic! Really well done!

uBot the ro-bot

Standing at (perhaps an ill-conceived height of) Microsoft Robotics Group GM Tandy Trower's crotch is uBot.

The robot is a dynamically stable machine that balances like an inverted pendulum. It was built by students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is being displayed by Microsoft because it's using their software.

Microsoft has been pushing its Robotics Studio software, which the company has been trumpeting as a much-needed standard platform for the robotics community. It seems many robo developers begrudgingly accept this view as well. But of course, being the types of people who sit in dimly-lit basements and do odd things like build robots, the community isn't prone to thrill it's Microsoft at the reins.

That's all for today. Join us tomorrow as we take another look at the Robo Development show floor. We'll also answer important questions such as: can a robot open a beer for you? And, where can I see a robot's face that will haunt my nightmares forever? ®