ADK Achieved!

After finally learning the unfortunate news that my Acer Iconia Tab A500 did not support USB Accessory Mode and realizing that I wouldn’t be able to use my Google ADK or do any Android Open Accessory development, I decided to return the tablet and purchase a Motorola Xoom instead.

Well, the tablet arrived, and I eagerly plugged it in to the ADK, and it worked right away, just like it should.

ADK and Xoom running DemoKit

In addition to actually supporting Accessory mode, it’s nice to see that Motorola actively supports a development community at MOTODEV.

Now that I have a working system, it’s time to get started with accessory development. In addition to the ADK, I also have a VNC2 and I just got an IOIO from SparkFun.

adk_vnc2_ioio

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Where are the Android Accessory Developers?

At the Google IO Conference in May, the Android team unveiled a few exciting features for connecting Android devices to the external world. USB Host capability, for instance, gives a device the ability to power and connect to USB input devices such as keyboards, mice, and joystick controllers. USB Accessory support, by contrast, allows the Android device to behave as an Accessory, so that another device can be the Host.  This will allow you to plug your Android device in to a piece of hardware and communicate with real-world components like sensors, motors, etc.

My ADK Kit

At IO, they also demonstrated (and gave away) the Android Development Kit, or ADK. This is an Arduino Mega board with a USB Host chip as well as an Android Demo Shield, designed by Google to demonstrate a variety of inputs and outputs. For inputs the board has 3 pushbuttons, an analog joystick, a capacitive touch sensor, a light sensor and a temperature sensor. Outputs include RGB LEDs, relays, and some custom servo outputs.

When I went to Maker Faire in late May, I managed to get my hands on one of the ADK kits. Unfortunately my phone is stuck waiting for the long upgrade cycle of Samsung and AT&T, so it’s still on version 2.2, and doesn’t support accessory mode.

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Robots With Knives!

We humans love to scare ourselves with what we can accomplish. Horror movies, roller coasters, even robo-coasters, we enjoy creating something for the explicit purpose of making us nervous and scared.

Whenever we make a demonstration with our industrial robots that demonstrates lightning-fast speed, someone always wants to push it to the next level. For instance, some coworkers recently programmed the Adept Quattro robot to play the iPhone game “1 to 50” in the lab. This required a finger on the robot that would trigger the capacitive touch screen, and a suitable finger was found (from someone’s leftover Halloween collection).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGSLwy9ptgk]

Once we started sharing the video, we started getting comparison to the infamous “Knife trick” performed by Bishop in the movie Aliens, and people asking if we could put a knife on the robot and do it as fast as in the movie. For example, this guy, but faster.

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Coolest Robots of 2010

RobotShop announced the results of their online poll for the Coolest Robots of 2010, and posted the Top Ten in a new blog post. A lot of familiar “faces” in there, such as the Willow Garage PR2 Robot (at #4). One of the standouts making recent news is the HRP-4 from Kawada.

This robot (coming in at #6 on the list) is a fascinating, super-slim humanoid robot in one configuration:

And a super-creepy Japanese fembot in another:

Listen up Japan: When you’re making a female robot, don’t have its name bear a striking resemblance to a sexually transmitted disease.
The “HRP robot” sounds way too close to the “Herpes robot”

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New Applications For Industrial Robots (virtual conference)

Back in May, I wrote about the first Robotics Virtual Conference held by online robotics media firm RoboticsTrends. The idea is simple – instead of travelling to attend a physical trade show, you can attend online via a web-based interface. The result is not so simple. Vendors struggle to figure out how to present information on their physical robot product in a virtual world, which results in just a mess of file downloads. I think I downloaded 40 or so files (pdfs, whitepapers, and videos) from the exhibitors, but only found the time and energy to go through a dozen or so. The “booths” are attended by one or more employees, almost like a chat room, so you can get some actual conversation in. So you’re talking one-on-one with someone (who’s probably talking to other people at the same time). At a real show, a lot of people tend to mill around and listen in on other conversations, either they don’t know what to ask or don’t want to intrude on a potential sale. So the experience is pretty different. For a first-time event though, I have to cut them some slack. There were very few technical issues, hopefully they’ll have them cleaned up.

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