Hacked Robot Uses Microsoft Kinect to See
The Roomba with Kinect eyes.
CREDIT: Phillipp Robbel, MIT Personal Robotics Group
While it doesn't have the expressiveness of Johnny 5's "eyebrows" or the lights of C3PO's peepers, the Microsoft Kinect, the motion controller for the Xbox 360 game system, apparently makes a perfect eye for the robot on the go. With the Kinect software firmly in hand, a number of hackers have attached Kinects to an iRobot chassis, allowing the converted Roomba to navigate with infrared light.
The software needed to convert the Kinect into robot eyes first came from the online community ROS and was later improved by the City College of New York* (CCNY) Robotics Lab, but it was the MIT Personal Robotics Group member Philipp Robbel who finally assembled the device. The MIT and CCNY* teams both made YouTube videos explaining how the conversion works, and the Singularity Hub has an interview with Robbel that goes into even greater depth.
While this particular hack doesn't have any immediate use, it does offer an encouraging glimpse of how far autonomous robotic navigation has come. Not long ago, robots would need a vast array of sensors to maneuver through even simple courses. Now, non-professional programmers can make robots do their bidding using an advanced sensor sold as a toy.
The MIT and ROS videos are available below.
* Corrections: This article mistakenly listed CCNY as "Community College of New York", and attributed the video to the entire ROS community, not CCNY, a member of the ROS community, specifically.