USB Powered Monkey Cimbs Out of Grand Canyon


Interesting title, but doesn’t really describe what this article is about, exactly… read on.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.’s new Evolta batteries sold under the Panasonic brand, went on sale in April this year. They are listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest lasting AA batteries. They last 20% longer than other alkalines and have a shelf life of 10 years, double that of traditional alkaline batteries.

Last Saturday, May 24, 2008, a robot named Evolta climbed 1,740 feet up the Grand Canyon in a little under 7 hours, powered by a pair of AA Evolta batteries. 

 This was just a publicity stunt to help launch the new Evolta line of batteries, and I don’t know much about the Evolta robot, except that it is a plastic robot, with a carbon frame, and it was built by robot designer Tomotaka Takahashi’s  from the Robo Garage -Kyoto University

Here is a picture of another of Tomotaka’s robots “FT”

FT Female Robot

 FT is a female robot.

It took over a year of development by Takahashi, who believes that half of all robots will be “female” in the near future.

FT’s parts were designed specially to express a lean, feminine body line. Twenty-three motors, controlled by an onboard computer allow FT to move gracefully and to walk like a woman.

Takahashi even consulted with professional fashion models to make FT’s movements even more lifelike.

To see FT in action click Here, or visit Robo Garage


In yesterday’s New York Times there is an article entitled..

Monkeys Control a Robot Arm With Their Thoughts

It describes work being done by researchers at the University of Pittsburg and Carnegie Mellon University. The researchers have attached electrodes to a monkey brain, and the monkey was able to quickly learn how to control a robotic arm using only thoughts.

You can read the article Here


Miguel A.L. Nicolelis from North Carolina’s Duke University has been doing amazing and often controversial work in this area for years now. Have a look at this video below and witness a moment where scientific history was made.

For more information on Dr. Nicolelis’ research visit his website Here


 A USB Robotics Interface Board. opened for business a couple of months ago, we don’t have much of a product line though. Just a few nic-nacs. After much deliberation I have decided to work on a USB Robotics Interface Board.

If you look at some of the other posts on this blog, you can see that there are all kinds of different robots.

In the movie Forrest Gump, Bubba talks about shrimp,

“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sautee it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.”

It’s the same with robots. There are giant industrial robots, microscopic nanobots. There are battling robots, toy robots, military robots, vacuum cleaner and lawn mower robots, robot kits, educational robots, humanoid robots, hexapod robots, and on and on and on.

With so many different kinds of robots it was not easy to decide on what direction Roslyn-Robot should take. I have finally decided though that we are going to focus our attention on PC based robots. The brains of a PC based robot is, you guessed it, a personal computer. When I say PC it doesn’t  refer necessarily to a Windows machine. It could just as well be a Mac or Linux based computer.

A PC by itself though isn’t a robot, it justs sits on your desk.  It doesn’t move around. In order to turn it into a robot, your probably going to need to add some motors, and some sensors. The easiest way to add motors and sensors to a PC, is through an interface board. The interface board connects to the PC, and the motors and sensors connect to the interface board.

We have started work on a USB based interface board

USB Robot Interface Board

The easiest way to connect anything to a PC these days is through USB. With USB you can just plug a device in, and it configures itself, although some devices come with software on a CD that needs to be installed. USB stands for Universal Serial Bus and it is an amazing technology. Before USB, if you wanted to connect anything to a PC, your only choice was through the Parallel (Printer) port, a serial port, or open up the case and install a new card. All of these were a pain and often required setting jumpers and configuring IRQ settings, and dealing with conflicts with other devices. Often people would spend hours or sometime days trying to get a new device to work.

USB to the rescue. In order to make connecting device to PC’s easier, several of the largest electronics companies got together and designed USB. Among the companies were Intel, Microsoft, Compaq, HP, Lucent, and Philipps.

Designing things that are hard to use is much easier than designing thing that are simple to use. The current USB design specification document is 650 pages long. If you are into electronic technology have a look, you can download a copy Here. It is one of the most well thought out designs I have ever seen.

Anyway, so I started work on the interface board, it is alive and well, and my laptop recognizes it when I connect it. There is still a lot of work to do on it though, it doesn’t do anything yet but connect, and even that is flaky.

osciloscope shot of Robot Interface clocking

Here is a shot of the oscilloscope screen showing the clock from the interface boards microcontroller. The sine wave represents a voltage rising and falling for each cycle. That is happening 20 million times per second. That’s fast for a hand wired board, but I am hoping I can get it to work well enough to get the design a little further along before I have some prototypes made.

I would like to thank Microchip corporation for allowing Roslyn-Robot to use their USB Vendor ID. In order for USB to work every product has to have a unique Vendor and Product ID combination. To receive a vendor ID, you either have to become a member of the USB organization, which cost $4,000 per year, or apply for a non-member license, which cost $2,000 every two years. Microchip corporation, a manufacturer of microcontrolers may allow you to sub-license their vendor id, for use with product built around their micro-controllers. Since I was planning to use their controllers for the interface board anyway, I filled out an application and was granted a sub-license good for up to 10,000 units. That will help a lot.





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