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Intel Software Linux

Intel combines Robots, WLANs, and Linux 62

An anonymous reader writes "This article by a researcher in Intel's Emerging Platforms Lab details some of Intel's current research into wireless, mobile robotics technology. A key goal of the effort, according to the article, is to efficiently combine the two technologies -- mobile robotics and wireless networks -- so that mobile robots can serve as gateways into wireless sensor networks. The Intel project is providing robotics researchers with a robotics development package that includes standardized silicon, a Linux-based open-source operating system, and open-source software drivers for robotics applications. Additionally, Intel has released a test version of a technical library for building Bayesian networks, which will help advance the ability of robots to navigate their environments, and pilot systems based on Intel's open-source packages are already being deployed in a variety of flexible environments in agricultural, security, and military applications."
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Intel combines Robots, WLANs, and Linux

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  • by worst_name_ever ( 633374 ) on Friday May 02, 2003 @08:06AM (#5861006)
    I imagine their thought process went something like this:

    "Robots are cool. Wireless networking is cool. Linux is cool. So logically, wireless Linux robots would be the coolest thing ever!!!"

    The only downside I can forsee is that imagining a Beowulf cluster of those might lead to a Matrix-esque apocalypse for us outmoded carbon units, which would be less cool.

  • Good idea! (Score:2, Funny)

    by inaeldi ( 623679 )
    Now we can provide Internet access to nuclear fallout regions.

    Ok, ok, I'm sure there are plenty of good reasons for this, but I still like my idea more. I want to play my UT2003 after a nuke attack dammit!

  • Use? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Dashmon ( 669814 )
    Woohoo - run Apache and OpenOffice on your housekeeper! :P

    Seriously, I wonder what use this... you don't need *mobile* network gateways that actually *think*, do you?
    • You want to be able to control your robots without trailing wires and receive telemetry/feedback; why not use consumer technology (Wifi) which is becoming standard on laptops and becoming more common? Given the choice would you rather (a) install a Wifi hub in your home to control robots which can also be used as a computing network or (b) install something proprietary (IR? some form of radio?) which is incompatible with you PC?

      As for linux, well, you can strip it down and work with it a lot more easily

    • Seriously, I wonder what use this... you don't need *mobile* network gateways that actually *think*, do you?

      Yeah, really - and if they're not programmed with the Three Laws Of Robotics [evansville.net], they might rat you out to your ISP for running a NAT gateway [slashdot.org]...

  • I thought that robotics apps usually picked RT Linux for their core? Does RT linux still offer additional benefits to robotics?
    • It depends what you're doing, I guess; if any of the tasks are time-critical (i.e. missing a command by a few milliseconds is a problem) then you want RT linux. It may well be that the time tolerances are such that you don't care about a few ms here and there.

      RT operating systems (whether linux or something else) will always have a place in certain tasks. It says something for linux that it can be modified to suit different tasks.

  • Didn't Microsoft release a "Windows for Robots" OS some time ago? I seem to remember that no-one would buy robots based on RoboWin because they only ran for three hours before needing a recharge. So Microsoft had to build their own Robots and sell them to people who never actually used them but thought they were cool 'coz they could read Excel documents. And then Sony brought out their range of household robots running on PalmOS, which was cool because the robots could recognize script and you could give
  • by march ( 215947 ) on Friday May 02, 2003 @08:20AM (#5861061) Homepage
    The Three Laws of Robotics....

    1. A robot may not install Windows products, or, through inaction, allow a Windows products to be installed.
    2. A robot must obey the orders set forth in the GPL except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
    3. A robot must protect the open source initiative so long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

  • Looks interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Friday May 02, 2003 @08:20AM (#5861062)
    I'm wondering though since they are not actually all that interested in the physical capabilities of the robots, concentrating instead on group intelligence why do they actually build the robots?(OK I know geeks and their toys).

    Surely the robot controller code could be emulated purely in software to determine how the robot will respond, a much more sophisticated version of the recent Java battle bots if you will.

    Is there some benefit to physically building the robot when researching group intelligence ?
    • Re:Looks interesting (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Is there some benefit to physically building the robot when researching group intelligence?
      Yes - you get to see what an actual group of robots do, instead of what some simulation says they might do.
    • Re:Looks interesting (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      My undergraduate research advisor, a leading researcher in the field of non-linear controls applied to robotic problems, had a saying which will answer your question pretty well: "Simulations are doomed to succeed."

      Here at Carnegie Mellon, most of our mobile robots used for research are controlled in one of two ways:
      1) a pc/104 stack has been added onto the robot.
      2) some poor graduate student's laptop has been tied down on top of the robot.

      Putting laptops on top of robots is a nice hackish solution, b
    • Simulation is used extensively. Several of the researchers mentioned in the article use the (GPL'ed - try 'em yourself) Player/Stage [sourceforge.net] tools for robot control and simulation.

      But using real robots is a vital reality check.

  • We have a merging of bio-mass, networking and telephone services where I work: when people think the network is getting flaky, my phone starts to ring.
  • WLANs and Linux... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Friday May 02, 2003 @08:28AM (#5861092) Journal
    Intel isn't very clear with Linux on Centrino, their WLAN offering - funny to see them offering exotic stuff on Linux. Intel seems to resemble MS more and more these days. Time to clip wings, perhaps?
  • by JasonFleischer ( 620495 ) on Friday May 02, 2003 @08:39AM (#5861134) Homepage Journal

    So everyone's first instinct is to make some disparaging remark about how combining buzzwords --> profit!!!! I don't think that's what this is about. This has nothing to do with consumers, and presumably therefore little in the way of profit for Intel. This is about adapting a consumer technology for a research area in a highly useful way.

    Mobile robotics has been hard hit recently, when one of the main companies making robots (Nomadic Technologies) was acquired by 3COM in 2000 for their wireless networking technologies. Obviously 3COM had no interest in research robots that cost thousands but sell only hundreds of units. Since then there's been a bit of a hole in the market for somebody to sell prepackaged wireless robot stuff to researchers, especially those that work in the software/AI/algorithms end of things don't care to spend effort developing hardware.

    Intel's Centrino blah blah is supposed to make connected mobile computing easy and increase battery life. Well guess what drives my ancient Nomad Scout robot? A laptop connected to the robot's power supply in a hack'd fashion, communicating using a USB-driven RF link. This platform could have saved a couple of months development of things which aren't exactly shining examples of engineering anyway.

    This hardware isn't the sort of thing that the average /.'er is going to drool over and plot how to justify purchasing it to their spouse. But it is very useful for the couple of thousand mobile robotics researchers around the planet.

    • Come on now, "spouse"? Slashdotters can't even get dates, how the hell are we supposed to get married??
    • Since then there's been a bit of a hole in the market for somebody to sell prepackaged wireless robot stuff to researchers, especially those that work in the software/AI/algorithms end of things don't care to spend effort developing hardware.
      • ActivMedia
      • iRobot
      • Arrick Technologies Trilobot (not WLAN-based, tho -- uses an OCR-LAWN II last I checked)
      • a host of others

      Nomads seem to have had a lot of what little market share there was for research robots, but there are a number of other companies that of

  • by Mentifex ( 187202 ) on Friday May 02, 2003 @08:43AM (#5861152) Homepage Journal

    Mind.Forth [scn.org] is free AI source code for a robot AI Mind in Win32Forth.

    Mind-1.1 in JavaScript [virtualentity.com] is the AI Tutorial version of the same robot Mind software for true artificial intelligence.

    AI4U: Mind-1.1 Programmer's Manual [barnesandnoble.com] is the textbook of artificial intelligence describing the Robot Mind-1.1 software of the Mentifex AI project as listed in the Free Software Donation Directory. [q-ag.de]

    Technological Singularity [caltech.edu] is happening right now.

    • I had started doing some research into AI for a variety of reasons recently, not least because I was interested in what intelligence is and whether true AI could be created. It led me into issues involving software, hardware, and differences in basic approaches to AI. I went down a lot of roads - parallel distributed processing, Marvin Minsky, etc. Fascinating stuff.

      I thought I had an interesting idea when I started to think about an AI developed as open source versus a closed-source AI developed by a soft
      • I have been thinking lately that to create a true AI, one would need to give it a robotic interface to our world. Perhaps even raise it like a child. This would be so we would have enough shared experiences with it that we could communicate with it enough to know it was alive. I guess computer AIs could serf the internet to get access to people, but if all it did was that we would just have an AI geek. ;)
        • I have been thinking lately that to create a true AI, one would need to give it a robotic interface to our world. Perhaps even raise it like a child. This would be so we would have enough shared experiences with it that we could communicate with it enough to know it was alive. I guess computer AIs could serf the internet to get access to people, but if all it did was that we would just have an AI geek. ;)

          How the robot raised by geeks would turn out would be interesting. Nevertheless, you have an interest
    • you have a LOT of -1s in your list of posts. You would probably do better if you didn't spam the board with the same links over and over. You should just offer people good keywords to google for. Sorry to be blunt, but the Novamente and SIAI stuff is a lot more sophisticated that what you have, and I suggest you read a lot of that stuff.
  • offloading the brain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bloosqr ( 33593 ) on Friday May 02, 2003 @08:56AM (#5861219) Homepage
    I've been thinking about this for a while. The whole thing about stamp/robots is that they run on CPU's that most of
    us are no longer used to. What would be excellent is if you could "offload" the brains via high speed wireless. 45mb wireless to high speed processor(s) I would think offer a much different version of robot programming than the current set. I would also think this would use less power than lugging a laptop around on the robot like the kit you can buy at compusa (let alone minaturization possibilities)

    • You have a really good point here - historically one of the biggest problems in robotics is that robots usually would benefit greatly from having bigger brains than they could actually carry. Making use of a wireless connection would certainly solve that problem. It would also create the possibility of "robot hives", where one master brain of very high computing capacity could control a small fleet of robot body surrogates.

      This concept has been explored in great detail in science fiction; those of us w
      • Thats exactly what i was thinking as well.. hive minds and robots. I keep wanting to get into robot building but the whole pic/stamp mentality just doesn't do anything for me. (Perhaps because i'm a software geek rather than a hardware geek). But on the one hand we have the AI kids building nns or even brute forcing ala kasparaov sucking up huge amount of CPU cycles and these dinky robots that do "light detection" and a few 100 assembly commands and need to be low power. No power problems via wireless :).
  • by mental_telepathy ( 564156 ) on Friday May 02, 2003 @09:00AM (#5861242)
    Sorry, just finished watching the preview for T3
  • Intel Stayton boards (Score:5, Informative)

    by CTho9305 ( 264265 ) on Friday May 02, 2003 @09:10AM (#5861290) Homepage
    These boards are really cool (Stayton is used on the CMU TagBots). We [roboticsclub.org] (CMU Robotics Club) normally use a board [roboticsclub.org] designed by robotics club members to control robots, but they are based on 20MHz PICs, and don't have and wireless support (at least presently). When combined with the Intel board, however, the big processing can be done there, and the Cerebellum can just be used as a smart motor driver and sensor interface board.

    This lets the robots run more complex code and communicate with each other wirelessly. Intel has provided CMU with enough boards for a LOT of cool projects.
  • The idea of using robots to communicate to wireless sensors has been around for a while. See, for example, USPTO patent application 20020173877.

    • Whoa! This is cool. I'm a college student and I might have prior art on this one. In 1999, 2000 I developed a 6 legged walker that had 2.4ghz video back to one desktop computer, and a 2400 baud serial link back to another. The robot had tilt, temp, range, IR, hall-effect etc. sensors on board, and the 2400 baud link went to another computer that was the real brains.. the video processing happened on one and the electronics on the other. All wireless. It was a mobile, wireless sensor platform for students to
  • by SilverSun ( 114725 ) on Friday May 02, 2003 @10:17AM (#5861652) Homepage
    I find this article very interesting, especially since I just recieved an e-mail from Intel custumer support, telling me that my centrino based laptop's wireless network adapter (Pro100) is not supported with linux. After asking when I can expect drivers, I got a friendly e-mail, telling me that linux support is not planned in the near future....

    I think this is symptomatic for many big companies. The left hand doesn't know what the right hand does...

    Cheers, Peter
  • I run redhat on a TriM systems embedded controller and I use a Siemens 802.11 adapter. Gee...
    If Intel tries to patent the idea it will piss me off. I did not feel this was worthy of a patent.
    I'm driving servos with a pontech controller, I've monitoring Analog ports, I'm processing ultrasonic
    ranging data. I've got some of my robots at
  • Some others already commented on the situation with lacking Centrino (power saving and WLAN) support. I did not even get any answer from their "customer support". I'll only buy Transmeta in the future. I just got a Libretto L5 and it is MUCh better regarding heat and noise (none besides the harddisk).

    But I also still have the Centrino notebook (Samsung X10). Does anybody know if there are Linux supported mini-PCI WLAN cards which I could use instead of the Intel card?
  • Soon, Intel will merge with CyberDyne Systems Corporation to take advantage of some of their bleeding-edge AI research.

    Soon after, they will receive a government contract to create a unified defense infrastructure, and merge it with their wireless networked robots. Soon after, it will determine that humans are outdated.

    Let the games begin!

  • Check out the program and video [mit.edu] from MIT's MASLab 2003. Our robot's use a very similar setup. Geode+Orinico+RedHat. Next year we're moving to Eden+WindowsXP Embedded :) Can you guess why?

    From the program:

    The electrical components used in MASLab are quite different from other
    contests. At the heart of each team's robot is the "Geode," a 300 MHz
    x86-compatible processor. With 256 MB of RAM, a 6GB hard disk, wireless
    networking, and a full complement of peripherals. This PC runs an
    unmodified installation

Intel CPUs are not defective, they just act that way. -- Henry Spencer